Thursday, March 03, 2005

Boker tov, on Prager, CU, the media and free speech

Boker tov, Boulder! got up this morning and did as I did.

He looked for news coverage of Dennis Prager's talk at CU last night.

What he found was that tolerance and free speech only go so far at CU, depending on what your politics are:

"When someone is called a N----- [the N-word], no one talks about Free Speech.

It's Free Speech to degrade and defame thousands of innocents murdered in a terrorist attack by calling them 'little Eichmanns.' It's Free Speech when you trivialize the Holocaust, or -as Prager said last night- make it seem silly. It's Free Speech when Ward Churchill publicly laments that 9/11 proved 'insufficient to accomplish its purpose' and says, 'What the hell? It was worth a try.'

Nearly 200 CU faculty took the time and trouble to to sign and publish an ad in the local paper (Daily Camera) to the effect that these statements by Ward Churchill fall under the protection of Free Speech and as such, do not warrant a formal investigation by the University. Do you think they would sign and publish a statement saying that one student calling another a nigger is a matter of Free Speech? No way.

So what do we learn from this? One thing I've learned is that the ethical stance being applied to the 'recent wave of racism' is a sham, differentially applied, based not on timeless principle but on fleeting popularity and utility. What kind of ethical code is it that only applies to some of the people some of the time? Certainly not one you can count on.

The public's responsibility 'for doing something' of which the Vice Provost spoke --the responsibility that 'shouldn't rest solely on the people victimized'-- is not applied equally across the board. Look at it this way. This responsibility to 'do something' is vehemently invoked in this case where folks have been insulted, but is not being invoked where folks have been incinerated ... Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust, passengers on hijacked planes and so-called 'technocrats' working in the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

That's some standard they've got going.

While I started out this morning wishing that Jewish concerns might receive the same level and kind of response as Black concerns, I don't anymore. We may not be supported at all, but any sense of security felt by the Black community could be false. Anyone can, and the Black community may yet, have the rug of support pulled out from under them, should the political wind shift.

At least as a Jew I know where I really stand. There are limits to what people will tolerate, but the lines are drawn in shifting sand. I know I cannot assume that my people will be included, considered or respected at any given time or place. I cannot necessarily expect protection, equal or otherwise. But at least I am not being fooled.

The other thing I learned was that Churchill won't have truly gone over the top until he calls someone a N----- [the N-word]."

Strong words. Read the whole thing.

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