1 March 2012 >>
Much has been written already about Andrew Breitbart and his life at the intersection of culture, media and politics. So instead, I will tell you a story about how Andrew Breitbart and I ended up at a Devo concert.
4 November 2009 >>
Yesterday, two states held elections for governor. Last year, both states voted to elect President Obama. Now, a year after The Ascension of The One, in both states, Republican gubernatorial candidates won handily.
In Virginia, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by more than 17%.* This in a recently-trending-Democrat state that Obama carried by more than 6%. That’s nearly a 24% swing in one year.
And in New Jersey, a heavily Democratic state that Obama won by over 14% last year, Republican Chris Christie beat incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine by almost 5%. That’s more than an 18% swing.
Even before the election, White House spinners were claiming that Democratic defeats would not reflect poorly on Obama, even though the president visited both states several times to campaign for the candidates that ended up losing.
In fact, in both states, the losing Democrats aligned themselves so closely with Obama that a quick glance at their campaign materials might lead you to think that they were running to become Obama’s vice president. So if anyone was trying to make this election about Obama, it was the Democrats who lost.
But now that the results are in, expect to hear the refrain repeated: these elections had absolutely nothing to do with Barack Obama!
And if recent history is any indication, you can expect Obama to start pinning the blame on George W. Bush any time now.
13 October 2009 @ 6:22PM >>
Months before Barack Obama formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, the name “Obama” was already being stamped on or sewn into objects of every type, and these objects could be purchased just about anywhere you happened to be standing. Keychains, buttons, hats, t-shirts were all readily available. I saw Obama skateboards and heard rumors of Obama bongs. Eventually, companies usually seen selling things like pewter gnomes and porcelain kittens got into the game, hawking commemorative coins and Obama dinner plates on late-night cable shows.
Institutions on the Red Alert list are unrepentant offenders against basic rights that are guaranteed either by the U.S. Constitution or the schools themselves, and they have policies and/or practices that demonstrate a serious and ongoing threat to current and future students. They are the “worst of the worst” when it comes to protecting liberty on campus.
FIRE explains the latest in a years-long campaign by Bucknell’s administrators to shut down the speech of students whose opinions they don’t share:
The controversy at Bucknell began in March, when [Bucknell University Conservatives Club] members attempted to distribute fakedollar bills in protest of the federal stimulus, featuring an image of President Obama. BUCC members were told by a campus administrator that they were “busted,” and that their activities were a violation of Bucknell’s Sales and Solicitation policy. Even after pointing out that the “stimulus dollars” distribution was an obvious act of political protest and that the students were not engaged in solicitation, Bucknell still considered the act to fall under this policy, seeing it as the equivalent of “handing out Bibles” (which also would not be solicitation under the policy). Such a misinterpretation of this policy effectively subjects any distribution of materials between students to the prior review and approval of the administration, significantly undermining Bucknell’s commitment to free expression.
The next month, Bucknell shut down BUCC’s previously approved “affirmative action bake sale,” designed to protest affirmative action by charging different prices based on ethnicity. The sales are a well-known method of attracting attention to the issue, and are not intended to raise revenue. Associate Dean of Students Gerald Commerford cited a discrepancy between the prices being charged and the prices BUCC listed on its event application form (BUCC was charging lower-than-expected prices), telling BUCC “we have the opportunity to shut you down.”
When BUCC applied to hold a second bake sale, Commerford rejected the application outright, this time saying that the bake sale violated Bucknell’s policies against discrimination. Despite the fact that BUCC was engaging in a well-known form of political protest—which FIRE has defended numerous times at public and private universities—Commerford flatly rejected the possibility of the bake sale even if BUCC made all pricing options optional, saying “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, because it’s a discriminatory [pricing] policy.” Making matters worse, Commerford suggested that only under certain circumstances would any discussion of affirmative action be welcome, telling them, “It’s not a political issue, ok; it needs to be debated in its proper forum, ok, and not on the public property of the campus.”
FIRE wrote to Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell, pointing out the numerous violations Bucknell had committed of its own policies in suppressing BUCC’s activities, and of its legal and moral obligation to protect its students’ free speech rights. After receiving a response from Bucknell General Counsel Wayne Bromfield upholding the rationale for Bucknell’s deplorable treatment of BUCC and refusing to accept fault, FIRE wrote to President Mitchell once more. After receiving another response from Bromfield in which he refused to address FIRE’s concerns further, Bucknell was added to FIRE’s Red Alert list. President Mitchell has yet to offer any public comment on Bucknell’s free speech crisis, which has been chronicled in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
Bucknell’s contemptuous treatment of BUCC should send a message to all current and prospective Bucknell students that their free speech rights are at the whim of an administration all too willing to bend its own policies and strong-arm its students to stifle speech it does not want heard on campus. By placing Bucknell on its Red Alert list, FIRE hopes to amplify that message, and to finally compel Bucknell to end its embarrassing fight against free speech.
It was a time when Democratic politicians complained loudly whenever they felt their patriotism was being impugned. In those days, bumper stickers reminded us that “Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism” and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, declared that disruptive protests were “very American and very important.” Now that protests are directed against a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, Nancy Pelosi thinks such disruptions are “un-American.”
During the Bush era, the media looked the other way at the extremist element in the protest movement; the large number of protest signs bearing swastikas and mathematical formulae like “Bush=Hitler” just didn’t interest them. But it did interest me, and because the media didn’t want to report it, I did some reporting of my own. The videos I posted online inadvertently launched me on a second career as a documentary filmmaker.
I recently dug through my old footage and found many examples of the same kind of inflammatory speech that the media and the Democratic Party—forgive the redundancy—now decry. What follows are just a few examples.
Since its inception in 2001, the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) has been repeatedly singled out for political censorship by school administrators. The latest media coverage focuses on two more instances of the university silencing the political speech of the BUCC’s student members.
(Full disclosure: Several years ago, as an invited guest of the BUCC, a Bucknell administrator threatened to have me arrested during a screening of Brainwashing 101, a precursor to my documentary Indoctrinate U. The school objected to my videotaping the event, even though I was granted permission by the event’s organizers, who routinely taped their own events. The school was aware that my screening might be disrupted by protesters; apparently, Bucknell didn’t want me getting that on tape.)
In one incident, the BUCC held an “affirmative action bake sale,” which was intended to both illustrate and criticize racial preferences. University administrator Gerald Commerford shut down the bake sale, saying it was discriminatory.
But if an affirmative action bake sale is discriminatory, it’s only because affirmative action itself is discriminatory. And given that the university implements affirmative action, it’s really quite Orwellian to claim that an affirmative action bake sale is any more discriminatory than what the school itself is doing.
The BUCC also protested President Obama’s stimulus plan by handing out “Obama bucks,” mock Monopoly money with the president’s face on it. Administrator Judith L. Mickanis struck a law-enforcement tone with the students, telling them, “you’re busted,” and grabbing one female student by the arm while demanding that the group stop their protest. The administrator claimed that the students were not allowed to hand out materials without prior approval, a standard that never seems to have been applied to any other student group.
The university attempted to justify this, saying that by giving out Obama bucks, the students were committing a transgression akin to “handing out Bibles.” (Perhaps it is obvious to Bucknell administrators—but not to me—why handing out Bibles poses such a grave threat that it would need to be stopped by the university.)
