A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone 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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Jeanmarie Fraser and Tim Gerolami

For a full written account of "An Incident at Wilkens Library" with oddball though real dialogue, check out http://www.globalfreepress.org/editorials/topics/free-speech.  Somehow I managed to get the Cape Cod Community College student newspaper, The Main Sheet, to actually publish a letter to the editor on the incident.  Its editor should be congratulated. There is hope!  The published letter is the following: 

To the Editor, The Main Sheet, Cape Cod Community College, Barnstable, MA:
Perhaps the prime concern of humanities professors (English, journalism, etc.) ought to be rousing student interest in democracy and, in particular, the First Amendment and vigorous debate, especially regarding controversial thoughts and ideas.  Yet that concern seems all but inexistent, buried by the overwhelming focus today on multiculturalism and diversity.  
Calling the police on a man quietly holding a sign in the library is one sure way to discourage students and others from exercising their First Amendment rights.  That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago at Wilkens Library.  “Celebrate the Anniversary of the Bill of Rights, Not Banned Books Week” was my sign.   Read the full account of what happened: www.globalfreepress.org/editorials/topics/free-speech.  Perhaps CCCC writing and journalism instructors ought to expose students to the account and emphasize in their classes that, for writers, Freedom of Speech is of prime importance.  Without it, jail cells, torture chambers, firing squads, and/or exile await them.  In fact, I’d be happy to speak to students on this very topic and have even prepared a detailed syllabus with its regard.  Might there be an interested professor?  If so, contact me.  I don’t bite or make threats.  Hell, I live and publish here in your very community and even possess a doctoral degree. 
Sadly, only about one in 30 CCCC students expressed interest in my sign.   But not even one of the English or journalism professors I’d contacted cared what happened at Wilkens.  Not one of them cared about the refusal of both the Cape Cod Times and Barnstable Patriot to report on my being permanently trespassed without warning or due process from Sturgis Library in Barnstable.  Not one library director of the Clams Library System of Cape Cod, which includes Wilkens, would even respond to my demand for due process.  Not one CCCC professor cared that The American Dissident, a 501 c3 Nonprofit Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence, had essentially been banned by those library directors from the System.  Why do Dean Jeanmarie Fraser and Tim Gerolami, and professors Sarah Polito, Bruce Riley, Kathleen Soderstrom, Michael Olendzenski, Patricia McGraw, James Kershner, Dianne Gregory, John French, Christine Esperson, Bill Berry, Patricia Allen, and Dean Debower not care?  And why don’t the local politicians (Tom Lynch, Brian Mannal, Cleon Turner, Ann Canedy, etc.) care?  Is commerce all that concerns them?  And what about the ACLUM and PEN New England?
Sadly, CCCC police officers are not educated regarding citizen rights.  The police supervisor, who confronted me, explicitly and angrily ordered me to stop recording him.  Well, I obeyed, but then only later discovered citizens have “a specific First Amendment right to record police officers,” according to two major court decisions (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit and the 7th Circuit Court). 
It is mind-boggling the police were called in the first place because both Dean Fraser and Mr. Gerolami somehow determined that holding a sign silently was a “confrontational” activity and that because students were “looking” at the activity, it somehow “disrupted the flow of the education system.”  Wow.  CCCC deans and faculty need to be educated as to the First Amendment.  They clearly are not.  Court cases have sided over and again with Justice William O. Douglas’ view that “The function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it invites 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 passes for acceptance of an idea.”  Yet the deans and faculty do not seem to care about this.   Does President John L. Cox care?  Perhaps not.
Moreover, “disrupting the flow of the education system” is far too vague a term to overrule the right to exercise free speech at a public institution.  Such a term needs to be carefully defined and narrowly limited or it will accord administrators the power of unchecked censors.    Holding a sign for a mere 10 minutes, not getting in anyone’s face, not threatening anyone, and not provoking people to violence is a legal activity in America.  So, why is it a questionable one at CCCC? 
Finally, student newspapers ought to devote a page or even a small corner of a page to uncomfortable criticism of the particular college or university housing it.  Students need to be encouraged to question and challenge all things, especially those that seem to enjoy protected status. 
Students ought to be encouraged to ask themselves what they think they shouldn’t write or speak about, even make a list of such taboos and why they seem to be taboos.  If such taboos serve to avoid offending others and hide uncomfortable truths or opinions, then they need to be broken.  Citizens need to build spine and not be so easily offended.  Democracy depends on that.  Anonymous authorship ought to be fully discouraged. 
Now, the probability this letter will change absolutely nothing is very high.  So, why bother writing it?  Ego?   Well, surely, those criticized in it would a-men to that.  But I’d argue that visceral passion for the freedom to speak, opine, and write is the principle reason.  If being egocentric means having such a passion, then fine.  I’d much rather be that than a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil careerist.   The former Soviet Union was loaded with those… and today so is the USA.  The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Do not seek to diminish that right with your own spinelessness, biases and inane excuses, as in “disrupts the flow of the educational system.”
G. Tod Slone, Ed., The American Dissident
Barnstable, MA

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