identity politics

Rutgers students defend Holocaust-denier laws, religious power

Freedom of expression worldwide is under attack from identity politics, the Danish newspaper editor who first published cartoons of Mohammed 10 years ago told a Rutgers University event Thursday night.

Flemming Rose is promoting his new book, The Tyranny of Silence, which illustrates the greater debate surrounding free speech in light of religious extremism, political power and an increasingly globalized world. It was published less than two months before the massacre of journalists at French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The anti-religion bent of the panel discussion, which featured other free-speech activists, rubbed some students the wrong way. Though there were no visible protests, security was tight at the event.

flemmingrose.MatthewBoyer

According to Rose, the foreign editor of Jyllands-Posten, the trend in favor of suppressing speech is enabled by a misunderstanding of individual rights.

“People actually believe they have a right to not be offended, and this creates a grievance of fundamentalism that is being exploited by Islamists,” Rose said. The fact that they don’t have that right “is the price you pay for living in a liberal democracy.”

Blame ‘technology and migration’ for heightened sensitivity

The conflict between freedom of speech and politically correct sensitivity will increase because of globalization, according to Rose.

“Technology and migration in the globalized world has made people more sensitive. It makes it increasingly difficult to define who you are, and there are so many competing identities that are being proposed to us,” Rose said.

Rose blamed identity politics for fostering a divisive environment, saying “it is not what we should do as human beings. A lot of people do believe that it is not individuals who enjoy rights but religious or ethnic groups — it is a result of identity politics.”

Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, connected global sensitivity to the imposition of “free speech zones” on college campuses.

“Students come to school without knowing their rights,” Shibley said. “Private universities can police free speech, but public universities cannot. Although, they have been suppressing free speech at the same rate for 7 years.”

Photos by Nickneo  Nick MartinPanelists agreed that the free speech debate should begin with the notion that religious groups should not have real political power.

“In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks no one is talking about the separation of church and state. No religion should have political power, no access to the state,” said Onkar Ghate, chief content officer for the Ayn Rand Institute, which promotes “reason, rational self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism.”

Going even further, Ghate said: “Using violence to gain political power has always been the case for monotheistic religions.”

Whither Holocaust-denier laws?

Students were eager to challenge the panelists on their views.

As the moderator, Rutgers philosophy professor Gregory Salmieri, opened the floor for questions, one self-identified Catholic student rushed to the microphone to question the speakers’ general skepticism of religious power.

Another member of the audience pushed the speakers on the boundaries of free speech in questioning their position on laws that criminalize Holocaust denial in Germany and France.

Protecting minority groups from speech they deem offensive, whether on campus or through criminal law, can’t justify taking away others’ speech, Rose said.

“I am in favor of getting rid of all hate speech laws and Holocaust denier laws in Europe,” he said. “If you protect the taboo of Jews then you have to do it for everyone, which ends in the tyranny of silence because you cannot say anything.”

Ghate agreed that Holocaust denial, while offensive, shouldn’t be banned: “Persecution of any ideology by the state helps [the ideology’s adherents] recruit.” He and Rose said such laws also prevent people from addressing deniers in a fair and legal debate.

Nora, a Rutgers student who declined to give her last name, told The College Fix she appreciated the discussion.

“They made some good points, but had a negative view of religion and religious institutions. Flemming had bad experiences to justify his opinion,” she said.

College Fix reporter Matthew Boyer is a student at Rutgers University.

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IMAGES: Gerry Lauzon/Flickr, Matthew Boyer, Ayn Rand Institute

On Wednesday, The College Fix reported that North Carolina State University’s dining services officials had apologized for handing out “offensive” chocolate mustaches for dessert on Monday – Cinco de Mayo.

Now another, similar controversy has sprung up at the University of Maryland.

The Diamondback campus newspaper reports that two Latino students were offended when the university’s dining services staff voluntarily wore fake mustaches and sombreros during its Cinco de Mayo dinner, at which Mexican food was served.

