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Saturday, November 23, 2002
There Oughta Be a Law
It came to me as if in a dream.
Given the nonsense taking place at the Harvard Law School (just scroll down one article if you're unfamiliar), perhaps we need federal action to protect free speech on American college campuses. The "Defense of Academic Freedom Act" sounds good to me. And the law would be very simple.
No university that accepts federal money should be allowed to enact any regulations that would sanction or restrict speech not otherwise actionable by existing federal and state law.
So if you aren't Hillsdale College (one of the very few - if not the only - College to make the decision not to accept a dime of federal money in order to maintain its independence), you can't enact a "speech code." I can't imagine the law being struck down as unconstitutional given the extent to which the judiciary has permitted federal mandates to stand with respect to colleges and universities. PARTICULARLY since the thing being protected by the Congress would be a thing also protected by the Bill of Rights.
I know the conservative objection, and I share it myself in some respects. The objection is that this isn't a proper area of involvement for the federal government - particularly with respect to private institutions. We must accept the state of the law as it is, however. And the law, for the time being, is that if an institution takes federal money it can be subjected to federal strings. Thus Title IX and other offenses against liberty and good sense. If this is to be the state of the law, however, failure to use it to advance conservative and libertarian objectives is tantamount to unilateral disarmament.
Sure, some day it would be nice to have that principle overturned. And it would be nicer still for our republic to come to the realization that the funding of education on any level isn't a proper moral or constitutional function of the federal government in the first instance.
Until that day, though, the right needs to use every weapon at its disposal to counteract the hegemony of leftist thought in the media and in the academy. A good start has been made in the former with what Ann Coulter calls the "samizdat media." For evidence of THAT, one need look no further than Tom Daschle's recent public nervous breakdown about Rush Limbaugh of all people. Saddam Hussein doesn't bother him so much...but this Limbaugh guy, now HE's a threat!
Anyway, the more I think about it, the more I like it.
The idea of a bunch of leftists voting and speaking against the "Defense of Academic Freedom Act" suddenly makes CSPAN must-see TV.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Assault on Freedom of Thought - Part 1
The Harvard University Law School is considering enacting - you guessed it - a speech code. If the Boston Globe is to be believed (an admittedly dubious proposition) the move is being pushed by Harvard's Black Law Students Association, among others, in response to the following horrific events:
- A student's use of the word ''nig' in an online course notebook (whatever that means);
- A professor's defense of the above-referenced miscreant;
- Another professor's comment that feminism, Marxism, and black studies have "contributed nothing to tort law"
Wow. I'm surprised there's a building left standing on campus after that kind of provocation.
These are our future judges and constitutional law professors. Talking about a speech code. Scary stuff.
To his credit, Alan Dershowitz has been on the right side of this argument. Not only does he oppose the notion of a speech code, in fact, but in his capacity as a member of the Harvard Law School Diversity Committee, he has openly questioned the whole idea of diversity-by-racial-quota. ''When I hear blacks saying I want more blacks, or liberals saying I want more liberals," Dershowitz said, "that doesn't seem like diversity - that sounds like self-serving pleading.''
Much as I disagree with Dershowitz about many things, I've got to give credit where it's due. In fact, Dershowitz went a step further in raising the ire of the diversity-mongers of the Black Law Students Association. When one of their number proposed a "discrimination harrassment policy" with corresponding sanctions, Dershowitz challenged the student to offer an example of the type of offensive speech that might invoke sanctions. The student couldn't do so, prompting Dershowitz to say: "'With all due respect, what you stated is extraordinarily abstract....That's like asking someone to first vote for censorship, and then figure out later what is censored. With all due respect, I find that statement unhelpful.''
Dershowitz was, of course, excoriated in some quarters for...altogether now.....insensitivity.
Three cheers for Allan Dershowitz.
You can read the details at:
Assault on Freedom of Thought - Part 2
The European Union and other nations, including the U.S., are negotiating a treaty on cybercrime. Its original purpose was to provide a framework to deal with such cross-border computer michief as theft, malicious hacking, etc.. But the Thought Police have gotten involved and they've added a Thoughtcrime rider. They call it the "Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime Concerning the Criminalisation of Acts of a Racist and Xenophobic Nature Committed Through Computer Systems."
Or APCCCCARXNCTCS for short.
