And so it begins again . . . Horowitz targets me with lies, exaggerations, and distortions

On April 9, 2009, a rowdy group of about 60 students protested the appearance of  neo-McCarthyite culture warrior David Horowitz in Austin. Because Horowitz repeatedly targets me in his attacks on progressive and critical intellectuals, I was part of the protest.

On April 18, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy opinion column by David Horowitz in which he condemned the demonstration and impugned me, University of Texas students, and several activist organizations. He not only claimed that the protest was an attempt to silence his free speech, but also argued that my reasonable contribution to the discussion was a pretense.  In spite of a recent rash of withdrawn speaking invitations to left-wing professors (e.g., Norman Finkelstein, fired at DePaul and refused a scheduled lecture at Clark College)–not to mention the spate of firings and denials of tenure on political bases at universities across the country–he claimed that leftists never face protest or censorship when they speak.

In response to his account here in The Wall Street Journal, I shall make three arguments. First, his account and his demagoguery in general are full of lies, distortions, and exaggerations. Second, protest, even disruptive protest, is neither violent nor censorious. Finally, David Horowitz should be confronted loudly and often wherever he goes, because he represents nothing less than the thought police. In Orwellian fashion, he projects his thought-police role onto his opponents as a disingenuous strategy of disciplining academics who hold views contrary to his (unfortunately influential) orthodoxy–and who might actually make sense to independent-minded students.

First, Horowitz’s account of the evening, not to mention the content of his entire lecture, is full of lies, distortions, and exaggerations. The only assault he has ever “faced” involved a cream pie. That he travels around with a hunky bodyguard and routinely calls the police on protesters (now, there’s censorship) is a bit of over-the-top self-aggrandizing drama. He is no victim of the left. 60 students posed no threat to his safety, and neither did I, a 45-year-old professor. Furthermore, when I rose to speak, and when I began to make sense, he cut off discussion and launched into a hysterical rant, calling students little fascists. I had merely asked why he disrespected students so much as to think that they are so vulnerable to indoctrination. I explained how how his targeting of me has resulted in real, actual threats and voluminous hate mail against me; I discussed how his activities and that of others amounted to a New McCarthyism that has put numerous scholars across the country at risk (now, there’s censorship). I also explained that just as I keep my family life separate from the undergraduate classroom, so do I separate my activism from my pedagogy. He had no answer to these criticisms and questions. Instead, he and others started claiming that my appearing reasonable and genuine (even going so far as to invite any audience member into my class) was a manipulative act.

His “work,” likewise, is shoddy and riddled with lies. I invite readers to the check website freeexchangeoncampus.org for detailed account of his misrepresentations about me and others in their report “Facts Still Count.” In general, his presentation made a number of questionable claims. For example, he claimed that race is no longer a barrier to achievement in the U.S., that gender is biological (and therefore so is women’s alleged inability to do math), that renowned Black scholars like Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson are “buffoons” and “clowns” (note the invocation of slavery-era stereotypes.)

In an infamous instance during his round of “Islamofascism Awareness Week” tours, Horowitz claimed that a photo used to dramatize the oppression of women in Islam (in which a woman is shown being beaten and buried alive); it turns out that the photo is from a Dutch film, De Steen.

He claims that he humanities are riddled with nefarious faculty indoctrinating their students in disciplines that don’t count as scholarship, yet he says nothing about the evident ideological uniformity of the business school, aerospace engineering, and the like. Contrary to his accusations, Sami-al-Arian does not lead a terrorist group and Iranians for Peace and Justice have not officially endorsed or supported Hezbollah or Hamas. My courses do, in fact, include readings in anti-feminism and the conservative movement. One can discover the same errors with regard to the syllabi and records of all of my award-winning colleagues. (One rather humorous error is that he claims that the author of my text on social movements is the radical Robert Jensen, when it is a much less scary Richard Jensen.)

As Horowitz publicist Patricia Jackson noted, “We don’t generally fact check.” Yet Horowitz claims that his right to free speech has been abridged. Last time I checked, libel is illegal and not covered by the First Amendment.

Second, it is wrong to equate protest–even loud, disruptive protest–with censorship. Public disruption has been a staple of movements for social change in this country from the Boston Tea Party forward. (In this light, it is incredibly ironic that conservatives who claimed to be acting in the tradition of the Boston Tea Party last week also would condemn our protest. The BTP was nothing if not rude and disruptive.) Our norms of decorum are ridiculous when compared to other countries’ forms of political discourse. Take, for example, the British Parliament, where booing, heckling, and shouting are the order of the day.

Protest is not censorship; it is simply the exercise of more speech. Where would our democracy be without disruptive protests for women’s rights, civil rights for minorities, and for the meager protections and rights afforded gays and lesbians today? Indeed, where would our democracy be without the (very violent and disruptive) war  for independence or without Sherman’s  (very violent and disruptive) march to the sea?

Third, I hear the argument from all quarters that even witch-hunters like Horowitz deserve their say and that they should be allowed to speak respectfully and uninterrupted. However, if one acknowledges that the man is a witch-hunter, giving him a platform is akin to aiding and abetting his program of imposed orthodoxy and the purging of radicals from the academy. One recent case in point was reported today in InsideHigherEd: The College of DuPage just adopted his Orwellian-misnamed “Academic Bill of Rights,” which, among other things, “includes language that some professors fear will make it impossible for them to explain to students that issues such as evolution are not in question in reputable scientific circles. . . . The measure also seems to rule out the possibility that faculty members could teach a course from their philosophical perspective, and seems to equate doing so with disrespect for students.” The climate that David Horowitz and others of his ilk have fostered legitimates the firing and disciplining of faculty. He says he doesn’t call for people to be fired. He doesn’t have to.

Do you know at whom I wish someone had hollered early, loudly, and often?

Joe McCarthy.

The Joe McCarthy of the “I have here a list”–or, in Horowitz’s case, a book, or two books, or three books, or the Internet network of intellectuals as terrorists–fame. In hindsight, many defenders of freedom would have challenged him more vociferously had they recognized what he represented. David Horowitz is a modern-day McCarthy. Award winning teachers and dedicated, respected scholars face censorship and dismissal because of the climate that David Horowitz fosters. We do not let witch-hunters or other complete and total enemies of free speech take a platform unchallenged. (Appallingly, some conservative respondents to Horowitz’s column have argued that McCarthy had the right idea.)

I am a socialist. However, contrary to Horowitz’s rantings, I am not a Stalinist. My politics are quite the opposite of fascism, and I invite readers to explore the differences between, say, Trotskyism and fascism before making any further accusations. To seek a world in which ordinary people control the conditions of their existence is neither fascism nor Stalinism. To criticize a world in which we get devastating wars for oil but not universal health care is not terrorism. To recognize the sickening fact that capitalism goes into crisis not because there is too little to go around, but because there is too much–while people starve on the streets, join the unemployment lines, and lose their homes, vast office buildings stand vacant and tons of grain are dumped each year because they cannot be sold– does not make one a Stalinist. Working people are paying for the crisis that greed and power made. It is no wonder that a Rasmussen poll taken last week indicated that only 53% of Americans believe today that capitalism is better than socialism. (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/10/rasmussen-capitalism-poll_n_185665.html) I’d like to keep the campuses a space where we can debate these matters of grave significance–not whether faculty are involved in an imaginary program of insidious mind control.

Horowitz’s inflamed rhetoric is no more than casuistry and demagoguery, aimed at getting universities to discipline their faculty even as campus social movements emerge from their doldrums. There is a connection here. Campuses are historically sites of truly open debate, critique, and activism. The ground has shifted radically under the feet of conservatives as recent events have inspired Americans to question the terms of existing society and to protest inequality and injustice. It seems that the academy is the final flag in the culture war, and conservatives like Horowitz are holding on by their teeth. That his column was published in The Wall Street Journal lays bare the connection between this culture war and the defense of capitalism as an economic system.

Even when desperate, the speech and action of David Horowitz have consequences, and these consequences have absolutely nothing to do with protecting undergraduates from left-wing indoctrination. I invite you to look up the cases of Jonathon Kovel and Norman Finkelstein, and the lesser known cases of political harassment and dismissal of teachers like Loretta Capeheart.

No, we will not stand by silently while the hysteria of an increasingly desperate witch-hunt builds. We will not leave the new McCarthys to speak in peace so long as they threaten actual academic freedom.

