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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review of Indoctrinate U

Corruption in higher education is a subject of great passion for me. In Academe, to paraphrase Orwell, orthodoxy is democracy; censorship is moderation; and uniformity is diversity. PC seems indeed to be firmly entrenched there. Espouse it, if employed there, or watch out! Vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstone, is often scorned there and dismissed as hate speech. Colleges and universities even list amongst job qualifications: “Appreciation of multiculturalism required.” That’s what I found, as an unemployed professor hunting for a job. The quote comes from a job ad published recently by North Shore Community College (MA). I’d brought it to the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which wrote the college a letter and persuaded it to eliminate that particular requisite… at least on paper. As a white liberal male, I find myself often not applying for positions overly emphasizing diversity, which has evidently come to mean: white males need not apply. On another note, though really the same note, a Mongolian immigrant with a green card was chosen over me to teach French at a public university, yet I’d spent seven years in France, wrote a doctoral thesis in French at a French university, and had even published a book in French, while she had not done any of those things. However, she did not question and challenge anything overtly, whereas I dared question and challenge almost everything overtly.

Indoctrinate U is an excellent documentary written and directed by Evan Maloney, who manages quite adeptly with sharp logical argumentation, coupled with cogent, supporting illustrations, to show how free speech is being sabotaged on the nation’s college and university campuses. “When we think of going to college, we think of intellectual freedom,” notes Maloney. “We imagine four years of exploring ideas through energetic, ongoing, critical thinking and debate. But the reality is very far from the ideal. What most of us don’t know is that American college students check their First Amendment rights and individual freedom at the door.” And how right he is! FIRE informed me of this film, and its president even appears in it periodically. When I watched the Lou Dobbs’ interview with Maloney (see http://indoctrinate-u.com/pages/welcome.html), I jumped with joy. Then I asked Maloney for a review copy, received one, and again jumped with joy. When I watched it, I couldn’t stop jumping with joy throughout it!

The film has an excellent fast pace with upbeat background music to keep the tempo. It is certainly not a boring documentary. Maloney, ingeniously, begins it with brief interviews of black educators—Carol Swain, John McWhorter, Ward Connerly, Lewis Ward—who do not think in the expected black paradigm of Affirmative Action, victimization, and general PC. He also introduces the film with footage and commentary on 60s campus protests in favor of free speech. “The notion that students and professors should be free to share their ideas without fear of punishment is the very embodiment of what the university should be,” he notes. “This belief led to what was then known as the campus free speech movement.”

Maloney informs us that he knew about the movement because his parents were amongst the 60s protesters. Well, I probably was too, but don’t quite recall the “free speech” aspect. Such protests were often confused mobs of dope salesmen, dope smokers, and others with higher agendas, not to mention the ambient bath of deafening music. In any case, Maloney informs us that when he went to college he realized that not everyone who grew up in the 60s still lived by those ideals today. How right he is! In fact, probably relatively few do. It’s what we called “sellouts,” a term that seems to have conveniently disappeared. For me, the two greatest “sellouts” were perhaps Bubba and Hillary. “Somewhere along the way the campus free speech movement got killed by university regulations and policies that are supposed to be assuring tolerance and diversity are instead being used to silence people with alternative views,” notes Maloney.

Another brilliant (and I hate the word brilliant) aspect of the film includes the director’s back and forth interview morsels between Noel Ignatiev, a white professor (Mass College of Art), spouting the PC party line, and John McWhorter, a black former professor (UC Berkeley), who points out the egregious faults in that line. Back and forth, back and forth. Priceless! One really has to wonder, after listening to Ignatiev’s spiel on whiteness, whether or not the guy is insane. How did he ever get hired? “My concern is doing away with whiteness,” blathers Ignatiev. “Whiteness is a form of racial oppression. […] There can be no white race without the phenomenon of supremacy. Whiteness is not a culture; it’s not a religion; it’s not a language; it’s simply an oppressive social category.” At least, McWorter makes sense: “You nurture the feeling among the black students that it is a racist campus. You pay people basically to tell them that in the classroom and in administrative offices. Obviously something’s wrong. But you get to satisfy your sense of being a noble person by pretending that the black students are the victims. That’s something that is now not only a personality trait but it’s institutionalized on the university campus.”

