I’m not sure why it took so long for the Horowitzians to find West Chester University of PA. After all, we’re all a bunch of radicals here, aren’t we?
The story goes a little something like this–
We have an office on campus that produces a series called “Contemporary Issues,” which focuses on current events. The series features films, speakers, panels, etc on what its organizers perceive as topics of interest to the university community. Nothing surprising or contentious about this. Yet.
Until the organizers decided to show the “Winter Soldiers” movie and organize a panel to discuss it. Even that probably wouldn’t have been very contentious, except that the organizers invited local anti-war activist Karen Porter (founder of the Chester County Peace Movement, and therefore target of vicious attacks from a gang of local neo-con thugs) to be on the panel.
Apparently, when the roster of panel participants went public, the office that sponsors the Contemporary Issues series was flooded with phone calls and e-mails demanding that either: (1) the organizers include a “pro-war” speaker (even though Karen’s not there to represent an “anti-war” position–but they don’t care about that because logic is irrelevant to them); or (2) that Karen be disinvited from the panel. I don’t imagine that any of the pro-war folks volunteered to represent their position, and when the CI organizers weren’t “able to procure a pro-war speaker” (qtd from the e-mail they sent Karen letting her know she’s not welcome anymore), they told Karen she wasn’t invited.
I know WCU isn’t the first campus to undergo this kind of bullshit assault. But it’s the first time it’s happened here, at least in the six years I’ve been here, and I’m furious.
Here’s the substance of the e-mail I sent to the (I believe) grad assistant who was unfortunately tasked with sending Karen her uninvitation. If necessary, this one’s going all the way to the President of the university.
With that said, I can’t tell you how disturbing this turn of events is, on several grounds–
1. As Karen has pointed out, her appearance on the panel has *nothing* to do with the Iraq conflict, and as such, her position on that conflict is utterly irrelevant.
2. Also as she points out, there’s nothing in WCU’s policy, anywhere, that guarantees equal time for differing views. If a pro-war faction wants to organize its own event, there’s nothing to stop them from doing so. Neither is there anything in the policy to stop them from attending this event. Maybe they’d have better grounds to argue about bias AFTER the event. How can they possibly know what’s going to happen at the panel before it happens? I wish I were that smart.
3. I’d find this whole situation much different if it weren’t part of a larger national effort to squelch free speech, an effort prompted (and often funded by) organizations with Orwellian names like Students for Academic Freedom, who want nothing more than to make sure viewpoints opposed to their own are eliminated. I hope you recognize that the flood of e-mails and phone calls you’re getting aren’t from concerned individuals, but are very likely part of a coordinated campaign. If you’re willing to share any of them with me, I bet I can find you examples from other colleges/universities with precisely the same talking points represented in them.
Who knows what’s going to happen from here? I don’t expect the administration to be very understanding about this, since they’re the ones who caved to the pressure in the first place. I hope, however, they recognize the pattern here, and that the flap over Karen Porter herself isn’t the issue. This is cookie-cutter Horowitz crap, and I’d like to believe our university is up to the challenge of letting his minions know they have to do better than this.