A propos the attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College, longtime reader Ruchira Paul passes on this letter sent to President Gould from Zujaja Tauqeer '11, and Ms. Tauqeer kindly gave her permission for me to post it on the blog. By way of background, Ms. Paul notes that, "Zujaja Tauqeer belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and came to the US from Pakistan with her parents. The state of Pakistan sanctions legal and social persecution of Ahmadis."
Here is Ms. Tauqeer's letter:
Dear President Gould,
I hope this letter finds you well. As a Brooklyn College alumnus, a Rhodes Scholar, and the commencement speaker and class representative for the 2011 graduating class, I urge you to continue upholding the principles of academic freedom and to allow the Political Science Department to co-sponsor, as originally planned, the panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has been scheduled to take place at BC.
As you and Provost Tramontano are aware, I know all too well how fragile freedom of speech can be. As a beneficiary of political asylum by the US, I am horrified to see the kinds of perverse tactics used to marginalize minority communities and viewpoints in less developed countries being introduced in an American public educational institution for the express purpose of stifling the freedom of speech, and therefore the freedom of conscience, of students and faculty. Elected officials and trustees who hold the public trust are now trying to force you to join them in betraying that very trust. They are seeking to deprive the Political Science Department of its right—and responsibility—to sponsor discussions that may conflict with the convictions of those in a position of power.
As a Rhodes Scholar selected from Brooklyn College, I have tried my utmost to represent my alma mater as a progressive institution whose commitment to freedom and toleration vindicate the sacrifices students and alumni like myself have made to pursue a liberal arts education here. Though in the past BC has stumbled in its effort to preserve civil liberties on campus, I am confident that as president you will capably show that academic freedom, so crucial to critical scholarship and democratic citizenship, is non-negotiable.
I recall at this time the motto of our school—nil sine magno labore. We cannot ensure for future students and faculty the freedoms promised to them as citizens of this country if we as an institution back down from the effort needed to uphold those very freedoms now when they are threatened by vested interests. If I can support you in any way in helping to make this case to my fellow alumni, our elected officials, and our donors, please do not hesitate to call upon me.
Zujaja Tauqeer ‘11
As Greenwald reports, city officials are now explicitly threatening to withhold funding to the College if the event goes forward. As Greenwald also notes, this is rather obviously unconstitutional.
...are out in force because the Political Science Department and several other groups at Brooklyn College are sponsoring two speakers discussing the "BDS" (or boycott, divest, and sanction) movement in response to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. John Protevi (LSU) has a good summary. And the President of Brooklyn College has made a good, public statement.
Polarization...has affected the two parties differently. The Republican Party has drifted much farther to the right than the Democratic Party has drifted to the left. Jacob Hacker, a professor at Yale, whose 2006 book, “Off Center,” documented this trend, told me, citing Poole and Rosenthal’s data on congressional voting records, that, since 1975, “Senate Republicans moved roughly twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats moved to the left” and “House Republicans moved roughly six times as far to the right as House Democrats moved to the left.” In other words, the story of the past few decades is asymmetric polarization.
Two well-known Washington political analysts, Thomas Mann, of the bipartisan Brookings Institution, and Norman Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agree. In a forthcoming book about Washington dysfunction, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” they write, “One of our two major parties, the Republicans, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
Mann and Ornstein have expanded on these points recently in The Washington Post. What they do not note is that the attributes they correctly note in the current Republican Party are familiar ones from many episodes in history that ended, shall we say, unpleasantly. For example, it could surely correctly be said of the Nazi Party in Germany in 1930 that it was "ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
That is at least part of what is at stake in today's U.S. Presidential election. Even if Obama wins, the threat remains, until the Republican Party changes or until it disintegrates entirely. The two consequential U.S. Presidents in the last hundred years have been (FD) Roosevelt and Reagan: both changed the terms of national discourse, so much so that those who followed them have been closer to them in policy even when from the opposite party (on domestic policy, Nixon was much closer to Roosevelt than, say, Clinton). Obama, alas, has not changed the terms of the national discourse, and has either been politically or constitutionally incapable of doing so. Even if he wins another term, the risk of disaster will remain until a Democratic leader can do what Roosevelt did.
In another one of his delicious dissections of Obama, David Bromwich offers the following apt observation about the "big picture" in American politics over the last generation or two:
The Obama presidency has gone far to complete the destruction of New Deal politics which began when Bill Clinton brought Wall Street into the White House. The right won the political wars of the last two generations, the left won the culture wars, and we are now in a position to measure the gain and loss. On the one hand, greater tolerance of mixed marriages, the enforced habit of not showing race prejudice in public, gay rights. On the other hand, most Americans today with modest means and a modest chance in life are swayed by the gambling ethic: they speak in the commercial patois – which many of their grandparents would have scorned – of the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ and the ‘American dream’. Obama did nothing to change this. He tried to wield the language of the dream more effectively than his opponents: a gambit that can now be seen to have failed.
...and now it's giving us a real Neo-Nazi movement in Greece:
Message from Greece - Neo-Nazi New Dawn on the Rise
A survey published yesterday (7/9/2012) confirms the continuous rise of the Golden Dawn neo-nazis. They are credited with 12% of vote intentions far ahead of the PASOK (7.5%) and other minor parties (the Democratic Left would obtain 4% and the Communist Party 6%). Syriza comes first with 30% ahead of New Democracy - credited with 28%. Nobody can pretend anymore that Golden Dawn is a "temporary phenomenon" and that there is no direct threat to workers movements and the left.
