Saturday, February 19, 2005

Media Hypocrisy on Campus Speech

It wasn’t entirely a surprise when the Marquette Tribune supported Marquette’s administration in closing down a College Republican fund raising table for the “Adopt A Sniper” program. A whole generation of young liberals (and this certainly includes Tribune staffers) has been taught that if one finds any particular expression “offensive” or “insensitive” one should try to shut it up.

Free expression has become passé.

One might have hoped that the liberal students at the Tribune would identify with their undergraduate cohorts – even Republican cohorts. But there was no such expectation with regard to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Quite predictably, they too applauded the stifling of the conservative group.

But if the College Republicans can get no sympathy from the journalists, what about Ward Churchill? Churchill, in case you haven’t been paying any attention to the news, is the University of Colorado professor who applauded the 9/11 attacks, and opined that the people in the Twin Towers in fact were asking for it. To quote him directly:
To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.
So what happened when it became an issue whether Churchill would be allowed to speak at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater? The Journal-Sentinel supported his right to speak! Recognizing an apparent contradiction to the editorial they had run just days before on the “Sniper” controversy, the paper pontificated that:

Of course, academic freedom is not absolute. We thought Marquette University acted properly when it shut down a student booth with a slogan that cheered killing in an “Adopt a Sniper” effort.

But, so that a university can fulfill its mission of education through a vigorous exchange of ideas, the freedom to speak on campus should be broad enough to permit Churchill’s appearance.

In the first place, the slogan used by the “Adopt A Sniper” program didn’t “cheer killing.” It said “1 shot, 1 kill, no remorse, I decide.” That’s an accurate statement of the sniper’s job.

Even Marquette didn’t claim that the slogan “cheered killing.” The official University news release said the rhetoric of the snipers group “could be widely misinterpreted as having a cavalier attitude toward the taking of a human life.”

Could be widely misinterpreted? By whom? Ninnies who can’t face the reality of war?

There is no room for “misinterpretation” of Churchill’s statement. He really does “cheer killing.”

Of course, there are differences between the two situations. The College Republicans weren’t getting any money from Marquette, but Ward Churchill is getting a large speaker’s fee from the UW – Whitewater. Those, like us, who believe that Churchill has a right to speak don’t have to support his right to get a lot of money extracted from students in the form of an “activity fee” for his hate speech.

Marquette is a private university, and has the right to restrict speech at odds with its “Catholic Mission.” Indeed, the Journal-Sentinel, in its editorial said that:

Marquette, moreover, is not a public institution, but is instead - as its mission statement proclaims - “a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to serving God by serving our students and contributing to the advancement of knowledge.”

Its dedication to what it sees as moral values needs to be seen in that light and so does its decision to close down the campus “Adopt a Sniper” program.
In the first place, does anybody think the liberals at the Journal-Sentinel would endorse this argument if it was used to shut down some group that they liked, such as the Gay/Straight Alliance?

Secondly, just because Marquette has the right to stifle speech it doesn’t like doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. If a “vigorous exchange of ideas” and a broad “freedom to speak on campus” is good at Whitewater, it’s good at Marquette.

Unless, apparently, it’s Republicans who want to speak.

It’s long since time to recognize the dirty truth: liberals, as a body, don’t believe in free speech. Oh, they will certainly invoke the concept when somebody tries to shut up people on the left. And some really do - although they seem to be fewer and fewer. But for liberals in the mainstream media - and those in training to enter the mainstream media - it’s just an inconvenient notion that allows people they dislike to say things they dislike.

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