Ask any dean, most professors and many students and they will all agree that I have as many â€“ if not more â€“ problems with how this campus sponsors events than most. However, Oren Cass’ belief that this institution has proven its “narrowmindedness” with the recent series of events organized and sponsored by the Anti-War Community Taskforce is both misguided and misinformed.
Freedom of speech is an ideal I treasure. The most important concept behind the phrase “freedom of speech” is not equal speech, but equal access to speech. A stupid person with an incorrect view has the same right to speak as an articulate, intelligent person with a responsible view, but the stupid person’s speech is certainly not “equal.” Nor do they qualify for government or Williams-funded speech lessons and a speechwriter in order to equalize the speech.
Instead, the system for sponsoring speech that Williams follows is much better than the one Cass supports. Williams has organized a system of funding bodies which offer funds to any event that can prove it is well organized, reasonably priced and has a legitimate value to the campus. I am sure that none of these funding bodies would deny funds to an event bringing in a pro-war speaker.
The simple reason (and obvious one that Cass avoids mentioning) for the anti-war slant of the recent events is that the “Iraq, War, Terror?” week was sponsored by the Anti-War Community Taskforce (full disclosure: after the protest in DC, I finally joined ACT). It wouldn’t make much sense for ACT to organize pro-war events, would it? If anything, they were extremely gracious in inviting Prof. McAllister to present a pro-war vision. They had no obligation to present arguments from the other side, just as a pro-war group wouldn’t be expected to ask Michael Moore to speak.
In fact, it is interesting to note in Cass’ list of non-conservative voices that have visited the campus that not only are many of them not nearly as liberal as he claims (a lot of people, including me, still find Bob McNamara’s history inexcusable), but also pro-war. Madeleine Albright and Thomas Friedman are both pro-war. Indeed, concurrently with the ACT debate, the lecture committee invited Philip Bobbitt who spoke of the ascension of the market-state, an idea thoroughly repulsive to the “left-wing conspiracy” postulated by Cass.
Speaking of left-wing conspiracies, let’s tackle the idea that International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) is a communist front. Indeed, as I believed, International ANSWER is an organization that holds some views I find incorrect (especially its oversimplified pro-Palestinian beliefs), but to vilify the anti-war movement by attacking that organization is a tactic being taken by an old friend of the College’s. I hate to say it, but the main critique can be found on David Horowitz’s frontpagemag.com.
Smear tactics such as painting the anti-war protest and movement in general as “Marxist-Stalinist” and supportive of Milosevic and Kim Jong-Il is not a sign of the “fair and unbiased” debate Cass desires. If Cass intends to convince people to support war, he should present a coherent argument that the world would be better if the United States invades a country in a campaign potentially entailing hundreds of thousands of deaths and a price tag in the billions or trillions. Smearing one anti-war group irresponsibly in no way damages the anti-war arguments presented coherently and respectfully throughout the week.
Personally, I hope the anti-war movement becomes more focused on the Iraq problem, but it’s hard to dismiss a protest featuring Jesse Jackson, Jessica Lange, Chumbawumba, a member of the British Parliament, Representative John Conyers and a message from Representative Charles Rangel, as an “indoctrination campaign.”
My advice to Cass may sound trite, but it’s invaluable. I would advise him to stop whining about the liberalism of the school, and to find a pro-war speaker and bring him or her to campus. Activists are trying to make their voices heard, to facilitate dialogue in the hopes of creating a better society â€“ that’s what ACT was trying to accomplish with its week of events (a similar series of events was organized on dozens of campuses across the country) and that is the basic duty of any citizen in a democracy.
I would appreciate a pro-war series of events; I want to make sure that I am correct in exercising my rights as a citizen and I want to be sure that I didn’t stand in the freezing cold at the D.C. protest for eight hours for a bad reason. Then again, it’s not as though we are not bombarded constantly with pro-war messages from the Bush Administration and almost the entirety of the mainstream media.
If anything, ACT’s week was a small drop in the bucket trying to offer a different version of the “official” line. Regardless, ACT and the College itself have no duty to sponsor pro-war events and speakers. Similarly, there is no job description in our administration for a dean to “equalize debate on campus through any means necessary.” That is the duty of the individuals who make up this institution.
Only through the intense efforts of ACT’s members, who deserve many thanks, was the community informed of the anti-war views presented recently. Perhaps soon, a Pro-War Community Taskforce will deserve the same thanks. All it takes is some hard work and dedication. Oren Cass, do you have that?