If that title isn't Orwellian enough to scare you away, take a look at the actual document. It's at:
Among the measures that would be required of the signatory nations are:
-Laws against "the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems." (Chapter II, Article 3)
-Laws against using computers to make "racist and xenophobic motivated insult." (Chapter II, Article 5)
-Laws against using computers for the "denial, gross minimisation, approval, or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity." (Chapter II, Article 6)
I think you get the idea.
The good news is that the Bush administration has apparently told them to pound sand; that we have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights to which we must adhere.
The bad news is that this sort of vile stuff is deemed unremarkable among more than just the members of Harvard's Black Law Students Association.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Torquemada, Tennis, and Freedom of Association
Walter Williams is, as always, brilliant in this article on the Townhall site at:
The article is about freedom of association. You know - that quaint notion that we should have the right to choose for ourselves who we wish to interact with. Who we want as part of our lives and who we do not.
If you ask people whether they believe in freedom of association, they will inevitably say "of course!" But, alas, the concept has been eviscerated in our country (and is for all practical purposes nonexistent in most of the rest of the world). And as Williams ably demonstrates in the final few paragraphs of his article, most don't even realize it.
"What if you wanted to deal with me, but I didn't want to deal with you?
You say: 'I'm stuck with that one, Williams. What do you mean?'
Suppose I'm looking to hire an employee. You show up for the job, but I don't want to deal with you. My reasons might be that you're white, you're a Catholic, you're ugly, you're a woman or anything else about you that I find objectionable. Should I be forced to hire you?
You say, 'Williams, that's illegal employment discrimination.' You're right, but it still has to do with freedom of association -- and either you're for or against freedom of association as a general principle.
You might argue that I should hire or deal with the first qualified person who comes along. In terms of freedom of association, that's nonsense. After all, would you say I should marry the first qualified women who comes along or play tennis with the first qualified person, or should I be free to marry or play tennis with people I like?
The bottom line is that the true test of one's commitment to freedom of association doesn't come when he allows people to associate in ways he approves. The true test of that commitment comes when he allows people to be free to voluntarily associate in ways he deems despicable. Forced association is not freedom of association."
The regrettable thing is that there was a time when such notions of individual liberty were an accepted aspect of "liberal" thinking. One can hardly imagine John Stuart Mill, arguably the father of modern liberalism, disagreeing. Consider this from his essay "On Liberty:"
"The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.
Though this doctrine is anything but new, and, to some persons, may have the air of a truism, there is no doctrine which stands more directly opposed to the general tendency of existing opinion and practice. Society has expended fully as much effort in the attempt (according to its lights) to compel people to conform to its notions of personal, as of social excellence."
Mill wrote this in 1859. But how much has changed? Particularly in Mill's England. The EU is considering laws against "racism" that would criminalize a great deal of political speech. Such laws, admittedly less draconian that those dreamed of by the boys in Brussels, already exist throughout much of Europe - and many would impose them in the U.S.. Even here we have actually had university administrators enact "speech codes" on college campuses - including some state schools funded primarily with government money.
Then there are the countless federal agencies dedicated to telling us who our business must hire, how we may utilize our property, and how much of our income we may keep. And of course, we mustn't forget the shameful efforts of the diversity fascists to impose their will upon private organizations like the Boy Scouts and, more recently, the Augusta National Golf Club.
A wag once said that the only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys. The same, it seems to me, can be said of Middle Age Inquisitioners and their modern counterparts in the American left. Their toy is power. The power of the state lies in guns and prisons.
And both are a hell of a lot bigger now than they were when Torquemada was plying his trade.
Robert Bartley has a nice piece on WSJ.com about the near-hysteria the GOP election triumph is generating among left-wing media types. The link is below.
It's interesting how so many of the sanctimonious folks who spent decades denying leftist bias in the media have come out of the closet to show their true colors once their careers are basically over. Whether it's the sort of nonsense Moyer is spewing, Walter Cronkite issuing environmental Jeremiahs, or Helen Thomas telling us that she wakes up every morning wonder "who she's going to hate today," aging media lefties are letting it all hang out in their dotage. And it isn't pretty.
But it IS instructive. Remember it the next time you hear Dan Rather explain how he didn't really REALIZE he was speaking at an Al Gore fundraiser. Or Peter Jennings explaining what he REALLY meant when he said that anti-Americanism was "like mother's milk" to him.
Because these same folks will probably come clean themselves a couple of decades hence.
Try not to yawn.