As the school’s excuses continued to evolve, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—the free speech advocacy group that has been defending the students—concluded that Bucknell’s general counsel Wayne A. Bromfield is now resorting to flat-out lies to cover up the school’s speech suppression. Unfortunately for Bucknell, their tactics have been documented on video and audio, so FIRE’s claims are verifiable.
President Mitchell will keep his position for one more year, so he isn’t exactly being shoved out the door. Still, it is interesting timing that Mitchell announced his resignation the day after the story began to get traction in the national media. Bucknell’s public relations office has to know that announcing the resignation the day after all this bad press would cause at least some people to conclude that the two events were related. So was the timing intentional, intended to mollify Bucknell’s critics by making them think that swift action had been taken?
Considering the last few days have probably brought him plenty of Maalox moments, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mitchell felt a wave of relief as the send button was clicked on his resignation letter. Now he’ll be free to continue ignoring the controversy and running out the clock on his time at Bucknell.
With a lame duck president who broke his pledge to run a university that respects free speech, Bucknell’s administrators will likely feel free to continue their harassment of students who dare disobey the dogma of political correctness.
But today’s students are armed with video cameras and the Internet, so alumni can keep a close watch on Bucknell’s actions from afar. The school may not care what students think, but if there’s one thing you can count on, Bucknell wants us alumni to keep opening up our wallets.
After all, the school knows that a conservative’s money is just as green as anyone else’s.
25 June 2009 @ 8:50AM >>
The mullahs in Iran have unleashed an even more brutal wave of violence against protesters opposing the recent questionable election. CNN reports:
Security forces wielding clubs and firing weapons beat back hundreds of would-be demonstrators who had flocked to a square in the capital on Wednesday to continue protests against an election they have denounced as fraudulent, witnesses told CNN.
They were among the more than half a dozen witnesses who told CNN that security forces outnumbering protesters used overwhelming force to crush a planned demonstration in Baharestan Square, in front of the parliament building. The witnesses said police charged against the demonstrators, striking them with batons, beating women and old men and firing weapons into the air in order to disperse them.
The melee extended beyond the square, according to one woman, who told CNN that she was traveling toward Baharestan with her friends as evening approached “to express our opposition to these killings these days and demanding freedom.
According to official figures, 17 people have been killed in clashes with government forces over the past 11 days. Anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets in at least four cities outside Tehran.
But CNN has received unconfirmed reports of as many as 150 deaths related to the popular uprising. The government’s response to it appears to have hardened in recent days. CNN has received numerous accounts of night-time roundups by government forces of opposition activists and international journalists from their homes.
Some Tehran residents said they were too afraid to talk about the political crisis over the phone to anyone in the United States or Europe. Many protesters debated whether to venture into the streets.
“I am not going outside my house at all,” a 21-year-old college student from Tehran said. “The streets are too dangerous, and just so very busy with police. Ahhhh, when will our lives get back to normal?”
Worried the government was monitoring their phone conversations, some residents said the Internet was the best way to transmit information. However, the spotty connection made it difficult to rely on the Web.
“It’s beyond fear,” said a woman who arrived at a U.S. airport from Iran, but still did not want her name used for fear for her safety. “The situation is more like terror.”
Asked why the government has made it impossible for nearly all international journalists to report from Iran, [Iranian ambassador to Mexico] Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri accused the media of not accurately reporting events. “In Tehran, there were much bigger demonstrations in favor of the government that you didn’t report about,” he said.
Asked about the shooting of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death, captured on video, has become emblematic of the crackdown on protesters, he said, “It is not clear who killed whom.”
However, the malice of the Iranian regime is self-evident in their treatment of Neda Agha-Soltan’s surviving family, as The Guardianreports:
The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world.
Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.
“We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat,” a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave.
The government is also accusing protesters of killing Soltan, describing her as a martyr of the Basij militia. Javan, a pro-government newspaper, has gone so far as to blame the recently expelled BBC correspondent, Jon Leyne, of hiring “thugs” to shoot her so he could make a documentary film.
Soltan was shot dead on Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators, turning her into a symbol of the Iranian protest movement. Barack Obama spoke of the “searing image” of Soltan’s dying moments at his press conference yesterday.
Amid scenes of grief in the Soltan household with her father and mother screaming, neighbours not only from their building but from others in the area streamed out to protest at her death. But the police moved in quickly to quell any public displays of grief. They arrived as soon as they found out that a friend of Soltan had come to the family flat.
In accordance with Persian tradition, the family had put up a mourning announcement and attached a black banner to the building.
But the police took them down, refusing to allow the family to show any signs of mourning. The next day they were ordered to move out. Since then, neighbours have received suspicious calls warning them not to discuss her death with anyone and not to make any protest.
A tearful middle-aged woman who was an immediate neighbour said her family had not slept for days because of the oppressive presence of the Basij militia, out in force in the area harassing people since Soltan’s death.
The area in front of Soltan’s house was empty today. There was no sign of black cloths, banners or mourning. Secret police patrolled the street.
“We are trembling,” one neighbour said. “We are still afraid. We haven’t had a peaceful time in the last days, let alone her family. Nobody was allowed to console her family, they were alone, they were under arrest and their daughter was just killed. I can’t imagine how painful it was for them. Her friends came to console her family but the police didn’t let them in and forced them to disperse and arrested some of them. Neda’s family were not even given a quiet moment to grieve.”
Another man said many would have turned up to show their sympathy had it not been for the police.
“In Iran, when someone dies, neighbours visit the family and will not let them stay alone for weeks but Neda’s family was forced to be alone, otherwise the whole of Iran would gather here,” he said. “The government is terrible, they are even accusing pro-Mousavi people of killing Neda and have just written in their websites that Neda is a Basiji (government militia) martyr. That’s ridiculous - if that’s true why don’t they let her family hold any funeral or ceremonies? Since the election, you are not able to trust one word from the government.”
The Obama administration is seriously considering not extending invitations to Iranian diplomats for July 4 celebrations overseas, senior administration officials tell CNN.
No, that’s not a line from a news spoof in The Onion. It’s true: the only tangible action taken by the Obama Administration in response to the violence in Iran is to disinvite Iranian diplomats to Fourth of July barbecues.
Student rights are under assault at Bucknell University, where a conservative student group’s protests against affirmative action policies and President Obama’s stimulus plan have repeatedly been shut down or forbidden by administrators using flimsy or patently false excuses. After the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) had three events censored in two months, the students turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
“Bucknell promises free speech, but it delivers selective censorship,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Bucknell administrators have gone out of their way to abuse and even invent policies in attempts to silence these students, all the while professing to respect free speech.”
Bucknell’s recent forays into censorship began on March 17, 2009, when BUCC members stood at Bucknell’s student center and passed out fake dollar bills with President Obama’s face on the front and the sentence “Obama’s stimulus plan makes your money as worthless as monopoly money” on the back. One hour into this symbolic protest, Bucknell administrator Judith L. Mickanis approached the students and told them that they were “busted,” that they were “soliciting” without prior approval, and that their activity was equivalent to handing out Bibles.