77 thoughts on “And so it begins again . . . Horowitz targets me with lies, exaggerations, and distortions”

  1. Sorry about the name – I got you confused with someone on the WSJ forum who was maligning my spouse after the DH article. My apologies, Don Decency Truth-[Other-Last Name].

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  2. But you see, not EVERYONE agrees with you, so you can’t just shout over someone who people came to see speak. That’s disturbing the peace. And you still live in a free country. As a Communist, it’s obvious you don’t want to allow anyone else’s opinion. Communist kill dissenters, so I don’t understand your anger over him saying you were trying to silence his freedom of speech.

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  3. 1) Your “yippie we win” is another broadbrush distortion that you want to lump all “leftists” together. If you note my posts throughout, I have engaged you on specific issues. Those issues, in particular, DH v. DC and their right to speak, the place of the university, side issues as to Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, my knowledge and “defense” of DC, and the credentials of professors (I am sure there are other ones, but those are what I see are most pertinent to the discussion.

    2) I don’t need to say anything to my fellow leftist. If Dana wants to protest the way she does, so be it that is her right. I personally prefer a more toned down debate, not as confrontational. However, I am not going to impose myself on her and tell her that she is wrong. She is doing what she believes in. That is what she should so. What I do is different. I work within the system in a variety of ways. This “either/or” fallacious argument of yours is b/s. Because it is argument fallacy (I must speak up or if I don’t then I automatically side with her). My silence on this issue has to do with her DCs ability to tackle the problem how she wants it. I don’t believe in uniformity for everything. I believe in a plurality of ways making your point. DC has hers and I have mind and we are not of the same mind on the subject.

    3) You have admitted to not reading any of DHs books, but you make arguments that the university has become a basic indoctrination center (a DH claim that you buy into); moreover, you buy into the idea that these professors that DH has named, DC, in particular are dangerous….even though his evidence is shoddy. When you try to point out that his overall theses might still be sound, even with shoddy evidence. That is a claim in support of DHs work.

    In terms of DC. Well, I know Dana, we have talked at conferences. I know many of her colleagues. I have read her scholarly work both inside and outside the classroom, and I know her students, along with the lessons that she teaches. Thus, i have an informed claim about DC and her pedagogy v. activism.

    In terms of issues that I haven’t covered…well I have mentioned what issues I have been arguing throughout. I don’t cover all of the things talked about by K or DC (some of them I just don’t comment on b/c of space). However, if I am missing arguments, please make them directly toward me and I am more than happy to respond.

    4) You seem like a pleasant person, Don. You and I appear to have similar goals for a university, in that we want our students to be “sharp.” Obviously, we have a disagreement about how we get there. And here is where you lost me completely. To argue that you feel it is “self-evident” that we should have standards in a university such as loyalty to this nation, its values, its principles is: 1) extremely dangerous b/c how do you decide what those values are. Is DC advocacy of socialism disloyalty? Does her questioning of DH amount of going against American values? My problem is that you want to dictate to universities what those ideas are. But, as I noted, universities that have been “tax payer funded” and paid for by city-states, countries, and America, have been a place where you probably woudln’t like them b/c they encouraged dissent, protest, etc. That is why I believe I don’t think you have an understanding of what a university has traditionally been and should be.

    The implication of your argument is that you want me and colleagues to teach a certain set of values, principles, and the like, along with classes that meet our academic credentials. Sorry, I won’t do that. I will teach my students all of the good and bad that is with America and with the world. My job is to help them understand and explore a variety of ideas, even if that makes them uncomfortable. Even if it goes against, what you may consider “loyalty to the nation? To do otherwise is to create stepford children who have the depth of thought of a jellyfish.

    What this comes down to is your vision of what America is and what a university should do vs. what I or DC or k (who are different with respect to me) believe it is.

    I would like to hear more specifically, what your vision of America is and what we should and shouldn’t say in the classroom.

    And if there is a claim you want me to answer specifically, please just ask me. I am more than happy to answer. Although I suspect you might not come back b/c I actually think, at least for me, this is a productive discussion.

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  4. Pub, if protesters were disturbing the peace, they would have been arrested. There were plenty of police on hand at the DH event, and they warned the activists of the possibility of arrest should things have gotten out of hand. However, they determined that the protesters were acting lawfully.

    Throughout, all you and Don have been able to argue with any success is that the protesters were rude. You have yet to prove that there was any first amendment violation on their part – chiefly because there was not.

    You have also yet to back up your claim that we, as socialists, are opponents of free speech and dissent. We would be happy to discuss what our politics actually are, and you could learn that our politics have nothing to do with Stalinism, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea and the like. Accuse us all you like of dictatorial ambitions, but let’s make it very, very clear that you have no basis for doing so.

    Speaking of dictatorial ambitions vs. democracy, Don has shown that he would restrict the free flow of ideas, while we are arguing against such restrictions. You cannot rightfully claim a commitment to democracy while advocating the removal from our public universities those scholars who disagree with your perspective.

    On the violent suppression of dissent: The United States’ hands are far from clean. For example, in 1884 the government hanged August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel after falsely convicting them of terrorism. These men were targeted because they were anarchists, free-speech advocates, and union organizers (as prosecutors presented “evidence” no demonstration of any crime other than their political leanings. They and three other defendants were pardoned in 1893 after being found innocent.

    In 1914 the National Guard in Colorado burned down a tent city of striking miners and their families during the Ludlow Massacre, killing 20, including 11 children.

    Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, hundreds of union organizers and strikers were killed by police all across the country. These were people who only wanted safe workplaces, fair wages, hours and working conditions.

    In 1970 four students at Kent State University were shot by the National Guard during a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War.

    In 1985 the FBI bombed a building that housed black activists from the MOVE organization, killing six adults and five children. It was later determined in a civil suit that the bombing was unjustified.

    These instances are only a few. Yet they should be enough to call into question the claim that US democracy doesn’t violently suppress dissent.

    And before you claim that those killed by Pol Pot, Stalin and other dictators is somehow related to our vision of how the world should be, I challenge you to look up the politics of the International Socialist Organization and find even one instance of support for those regimes. Visit http://socialistworker.org (the section entitled “About Us”).

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  5. J:
    1) “Your ‘yippie we win’ is another broadbrush distortion that you want to lump all “leftists” together.”

    Really, Jason? I thought it only applied to the three Leftist participants here. You like documentation, so provide it in support of your assertion, or accept that your “claims” are unsubstantiated, unsupported, suspicious, weak, and blah blah blah. Another stupid comment, reinforcing the idea that this is an utter waste of time and effort. And you “professors” are lost in a gooey mess of your own minds and self-indulgence. Get out and try earning a living for a change.

    J:
    “If you note my posts throughout, I have engaged you on specific issues.”

    You’ve done fairly well, but you have dodged some of my points, as I recall. And the previous one was particularly telling. For the bazillionth time, you challenged me. I responded. You then accepted your “award” from “K” and didn’t respond to me. So, you lose the award you so gleefully accepted.

    J:
    “2) I don’t need to say anything to my fellow leftist. If Dana wants to protest the way she does, so be it that is her right. I personally prefer a more toned down debate, not as confrontational”

    Then you are irrelevant to this discussion, in the same way that “moderate” Muslims are irrelevant to the worldwide problem of murderous and fascistic Muslims, who likewise say “I personally don’t agree with that, but I don’t do it” and then go about their business, as if millions of Muslims being viciously cruel and intolerant of others, in the name of Islam, is something they don’t need to speak out against.

    And do you have that same attitude about all other people and groups? That is, do you judge groups based on their most vocal proponents, or do you ignore the voices of the most active activists, declaring that they only represent themselves, and no one else? Somehow, I suspect that what you’re “selling” here is not what you sell elsewhere.

    If anyone wants his group to have moral credibility, then he must criticize members of his own group. For instance, let’s say that a nutjob Christian blows up an abortion clinic, in the name of Christ. If no Christian comes forward to condemn such actions, then does that not reflect poorly on Christians as a whole? You bet it does. (as it happens, most all Christians condemn such actions, loud and clear, no exquisite word games or non-apology apologies).

    J:
    “However, I am not going to impose myself on her and tell her that she is wrong. She is doing what she believes in.”

    Well now there’s some moral backbone hard at work (sarcasm intended). And if I read nothing else from you, that’s enough to tell me what I need to know. And it’s hogwash. DH is doing “what he believes in” but you have no problem whatsoever trying to impose yourself on him. You’re full of BS, Jason. And a world without ANY judgment calls, is a world of chaos. Maybe that’s what you want.

