I Hate It When I Don't Know What to Think....
Okay, now what is the deal here? I mean, what is REALLY the deal?
University of North Carolina, with a long history of defending free speech the administration happens to agree with, has axed a student club, Youth for Western Civilization. (What did they axe them? No, I mean "got rid of."). The reason is that the faculty adviser made a joke about defending himself. Here is the News and Observer story, from Saturday morning's paper.
Another story, about the events of last spring. The N&O story about local grumpiness, back in April. Also, an Inside Higher Ed story on l'affaire Tancredo. So, in no particular order, some things that confuse me.
1. Tancredo, and all the other "we hate brown immigrants, but blue-eyed immigrants are good" people, are wrong. I personally think the way to discredit Tancredo is to let him speak, and then quote him verbatim and in context. He is a ham-handed goofball, but the protests at UNC made him look like a martyr.
2. Using violence and intimidation to shut down an invited speaker is bad. It doesn't matter if it is 1964, and the speaker is a civil rights leader, or if it is 2009 and the speaker is Tom Tancredo. (UNC has a sad history of administrative thuggishness on free speech, I should note.) You can't take over a room, pushing and shoving, go up on stage, and break a window, and then say you favor free speech. The kids who shut down Tancredo's speech are thugs and bullies, and the system exonerated them. That's wrong.
3. But....but. What obligations do we have to ensure that a group gets to be a group on campus? Chancellor Holden Thorpe fired the adviser of the UNC group for making a joke about a gun. The "joke" was simply that the guy was good at target practice: "I have a Colt .45, and I know how to use it. I used to be able to hit a quarter at 50 feet seven times out of ten." Wow. I have posted videos of my son and me using guns to shoot targets. Would I lose my job if I worked at UNC?
4. The so-called "joke" was in the context of anonymous flyers posted around campus where the leftist thugs were again threatening violence. (You may say that no violence was threatened. But if the UNC lefties can say that "Western Civilization" is code for "White Supremacist," then I can say, "Go to this prof's house, and here is his address" is code for "physical threat." That's the problem with claiming that there are codes: you can make up stuff you think they meant, instead of what you know they said). And the flyers clearly included the adviser's name, photograph, home address and telephone number with the caption, "Why is your professor supporting white supremacy?" That is an exhortation to go confront the guy. AND THE FLYERS ARE ANONYMOUS.
5. On the other hand...Youth for Western Civilization openly calls itself "right wing." They are completely, totally wrong on immigration, and most other things. They call Obama's speech in Cairo "An Inspiration to Islamic Terrorism." * So, now suppose that they can't find a faculty adviser, and that means that they can't exist as a student group. Is that right? Should the faculty have an implicit veto on which groups students can form, based on ideology? I assume that the left-o storm trooper kids have an easy time finding a faculty adviser for their window-breaking and thuggish censorship of invited speakers. Should we censor student groups based on whether faculty endorse the ideological content of the group's mission?
*I do have to point out one passage in this article. Remember, this was actually published on the YfWC website!
In his speech, Obama goes on: “It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.” Really? Have the monasteries of Europe, the libraries and universities of Byzantium been suddenly replaced by an Islamic madrassa in Egypt?
Um...wow. I would hope that the folks in favor of Western Civilization had a little more concept of the history of Western Civilization. Yes, it actually is true that the libraries of Islamic scholars really, really were the sources for much of what we now know of Greek and Roman history, literature, and poetry. Perhaps the author should take a class in Western Civilization?