Intolerance and Counter-Intolerance

Truly, martyrdom is in the eye of the beholder.

Lots of tsk-tsking about graduates protesting commencement speakers. Lots of punditing about “college is about listening to other viewpoints blah blah blah.” But we’re not talking about classwork; we’re talking about commencement. The “education” part of the program is over. This is a celebration for the graduates, not an extension of American History 304.

And I realized today I do not remember who spoke at my graduation from the University of Missouri, class of 304 BC. Not a clue. All I remember was that my parents were there and us J-School grads were cutting up through the whole ceremony. Great fun. I’m not even sure there was a speaker; I just assume there must have been. But, y’know, that’s how it ought to be. Once in a great while somebody gives a genuinely memorable commencement address. Most of the time the speech is just something you have to sit through so you feel properly commenced, and then you can get together with your family and go out to dinner.

But I understand not wanting to sit through a speech you find genuinely odious. If my commencement speaker had been Henry Kissinger, say, I’m sure I’d remember the day much less fondly.

So I am not the least bit bothered by the fact that Condi Rice isn’t the speaker at the Rutgers commencement this year. And whoever invited her was an idiot who ought to be reprimanded, if not fired.

I realize it’s probably difficult to find a speaker who won’t piss off somebody, but that doesn’t mean you might as well get someone broadly considered to be a disgrace to humanity; nay, vertebrae. If you can’t find somebody who has accomplished something praiseworthy, then get somebody entertaining. How hard is that?

If Rice had been invited to give a talk to some foreign policy graduate class, that might be different, especially if she agreed to answer questions. I assume anything she might say would be self-serving bullshit, but I could be wrong. And like her or not, she is a real historical figure whose work had real-world consequences. I also think it’s important for historians to study pro-slavery arguments of the antebellum South and the intellectual basis of the development of fascism in Europe, because we need to fully appreciate how bad stuff happens. If we could reanimate Jefferson Davis I’d certainly be interested in what he had to say for himself, even if I think it was morally repugnant. But in a class, not at a commencement.

Studying Condi Rice is one thing; honoring her is something else.

I also don’t blame Haverford students for protesting Robert J. Birgeneau, who as chancellor of UC Berkeley during the Occupy demonstrations chose to support the police instead of the students. On the other hand I’m not sure Christine Lagarde of the IMF deserves all the vitriol thrown at her by Smith students, and I’m not sure they are objecting to her as much as to the IMF. But I am heartened that students are questioning The Establishment, in all its many forms. That’s an important part of the college experience, too.

I’m disappointed in Timothy Egan for writing this:

In that sense, the lefty thought police at Smith, Haverford and Rutgers share one thing with the knuckle-dragging hard right in Oklahoma: They’re afraid of hearing something that might spoil a view of the world they’ve already figured out.

If Rice, Birgeneau and Lagarde were outsiders who never had a chance to explain themselves in news media and books and many other venues, Egan might have an argument. But they aren’t. These are all people who are or have been in positions of power, and they have been heard plenty and have many ways at their disposal to being heard some more. They are not “silenced.” As Steve M says, “the fact is that millennials can’t silence people with whom they disagree. You may choose not to listen to warmongers in the federal government or policymakers at the IMF, but, even if you’re a millennial, you’ll have to live in the world they make.”

In other words, the graduates have their whole lives ahead of them to listen to powerful people spout self-serving bullshit, and most of the time they’re not going to have a choice about it or a means to answer back. I say whenever you do have a chance to tell them to bleep off, take it.

20 thoughts on “Intolerance and Counter-Intolerance

  1. “I say whenever you do have a chance to tell them to bleep off, take it.”


    Ok, let us play “Let’s Make a Deal!” with the aggrieved Conservatives, war mongers, Neocons (but I repeat myself), Christianista’s, etc.