    J:
    “My silence on this issue has to do with her DCs ability to tackle the problem how she wants it. I don’t believe in uniformity for everything. I believe in a plurality of ways making your point. DC has hers and I have mind and we are not of the same mind on the subject.”

    What a heapin’, steamin’ gigantic pile of BS. Allow me to translate: As long as you agree with the person, then she or he can do anything. If you disagree, then prepare for the anal-exam detailed scrutiny of every last word and action. Excuse me as I go vomit.

    J:
    “3) You have admitted to not reading any of DHs books, but you make arguments that the university has become a basic indoctrination center”

    That is correct, Mr. Genius Professor guy with the attorney wife. Would you like to ask your attorney wife to provide you with all of the gigantic holes in the case you’re trying to make? You’ve claimed the DH’s claims are filled with holes, and yet you make a point such as this? I’ll give you a hint, Genius Guy: I actually have a life outside of DH’s books. I actually have seen, heard, and learned things, elsewhere. I know that’s a pretty wild and exotic concept, but try to wrap your gigantic brain around it.

    J:
    “you buy into the idea that these professors that DH has named, DC, in particular are dangerous….even though his evidence is shoddy.”

    I do believe that, but not because of anything written in the book. It’s because I’ve seen Leftists in action, and what DH said in the video, and the WSJ article, and needing security to be able to speak at the university, and the campus administration needing to threaten the Lefties in order to get them to back off, is completely believable, nor has it been challenged by DC or her supporters. And in this comment area alone, “K” displays some psycho-like behavior, and attempts to reveal my last name. I’ve also known other lefties, who likewise justify vandalism and violence, against those they perceive as bad (even if it’s something random, like “capitalism” or “the rich”). Oh, and last year, here in California, there was vote on same-sex marriage. Homes which displayed “Yes On 8” (in support of marriage as it’s always been understood) were frequently vandalized. There was nothing comparable for homes decorated with “No On 8”. And that’s just getting warmed-up, jack. Face it: You use and abuse rhetoric, to support your agenda, not seek the truth.

    J:
    “4) You seem like a pleasant person, Don. You and I appear to have similar goals for a university, in that we want our students to be “sharp.” Obviously, we have a disagreement about how we get there. And here is where you lost me completely. To argue that you feel it is “self-evident” that we should have standards in a university such as loyalty to this nation, its values, its principles is: 1) extremely dangerous b/c how do you decide what those values are.”

    Thanks, and I am, when I’m not tangling with others in heated debates.

    But, ooh, “extremely dangerous”? Not even just “dangerous” but “extremely”? Get a life, Jason. Get out more. This displays that you have no concept, or appreciation, for America. If you did, then you’d want to protect it. Anything goes, protects nothing.

    A problem you modern-day brainiacs get all tangled up with, is that unless something is defined with air-tight, computer-like logic, then you just can’t deal with it. No doubt, that’s what has fostered intellectuals being “so open minded, their brains fall out”. Being smart and inquisitive doesn’t mean you cease being human, or cease having subjective judgement calls. Quite the contrary, and I’ll argue that people in the university, who’s opinions are not tempered by gritty-reality life outside the university, sail off into la-la land of weirdness. You need both. Academics alone, can lead to absurdity. No academics, can lead to a lot of stupidity and cruelty. You academics need to view yourselves as servants of the Common Man, not some high priests of culture. Academics are NOT the center of life, they’re just one part of it. A tool. A means to an ends, not an ends unto themselves. A vehicle for seeking truth, but not truth unto themselves. Case-in-point, “global warming”. Mark my words, ten years from now this will be shown to be bunk. And yet, we have a majority of PhDs, in the PHYSICAL sciences, pushing it. Supposedly, the physical sciences are immune to social pressure to conform, relying instead on the scientific method. And yet, here we have scientists being pressured and swayed to give the ‘right’ answers, and they’re doing it. So, one can only imagine how such social mind games play out in other academic areas, where there are far fewer “reality-checks” and are more easily played around with, to produce the socially-accepted PC answers of the day.

    J:
    ” Is DC advocacy of socialism disloyalty? Does her questioning of DH amount of going against American values? ”

    Advocating socialism against America? I’m not sure, but it could be considered that.

    Questioning DH against American values? Don’t be stupid, or ask such stupid questions. You know full well that NO ONE here is opposed to “questioning”. Comments such as this bely your pretensions of being non-judgmental, and seeking open and honest dialog between different parties.

    J:
    ” My problem is that you want to dictate to universities what those ideas are.”

    No, but my problem is that you’re not what you present yourself as. Quote me with anything where I even suggested that i “want to dictate to universities” what their ideas are. I provided an “example” and specifically stated as such. Jason, as I’ve stated earlier, I fully recognize the risk of being too restricting (in all areas of life, not just the one instance of which professors are suitable for the university). But you and others like you don’t seem to have any concept of the risks on the other end of the spectrum: Of being so open, your brains fall out, and the university ends up being populated by a bunch of nutballs, and others who are hostile to American values. Once more, I recognize the risk on my end. It’s you who doesn’t recognize the risk on your end. In real life, we HAVE to make judgement calls for what is good, healthy, and decent. If we don’t do that, then chaos and confusion ensues. We can make 100,000 laws, attempting to define social perfection, but in the end, it won’t make a better world, unless we make subjective, qualitative judgment calls about good-bad, better-worse, smart-stupid, healthy-unhealthy, etc. That’s life in the big city. The university seems to think it’s immune to such things. They aren’t, and the people out here, who don’t know what goes on in the hallowed halls of academia, are getting wind of it, and are getting nauseated. And then when you demand that we give you money that we’ve worked for (via taxes) the blood rises to the boiling point, and we’ve had enough of it. Look down your noses at us all you like, but I respect day laborers I know, more than I do many professors. At least the laborers are putting in an honest day’s work, producing something which truly is making America a better place.

    J:
    “The implication of your argument is that you want me and colleagues to teach a certain set of values, principles, and the like:”

    It is not, and you lose yet another point on the clear-thinking scale. I said that there should be boundaries — outer limits — on HOW it is taught. E.g., it’s one thing to teach what socialism is, quite another to “sell” it. It’s one thing to identify flaws in America, quite another to dump on America endlessly, from a person who, ultimately, hates it.

    J:
    “To do otherwise is to create stepford children who have the depth of thought of a jellyfish”

    As I just described, that’s not so. But to give another example, let’s compare someone doing a college course on your wife, talking about who she is, what she’s done, what she stands for, etc.. As you can imagine, the content of that course could span quite a wide spectrum, from, let’s say, how you might teach it, to how one of her courtroom opponents, who hates her (but has access to comprehensive data on her life) and wants to tear her down, might conduct it. If ultimately We like your wife (I’m trying to continue the analogy here…) and want her to stay strong and successful, but at the same time, recognizing her flaws, then we won’t want the Jason Wife-hater teaching the course. Is that overly-limiting? No. Again, one can analyze and discuss things, while at the same time recognizing that we have a good thing here, and we want to preserve it. We identify flaws, but the goal is to build it up better, not tear it down or completely rebuild it into something different. If someone wants something totally different, then they don’t belong here.

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  6. Don, Don’t you have anything better to do? And protesting a speech is in no way like bombing an abortion clinic. It’s just protest! Let’s rest now!

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  7. Dana,

    Thanks for clarifying that bombing an abortion clinic is not like protesting a speech. I didn’t know that (sarcasm intended). The point was (and I quote): “If anyone wants his group to have moral credibility, then he must criticize members of his own group.” And no, I would not limit that to the use of explosives 🙂

    And previously I’m accused of not responding to points (although I have no idea what those points they are). Now, after responding to Jason point-by-point, leaving nothing out, I’m asked “don’t you have something better to do?” ROFL.

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  8. Don:
    “And in this comment area alone, “K” displays some psycho-like behavior, and attempts to reveal my last name.”

    I already (and graciously) apologized for the accidental confusion of you with some other Don (who posted his name as Johnson) on the WSJ forum who was maligning my wife. So quit bellyaching, already. You’ve got my last name, so what’s to worry? And if you need the first one, it’s Kathleen.

    Another interesting claim you make: “I’ll argue that people in the university, who’s opinions are not tempered by gritty-reality life outside the university, sail off into la-la land of weirdness.”

