01 April 2008

Ashcroft at Skidmore: Another Virtual Jihad?

The defacing of a John Ashcroft poster has got some Republicans at nearby Skidmore College worried that liberals are out to suppress their freedom of speech. The former Attorney General is scheduled to talk at the school and, predictably enough, you can find faculty who object to his presence. I wouldn't be surprised to see people demonstrate when he shows up. But as long as they don't try to prevent Ashcroft from speaking, they have just as much right to protest his appearance as Troy Republicans did when "Virtual Jihadi" opened at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. I don't think that merely defacing the poster is an attempt to suppress his speech. Ideologues and zealots are bound to deface each other's posters; it's part of the nature of their conflict, and in this case the organizers were able to white-out the offending symbol, so the only harm is whatever lingers in the minds of the offended.

To be clear: if anyone at Skidmore or in the neighborhood actually intends to prevent Ashcroft from speaking, I have to defend Ashcroft. If a campus group has a right to invite him, he has a right to talk -- and the talk might prove instructive for everyone. Ashcroft may be unapologetic about the War on Terror in general, but he's also given indications that he feels burned by the Bush administration for some occasions when they tried to treat him like little more than a rubber stamp. It's probably no accident that he didn't stick around until the bitter end, nor even for the start of the second term. If he intends to talk about that aspect of his career, he may well perform a public service worthy of everyone's attention. If he ends up dispensing nothing but Republican propaganda, then he deserves a good old heckling -- but only after he's had a hearing first.

7 comments:

SYRA Co-President said...

I am actually one of the 2 co-presidents of the Skidmore Young Republican Assembly. I can tell you that there is a great deal of concern on our part that there will be some sort of disruption, that is if certain college officials, and student government members, don't put a halt to the lecture at the last minute. We have encountered considerable pressure--far more than has been reported. Heckling is disrespectful; instead everyone who has disagreements with Ashcroft should ask him questions at the end of the lecture.

Members of our organization have been harassed verbally, and electronically, to an extreme. I myself have been harassed by professors, students, and even administrators. No one in our organization has ever disrupted another lecture or event, but we have asked probing questions which is what I hope others will do.

Samuel Wilson said...

Thanks for writing. I appreciate a response from a primary source. I hope that publicity will prove your best defense against disruption or cancellation. People like me who've defended Virtual Jihadi have an obligation to speak up in your defense.

My personal preference would be for probing questions over heckling, but Americans sometimes seem hypersensitive over heckling compared to the British. Heckling is common there, as you can prove to yourself by watching the parliamentary broadcasts, but they don't seem to think it harmful to political discourse. Heckling shouldn't be confused with an attempt to shout a man down -- especially by the hecklers themselves.

Anonymous said...

Considering how many conservatives and Republicans try to keep anti-war and anti-bush groups from speaking out, it would only seem fair if the shoe were on the other foot for a change.

Samuel Wilson said...

Anon:Putting the shoe on the other foot might be ironic, or it might be poetic justice, but it'd be "fair" only to the extent that revenge is fair, or if you were only interested in your own side winning as opposed to civil liberty.

Anonymous said...

Since it seems that, (at least part of,) the Republican party is intent on putting an end to civil liberties, then it follows that the best way to defend civil liberties is to put an end to the Republican party. By whatever means necessary.

crhymethinc said...

Just wondering why you Young Republicans aren't over in Iraq, fighting a war you so outspokenly support? My pet theory is that you are all cowards.
Go ahead, prove me wrong---go enlist today. Put your money where your big, fat mouths are.

Anonymous said...

"...but it'd be "fair" only to the extent that revenge is fair..."

What is "justice" but state-sponsored revenge?