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Friday, April 17, 2009

Who are the Monsters?

Recently I received an email from the AAUP (American Association of University Professors), as I do from time to time. The text of the email is reproduced here. It begins as follows

Over 40 years ago, when I was still an undergraduate at Antioch College, the student government sent out a large number of letters to controversial or accomplished Americans and invited them to talk on campus. One who accepted was George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party...

...[T]he 500 students and faculty in the auditorium that day in 1964 ... sat in absolute silence throughout the talk. When the question period came ... everyone rose and exited, again in silence. So Rockwell began to curse us all. Still no one reacted. Eventually he gave up and left.

The author, AAUP President Cary Nelson, goes on to say "What I learned in 1964 was to value the power of silent, nonviolent witness." Then Nelson gets to his main point: the reaction of various colleges to speaking engagements by Ward Churchill and William Ayers, who, Nelson would have us believe, are really quite nice people once you get to know them. They certainly are not without their controversies. But let's assume they simply follow Oscar Wilde's dictum: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Nelson recounts several situations where speeches by Ayers, Churchill, and Richard Dawkins have been cancelled due to threat of financial losses or physical violence.

So there you have it. Controversial "right-wing" speakers are afforded an oportunity to air their views on campus, while speakers from the left are driven out by threats and intimidation.

But things are not so neat and tidy. There is a reason that Nelson pulls his initial example from 1964. Things aren't like that anymore, as Tom Tancredo, an opponent of "illegal" immigration, discovered at a recent speech at UNC. Tancredo's speech on immigtration was disrupted by protestors, and ultimately cancelled when protestors broke a window of the room where Tancredo was speaking. You can watch the video here. Now suppose that Tancredo is a real monster, not a "false monster" like Ayers or Churchill. Why is he not accorded the same opportunity as a Nazi?

What does the AAUP have to say about Tancredo's experience at UNC?

Search: tancredo
Found: Nothing!

Violence is not speach. And once violence is injected into politics, it is very difficult to remove.

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