    That’s quite an assumption, particularly as you have no idea what our backgrounds are, what other jobs we’ve had. You also don’t seem to understand that the university shares a reality with the rest of the world. It is our workplace, not some monastery at the top of a mountain. Though I suppose it could be flattering that you think we’re magical creatures in a magical place imbued with mind control powers. (Of course, if that were true we wouldn’t have to bother arguing with the likes of you, because you would have already succumbed to the brainwashing effects of your matriculation.)

    You write: “Quote me with anything where I even suggested that i “want to dictate to universities” what their ideas are. ”

    Okay. Post #46, where you write: “I find it self-evident that a university should have minimum standards for its professors, and what they teach. And no, that doesn’t just include “academic credentials”. It should include things such as loyalty to this nation, its principles, and its people, particularly if the university is publicly funded. That is a basic presumption, and is why we pay for it with public funds — we believe it’s making a better America. If a professor is hostile to America, then that’s his right, but we damn well don’t want to pay him for it, nor send our kids to get filled with his ideas. I provide that as an example, of how, yes, I do indeed think there must be outer boundaries of what is acceptable in a professor, not just “PhD” attached to his name.”

    You do want to dictate to universities what their ideas are. You want them to be places that either endorse your political perspectives or lose public funding. You don’t seem to realize that it would be completely unconstitutional for a public entity to curtail the free flow of ideas that way. I continue to find it quite odd that you purport to respect democracy, yet you keep promoting restrictions upon its practice. In fact, it seems as if you want to do precisely what you accuse us of. You are advocating censorship, while we are defending our first amendment right to protest.

    You write further: “I said that there should be boundaries — outer limits — on HOW it is taught. E.g., it’s one thing to teach what socialism is, quite another to “sell” it. It’s one thing to identify flaws in America, quite another to dump on America endlessly, from a person who, ultimately, hates it.”

    Again, you seem to have trouble telling the difference between what goes on inside the classroom and what goes on outside. The DH event was outside the classroom – a public forum, where free speech (from DH’s neo-McCarthyite rants to our impolite protest) is unrestricted.

    Let me break it down for you in very simple terms, Don, so you can remember: Teaching with high professional and ethical standards and giving voice to a variety of perspectives is what goes on *inside* the classroom. Public speaking, protest, and the like are what goes on *outside* the classroom.

    Sure, we all bring our perspectives to bear, even when we teach. But we are open about our commitments and have never graded students on anything but their ability to perform the required assignments. For example, Dana already mentioned her evangelical Christian student who gave one of the best speeches she has ever heard a student give. Does his speech correspond with her views? Likely not. Is he going to get an A on his speech? Indeed, because he earned it.

    Would you prefer to have a bunch of closet Bolsheviks lurking about in classrooms, able to grade students politically without anyone knowing it? I’d prefer our scholars to be quite up front about their views, so that I could ponder whether their perspectives are being brought to bear unfairly upon my grades.

    You write: ” If ultimately We like your wife (I’m trying to continue the analogy here…) and want her to stay strong and successful, but at the same time, recognizing her flaws, then we won’t want the Jason Wife-hater teaching the course. Is that overly-limiting? ”

    Actually, yes. It shouldn’t matter whether the instructor likes or dislikes Jason’s wife, as long as s/he makes it clear that there are other perspectives that the students would do well to explore. Even better, s/he can mention that s/he doesn’t like his wife and will be teaching with that perspective in mind, and that that perspective is open to criticism from the students. Again, we don’t assume our students are stupid – and we *do* require that they do research outside the classroom. We call it homework.

    Finally, you write: “Again, one can analyze and discuss things, while at the same time recognizing that we have a good thing here, and we want to preserve it. We identify flaws, but the goal is to build it up better, not tear it down or completely rebuild it into something different. If someone wants something totally different, then they don’t belong here.”

    If I didn’t like the first amendment, I wouldn’t be arguing with you about the need to preserve it. But I won’t settle for just that – I don’t think it’s necessary for people to starve when we produce plenty of food, or go homeless while there are so many empty homes. I want more, not less democracy.

    You, on the other hand, want more institutional – and that means governmental – restrictions on speech and the free flow of ideas. You want people who disagree with the policies and direction of the country to shut up or get out.

    Is that democracy in *your* America, Don?

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  9. But wait, come to think of it, that’s an interesting comparison to make.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Dana (or her unbalanced little friend) decided to use explosives as a means of “protest.” Would Jason criticize it and say it was wrong? Or would he say that he personally wouldn’t do such a thing, but Dana is free to “do what she believes in”? And if not, then why not, and what’s the basis for the distinction? (I feel like I’m playing the professor here…).

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  10. Whoa, no, wait a minute! This just keeps getting better and better 🙂

    Bill Ayers used explosives as a means of “protest.” How about it, Jason. Here we have a real-world example of a Leftist using explosives as a means of protest. Can you bring yourself to condemn those acts?

    And, whoa, K has defended that Bill Ayers should be a speaker at universities, even though he continues to defend blowing up property, to this day. Whoa.

    Thanks for jogging my thought processes on this, Dana.

    Whoa.

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    1. Hey, Don, are you the same Don that I corresponded with a couple of years okay? I appreciate your engagement in serious dialogue–truly.

      Dana

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  11. Where do I begin…

    1) Your “yippie we win” is a broadbrush stroke even with the three of us. B/c I have acknowledged that there are differences in opinion between DC and I in terms of politics. And even in terms of the approach of how we debate. DC, K, and I are arguing a similar point about DCs protest and DHs shoddy work. However, that’s about where it stops. If you want to know my personal politics (not that you care). I am not, nor have I even been a socialist. I certainly lean center left in terms of my politics, but this argument isn’t about that it is about DH v. DC, academic freedom, and her quality of protest. Thus, by taking the entire argument structure we have put together and saying “yippie we win”, which you yourself said is your “summary” of everything without acknowledging nuance between all of us is a broadbrush stroke.

    2)Name the issues I have dodged and I will argue them, as I noted in the last post. And the “award” I accepted was, as you know, done in tongue in cheek. C’mon, you know better than that. Throughout this entire debate I haven’t engaged in ad hominems with you. If you want to do that that is fine, but if someone outside of the four of us is viewing us (and I say this to K and DC as well) the credibility of engaging in that kind of debate is piss-poor. So I ask that none of us engage in it.

    3)I am not “irrelevant to this discussion” because I don’t call upon DC to conduct herself in a particular manner in her protest. If you want to live in an either/or, black or white world fine. That isn’t the way the real world works and it certainly isn’t how true debate, discussion, etc. should be conducted.

    In terms of other groups, I don’t paint with broad brush strokes (except for reality TV stars). However, let’s take your analogy…I think that if some Christian nutjob did that then you actually don’t need to say something. However, if it appears there is a pattern, a pattern where a large number of those “nutjobs” are engaging in nefarious behavior, then yes I would stand up. As it stands, there are “leftist” professors around every corner indoctrinating children, causing chaos in the university, and the like. Moreover, when I do protest I do it from within the faculty. I keep it in house and express my dissatisfaction. It doesn’t make headline news, but I do speak up and usually lead depending on that issue.

    In terms of the imposition, my problem with DH, as I have continually pointed out, is not his ability to say what he says or even the actual content of what he says. My contention is the shoddy way he conducts his research, which has led him to his conclusions, and the way he has conducted the issue. DH, to me, doesn’t seem like he is trying to change the university for better. Rather, he is a firebrand for a larger cause. That is fine. Nothing wrong with that. However, when he makes his arguments as public as he does and the evidence he uses is so piss poor that you could drive a mack truck through it, which in turn hurts me b/c people come to think of me, my colleagues (liberal, con, whatever) as doing a shoddy job of teaching, then I have a problem with it. If he had better research, conducted it in a manner that had gone with peer review. Worked with other universities and the like to study the attitudes of professors, etc, then I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with him.

    Additionally, I have made a judgment call. That is not to impose my specific views on DCs manner of protest. You may not like it because it doesn’t exist in that stark world of yours, but it is a judgment call. And judgment calls like that don’t lead to chaos. They lead to understanding, deliberation, negotiation (that is how most issues, not all, but most issues are fixed). And moral credibility to whom? What does that mean and who gets to make those judgments? I ask, for your opinion, in all sincerity. I am not trying to be coy, but want to hear your opinion on the subject and how that is generated.

    Moreover, you can consider my not coming and protesting DCs actions as huge pile of “BS.” But I don’t live in a world with conspiracy on every corner, where everything is black and white. I live in the actual world with nuance, grey, and realizing that most things come from compromise and pragmatic thought not one way or the other.