The students protested, but despite the fact that Bucknell’s solicitation policy explicitly covers only sales and fundraising materials, Mickanis insisted via e-mail that prior permission was needed to pass out any materials—”anything from Bibles to other matter.”
“Distributing protest literature is an American free-speech tradition that dates to before the founding of the United States,” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “And why is Bucknell so afraid of students handing out ‘Bibles [or] other matter’ that might provide challenging perspectives? Colleges are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, but Bucknell is betraying this ideal.”
Bucknell’s misguided crusade against free expression continued on April 7, when administrators shut down BUCC’s “affirmative action bake sale” protest. Affirmative action bake sales are a widely used form of satirical protest against affirmative action policies that treat people of different races differently. Organizers typically display suggested pricing in which African-American and Hispanic students are asked to pay lower prices than Asian and white students for the same items. The protests are thus intended to satirize and spark debate about affirmative action policies, not to raise revenue.
A video recording shows that an hour into BUCC’s protest, Associate Dean of Students Gerald W. Commerford arrived and informed the students that he had the “opportunity” to shut down the sale because the prices they were charging were different (lower) than what they had listed on their event application. The students offered to change the prices on the spot, but Commerford refused and insisted that they close the event immediately and file another application for a later date.
Accordingly, BUCC members filed an application to hold the same event two weeks later, but were then told that they would have to obtain the permission of the Dean of Students to hold a “controversial” event. No such permission is required by Bucknell policy. When the students nevertheless attempted to get this special permission, Commerford rejected the request. In a recorded conversation, Commerford said that such a bake sale would violate Bucknell’s nondiscrimination policy, even with satirical recommended (not actual) pricing, and that the only event he would approve on the topic would be a debate in a different forum altogether. This novel restriction also does not exist among Bucknell’s official policies.
What’s odd about Bucknell’s non-discrimination claim is that, by definition, affirmative action discriminates based on race. Bucknell clearly believes it is acceptable to discriminate sometimes, because they do it when deciding who to admit to the school.
So by Bucknell’s Orwellian logic, discrimination is not allowed unless they’re the ones doing it. Discrimination with real-world consequences (where you go to college, for example, or whether you get that job), that’s acceptable to Bucknell, but the tongue-in-cheek “discrimination” of an affirmative action bake sale (which is meant to mock real-world discrimination, not increase it)... well, we simply can’t have that!
The school’s latest assault on free speech prompted me to write an e-mail to Bucknell’s president. I copied the alumni office, the office of the general counsel, the affirmative action office, and Dean Gerald Commerford, who shut down the bake sale:
When you began your term, President Mitchell, you made some supportive statements on free speech and indicated that your administration would be more respectful of different views than previous Bucknell administrations.
Your seeming commitment to free speech put me and a number of other alumni at ease. That’s why I was disappointed to hear that the school may be backsliding on your promises.
Of course, so far, I have only heard the facts as laid out by FIRE. Do you have any comments on the FIRE report that would shed a little more light on this? I know I’m not the only alumnus who will want some answers.
We’ll be closely watching how the university responds to this. I’m hopeful that the university will reaffirm your previously-stated commitments to free speech and free thought.
Unfortunately, it is clear from Bromfield’s statement that Bucknell still has no plans to reverse their effective ban on free speech.
Full Disclosure: Before releasing Indoctrinate U, I visited Bucknell to screen my earlier film, Brainwashing 101. The group that invited me was same BUCC from the story above. With the group’s permission, I was taping the screening of Brainwashing 101 after I was tipped off that the event would be disrupted (fortunately, it wasn’t).
But because the school didn’t want any bad publicity if my screening was disrupted, instead of trying to prevent the threatened disruption, the head of security was sent to threaten me with arrest—in front of the entire audience, no less—if I continued filming the screening of my own film. (I continued filming anyway, and Bucknell’s threat turned out to be empty.)
9 June 2009 @ 12:21PM >>
I’m often coming across interesting links online that I don’t get a chance to include in Brain Terminal posts. Recently, I’ve begun using a Twitter account to broadcast these links, so you can benefit from my obsessive online reading.
But you don’t have to use Twitter to see these links. Brain Terminal pages now include a left-hand sidebar that lists the links I’ve posted to Twitter.
I’ve also updated the RSS feeds on the site to incorporate the Twitter links. There are now four RSS feeds available:
28 May 2009 @ 6:15PM >>
One reason I really enjoy operating Brain-Terminal.com is that I get so many nice notes from people wishing me well. Here is an e-mail I received recently from one fan of my work:
Usually I need to hear or read a few sentences to figure out who is a moron, but you win the prize, one can see your utter stupidity in less than 3 words. I wouldnt even bother with any intellectual debate your fucken morons, well I dont mean to insult fucken morons, but thats as close as I can get. Icomplete web site whose IQ adds up to 1.9 if that, I htink I will go talk to a maggot or slug, will getmore out of it, oh well you get the idea, ummm actually you mos liekely dont thats the funny part.
Thank you for taking the time to construct your informed critique of my website.
I have spent years trying to mask the fact that I am a moron. Most of the time, I get away with it. Unfortunately, to an astute observer such as yourself, my “utter stupidity” is readily apparent.
But I would like to rectify that. So if you would be so kind as to identify the “less than 3 words” that made you recognize my mental deficiency, I can rewrite those few syllables and hopefully continue fooling my fellow morons.
Any assistance you can provide in weaning me from my ignorance would be most greatly appreciated.
27 April 2009 >>
Pick your brackets and put down your money!
We now have brewing an epic battle that will determine the relative importance of three different groups: Jews, Muslims and Mexicans.
You see, in the Hierarchy of Multiculturalism, when the interests of different identity groups conflict, the arbiters of political correctness must decide which group has the most victim cred. That’s how such disputes are settled: to the victim go the spoils.
Today’s battle involves the name of the influenza virus that’s currently causing worldwide panic. “Swine flu.” Say it with me: swine flu.
Do you feel a little dirty? No? How insensitive of you!
The term “swine flu” is apparently offensive to both Muslims and Jews, a pretty impressive bank-shot of an insult if you ask me.
So to alleviate this grave injustice of nomenclature, an Israeli health official proposes renaming the virus “Mexican flu.”
Now you see the conflict.
Try to use your knowledge of multiculturalism and political correctness to determine how this conflict gets resolved. Which identity group wins? And why?
Be careful, though! Improper thinking may result in being labeled a xenophobe, an anti-Semite, a racist, an Islamophobe, or some combination thereof.
Yes, this decision is fraught with peril—your views may mark you as a potential domestic terrorist—but this mental exercise will prepare you well for the New Era of Hope & Change.
...but perhaps we should all be pushing for the name to remain “swine flu.”
You got any better ideas for uniting Muslims and Jews?
11 March 2009 >>
I was pleased to have been invited on CNN to discuss Indoctrinate U with Lou Dobbs, but I was blown away at how complimentary he was. Dobbs called the film “terrific” and said, “I can’t recommend it highly enough.” He closed by recommending that viewers “get this documentary. It’s extraordinary.”
In related news, Indoctrinate U will be shown at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival on Tuesday, March 24th at 6:00PM. The film will be shown at the Village East Cinema, on 12th Street and Second Avenue. Tickets are available online.
