A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal--guidelines, focus, etc.--go to www.theamericandissident.org. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com. Comments are NOT moderated (i.e., CENSORED)!]
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Liberty Is Fun

The word liberty in the mouth of Mr. Webster sounds like the word love in the mouth of a courtezan. —Ralph Waldo Emerson on Daniel Webster

Perhaps Mr. Emerson wouldn't mind if we substituted "George Mason University" or "Ms. Amy Phillips" for "Mr. Webster." In any case, the brochure arrived, looking like a piece of junk mail. The word "liberty" caught my eye, not quite looking like the word "liberty" in the usual sense of Liberty Mutual Insurance or Liberty International Underwriters (did they have one for Undertakers too?) or Liberty Corporation (yes, it really exists) or even Liberty University, run by Baptist fundamentalists. Nope. This sort of looked bona fide.

Institute for Humane Studies (George Mason University) Summer Seminars on Liberty were free, and one of them would be held not too far away from me in Boston at Simmons College. Still, did I want to drive all the way into the city for a day-long seminar without pay? Well, I could hand out American Dissident flyers. It would, after all, be interesting to see if "liberty" students and professors would prove as indifferent to them as the poets had been. Hell, I had a large pile of them.

Thus, I filled out the application and included a required essay on “liberty.” I had tons of them. Which one had I chosen? Well, always prepared and eager to test the waters of... liberty, I'd asked myself what the Institute would likely not appreciate: “Warning: The Citizen General Has Deemed the Current Academic Culture May Be Harmful to the Spirit of Democracy” (see 10/16/08 blog). Hopefully, it would at least irritate a black-robed sycophant or two.

The Institute boasted: “Advancing a freer society by supporting students, recent graduates, and academics interested in the ideas of liberty.” Yeah, tell me about it, baby. When academics held seminars on liberty, likely what they had in mind was the liberty-for-us-but-not-for-you kind. It was akin to politicians holding seminars on truth or corporate CEOs on ethics.

A month later, I received an unoriginal automaton form-rejection letter from the director of the Summer Seminars, Amy Phillips: "I'm sorry to inform you that after careful review of this year's applications, the Institute for Humane Studies Seminar Review Committee is unable to offer you one of the limited places available at our 2009 Summer Seminars. We received a record number of applications this year, and competition was extremely tight."

There I was, editor of The American Dissident, rejected for a free seminar on "liberty"! In other words, I certainly had the credentials. I examined the Institute's website and learned that “Amy enjoys musical theater, crime novels, and grammar.” Had I made a grammatical error or two on my essay? “Amy holds a bachelor's degree in Philosophy from New York University, where she was president of the Parliamentary Debaters' Union and a nationally ranked debater." So, she wasn’t even a professor. But she was still entrenched in the academic milieu, which, interestingly, had redefined “liberty” to essentially exclude free speech, vigorous debate, and criticism, especially when close to home. Was my essay thus too serious and too close for their comfort and particular brand of “liberty”? Was The American Dissident website, which I’d emphasized on my application, equally too close for their “liberty”? Of course, I’d never know because the director (i.e., Amy) would never respond to either question. Perhaps the non response was an affirmation?

The Institute’s website also indicated that each year “Amy works to make those seminars challenging and fun…” So, “liberty” now had to be made into a “fun” activity. Imagine our revolutionary patriots sitting in on one of Amy’s “fun” seminars on “liberty”! Well, I did obtain a certain degree of intellectual satisfaction questioning and challenging those who stood for anything but “liberty,” while openly claiming how much they loved it. But was it “fun”? Not really! It was often sad, depressing, and highly disappointing to witness the state of non-liberty in academe and elsewhere in America. In any case, I wrote the director an email, mirroring her “sorry” with “I'm sorry to inform you that I’m not at all surprised you’d rejected my application. After all, you certainly wouldn't want an IMPOLITE professor like me at your seminars, one apt to speak out against the herd, even the "liberty" herd.Yet “liberty” demanded such courage, as opposed to bourgeois civility, taste, and aesthetics. Oddly or perhaps not, given Orwell, George Mason University, home of the Institute, was designated by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education as one of the worst institutions of higher learning in the entire country with regards... LIBERTY. "George Mason University: Unconstitutional Policies and Suppression of Dissent" was the title of one of FIRE's web pages devoted to the subject (see www.thefire.org/index.php/case/690.html).