    3)Your first part is basically non-responsive. You have no evidence regarding DH, the website the we have discussed, as well as others have poked enough holes in his claims about those profs that they show shoddy worksmanship.

    BTW, like you I worked and do work in the real world (I consult for different companies and organizations). I have worked in the corporate world and had other jobs like a detox technician, a farmhand, working in the oil fields of Wyoming and North Dakota, working in a grocery store (not in that order) before I came to a life of academia. I have seen more of the real world than most and I still live in it every day. Hell, the life of a teacher is living in the real world. We have to deal with the same issues that everyone else does. The product I produce is knowledge, just as valuable as someone who creates a new financial product. My product won’t make you rich, but it will provide people with a greater understanding of the world (or at least from a certain perspective) and if you don’t value that, well then I pity the world that you live in.

    Further, well, what you have seen is just that what you have seen and heard. You want to lump all “leftists,” (maybe I would be part of that b/c i am center left) into one big category. To the people that engage in vandalism and property damage, I actively scathe those people, both in public and private forums (I actually was interviewed about it by a local news station last year). However, the people that protest, like DC, where no violence has been committed (police protection comes at a number of protests, including those of the 60s, for and against gay rights and marriage, womens rights, etc…it isn’t lisolated)then those people, in my opinion, have the right to protest all they want. Just as DH has the right to speak his mind. I would hope that they would have a dual forum together, but that was not the case in this instance. Your broadbrush of people, without seeing the difference between a variety of different liberals, leftists, democrats, and conservatives (because there are certainly a variety of types) is something that maybe comfortable to you, but it doesn’t help elevate public discourse. It just creates more noise (and I would include those that commit vandalism and the like…they are nothing but noise as well).

    4) When you call for universities to set limits on the content that professors can teach that engenders loyalty to America, its principles, and its values that is extremely dangerous. B/c you are creating a one-size fits all prescription for how a university operates. And that can’t be the way it should operate. Not in a world that has too many things to understand, too many nunaces, too many shades of gray, too many items to be explored, even if they are uncomfortable. It is dangerous b/c that imposition puts us at a disadvantage in that it doesn’t allow for a full spectrum of ideas to be explored. Democracy is strengthened, not threatened, when all subjects are open to debate. It may be messy, but democracy is messy. It is supposed to be. It isn’t supposed to be. America, as Michael Douglas said in the American president, isn’t easy. It is advanced citizenship. By putting forth boundaries on a university’s mission and what it can explore you put constraints on that advanced citizenship, even when it is subjects that are uncomfortable and maybe get your blood boiling. Not putting constraints on the ideas explored in a university setting is a quintessential American value.

    BTW, what American values? What loyalty are we talking about? That is why that commentary is so dangerous b/c the values that you would come up with and another person would come up with and the like (would most likely be different, although there would be probably overlap). Questions would be like how far can we explore that value? What are its dimensions? What is loyalty to the nation? What are its characteristics and dimensions? Those questions are the very ones we deal with in our political, social, and cultural lives. They have changed overtime and will continue to change (i.e. what constitutes freedom and equality has obviously changed over the years). To put constraints on that denigrates, to an extent, IMO, “American values” whatever that may mean to a variety of people.

    Now that is a larger point, down to more some of your smaller points in #4. 1) You obviously think that academics live in la-la land that we dont’ live in the real world. Perhaps, your experience with the English professor colored your experience. It appears you believe that we don’t make judgment calls and offer qualitative judgments on what is good/bad, healthy/unhealty. In terms of the real world, my students and I talk about it and live it everyday. Their experiences, as well as mine, as well as their friends, and what we see in the media in the U.S. and around the world become part of that experience. Both I and my students know plenty of the real world, both its hardships and its highs. What I offer my students is both a theory and practice idea of what goes on in life. I live in the world and I have worked (aside from academia in the world…a cumulative experience of over a dozen years working…something I alluded to earlier). To argue that academics offer some la la experience, I believe to be disingenous. I suspect no matter that both our experiences will inform our opinions and nothing we could say could persuade either way (which isn’t bad at all). Those academics that you accuse of not living, working, and being in the real world teach their students about it all the time. They also have them live it through experiences, anecdotes, and classroom material, all of which provides a multiperspectived vision of the “real world” because there is no one specific vision. You are right, academics are not “immune.” We (and I am using a broadbrush I know….and I know that there are exceptions) try to provide an innoculation all the time to show the way the world is (both good and bad…not dump on it…and how many would like it to be…from various perspectives).

    In terms of your idea on limiting “how” a subject is taught. Well, I again find that to be too limiting. Even if a professor “sells” socialism. Let them sell it. Let them scream it from the rooftops. There are plenty of voices that will provide counter information. I don’t think you give kids enough credit to discern a variety of arguments. My students aren’t as malleable as you think b/c they have been raised with a certain set of values, attitudes, and beliefs. Certainly, some of those kids may go for it, but if that is there choice let them do it. They will pay the consequences later (depending on how they choose to live their lives, which is something no one can really control…and I know you are not advocating that…just making a point). And if that person hates America. Let them hate it. Let them scream it from the rooftops and there will be voices to counter them. In my case, it will most likely be internal (I mean I don’t hear that many I hate America voices in academia. Despite what some would say there really aren’t that many and DC and K don’t hate America).

    Finally, I agree with you about the flaws and the like. My wife would say, let that person teach (the hater) the course the way s/he wants it. I would most likely say (again trying to continue the analogy) the same. I would be offering my voice at every turn to oppose it, but let them teach it that way. In terms if someone wants to tear it down and wanting something totally different, I get the feeling that you are talking about many academics. That they want to tear America down and replace it with something totally different. Well, in terms of DC and K, they don’t want to tear the whole thing down and build anew…they want change, but they certainly don’t want to create another Soviet Union (maybe the Czech republic…ha, ha…a little joke there). But even if they did. Let them advocate it.

    1) Students aren’t mindless automotons. They aren’t as malleable as I believe you think they are (at least in my discussions with other faculty and over a decade of teaching…obviously there are some).

    2) There would be voices to oppose them. Let the debate occur. As long as it is non-violent (and I don’t believe protest is violence). Ultimately, the extremes on both are eventually shut out and the real work of compromise and the like does get done (although it takes a helluva a long time)

    3) I think that there is a fundamental disagreement (not surprisingly) about what and how something should be “taught” and sold. I don’t think that many limits should exist on classroom discourse and the subject matter that is taught. As long as that professor is not advocating violence and violent ends, well then what is taught and how it is taught should be open. This doesn’t invite chaos or anarchy, but invites free form of thought and I think leads to students being sharper. Their brains don’t fall out, but rather are expanded. (the reality is neither one of us will win b/c a good chunk of students want to hear what they need for the exam, get their degree and get a job…that is fine…but I stilll feel that we should provide a what and how that is expansive and not limiting.

    Finally, Don, I appreciate your strong views. You, DC, K, and myself have disagreements. Ultimately, this comes down to agreeing to disagree, but the dialogue is good even if it doesn’t lead to a kumbya moment. Obviously, we come from different positions regarding the world, our experiences and the like. That is to ultimately be celebrated, even if we argue back and forth. Now, I know I didn’t directly get to all of your points (I hope I did…but it is a long post and this took a bit to write…so if I didn’t please address me and I will answer them).

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  12. Jason,

    You said a lot there. And I kinda wish you could have written it with fewer words. No intention to offend here, but it sometimes feels like a snowjob. A steamroller. I think that writing excellence comes from paring down one’s words, to make one’s point with as few words as possible. I recognize this is just a blog comment area, not an exercise in professional writing, but still, please try to get to the point a little quicker. Again, no intention to offend. It’s just my impression.