    We’ll schedule these on the same day:
    Condi can give her Commencement Speech at Rutgers on the same day that Bill Maher gives his at Liberty University, and Richard Dawkins delivers his, at Oral Roberts.
    Or, do you think the kids at Liberty and Oral Roberts might have some problems listening to Atheists talk to them at THEIR Commencement Ceremonies?

    Commencement Speeches should be by accomplished people – and not necessarily national figures, but local ones, too – who deliver a “CAN DO!” message to our yut’s.

    Btw: I skipped my Commencement in 298 BC because my class had graduated the year before, and it took me 5 years to finish college because I was working at the time – if I remember right, I was working part-time pouring wine and playing the lute in a bordello in Greece.
    On a serious note: I didn’t know too many of the students graduating that year, so I figured I’d skip it – besides, I’m not much on gowns, hats, pomp, or circumstances.
    The great old reporter Lowell Thomas was the speaker.
    Sometimes I regret not going, because he died only a few days later.
    Oh well…

  2. Well, let’s face facts. Somebody is going to be silenced here. It might be the speaker who gets disinvited, or it might be all the students and faculty whose protests are ignored, but there’s no way around it. And when you’re talking about a commencement ceremony, it really isn’t that hard to choose between the graduating class and the invited speaker.

  3. Nor do I remember who gave my 1995 commencement speech but I guarantee it wasn’t Dr. Rice…if I had been subjected to her ridiculousness and war mongering I would have been outraged. She is part of a nasty administration responsible for killing about a million innocent Iraqis. The Lancet supports this number at least as a starting point.
    BTW my mother had the PLEASURE of having Rricky Dick at her commencement in Florida in 1972. Lotsa’ laughs !

  4. Wow, that thought police argument is really extra dumb. I didn’t even think about this at first, but it sort of assumes that Dr. Rice would use the commencement address at Rutgers to defend her record. I don’t know what she would have said if she did give the address, but I assume it wouldn’t include any aerial reconnaissance photos of suspected WMD sites in the Iraqi desert. More likely it would have been a bunch of platitudes, so where are the contrary points of view?

  5. moonbat,
    They said “10 to 30 million people.”

    As I wrote yesterday, they were correct.
    Unfortunately for them, it was a hell of a lot closer to 10 people, than to 30 million people!

    I guess that unless the Koch Brothers pay to haul their Medicare scooters and fat asses around in buses, there’s really not that much left of the Teabag bowel-movement!

  6. The blood of thousands of innocent Iraqi children calls out from the grave…“Condi, what offense have we committed than you should visit such destruction upon us?”

    Just a personal observation.. In Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ the character that plays Satan that all the righttards claim looks like Obama, looks more like Condi ( Dr. Rice) to me.

  7. What they meant was “10 to 30 million dollars of Medicare, Social Security and VA socialism expenditures,” which worked out about right for a few dozen obese members of the 101st Chairborne and 3rd Hoveround Cavalry.

  8. My objection to these speakers is how much they cost–$35,000! I should think that there is some local hero or top business person, who would give a better speech and be more deserving of that princely sum. I don’t remember who spoke at my graduation either, which is longer ago than Maha’s. But, I might have if a war criminal spoke.

  9. Biography of the Koch family coming out, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. It sounds pretty depraved:

    …Schulman examines the roots of Charles and David Koch’s libertarian worldview through the lens of their family, including the formative relationship that all four Koch brothers had with their father, the cold, ambitious Fred Koch. Schulman also traces the bitter and litigious history of Charles and David Koch’s relationships with their lesser-known brothers: Frederick, the eldest, and Bill, David’s twin brother.

    At the center of the saga is patriarch Fred Koch, a staunch anti-communist who drilled his political ideology into his sons from a young age. In 1938, then sympathetic to the fascist regimes ruling Germany, Italy and Japan, Fred wrote that he hoped one day the United States would resemble these nations, which had “overcome” the vices of “idleness, feeding at the public trough, [and] dependence on government.”

    Elsewhere, Fred warned of a future “vicious race war” in which communists would pit black Americans against white. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he wrote.

