The Press and “Matters of Public Interest”

July 29, 2010

Give the New York Times at least a little credit for editorial discretion.

Last week, in a note to its readers accompanying the release of the first installment of nearly 90,000 classified documents, it claimed that it had ” taken care not to publish information that would harm national security interests.”

Well thank goodness we have the editorial board of the New York Times around to make critical judgements for us on issues of  national security.

By now everyone knows that the paper, alongside seven other international newspapers, was the recipent of documents from the website known as WikiLeaks, which specializes in obtaining classified information that the government does not want made public.  The documents, in this case,  offer information about the U.S. war in Afghanistan which purportedly illuminate the U.S. government’s  military planning and decision making processes over a five year period between 2005-09.

The New York Times justified the release of the documents by asserting that  ” There are times when the information is of significant public interest,  and this is one of those times.”

By what authority does the paper gauge “matters of public interest? ”

And who, we should all wonder, made the editorial board of the New York Times the arbiter of what is or what is not in the ambit of this country’s national security interests?

Those are questions the News York Times and other national newspapers rarely answer with any precision, if at all.  Rather, their conduct over the past decade has demonstrated a wilful contempt of  the U.S.government’s stated view of national security interests and a repeated failure to accede to the demands of successive administrations to keep national security materials well under wraps.

On December 16, 2005, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, experienced  investigative reporters at the Timesblew open the NSA wiretapping scheme, under the same justification of public interest.   They followed that performance with  a report on June 23, 2006  focusing on the disclosure of the government’s SWIFT program –  an international effort, led by the United States, designed to monitor the financial transactions of terrorist organizations. 

But things are not always as they seem at the New York Times.

As to the first incident, commentator Gabriel Schoenfeld in Necessary Secrets: National Security, The Media and the Rule of Law ably demonstrates that it was neither “matters of public interest”  nor concerns for individual privacy that stood as the prime motivations for the Times to publish Lichtblau and Blau’s original story on the NSA.  It was, rather, a determination not to be scooped by its own reporters who were both writing books at the time on the Bush Administration’s anti-terror campaign.  The eventual publication of those books  – Lichtblau’s Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice  and Risen’s State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration  soon revealed not a balanced examination of the efficacy of the Bush Administration’s counter terrorism campaign but a vitriolic contempt for the Bush Administration itself and a ruthless demonization – and throughly prejudiced – attack on its counter-terrorism measures. It cast into significant doubt the reasons for the exposure of the scheme.

As for the SWIFT program revelations, no legitimate reason was ever offered by the New York Times for the necessity of disclosing the program. In fact in a letter to readers the paper’s editor, Bill Keller, admitted that ” no serious abuses of privacy had been identified.” Rather, he stated, the article’s publication was a means of protecting the public against only potential violations by the Bush Administration:

  ” We remain convinced,”  he wrote, ” that the administration’s extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest “

In other words, the editor of the foremost and arguably the most influential newspaper in the country, believes that it is incumbent on journalists such as himself to determine ” matters of public interest ” that could have a  potential  bearing on the security of U.S.citizens.

But who elected or appointed such men to make these kind of decisions for us?   Who gave sanction to these self appointed tribunes to wrest from our elected leaders and our military personnel ( men and women, after all, in whom we repose our trust and confidence by fiat, to protect us) the authority to pass judgement on vital issues of national security? 

The answer, of course,  is no one.   The press simply deigns to itself such a right, even if the U.S. Constitution (through the First Amendment)  remains silent on the issue and abundant legislation ( including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Comint Act of 1950 – both of which have sections which expressly focus on the published disclosure of classified  information)  and more than 200 years of court decisions have repeatedly stymied the release of documents which the government regards as having a bearing on public safety.

Such editorial presumption was illustrated by Keller in his June 23, 2006 letter:

” And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.”