    In response to the many inferences you made, that I think in black-and-white, while you think in shades of grey, nonsense. I hear such inferences often from liberals, but yet, I see liberals with very sharp black-and-white views, all the time (e.g., anything related to “Republican” results in very black-and-white responses, not an in-depth, open-minded dialog). And I know full well that I have very nuanced thought processes. I know all about the messiness of life, and the messiness within each and every one of us. What I think you’re confusing with black-and-white-ness, is decisiveness, which I do indeed have, when I’m at my best. You may imply that it’s a byproduct of unsophisticated, small-mindedness (i.e., not recognizing the complications) but I assure you that is not the case. My decisiveness comes from working through the fine details, and then eventually coming to a conclusion about it, putting it into action. But even that conclusion is open to new data, new information, new ideas, which can lead to a different conclusion. That is the goal that everyone should have: To come to conclusions about what is good, right, true, decent, … , based on everything you’ve learned to date, but to be open to credible, reasonable counterpoints. To never come to conclusions, is a life lived without wisdom. I get the idea that many “baby boomers” live like that. So unsure of themselves, they stand for nothing. They have no moral backbone. They try to be buddies with their children, rather than parents, as if they don’t know anything more about life than their kids do. They’re pals, rather than leaders. Big mistake. That one isn’t perfect, is no reason to be timid. There is a point to learning, and that is to live it, not constantly doubt it. And if you do that — you continue learning and growing — then indeed one should become more and more confident in his beliefs, the older and wiser he gets. That is where my decisiveness emanates from. I may get knocked off my feet at times, but when I get back up, I’m stronger than before, and a lot more resistant to the sucker-punch that caught me last time. That’s learning and growing. And it doesn’t require ignorance or insensitivity to do it, as many on the liberal left think. Quite the contrary.

    On the issue of limits, it sounds like you’re saying that you see absolutely no risk in being too open. I’ll grant that you’re consistent, by accepting the Jason-wife-hating professor as a credible professor, to teach students about who your wife is an what she stands for (even if there are no other professors at the college who teach such a course, and/or students are extremely unlikely to take the course a second time, to get the “second opinion”?). I’m not so open, and have no problem drawing lines. Using America as an example, I do indeed think that we in America can start from a presumption that we like it, and want to be a productive part of it (rather than destructive). That is a requirement for being a citizen here, and I think it’s crazy to think otherwise. Compare marriage: There is a presumption that you love each other (the action, if not the feeling — feelings come and go) and want to help each other be better people. If one or both parties become mostly destructive influences on the relationship, then the relationship is over (or at least it should be). That is a judgement call, and requires a decisive decision. Black-and-white, if you will. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a deeply considered decision or unsophisticated.

    There’s more I could respond to, but I’m tired. Long day. Signing off.

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  13. You write: “Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Dana (or her unbalanced little friend) decided to use explosives as a means of “protest.” Would Jason criticize it and say it was wrong? Or would he say that he personally wouldn’t do such a thing, but Dana is free to “do what she believes in”? And if not, then why not, and what’s the basis for the distinction? (I feel like I’m playing the professor here…).”

    Are you honestly comparing the exercise of free speech in the form of protest to the use of explosives? The basis for the distinction is, well, explosives. (I feel like you’re playing the disingenuous interlocutor here.) BTW, the government dismissed the charges against Ayers, who is now a professor of education.

    You write: “Using America as an example, I do indeed think that we in America can start from a presumption that we like it, and want to be a productive part of it (rather than destructive). That is a requirement for being a citizen here, and I think it’s crazy to think otherwise.”

    Actually, liking America is not a requirement of citizenship. And criticizing America is a right that we as citizens possess. You’re still not coming across as much of a democracy fan. I ask again, is there democracy in your America, or is there only one set of ideas that it is acceptable to possess? It certainly seems to be the latter.

    Don, we didn’t marry America; we were born to it. It is our right and responsibility to protest injustice within it. Though if you want to keep the marriage analogy going, let’s talk about destructiveness. Think about some of America’s less than shining moments – e.g., slavery, Jim Crow laws in the south, violence against dissenters. Would you have urged everyone to be loyal, to refrain from protesting?

    After everything you’ve said, you still have nothing to contribute other than that you don’t like our politics (though you don’t seem all that familiar with where we actually stand) and you don’t think the first amendment applies to us. (If there’s more, it’s hard to find under the heap of petty insults you’ve hurled. Don’t you know any other tricks, Don Decency Truth?)

    I ask again: How can you in good conscience claim to honor democracy while advocating the restriction – amounting to public censorship – of ideas other than your own?

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  14. Don,

    I am in an airport and can’t respond fully. I will try to later.

    1) My long writing is not a snowjob, just trying to respond to your posts (also it was about 11:30 when I answered it EST so I was tired)

    2) If Dana were to advocate protests with explosives, of course I would say it is wrong. I thought I had made that clear, that as long as that protest is non-violent (without vandalism, physical violence, etc), then that protest I feel is actually a help to democracy, not a hindrance.

    3) My inferences about your black/white thinking isn’t to you about you life or your job but in relation to the issues that we have discussed here. From what I have read here, I have gotten the impression that when it comes to certain things (i.e. what a university is about, the loyalty of America, proper avenues of protest, etc.) That you have a bright line. I mean you have suggested there are times when you have to talk about good/bad, healthy/unhealthy decisions and put forth a bright line with the issues that we have discussed. Moreover, you suggest that I don’t come to conclusions. Rather, I dilly dally on those responses. I do reach conclusions, but only after deliberation. And typically those conclusions, particularly as is related to politics and international relations, are nuance. For me that means I try to not make broad brush assumptions, look at case specific items, try to use language that acknoweldges a gray world. You may do so as well, but for the most part you have presented (and again I could be wrong) the idea that you should make a decision and just live with it. I don’t see most of the world in terms of good and evil (and I say most), healthy v. unhealthy. I think those decisions that are not bright lines are often better.

    In terms of the America analogy. Well, speaking for me personally, I do like it. However, I do see many problems that I try to advocate for and fix. I think that DC and K’s protest, while it goes against items you believe in (and some things I don’t get down with) that it is also productive and not destructive. I personally don’t believe it will happen and that is based on my study and writing about American political culture, but that doesn’t mean there fight isn’t productive. You may not see it as such, but I would presume that you wouldn’t see it as such b/c you have an opposition to socialist ideals.

    I will try to answer more later…but have to get on a plane.

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  15. Call me unbalanced, but I think the coast is clear for Jason to reclaim his award for patience. Waffle House field trip on me. 😉

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  16. Jason,
    You write:
    “2) If Dana were to advocate protests with explosives, of course I would say it is wrong. I thought I had made that clear, that as long as that protest is non-violent (without vandalism, physical violence, etc), then that protest I feel is actually a help to democracy, not a hindrance.”

    You did make that clear. I’m not sure why you’re repeating it. I didn’t mention violence in my previous comment-post.

    As for everything short of (physical) violence helping democracy (but note, I don’t think that anyone here has argued that democracy is the ultimate good. Palestine has democracy, and yet they elected Hamas into leadership. Thus, more abstract things such as truth, shared values, etc., are what’s most important to America’s quality and success), it’s depressing to think I have to explain this, particularly to a professor, but no, I don’t think that shouting down invited guests, throwing pies at them, screaming name-calling, etc., has any place in the university. Dana and her followers are far from exceptions. Liberal-left students all over the country feel it their duty to forcefully shut down and interfere with conservative students inviting guests, and hearing what they have to say. The end result is that the university campus is far from the open, tolerant, exploratory environment you profess to promote. If you truly believe what you say, then the front line of your efforts should be to reel in those who are forcefully preventing those they don’t like, to speak. You say you find it “extremely dangerous” to put any limits on what professors we want in our publicly funded universities, and yet you take a hands-off, non-judgmental approach when there are things happening, right now, which are violating the free exchange of ideas. Could it be that your opinions vary, based on whether or not you like it? I.e., that you have this nonjudgemental, “I personally wouldn’t do it, but they should do what ever they believe in” viewpoint, solely because you personally agree with their social-political aims?

    On your second point, you’ve suggested that I have “bright lines” while you’re in the shades-of-grey category. I don’t think I’ve presented that at all. On the contrary, I provided the example of a marriage going south. The decision to divorce is a black-and-white decision (one can’t be 75% divorced, or 23.5% divorced, but rather it’s 100% vs. 0%) but that doesn’t mean that coming to that decision isn’t filled with deep and complex thoughts and feelings, pro and con about the decision. I have said, several times, that I recognize the risk of setting standards. With ANY standard, there is a risk that it will be unjustly applied. To use a simple example, when driving in Los Angeles a few years ago, I was given a fine for entering an intersection after the light had turned red. Given the details of the circumstances, I still contend that it was the right thing to do, and actually would have caused more of a danger and obstruction of traffic, had I NOT gone through. There was no other oncoming traffic, and no sign or indication of any risk. The entire point of traffic laws, are for safety and the smooth flow of traffic. I complied with the intent of the law, while violating the letter of it. Now to the point: Do you want to eliminate laws which state that one may not enter an intersection after the light turns red? I don’t, even though it cost me in this circumstance, and I find it unjust. What I hear you saying (to extend the analogy) is that you don’t want any laws about red lights, because you can always find a circumstance where not only is it unhelpful, but it actually might interfere with safety and traffic flow. That’s your solution: no limits, no laws, no standards, because there are always exceptions, and you’re just very very sensitive to all of the shades-of-greys of driving, and how complex it is out there on the road. And my response is that without traffic laws, the highways would be chaos, taken over by whomever owns the bigger monster truck. What’s more, in “my” world, we have good cops who are allowed to use common sense and good judgment — they aren’t computer programs which write fines. That too is open to abuse, but it also is open to a much more realistic and humane society. The goal then is to create a society of good people, not a society of 10,000 laws governing everything we do. But back to the university, my thesis here is, a combination of common sense, about American values as well as intellectual pursuits, and subjective judgment calls, made by our best and brightest.

