A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal--guidelines, focus, etc.--go to www.theamericandissident.org. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com. Comments are NOT moderated (i.e., CENSORED)!]
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, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review of a Review of Worst Instincts

Where the hell is the ACLU?
—Lenny Bruce

It is astonishing that the founding director (Marjorie Heins) of an organization named Free Expression Policy Project would so quickly truncate dialogue with someone like me who does not agree or dares actually criticize what shouldn’t be criticized! In Heins' review of Wendy Kaminer's Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU (see www.fepproject.org/reviews/kaminer.html), the founding director notes that she was working in the ACLU in Massachusetts at the same time when I attempted to interest the ACLU in my case against Fitchburg State College also in Massachusetts. The ACLU essentially ignored my request for help. Was Heins perhaps friends with Vinny Mara, Franz Nowotny, Richard DeCesare, Harry Semerjian, or Shirley Wagner, dubious administrators at that college? Well, probably not, but anything in Massachusetts like that is certainly possible. The myth of the ACLU exists. "Well, there's always the ACLU," I've been told, now and then. BUT there wasn't the ACLU for me when I needed it.

The established-order mentality always demands the “right tone” or simply truncates discussion. The problem of course is that “right tone” often means readjusting (watering down) the message to the extent where it is no longer the original message which I, of course, refuse to do. Sure, I am a CITIZEN UNKNOWN, but if I were known, left or right, Heins would have likely engaged. Anyhow, I shall continue to communicate with the non-responding Heins, until she places my email address into her spam box, as every English professor at Williams College recently did because I’d sent them a criticism of one of their dear former colleagues, poet laureate Louise Gluck. Yes, vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, but certainly not at our college, nor at our free expression projects! Heins was likely annoyed for two simple reasons: 1. the poem I’d sent her (see below) and 2. the cartoon figuring on the front page of The American Dissident website satirical of PEN New England (see www.theamericandissident.org).

Regarding Heins’ review of Worst Instincts, it is repugnant to think that “fund-raising” has become elevated to the category of “considerable talent,” as Heins thus deems it. Is it now also one of the fine arts? Certainly that “talent” has become a key problem of many universities and colleges today, which tend to select presidents who are expert fundraisers, while far too often advocates of censorship and speech codes. Evidently, the ACLU’s executive director Romero falls into that dubious category. Clearly, one must wonder just how principled and “dedicated” some of the ACLU board members really were if in fact they placed fear of ostracism above principle. Perhaps they entered the organization because of the prestige they’d get from being part of it and the money they’d eventually get elsewhere for that enhanced prestige. (Are not far too many lawyers like doctors and politicians driven to own mansions?) Heins, however, doesn’t quite put it that way: “Her opening chapter insightfully reflects on the herd instinct and the pressures for conformity that sometimes prevent even dedicated individuals like those who comprise the ACLU’s national board from standing up for principle when faced with the risk of ostracism from the group.”

Indeed, Heins seems to excuse corrupt minds (as long as on the left) by citing “the frailties of human nature.” Why shouldn’t author Kaminer have been “uncompromising in her expectations,” especially regarding persons involved in organizations like the highly acclaimed ACLU? Heins seems to excuse Romero’s shortcomings by stating his predecessor also had shortcomings. Should we excuse Obama’s shortcomings because Bush too had them? Truly that kind of reasoning seems twisted in an effort to excuse the corrupt in Heins’ very own milieu. It is indeed shameful how Heins cites herd mentality as an excuse: “Perhaps it is in the nature of executive directors to attract ‘yes men’ and women who will confound loyalty to the boss with loyalty to the organization, and will sometimes put both above loyalty to core principles.” Yet I have seen that kind of perverted reasoning used, time and again, to excuse the corrupt professors and administrators entrenched in institutions of supposed higher education!

Heins states: “Kaminer raises profound and difficult questions about organizational integrity, politics, and personal loyalty.” YET we’re not talking about any old business or for that matter academic organization here. We’re talking about the ACLU, an organization that many regard as the top of the top of integrity! Thanks to Kaminer, we now know that to be a myth.