He is certainly not alone in considering the enshrined principle of freedom of the press as a blank check given to an unelected body of self appointed potentates to pass judgement on what is and what is not safe for us to know.

On June 27, 2006, Dan Baquet, the then editor of the Los Angeles Times, in justifying his own paper’s publication of the SWIFT program’s details, offered this rather revealing window on press arrogance:

” We (also) have an obligation to cover the government, with its tremendous power, and to offer information about its activities so citizens can make their own decisions. That’s the role of the press in our democracy. The founders of the nation actually gave us that role, and instructed us to follow it, no matter the cost.”

No matter the cost?   I wonder if  Baquet had actually read the debates  on the  drafting of the First Amendment?  He might be surprised to learn that the  recorded discussion in the House of Representatives in 1789 on Madison’s first draft of the Amendment  is rather unhelpful in gauging the ‘ Founders’ intentions’ and that there is no recorded debate at all on the issue in the Senate.   I wonder if he has read the vast body of jurisprudence since that time which makes it clear that there are absolute limits on the press’ supposed right to disclose classified materials to the public – particularly during war time.

What he might also discover is that there is certainly no fundamental right to reveal everything there is to know about the workings of counter-espionage and counter-terrorism in this country – even where it concerns protecting against the potential  for the abuse of privacy rights.

If the press wants to claim that its right to virtually legislate on national security issues is absolute, then surely the public has a similar right to demand from it the exact standards and policies by which it seeks to frame these decisions.  It is simply not enough for editors such as Keller and Baquet to claim arbitrary authority.   If the United States Congress and our judiciary have spent 220 years debating First Amendment rights, then why isn’t it appropriate for our self appointed fourth tier of government to be doing exactly the same thing? 

Maybe it is time for the press to examine, within itself and together with its reading public, the exact framework for the publication of classified documents whose disclosure could mean life or death for thousands of U.S. citizens.

Only then will we have a much more exact understanding of what the press actually means when it claims that it is taking action in ” matters of public interest ” and will be held accountable when it abuses its own standards.  And perhaps then American citizens, in whose service the press claims to be acting, will find a way to let our newspapermen know whether it considers those standards to be either admirably sustainable or else sadly deficient.

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Diversity’s Failing Grades

March 29, 2010

When I first came to the United States 26 years ago to undertake some post-graduate work, I lived with a group of Jewish students in a large dormitory near UCLA.    After about a year, I became acquainted with a startling fact about my fellow lodgers – their level of academic achievement was well below what I had experienced among my fellow students in Australia.  Many could not spell simple words; their grammar was atrocious; their conversation was filled with non- sequiturs and was riven with an over-dependence on the word “like.”

I was part of the U.C. system then and have been associated with UCLA in one way or another, ever since.

During that time, I have seen not only seen academic standards fall, but the rise of a campus culture which places cultural sensitivity training above all other priorities, including academic distinction.

I wasn’t aware of  it when I arrived in 1984, but only six years had then passed since the landmark law suit Regents of the University of California vs Bakke,  which had gone all the way to the U.S.  Supreme Court. The case involved one Allan Bakke, who had applied to U.C. Davis Medical School but was denied, despite an impressive academic record.

The U.C. Davis Medical School claimed that its affirmative action/ diversity policies prevented it from increasing the number of white males who could be admitted.   However after he was denied a second time, Bakke filed suit for mandatory injunctive relief, demanding that the school allow his admission and to render its restrictive policies unconstitutional.  The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with Bakke eventually gaining the right to attend U.C. Davis but with no conclusive majority opinion on the constitutionality of its affirmative action policies.

Yet Justice Lewis F. Powell’s lone opinion in the case was consequential.   It concluded that though race could not be the basis for excluding a candidate, race could certainly be one of many factor in admission’s considerations.   That opinion was seized upon by affirmative action enthusiasts and became part of the U.C. admissions policies thereafter.