    Which brings me to “American Values”. You asked me earlier what was meant by that (which pains me, that a professor doesn’t already know). But here’s an excellent online ‘university’ course in it (5 minutes long):

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  17. That was my first post on this topic. I asked a question on another topic that has gone unanswered and I have only been checking that topic, but I don’t know what you mean by “you and Don”. If you are chanting too loud, people can’t hear who came to speak.

    I’m curious — if your ideology has nothing to do with Stalin, etc., why does the name of your blog have ‘commie’ in it?

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  18. Don,

    1) In terms of violence i was responding to your hypothetical about if Dana advocated using bombs as a form of protest. My reasoning would be that violence, in my mind, is not lawful and productive protest (it maybe for some but certainly not for me) and that I have no problem setting a limit there.

    Additionally, you are correct, I am the one who brought in democracy. I think that protest (even ones that “shout down” people or are disruptive to daily lives) are good for democracy, society, and the university in general, which is an underlying subtext of this conversation. If you felt I derailed the conversation through my invocation of democracy, I apologize, I only meant it as a point of reference for the idea of openness and transparency (even with things that are truly disruptive). To your more specific point, about liberal students and reeling them and protesters in. Well, if I did that I would be contravening the principle of wanting expression on campuses to take the form in all kinds of ways (including ways like DCs). My holding onto that principle supports the notion of a university that open to controversial viewpoints. I would fully wsupport conservative students doing the same thing. And again, it isn’t a non-judgmental attitude. I make judgments about the arguments that are put forth, the tone of people to put them forth, etc, but I think the larger principle is the idea of openness and if I agree/disagree with those ideas then discussing/arguing with those people (whoever is the one engaging in the protest) in that forum or in another classroom, etc. I have no problem with conservative students shouting down and protesting someone controversial on the right like Bill Ayers. Now, I may disagree with their arguments (I am speaking in general now…not my support of Ayers) but I support their right to protest. No problem.

    2) Of course their need to be standards with regard to laws for criminal and civil ideas. I think those ideas are completely seperate from brightlines when condemning certain behaviors of speech and the like. From your analogy, you make it appear that the idea of standards is uniform across the board. There are certainly limits to ideas with regard to speech (i.e. incendiary speech or violent protest, etc.). Those are protests. I set my own personal standards when it comes to the idea of my conduct in my life or with my students (i.e. I never associate with undergrads outside the university until they graduate–just my personal belief). However, when it comes to the university and the teaching of subjects, I feel that the standards within the classroom should be left up to the professor teaching the course. I don’t think that causes chaos because every department has standards that are different for different classes (i.e. we have a specific set of stuff we teach in one course than say another). Thus, there are limits, but those limits change depending on the course, depending on the situation, etc. Those kinds of standards and not imposing on the professor to teach or imposition on his/her ability to speak are far different than legal standards, which I am sure you would acknowledge are much different. There are gradations all around. Thus, to some up, legal standards (while I understand your analogy) are far different those than say toward a university and its promotion of speech, free thought, and the like. Even a university will set standards (i.e. students must take a certain number of courses, from a certain set of departments, etc). However, those standards are more akin to laws than what should/should not be promoted in the classroom and in the speech of the professor outside the classroom. It is here, where I argue that a professor should be allowed to teach (and even sell if you want to use that term) the subject matter pertinent to that course. I would hope that professor would promote an open classroom where s/he would be open to viewpoints, even those that oppose her. If s/he is not, well then I have a huge problem with that instructor and would defend a student (if I found evidence of such an occurence) if that instructor punished that student for his/her viewpoints. Thus, I support the judgment and standard of a faculty member teaching what they feel is pertinent to that particular course (and protesting outside the classroom) but I would also defend students who stand up for their own viewpoints. They should not be punished for those (unless they write a crappy paper with no evidence, support, etc…I think you would agree that kind of work would be subpar). That is the way I run my classroom, the way I think classrooms should be run, and the way I know my colleagues behave (I can speak for others). Thus, I guess you could say that I have created standards. They may be a bit too open for some, but they are standards.

    3)The video by Prager was entertaining and ironic. Ironic, in the sense, that I am actually writing a book on American Exceptionalism and a good chunk of my first book deals with that subject (I think you might like my explanation….yes, shameless plug for my book, but what the hell). In terms of Prager’s points…I think that Prager’s ideas about what makes America unique and exceptional. Some argue that the U.S. is not exceptional, it is no better than other countries. We may believe that, but every countries believes it is exceptional (China, France, Turkey, etc). BTW, I am not saying that I don’t agree with AE, but just making the larger point that AE is fundamentally questioned (and there are persuasive arguments to question it…particularly the U.S. and exceptionalism in FP…Ron Paul does that a lot–I think he is kind of a bit nutty..).

    In terms of what Prager feels are America’s exceptional qualities:

    I would agree with him that people that emigrate to the U.S. tend to assimilate faster than say in France. Part of that though is not our celebration of assimilation, but our celebration of diversity, difference. We argue that our multicultural state is a strength, rather than a hindrance. So I think Prager is right on the basic point, but not in the logic going further. We are exceptional not because of the assimilation and being like “Americans” but our embrace of diversity and that it adds to the great salad bowl of America.

    That idea leads to this notion of out of many one…again, I disagree with Prager on this point. America is not exceptional because we promote one America, but we promote and exalt a diverse America. An America where you have to fight other factions to get your voice herad, but that was the genius of Madison’s theory of a large republic was it not. The diversity of factions and the fighting would create a system that would endure forever.

    In terms of god as a source of our values. I would again disagree with Mr. Prager that that is what makes us exceptional. The source of our rights come from us “We the people.” Now that does’t mean the U.S. hasn’t been influenced by Christianity. However, rights like the pursuit of happiness, liberty, life, etc. are derived from the evolution of man’s thinking about his natural state as a free individual (i.e. Locke, Montesquieu, etc.). What makes America exceptional, in my view, is not the recognition of those rights, but the way they are packaged and the creation of a large republic (i.e. Madison) and how that republic can be supported…with different factions fighting etc for their place in the American scene.

    Finally, the idea of liberty and we are born free. Well, I agree with Prager that America and the Europeans have a different definition of liberty. And I also agree that the ideal is that we put forth the idea that anyone can make it, no matter their background. However, the idea of where you end up is up to you, well in theory it sounds great, but in practice it doesn’t work out that way. I mean there are all kinds of impediments to people that doesn’t let them lead an exceptional life (i.e. like it or not race, class, gender, and ethnicity still does matter. I wish they didn’t, but those elements serve as impediments who want to climb the corporate or social later). I think what makes America exceptional, in terms of liberty, is not the choice of where one ends up, but the basic choice itself. That choice is important.

    Thus, I think that America does have specific exceptional values–but I would disagree with Mr. Prager’s logic as to how they are fulfilled and what those values are. And I think my arguments about the university (diversity, plurality, and choice…which I am sure you also support) support those values.

    Again, Don, I appreciate the debate. We may not agree on our positions, but I respect your viewpoints. Cheers. We can certainly keep this up if you want (not a gauntlet thrown down, but I am enjoying the reparte (sp?)

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  19. Jason,

    So, it sounds like you’re not a fan of E. Pluribus Unum. You’re for the “big salad bowl” where (I’ll posit) it doesn’t even matter if the various flavors in the bowl taste good together, or are healthy, or even edible (any of those factors would require a judgment call of what does/doesn’t belong in the bowl).

    I understand the concept of factions, but none of that disputes any of Prager’s “Trinity”. I.e., there is a presupposition that we have basic values we share.