One student “said she found the hats and false mustaches offensive, much as others might react to a costume featuring blackface, but the employees … were not willing to voice their opinions or did not consider the costumes a problem,” The Diamondback reports.

A manager of dining services even spoke to one of the offended students in Spanish and told her there was no problem. And thankfully, a campus administrator did not kowtow to the two offended students, who apparently were among the very few upset about it.

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Beyond classroom lectures and homework assignments, what professors assign as required reading is a clear indication of how they slant their classes.

With that, The College Fix presents the results of recent visits to two campus bookstores associated with Ohio State, a quintessential example of the modern-day public university. Each book listed below correlates to a course this spring at Ohio State:

In the Name of the Family: Rethinking Family Values in the Postmodern Age

Its online book description notes it “offers a ringing rebuttal to the rhetoric of ‘family values’ … including a strong new case for legal same-sex marriage.” A review declares the book acknowledges “concerns about the disintegration of the traditional family, while attacking the efforts of right-wing conservatives to reinstate the family of the 1950s through fear and advocacy of male dominance. Using studies of blue-collar, low-income families, single-mothers and gay and lesbian households, (it) illustrates that far from being examples of failure or despair, these families are models of ingenuity and flexibility.”

The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy

Its online book description says it recalls the “shocking redistribution of wealth that’s occurred during the last thirty years,” then states “but economic changes like this don’t occur in a vacuum; they’re always linked to politics.” Who’s to blame? The book points the finger at neoliberals, loosely defined as a negative term for those who support economic and political policies that tout the benefits of free market systems.

Racist America: Roots, Current Realities and Future Reparations

Need we say more?

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

Well-written expose on Big Oil. Spoiler Alert: They’re the bad guys who pull the strings.

What a Girl Wants? Fantasizing the Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism

Here’s a snippet from its introduction: “What a Girl Wants? is about a popular culture that has just about forgotten feminism … To the extent that she is visible at all, the contemporary feminist appears as a narcissistic minority group member whose interests and actions threaten the family.” Postfeminism, the antithesis of the “shrill” feminist, is the solution this book proffers.

Development and Underdevelopment: The Political Economy of Global Inequality

The haves and the have nots. It usually involves a guilt trip.

GenderSpeak: Personal Effectiveness in Gender Communication

Secular views on what makes a relationship solid and successful.

Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women

The true story of Nevada prostitutes and their plight.

The History of Sexuality: Volumes I, II and III

Written by the late French philosopher and social theorist Michael Foucault, the books focus on the history of modern sexuality, and where and how it was derived. Special attention is given in parts to the ancient Greek’s obsession with man-boy love. Another section observes “if one wanted to assign an origin to those few great themes that shaped our sexual morality (the idea that pleasure belongs to the dangerous domain of evil, the obligation to practice monogamous fidelity, the exclusion of partners of the same sex), (it would) be a mistake to attribute them to that fiction called “Judeo-Christian” morality … (but rather) a history of “ethics” understood as the elaboration of a form of relation to self that enables an individual to fashion himself into a subject of ethical conduct.”

Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers

The online book description notes after oodles of research and interviews, the author concludes “religion may influence adolescent sexual behavior, but it rarely motivates sexual decision making.”

Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice

The book is written “against the backdrop of the … radical right agendas,” its online description notes, adding the work attempts to explain why so-called women of color supposedly want and need reproductive rights (a.k.a abortion on demand). “The book details how and why these women have defined and implemented expansive reproductive health agendas that reject legalistic remedies and seek instead to address the wider needs of their communities,” the book description states.

A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory

The book provides “a detailed overview of the complex ways in which queer theory has been employed, covering a diversity of key topics including: race, sadomasochism, straight sex, fetishism, community, popular culture, transgender, and performativity.”

Other titles found on the shelves included: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness; Memoir of a Race Traitor; The Psychology of Prejudice; Intimate Relationships; and many others along those lines.

Fix contributor Patrick Seaworth is a student at Ohio State University. Assistant Editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report.