Ten years ago, after having read The Tyranny of Diversity, a book on the state of universities in an age of affirmative action, I launched my own inquiry into how universities, committed to integration of minorities through affirmative action policies and a commitment to diversity, were coping with the changes to their student populations.

The results of that inquiry were sobering:  a rapid fall in academic standards; an increase in reports of date rape and sexual assault and the decrease of civil discourse on campus.

The system had become a zero-sum game that opened the door for jobs, promotions, or education to minorities while shutting the door on whites. Not only that, but in a country that prized the values of self-reliance and meritocratic achievement,  it had imported into our educational system ideals which were foreign  to it, providing opportunity that had not been earned and eroding rather than encouraging respect, tolerance and openness.

Recognizing that affirmative action policies had, appallingly, become a means of engineering reverse discrimination, California voters in 1996 therefore soundly approved Proposition 209, which  amended the California State Constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity for the purposes of admissions or public employment.

But that was not the end of affirmative action.  Not by a long shot.  Chameleon-like, it merely morphed into “diversity” as a new expression of its determination to integrate multiple cultures, lifestyles, sexual preferences and points of view into the wider campus community.

I was reminded of all this last Thursday when the U.C. Regents decided, in a public meeting, to apologize to the black community of U.C. San Diego for an off campus party that had mocked Black History Month. The Regents promised  to help create campus environments in which minority students would feel more comfortable.

In fact, U.C . President, Mark Yudof, declared that he would seek changes in admissions policies as well as the creation of scholarships for underrepresented minorities “in order to improve diversity.”

Hmmm…. so, here we are  again – 50 years after John F. Kennedy introduced the term ‘affirmative action’ into our vocabulary, 32 years after Powell’ s opinion in Bakke and 14 years after Proposition 209  –  and we find that not only is there an outright denial of diversity’s failure, but a general agreement among our academic leaders that our universities are not quite diverse enough.

For Yudof was not only referring to the offense to black students.  His remarks were made against a backdrop of racial slurs and near rioting which interrupted a speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, at a speech at U.C. Irvine on February 12th.   The outrageous behavior of Muslim students there, in which 11 were arrested for disorderly conduct, drew public attention to the fact that Muslim students on campuses throughout the West often do not feel bound by the same rules as non-Muslims, particularly when it comes to the expression of their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yudof, of course, would not admit it, but the riots at places like U.C. Irvine and  U.C Berkeley, are as much a result of the diversity policies in the U.C.  system as they are the capstone of  a half century of attempted integration policies, which focus on freedom of expression and the promotion of cultural identity at the expense of  educational advancement.

For administrations are increasingly loathe to clamp down on hate speech on campus for fear of tripping the wires of cultural sensitivity.  So professors and students alike can compare Israelis to Nazis, the War in Gaza to the Holocaust or call for the murder of an ambassador – and university administrations can barely bring themselves to blink an eyelid.

Meanwhile, affirmative action lives on in its diversity disguise, as pernicious an ideology as ever.  In the same forum where Yudof debased himself by begging forgiveness from the black community for not making the U.C. system diverse enough, U.C. Regent Eddie Island added:

“It is our own standards and slavish adherence to grade point averages and SAT scores that have put us in this dilemma.  We value those things higher than we value other human qualities that are just as important and that can make a contribution within the UC environment.”

How ironic, for the truth, of course, is quite the opposite.  It is affirmative action and diversity which have put us in this dilemma  – and the problems that they encourage, are only growing.

“We stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11,” declared Victor Sanchez, president of the University of California Student Association in his opening remarks to the regents during the meeting.  This was a  sly reference to the Chicago 7 – essentially making the case that screaming racial epithets and encouraging incitement to murder constitute protected speech, as long as it is are attached to  a cause to which the U.C. students are popularly aligned.

Did any of the U.C. Regents rebut this hateful notion?  None.  For to do so would to be contravene diversity’s golden rule:  all opinions and viewpoints  are equally valid, no matter how viciously expressed.

