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.
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, September 30, 2009

Review of a Review of Worst Instincts

Where the hell is the ACLU?
—Lenny Bruce

It is astonishing that the founding director (Marjorie Heins) of an organization named Free Expression Policy Project would so quickly truncate dialogue with someone like me who does not agree or dares actually criticize what shouldn’t be criticized! In Heins' review of Wendy Kaminer's Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU (see www.fepproject.org/reviews/kaminer.html), the founding director notes that she was working in the ACLU in Massachusetts at the same time when I attempted to interest the ACLU in my case against Fitchburg State College also in Massachusetts. The ACLU essentially ignored my request for help. Was Heins perhaps friends with Vinny Mara, Franz Nowotny, Richard DeCesare, Harry Semerjian, or Shirley Wagner, dubious administrators at that college? Well, probably not, but anything in Massachusetts like that is certainly possible. The myth of the ACLU exists. "Well, there's always the ACLU," I've been told, now and then. BUT there wasn't the ACLU for me when I needed it.

The established-order mentality always demands the “right tone” or simply truncates discussion. The problem of course is that “right tone” often means readjusting (watering down) the message to the extent where it is no longer the original message which I, of course, refuse to do. Sure, I am a CITIZEN UNKNOWN, but if I were known, left or right, Heins would have likely engaged. Anyhow, I shall continue to communicate with the non-responding Heins, until she places my email address into her spam box, as every English professor at Williams College recently did because I’d sent them a criticism of one of their dear former colleagues, poet laureate Louise Gluck. Yes, vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, but certainly not at our college, nor at our free expression projects! Heins was likely annoyed for two simple reasons: 1. the poem I’d sent her (see below) and 2. the cartoon figuring on the front page of The American Dissident website satirical of PEN New England (see www.theamericandissident.org).

Regarding Heins’ review of Worst Instincts, it is repugnant to think that “fund-raising” has become elevated to the category of “considerable talent,” as Heins thus deems it. Is it now also one of the fine arts? Certainly that “talent” has become a key problem of many universities and colleges today, which tend to select presidents who are expert fundraisers, while far too often advocates of censorship and speech codes. Evidently, the ACLU’s executive director Romero falls into that dubious category. Clearly, one must wonder just how principled and “dedicated” some of the ACLU board members really were if in fact they placed fear of ostracism above principle. Perhaps they entered the organization because of the prestige they’d get from being part of it and the money they’d eventually get elsewhere for that enhanced prestige. (Are not far too many lawyers like doctors and politicians driven to own mansions?) Heins, however, doesn’t quite put it that way: “Her opening chapter insightfully reflects on the herd instinct and the pressures for conformity that sometimes prevent even dedicated individuals like those who comprise the ACLU’s national board from standing up for principle when faced with the risk of ostracism from the group.”

Indeed, Heins seems to excuse corrupt minds (as long as on the left) by citing “the frailties of human nature.” Why shouldn’t author Kaminer have been “uncompromising in her expectations,” especially regarding persons involved in organizations like the highly acclaimed ACLU? Heins seems to excuse Romero’s shortcomings by stating his predecessor also had shortcomings. Should we excuse Obama’s shortcomings because Bush too had them? Truly that kind of reasoning seems twisted in an effort to excuse the corrupt in Heins’ very own milieu. It is indeed shameful how Heins cites herd mentality as an excuse: “Perhaps it is in the nature of executive directors to attract ‘yes men’ and women who will confound loyalty to the boss with loyalty to the organization, and will sometimes put both above loyalty to core principles.” Yet I have seen that kind of perverted reasoning used, time and again, to excuse the corrupt professors and administrators entrenched in institutions of supposed higher education!

Heins states: “Kaminer raises profound and difficult questions about organizational integrity, politics, and personal loyalty.” YET we’re not talking about any old business or for that matter academic organization here. We’re talking about the ACLU, an organization that many regard as the top of the top of integrity! Thanks to Kaminer, we now know that to be a myth.

The following questions raised by Heins are excellent ones that should each be answered with a capital YES, but Heins does not do so: “Were the compromises with civil liberties principles and basic honesty as dire as Kaminer and Meyers thought? On balance, was it worthwhile to ‘go public,’ at whatever cost to the organization’s image or fundraising? Were they right to conclude that the ACLU had been so hopelessly corrupted that only an open airing of their concerns would save it?”

Instead, in good bourgeois fashion, Heins questions Kaminer’s TONE. “[…] the reaction of some ACLU people to Kaminer’s and Meyer’s muckraking was, in her telling, gratuitously insulting […].” Of course, they were insulted! Truth is always extremely INSULTING to the fraudulent. Let them be insulted! Maybe it will do some good, though I highly doubt it.

Oddly, Heins doesn’t see it that way. Yet, if not for the “muckraking,” board members wouldn’t have been forced to show their true disgraceful colors: “[…] and at least one institutional response contributed mightily to the public embarrassment. A proposal to limit board members’ communications with the media, as detailed by the New York Times in the spring of 2006 was one of the politically dumber proposals to be considered by a group whose primary cause is freedom of speech.”

At least Heins does agree that ACLU members should heed Kaminer’s criticism, as opposed to engaging in facile “ad hominem attacks, as they sometimes did during the course of the battles she recounts.” It is still mind-boggling to me that so many so-called educated people actually do resort to ad hominem attacks. Worst Instincts is indeed an excellent, if not unique, account of left-wing corruption written by someone on the left. Far too often the left proves entirely incapable of dealing with criticism and reacts to it with ad hominem rhetoric, silence, or denial, as in a vast right-wing conspiracy for the angelic Clintons. Think also of ACORN. What the left needs are many more soldiers like Kaminer, standing first and foremost for truth, not for the liberal party line and precious career. They would only serve to strengthen the left… by helping to get rid of its stifling, viscous, putrid muck.

An Unknown Citizen’s Futile Efforts

The American Civil Liberties Union
responded, but then
The American Association of University
Professors never responded,
PEN America responded, then
PEN New England never responded,
“defending freedom of expression
everywhere,” except, of course, here,
The American Library Association’s
Office of Intellectual Freedom
never responded,
The Free Expression Policy Project
responded, but then
The National Coalition Against Censorship
responded, but then
Foundation of Individual Rights in Education*
responded, but then
*At first, this poem did not include FIRE because I really love FIRE. Thus, I found myself self-censoring. So, I finally decided to add FIRE. After all, why can’t I criticize FIRE and still be its friend?

1 comment:

Suddenly Fourty said...

I come originally from that failed posterchild of American democracy in the Far East, the Philippines; a country that fancies itself "democratic" . I've in the last nine years through vigourous debate exposed a predisposition amongst even our most accomplished political "experts" to resort to ad hominem argumentation.