Friday, March 25, 2005

The Distant Echo of Jack-Boots?

Probably not, but enough has been going on recently to give me pause.

As a college professor, I have naturally been following the brouhaha surrounding remarks by Ward Churchill, Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. What concerned me was not so much Churchill’s own statements (injudicious, at best) but the reaction. Outraged people (most of who hadn’t actually read Churchill’s words, but were reacting to media characterizations of them)—some of them in the high reaches of both state government and the university—called for Churchill’s ouster from his job. They were quickly joined by David Horowitz who, through his Front Page Magazine website, the blog Moonbat Central: Hunting the Radical Snark, and other avenues, has long been attacking what he sees as the narrow-minded (to say the least) leftist radicals who (he claims) dominate higher education. Media Matters for America has been keeping track of what he has been doing.

Attacks on university professors such as those put forward by Horowitz give me pause. In my own classroom, I make no secret of my political persuasion. To do otherwise, I believe, would be dishonest, especially in my field, American Literature. Our literature, of course, has always been tied in to our politics. The only way that my students can competently judge the information I provide about the literature (and, by extension, about the politics) is to have a complete framework available to them. My choices for the course are going to reflect my mind-set; the students have a right to know as much about why I make those choices as they can.

At the same time, because my students know my views, we can debate honestly. I quickly let them know that my respect for them goes up when they correct my mistakes (and I do make plenty) and when they argue intelligently for their own beliefs. If I hid my views behind a fiction of “objectivity,” my students would never learn to trust me or challenge me. They would never know where I stood.

So, I am understandably concerned when any outside political agenda threatens to muzzle freedom of speech on university campuses. If I did not have the freedom I enjoy, I could not teach effectively. I take heart in the fact that the First Amendment to the Constitution contains no exceptions:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

It doesn’t say “except in schools” or “only when it agrees with a certain agenda.” I practice freedom of speech in my classroom, and expect my students to do the same—and reward them when they do.

Anyway, back to the story!

In following the Churchill story and then the Horowitz crusade, I eventually found I could not keep my mouth shut. I was reading the following post on Moonbat:

The Party's Over, Mr. Brock

"The back and forth with the Soros attack site MediaMatters has become so tedious that not even I the target am interested anymore," complains David Horowitz in a recent blog entry.

Horowitz hit the nail on the head. The swarm attack methods employed by Soros media assets such as David Brock are designed to produce numbness, apathy and exhaustion in their targets. No sooner do we refute one lie, than we discover that Brock and his network of "media activists" have told half a dozen more. As long as we play by Brock's rules, Brock will always win, simply because he and his team can lie faster than we can expose their deceptions.

We have tired of the game. We invite Mr. Brock – along with any other misguided commentators, blogospheric or otherwise, who wish to follow his lead – to say whatever they like concerning the hapless student persecuted by assistant professor of criminology Robert Dunkley at UNC.

Remember, these are the same bloggers and other media commentators who insinuated only five days ago that neither Professor Dunkley nor his victim even existed. Clearly their chatter means little in the grand scheme of things.

Ironically, Mr. Brock, you've done us a favor. You have brought to our attention some colorful and enigmatic personalities on the blogosphere, such as Dr. Mano Singham, and exposed the dreadful gullibility of others whom we had previously credited with greater discernment. It's been instructive and fun.

But now it's time to get back to work, doing what this Web site was designed to do; exposing the malevolent designs of the left, and calling to account those who fund its seditious and destructive activities.

Posted by Richard Poe

Poe is a columnist for Front Page Magazine and Managing Editor of Moonbat Central.

As a fan of Media Matters, and tired of seeing repetitive lies such as those asserting that Brock is a ‘Soros Media asset,’ I posted a comment:

If you really are tired of the game, what you need to do is be forthcoming. Stop generalizing; start giving specifics. If, for example, you want to connect MMFA to Soros, show proof. Repeating yourself (the old Leninist trick) doesn't make it true.

And just who, and how many, said that "neither Professor Dunkley nor his victim ever existed"? Show specific instances... and don't cherry-pick posts to twist them to reflect what you want them to say. Show the whole thing.

Sure, there's much untruth needing exposing. But you need to be clear and absolutely truthful if you are going to attempt it.

Poe responded with a new post:

Professor Accuses Moonbat Central of Using "Old Leninist Trick"

Aaron Barlow, proprietor of the Barblog, has accused us, in a comment posted below, of employing an "old Leninist trick." He writes, "If… you want to connect MMFA [Media Matters for America] to Soros, show proof. Repeating yourself (the old Leninist trick) doesn't make it true."

