A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

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A FORUM FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND VIGOROUS DEBATE, CORNERSTONES OF DEMOCRACY
[For the journal (guidelines, focus, etc.), go to www.theamericandissident.org ].
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.

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

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Karen Wulf

Karen Wulf, PEN New England

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Martin Espada

Depicted in the cartoon above is William Bulger, former University of Massachusetts president and State Senate president, who managed to soak the state for a record pension. He is brother to serial murderer Whitey Bulger, #2 on the FBI's Most Wanted List. Bin Laden is #1. It is likely that he not only helped his brother escape the USA, but also knew his brother was a serial killer. Hell, everyone else knew! Oddly or perhaps not, the faculty at U. Mass. were big fans of his... Billy's, that is, not Whitey's... or maybe Whitey's also.

Not so long ago (11/04/08), I did a blog on the need to radically alter the academic culture that tended to fatten the pocketbooks of obedient faculty at the expense of democracy and sent it to some 40 "out-of-control campus" (see FIRE below) University of Massachusetts English professors. Only three deigned to respond, two of whom threw ad hominems at me and told me to leave them alone, while the third said he was only interested in 16th century England. In other words, to hell with democracy at U. Mass.! Evidently, it is difficult to be surprised by professorial behavior and by that of their students, considering U. Mass. former president and the tight rapport U. Mass. presidents in general maintain with political hacks. PC is a plague on campuses across the nation and especially so at University of Massachusetts. PC has a strong inherent conservative streak in its desire to hold on to power whatever the cost, including and especially to truth and integrity. U. Mass. English professors ought to be ashamed of themselves! English Careerist-Prof-Poet Martin Espada ought to be ashamed of himself for his evident indifference to Free Speech and vigorous debate, democracy's cornerstone. I just received the following letter from FIRE. It is certainly worth posting here. In fact, it is the reason for this very blog. BTW, regarding the above cartoon, I am an alumnus of Northeastern University and wrote its alumni magazine that it should be ashamed for promoting the likes of Billy Bulger and asked it to publish the cartoon, which of course it did not. So, when it sends me the ole please-contribute-to-the NU alumni fund, I stuff an American Dissident flyer in its envelope and shoot it out. Imagine, I can't even get my ole alma mater to subscribe! It just doesn't have an extra annual $20 to do so.

Dear Dr. Slone:
Multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in which a speech by columnist Don Feder was shouted down by hecklers while UMass police officers did nothing. The many aggrieved parties on this out-of-control campus have come to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

FIRE’s full press release on this case appears below.

Sincerely,

Adam Kissel, Director, Individual Rights Defense Program
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
601 Walnut Street, Suite 510Philadelphia, PA 19106

UMass Amherst Stands by as Student Newspaper is Stolen and Censored; Student Government Senator Ejected for Trying to Uphold First Amendment on Campus

AMHERST , Mass. , April 16, 2009—Multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in which a speech by columnist Don Feder was shouted down by hecklers while UMass police officers did nothing. The many aggrieved parties on this out-of-control campus have come to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“The situation at UMass has spiraled out of control,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “UMass’ offenses against the Constitution are legion. So far, it has done nothing after copies of a student newspaper were stolen because the paper mocked a student government official, it has stood by while the student government unconstitutionally censored the newspaper, and it has allowed its police to be used to silence a free speech advocate.”

Mob censorship through the theft of newspapers is a recurring problem on America ’s campuses. FIRE has acquired a video recording of the most recent such newspaper theft on the campus of UMass Amherst. Shockingly, it depicts a UMass police officer idly standing by as hundreds of copies of The Minuteman are stolen out of the hands of a student intending to distribute the paper.

One of the individuals who stole the papers, shown in a photograph as standing on a stack of papers and on video as grabbing them out of the other student’s hands, has been identified to FIRE as Vanessa Snow, the leader of UMass’ Student Bridges organization, a powerful campus organization strongly supported by the UMass Amherst Student Government Association (SGA). Snow was ridiculed by name in that issue of The Minuteman.

As if the theft was not enough, The Minuteman’s mockery of Snow also resulted in official censorship. Last week, the SGA passed a resolution demanding that The Silent Majority, the student organization that publishes The Minuteman, publicly apologize to Vanessa Snow for its constitutionally protected mockery of her, or else face loss of recognition by the SGA, which would shut down both the organization and the paper. At the request of The Silent Majority, FIRE wrote to UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub urging that the coerced speech and threat of punishment be rescinded immediately.

But the student government outdid itself last night after student senator Derek Khanna tried to place a resolution on the SGA agenda that would have rescinded the SGA’s unconstitutional decree of press censorship. SGA Senate Speaker Shaun Robinson not only refused to hear Khanna’s resolution but reportedly threw it on the floor, soon calling the police to eject Khanna from the SGA meeting after Khanna insisted that he be heard. Video of this incident is expected soon and will be posted on FIRE’s website.