It is amazing to me how Maloney managed to capture on film some of the brilliant idiocy spouted by tenured academics. Consider Geoff Schneider, professor at Bucknell University, who seems to have assimilated quite nicely the PC-sociology party line: “A lot of our students, I think, are unconsciously racist. It’s not conscious, so they don’t really see it in themselves. And again, that’s something that nobody would like to admit that they’re unconsciously a racist.” Imagine admitting that you were an unconscious racist. In fact, wouldn’t that be impossible? What inanity! In fact, I was recently accused of being an “aversive racist” by a sociology instructor, Dahn Shaulis, PhD. I’d never heard of the term before, so asked for precision. “It's not surprising that an aversive racist would be blind to his or her own racism, that people might hire an aversive racist/sexist, or that an aversive racist might use quotes from Black authors or publish Black authors." That was about all I got.

Throughout Indoctrinate U, a wide variety of students, professors, administrators, and parents are interviewed. The whole gamut of the PC-party line and modus operandi is thus cleverly dissected and analyzed from Affirmative Action to victimization, speech codes, double standards, stolen conservative newspapers, and simply which topics are generally taboo on campus. Even students at Yale University have systematically had their conservative newspaper, The Yale Free Press, stolen. The administration refuses to even denounce it. Yet Yale’s Woodword Report issued in 1975 took a bold free-speech stance: “We value freedom of expression precisely because it provides a forum for the new, the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox. Free speech is a barrier to the tyranny of authoritarian or even majority opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of particular doctrines of thoughts.” Was that stance just a blast of hot air?

Amazingly, one learns that racially-segregated orientation programs are being sponsored at Tufts, Brown, William and Mary and other institutions of purported higher learning. One student mentioned a Klansman would probably feel quite comfortable on some of those campuses. How not to laugh… sadly, of course! A compelling segment of the film concerns California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), where students complained to police and administrators that they were offended by a poster hung by one of their classmates, Steve Hinkle, at the multicultural center. “That flyer’s offensive. We have a right not to be offended.” Wow. Well, who was teaching those students? Nobody has a right not to be offended! The flyer was a simple announcement that an author, Mason Weaver, a black conservative, was coming to campus to speak about his new book, It’s OK to Leave the Plantation. Hinkle with the help of FIRE fought Cal Poly, which wanted to get rid of him. It took 18 months for a decision to finally be made… in court. Cal Poly lost on every count and was even forced to pay for the student’s court fees! The affair cost $40,000 of taxpayer money. No apology, of course, was ever issued to the student.

Maloney manages to capture some excellent, truly memorable scenes. How not to be amazed, for example, when he approaches with great civility a Cal Poly college administrator, holding his hand out politely, only to have it ignored by the administrator! He asks politely if he could speak with the president. But the administrator asks him to follow him away from the president’s office. Maloney follows him, then holds out his hand again, only to be accused of being “uncivil.” Yes, that’s the PC keyword used to kill vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstone. Campus cops arrive, thanks to the thin-skinned administrator, and tell Maloney threateningly: “You need to leave or you’re going to go to jail!” Yet Cal Poly is public property, and Maloney had committed no crimes.

At Stanford University, Maloney visits the Diversity Office in an effort to determine “how diverse the diversity office really is.” Now, how not to laugh at that one? Nobody is present. So he leaves, then comes back in the afternoon. Politely he mentions to a woman that he’d like to speak to someone in the Diversity Office. But she looks at him angrily out of the blue and says “I’m gonna make a phone call!” And she calls the cops. Am I dreaming? Nope. Same thing happened to me at Watertown Free Public Library last Fall. It’s that easy. Feel angry? Don’t like how someone looks? Don’t like the tone of their voice? Just call the cops! Thin skin in America is prevalent. PC teaches citizens to have thin skin, to complain, and to feel offended. “Are you looking for Rosa?” asks a kinder woman. “She’s in and out a lot.” “Well, we’d be happy to wait,” says Maloney… quite politely… almost with deference. “It could be forever,” says the kinder woman. Well, Rosa sounds like one of those full-salaried absentee political appointees we have so many of here in Massachusetts. Then two cops arrive and ask Maloney to leave. Wow. Something is terribly wrong in our democracy!

