Suppression of Minority Viewpoints? Mar 30, 2004

Seen while wandering through Brandeis campus today:

"What do all these people have in common? [pictures of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and other famous Republicans] Their views are NOT WELCOME ON THIS CAMPUS."

And also:

"Do you support the SUPPRESSION OF MINORITY VIEWPOINTS AT BRANDEIS? If not, then come see David Horowitz…"

(text not exact - my memory's not THAT good - but basic idea preserved)

Much as I'd like to disagree with the sentiment behind these posters, I'm not sure I can do so in good conscience. Unfortunately, I think the conservatives are right about this - Brandeis really does suppress their views.

This bothers me a lot, because I feel that one of the foundations of being a liberal is support for free expression in whatever form it takes (barring, of course, shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater and other such classic examples). And yet I see supposedly left/liberal groups on this campus actively suppressing others' right to express their views. For a good example of this, take the Daniel Pipes incident last semester. Putting up posters attacking Pipes' views was an acceptable way to protest. Tearing down pro-Pipes posters and holding a rally through dorm hallways on the night of his visit, ultimately ending in a major disturbance at his talk, was plain and simple suppression of Pipes' right to free speech.

So by that token, conservatives on this campus are right to call oppression. But look who they chose to bring in to support their views: David Horowitz.

See, Horowitz hasn't exactly got the best track record in terms of supporting others' right to free speech. Horowitz's usual tactic in "arguing against others' views" is to call the other guy names. For a good example of this, let's look at another incident that occurred at Brandeis in spring semester 2002 (I think): Noam Chomsky comes to speak here, and Horowitz supporters hand out Horowitz-penned flyers to everyone waiting in line. The title of the flyers: "Noam Chomsky - The Ayatollah of Anti-American Hate." The front of them has a picture of Chomsky digitally edited to resemble Osama Bin Laden.

What's the problem here? Horowitz's pamphlet was specifically designed to taint people's opinion of Chomsky before going in to hear what he actually had to say. This is just as much a form of censorship as the protest at the Pipes talk, and possibly a much more effective one, since it doesn't make a martyr out of the speaker.

Look, I support everyone's right to freely express their political views, no matter how much I disagree with them. But we can't hide behind ad hominem attacks. Now maybe when David Horowitz comes to campus today, he will present an eloquent argument in favor of conservative public policy. But somehow I doubt it.

What I would really like to see is a speaker in favor of conservatism, not against liberalism, and especially not against liberals, because we all know that the philosophy and the philosopher are two VERY different things. And the same goes for all us liberals - we spend far too much time trashing the other guy or his ideas as opposed to promoting our own.

Wow, this has turned kind of long. Hopefully I've been coherent.