The following questions raised by Heins are excellent ones that should each be answered with a capital YES, but Heins does not do so: “Were the compromises with civil liberties principles and basic honesty as dire as Kaminer and Meyers thought? On balance, was it worthwhile to ‘go public,’ at whatever cost to the organization’s image or fundraising? Were they right to conclude that the ACLU had been so hopelessly corrupted that only an open airing of their concerns would save it?”

Instead, in good bourgeois fashion, Heins questions Kaminer’s TONE. “[…] the reaction of some ACLU people to Kaminer’s and Meyer’s muckraking was, in her telling, gratuitously insulting […].” Of course, they were insulted! Truth is always extremely INSULTING to the fraudulent. Let them be insulted! Maybe it will do some good, though I highly doubt it.

Oddly, Heins doesn’t see it that way. Yet, if not for the “muckraking,” board members wouldn’t have been forced to show their true disgraceful colors: “[…] and at least one institutional response contributed mightily to the public embarrassment. A proposal to limit board members’ communications with the media, as detailed by the New York Times in the spring of 2006 was one of the politically dumber proposals to be considered by a group whose primary cause is freedom of speech.”

At least Heins does agree that ACLU members should heed Kaminer’s criticism, as opposed to engaging in facile “ad hominem attacks, as they sometimes did during the course of the battles she recounts.” It is still mind-boggling to me that so many so-called educated people actually do resort to ad hominem attacks. Worst Instincts is indeed an excellent, if not unique, account of left-wing corruption written by someone on the left. Far too often the left proves entirely incapable of dealing with criticism and reacts to it with ad hominem rhetoric, silence, or denial, as in a vast right-wing conspiracy for the angelic Clintons. Think also of ACORN. What the left needs are many more soldiers like Kaminer, standing first and foremost for truth, not for the liberal party line and precious career. They would only serve to strengthen the left… by helping to get rid of its stifling, viscous, putrid muck.

An Unknown Citizen’s Futile Efforts

The American Civil Liberties Union
responded, but then
The American Association of University
Professors never responded,
PEN America responded, then
PEN New England never responded,
“defending freedom of expression
everywhere,” except, of course, here,
The American Library Association’s
Office of Intellectual Freedom
never responded,
The Free Expression Policy Project
responded, but then
The National Coalition Against Censorship
responded, but then
Foundation of Individual Rights in Education*
responded, but then
*At first, this poem did not include FIRE because I really love FIRE. Thus, I found myself self-censoring. So, I finally decided to add FIRE. After all, why can’t I criticize FIRE and still be its friend?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Poets House—$11 Million Just for the Interior Decoration

The following is a letter I just wrote to Le Monde (Paris) regarding its article on Poets House in New York. After the letter (sorry, it's en francais) is an email (in English) sent to Poets House to see if it might subscribe to The American Dissident. Poets House collected $11 million in donations to redecorate its interior! So far, no response has been received. Last night I solo protested against Louise Gluck's reading at the Concord Free Public Library. My account of the protest, "Why Don't You Please Go Home," will serve as a future blog entry. The title of the essay was the comment issued by Joah Houlihan, Director of Concord Poetry Center, as she quickly scurried past me like a diminutive troll... and not of the Internet variety. Clearly, Houlihan is not a proponent of democracy, nor of its cornerstones, vigorous debate and virulent protest! She has become a despicable established-order cog... yet another sellout hippie.