In the film, numerous students are interviewed from different colleges, each expressing disappointment at the apparent lack of freedom of expression in the classroom. But it would have been even more interesting if Maloney had hunted down a student or two who actually thought they were free to express themselves. At Stanford, he asks where the Men’s Resource Center is located and gets a few bewildered chuckles. Then he asks someone at the Gender Equity Center, who suggests he visit the Title IX Compliance Office. Title IX is a law that prohibits gender discrimination in higher education. Yet only 44% of college students are men, notes Maloney, so where are the Men’s Resource Centers? Good question! PC usually receives an F for logic.

At the end of the film, one learns that a number of campuses have prohibited the American flag for fear it might actually offend foreign students. How not to be mind-boggled? One department chairperson even ordered a department member to remove the American flag hung on her desk at Holy Cross. How did such an ignorant, democracy-indifferent person ascend in the ranks of academe? Now, I’m not a big flag person at all, but if someone else wants to be, I’m certainly not going to shut them down. What is truly grotesque and disturbing is to observe such self-important professors and administrators behaving so smugly, autocratically, and downright unaccountably. They really do look crooked, their faces twisted with subtle anger at being suddenly “called out.” Not one administrator would agree to an interview on Political Correctness despite Maloney’s sending out 100s of emails and making 100s of phone calls. “You were denied permission,” says a nameless administrator. “But we never asked for permission,” says Maloney. “So, I don’t see how we could be denied.” “Well, now you’re denied, so now you can leave,” responds the smug, democracy-indifferent administrator. Maloney rightfully concludes at the end of the film that the Campus Free Speech movement begun in the 60s must have failed. He urges silent academics to speak up. Good luck to that. I know the silent beast quite well. He or she won’t stand up unless there’s a check dangling in front of his or her snout.

Finally, what really got me thinking at the end of the film is the fact that Maloney is a political conservative, whereas I am a political liberal (At age 60, I’ve voted only once, and it was for Ralph Nader in 2000). In other words, Maloney is a friend of corporate America, whereas I am not. The film was in that sense incomplete, though its target was PC. It could have been more powerful and all-encompassing (and more honest and revealing), if a segment on corporate influence in academe had also been included. After all, aren’t the nation’s academic boards of trustees largely comprised, if not almost entirely, of businessmen and women? Also, the nation’s colleges and universities seem to have largely adopted the corporate-business model of rigid hierarchy, absence of dissent (team playing, team thinking, and team prevaricating), money, money, growth, growth, and more growth. Indeed, American colleges and universities have, for the most part, become businesses seeking more now to train students for particular slots in corporate America than to educate them in democracy, etc. In that sense, how can we expect free speech to flourish on campus? In other words, PC needs to be explained not only via 60s “sellouts,” but also via corporate America’s infiltration into and co-optation of the nation’s colleges and universities. How does PC co-exist so well with the corporate-business model? In other words, it must not be a threat to it. Maloney’s remark on Stanford University indirectly reveals something regarding that co-existence: “To this day the Diversity Office still hasn’t explained why Stanford’s faculty has so little intellectual diversity. Maybe they’re so busy making sure people look different that they really don’t care if everyone thinks the same.” Indeed, that seems to be precisely the same diversion that agrees with corporate America, which also seeks, if not demands: groupthink. Chomsky made a politically-incorrect statement with that regard. It also serves to explain the phenomenon. “The United States could become a color-free society. It’s possible. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it’s perfectly possible that it would happen, and it wouldn’t change the political economy, hardly at all. Just as you could remove the “glass ceiling” for women and that wouldn’t change the political economy, hardly at all. That’s one of the reasons why you quite commonly find the business sector reasonably willing, often happy to support efforts to overcome racism and sexism. It basically doesn’t matter that much. You lose a little white male privilege but that’s not all that important. On the other hand, basic changes in the core institutions would be bitterly resisted, if they ever became thinkable.”