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IMAGE: Andrei.D40/Flickr

 

 

 

Was Martin Luther King, Jr a conservative? The answer, I think, yes and no. As the face of the 1960’s civil rights movement King argued to advance the causes of organized labor and advocated civil disobedience as a means of resisting racial injustice. Those aren’t things we typically associate with conservatives.

On the other hand, King had no interest in the identity politics that make up so much of the racial politics of liberals today. He argued, most powerfully, for people to be judged by “the content of their character,” not the color of their skin. This argument meshes well with the modern conservatives’ emphasis on individualism and personal responsibility.

At CNN.com, John Blake posts some thoughts on the issue:

As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, a new battle has erupted over his legacy. Some conservatives are saying it’s time for them to reclaim the legacy of King, whose message of self-help, patriotism and a colorblind America, they say, was “fundamentally conservative.”

But those who marched with King and studied his work say that notion is absurd. The political class that once opposed King, they argue, is now trying to distort his message.

King’s most famous words are the crux of the disagreement.

“He was against all policies based on race,” says Peter Schramm, a conservative historian. “The basis of his attack on segregation was ‘judge us by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin.’ That’s a profound moral argument.”

I think the answer lies partly in understanding that conservatism itself has changed since the 1960’s. The states-rights conservatism of that day has gone extinct in the mainstream Republican and Democratic parties, insofar as the abolishing of segregation via federal power is now universally celebrated. No major figure in either party today would argue to uphold segregation on the basis of state’s rights.

Yet the left has certainly abandoned King’s vision of a color-blind society, where all would be judged (and indeed all would judge themselves) on the basis of character rather than melanin. And it’s hard to imagine King endorsing the modern left-wing policy of perpetual racial quotas as permanent solution to inequality. And it’s impossible to imagine him doing the kind of blatant race-mongering and profiteering that passes for civil rights leadership among those several men who have sought to fill King’s place as the spiritual and political leader of black America. I don’t need to name names.

I don’t think King would fit perfectly today into either mainstream party when it comes to race issues. The fact is, mainstream liberals have moved away from King’s most enduring principle–that we should assess the individual without regard to skin color. Meanwhile, mainstream conservatives have moved toward him in several important areas–realizing once and for all that states’ rights are secondary to natural rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Was Martin Luther King a conservative?

Maybe that’s the wrong question.

A better one would be this: Are today’s conservatives more like King?

The answer is, yes.

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Image Source: U.S. Library of Congress

City University of New York has taken diversity classification into new territory, and not everyone is happy about it:

CUNY’s 2011 and 2012 Diversity Action Plansinclude a new category, “White/Jewish.” The category appears on page six of the 2012 report, and on pages 1-2 and 61 of the 2011 report.

Apparently the new category sat there unnoticed for a year but has now begun to attract attention. On June 3, the New York Post ran a story headlined “New Minority Label at CUNY:  ‘Jewish.’” The Post quotes several CUNY professors who take umbrage at the classification. Hershey Friedman, deputy chairman of the finance and business management department at CUNY’s Brooklyn College said the category was “an insult and idiotic.” Another of the critics quoted by the Post is David Gordon, a professor of history at CUNY who also is treasurer of the National Association of Scholars’ CUNY/New York affiliate. Via David, I have some of the back story.

“White/Jewish,” according to footnote 8 in the 2012 report, “was added because a number of faculty, who would be categorized as White for federal reporting purposes, noted that a Jewish category would better represent their identity group.” The Post reports that the label emerged from the work of a steering committee that “ran faculty focus groups based on ‘identity.’” The committee came up with at least one other categorization that looks a little outside the usual run of “diversity” identity groups: “Italian-American,” added–by court order stemming from “lawsuits alleging bias.”

Apparently the new ethnic classification only covers white Jews. What about non-white Jews?

Furthermore, one wonders, why didn’t CUNY give the White/Irish-Americas get their own box to check?

And what about White/German, Red-Headed, Hazel-eyed, Left-handed, Near-sighted-Americans? Don’t they deserve to have their own official identity group too?

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