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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Censored! If Henry Could See THEM Now!

The following comment, “Pipe Dream,” was written in response to Ithaca College professor Michael Smith’s Inside Higher Ed article, “If Henry Could See Us Now” (see http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/11/02/smith). Sadly and unsurprisingly censored by Inside Higher Ed, which exists to propagate PC and the academic established order. Mention of the censorship incident was sent to History/Ecology professor Michael Smith of Ithaca College. Smith, as good academic, chose to accept the censorship incident and remain silent. Mention was also sent to Ithaca College’s student newspaper and members of Smith’s history department, as well as college president. It is particularly reprehensible that my comment was censored because my comment simply sought to present another side of Thoreau, a side that was not happy-face PC-friendly. Was the truth in my comment rude? Well, isn’t truth always rude when spoken to power?

Pipe DreamThe project to build a replica Thoreau shack on Ithaca College’s campus, as noted in Professor Michael Smith’s article, “If Henry Could See Us Now,” is diversionary. In fact, would Henry really be happy to see college students working with professors to build a replica of his shack? Thoreau was mostly a loner, not a team player. “The gregariousness of men is their most contemptible & discouraging aspect,” he stated. “See how they follow each other like sheep not knowing why.” Individualism is hardly a valued trait on college campuses today.
The president of Ithaca College selected Walden as required reading because the book is entirely “safe” from his perspective. Any number of quotes from Thoreau’s journal entries would have proven far more provocative and thus apt to instigate vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, though evidently not of academe. How about this quote, for example: “It suggests that the one great rule of composition — and if I were a professor of rhetoric I should insist on this — is to speak the truth.” Imagine if an English professor at Ithaca College, or better yet the president himself, actually encouraged that on campus! It would set the PC myrmidons aflame! It would free the student newspaper!
Emerson noted, regarding Thoreau: “Such dangerous frankness was in his dealing that his admirers, called him ‘that terrible Thoreau’.” Clearly, Thoreau was not the kind of fellow apt to get tenure today. After all, imagine such frankness before the ruling tenured professors and administrators. Thoreau had written: “A cross man, a coarse man, an eccentric man, a silent, a man who does not drill well,—of him there is some hope. Your gentlemen, they are all alike. They utter their opinions as if it was not a man that uttered them.”
That quote evokes the civility mantra suffocating free speech at so many institutions of purported higher learning today.
Imagine, instead of another replica shack—Yes, there’s one at Walden Pond too. I was threatened by a state trooper for leaving my free-speech flyers in it.—, if professors like Michael Smith actually stepped out from the comfortable academic herd to actively test the waters of democracy on their particular campuses by performing experiments in free speech, that is, by daring to speak what in their hearts they damn well know will get them not more carrots, but rather the ire of the reigning academic established order. Imagine, if we could get them to heed Thoreau’s famous dictum: “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” The result would surely be not continued academic censorship and corporatization of higher education, but rather fortified democracy and true appreciation for the First Amendment. Then one might truly and proudly ask: “if Henry could see us now.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scott McLemee

The following is the comment I attempted to post. It was, however, censored by Scott McLemee and/or his boss Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Education. The comment pertained to McLemee's article, oddly enough called "Rude Democracy" (see http://www.insidehighered.com/views/mclemee/mclemee311). Note that McLemee boasts of not even holding a college degree. Yet, somehow, he's become a board member and regular columnist at Inside Higher Ed, an online newspaper devoted to matters of higher education. Only the Left could encourage a debate on the topic "Rude Democracy," while simultaneously censoring opinions it doesn't like. Should organs of purported higher education be in the censoring business? It is my humble opinion, as editor of The American Dissident and long-time professor, that they should not be. It is, however, the opinion of the president of the Association of American University Professors, Cary Nelson, that they should be. The Left clamors ad nauseum for civility. But is censorship civil?
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Scott McLemee finally comes out of the PC-socialist closet. Bravo! He admits, though only indirectly, that he is not at all an independent journalist, but rather a doctrinaire socialist journalist who marches with the “Socialist Contingent.” “Full disclosure: I was part of this, and joined in chanting ‘We're gonna make Glen Beck cry!’,” he notes. Demonization of the likes of Beck or O’Reilly or Obama, for that matter, is a form of ad hominem which tends to be the way of the indoctrinated—left or right wing. The battle is clear today in America: free speech vs. PC civility (and accompanying censorship). Fox, at least, reports on that battle. And, yes, I tend to watch Fox more than CNN because CNN oozes PC.

These things said, just like McLemee, I’m definitely for “higher taxes for the rich and an end to the wars,” but unlike him I’m also for an end to facile demonization of those who are not for those things, for the creation of work programs for those getting free government housing and money (welfare), including Obama’s African aunt in Boston, and an end to PC tenure in the Humanities.

The problem with CIVILIY that is not mentioned in this article is its fundamental SUBJECTIVITY. Civil for you, McLemee, Herbst, and Lederman, might not be civil for me… and vice versa. That is why democracy demands a First Amendment and why perhaps Inside Higher Ed (IHE), though a private money-making organization, ought to embrace it. Sadly, it does not… or if it does, that embrace is highly superficial.

Susan Herbst is quite right, whereas IHE wrong: “Creating a culture of argument, and the thick skin that goes along with it, are long-term projects that will serve democracy well.” Her stats are of course quite frightening, though not at all surprising to me as a long-time professor: “72 percent of students agreed that it was very important for them always to feel comfortable in class.”

The thought I had the other day would be deemed sexist and thus dismissed… and probably censored. But I’ll evoke it here anyhow in the name of the FIRST Amendment: Have the soccer-mom tenured professors in power today in the Humanities, those women in purple, succeeded over the past several decades to coddle and otherwise cocoon student adults with their Safe Zones et al? Where are they hiding when right-wing student newspapers are burned and speakers heckled off the stage at college campuses across the nation? “Feeling comfortable and unthreatened intellectually is a value many students share,” notes Herbst. But is that really a value? What it does is foster cliquishness and lack of outside opinion and input. It fosters the knee-jerk, anti-Fox mentality.

McLemee has it right here and this is why he despises Beck: “Hence pursuing an argument is taken as very nearly an act of aggression.” BTW, I’m an out-of-the-closet atheist and even watch Beck now and then. Well, uh, I do tend to turn the channel to CNN when he starts spouting his god inanity. Oops, that’s an un-PC statement that might OFFEND and get this comment censored into oblivion in our so-called democracy.

McLemee notes: “The attitude that it's better to stay cool and amused than to risk making arguments or expressing too much ardor—this is not civility. It’s timidity.” But is he not being a grand hypocrite when those like me do express ardor, then are censored by his boss, while he remains silent with regards that censorship?

Finally, my comment regarding Herbst’s IHE essay on civility was censored by IHE. I brought that to Herbst’s attention in an email. Herbst, unsurprisingly or rather hypocritically, did not respond. Since it is perhaps likely that this comment will be censored to spare Herbst the embarrassment, it will be posted on my weblog. Thank you for your attention.