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Jewish World Review March 28, 2001 / 4 Nissan 5761

Evan Gahr

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Liberal chickens come home to roost


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE water buffalo strike again.

Remember the "water buffalo" incident? In 1993, a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate yelled, "Shut up, you water buffalo" to noisy black students outside his campus residence. He was charged with racial harassment. The episode, two parts Kafka, one part Woody Allen, made nationwide news and even embarrassed liberals. At his Senate confirmation hearings to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sheldon Hackney, who as Penn president allowed campus radicals to turn the school into a Stalinist theme park, distanced himself from their shenanigans.

Once again, liberals condemn the very water buffalo they unleashed. Everywhere from Brown University to U Cal-Berkeley quasi-fascist protests have erupted over the advertisement against David Horowitz’s advertisement against reparations for slavery. Horowitz submitted the ad to 52 college newspapers. The majority rejected it. But a handful refused to buckle to campus storm troopers. The entire March 16 press run of the Brown Daily Herald was stolen after the paper published the advertisement and refused to give student critics free space for a rebuttal. Nevertheless, Brown's incoming and acting president both refrained from any forthright condemnation of the apparent criminal mischief by students.

The Brown incident and censorship antics elsewhere, did however, provoke genuine outrage from many denizens of the left-liberal universe. But like Frankstein's horrified creator, they have not quite mastered cause and effect.

In their March 22 letter to the Harvard Crimson, author David Halberstam and ultra-liberal New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, both former Crimson managing editors, expresed surprise that "you rejected the [Horowitz] ad . . . You missed an opportunity--an easy opportunity--to show what freedom of speech is all about."

True, as far as it goes. Still, critics, on both the left and right, mostly consider the reaction to the advertisement a manifestation of intolerance and "sensitivity" run amok. But an even more insidious phenomenon is ultimately to blame: our nation's shameful double standard on race. Thanks to liberals like Lewis, the double standard has infested our culture, laws, and educational system. Lewis demands affirmative action and scores of other policies which assume that blacks should be treated differently than whites. Now, the very student newspapers he condemns have done just that. What else might he have expected?

When, at the behest of liberals, you subsume so many other time-honored and constitutionally-based values to race, why should free speech be different? Lewis's soulmate Jesse Jackson considers "merit" a white-male ploy to maintain power.

The "racial justice" crowd (race first, justice second) uses the same logic to dismiss free speech. Like the "meritocracy" it's just another white male charade. When campuses declare black skin privilege Uber Alles, no wonder free speech is consigned to the dustbin of bourgeois values.

It's been noted that many of the same newspapers, which published an infamous ad denying the Holocaust, refused to publish the Horowitz advertisement. Ironic, yes, but not parallel. The proper parallel would be an ad that denies slavery.

In our current culture, Horowitz committed a much more egregious offense. Simultaneously, he acknowledges our great nation's past crimes, but denies "civil rights advocates" the moral ammunition they've long wielded from American's enslavement of blacks. He even asks "What About The Debt Blacks Owe To America?"

No wonder the visceral reaction. Conversely, notice the racial double standard even among some liberal critics of the thought police. The March 20 Boston Globe editorial, Tolerance 101, seemed most concerned that the censorship would ultimately hurt blacks. Is that akin to worrying that book burners could suffer smoke inhalation? Yup. Listen to the Globe formulation: "Far more dangerous than offensive ideas is their censorship, BECAUSE [emph. added] censorship knows no ideology and will eventually muzzle the views of the minorities as well."

Notice the underlying logic: the problem with censorship is less that it thwarts our cherished right to free expression, but rather its potential harm to minorities.

Does this mean the Boston Globe finds intolerance a bit more tolerable if it advances the black agenda? Sure sounds that way. Wake up, Tony Lewis and other First Amendment paladins. The race card invariably renders free speech the joker.



JWR contributor Evan Gahr, a self-described neo-reactionary, is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


Up

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© 2001, Evan Gahr. This column first appeared on Front Page Magazine