Just Don’t Go
By Patrick F. Cannon
William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008) and Norman Mailer (1923-2007) could not have been more opposite in their backgrounds and politics. Buckley was a Roman Catholic from a wealthy Connecticut family, who became the founding editor of The National Review, the country’s foremost journal of conservative political thought. Mailer was the quintessential New York Jewish liberal intellectual. They were, therefore, ideal debate candidates.
It was in this role that I saw them in person, although I later tried to hire Buckley as a speaker. He had a conflict, but sent me a charming letter of refusal. In any event, I attended one of their debates in the late 1960s at a synagogue in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Chicagoans will know that Hyde Park is the location of the University of Chicago, and has a notably brainy population. Most in the audience would have been more politically in sympathy with Mailer, but they were quite happy to let Buckley have his say.
I really don’t recall what exactly they were debating about, but it was spirited. From the tone, you would have thought they were mortal enemies. Imagine my surprise when I later discovered they became friends, which was typical of Buckley, who seemed amazingly able to divorce the personal from the political.
I don’t know who sponsored that long ago debate. I do know, however, that if the University of Chicago or any of its related organizations invited someone like Buckley to give a speech today, all hell would break loose. Student and other groups would demand that the invitation be withdrawn; if it were not, they would do everything they could to disrupt the proceedings. If the speaker were bold enough to actually take the podium, they would try to shout him or her down. Often, unfortunately, they would succeed. In some cases, students and others have even resorted to violence to scare unpleasant ideas away.
This kind of betrayal of free speech – enshrined in the very First Amendment to our Constitution – is happening at universities throughout the country. Some have even withdrawn invitations to spare their poor students from hearing something the students have decided they don’t want to hear. This is a denial of the very idea of the academy as a place where students are exposed to the widest possible views as a preparation for being able to make informed decisions later in life. In many cases, they are aided and abetted by Marxist-leaning professors, who have somehow failed to notice that history has passed them by.
While there are some universities that still insist that their students receive at least a basic liberal education, many others are giving students wide latitude to design their own curricula, one that insulates them from anything they might deem unpleasant. The real world, alas, will not be so accommodating.
While I’m a great believer in mandatory courses, particularly in history and government, no one should be required to hear an invited speaker whose views they detest. The list of speakers I would avoid is long, just as is the list of songs, television shows, books and movies. I recognize, however reluctantly (sometimes!), that others have an absolute right to hear and see what they wish. Preventing them from exercising these rights runs counter to not only the First Amendment, but to our democratic principles as well. But perhaps these young people who would banish any ideas but their own have different role models. I can think of three anti-speech heroes: Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and that late darling of the left, Fidel Castro.
Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon
5 thoughts on “Just Don’t Go!”
AMEN!! I will share a short, slightly brighter story here, so your readers can have hope that not all is lost. I live in a liberal neighborhood in Austin Texas, which is itself an island of liberalism in an otherwise solidly red state.
During this past election season, many of my neighbors put Hillary Kaine signs in their yards. One lone neighbor fiercely and proudly posted Trump signs all over his yard.
One morning, this neighbor posted on NextDoor (neighborhood social media site) that someone had stolen his Trump signs. The entire neighborhood immediately came to his defense and posted notes of outrage (albeit prefaced with words along the lines of “although I don’t agree with your political view….”), soundly condemning whoever thought it was OK to steal a legally posted sign right off of his property.
Although members of this neighborhood have been known to engage in rather nasty online exchanges about dog poop left behind by dog walkers, or tree limbs hanging over a neighbor’s fence, they nonetheless recognized this incident as an unacceptable violation of democracy. And for that, I am grateful!
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Don’t recall seeing any Trump signs in Oak Park! Lot’s of black crepe after the election though.
I attended a debate at IU in the late 60s between Buckley and a liberal writer (don’t remember who but not Mailer). In those days (before the glorification of self and selfies) intense but friendly debate was common and welcome. Somewhere along the line, maybe after Vietnam Nam, leftists came to dominate academia, entertainment and the media, and to a large extent government bureaucracies. The NYT once a brilliant paper has become a partisan rag with opinions confused with news and that crackpot Paul Krugman featured on the front page. Oddly the intolerance of the left has developed principally among the educated classes and in affluent parts of the country: California, New York, Illinois. Who would have imagined that the concept of a liberal education in democratic post WW II would degenerate into a most illiberal, undemocratic pathology 50 years later? It’s perverse.
Good old Paul Krugman. He of the tortured logic. What did he win the Nobel Prize for? Was it for bending logic? I wonder if he sings Bob Dylan songs in the shower?
No one can figure out why the Nobel solons gave former Enron adviser Krugman the prize in economics. The rumor is they wanted to give him the prize in literature, his theories being so fanciful, but that award had already been earmarked for some self-loathing Frenchman.
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