Randy Cohen: Ethicist, Columnist, Socialist?

Randy Cohen defends a conservative teacher's right to display anti-Obama columns on his door but asks: "...how does it defame a person to call him a 'socialist' (outside of nutty far-right circles) - a set of ideas many advanced Western democracies find congenial, what with the accessible health-care, affordable higher education and good public transportation?"
As we've noted before, even when Times' ethics columnist Randy Cohen is taking a conservative's side, he manages to slide in his liberal - or in this case socialist - opinion.

Here's a question posed in Cohen's latest, which can be read every week in the Times' Sunday Magazine:

While teaching as a substitute at a public high school, I noticed a lot of partisan propaganda taped to the outside of a colleague's office door. He teaches wood shop and world history, and this material is unrelated to both. It included the Jokeresque image of President Obama with the word "socialist" underneath. I regard my students as a captive audience and think that sharing my political or religious views in the classroom walks a hazy ethical line. (I certainly do not publicly disparage a president.) Does my colleague cross that line? T.P.,ARIZONA

Cohen argued no, and defended the other teacher's right to tape anti-Obama stuff to his door. But he also quibbled with the unfair stigma applied to the word "socialist."

...Incidentally, not that the president is one, but how does it defame a person to call him a "socialist" (outside of nutty far-right circles) - a set of ideas many advanced Western democracies find congenial, what with the accessible health-care, affordable higher education and good public transportation?