And how is the new found meritocratic emphasis of our universities faring in all of  this?  Well just ask Jocelyn Devault of Newbury Park, whose 18-year-old senior, despite possessing a 4.1 GPA, all Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate course work and high SAT scores, could not manage to get into even one of the U.C.s  she applied to for the Fall of 2010.

Why would any thoughtful parent wish to send their child to a tertiary institution where hate speech is given such protective cover, where academic achievement is devalued and where the leaders are weak, supine sychophants who bend in the direction of  whatever multicultural wind  is blowing their way?

Perhaps we should all be asking these hard questions as the U.C. Regents get to work on strengthening their diversity agenda.


The Modern Feminist Agenda

March 8, 2010

Twenty-two years ago, when I was working for a cultural center in Los Angeles, it was decided to invite Betty Friedan to present a lecture.  Friedan had been vaunted for years as one of the founders of the modern feminist movement and her book, The Feminist Mystique, paved the way for a host of successive feminists, younger and more rabidly determined to shake up gender bias around the country.

During that visit I spent considerable time with Friedan, driving her from location to location and learned much about her ideas on feminism.

By 1988,  already in her late 60s, Friedan was in no mood to reflect on the great achievements of the feminist movement over the preceding 25 years.  She had authored The Second Stage in 1981, in which she had critiqued what she saw as the extremist excesses of some of her  colleagues who could be broadly classified as gender feminists. (Gender feminists typically criticize contemporary gender roles and aim to eliminate them altogether.)  She fulminated against them as I drove her back to her hotel in Santa Monica:

They’ve stripped us of everything. Any real legtimacy. The feminist movement is in ruins!”  

I believe  she was right.  By the late 80’s, the entire feminist movement was moving beyond its traditional role of seeking equal rights for women and fast embracing far left wing ideologies and lesbian and transgender advocacy as its primary focus. 

In took only another four years before the feminist movement was upended when Christina Hoffs Sommer published Who Stole Feminism?  in which the author identified gender feminism as characterizing most modern feminist theory and serving as its prevailing ideology in academia. 

Because she had identified some of these excesses, Friedan progressively saw her leadership eclisped by Gloria Steinem, who knew how to coddle the radicals without necessarily embracing their ideologies.

But it has become fairly clear from Steinem’s rule of the roost, that women’s issues are not nearly as important as subscribing the movement to left wing causes.   From the anti- War movement, to Black victimhood politics to gay rights, Steinem  has been involved in almost every left wing cause of the past 50 years trailing the obliging feminist movement behind her.

Perhaps that is why so many women regard  “feminist” as a dead term these days, restricted to hard core man haters who have no patience nor respect for a woman’s expression of  femininity.  

So I had to laugh when Steinem was asked in this interview in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, why so many women shrink from the term  feminist today?   She answered:

“Because it has been demonized by the right wing. Every time I  can bear to turn on Rush Limbaugh he’s talkling about femi-Nazis.  It has been distorted, just like liberal has. “

What a poor excuse for an argument.  Feminism long ago painted itself into a radical corner and needed nothing from Rush Limbaugh or any other right wing commentator to characterize it as out of touch with the needs of most modern women.

The feminist movement’s myriad failures are on par with many other left wing causes that have lost sight of their original goals.  For instance, where is the National Organization of Women, Independent Women’s Forum, Feminists for Life and Feminist Majority Foundation in condemning through international campaigns the grave indignities suffered by women in Muslim countries from stoning, wife beating, genital mutilation and denial of civil rights?   Where is the feminist movement in addressing the way young women, particularly on our college campuses, debase themselves through casual sexual encounters ( the hooking up culture!) and exploitative relationships?  

Where are the feminists in praising a woman with the strength of character of a Sarah Palin who, no matter what you think of her politics, has demonstrated that women can rise from almost nowhere and play a very signficant role in national politics, competing with men on almost every level.