Barlow informs us that he is a "professor" of some sort – though without saying where he is employed or what subject he teaches.

Professor Barlow, I confess to some bafflement. Surely it has not escaped your notice that each and every time we make reference to the Soros-Brock connection on this blog, we provide accompanying links – such as this one – which back up our charge.

Have you bothered clicking through any of those links?

Perhaps you have. And perhaps you have found the evidence presented therein unpersuasive. That's fine. If you find our evidence faulty, let's hear your critique of it. But you have not given us a critique. Instead you imply quite falsely that we have presented no evidence at all.

Professor Barlow, I do hope the rhetorical methods you have employed on this Web site do not reflect your behavior in the classroom. When your students present you with evidence which you find tiresome, annoying or inconvenient, I hope you do not simply pretend that they have failed altogether to provide you with any evidence at all – and then grade them accordingly. We take a dim view of such practices around here.

Posted by Richard Poe

Poe is referring to my own blog, where I do, in fact, simply indentify myself as a ‘professor.’ The blog is unrelated to my professional activities, so I do not identify the details of my profession there. It is not needed, no more than it would be necessary for a doctor to identify his or her specialty or hospital affiliation on a personal blog. Anyhow, if anyone does want to find out where I teach, they can easily do so: all that’s needed is to click on the link about my most recent book. There’s an “about the author” there. So I never considered identifying the specifics of my profession necessary for the blog.

What bothered me about Poe’s post was his attempt to link Soros and Brock through links (not proof) and that last statement: ‘We take a dim view of such practicies around here.’ That bothers me still, for Horowitz and his crowd have taken active part in campaigns against college professors.

After following Poe’s link about a Soros/Brock connection (simply to another Moonbat page—it offered no proof), I responded:

You link back to yourself... that is not proof of a financial connection between Soros and Brock--but a further example of the lie repeated seeming true. Neither is the "fact" that Brock defends Soros. Find a real link, and I will concede your point. But find proof, not further inuendo.


As to the rest of your comments, well, I won't even bother...

Soon, I received an email (because it was a private communication, I will keep the sender’s name and email, and other details, private):

Subject: skimpy bio


Your bio is rather skimpy on facts. Where do you teach?


I knew, of course, where this was coming from, so did a search on the author. Among a few other items, I found this letter to the editor:

Who cares what U.S. allies think?

Unlike Mr. ********, I couldn't care less what Europeans, Canadians or Australians think of my country's foreign policy or its solution to the current problem of Iraq. I will accept criticism from our equals - and no country he named falls into that category.

Through world wars and the Cold War we have given our critics the freedom to espouse the opinions they do.

Germany, France, and Russia have strong financial interest in seeing that Saddam remains in power and that the U.N. sanctions are lifted.

The Canadians? Considering how they have gutted their own military in recent years they should be content to support us and continue to enjoy the freedoms they have, which they only enjoy because of their convenient geographic proximity to us. They can even join us as allies, providing their usual token number of soldiers to make themselves feel they are relevant in all of this.

Long after we have liberated the people of Iraq, who will no doubt be dancing in the streets once Saddam is dead, I am sure Mr. ******** will still be sucking up to every critic we have.

Unlike Mr. ********, I am not ashamed of our position at the top of the global food chain. We have earned it.

Realizing the type of person who had written, I emailed back only:

Subject: Re: skimpy bio

Does it matter?

And got this:

Actually it does......I can call myself "Professor" ******** easily enough. But with no record indicating where I teach it would mean nothing.

And responded:

Sure, but that still doesn't explain why you would care to know why I call myself that. Is there a reason you need to know?

If you really are concerned, you can certainly find information about me. You don't need me to tell you--though I will, if you really do have a legitimate need.

It's my decision to decide just how much information I wish to present on a web site. There are many who put up much less than I do. I am not required to put up more information.

However, if you have a good reason for wanting to know more about who I am and what I do, I certainly will give you more information.
As I have nothing to hide, and know that anyone who spends even a minute linking from my blog can find out all the details of my professional career, I left it at that.

Still, I continue thinking about Poe’s comment: “We take a dim view of such practices around here.” I have no worry that the Horowitz crowd will target me (frankly, I am not important enough), but the dampening of both freedom of speech and effective education that even such distant and implied threats forebodes does bother me.

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