4 November 2008 >>
Although I didn’t vote for him myself, I do know there are a lot of people celebrating the symbolism of America electing its first black president. I’m happy for them. Considering that this country once counted black Americans as only three-fifths of a person, this aspect of the outcome is something about which all Americans can be proud, even if you would have preferred a different result.
Let’s hope this truly does usher in a post-racial America, one in which we move beyond the hatreds of the past and divisive policies like racial preferences. After all, if a black man can become president, do we really need laws that judge people on the color of their skin and not the content of their character?
I wish we knew more about Barack Obama’s worldview. During the campaign, we’ve seen plenty of hints, but the core of his true political philosophy has never been fully illuminated. (And for that, we can thank our selectively-inquisitive media.)
But all of this is a moot point now. Barack Obama will soon be our president. And when he is, we’ll see how he governs, and we can begin to assess his presidency.
I’m sure there will be many times when I will vigorously oppose our future president. But for tonight, my congratulations to Barack Obama and to his supporters.
4 November 2008 @ 8:16AM >>
In New York State, the winner of a general election is often whoever won the Democratic primary. So by the time I get a chance to cast a vote, many elections have effectively been decided.
This year, Senator Barack Obama will win New York State. Period.
It’s a sure thing affords me a little flexibility with my vote.
I’ve never been a big fan of John McCain. Although I salute him for a life in which he’s shown more courage than most men—including myself—ever could, he’s just never appealed to me as a politician. Was his maverick persona genuine or merely designed to maximize media coverage? Senator McCain obviously knew that, as a Republican, the surest way to end up on TV is to publicly tell your own party to shove it.
On the other hand, I can’t in good conscience vote for someone who surrounds himself with such an appalling cadre of felons, bigots and 60’s leftover leftist revolutionaries who have changed only their means, not their ends. Obama campaigned as a messianic blank slate, and the media did its best to ignore any information that might smudge up the halo. The best I can say is I hope Obama is a much better—and more moderate—man than his associations indicate. We don’t really know who we’re getting by electing Obama. But I won’t be voting for him, especially at a time when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are running Congress.
So Obama’s out.
Philosophically, the political label that matches my views the most would be “libertarian.” Unfortunately, it’s a label shared with a political party of the same name.
“Big-L” (as in the party) Libertarians seem to attract an uncomfortable mixture of conspiracy theorists, isolationists and pacifists. The Libertarian Party is the political equivalent of a Star Trek convention. Contrast that with “small-L” libertarians (as in adherents to the political philosophy) who tend the be the type of people you’ll have the most fun breaking laws with.
I consider myself a libertarian for two reasons.
First and foremost: for the betterment of the human race. True, these aren’t easy days to proclaim oneself an unashamed capitalist. But whatever governmental market distortions led to the current financial crisis, the simple fact remains that no single system has brought more material comfort to more people worldwide than capitalism.
In America today, people we consider poor have a standard of living that would’ve been thought of as middle-class a century ago. Sure, we can to do better for more people, but there’s only one historically proven way to do it: capitalism. By definition, government can’t create wealth. Only private economic activity can. The more economic activity, the faster the growth, and the richer even the poor become. The larger the share of the economy that flows through the government, the longer it’ll take for the engine of capitalism to grow poverty into extinction.
The second reason I’m a libertarian is because I believe that the individual should be afforded the maximum personal liberty in cases where no other individual’s rights are being abridged. In their private lives, people should be allowed to set whatever personal boundaries their consciences allow and require. And while I believe that people should abide by some form of moral code, it is not the function of the state to impose one person’s moral code on another. If you want to convince someone else to live by your rules, you’re free to do so in the private sphere. But government is too big a bludgeon to be used for such a function.
So, in a nutshell, that’s why I’m a (”small-L”) libertarian.
Unfortunately, the (”big-L”) Libertarian Party is a bit of a joke, repeatedly letting itself get hijacked by vanity candidates who aren’t serious about libertarianism or winning elections.
This year’s Libertarian Party candidate is Bob Barr, a former Republican who didn’t seem to be much of a libertarian until the moment he figured out he could get the party’s nomination.
When Bob Barr was last seen on the political stage, it was during the Clinton impeachment hearings. Barr, as one of Clinton’s ineffectual Republican antagonists, went on to be thought of as one of those Clinton-was-lucky-to-have-him-as-an-enemy types.
Barr isn’t the sort of candidate I’d pull the lever for in any other circumstance. But I don’t live in a swing state where voting for the Libertarian is effectively the same as a voting for Obama (who—for me anyway—fails the libertarian lesser-of-two-evils test).
The political leanings of my fellow New Yorkers has effectively reduced my vote to a protest anyway. So I might as well cast my vote in a way that most accurately reflects my political philosophy.
Which is why, this year, I’m holding my nose, voting Libertarian, and hoping that, somehow, McCain wins.
Someone has to stand between your wallet and the Democrats in Congress.
MPI—which in addition to organizing the campus screenings also provided funding for the film—recently posted a look back at the many exciting developments since the film’s trailer was first released last spring. Here are some highlights:
On March 19, 2007, Maloney appeared on the Fox News Channel’s Hannity’s America, where he showed clips from Indoctrinate U and launched a grassroots effort to promote the film. A dedicated website, Indoctrinate-U.com, went live the day of Maloney’s Fox appearance; it featured the trailer, advance reviews, and information about upcoming events. Its most innovative feature, however, was a system for allowing visitors to sign up for screenings in their area, along with a map to track sign-ups by geographical location (our sign-up system has since drawn the praise of The Economist, National Review Online, and others who recognize its power to circumvent the closed world of Hollywood).
Throughout the spring and summer of 2007, Maloney did dozens of interviews on syndicated talk radio. He also made numerous television appearances on shows spanning the political spectrum, appearing as a guest on CNN’s Glenn Beck Show, CNN Headline News, and the Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neil Cavuto. Meanwhile, newspapers and magazines across the country regularly featured Indoctrinate U. The Washington Times ran a detailed story on the film, highlighting MPI’s role in ensuring that it got made and promoted. Noting that “it takes a movie to bring across the amazing, campus-wide power of even a single expertly conducted case of P.C. intimidation,” National Review Online said that the film has “real power.” A glowing review in the Weekly Standard attracted a link from the Drudge Report, one of the Internet’s most highly trafficked news sites. The New York Post ran an extended interview with Maloney—and the New York Times published a review that generated vigorous debate about free speech on campus.
On Friday, September 28, Indoctrinate U screened at Washington, D.C.’s prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The marquee event at the American Film Renaissance Film Festival, the screening, which MPI co-hosted with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, was a spectacular success. A sold-out crowd of 500 awarded director Evan Coyne Maloney a standing ovation. Cable outlet Home Box Office (HBO) attended the premiere to interview filmmakers and members of the audience for a documentary on the assault on the First Amendment.
These reactions tally with those of seasoned Hollywood veterans. At an October 13 event at the home of Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) and David Hunt (24), the film was celebrated and distributed to 200 industry insiders. Glowing reviews followed from Heaton, Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, CSI: NY), Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Mission Impossible), and David Zucker (Scary Movie, Airplane, The Naked Gun).