Palin is not lauded , of course, because her politics puts her beyond the pale of feminist acceptability.   In fact, the feminists barely regard her as female at all.  Steinem famously declared as much in this Los Angeles piece in September, 2008, when she said that “Palin  shares nothing but a chromosome in common with Hilary Clinton.”

Tomorrow will mark International Women’s Day, the 99th time it will be celebrated.  Given what we have seen from the feminist movement in the years following its inauguration, perhaps it won’t surprise anyone that that first auspicious date in March, 1911 was observed  following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The IWD was its brainchild.


Israel Does the West’s Dirty Work

February 20, 2010

The outrage in Britain that has followed the revelation that eleven Israelis, traveling under false British passports, executed a Hamas mastermind in Dubai last month, is a wonder to behold.    Prime Minister Gordon Brown has sputtered that Israel has questions to answer about the theft of the passports.  The British foreign secretary, David Millband, has gone on record threatening to sever ties with the Mossad.  Opposition leader David Cameron, together with his shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, are demanding an inquiry. And the British press is howling for retribution. 

The British establishment has made it clear that it has very little interest in the maintenance of  Israeli security.  But does it have any real interest in the maintenance of its own? .  Just this week, the second most senior justice in  the country exposed   the workings of  Britain’s own intelligence network and its link with the Americans, when he excoriated the agency for its handling of the ex-Guantanomo inmate Binyam Mohamed, severely compromising MI5’s ability to work in concert with foreign intelligence services; Lax British immigration policies, its ludicrously benevolent welfare system and an insistence of the right of free speech for even those who preach the overthrow of the British government and the destruction of the West, has transformed London into “terrorist central”  and a major node for the financing of terrorist activity world wide.

You’ll notice though that none of the British protests actually involve a denial that Mahmoud al Mabhouh was an innocent.  That is because the British government is well aware  that the Israelis bumped off a dangerous guy, a weapons purchaser and smuggler, whose activities have caused hundreds of Israeli deaths and injuries over the past 15 years. He trafficked in death and knew the risks of doing so. 

Lets also not forget that the British government and public are  no strangers to extra-judicial killings by British agents.  Countless works of  British fiction, from the 1840s and the Great Game onward, have been based on real life British spies knocking off villains who threaten British security in places as distant as Singapore, Kabul and Kenya. 

Today, however, we live in a different world, where terrorists use technology to network with one another and share their own forms of intelligence.  Hamas is a vital part of this network and no one should think for a moment that it does not have its own operatives in the U.K. supporting the financing  and coordination of military operations in Gaza and Damascus.  When are the British elites going to understand that this worldwide terrorist network, is poised as much at the heart of Britain as it is against the United States  and Israel?   Will it ever appreciate that those countries’ enemies  are as much their own  as any?

 Mahmoud al Mahbouh  stood as much  a  threat to  British security as it does to Israel’s. Rather than lambasting that country for its impudent use of British passports, it should be expressing its gratitude, much as it should have following the Entebbe Raid in 1976 and the Iraq’s Osirak Reactor Raid in 1981.   As a Western democracy, the Israelis demonstrated that they will not sit by idly, lugubriously building legal justifications for intervention, while terrorists plot and plan the murder their citizens.


Israel’s Bad Week on Campus

February 15, 2010

It hasn’t been the best of weeks on campus for  Israel.  

