College campuses are supposed to be places of free expression, and this is generally the case at Yale. Unless, of course, you wish to criticize a leftist point of view. For leftists hurl invectives so fast that the unsuspecting critic will have no idea what just hit him. Recent events on campus have demonstrated a disturbing tendency among Yale’s left to ignore facts, logic and civility in the service of unswerving ideological ends.
Start with the CampusTruth advertisements that appeared in these very pages, so provocative they elicited a letter on Monday signed by a smorgasbord of “concerned” campus organizations (“The News has still not explained CampusTruth,” 11/10). These students specifically questioned the claim that on Sept. 11, 2001, “Israelis mourned in Tel Aviv,” while “Palestinians celebrated in Lebanon,” a proposition they deemed “racist.” Contrary to what the signatories of the letter would have us believe, that Palestinians cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center has been widely documented in the international print and television media. Of the many press accounts that day, the Washington Post reported, “Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cheered the attack, distributing candy and firing weapons in a show of glee –” The authors of Monday’s letter also claimed that CNN, which ran videos of rejoicing Palestinians, later retracted the footage upon discovering that it was taken during the Gulf War (as if Palestinians celebrating Iraqi scud missiles raining upon civilians in Tel Aviv is any less reprehensible). Regardless, Eason Jordan, CNN Chief News Executive at the time, dismissed this as a “baseless and ridiculous” lie spread via e-mail and on conspiracy Web sites. That the groups behind Monday’s letter would have the gall to portray an Internet hoax as fact while challenging another party’s honesty, is indicative of their utter disregard for the truth.
Were these ads inflammatory? Yes. Racist? Absolutely not. To deny that Palestinians (not all Palestinians, but a substantial number) celebrated the murder of 3,000 American civilians on Sept. 11, 2001, is to deny historical truth. These efforts echo Palestinian Authority attempts to intimidate journalists from exposing the mass celebrations. The Associated Press reported on Sept. 12, 2001, that “Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Arafat’s Cabinet secretary, said the Palestinian Authority ‘cannot guarantee the life’ of the cameraman if the footage was broadcast.” The CampusTruth ads are not the best way to foster dialogue on the Middle East, but we must realize nonetheless that a Jihadist ideology exists in Palestinian society.
The next instance of controversy has been the House of Representatives’ recent passage of the International Studies in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3077). For decades, international area studies centers funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act have been dominated by faculty with profoundly anti-American views. Their ideological fervor was inspired by the late Columbia literature professor Edward Said, creator of post-colonial theory. This historiographic construction argues that “Orientalist” Western scholars have “imagined” the Middle East and its inhabitants through a bigoted lens. In the words of Hoover Institution research fellow Stanley Kurtz, post-colonialism posits that it is “immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of American power.” Worse, post-colonial theory inherently limits intellectual diversity by labeling any other perspective as “Orientalist,” aka racist.
H.R. 3077 establishes an advisory board to ensure that centers receiving public money fulfill the public good by hiring a diverse faculty. Predictably, leftists at Yale are crying McCarthyism. Benita Singh asserts that faculty, “– can have their appointments terminated, any part of a course’s curriculum containing criticisms of U.S. foreign policy can be censored, and any course deemed entirely anti-American can be barred from ever being taught,” (“New bill threatens intellectual freedom in area studies,” 11/6). But if Singh read H.R. 3077 more carefully, she would have seen that the advisory board is expressly forbidden to “mandate, direct or control an institution of higher education’s specific instructional content, curriculum or program of instruction.”
Most outrageous is that many of these professors have boycotted a federal initiative to strengthen national security. The National Security Education Program, or NSEP, provides government grants for students studying foreign languages who agree to work for government agencies upon graduation. Since Sept. 11, the NSEP has become increasingly critical to America’s foreign policy interests as it strengthens the government’s ranks of Arabic and Farsi speakers. Immediately after the NSEP was founded, however, the African, Latin American and Middle East Studies Associations called for an academic boycott of this program. Singh encourages these professors to bite the hand that feeds them; that is, to denounce the American government while not only receiving a government handout, but to boycott a program intended to beef up our intelligence services. The purpose of Title VI is to prepare students for national service, for as Kurtz points out, “No title of the Higher Education Act subsidizes art history.” When professors hinder the careers of students who disagree with them, the American people should not foot the bill. Area centers complicit in such boycotts must have all Title VI funding revoked.
Finally, there was last week’s visit of Daniel Pipes, who was frequently interrupted by the sophomoric theatrics of Yale’s activist corps. For over a year, Pipes’ Web site, “Campus Watch,” has documented bias in higher education. His critiques of professors’ political commentary and scholarship have elicited a wave of hostility from the ivory tower, demonstrating the condescension of academics who think they are somehow beyond criticism. At Yale, Pipes was lambasted for questioning Professor Glenda Gilmore’s Yale Daily News column last October in which she wrote that President Bush wished to be “Emperor of the World” (“Variations on Iraq,” 10/4/02). Ever since Pipes criticized her in the New York Post, Gilmore has claimed that some nebulous right-wing cabal has imperiled her free speech. But Pipes never threatened Gilmore’s right to speak; he merely exposed her hyperbolic rhetoric to the real world.
As these examples show, many Yale leftists are loathe to tolerate opinions different from their own. When their ideas are challenged or attempts are made to encourage intellectual diversity on campus, liberals tend to hurl epithets that have a chilling effect on discourse. Passion for one’s ideas is well and good, but shouting others down with irrational cries of “racist” and “McCarthyite” is hardly liberal at all.
James Kirchick is a sophomore in Pierson College. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.