WISCONSIN’S TRUE THUGS…. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) loves to blast the Obama administration for running what she considers a “gangster government.” But if we’re looking for officials who actually resemble an organized syndicate, a more obvious examples is found in Madison.

Josh Marshall reported overnight on Bill Cronon, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. Like a lot of scholars in the Badger State, Cronon has been critical of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) anti-union efforts, and over the last two weeks, has published an op-ed and a blog post explaining his concerns.

That may not seem especially noteworthy, and under the circumstances, it shouldn’t be. Alas, the Walker team has its own concerns.

Less than two days after Cronon published the blog post, the Wisconsin Republican Party filed a state open records request to gain access to Cronon’s personal emails to get a look at what communications or discussions or sources or anything else went into writing it.

Now, ‘personal’ is up for some reasonable debate here. This is his university email. And he’s a Professor at the University of Wisconsin, the state university. So he’s a state employee. Still, he’s not an elected official or someone doing public business in the sense you’d ordinarily understand the term. Nor are they looking at anything tied to the administration of the University, which is legitimately a public matter. In the ordinary sense we tend to understand the word it’s his personal email. And the range of requested documents leave no doubt about what they’re after.

Specifically, the Republican Party of Wisconsin is demanding access to any and all Cronon emails that reference the governor, the Republican Party, unions, state senators, collective bargaining, or “recall.”

Josh calls it a “pretty transparent attack on academic freedom” and “another example of the kind of thuggish behavior that has become the trademark of Walker’s rule.”

That about sums it up.

The irony is, as the recent labor dispute intensified, the standard line on Fox News and from other Republican activists is that unions and their allies were acting like “thugs.” Except in reality, all they had done was organize a massive, peaceful protest.

The real thugs were the ones being protested against, not those doing the protesting.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.