To escape the oppression of Yale’s imperialist, pro-Bush hordes, there’s a place deep underground Cross Campus where the clandestine network of liberal activists can freely express their opinions without fear of persecution from the armed legions of conservative Yalies. The “Free Speech Zone,” an unassuming bulletin board in the basement tunnel connecting Sterling Memorial Library and Cross Campus Library, is this safe haven of resistance against complacent Bush collaborators. One neon-green sign posted in “The Zone” boldly proclaims, “We are passionate in our hate and disgust for this president and his administration — and have every right to express our views freely!” Such courage in the face of the campus right’s political oppression is truly inspiring.
The Free Speech Zone’s motley collection of posters, signs, stickers and letters provides insight into the campus activist culture of self-imposed martyrdom, contrived myth and liberal cant. The reality of a student body and faculty both overwhelmingly self-identified with modern liberalism is conveniently ignored by those in the “progressive” protest community. Whether feigning to be victims of “killer” Coke’s Columbian “anti-union death squads” or the corpses of Iraqi casualties in Fallujah, the students of the radical left paint themselves as the tragic victims of authority in a delusional world of marginalization. Even for those who try to take their worldview seriously, their antics more closely resemble comedy than tragedy.
Usually there’s something to be learned from political dissent. After all, while many conservative figures in the past attempted to justify the horrors of tyranny, slavery and racism, progressive reformists, more often than not, have been on the right side of history. Sadly, Yale’s most visible brand of liberal activism betrays the legacy of its predecessors.
A cursory glance at the Free Speech Zone reveals that the causes Yale’s “progressive left” now champions are political issues that most self-identified liberals have rightly dismissed as absurd. One flyer attached to the Free Speech bulletin board unflinchingly asserts that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were in fact the result of an elaborate government plot to unleash the fury of the American military machine on the Islamic world.
Though vague on details, the Sept. 11 conspiracy pamphlet provides Web sites with more information for the intrigued (read: duped). The ring of Web sites uncovers evidence of Israel’s bombing of the World Trade Center and the U.S. government’s sanction of the attack in order to initiate America’s crusade against Islam (an interesting piece of “evidence:” Mohamed Atta and some of his fellow hijackers indulged in strippers and drank alcohol before the attacks, so they couldn’t possibly have been Islamic fundamentalists). Even Michael Moore would be appalled.
The myth of Muslim victimization at the hands of an imperialist Bush administration seems to be a popular one in Yale’s activist circles. An open letter posted in “The Zone” asks: How can “evil, tyrant, imperialist — Republicans — think that killing is justified as long as it demanded by white-male Christians onto Muslim civilians?” Reinforcing the image of an American administration bent on the destruction of the Islamic world is a heart-rending photograph of a hijab-covered woman with a missing limb. Another poster resorts to the hackneyed theory of Halliburton’s role in Iraq: “Make no mistake, oil gluttony motivates this war.” Simple, indisputable truths rendering the oil conspiracy thesis inane — such as the fact that Halliburton’s profits in Iraq comprised only .3 percent of its third-quarter profits or that crude-oil prices are their highest in 20 years — are irrelevant.
But then again, the world in which Yale’s radical left operates isn’t one where fact plays much of a role. This chimerical world of corporate oppression and Republican tyrannical “democracy” relegates the lonely voices of justice and reason to a bulletin board of anonymity in the library basement. Even mainstream liberals can’t be trusted — they’re part of the system, too. FBI agents empowered by the Patriot Act lurk in shadowy corners, preying on those who dare to question the status quo (“Feel safe?” one sign asks). Big-business interests drive American foreign policy at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. The government feeds the elite tax cuts to appease their greed and the masses God to silence their misery.
Apparently Yale’s liberal activists are our only hope in dispelling the darkness of 21st-century America. Their carefully constructed fantasy realm of David pitted against Goliath gives them a feeling of significance they otherwise lack. They are martyrs in a great cause against an ignorant, intolerant America. My favorite bulletin in the Free Speech Zone is a sign alluding to America’s collective sin of re-electing Bush: “God forgive them, for they know not what they do” (to that liberal Jesus out there, thanks for your concern and your prayers, but I think we’ll be just fine without them).
Make no mistake, I’m all for freedom of expression. I hope the Free Speech Zone will continue to flourish. I hope those burdened with the causes of bringing down capitalist America, ending the West’s crusade against Islam and proving Zionist complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks will continue to use “the Zone” as a forum to confirm what they already know and to protest what they already hate.
But along with the privileges of free speech come its consequences. Those who are committed to activism should be held accountable for the ideas they endorse. Activism, by its very nature, demands that the individual interact with the community writ large. The community must in turn judge the merits of his beliefs. Of course Yale’s liberal activists are entitled to freedom of expression, but they are not immune to criticism.
Keith Urbahn is a junior in Saybrook College. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.