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, October 25, 2009

Jennifer Le Blanc

An Experiment in Democracy: Regis College
[For academics and poets, who shamefully do not understand and, for that reason, tend to scorn the very concept of vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, cite the Supreme Court (Terminello vs. Chicago): "A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute… is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment..."]

If you don’t challenge or question something, you’ll never know what its true substance and nature are. So, you think your college is a great place? But have you ever viscerally questioned and challenged it? Have you ever spoken or written overtly what in your heart you know damn well others at your college will likely not appreciate? Or have you simply and unoriginally conformed to the collegial herd of smiley-faced self-censors?
—P. Maudit

[N.B.: Notice of this essay and above cartoon was sent to the Writing Faculty of Regis College (Weston, MA) jayson.baker@regiscollege.edu; marie.cicchese@regiscollege.edu; jason.clemence@regiscollege.edu; jan.donley@regiscollege.edu; patricia.elliott@regiscollege.edu; mary.gormley@regiscollege.edu; andrea.humphrey@regiscollege.edu; julia.lisella@regiscollege.edu; rachel.may@regiscollege.edu; barbara.mintz@regiscollege.edu; kreg.segall@regiscollege.edu]

First, I mean no emotional harm to student-client Jennifer LeBlanc, depicted in the above cartoon. Hopefully, for her intellectual development, she will get to examine the cartoon and this essay. Hopefully, that might actually push her to think out of the safe academic box.

What an opportunity, I thought, to be able to honestly and fully criticize a member of the protected species—the student-client! Hell, I don’t have to please the student-client at all. Regis College isn’t my employer. I can actually be honest! Need I be fearful of a libel suit? Not in the least! Contemplate the following, written by constitutional lawyers French, Lukianoff and Silverglate, FIRE’s guide to Free Speech on Campus:

“The concept of defamation includes both libel (usually, written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation), although the two are frequently confused and lumped together. […] If you are accused of libel, don’t panic. Although defamation is one of the most frequently made claims in law, it is also one of the most frequently dismissed. […] If a statement is true it is not defamatory. […] A statement of opinion, by itself, cannot be defamation. […] In other words, defamation is about objective harm, not about subjective hurt.”

The purpose of the above cartoon is to open the academic PC-cocoon a little bit and inject a dose of appreciation for democracy into it. To shelter or not to shelter, tis always the question in academe! Happy-face nursery school straight on through college?! That’s great for fragile self esteem, but not very good for building citizens with spine and democracy. Too bad, I cannot locate student-client LeBlanc’s email address. So, it is up to one of her English professors to show her the cartoon, which might prove more valuable to her than an entire English writing course on “great” bourgeois poetasters.

The idea for the cartoon was first sparked by the ad for LeBlanc’s new book appearing on Doug Holder’s website (dougholder.blogspot.com/2009/09/madras-press-non-profit-press-that-will.html), which essentially serves little purpose other than to advertise (push) the poetry of friends and self. It is a safe art-for-artsaking site without any particular ideas at all… with the exception of the Happy Face. A friend indicated that a rather lame interview of a poet had been posted on the site (Barbara Trachtenburg, self-proclaimed “prison” poet… who’s never been incarcerated). So, I took a look at it. There I noticed the ad, which eventually brought me to the Regis College student literary journal (Hemetera) web page (regiswritingprogram.pbworks.com/Hemetera) and LeBlanc’s photo. What really took fire was the slap in the face of democracy on the bottom of that page: “YOU DON’T HAVE PERMISSION TO COMMENT ON THIS PAGE.” Well, va funculo or rather va te faire foutre, calisse de tabarnak, I thought. Democracy demands vigorous debate, not “you don’t have permission” bouse de vache! Why aren’t LeBlanc’s professors instilling that idea?

“Professor Pat Elliott and I selected Jenn to represent Regis [at the Greater Boston Intercollegiate Poetry Festival] because of her dedication to her craft and her service to fostering creative writing at Regis,” noted Assistant Professor Julia Lisella of the English Department in an article on the college website. Of course, the real reason she was selected is her likely obedient role as see-no-evil, hear-no-evil student acolyte. We can also imagine what “creative writing” would not encompass at Regis, including this very essay!

“According to Professor Lisella, Jennifer has grown exponentially since the Poetry Workshop she took as a Regis freshman,” noted the article. The comment is clearly a base example of academic backslapping, which thrives throughout academe due to absence of accountability! What does “grown exponentially” mean? Why don’t students and professors question such statements? Does it mean becoming more and more like ones professors (i.e., bourgeois, unquestioning, unchallenging)? Likely and sadly.