Un bon debut de critique sur cette nouvelle Maison (opulente) des Poetes (opulents) qu’on appelle Poets House… mais seulement un debut. Remarque que les poetes bourgeois de notre pays (USA) peuvent gagner des salaires garanties universitaires de plus de $100,000 par an. Il y en a parmi eux qui gagnent encore $500,000 par les bourses (e.g., MacArthur Foundation et Poetry Foundation). Qu’ils sont loin du mythe du poete affame ! Ils ont besoin donc de cette Maison opulente. A propos, les $11 millions ont ete destines pour la redecoration de l’interieur de cette Maison et ne representent donc pas le cout du batiment qui est loue gratis a la Poets House. Imagine ce qu’on aurait pu faire avec ces dollars pour les divers poetes comme moi qui ne reussissent jamais a denicher de bourse. Moi, je publie un journal litteraire depuis 10 ans devoue a la critique dure de la poesie bourgeoise et de sa grosse machine friquee. Les bibliothequaires publiques pour la plupart ne veulent pas s’abonner a ce journal (seulement $20/an) en depit de leur Library Bill of Rights (droits de l’homme a la bibliotheque) qui stipule que les bibliotheques doivent inclure toutes les optiques dans leurs collections. C’est presque certain que la plupart de ces bibliotheques si nombreuses n’obtiennent pas l’optique exprimee dans ma revue. La Maison (i.e., Poet’s House) ne veux pas s’y abonner non plus. Ici, les universitaires et les poetes bourgeois detestent ceux qui osent les critiquer. Comme des enfants, ils n’arrivent pas a encaisser quoi que ce soit. Je sais bien car j’effectue des experiences dans ce milieu depuis plus de 10 ans. En fait, moi je n’arrive plus a me trouver un poste de prof ici car j’ai critique et continue a critiquer ce milieu douteux ouvertement. Et oui, j’ai un doctorat de l’universite de Nantes qui ne vaut pas ni un sou ici dans les States.

En tout cas, cette Maison de Poetes bourgeois montre qu’il existe un vrai chasme entre ces poetes tres bien remuneres et nous autres qui n’arrivent pas a obtenir ni un petit sous des diverses fondations publiques et privees qui distribuent les millions de dollars destines aux poetes et a leurs diverses journaux, festivals et institutions. Les poetes plutot politiques et autrement socialement engages contre la grosse machine bourgeoise (de l’ordre etabli, si tu veux) de la poesie sont systematiquement ignores et autrement gardes a l’ecart par les divers festivals et conseils culturels soutenus par les divers chambres de commerce, qui preferent, bien sur, la poesie de diversion a la poesie engagee. En bref, quelle sorte de poesie peut-on vraiment esperer de la part des poetes universitaires archi-remuneres sinon la poesie qui ne risque rien, qui n’offusque personne sauf les rares poetes comme moi qui osent se tenir debout a part du troupeau poeticailleur ? Hier soir, par exemple, j’ai proteste solo devant la bibliotheque publique de Concord, ville historique des patriotes revolutionnaires et ecrivains engages tels Thoreau, Emerson et Alcott, car elle n’invite que les poetes bourgeois pour lire leurs poemes anodins. Le chef du cercle local de la poesie m’a dit: « Why don’t you just go home ! » Quel beau titre ! Oui, je l’utilise pour le compte-rendu de ma proteste. Oui, cette voix declenchee de Robert Frost a la Maison Bourgeoise de la Poesie rappelle le Big Brother d’Orwell.

From: George Slone
To: lee@poetshouse.org
Cc: jane@poetshouse.org; maggie@poetshouse.org; emma@poetshouse.org; molly@poetshouse.org; robert@poetshouse.org; marsha@poetshouse.org; krista@poetshouse.org; jane@poetshouse.org; stephen@poetshouse.org; mike@poetshouse.org; narisara@poetshouse.org; catherine@poetshouse.org; suzanne@poetshouse.org; carlin@poetshouse.org
Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 9:13:52 AM
Subject: Dissidence, persona non grata in Poetry House?