  • On Monday, Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister, was almost physically assaulted at Oxford Univesity while giving an address to the Oxford Union.  Antisemitic and anti-Israel abuse was shouted throughout  Ayalon’s speech with onse student even running toward him during the  hour-long session, shouting the Arabic phrase “Itbah Al-Yahud” “(Slaughter the Jews!”).  As many as 10 others, carrying Palestinian flags, made attempts to attack Mr Ayalon but were intercepted and removed by security.
  • The same day, on the other side of the Atlantic, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, attempted to deliver an address at U.C. Irvine in Southern California and was interrupted 10 times before the protestors were forcibly removed.   Eventually eleven of the students involved inthe distrubances were arrested.   At one stage, Oren had to leave the podium for 20 minute while the auditorium was cleared of hecklers.
  • On Tuesday it was the turn of Benny Morris, the iconclastic professor from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, who was prevented from giving his plannned speech at Cambridge University.   The Israel Society at Cambridge University succumbed to pressure and canceled  his scheduled addres  after protesters accused him of “Islamophobia” and “racism.”

If anyone thinks that the three incidents are merely coincidental, think again.  All three are part of a concerted plan to demonize I srael on campuses across the world, a campaign that has acheived more success than its organizers  could have ever imagined.  In Morris’ case, according to the Jerusalem Post, the Muslim victory was self -righteously congratulated by Islamic groups: 

“ The  Muslim Public Affairs Committee congratulated Cambridge’s Islam Society on the success of their campaign and lobbying to stop the Islamophobe Benny Morris giving a speech at their university… A simple Facebook group and a well written letter is all that it takes to defend your religion,” the group said.” 

And how did the authorities react?    Well at Oxford there was a reprimand and at UCI, arrests.   But at Cambridge, no figure of authority sought to comment onthe irony that while the actress Miriam Margolis is permitted to depict Jews as both bigoted and blood-thirsty, a historian of Morris’  pedigree – with a reputation for remarkable even handedness is treated as a pariah.   Last October, lawyer Michel Massih, a man distinguished by his defense of such luminaries as Sudan’s President Bashir, dredged up traditional anti-Semitic tropes, merely switching the word ‘Jew’ for Zionist. In  March, 2009  Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper and who  had declared the  attack on Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva, in which eight students were killed and 15 were wounded, was “justified” as the school was responsible for “hatching Israeli extremists and fundamentalists.”   

And to top it all, in just a few days,  Daud Abdullah, deputy-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, will speak at Islam Week organized by the Cambridge University Islamic Society. Last year, the British government distanced itself from Abdullah after he signed the Istanbul Declaration, in which he called for attacks on the British navy, were it to enforce a ban on arms smuggling to Gaza.  He has also called for continued military action against Israel. 

Throughout the world, university administrations turn a blind eye to Muslim bigotry and hatred while doing nothing to quell the bilious assault on Jews and Israel.    But the rising tide of venom will not stop at  just Jews and Zionists.   It will eventually swamp the university itself, bringing with it fear and instability. That is a day our universities are attempting to forestall through policies of appeasement.   But like all policies of appeasement,  they will only serve to swell the tide.


THE HEAVY TREAD OF INTOLERANCE

October 29, 2009

Leftist academics are quite fond of proclaiming that freedom of speech in America is an illusion.  Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Ward Churchill, Tariq Ali and many of their  acolytes have consistently argued that their views are not given sufficient coverage in the press and that the doors of many institutions remain closed to the expression of their views.

The charge itself is notoriously off  the mark.   For not only are these doyens of the far left free to catapult their poisonous cocktail of anti- Americanism, anti-Semitism and general contempt for American exceptionalism into our academic institutions, they have also become campus media darlings, their pronouncements taken with the utmost seriousness and afforded standing ovations for their most prolix and incendiary comments.

Rather, it would seem that those who stand for true Western values of openness and debate have a much better case for alleging creeping censorship in the United States.