    In private, Fred Koch “ruled the house with an iron fist” and faith in social Darwinism. Schulman recounts how the former boxer encouraged his sons to fight each other, sometimes with horrifying results. “During one bout, Bill bashed his twin over the head with a polo mallet,” Schulman writes. And “David still bears a scar from the time Bill pierced him in the back with a ceremonial sword.” Those early lessons left a deep imprint on the brothers…

  10. California Chrome just won the Preakness. Now there is a possibility of a triple crown winner.

  11. “A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university. [Florida State University]

    A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

    May 2011 Tampa Bay Times

    I’m not suggesting that the Koch brothers had a direct role in the invitation to Dr. Rice. However the use of grants to universities to control the management, staffing & and curriculum is not speculation. Students are the essential element to education that big money can’t control.

    I agree with their decision to protest Dr. Rice, but my opinion isn’t the point, nor is Connie Rice. The wonderful thing is there are students who have not sold their souls to the machine. That’s a wonderful thing.

    If they get their protests wrong, or select the wrong target, that’s not a big thing, IMO. They are declaring a role in the process, demanding a voice in some decisions. We need more of this, not less.

    For clarity, off topic, but not, really. I applaud the decision of the group in DC to protest and make known their views, though I disagree heartily with their message. The element that concerns me most is the non-constitutional demand that a variety of persons can be removed from elected office by a loud gang. This is a move to thwart democracy – John Boehner and President Obama were elected by the majority in a free and fair election. JB is a pimple on the arse of humanity, but he’s an elected pimple. This is a fact most liberals can discern.There is no legal justification for what this group is demanding and if they showed up armed (and they haven’t been armed) in DC with the same message, it would be criminal insurrection.

    That they are there in DC proves free speech exists – if there was a tyranny in the which justified a revolution, this group would not be tolerated but their only harassment is liberal trolls on their site. (How do I know that?..LOL)

  12. I’ll bet the ebile gubmint disappeared those 10 million people who were on their way to the protest.

    Yup, that’s it!

  13. moonbat,
    I, like you, find it healthy that people want to protest – even if I think they’re imbeciles, and their causes moronic.
    FSM, in the middle to late ’00’s, I know I did my share of organizing anti-war/torture/rendition protests from (the not at all safe haven of Fayetteville, NC – the home of Fort Bragg) NC,

    But notice that, unlike Cheney and W, President Obama doesn’t mind protests – there were no “Free Speech Zones” set-up for the protesters.

  14. Add another death to W’s resume:

    And yeah, I felt horrible writing that, because I’ve also lost a few beloved pets!

    Especially my pet dog, Baron – an American Water Spaniel – who was the first dog I ever encountered, who couldn’t swim.

    We got him as a 6 week-old, and, on that hot summer day in August, I put him in our above-ground pool – only to watch him sink to the bottom.
    I had to dive in to save him.
    He shook himself off, and was fine!

    Then, about 8 years later, in the winter, he and I were out walking near our neighbor’s cranberry bog, and he decided to run across it.
    Needless to say, he didn’t make it!
    And so, I had to shuffle through ice-cold chest-deep water to save the poor hound.
    And when I did, he shook himself off, and ran on home.
    I got pneumonia!

    Despite all of that, FSM, I miss Baron!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. The comments to the Daily Beast piece were heartening, and certainly not the usual sycophantic ramblings of the hypnotized choir one typically finds following right-wing screeds.

  16. Re: Miss Beazley

    In our long association with dogs we’ve definitely gotten the better deal. Cund, I actually knew someone, from my Florida days, who rescued her cocker spaniel from the jaws of an alligator! That’s pretty hard to beat. The best part was that the dog injuries were fairly minor. They bring out the best in us.

  17. Those defending Rice are forgetting something important: she is a rotten, filthy, despicable liar. She should not be allowed to speak anywhere except on The Murdoch BS Channel. They have ways of shutting that whole thing down.

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