Dear Lee Briccitti, CEO of Poet’s House:

Today, I read the NY Times article on your house of poetry. $11 million… just for the interior decoration! Wow. Can I ask you to consider subscribing to a rare literary journal, one that criticizes established-order poetry, poets and machinery? The viewpoints it offers are likely not offered in Poet’s House. I’ve been contacting professors for the past decade. Only one, Dan Sklar of Endicott College, has been inviting me to speak to his English classes. The others respond mostly with deafening silence. A one-year subscription costs only $20. Even though I have the 501 3c nonprofit designation, I cannot obtain one penny of public funding, not from the NEA, not from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, not from the Concord Cultural Council. Librarians prefer subscribing to Entertainment Today and Mademoiselle. The Academy of American Poets blatantly censored my comments and banned me from further participation. What is going on in poetry today? How did it get so dainty? Why the fear of non-established-order ideas and comments? Trying to open the doors of the established order to vigo rous debate, cornerstone of democracy, has been a near-impossible endeavor.

Evidently, you form part of that order. Are you too hermetically sealed? On a final note, how not to laugh, though sadly, at all the POETRY MANAGERS in your organization: the Managing Director, Office Manager, Chief Financial Officer, and Community Relations Manager. Sadly, that is indeed poetry in America today... highly managed and safe enough for children and those in power. I copy this to the other managers of poetry in your house in case you decide not to respond and one brave or sufficiently indignant individual amongst you does.

G. Tod Slone, Founding Editor, 1998
The American Dissident, a Journal of Literature, Democracy & Dissidence
A 501 c3 nonprofit organization providing a forum for vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy
1837 Main St.
Concord, MA 01742

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yet Another Pitiful Statement of Censorship

Collegiality and an ethic of civility encourage conformity and the suppression of dissent. Group solidarity encourages tribalism. Dedication to mission encourages obedience to people charged with mission control. Loyalty to the group easily subsumes loyalty to the ideals for which the group supposedly stands.
—Wendy Kaminer, Worst Instincts (On internal corruption at the ACLU)

It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live… lying, flattering, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility
—Henry David Thoreau

Censors are dead men/set up to judge between life and death./For no live, sunny man would be a censor,/he'd just laugh./But censors, being dead men,/have a stern eye on life.
—D H Lawrence, "Censors"

Editor Tim Green of Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century (sounds like an Orwellian nightmare!) just posted a statement of censorship on the journal’s blog site to further justify his role as yet another lackey of the established order bent on killing vigorous debate, cornerstone of a THRIVING democracy.

Censor Green is paid a salary by the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation to censor voices of which he disapproves and earned awards from Phi Beta Kappa, the Golden Key National Honors Society, and the Academy of American Poets. The latter, fearful of meaningful dissent regarding the general bourgeois nature of its heralded poets, censored and banned me from participating in its forums (see www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm).

How, a thinking citizen must wonder, do so many students manage to obtain college educations without learning much at all about democracy? Clearly, their professors favor CIVILITY and conformity over dissidence and vigorous debate. The whole civility initiative works against democracy and reminds of the left’s recent “whining”—to use Censor Green’s word of predilection to dismiss anything with which he disagrees—, regarding the recent town hall meetings, where vigorous debate actually took place. Censor Green reminds of Bubba Clinton who stated: “This cynicism is my enemy.” “Cynicism” was, according to Bob Woodward, however, in part, a code word for media criticism. Interestingly, Censor Green dismisses critics with the very same term used by the British government to dismiss American revolutionary patriots: “riffraff.”

Clearly, Censor Green, like all censors, has a deep-seated feeling of inferiority, which explains why he is so FEARFUL of opinions that might prove more cogent than his and why he defines himself as the sum total of awards obtained from the bourgeois established order.

By the way, Censor Green’s blog seems to be attracting a number of democracy-indifferent schoolgirls. How sad. In any case, Censor Green’s statement of censorship follows and is a shameful affront to democracy. You decide.