“Not only has the SGA decided to unconstitutionally censor the press, it tried to do so through the unconstitutional method of coercing speech, and then it threw out the one person in the student government who was standing up strongly for Constitutional rights. It is difficult to imagine how the SGA could have more thoroughly abused the First Amendment and humiliated UMass,” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “UMass Amherst and Chancellor Holub must act immediately to rein in the SGA’s outrageous behavior before it results in further embarrassment and legal liability for the university.”

UMass’ spate of free speech problems on campus began in February, when a large group of students calling itself the Coalition Against Hate posted flyers inviting people to protest at a speech by columnist Don Feder that was to be hosted by the Republican Club. In response, the UMass Police Department pressured the Republican Club into paying an additional $444.52 for extra security at the event due to the threatened protest. The club agreed to pay the money, but the organized hecklers nevertheless disrupted Feder’s speech. (Video of the disrupted event is available online.)

Having been charged extra for security that was not even effective, the Republican Club contacted FIRE for help. FIRE wrote UMass, reminding the university of the Supreme Court’s holding in a 1992 decision that “[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” After FIRE also published an op-ed in The Boston Globe, UMass publicly relented in a letter to the Globe. The letter announced that UMass would return the excess fee but deceptively claimed that UMass had only charged more money because of greater anticipated attendance at Feder’s lecture.

“UMass’ deceptive claim that it charged more for security only because of greater anticipated attendance fails to mention the fact that the university knew that attendance was greater only because a large number of students attended to protest and disrupt the event,” said Kissel. “A policy of charging a group for extra security when large numbers of people plan to disrupt an event will only encourage hecklers to shut down further events at UMass.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at UMass Amherst and on campuses across America are detailed at thefire.org.

CONTACT:
Adam Kissel, Director, FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program: 215-717-3473; adam@thefire.org
Robert C. Holub, Chancellor, UMass Amherst: 413-545-2211; chancellor@umass.edu
Shaun Robinson, Speaker of the Senate, UMass Amherst SGA: 412-545-0342; sga.speaker@stuaf.umass.edu


Tell Chancellor Holub to preserve order and student rights on campus, and tell Shaun Robinson that the SGA must follow its own rules and respect the First Amendment.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Monsters without Constituencies

Colleges certainly do need to be open to the likes of Ayers and Churchill (see www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/04/02/nelson). BUT the tenured radical AAUP president Cary Nelson fails to add they also need to be open to the likes of me, who openly criticize the likes of him. He, of course, conveniently chooses to remain silent with that regard and concerning the criticism I’ve sent his way over the past couple of years. Yet silence is certainly not the reaction of true proponents of vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy! Indeed, how can debate really be vigorous at all when academic editors like Doug Lederman (InsideHigherEd.com) insist on running everything through their particular bourgeois sense of taste and aesthetics prior to publishing it?

Besides outright censoring one of my comments, Lederman took four days to publish my highly critical post on Phinney’s article on tenure. By that time, who’d even notice or read it? The fact is the Censor is alive and well in the myriad hearts of the academic Ledermans… and Nelsons. Sure, they don’t refer to themselves as censors, but rather moderators or filters. Did Nelson care about that minor censorship incident or the four-day delay? Of course, he didn’t! After all, he wanted to get his article published by Lederman! Needless to say, I denounced the censorship in an article sent to him and a handful of Chronicle of Higher Education staff. Would I ever receive a response? Experience dictates that to be highly unlikely!

Criticize the Nelsons and Ledermans, and they would remain comfortably silent. After all, the ivory tower was called the ivory tower for good reason! As long as Nelson refuses to dialogue with my ilk, his words remain empty. Sure, he’ll eagerly back causes celebres like Ayers and Churchill, but not give a damn for those who have not made the headlines. That is likely the problem with the AAUP in general. Back when I fought egregious fraud at Fitchburg State College (MA), for example, the AAUP remained silent despite my attempts to interest it. Indeed, how to interest it when some of its very members were perpetrating the fraud? Sadly, Nelson could give a hoot about the Monsters without Constituencies like me. And that is precisely why free speech and expression continue their deplorable decline in Academe (see thefire.org).

“We either must stand firm against these efforts to undermine the integrity of our educational institutions or agree that academic freedom no longer obtains [sic] in America,” notes Nelson. Nice words, but it will take a hell of a lot more than nice words! It will take the likes of Nelson to stand up for the Monsters without Constituencies, and that just ain’t gonna happen for the simple reason that career and money will always be at stake, and the academic Nelsons will always choose to make that Faustian Pact.

By the way, Nelson needs to ask himself what “accomplished” has really come to mean in Academe. Does it mean “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson) and “let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine” (Thoreau)? Of course, it doesn’t! What it means is being particularly agile at turning a blind eye whenever that may help ones career, that is, to become an integral machine cog. It means pleasing ones colleagues and the corporate university, by not speaking the “rude truth.” The question, of course, remains: how does an “unrepentant radical” become an “accomplished” academic of the collegial variety?