Sunday, May 21, 2006

Free Speech at New School

John McCain caused quite a stir at (note the use of the anarthrous premodifier, FU Mark Steyn) liberal New School University in New York giving the same speech he compromised his "principles" to give at Rev. Falwell's Liberty University.

A student, Jean Rohe (via Atrios), who was selected to speak at her commencement, used the content of his earlier speech to mock him, and he was roundly booed by the students. Hardly a surprising event. It is expected that a fake maverick Republican speaking at a liberal college is going to be jeered.

McCain knew this.
McCain's top political adviser, John Weaver, said the protests were "not unexpected."

But here's what makes McCain even more of a boob hack conservative Republican pretending to be a maverick. The typical bullshit about lack of free speech on campuses.
"It's not uncommon on a liberal campus that free speech is a theory in the classroom only," Weaver said.

No one stopped McCain from speaking. No one stopped the students from registering their protests. Free speech was robustly in attendance at New School University that day. Both sides were rude. The students booed, and McCain told them they were full of themselves and should respect their wiser elders.

I have always loved the British form of arguing. They are like bloggers in spoken form. They make cogent, well-organized, substantive arguments sprinkled liberally with invective and snark. Just watch Q&A time with the Prime Minister; note the harumphs of dissent.

I recall watching a raucous debate that involved British university students, members of the American media and students from Northwestern University many years ago (probably early to mid 90s). The Northwestern students would yield for questions and were serious-minded about the debate. The American media members had a little better speaking style, would yield for questions, and had some clever rejoinders. But the Brit ... specifically I recall someone asking if he would yield for a question, to which the Brit said, "Why don't you go sit in the car and bark at strangers?" Then he continued his argument.

People like John Weaver and Richard Cohen have delicate sensibilities more suited to tea and biscuits on the sofa with a Jane Austen novel (a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon, IMHO, but not a great way to deal with the public).

Update: I particularly liked this part of Jean Rohe's HuffPost piece:
More importantly, I feel obligated to respond to one thing that McCain told the New York Times. "I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others," he said. This is just preposterous. Yes, McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect? We could've all printed out his speech and chanted it with him in chorus. Did he think that no one knew exactly what he was about to say? And it was precisely because we listen to the views of others, and because, as I said in my speech, we don't fear them, that we as a school were able to mount such a thorough and intelligent opposition to his presence. Ignorant, closed-minded people would not have been able to do what we did. We chose to be in New York for our years of higher education for the very reason that we would be challenged to listen to opposing viewpoints each and every day and to deal with that challenge in a nonviolent manner. We've gotten very good at listening to the views of others and learning how to also make our views heard, even when we don't have the power of national political office and the media on our side.

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