“LeBlanc’s poetry is inspired by her observations of the world, her personal feelings and emotions, and what she reads in great literature,” noted the article, as if “great literature” was somehow objective and off bounds to vigorous questioning and challenging. Is that what higher education has become today: a fence of commonality off limits to questioning and challenging?

“She is ‘listening to the occasional/piano key or clarinet note/warble or squeak,’ as she remarks in a poem called ‘Singing Goodbye’,” noted the article. Yet can one get any more banal than that? Which of her professors will teach her to question and challenge everything, including the professors themselves and Regis College? Which of them will have the courage to give LeBlanc the courage to write more than poems about warbles and warbling? Well, likely, not one of them, which is why the college esteems them.

Is the “great leadership” that LeBlanc “has provided” simply a mirror image of the great leadership that continues destroying democracy in America? Apparently, that’s precisely what it is.

What an interesting and unusual experience for Regis College students if they were actually encouraged to question and challenge the statements made by LeBlanc on the student journal web page, as I did in the cartoon! What a refreshing, if not unique, experience for students! Sure, if LeBlanc has a delicate ego, she’d have trouble dealing with the critique. BUT I’m certain she’s got a huge support group behind her like a giant fluffy pillow with a yellow smiley-face tattooed reassuringly into it. Yet how else to get her to strengthen ego and backbone? Certainly, academic coddling and nourishing will not serve to do that at all! And what if she decides to become a smiley-faced politician? How would she ever be able to deal with the ineluctable criticism?

Democracy depends on a citizenry with strong backbone. Democracy depends on the open questioning and challenging of all citizens and institutions. Regis College English professors are urged to reflect, if at all possible, on that. Ascending in higher education, of course, depends on not reflecting upon it at all and always implies stifling the mind, muzzling the mouth, and turning a blind eye… in fact, becoming blind.

These things said, if any of the Regis College professors contacted have actually managed to read this far, I urge them or him or her to please consider requesting Regis College library to subscribe to The American Dissident, the unique 501 c3 nonprofit literary journal I created as a forum for questioning and challenging things literary and things academic. Also, please do consider hiring me to teach adjunct English courses, including one I put together, “Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence.” With a PhD and a lot of full-time higher ed teaching experience in both America and France, I am qualified. These things said, please consider inviting me to read in the context of the Regis College Writers Read program. Students might find me refreshing, as opposed to the déjà vu Fred Marchants that tend to be invited, right and left.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rob Mitchell,Concord Festival of Authors


[N.B.: Interestingly, the only person to express sincere interest in my protest regarding the Festival's autocratic selection process, viewpoint bias, exclusionism, and complete absence of democratic fairness was a foreigner from Holland. Even high and mighty Democrat Party Chairman Howard Dean didn't give a goddamn. See below.]

At two in the afternoon, Wednesday October 21st, I stood in front of the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts building flyers in hand. Already people were arriving. “I don’t understand the sign,” said an elderly woman walking up the steps. “Democracy Needs More Than Safe Writing” was the sign by my feet. “Well, it means that here at this Festival only writers who don’t question the system are invited,” I replied. “Well, I agree with that,” she said to my surprise. “Everyone who knows anything has to know that.” She didn’t take a flyer. Then a number of incurious citizens whisked past me, up the steps and into the building. “Concord Festival of Authors prohibits Concord dissident authors from participating,” I said to another bunch. It seemed like a more or less old crowd. Even the young ones somehow looked old. “Concord Festival of Authors won’t invite dissident authors from Concord!” I repeated. “I’m a Concord author and I’m not permitted to participate. If Thoreau were alive today, he wouldn’t be invited either.” A couple of broads chuckled. “Oh, I think they would invite him,” one of them said. “Only if he were famous,” I said. They didn’t want flyers and entered the building.

Howard Dean soon arrived chatting with another man. They walked from the parking lot towards me and the entrance. I was surprised he wasn’t surrounded by cops or toadies. So, I walked towards them as they walked towards me. “I’m a Concord author and I’m not permitted to participate in this Festival,” I said to Dean, who just chuckled. “Democracy is not well in this town. Here, take a flyer.” But Dean wouldn’t stop and wouldn’t take a flyer. “No democracy, no free speech here at the Concord Festival,” I said as he walked by me. “Why don’t you tell them that!” “Well, I don’t think they’d be happy if I mentioned that,” he said chuckling like an imbecile. Pissed me off just the same. Well, that made it all worthwhile. It was surprising to see him in real life and totally apathetic to my protest. I wondered why the hell Mitchell, the organizer, had invited the Democrat partyline to open the festival. Was it the Democrat Party Concord Festival of Authors? I guess so.