    As for “fighting” being an inherent good, I don’t think that’s the idea at all for the balance of powers. The idea is so that no one “faction” can become a tyranny. Thus, it’s an ongoing competition for how the country is directed, and by whom. So what’s the best way to conduct this “competition”? You think that shouting down guest speakers from “the other side” is a productive part of it. Swell. That’s good to know, professor. Then I recommend to students that they bring a bullhorn to your classes, and to any speaker they disagree with. Quite a university you got there. A real bastion of “higher” learning, where the “winning” ideas are determined by who has the more powerful bullhorn. Or maybe just a 200W. Boom Box would do the trick, for “students” to “express their feelings”. As I’ve said many times, what a zoo. A playground for perpetual children. There is nothing adult-like or impressive about such an environment.

    Re: God being the ultimate source of our values, nothing you wrote argued against DP’s thesis, which is that no man may infringe upon our God-given rights (DP will explain what that means in further detail, in future courses). But if John Locke says “x”, it may sound great to a lot of people, but ultimately it has no more weight than if Jason or Don said something counter to it, and if we had enough “votes” to push our agenda, then it would become law, no matter if the minority liked it or not, and no matter if Locke would have agreed. Thus, it is not “inalienable,” which is what DP said. What’s more, there’s more to it than just “rights”. The whole commentary, is about what makes American Values/Experiment unique, or “exceptional”. God is a part of that. To use one example, if you take God out of the equation, then you’ll have a difficult time arguing against the “ethicist” from Princeton who believes that parents should be allowed to kill their children up to a certain age. Who are you, or anyone else, to say they shouldn’t? Your vote has no more weight than that of parents who might think otherwise. Or to use another example, why would Americans risk our lives and spend hundreds of millions to defend the likes of Bosnians being slaughtered, or starving Somalians? We have nothing to gain, on a selfish level, from doing either of those. Nor do we even get thanks from the recipient nations, or kudos from “the international community”. So why bother, if we *only* have selfish motivations to consider? A godless society has no motivation to risk everything to protect the innocent, who have nothing to offer in return. Thus the reason why Europeans, in their ultra sophistication, have done so little to help in the midst of these international crises. And that’s true even when President Obama, whom they love so much, asks them (as the recent world tour showed).

    J:
    “I mean there are all kinds of impediments to people that doesn’t let them lead an exceptional life (i.e. like it or not race, class, gender, and ethnicity still does matter. I wish they didn’t, but those elements serve as impediments who want to climb the corporate or social later)”

    Our goal, is to eliminate any practices which interfere with a level playing field, and that’s the end of the story. If there truly are impediments to a “class” then we try to eliminate that. That is our history, and it is enshrined in our founding documents. It’s why we eventually outlawed slavery and segregation, or any other overt acts of racism. No decent person is opposed to that. But to argue that today, any of the things you mentioned are significant barriers, tells me you are consumed with PC thinking, not objectively viewing the world around you. I’ve studied and debated these issues at length and depth, and am convinced there is no basis to them, at all, in 2009, much less warranting a conclusion such as “impediments to people that doesn’t let them lead an exceptional life”. The only impediment I see, is professors and other liberal “cultural elite”, filling ordinary people with the idea that no matter what they do, they can’t succeed, because the white man is going to stop them. Talk about paralyzing any attempt to work hard, and giving such a person “license” for doing unethical things towards The Evil White Man.

    J:
    “I think what makes America exceptional, in terms of liberty, is not the choice of where one ends up, but the basic choice itself. That choice is important.”

    I don’t know what you mean by that. Are you saying that (to give an example) Joe can decide he wants to be a physician, and then that’s the end of the story? He gets to be a physician, no matter how well he does in med. school? And/or, that it’s up to the rest of society to pay his way through med. school, simply because he said he wants to go?

    No time to proof-read. Apologies for typos…

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  20. Don, you write: “So, it sounds like you’re not a fan of E. Pluribus Unum.” Actually, your fan-dom seems not to include the “pluribus” part. Your comments still come off as touting democracy only when it corresponds to values that you share, and that is sketchy territory, indeed.

    Taking the election of Hamas as an example: While I don’t subscribe to their platform (except for their opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine), I unequivocally support the right of Palestinians to elect their representatives. To discuss that as a failure of democracy – and to advocate interference in that result – would be opening the door for other countries to interfere in our elections should they disagree with the result.

    To insist on shared values over democracy in governance is a recipe for dictatorship. That is, you may well think that too much democracy is a bad thing. But you should be very careful about what controls you would put on it and where. We’ve already been over what constitutes a violation of free speech rights (shouting is not one such), as well as the difference between what goes on inside the classroom and what happens on campus and in the community at large. If you still advocate the suppression of left academics’ free speech, and if you would put in place institutional restrictions on same, then you are leaving open the possibility that your “shared values” would receive the same treatment should the political winds change. (And you have yet to produce actual evidence other than “I’ve heard,” or “I’ve seen,” or “it happens all the time” that conservative academics’ rights are suppressed in the ways that you think our rights should be.)

    Back to “shared values”: A recent Rasmussen poll (hardly a fringe outlet) reported that only 53% of Americans polled believe that capitalism is better than socialism. Granted, 53% is still a majority – but it’s by no means the overwhelming support that folks claim who call this a conservative country or who say that socialism is widely despised.

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  21. (Pacing the comments for ease of reading – this is Part II)

    You write: “The idea is so that no one “faction” can become a tyranny.”

    That is the idea, exactly. And that is why I advocate for the fullest possible democracy, unless you think that the population of our country somehow constitutes a “faction,” or an “interest group.” (If that were the case, what would the other faction(s) be?)

    Further, you write: “You think that shouting down guest speakers from “the other side” is a productive part of it. Swell. That’s good to know, professor. Then I recommend to students that they bring a bullhorn to your classes, and to any speaker they disagree with.”

    The DH event was not a class, but a public forum. The protest was not a discussion or debate, but a show of opposition. His rights were not violated, protesters did not break any laws. He actually got to speak. His response is little more than whining about being opposed in public.

    Further, you write: “But to argue that today, any of the things you mentioned are significant barriers, tells me you are consumed with PC thinking, not objectively viewing the world around you.”

    Here’s some PC thinking on racism from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development: “In the pricing regressions for first mortgages in the conventional market, even when controlling for differentials in available household, loan, and property characteristics, blacks and Hispanics (particularly non-white Hispanics) have significantly higher interest rates than comparable white households. For African-Americans this differential is 21 to 42 basis points, while for non-white Hispanics the range is 13 to 15 basis points.” This is among households of comparable income and education. Higher interest rates on loans for blacks and latinos means more difficult access to housing and higher education, among other things. Granted, this is just one statistic, but it is suggestive. I can provide you with many others if you wish.

    Finally, back to the original point: Throughout our exchange you have been advocating for the purge of leftists from the academy, without the slightest evidence of professional impropriety, simply because you don’t like our politics or our outside-the-classroom activities. That is a contortion of the concept of democracy, one with perilous implications for even the limited version of democracy that you cherish. It also – and you have yet to respond to this – would actually put in practice that which you wrongfully accuse us of, namely the suppression of differing points of view.

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  22. I think you’re forgetting that Horowitz was the son of card carrying communists and a major figure in the New Left. He also secured funds to start schools for children in Oakland for the Black Panthers who I recall, were pretty much an all black organization. Now all of a sudden he’s a racsist, right-wing McCarthyite, and anti-intellectual. What he does is call out blatant hypocrisy on the left. He calls out crappy professors like Dyson, Churchill, and West, who are all racist. Go to You Tube and look up conservative speakers on college campuses. It’s quite obvious why Horowitz would need some protection. They have been threatened called every name in the book and completely shouted down when trying to speak. Nothing like that happens to liberal speakers. I think Horowitz is qualified to sniff out and make distinctions when it comes to calling people Trotskyites, Maoists, Stalinists, or any other form of debunked idealogue. Was McCarthy wrong? Absolutely not. Communists had infiltrated every almost every institution in America. Did he go overboard? Sure. Now on todays college campus we have a bunch of professors who were part of the new left who don’t call themselves Marxists, Trotskyites, Stalinists, or Maoists anymore but still have and teach the same ideaology. Dana Cloud is a self proclaimed socialist, lets get real. I would have more respect for you guys if you were like the Marxists of the 60’s and early 70’s and told people you communists of whatever persuasion you favored.

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  23. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in
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  24. Can I just say what a relief to discover somebody that really knows what they’re talking about on the web. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people should read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you aren’t more popular since you most certainly have the gift.

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