Indoctrinate U’s impact has been felt in academe as well as Hollywood. Prominent professors such as Stanley Fish have grudgingly acknowledged Indoctrinate U’s timeliness and power. “Academics often bridle at the picture of their activities presented by Maloney and other conservative critics, and accuse them of grossly caricaturing and exaggerating what goes on in the classroom,” Fish wrote in an October posting at his highly trafficked New York Times blog. “Maybe so, but so long as there are those who confuse advocacy with teaching, and so long as faculty colleagues and university administrators look the other way, the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary.”
On January 29, Indoctrinate U kicked off its campus tour with a hugely successful screening at Duke University. Coordinated by campus groups from across the political spectrum, the highlight of the night was a sparkling discussion session with Maloney and Halvorssen that exemplified the ideal of free exchange that is so vital to the intellectual life of universities. “We promoted the event,” the organizers reported, “with an attempt to attract a diverse audience, ethnically, ideologically, and intellectually. We encouraged attendees to prepare to ask tough, penetrating questions during the Q&A. Evan and Thor were fantastic!”
Since then, Indoctrinate U has screened at twenty-seven college and university campuses around the nation.
Wherever Indoctrinate U plays, students rave about it. “The Indoctrinate U screening was a great success!” enthused a student at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. “I was pleasantly surprised at how funny people thought it was—people were laughing throughout the entire film.” An East Tennessee State student agreed. “It was great to have the film at our school, and those in attendance will definitely be looking at their experiences on campus differently in the future,” he said. “It was refreshing to realize that there are people out there who realize that exposing the double standard in campus ‘diversity’ doesn’t make you a racist, a white supremacist, a neo-Nazi,” wrote a Cornell student. “I can’t tell you how many times I have been called a racist on this campus for talking about the same sorts of biased campus policies that appear in your film. Your film was a rare opportunity for validation.”
Meanwhile, public and private screenings continue. On April 14, MPI and the Manhattan Institute teamed up to co-host the New York premiere of Indoctrinate U. Held at the 500-seat Directors Guild of America Theater, the premiere thrilled the hundreds who turned out to see it. “The only thing that can be more gratifying to a filmmaker than having a packed house is having the house packed with a lively audience that responds enthusiastically,” Maloney said afterward. “It was truly a special night.” In the wake of the New York premiere, Maloney appeared on the Fox News channel to discuss the intrusion of politics into the higher education curriculum. In addition, John McWhorter, a former UC Berkeley professor who is now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, published a hard-hitting op-ed in the New York Sun. “[A] sense of the politics of the nation as intellectually unassailable is so unquestioned in campus culture that it becomes easy to forget the rest of the country thinks differently,” McWhorter wrote. “Hopefully the film will bolster efforts to bring faculty representing a wider spectrum of views to college campuses.”
As this brief summary shows, Indoctrinate U is having a profound impact on debates about free speech, individual rights, and ideological one-sidedness on our college and university campuses. By revitalizing a conversation that had stagnated beneath reams of print —and particularly by moving that conversation into the arena of film—Indoctrinate U is motivating a new generation to embrace and defend the fundamental principles of academic freedom, free expression, and unfettered intellectual inquiry that are vital to the future of our nation. Now available in DVD and as a digital download, Indoctrinate U will continue to raise awareness and trigger vital debate for the foreseeable future.
30 July 2008 @ 7:06AM >>
I haven’t yet seen the video myself, but a number of folks e-mailed me to tell me that yesterday, during a discussion of Oliver Stone’s upcoming film, Elisabeth Hasselbeck recommended that viewers instead watch Indoctrinate U. Apparently, she plugged the film not just once, but a couple of times.
Thanks a lot, Elisabeth! I hope everyone who was watching heeds your advice! And in lieu of that, I’ll settle for just several percent of the audience.
2 July 2008 @ 9:36AM >>
Politicians like John McCain and Barack Obama show a fundamental misunderstanding of economics when they attack “speculators” as the cause of price increases for things like oil. Leaving aside the falling dollar—which increases the price of anything imported—the prices of commodities and raw materials are going up because demand for those materials has increased all over the world. And that demand has been increasing faster than supply.
Unfortunately for politicians, economic laws can’t be demagogued. A suspicious and easily-caricatured “other” is needed to attack. So even though politicians themselves have done much to constrict the supply of certain commodities (oil) and artificially raise demand for others (corn), they’d prefer to blame the price increases on someone else. So “speculators”—who actually use futures markets to shield themselves from future risk—are now the villain du jour.
Let’s say you want to buy a plane ticket to visit a relative for Christmas. You might decide to buy the ticket now or months before Christmas. Many other people will do the same. You might just like making plans early, or you might be thinking about all those bills you’ll have around Christmas. Part of the rationale for buying early is that it helps you manage future expenses better by shifting some of the burden to today. Or you might just worry that the tickets will cost more in the future.
Well, the airline does the same thing.
It takes a lot of fuel to fly, and any significant change in the price of fuel changes the economics of every flight. So, airlines can buy fuel futures, meaning that they make a financial commitment today in exchange for a guarantee to get fuel at a certain price in the future. If the price of fuel moves up significantly, the airlines are protected because their price is locked in by the futures contract. This helps prevent airlines from taking massive losses on flights in the future, and it’s what enables them to sell you tickets months in advance.
If there were no futures market, airlines would be taking a big risk by selling tickets far in the future. Without the ability to lock in fuel prices, every ticket sold would amount to a bet taken by the airline. The futures market allows the airline to shift that gamble to a third party: whoever purchases the other side of the futures contract.
The so-called “speculators” aren’t gaming the market, they’re lubricating the market. Without them, commerce would be riskier and more expensive.
It’s too bad that both major party candidates don’t get this.
14 June 2008 @ 1:52PM >>
A reader and viewer of Indoctrinate U recently wrote to me asking about a t-shirt I wore in the film: “I caught a glimpse of one of the t-shirts you were wearing, but didn’t really get the whole thing. It looked like it had a Republican elephant on it with a circle and a line through it. What was it really?”
I wrote back:
You correctly identified the t-shirt. It had the Republican Party logo with a circle-slash through it, and below that the text: “I Hate Republicans.”
For a while during the shooting, I wore a series of shirts deliberately intended to help me blend in to the environment, similar to the way that some species camouflage themselves.
The shirts (two more of which are shown in the attached photos: a CCCP shirt with the Soviet hammer and sickle, and a Joseph Stalin t-shirt) were originally part of an experiment that was intended to be a scene in the film. I wore different politically-themed t-shirts around campus and tried to capture various reactions. We did get a number of under-the-breath comments disparaging my “Viva la Reagan Revolucion!” t-shirt done in the iconic Che style and my “Proud Republican” t-shirt, but unfortunately, we had trouble finding the right mic setup to reliably capture such comments. So we pretty quickly scrapped the idea.
But after I realized that certain t-shirts granted me better access to the campus, I kept wearing those ones around.
Speaking of t-shirts, we’ve now got a few available over at the Indoctrinate U store, where we’ve just added a bunch of Indoctrinate U gear.
However, I should warn you in advance that these shirts probably won’t grant you better access on campus. Quite the opposite, possibly.