How could one possibly expect GMU professors and administrators to hold seminars on “liberty,” while in practice either propagating suppression of dissent or keeping their mouths shut regarding it?

Had the director even manifested the curiosity to examine the website I’d brought to her attention? After all, “liberty” demanded a certain degree of active citizen CURIOSITY. If she had actually examined it, had it disgusted her in its lack of deference to PC ideology, the university, and tenured professors and administrators at the trough? Likely, unlike most professors and students chosen to attend the summer “liberty” seminars, I actually believed in “liberty” sufficiently to fight openly for it and to manifest the courage and willingness to even RISK CAREER for it.

If the Institute were at all serious about discussing “liberty,” it would first discuss GMU’s terrible record with liberty’s regard, then seek out and invite rare professors like me who had fought for “liberty” in the university against probably the very likes of the director herself, other CEOs of the Institute, and PC Deans of the university spouting their love of “liberty.” My fear was that the director would be using the seminars to further indoctrinate and otherwise corrupt student ability to think critically and individually.

In my email, I mentioned those things and also asked whether or not selected candidates for the seminars possessed websites like mine and published journals like The American Dissident, devoted to literature, democracy, and dissidence; in other words, to liberty. I also asked whether or not the director had ever RISKED her career for “liberty,” or was she, as I fully suspected, just another contented careerist lodging at a highly authoritarian institution of purported higher learning run on the corporate model of rigid hierarchy, products to sell, clients to satisfy, and growth, growth, and ever more growth? Liberty, after all, demanded RISK, as opposed to arbitrarily defined and dictated CIVILITY. What had the director ever RISKED?

Finally, a clear choice remained for the director, host of "liberty" seminars, between ignoring my criticism and questions or engaging in vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy and… liberty. Like the director of Tufts University Experimental College, she opted for the former, as opposed to the latter. I’d also suggested she have her summer conference candidates examine The American Dissident website in the name of... liberty. But, as mentioned, she’d made her choice… and it was sure as hell not for LIBERTY.


mather said...

Very good essay, I liked this one a lot. I laughed out loud a couple of times. The discovery that the college was known for ignorning (relatively) liberty is perfect!

There wasn't an application fee, was there? I always wonder why they bother to send out fliers to solicit entrants and then pretty much complain afterwards at how many entrants they received...

Many of these people in the arts and education like to talk behind closed doors about the truth: that it IS a business, nothing but a business, as if anyone who doesn't know this is naive. But, the minute you point this out in PUBLIC or CRITICIZE this fact, you are stricken from the record. Nothing of their rehearsed activity/behavior can be continued if this fact is aired and recognized as a mistake, and they know it. There are two faces for the rich and powerful: one they put on for their own kind behind closed doors and the other they put on for the fools who worship them and allow them to live such easy lives. Something tells me they sensed that you would not attend with the proper worshipful attitude.

It's too bad, this thing sounds perfect for you...maybe you could go there anyway, give away your fliers and talk to some people, you'd surely get an essay out of it.

"Making liberty 'fun'", that is good! That should be the title to your essay.

Anonymous said...

Excellent interesting essay by Tod and very good comments by Mather.

G. Tod Slone said...

Thanks mucho! No fee at all to attend. In fact, I think I just saw free lunch. I'm trying to find a word to match this common situation. There must be a word like oxymoron, pleonasm or whatever. It's akin to the Nazis holding a Hebrew awareness seminar or CEOs holding an ethics seminar or politicos holding an honesty seminar or PEN New England declaring it "defends freedom of expression everywhere" but won't respond to my complaints of absence of it in New England. I think the phenomenon has become widespread.
Yes, I was thinking of perhaps going with my flyers. But would the cops quickly come to sweep me out of there? Would I be able to find parking (Boston is a hell hole for parking)? Would it be similar to going to a poetry meeting and have not one poet express interest in my protest? I'm tired of that kind of thing. I'm now working on a watercolor to go with the essay. Of course, I'll send it on to the director. Yeah, I found her photo. She's only 27, a bit on the weight-challenged side.

mather said...