Sunday, November 17, 2002
Stop Courage Profiling!
There are so many words we need to reclaim from the left that I’ve had trouble deciding where to start. But now I think I know. Let’s start with the word “courage.”
If we are to believe leftist media talking heads (and other than at Fox News, that’s pretty much the only kind there are), “courage” means something like: “the willingness to dogmatically adhere to left-wing political correctness in the face of relentless praise, adulation and encouragement by the national media.”
Do you think I exaggerate? Then check out this transcript of a roundtable discussion on “The State of Political Courage” that took place on May 6 of this year.
The participants in this little roundtable ranged from far left (Al Hunt) to loony Left (Marian Wright Edelman), and all but Edelman are major national media figures. I guess the diversity initiative at the JFK Center doesn’t extend to ideology. Anyway, they all took turns talking about their selected profiles in “political courage.” And wouldn’t you know it? Every single example of political courage these folks could identify was of some politician “courageously” advancing a leftist policy agenda! Whoulda thunk it?
E.J. Dionne, for example, waxed orgastic about Lowell Weicker’s passage of Connecticut’s first state income tax right after indicating in his election campaign that he would not do so. Dionne is apparently suffering from a severe case of irony deficiency, because he actually offered this in support of the proposition that Weicker’s renege was an act of courage:
“...when Jeff Greenfield had interviewed him, at CNN, Jeff Greenfield asked him, ‘Governor, did anyone ever thank you for imposing an income tax on the State of Connecticut?’ And he just smiled and said, ‘No.’”
IMAGINE the fortitude it must have taken Weicker to raise taxes knowing that he was going to stand up to a grilling like THAT from Jeff Greenfield! A mere Profile in Courage Award doesn’t seem like quite enough. Can’t we get that man a Purple Heart?
Weicker, of course, is an apostate Republican, which seems to be good for extra Courage Points these days. Take John McCain, for example. He and Russ Feingold were Al Hunt’s choice for their devoted advocacy of speech rationing - sometimes referred to as “campaign finance reform.” The rumor is that next year Hunt plans to nominate the editorial boards of 100 U.S. daily newspapers for displaying similar valor.
McCain, of course, is regularly lauded by media types for his courage. The explanation is simple: he generally opposes Republican policies. The rationale is that it’s somehow courageous to take a stance in opposition to your party and its leadership. Jim Jeffords, of course, showed the ultimate in courage by bolting the GOP altogether. Odd, though, that we never hear this sort of hagiographic rhapsodizing about folks like Zel Miller who chastise their own Democrats for veering too far leftward.
The “honoree” of this little left-wing circle-smirk who’s inclusion most vividly unmasked the purely ideological nature of the JFK Center was the late Mike Synar. One searches the transcript in vain for any act of bravery on Synar’s part comparable to, say, incurring the thanks of Jeff Greenfield. All that shows up is stuff about “standing up to special interests” like the ever-dreaded “big oil companies” and “gun owners,” as if these groups are the embodiment of evil itself
I’ll start taking the JFK Library and Museum seriously the day it gives a Profile In Courage award to a politician who stands up to the Sierra Club or the AFL-CIO. Or to pompous twits like E.J. Dionne and Al Hunt for that matter. Otherwise, they ought to change the name of the award to The Distinguished Service to Leftism Award and be done with it.
You know who I think of when I think of political courage? Black conservatives. Men like Clarence Thomas, for example. Thomas has been the subject of slander, vitriol and the most venomous sort of attacks since the day he was first nominated for the Supreme Court. Who can forget the shameful character assassination campaign conducted against him by the usual suspects; culminating in the allegations of the hapless, lying Anita Hill? It has gotten only slightly better in the interim, with Thomas regularly slandered by “black leaders” for the sin of daring to deviate from leftist orthodoxy. Typical is the comment of columnist Bill Maxwell, for example, who said of Thomas: “He is trying his damnedest to be an ex-coloured man.”
People like Thomas, Sowell, Ward Connerly and other black conservatives know they’re going to be subjected to this type of nonsense and worse. They are inevitably called Uncle Toms, sell-outs, race-traitors....you‘ve heard it all. And not just from representatives of the fringes. This sort of stuff comes from the media-anointed “black leadership.” These folks know that they’ll subject themselves to ridicule and mockery for their heresies. Yet they keep on.
Now THAT’S a profile in courage.
Even if Jeff Greenfield never does thank them.