29 May 2008 @ 6:50AM >>
An overwrought Columbia Journalism Review column declares that the establishment media is a victim of big, bad bloggers and financiers who shockingly believe that complacency is not the proper response for an industry in a death spiral:
We the media are obsessed with our destroyers. We could even be said to love (or love to write about or edit) the many individuals who are taking us down. These include the mega-moguls and their hedge fund cousins who are or would like to buy newspapers in the raw, as well as the fashionable blog upstarts who are together profiting from and creating the end-of-media-as-we-knew-it.
Today’s media gazing, in fact, can seem like an endless noir movie—a danse macabre with our assassins and those benefiting from our demise. We watch as they develop, learning a few of their tricks as they destroy us with better ones, all the time ceding our platforms to them.
You don’t have to be Anna Freud to figure that our fascination with these people is “identification with the aggressor.” And we are equal opportunity identifiers—we embrace the aggressor vultures from on high and the aggressor barnacles from down low that are chipping away at our industry. Why all the ink—or should I say code—wasted on our young or rich oppressors?
It would seem to be a defense mechanism, where a person who is externally threatened and torn down by an authority figure identifies with the source of the threat. According to psychoanalytic literature, the person does so by appropriating the aggression or taking on the qualities of the threatening figure. And when you identify with your aggressor—we, us, the victims—ostensibly replace our sense of fear and helplessness at our oncoming fragmented and demonetized media with the illusion of omnipotence. For a brief moment, we have the power of the Falcones, the Murdochs, the bloggers who just don’t care about anything...
I looked up the “cure” for identification for our aggressors and of course I should have known better. There never is a cure for anything. But there is a recommendation that the patient—our industry—once bullied and now eager to serve or appropriate their defilers, start to find some “healthier” role models for relating. We the patients have, after all, developed an unnerving attachment to the people that are taking us down. But we may actually be “testing.” looking around for “healthier relationships,” and not finding them—in the words of one philosopher deciding, apocalyptically, to “enjoy our symptom.”
Yikes. This writer needs a little couch time to work through these complex emotions, or she will be forever in denial of what really ails the establishment media.
While it is true that the quickening pace of technological change caught the old media off guard, much of the media’s current predicament is largely of its own making. By intertwining their most valuable differentiator (facts gathered at some expense) with something that’s increasingly ubiquitous and free (opinions), media outlets diminish the perceived value of their product and send a muddled message to news consumers.
Although there are bloggers who have done excellentfirst-handreporting, most bloggers are not equipped to compete with the core competency of large news-gathering organizations. Instead, bloggers tend to function as filters, amplifiers, analyzers and fact-checkers for stories that have been reported (and under-reported) by the establishment media.
To put it not-so-flatteringly, we bloggers are parasitic; we synthesize our product by relying on output from the establishment media. But we’re symbiotic parasites, and our existence benefits the media in numerous ways, not the least of which is by driving traffic (and therefore ad revenue) to media websites.
Unfortunately, as this CJR piece shows, some in the media view bloggers as the enemy, a tormentor that must be defeated. By seeing bloggers as direct competitors, outlets put themselves in a position of competing on their greatest weakness while at the same time undermining their greatest strength.
Instead of competing in the arena of gathered facts, many in the traditional media have responded to the rise of online outlets by deciding that they need more opinion in their product, not less. The problem with that is, the news media has been insisting for decades that they’re “objective.” Personally, I don’t think true media objectivity is even possible, but the claim of objectivity becomes even less credible as the media adds more and more opinion to their product.
Yet under the guise of “news analysis,” “putting things in context,” giving “perspective” and “helping you understand,” the news media insists on wrapping what should be its unique product—hard-to-gather facts—in packaging that makes their product look similar to everything else that’s available online for free.
How can media outlets get themselves out of this predicament? They should either embrace opinion journalism fully and drop the pretense of objectivity, or they should get out of the opinion business altogether if they insist on being seen as objective.
The first option would have outlets finally own up to their biases and admit to being in the opinion business, but then they’d compete even more directly with bloggers. This would also pull the media further away from the market that their news-gathering infrastructure is uniquely positioned to serve. But at least by being truthful with news consumers about the perspectives that shape their presentation of the news, some of the media’s tattered credibility might be restored.
The other option is for news outlets to go in the opposite direction and purge the opinion from their offerings. This means that adjectives and adverbs should almost never appear in reporting. It also means that outlets would have to open up all their raw notes, transcripts and other reportorial artifacts for public inspection and stop relying on unnamed sources. Otherwise, only the gullible would continue to believe in the Objectivity Fairy.
Marketers who specialize in product positioning know that the average consumer maintains only one mental impression of a brand. No matter how carefully an outlet tries to separate the presentation of opinion from that of news, at the end of the day, the typical news consumer is still left with a single aggregate perception of that outlet.
In other words, each outlet as a whole will either be seen as objective, or it will not.
Some in the media don’t want to face this truth and would prefer to lash out at imagined external enemies. But by mixing opinion with news while still claiming objectivity, the media sends a contradictory message that causes distrust of its product.
For an industry whose long-term capital is trust, this is one wound that can’t be blamed on blogs. It’s self-inflicted.
21 March 2008 >>
In my last exchange with John K. Wilson, he tried making the case that Indoctrinate U suffers from “biases, distortions, and omissions” and that I am only a fair-weather friend of free speech.
My response pointed out the various ways in which Wilson makes off-base assumptions about my views. It seems that unless Wilson hears me explicitly state an opinion, he simply assumes I hold whatever position he disagrees with most and proceeds to argue against me from there.
And in his latest piece, a response-to-my-response-to-his-critique, Wilson does it again.
As reluctant as I am to encourage him to issue another interrogatory of my views, Wilson does ask three direct questions that merit answers. He introduces his questions in this discussion:
Maloney wonders “why Mr. Wilson believes I only favor free speech for folks I agree with is beyond me.” The reason is given in my article. At times, conservatives in the movie (including Maloney) seem to advocate censorship in a few cases. So I asked Maloney, does he believe that Foothill College should have banned flyers criticizing the conservative student? Does he believe that the professor in Michigan who denounced a student’s op-ed on affirmative action should have been punished or fired? Does he endorse David Horowitz and ACTA’s efforts to stop professors from discussing politics in classes? I didn’t get a clear answer. I have no problem with Maloney expressing his conservative viewpoint and criticizing professors he disagrees with; but I do want to know if he really support free speech for those he disagrees with.
As for military recruiters, I have my disagreements with the protesters and I have no doubt that some of them should be arrested if they step over the line. However, Maloney still hasn’t defended the right of students to protest, and he hasn’t acknowledged the fact that the rights of student protesters have been restricted at many campuses.
I appreciate Wilson’s questions, but first I need to address another one of those pesky assumptions by turning the tables and asking him a question. He claims, “conservatives in the movie (including Maloney) seem to advocate censorship in a few cases.”
So, my question: When and in what way did I “seem to” advocate censorship?
Perhaps Wilson would have me preface each case in the film with a disclaimer: “Warning: Even though the following scene contains no call for censorship, please be aware that the following scene contains no call for censorship.”
Anyway, getting back to his questions...
Question 1: “Does [Maloney] believe that Foothill College should have banned flyers criticizing the conservative student?”
No, I don’t, and I never said I did.
