Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Arab Heritage Celebration: Defending Bias

Greg St. Arnold, co-chair of the left-leaning student organization JUSTICE, has taken exception to our criticism of the “Arab Heritage Celebration” at Marquette.

We pointed out a leftist, anti-American and virulently anti-Israel bias among many of the speakers and the films presented. St. Arnold seems to see no problem at all with the events. He begins:
All of these speakers are controversial. They swim against the mainstream thought of American foreign policy as it has been enacted in the past few decades.
That’s a rather euphemistic way of describing their views. I suppose he would say a holocaust denier expresses “an iconoclastic and independent view of a major historical event.” He continues:
Does this, however, automatically qualify them as 1) “leftist” or 2) “anti-American”? The answer is no on both counts.
That’s correct. But what does qualify them as leftist and anti-American is statements like the following. First, from Jennifer Loewenstein:
Forget about the Road Map. Don’t be seduced by the talk of peace. Israel is an offshore US military base and weapons testing ground. It is a westernized colony for white supremacists seeking ways to discreetly dispose of its nigger [sic] population. It is an American franchise for the new global economy, a consumer outlet, an ad for Disney-World-gone-native, a terrorist training camp for Jewish fundamentalists, the most well-funded terrorist organization outside the mainland United States, a strategic foothold in the Middle East for oil-thirsty, power-hungry neo-cons.

It is suicide’s most willing accomplice.
This was quoted in our original post, but St. Arnold appears to have missed it. Then there is this from Norman Finkelstein:
“What is the raison d’etre of Zionism in the contemporary world save as an outpost of reactionary and imperialist forces against the resurgent East?”
Perhaps St. Arnold doesn’t consider these two statements leftist and anti-American. If so, one wonders just what anybody could possibly say that would qualify. He then continues:
The more meaningful question, however, is even if these speakers were a) “leftist” and b) “anti-American,” should that somehow disqualify them from giving a talk on a college campus, where the ultimate mission is searching for truth through the exchange and critique of ideas and arguments? Once again, the answer is no. To suggest that somehow these speakers do not deserve to speak because what they say may be offensive or provocative is an abridgement of free speech.
We always find the academic freedom argument amusing coming from people who are quick to try to shut up ideas that they don’t like. Coming from, for example, the same people who approved shutting down the College Republican “Adopt a Sniper” fund raising table, or who want Larry Summers fired as President of Harvard because he suggested that men may be inherently superior in math skills to women.

In other words, it’s easy to be tolerant of “provocative” speech when one agrees with it, and other people are being “provoked.”

But St. Arnold misstates the issue here. We see nothing wrong with any of these people speaking at Marquette. But then, we see nothing wrong with a holocaust denier or a Klansman speaking at Marquette.

The issue is what speech is not heard. If there can be X number of speakers on a program, and X-1 crackpot speakers are invited, that leaves room for only one sensible speaker. If somebody put together a panel on race relations, and it included four White Supremacists and one moderate Republican, it would be wrong to try to ban the panel. But it would be perfectly appropriate to question the motives and the judgment of the people who put that panel together.

If student tuition or student activity fee money was being used, that would be an outrage.

St. Arnold then turns to another argument saying, in effect, bias is fine:
It is not the responsibility of the Arab Student Association, JUSTICE, or the College Republicans to provide “balance” in the events they plan, “balance” meaning presenting the opposing view to that endorsed by the group.
Indeed, one does expect the Arab Student Association to take the side of the Palestinians, although if they condone or support terrorism against Israeli civilians, Marquette should reconsider whether they can be a recognized student organization.

But the University Ministry, the Office of Student Development, Marquette University Student Government, and the University Ministry are not supposed to be partisan organizations pushing one side of any issue. But all of them cosponsored some of the extreme and inflammatory speakers and films.

JUSTICE is an interesting case. St. Arnold seems to be saying “we in JUSTICE are free to present one side of an issue – the side our group endorses.” The problem with this is that when we, in a post on this blog, labeled JUSTICE a “left-leaning” organization, St. Arnold as well as his cohort in JUSTICE Jessica Bizub e-mailed us complaining about that characterization. But now, St. Arnold is claiming that of course they have an ideological bias, and they have a right to.

Finally, St. Arnold attacks those who complain of bias as lazy slackers:
If we are to seriously consider victimization as the cause of all ills for all minority groups facing repression, perhaps those who feel the Marquette administration is “repressing” their ideas should stop painting themselves as victims and exercise some agency. Time to pull yourself up by the old bootstraps and exhibit some good old-fashioned work ethic.
The problem with this argument is that conservative students and Jewish students can hardly “exercise some agency” when the entire Axis of Grievance at Marquette is intent on pushing a leftist agenda. It’s well known that people in the University Ministry and the Office of Student Development tend, for reasons both of personal ideology and bureaucratic interest, to cater to official “victim” groups. They work hand in glove with left-leaning student organizations. They insist they are fair to conservative groups, but the relationship is a lot more distant and formal. The leftist students are their pets.

Interestingly, St. Arnold doesn’t even attempt to defend the films shown during the “Celebration” (“Victim Fest” would be a better term). The movie “Jenin Jenin” for example claims to show a massacre that never really happened.

When left-leaning student groups and University bureaucrats provide this sort of stacked deck, they are implicitly admitting that they would get the worst of it in a fair debate where a genuine diversity of opinion is allowed. It’s deeply ironic that St. Arnold speaks of “the exchange and critique of ideas and arguments.” How can there be an “exchange and critique of ideas and arguments” if only one side is presented?

If campus leftists thought they could win a real debate, they would welcome it. Instead, they opt for incessant manipulation.


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