Comment Guidelines
random riff-raff / 1 Comment
Wed 9.9.09
The trolls are ruining this place, and I’m sick of cleaning piss out of a carpet that I don’t even care about. There’s no reason to waste time thinking about comments on this blog, unless it’s to participate in a discussion relevant to the post above them. I’ve spent way too much time this summer trying to decide how to respond to what amounts to ignorant, masturbatory graffiti. I feel like a kindergarten teacher. Well, I’m taking away the scissors.
Comments on this blog are now all moderated. Hopefully very few comments will actually be screened out, but there will be a delay, while I check to make sure they follow these simple rules:
1) Be civil.
2) Be relevant.
That’s all you have to do: Be civil and relevant. Even trolls who keep their whiny rants civil and relevant can voice their opinions. But if you can’t, your comment will sit forever in a queue gathering cyberdust.
Let this be a notice to everyone who’s been warned before: Don’t waste your time. I suggest making your own blog and bitching there.
And to everyone who no longer reads the comments because they raise your blood pressure: You can come back now, the riffraff is gone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Experiment in Democracy: University of Iowa

Business-as-Usual Shoes to Fill at The Iowa Review
N.B.: The URL for this blog entry was sent to over 65 English faculty members at the University of Iowa. It was also sent to the university's student newspaper. Will any of them respond... in the name of vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy? See below for names.

A friend sent me an editorial from the Press Citizen, “Our View—Big Editorial Shoes to Fill at The Iowa Review,” which immediately grabbed my attention right from the beginning where the editorial seemed to praise the retiring literary editor, David Hamilton, for his rhyming of the names of contributors “arranged into four couplets and a tercet” on the back cover of the latest issue. Wow, I thought, could high-brow writing have really gotten that low? If that literary stunt were any indication of Hamilton’s purported “vision, energy and personality,” which helped create the “magazine's national reputation as a premier literary journal,” then we were indeed in trouble. On another note, journalists—as so many tend to be today—should not be in the business of hackneyed hagiography. They should rather be in the business of caustic questioning and challenging of the powers that be, both grand (e.g., Obama) and small (e.g., Hamilton).
The in-coming editor of The Iowa Review, Russell Valentino, chairman of the University of Iowa Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature (Hamilton will be continuing in that department as tenured professor), noted the journal had "a quiet quality […], contemplative as well as playful.” Could it get any more mind numbing? When big university literature becomes “quiet” and “playful” and praised for it, the nation may very well be in trouble… democracy may very well be in trouble! Imagine the likes of Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Emerson and Thoreau admiring those purported qualities! Literature needs to holler—it needs to be serious in these times of war all the time, corrupt corporate CEOs all the time, and PC censorship all the time.
If The Iowa Review is indeed “such a success,” perhaps we need to rethink what “success” has really come to mean. And if indeed the contributors and collaborators of the journal include an “impressive number of smart, creative, committed folks,” then we also need to rethink what “smart, creative, and committed” have come to mean. Indeed, apparently those glowing epithets must be reflected by the following sentences cited in the editorial taken from Hamilton’s story published in the latest issue: "The fish tasted fine, by the way, grilled, with chemicals infusing the olive oil and lemon. Maybe an occasional fish from the Iowa River is like shots I used to take as a kid, little bits of many things making my allergies manageable. But I wouldn't want to count on that."
What Hamilton writes (and likely teaches) is as banal and safely disengaged as it gets. Indeed, it couldn’t possibly offend in any manner whatsoever the proverbial old ladies amongst us. Perhaps we need to feel badly for the students studying in that English department. In fact, as a little experiment, I will send this to the University of Iowa student newspaper just to see if the student editors have been fully indoctrinated in the mores of the academic happy face.
“The magazine is an expression of his personal connections," noted Valentino regarding Hamilton. But since when did inbred result in quality? What “personal connections” end up giving us is less than best writing. Examine any given anthology of David Lehman’s yearly The Best American Poetry to see what I mean. In any case, with the likes of Hamilton and Valentino at the helm, we can be assured that the University of Iowa Writing University taskforce will not be recommending: 1. more risk-taking in writing, as in encouraging student writers to be critical of their immediate surroundings (e.g., the university and professors); 2. inviting dissident writers critical of the academic/literary established order; 3. writing against the “playful” happy-face grain and 4. real vigorous debate on the issue of writing itself.
According to the editorial, Valentino will be trying to balance the journal’s supposed “inclusiveness and high standards, humor and sophistication.” Yet how has inclusive come to mean excluding dissidence? And doesn’t “high standards, humor and sophistication” sound a lot like euphemisms for business-as-usual bourgeois good taste and established-order friendliness? Indeed, Hamilton will be reading at the Old Capitol Museum Senate Chamber in an evident manifestation that writing and writers have become so castrated today that they are quite welcome by the nation’s politicians and chamber-of-commerce business FOLK.
Finally, that “very welcoming magazine” (i.e., The Iowa Review), as the editorial refers to it, would certainly not be very welcoming to those like me who do actually dare, now and then, “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson). In our wildest dreams, could we imagine The Iowa Review publishing this short essay? Of course not… and that, dear thinking citizens of Iowa City, is precisely what renders such magazines less than successful… at least in the eyes of democracy.
NB:  Surprise!  The student editors never responded.