My purpose in going to Foothill was to try to determine if a professor was responsible for producing the flyers in question. If a professor of Ahmad al-Qoloushi wrote flyers disparaging him, it would be a major revelation that would add to the public’s understanding of the story. And because those flyers were literally stamped with the approval of the school, someone in the administration had to know whether a professor submitted those flyers for approval.
Unfortunately, I ran into a comically evasive administrator who stonewalled, stammered and summoned the police. So I never got a straight answer.
In the film, I wanted the audience to see the contrasts among the different handling of controversial flyers at different schools. At a number of schools, rather tame flyers have been censored, sometimes leading to Kafkaesque disciplinary proceedings that drag on for months. Yet in this case, flyers attacking a student by name got the school’s official stamp of approval. Merely pointing out this contrast should not be confused with advocating censorship.
Question 2: “Does [Maloney] believe that the professor in Michigan who denounced a student’s op-ed on affirmative action should have been punished or fired?”
(In the case Wilson references, a professor harshly criticized a student in class over her letter in the school paper. In the letter, the student discussed her multi-racial family and how it informed her opinion against racial preferences.)
In general, I think that a professor who uses class time to give political lectures when the issues involved have nothing to do with the class is acting in an unprofessional manner. Doubly so when the professor is haranguing a student over political views that she never expressed in class and that had nothing to do with the topic being taught.
Do I think the professor should be fired or otherwise punished? Not for this. But I’d hope that someone somewhere in the university would remind this professor what it means to act like a professional.
And if students ever decided to demand a refund for the portion class time wasted on off-topic political rants by professors who repeatedly and egregiously abuse their academic freedom, a school would be on thin moral ground to deny that refund.
Academic freedom bears a cost that is paid for by tuition and tax dollars, and it carries with it the expectation that professors will use that freedom to fulfill their educational responsibilities to students.
Having said all that, I think that professors should be given absolute freedom to discuss whatever controversial topics they wish in the classroom, when it relates to the educational purpose of the class. And outside of class, of course, professors are free to say whatever they’d like.
Question 3: “Does [Maloney] endorse David Horowitz and ACTA’s efforts to stop professors from discussing politics in classes?”
Wilson refers to a person and an organization, each with a long history of activism in academic circles, so I’m not entirely sure what efforts in particular he’s asking me to discuss.
I think my answer above covers my view of political advertising in class well enough.
But in case it’s still not clear where I stand, rather than consign myself to an infinite loop of questions aimed at determining whether I really am a genuine supporter of free speech in Wilson’s eyes, let me offer a rough outline of my thinking:
People should have the right to speak their minds
Academic freedom does not exempt professors from criticism
Feeling offended by speech does not give one the right to suppress it
People should not be forced to finance the speech of others
If a person declines to finance the someone else’s speech, that is not censorship
The right to speak encompasses groups, so that assembly and protest are possible
A protest that disrupts an event or otherwise interferes with the speech or movement of others is not covered by the concept of free speech
Hopefully this list will help make Wilson’s future assumptions about my views a little more accurate.
But, in the end, it may not matter much. I don’t think I’m going to persuade him. The author of a book called The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education might have a vested interest in not being persuaded by the data and cases covered in Indoctrinate U.
Wilson closes his piece with a plug for one of his other books and a call to “unite in the struggle for freedom of expression.”
As Wilson knows from my previous response, I publicly defended Ward Churchill’s speech rights despite comments that I personally found abhorrent. I’m already on the free-speech-in-the-abstract team. But since Wilson still seems not to believe me, I’ll just end with something I wrote last September:
Erwin Chemerinsky, “a well-known liberal expert on constitutional law” according to the Los Angeles Times, was hired and then quickly fired by the Irvine campus of the University of California. The culprit, says Chancellor Michael V. Drake, was “conservatives out to get” Chemerinsky. Later on, an “emotional” Drake, “his voice at times quivering,” reversed his position and “said there had been no outside pressure and that he had decided to reject Chemerinsky” himself because the professor’s views were “polarizing.”
Given the unreliability of Chancellor Drake’s public testimony, it’s hard to know whether there really was a conservative cabal trying to take out Chemerinsky, or whether he was just the victim of a spineless administrator seeking to avoid controversy. Either way, the only decent thing for the university to do is to re-hire Chemerinsky, assuming he’d be forgiving enough to take the job instead of taking the school to court.
If there was a concerted effort among conservatives to block Chemerinsky, they probably felt justified in doing so, thinking that they’d just be preventing the dominant campus thinking from dominating another campus. But it’s hard to argue for tolerance of your views when you’re damaging the career of a man whose only transgression is disagreeing with you.
Whatever the sequence of events that led to Chemerinsky’s firing, conservatives who believe that their views deserve better respect on campus must stand with him on principle.
And who knows? Maybe the next time a conservative professor runs into career trouble for his or her views, some decent-hearted decision-maker will think back to this story and remember how not to act.
Respect can be brought back to campus if only enough people have the courage to practice it.
The second video shows what happens when a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice comes to give a speech on campus. In Welcome Wagon NYC, students at NYU Law School object quite strongly to the presence of Antonin Scalia, giving him a reception worse than the President of Iran received at that other large Manhattan institution, Columbia University.
4 March 2008 >>
John K. Wilson, who founded an organization called The Institute for College Freedom (check out their site, if only for the nifty icons on the homepage), accuses me of “biases, distortions, and omissions” in his commentary on Indoctrinate U.
I appreciate the thorough and thoughtful analysis of my film Indoctrinate U by John K. Wilson. It is good to be having this discussion about the state of academia, and one of my hopes in making this film was that it would bring this debate to a much wider audience. Academic insiders are already aware of these issues, but the public at large is not.
Mr. Wilson has some strong critiques of my work, and I must say that given his perspective as someone who’s been involved in academic battles himself, I can understand some of his complaints. But where I have a fundamental disagreement is that he makes some rather broad assumptions about why I covered certain things and not others.
In effect, Wilson seems to be criticizing me for not making the film he would like see about academia. What’s worse, without understanding my rationale for choosing the footage I did, he accuses me of making a film with “numerous biases, distortions and omissions.”
Building on testimonials by students, faculty, alumni and critical commentators, including attempts to interview campus administrators (not a single one co-operated; several were filmed calling the police to eject Maloney from campus), the young filmmaker mounts a compelling indictment of—in George Orwell’s words — the “smelly little orthodoxies” suffocating intellectual diversity on campus.
Indoctrinate U exposes the full gamut of the PC scourge: irritations that grate, like speech codes forbidding words that may lead to “a loss of self-esteem” (Colby College) or a ban on gender-specific partner terms such as “boyfriend” (University of West Virginia); and cuts that sting: on campus after campus, conservative student journalists are reviled, their dailies trashed en masse. “The only good Republican is a dead Republican!” screams one offended student when offered a conservative broadsheet.
Diversity of opinion is squashed, sometimes with savagely hypocritical zeal. At Indian River Community College in Florida, the Christian Fellowship was refused the right to show The Passion of the Christ because it was “R rated,” but a play called F—king for Jesus was permitted, featuring a girl masturbating before a picture of Jesus.