Then a guy walked up to me to look at the sign and flyers and coughed without covering. “Schwein flu!” I said, walking off to the side. He didn’t seem to understand, said something, ah, with an accent. “What language?” I asked. “Dutch,” he said. We talked. He was quite fluent in English, really interested in what I was doing, and said he was Stephan Tychon, Chief Officer of Change for the World Stability Council. Well, that was a nice title. He ran a website, Complexxon.org, which was primarily concerned with Exxon corruption, and was visiting the US for three months. Then he asked if he could buy a copy of The AD. Two copies stood next to the sign. He reached into his pocket, but I refused the money and just gave him a copy. He wanted me to sign it, so I did.

“Rob Mitchell’s a good guy,” said a chubby woman with red marks on her face (wart removal? skin cancer?) walking out of the building and towards me. “Yeah, well, he doesn’t believe in democracy,” I responded. “You’re not going to beat me up now, are you?” “Rob Mitchell’s a good guy,” she repeated. “You just have to send him your books then he’ll invite you.” “Invite me?" I said. "He won’t invite me. He won’t even respond to my emails. Why would he respond to my books?” “Rob Mitchell’s really a good guy,” she repeated. “Yeah, I know you already said that,” I replied. “You must have a connection.” “I’m his sister,” she answered. “Ah, well that explains it,” I said. “He’s really a nice person,” she repeated yet again. “All you have to do is send him your books.” “Why waste the postage?” I said. “He's invited Houlihan, who doesn't like me, and Fred Marchant, who doesn't like me either. And the Chamber of Commerce doesn't like me either, and he wants to please it. And the Cultural Council doesn't like me." "If you send him your books, then he’ll invite you,” she said yet again. “All you have to do is be civil.” “Ah, that’s your code word for censorship!” I said. “Civility! What’s your name?” “Martha Mitchell,” she said, standing next to me. But I was more interested talking with the Dutchman. She was the proverbial brick wall. All I could get out of her was Rob Mitchell’s a nice guy. She finally left and went back inside.

“They’re all dead,” said the Dutch guy. He was damn right there. “Do you have an organization?” he asked. “Well, no, I do the protests alone and really for myself and expect little if anything from the attending citizenry.” “They’re all dead,” he repeated. No shit. “It’s more fascist in Holland,” he said. “Well, that’s hard for me to believe,” I said.

A lone policeman was directing traffic and didn’t bother me at all. That was positive. “Concord Festival of Authors disdains different points of view, disdains democracy!” I repeated. “They don’t even understand what free choice means,” said an elderly lady, stopping to gasp for air. “What do you mean?” I asked. “The health care insurance,” she snapped. “Oh, well, this is a writers festival,” I said. “Well, I’m coming here to hear Howard Dean,” she said. “I don’t care about writers!”

Celebrity uber alles. “Concord Festival of Authors hates democracy!” I said to a pod of approaching females. “Oh, I didn’t realize that,” said one of them without taking a flyer. Well, others arrived and did at least take flyers… about 26 of them. “Welcome to Concord where democracy is not flourishing!” I said. “Concord Festival of Authors won’t invite Concord dissident writers. I’m a writer from Concord and not invited.” “Maybe he thinks your writing’s not that good,” said a guy. “He’s never seen my writing,” I said. “Well, maybe it’s not that good,” he repeated. “Well, how the hell would he know?” I said. “Besides, do you really think all the people he’s invited are great writers? Give me a break!” He walked into the building.

Finally, the Dutch guy decides to attend the lecture. He’d asked me if I wanted to come with him, but I declined. Did I really want to hear Howard Dean spout the partyline for the 1,000th time? A somewhat attractive middle-aged female walked by. No interest at all in my protest and didn’t want to take a flyer… just wanted to see Howard Dean. I checked the time and took off at 2:40, walking across the lot and street and into the library, where I left the remaining four flyers. Too early for the red, which definitely entered my mind.

October 22, 2009
Rob,
Well, your sister found a few minutes to come out to see what I was up to… but not you. She didn't say much, just Rob Mitchell is a nice guy over and over like an indoctrinee. Is she the product of some university? Are you perhaps a cowardly sort… or just another high and mighty sort? Interestingly, I spoke to Howard Dean when he arrived (oh, he didn’t stop, wouldn’t stop), told him about the autocratic nature of YOUR festival… and he didn’t give a goddamn. What an asshole, I thought. He wouldn’t even take a flyer. Then I thought: why did you invite the Democrat partyline to open a book festival? Christ, does anyone else in this town question and challenge anything with its regard and apart from the partylines? Interestingly, the only person to really stop and talk and stay and discuss ideas with me was a man from Holland. Not one American cared to do the same. Well, say hi to the Chamber of Commerce for me. I suspect you must be a card carrying member?
G. Tod
[No response from Rob Mitchell.]