Cases in point:

  • On July 9, Robert Spencer was scheduled to speak at the American Library Association convention in Chicago but was canceled at the last minute after pressure from the Council on American-Islamic.  Spencer, the editor of JihadWatch.com and an associate fellow of the American Freedom Alliance, was invited to join a panel forum at the ALA’s annual General Meeting on the topic “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping.” According to his attorney, William J. Becker Jr., as he was leaving to catch a plane for the event, Spencer learned that it had been cancelled. According to reports he later read on the Internet, Ahmed Rehab, Chicago executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was responsible for bringing about the cancellation. In a letter to ALA, Rehab wrote: “I ask you to rescind the invitation to Mr. Spencer in order to maintain the integrity of the panel and the reputation of the ALA.” Mr. Spencer, he argued, offered “grotesque viewpoints that lie well outside the bounds of reason and civilized debate.”
  • On September 20, an appearance the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia by Brigitte Gabriel, a Christian Lebanese advocate for the rights of Muslim women and the President of Act for America! was cancelled.   It appears that the decision was made after  pressure was exerted by members of the Naval Academy amidst concerns about offending Muslims.  It was not the first time Ms. Gabriel has been confronted by hostility to  her appearances.  In April 2006  she was invited to give a lecture sponsored by Professor David Patterson of the Judaic Studies Program. When news about of her appearance spread, the Muslim community both on and off campus launched a full-scale campaign to stop her lecture. They demanded that Dr. Patterson cancel  her speech. E-mails flooded the University of Memphis administration and Dr. Patterson from Muslim students on campus and Muslims in the community and mosques.  
  • On October 8,  the well known blogger Pamela Geller was scheduled to appear on The Eddie Burke Show on WBYR, “the best news and talk in Alaska,” to debate the “freelance journalist” and anti-Semite Alison Weir.  Because Weir made known her displeasure at the appearance of Geller known, Geller’s appearance was cancelled.  Weir appeared on the show alone.
  • On October 12  David Horowitz,  President of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, was scheduled to speak at St. Louis University  but because of the title of his speech,  “Islamo-Fascism Awareness and Civil Rights., he too was cancelled.  Horowitz commented: “I have spoken at 400 universities. This is the first time my speech has been censored and stopped by an administration. And they are supposed to be the guardians of intellectual discourse.” Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors, said that with this cancellation, St. Louis University “joins the small group of campuses that are universities in name only…. The free exchange of ideas is not just a comforting offshoot of higher education; it defines the fundamental nature of the enterprise.”

All of this follows hot on the heels of another outrage, this time perpetrated at Yale University.   Just two weeks ago, on October 1,  the University hosted both Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who had penned the notorious “Bomber turban cartoon,”  as well as Brandeis Prof. Jytte Klausen , author of  The Cartoons that Shook the World.   The latter had been subject in August to a last minute decision by Yale University Press to remove not only the reprinted 12 cartoons but also all representations of Muhammad.   What was the reaction of the Yale Faculty to the appearances?  As Peter Berkowitz recounts in Saturday’s weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, while Westergaard’s appearance prompted a small faculty-led panel, the same faculty remained entirely silent and unmoved by Yale’s censorship of Ms. Klausen’s book.  Not one word of support was spoken on her behalf.

These acts of censorship, which smack of  the violation of free speech in its most egregious form, may be endemic to the kind of  intolerance we  now see metastizing  unchecked throughout our elite institutions.

This week the American Freedom Alliance learned of the spread of this disease through first hand experience.  A  premiere screening of the documentary  Darwin’s Dilemma,  at the Californa Science Center’s IMAX Theater, which was to be the kick off to our October Darwin Debates series, was cancelled by CSC on the claim that we had issued unapproved publicity for the event.   Nothing of the sort had occured.  The alleged publicity had been distributed by a third party, and, as we soon gleaned from emails and other sources, was a mere pretext for  the cancellation of a film whose message on intelligent design neither the California Science Center nor its national afilliate, the Smithsonian Institute, approves.  

The California Science Center,  I should remind my readers, is a public institution, paid by and for with tax payer dollars.  Its mission statement claims that the Center  “aspire(s) to ……inspire science learning in everyone….. because we value science as an indispensable tool for understanding our world, accessibility and inclusiveness….”

One would that such ‘inclusiveness’ would incorporate views it does not, as an institution, necessarily embrace.