russell-valentino@uiowa.edu; David-Hamilton@uiowa.edu; katherine-thorpe@uiowa.edu; ryan-vanmeter@uiowa.edu; carol-desaintvictor@uiowa.edu; paul-diehl@uiowa.edu; hualing-engle@uiowa.edu; john-grant@uiowa.edu; john-harper@uiowa.edu; john-huntley@uiowa.edu; robert-kelley@uiowa.edu; carl-klaus@uiowa.edu; llj@ia.net; john-mclaughlin@uiowa.edu; alan-nagel@uiowa.edu; rfsayre@mchsi.com; daniel-weissbort@uiowa.edu; Fredrick-Woodard@uiowa.edu; bluford-adams@uiowa.edu; Linda-Bolton@uiowa.edu; Florence-Boos@uiowa.edu; Lori-Branch@uiowa.edu; Matthew-P-Brown@uiowa.edu; Corey-Creekmur@uiowa.edu; john-philip-dagata@uiowa.edu; Huston-Diehl@uiowa.edu; Kathleen-Diffley@uiowa.edu; david-dowling@uiowa.edu; Barbara-Eckstein@uiowa.edu; Mary-Emery@uiowa.edu; Ed-Folsom@uiowa.edu; Patricia-A-Foster@uiowa.edu; Claire-Fox@uiowa.edu; Eric-Gidal@uiowa.edu; Miriam-Gilbert@uiowa.edu; loren-glass@uiowa.edu; blaine-greteman@uiowa.edu; robin-hemley@uiowa.edu; Cheryl-Herr@uiowa.edu; lena-hill@uiowa.edu; michael-hill@uiowa.edu; adam-hooks@uiowa.edu; kevin-kopelson@uiowa.edu; marie-kruger@uiowa.edu; rudolf-kuenzli@uiowa.edu; Priya-Kumar@uiowa.edu; stephen-kuusisto@uiowa.edu; Brooks-Landon@uiowa.edu; Kathy-Lavezzo@uiowa.edu; Susan-Lohafer@uiowa.edu; Teresa-Mangum@uiowa.edu; christopher-merrill@uiowa.edu; Dee-Morris@uiowa.edu; Nazareth@uiowa.edu; Judith-Pascoe@uiowa.edu; Horace-Porter@uiowa.edu; Jeff-Porter@uiowa.edu; John-Raeburn@uiowa.edu; Maryann-Rasmussen@uiowa.edu; Laura-Rigal@uiowa.edu; Phillip-Round@uiowa.edu; robyn-schiff@uiowa.edu; Tom-Simmons@uiowa.edu; Alvin-Snider@uiowa.edu; Claire-Sponsler@uiowa.edu; anne-stapleton@uiowa.edu; Harilaos-Stecopoulos@uiowa.edu; garrett-stewart@uiowa.edu; bonnie-sunstein@uiowa.edu; miriam-thaggert@uiowa.edu; lara-trubowitz@uiowa.edu; Jonathan-Wilcox@uiowa.edu; Doris-Witt@uiowa.edu; David-Wittenberg@uiowa.edu