Well, I had to look "pleonasm" up in the dictionary. I believe oxymoron is the term that best fits here. A contradiction in terms. True in appearance only. Hypocrisy. What fun!

G. Tod Slone said...

Well, I have to look words up too now and then. At least we both make that effort. Yes, I think oxymoron will have to do. I'd already titled the watercolor "The Oxy-Morons." I depict three of them in it.
I chopped the title down because you were right. It was a bit cumbersome. I got rid of Orwell and found the perfect quote from Emerson.

mather said...

I like the title better, and the quote too. I don't really think it's necessary to say that Emerson didn't think too highly of Webster, because that's clear in the quote. This is one of the most effective things you've done in a while, to me, because your argument is based on clear statistics (I didn't check your facts, but am trusting you) that places this college low on the "liberty" scale. The essay is not based on their reaction to you as a person or personality, though that is included. This doesn't make it better necessarily, but more capable of touching a larger audience, and more publishable. It escapes the private gripe category and expands into something that anybody can sympathize with. It is universal, a clear case of hypocrisy that should be called out. To me, this is a winning essay, maybe reworked a little bit, everything can be rewritten and I know you are always changing your writing... Don't let this one go... I can't wait for the toon.

mather said...

Another popular name for someone unliked, someone who might say something unsavory or uncomplimentary on a blog messageboard, besides "hater", is "troll". I've been called "troll" quite a bit. The intended meaning is clear. I always think, How can anyone come up with anything new or interesting in literature if they can't even insult me with originality or power? I feel this is as proper barometer to character/intelligence as any other. But, then, what the hell do I know? I'm just a troll.

G. Tod Slone said...

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I reworked the essay yesterday, cleaned it up. I see more things that need adjusting when I look at it on the blog as you see it, which is what I did yesterday. I spent all day on the toon. I'll have it done tomorrow. I suspect this one might be a 4-6 hour toon. Of course, watercoloring the thing is time consuming. What I do now are two different things. I do the toons, then when I think I've got something that will work in my democracy watercolor series, I do that. This one works in the series. Of course, they look a lot better when seen in person, as opposed to the scanned in item. And blablabla I yap about me. Just got two long letters from Ed Galing. So, we're still writing. He said he wants to die now. He'll soon be 92. I like the guy. Goude just wrote also out of the blue. He said he lost 30 pounds on an all beef diet. He's still heavy into the vino. But he's a funny guy, got great pedestrian stories. Told me some guy kept hanging in front of his house in a golf cart. So finally Goude steps out to see what's up. The guy had a glass of whiskey in his hand and just started jabbering.
Never really heard that troll word pushed around. It sounds kind of honky to me, kind of gen X crapola.
I suppose you're right there about Webster. I got that quote from Emerson's journals. I liked reading the journals of those guys. A lot of shit, but then now and then some gold.

mather said...

The middle guy looks pretty yellow. I know this is a poor reproduction. It's not the best toon you've done. I'd like to see these three doing something else like playing cards or something. Plus, you could make it clearer who they actually are. Sorry.

mather said...

Or maybe I just don't understand it completely...The braw coming out is a nice touch...

G. Tod Slone said...

Well, thanks for the comment. As they say (or some say), a bad comment is better than no comment. The guy in the middle is Ken Lay, Enron and a bronze statue cause he's dead. The guy on the left is the former VP Lon Cheney. The woman is wearing the same colors as the sign, meaning she's attached to that institution, which stands for anything but LIBERTY, as noted on the sign. Capiche? (ooops forgot you don't like that word.) Actually, I was happy with this particular watercolor. Happier than with others. To each his own.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your essay & its so nice..
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