The most sympathetic victims are conservative faculty, because academia is their life, not a way station. At California Polytechnic, “outed” professor Laura Freberg was reproached by her colleagues, “We never would have hired you if we’d known you were Republican.” In spite of her impeccable academic credentials and stellar teaching ratings, Freberg was removed as department chair, and a swastika burned on her lawn.
Just when you think he has plumbed its depths, Maloney finds more sickening examples of Western self-loathing. Kuwaiti student Ahmad al-Qloushi dared to write a pro-American essay at Foothill College. He was threatened with the loss of his visa by a professor; and administrators subsequently authorized the distribution of a third-party flyer calling him “as bad as Hitler” and likening him to a suicide bomber.
These examples seem sensational, but the film’s tone is calm and objective. Maloney did not appear to have cherrypicked his witnesses. He toured campuses big and small, famous and humble, across the nation. It was the same “velvet-totalitarian” story everywhere.
26 November 2007 >>
“The dogma of multiculturalism holds that all cultures are equal, except Western culture, which (unlike every other society on the planet) has a history of oppression and war is therefore worse. All religions are equal, except Christianity, which informed the beliefs of the capitalist bloodsuckers who founded America and is therefore worse. All races are equal, except Caucasians, who long ago went into business with black slave traders in Africa, and therefore they are worse. The genders, too, are equal, except for those paternalistic males, who with their testosterone and aggression have made this planet a polluted living hell, and therefore they are worse.”
Maybe you’ve heard about Indoctrinate U’s DC premiere. The crowd went wild. Now, if you live in or near the Twin Cities, you can go wild too. In association with the Minnesota Association of Scholars and the Tocqueville Center at the University of Minnesota, the Moving Picture Institute is going to be putting on a full week of screenings of Indoctrinate U. [...]
Now for the “global” implications. Think about it. Something very interesting is happening here. The producers of Indoctrinate U are promising to arrange local screenings in areas where enough people express interest at their website. And now they’re holding a local screening. The idea of a local screening tour for politically incorrect films could become the cinematic equivalent of the internet—a way around the mainstream Hollywood blockade. And with luck, strong local interest might even break the Hollywood blockade and prompt a distributor to actually offer Indoctrinate U in commercial theaters. So we may be looking at a genuine “media event,” in the best sense of that term.
But then there’s the part we should take seriously: professors who use the classroom as a stage for their political views. Maloney speculates that perhaps one out of seven perform in this way. I would put the number much lower, perhaps one out of twenty-five. But one out of 10,000 would be one too many.
Academics often bridle at the picture of their activities presented by Maloney and other conservative critics, and accuse them of grossly caricaturing and exaggerating what goes on in the classroom. Maybe so, but so long as there are those who confuse advocacy with teaching, and so long as faculty colleagues and university administrators look the other way, the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary. In 1915, the American Association of University Professors warned that if we didn’t clean up our own shop, external constituencies, with motives more political than educational, would step in and do it for us. Now they’re doing it in the movies and it’s our own fault.
Perhaps my biggest disagreement with Professor Fish is over the issue of speech codes. Professor Fish contends:
This is a fake issue. Every speech code that has been tested in the courts has been struck down, often on the very grounds — you can’t criminalize offensiveness — invoked by Maloney. Even though there are such codes on the books of some universities, enforcing them will never hold up. Students don’t have to worry about speech codes. The universities that have them do, a point made by “Indoctrinate U” when Maloney tells the story of how Cal Poly was taken to the cleaners (no, not his cleaners) when it tried to discipline a student for putting up a poster with the word “plantation” in it.
In the Cal Poly case cited by Professor Fish, a student spent 18 months of his life under the threat of expulsion while he battled the university all the way up to federal court. His crime? Posting a flier announcing an upcoming event: a speech by Mason Weaver, a black conservative author who wrote a book on economic empowerment called It’s OK to Leave the Plantation. Apparently, Mr. Weaver’s point of view was not welcome in the Multicultural Center on campus, so Steve Hinkle, the student who attempted to post Weaver’s flier in there, had the police called on him and was brought up on disciplinary charges by the school.
Ultimately, Hinkle was vindicated, and Professor Fish focuses only on the positive outcome in order to deem the whole issue of speech codes to be “fake.” But having to spend 18 months fighting for rights that are already constitutionally guaranteed sends a strong signal to other students that expressing the wrong point of view will end up costing you dearly. It corrodes the whole concept of free speech by dissuading people from speaking. After all, if simply hanging a flier could result in 18 months of battles, many students are going to conclude that certain speech just isn’t worth it. People whose views differ from the campus orthodoxy are going to keep quiet. Speech is undoubtedly chilled.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gets hundreds upon hundreds of cases each year involving students and professors who have had their rights of conscience trampled. Many of these cases center on the “fake issue” of speech codes. A recent study conducted by FIRE found that over 90% of the hundreds of schools they surveyed had some form of speech regulation on the books.
First, while Fish correctly observes that “[e]very speech code that has been tested in the courts has been struck down,” he vastly understates the severity of the problem by dismissively concluding that therefore “[s]tudents don’t have to worry about speech codes.” That’s hogwash. While the fact that restrictive speech codes have been consistently struck down in court offers clear proof of their unconstitutionality, it certainly doesn’t mean that “[s]tudents don’t have to worry” about them. Contrary to Fish’s assertions, a student at a college with restrictive speech codes on the books is in danger of being punished for engaging in speech clearly protected by the First Amendment. According to FIRE’s first annual speech code report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2006: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, more than 68% of the 330 colleges and universities surveyed maintained policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech. Regardless of Fish’s contention otherwise, that’s something to worry about, as FIRE’s extensive list of speech code cases proves. Besides, Fish gets it exactly backwards: the fact that speech codes are still so pervasive on our nation’s campuses despite consistently losing in court is cause for outrage, not apathy.
Further, students at schools which maintain speech codes must carefully tailor their speech to satisfy oftentimes inscrutable rules—e.g., students at The Ohio State University must be sure that their words aren’t unintentionally “threatening infliction of emotional harm,” whatever that means—or else risk discipline. The chilling effect that inevitably results causes students to self-censor and renders free speech on campus all the more elusive. This too is something to worry about.
Contrary to Fish’s casual faith in the courts, resorting to litigation in hopes of vindicating one’s right to free speech is almost never an attractive option for students. The sheer amount of time spent securing representation, preparing a case, filing charges and, if necessary, pursuing appeals is extremely daunting to students. Just ask the San Francisco State University College Republicans, who are suing SFSU after being put on trial for “harassment” for stepping on Hamas and Hezbollah flags at an anti-terrorism rally. In addition to spending countless hours preparing their defense against SFSU’s charges, the students have had to coordinate a federal lawsuit against the college they currently attend. That’s not an easy or enjoyable task by any standard, and FIRE knows firsthand that despite the strength of their case, too many students decide that a lawsuit is just not worth the time, stress, trouble and alienation.
Still, the good professor does acknowledge a problem in academia. We just disagree about the scope of it and the interpretation of the data that document it.
There are other points made by Professor Fish that I could quibble with, but I don’t want to spend too much time arguing with someone who says I have “lean boyish looks that could earn [me] a role in Oceans 14 alongside Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.”
Can someone please forward that suggestion to a few agents in L.A.? I’d do it myself, but the self-promotion might be a bit much...even by Hollywood standards.