Friday, May 16, 2014


New York Times columnist Timothy Egan certainly shouldn't object too harshly to being waterboarded because, in his zeal to defend Condoleezza Rice's inalienable right to earn $35,000 for a commencement speech over any and all objections from the graduating class being addressed, he writes this:
The foreign policy that Rice guided for George W. Bush -- two wars on the credit card, making torture a word associated with the United States -- was clearly a debacle. Contemporary assessments were not kind, and history will be brutal.

But if every speaker has to pass a test for benign mediocrity and politically correct sensitivity, commencement stages will be home to nothing but milquetoasts. You want torture? Try listening to the Stanford speech of 2009, when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy gave an interminable address on the intricacies of international law, under a broiling sun, with almost no mention of the graduates.
So go ahead and waterboard Egan, because he thinks it would be less painful than sitting in the California sun listening to a dull speech.

This appears in Egan's column -- titled "The Commencement Bigots" -- a few paragraphs after the following masterpiece of false equivalence:
Near as I can tell, the forces of intolerance objected to [Rice's] role in the Iraq war. O.K. And by shutting her down, the point is ... what? That extremism, whether in the climate-denial echo chamber of Republican Party elites or in the fragile zone of college faculty lounges, is the worst enemy of free speech.
Right -- objectors who prevented Rice from delivering one speech are analogous to Republicans who, on an ongoing basis, are blocking virtually all federal efforts to address a world-historic climate crisis. Yup, that makes sense.

Egan's remedy for all this commencement fascism?
Give me a brisk, strong, witty defense of something I disagree with over a tired replay of platitudes. It matters little if the speaker is a convict or a seminarian, a statesman or a comedian.
Yeah, there you go. Enough of this intellectual pabulum -- let's mix it up! Let's get some commencement speakers who'll really challenge these overprivileged snotnoses! Send Ted Nugent to Virginia Tech! Dispatch Donald Sterling to Howard University, or maybe George Zimmerman! And at Brandeis, in place of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, why not see if we can bail out Frazier Glenn Miller? It would be better than (ick! ptui!) political correctness, right?


Carl said...

It would be great if we could distinguish between people who are invited, unpaid, by a group to speak on a college campus and people who receive an honorarium to deliver a speech to a general population as Condi was.

When someone is invited to speak defending a stance they've taken publicly, usually there's a dialogue, a free exchange of ideas. That's free speech, in both directions.

When someone receives a stipend for speaking, that's a tacit endorsement by the administration of the value of the speaker, that the speaker represents something greater than his or her position on a given issue. Usually, that speaker does not exchange ideas with the audience. Usually, that speaker should be chosen with more care than "Oh, she's famous!"

Dark Avenger said...

Now I don't feel so bad about not getting into Stanford.

Victor said...

I wonder what they'd say if the students at Liberty U protested a commencement speech by Liberal-leaning Atheist Bill Maher?

Or, Richard Dawkins and Oral Roberts?

Condi wasn't going to be on a panel discussion at Rutgers with people with opposing viewpoints, with a free-flow of ideas and opinions going back and forth.

No - she was invited to give a Commencement Speech, where the students sit mum, and listen - hopefully, to something inspiring.

What inspiring message could come from anyone from the worst Presidential administration?

Ok - "We're turning ourselves into The Hague."

But THAT ain't happenin'!

M. Bouffant said...

"Near as I can tell, the forces of intolerance objected to [Rice's] role in the Iraq war. O.K. And by shutting her down, the point is ... what?"

That lying war criminals shouldn't be paid U.S.$35,000.00 (plus a very nice hotel & transportation, I'm sure) to spout platitudinous crap?

Steve M. said...