In any event, Indoctrinate U ought to be made an integral part of every freshman college orientation and every English 101 class in America. Every college and university should have a core civics course on the principles of democracy, where this film would be of utmost pertinence. How and why has the nation been graduating so many citizens so ignorant of the principles of democracy today? For one thing, that does make for an obedient, self-censoring citizenry easy for corporate America to manipulate. I too was once ignorant with a PhD. Only as a professor when I personally confronted corruption at Fitchburg State College (MA) did I begin to educate myself, and I haven’t stopped since. This reviewer definitely and enthusiastically recommends Indoctrinate U.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

A Mini Review on a Mini Book, etc.
Once again, a new book of poems by Charles Bukowski has been published, The Continual Condition, copy write Linda Bukowski, the author’s widow. I’d been reading Bukowski since the early 80s and have read just about everything he’s written. What I particularly liked about him were his refreshing occasional caustic descriptions on the poetry milieu and poets of his day.

This volume is only 127 pages. Normally, Buk books are three times that. And this book doesn’t stipulate, as preceding books have done, the work to be previously unpublished, noting instead that “several” of the poems were previously published. In any case, who can tell the difference between the several thousand poems written on the racetrack or whoring or boozing and those presented in this volume? Indeed, the work is certainly not new. How could it be, considering the author died in 1994 and has been coming out with a book per year (or almost) ever since? The typical mix of poems is present: whoring, booze, racetrack, one or several on poets and writers, and one or several on the author’s later years as a well-to-do suburbanite. Overall, it is a disappointing volume with few, if any, memorable lines and not one great poem in the batch.

One has to wonder what the widow does with all the money from royalties. If she really wanted to promote her dead husband, the best thing she could have done was stop publishing more of his unpublished poems, the ones John Martin rejected when Buk was alive and participating in the creation of his Black Sparrow books. Evidently, however, her real purpose must be more money, despite what Bukies think (see http://bukowski.net/forum/showthread.php?t=472). What else could it be… diminishing and further diluting the author with poems that shouldn’t have been published because highly repetitive? After all, isn’t one great poem about the racetrack better than 100 mediocre ones?

This book left me wondering, while laying on the floor in the alcove readying to get up to begin the day, whether the poems were really Bukowski’s or were the work of a small team of HarperCollins wordsmithies, experts in the author’s style and subject. No matter. On the positive side, several poems did inspire me to write several poems. Buk’s style entered me—for a moment via poetosmosis. Below, thus, is the second bird.

A Correspondent Wrote Bitterly
and like the/ dead/ I/ didn’t/ reply.
—Bukowski, “A correspondent wrote bitterly”

A correspondent wrote bitterly:
“the pettiness and the
cattiness
and the
bitterness
that pervades
your stories
and quasi-debates
is what bothers me.”

And it bothered him
so much
that pettiness and
cattiness
pervarded
his correspondence.

And like the
living
I
replied.


Poem for a Rank-Out Artiste
(try to talk to them/ and you become one of/ them.)
—Bukowski, “heavy dogs in cement shoes”

A fellow wrote me, pissed off—really pissed off—
that I’d described the sister of the director
of the local book festival, which only invited
Chamber-of-Commerce-friendly writers and poets,

as “a chubby woman with red marks on her face
(wart removal or skin cancer?).”

Yet it was only a simple descriptive line of reality,
written in the middle of the essay I’d posted.
But he claimed I was making fun of the woman’s
appearance, for which he exploded in epithets:
“your poetry has all the grace and dance of a
defunct air-conditioning unit” and
“the wit and liveliness of a retired chamber pot.”

Could the “wart comment” alone have elicited
such antipathy for me and my writing?
Well, just days before he’d sent a poem,
which I edited patiently, but then suggested
he send it elsewhere.

Then the onslaught assailed: “ya dork,” he called me,
“lost cause,” “MisterFlawwwwless,” and even
“SIRCHICKENSHIT.”

Twas the old academic two step, barely disguised—
the thin, vacuous rhetoric rolled out as artillery
always in an effort to divert attention from the crux,
and how successful it could be!

“How can I dismiss your arguments
when I don't even know what they are?”*
………………………………………….
*The words are M.P. Powers’.