Stated baldly, this public institution had a responsibility to  a California organization to allow free and open discussion of contoversial subjects of a scientifc nature, and no more so at an event that is actually labeled ‘a debate’, with both sides of the issue represented.

Needless to say, a law suit is pending.

AFA has found an alternative venue to replace the IMAX Theater, albeit at great expense and with a tinge of bitterness at being treated in such a reprehensible manner.

But the story is not over.

Those who live in the Los Angeles area now have an opportunity now to express their outrage, not just toward  the California Sceince Center, but to the entire throng of elite institutions who demonstrate consistent denial of First Amendment rights.   Join us in attending the new location for the screening on Sunday night, October 25 at the Davidson Conference Center at USC.   Make clear your disgust with the way an elite and high profile institution handled a freedom one might have thought it was pledged to protect.

Who knows,  if we cheer those films loudly enough maybe our voices will heard over the din of traffic at the California Science Center, just a quarter of a mile away.


THE PASSION OF GEERT WILDERS

January 30, 2009

We have now all read the disturbing reports of the intention of the Dutch Court of Appeals to prosecute Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, for inciting hatred and discrimination.

The prosecution will be based on comments by Wilders in various media on Muslims and their beliefs following the production of his 15 minute documentary Fitna last March.

The court’s ruling reverses a decision last year by the Dutch public prosecutor’s office, which stated that Mr Wilders’ comments had been made outside parliament as a contribution to the debate on Islam in Dutch society and that no criminal offence had been committed. The Court of Appeals found, however, that it considers appropriate a criminal prosecution of Wilders for having insulted Muslim worshippers because of Wilders’ comparison of Islam with Nazism.

Wilders’ case is rightly called a watershed in Western history. For while many other European celebrities have suffered for their views on the Muslim threat to the West( Brigitte Bardot , Oriana Fallaci and Ayaan Hirsi Ali among them) none has been a European politician of such high visibility and stature.

Holland, lest we forget, is the place where Pik Fortuyn, another Dutch legislator and a man who warned consistently about the encroaching Islamization of his country, was brutally murdered. It is the same country where filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot, stabbed and virtually gutted in broad daylight by a Muslim who had vowed vengeance for what he regarded as Van Gogh’s anti-Muslim film Submisison.

So in the person Geert Wilders we have united the memory of two of the most prominent martyrs to the cause of free speech in Europe – one a politician and one a filmmaker. Wilders is both and like his predecessors he is about to risk his fortune, his career and perhaps even his life for saying exactly what he thinks.

We have every right to ask what kind of logic produces such a skewed legal decision? The right of free speech, enshrined in every constitution of every democratic country without exception, traditionally also includes the right to offend. In an open society, there are many avenues of redress by aggrieved parties who feel they have been unjustly defamed. But for the State itself to interfere in a defamation suit and to bring charges against an individual on behalf of a minority, is an action without parallel in any democracy today.

So we should be clear: The Dutch Court of Appeals has drawn a line down the middle of European society. On one side now stand those defenders of liberal western democracy and the freedoms it supposedly protects; on the other are the adherents of a remorseless multicultural ethic, unable and unwilling to recognize the threats that face them and impelled to crush those who toll the bell of an approaching catastrophe.

None of us should stand idly by as Wilders is paraded as a sacrifice to European political correctness. We must be assertive in defending Wilders’ right to say exactly what he wants without fear of prosecution or detention.

At the American Freedom Alliance we are taking this to another level and I am pleased to announce that Geert Wilders will be the AFA’s 2009 Hero of Conscience at our annual dinner to be held May 17, 2009 in Los Angeles.

We encourage all our subscribers to write letters of support to Geert Wilders’ office and letters of protest to the Dutch Court of Appeals. We will be providing details of how this can be done within the next few days. We will be following his case closely and bring you regular updates in its development.

And we hope you will join us at the dinner.


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