Indeed, a common misconception regarding the nature of Golden Dawn needs to be debunked. Golden Dawn has absolutely nothing in common with the French National Front of the Le Pen family, nor with Vlamms Belang in Belgium, nor even with any far right party of the post-1945 Europe. Golden Dawn is already publicly undertaking the physical liquidation of immigrants, gypsies, national minorities (notably the Turcs of Thrace), homosexuals and militants of the left. The constant aggressions are following one another and dead corpses are accumulating.
As for the ideology of Golden Dawn, here is a "testimony" which speaks for itself: the neonazi deputy (!) Artemios Matheopoulos, bassist of a band named "Pogrom" (!), has composed songs with "eloquent" lyrics. Here is a sample - a song called "Auschwitz":
Fuck Wiesenthal fuck Anna Frank
fuck Abraham's race David's Star makes me puke ah, Auschwitz how I love you! You, shit Jews, I will not leave you on the Wailing Wall, I will rather piss on you Juden Raus! I am burning in Auschwitz...
So Comrades, will we remain spectators to the repetition of the 1920s and 1930s European tragedy? Will we - at last - mobilize in a unitary anti-fascist mass struggle on a continental scale? And do not forget: time is desperately pressing.
They're trying it around the country in Republican-dominated states, though the courts are sometimes pushing back. This is far and away the most important story about this year's election, though it hasn't really broken into the mainstream news cycles in the US.
UPDATE: The victim of the police shooting was captured in this video: after the victim was shot in the head, but still alive, the police stood around for several minutes doing nothing, not even summoning medical assistance. (This is pretty shocking, be forewarned.) (Thanks to Michael Sechman for the pointer)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JULY 16--SEE UPDATE (AND COMMENTS NOW OPEN FOR FURTHER PERSPECTIVES)
Shame on Yale for participating in this--surely they could have leveraged their reputation to get the authoritarian capitalists who run Singapore to lighten up on this--but I guess they didn't make a credible threat not to participate at all if political speech were not permitted on campus. Perhaps this says something about Yale's priorities. What an embarrassment.
(Thanks to Matt Shafer for the pointer.)
UPDATE: Axel Gelfert, a philosopher at the National University of Singapore, writes:
I noticed your link to the WSJ article on Yale-NUS's 'ban' on political speech, and just for balance I thought I'd point out that this does not reflect the experience of politically active Singaporean students here. See for example this interview with student activist Bernard Chen: http://kentridgecommon.com/?p=10461
It is true that foreigners are not allowed to participate in party-political activities -- which, to be sure, is a more extreme restriction than, say, the United States's ban on party-political campaign donations from foreigners. But there is a robust amount of political speech at NUS -- not least thanks to the NUS Political Association ( http://www.nuspa.org/ ), the NUS Democratic Socialist Club (another University-recognized society), and the various Departments and Colleges. I've attended events on such topics as immigration, abortion, the Middle East, and freedom of speech, during which the debate lacked none of the vigour found at European or American university campuses.
While I have my own misgivings about how certain things are run in Singapore, I am somewhat taken aback by the amount of vitriol coming from a small number of people at Yale; clearly, they are more upset about how the Yale Corporation did not consult with the Yale College when railroading through the decision to start a joint campus in Singapore -- but this is hardly the fault of NUS (or even the Singapore government). Much of the criticism was not well-informed at all (e.g., specific political books were said to be 'banned' that are freely available in NUS's University Library -- don't Yale staff know how to do an online search of a library catalogue?) and quite self-serving -- I'm pretty sure NUS has contributed more to liberalization and social mobility in the last 20 years than Yale during the same period...
Culture industry edition. How refreshing to see the products of the culture industry correctly described (e.g., Paris Hilton referred to as a "narcissistic parasite"). You can see the full movie here (I haven't watched the whole thing, so can't vouch that it's as apt as the excerpt on the culture industry.)
....right-wing crazies react to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act. It would be funny if there weren't millions out there in this benighted country who "think" [sic] this way, many of whom vote, and many of whom are no doubt armed. (#6 is in error, however.)
...but in the plutocracy that is America, he's outspending his Democratic rival 3-1. What's horrible to contemplate is that if he survives the recall effort, this vacant stooge of the plutocrats will, like another Wisconsin horror, Paul Ryan, be promoted to the national stage as a "serious" candidate.
Well, this isn't really about "conservatives," it's about those who are called "conservatives" in the United States, who are more correctly described as "reactionaries," the kind of people the Republicans used to try to ignore until Reagan let them out of the basement. They're the people who have been keeping the Republican Presidential Primary rolling on for months as one crazy after another gives the imprudent plutocrat of choice, Mitt Romney, a challenge for the nomination. In any case, it turns out that even the "educated" ones now no longer accept scientific findings. No surprise, really.
The battle between the various wackos and frauds for the Republican Presidential nomination has been sustained entirely by billionaires now unconstrained by campaign finance laws. And that same influx of money threatens to take over the general election as well now. Maybe we should just skip the electoral charade, and let the billionaires gather and vote? Some of them are at least socially liberal and tolerant.
So let’s recap the state of mental health in establishment Democratic circles: the President who claims (and exercises) the power to target American citizens for execution-by-CIA in total secrecy and with no charges — as well as those who dutifully follow him — are sane, sober and Serious, meriting great respect. By contrast, one of the very few members of Congress who stands up and vehemently objects to this most radical power — “The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience” — is a total wackjob, meriting patronizing mockery.
I imagine he is unknown to most readers outside the U.S., but within the borders of this benighted country he was one of the better-known organizers of the Right-Wing Blob, who helped debase the public culture and organize the harassment of many decent people.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)