Sunday, February 26, 2017

Making America Gangrenous with Fear, Again: Donald Trump and the "New" Face of the Ku Klux Klan

  


Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17


Note: The Following is a letter to the editor of the Press Enterprise, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, 2.25.17. It's a response to an editorial written by Pete Kendron, editor of the PE--included in full below. Kendron's editorial is a response to criticism the PE received for having printed a Klu Klux Klan flier--including contact phone numbers as part of its new coverage. The article--sans KKK flier in also included in full below.
 *******************************************

To the editor:

While it may be true that the Press Enterprise didn’t publish the Ku Klux Klan flier “to promote or endorse” white supremacism, it’s Kendron’s insistence that PE editorial decisions are driven by journalistic integrity that’s the fig leaf—one intended to cover crass opportunism. 

Kendron knows that salacious details sell papers, and while news demands an unbiased account of the facts, obscuring the KKK phone number would neither have detracted nor altered anything of substance in the news coverage. The claim that including the number helps us “face our fears” is absurd. 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee 2.17
  Were the PE committed to that noble mission, it’d be awash in accounts of the Trump regime’s efforts to make Big Bank, Big Gas, Big Gun, Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Private Prison, Big Factory Farm, and Big Russia great again—at the peril of civil, reproductive, environmental, educational, healthcare, religious—and free speech rights. 

Were the PE interested in news, it’d tell the truth about the relationship between the growth of hate groups, the election of Trump, and the confirmations of his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, his corrupt, climate change denying, EPA director Scott Pruit, and his anti-education, privatize it all, DOE director Betsy Devos.

But just like Trump knows his base doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about niceties like a free press, the PE knows its 30 Seconds readers are more interested in having their biases confirmed than fancy notions like news. Kendron knows that printing that number titillates the Trumplodytes who, buoyed in their bigotry by a kleptocratic white nationalist for president, feel perfectly just calling Michelle Obama an Orangutan (30 Seconds, 2.25). 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17
It “justifies” a travel ban on Muslims even though we know neither geography nor religion are reliable indicators of terrorist affiliation. Printing that flier as if it were like any other advertisement aligns the PE with NewsMax and Breitbart—the rags of Steve Bannon’s alt-right. However much a fig leaf the PE story offered to decrying racism, Kendron knows the flier confirms local bigots who support the repression of voting rights via racist Voter ID initiatives. 

Willful ignorance, moreover, is no more excusable. 

Who needs the Klan when you’ve got 30 Second frequent fliers who deploy free speech to demonize everyone and everything not them? It’s deluded to defend Trump against his weakening of regulations to protect puppies; it’s demented to thank a butcher like Putin for helping Trump win; it’s daft to believe a swamp glittering in Goldman Sachs will trickle down its wealth. It’s nuts to think the “free market” can make healthcare accessible to poor folks, or that appeals to “state’s rights” will protect gay kids.

As for “facing our fears,” it’s ironic that while we’ve plenty to fear from the Trumpster’s militarist, anti-science, Islamophobic, bigotry-soaked agenda, his sycophantic followers stand to be harmed the most when the only jobs that materialize are low wage “right to be fired” jobs, or when education becomes just another product—the real thing for the kids of the wealthy, and the knock-off on-lines for the rest. 

It’s hard to admit you’ve been had by hucksters. 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17
Easier to excuse puppy mills, trash Muslims, and defend tabloid tactics as free speech. 

Kendron’s excuse-editorial for printing that number is like CPAC’s pretense that Robert Spencer is an outsider to conservative values: it forgets that the very platform upon which it would decry racism is paid for by racists. 

Here’s a suggestion for the next edition of the PE: print a flier calling out Brandon Eyerly to demand its editors produce a newspaper instead of a tabloid, or fire them: 570-387-1611.

Wendy Lynne Lee
Lightstreet, PA

595 words.


***********************************************
 Kendron's editorial:

We don’t believe in fig leaves – those comforting, but useless, courtesies that let people say they did everything they could to shield people from ugliness while still allowing the ugliness to exist.

So on Tuesday, when we published a story about some hateful Ku Klux Klan flyers showing up in Berwick, we also printed the flyers in their entirety. But we didn’t do it to promote, or endorse, those views.

We did it because it’s news. It’s ugly, it’s dismaying, but it’s news.
Some have asked why we didn’t blur or crop the flyer so contact information for the KKK group would not have been visible. It certainly would have made our editors’ phones ring less.

But it would have been a fig leaf.

Even if we hadn’t published the phone number, a person looking for like-minded haters would have had no trouble finding the Klan via the Internet. Before even seeing the flyers, it took our reporter only about two minutes.

The vast majority of our readers – who know a white cloak and hood are about as in fashion as knickerbockers – wouldn’t be enticed into membership just because they had the Klan’s phone number. But they now have a better idea of who or what has been skulking around Berwick, trying to stir up hate.

We are not a nation of cowards. Most of us are descendants of people who uprooted their families and took huge risks in search of a better life. There were no fig leaves to hide the challenges they faced. They had to confront their fears. And so should we.

So if those flyer reprints upset you Tuesday, good.

Take action.

Get to know your neighbor who’s from a different culture.
Reach out to the family who sits alone in the church pew on Sunday.

Maybe even call the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire — you have their number — and tell them in no uncertain terms that Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville are not fertile recruiting grounds for their hateful tribe.

Managing Editor Peter Kendron supervises the reporters, photographers and daily gathering of news for the Press Enterprise newspaper and website.
 ********************************************

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17
 The original story:
Woman decries KKK leaflets
Berwick activist fears rise of hate crimes
By Julye Wemple - Press Enterprise Writers
Published: February 21, 2017

BERWICK — Another round of Ku Klux Klan flyers has hit the Berwick area, but this time in a small neighborhood a stone’s throw from City Hall.

Bette Grey, 57, of Arbor Street says she’s lived in Berwick all her life and she’s never encountered such hateful beliefs.
And when she told council members about the flyers Monday night, council President Alvin Hill assured her such ideas have no place in the borough.

“We’re a community of immigrants, not a community of hatred,” he said. Other council members murmured in agreement.

Grey says she and her husband, Robert, found the first flyer in their yard on Friday, then another one on Sunday afternoon when they came home from church. Both times, the leaflets were tucked neatly under a bag of rice in the grass, Grey said.

At first, Grey, a former councilwoman, thought she was being targeted because of her political activism.

But at least six other neighbors got them, too. Some of them had different messages than the ones Grey received, she said.

Hers questioned the lack of a “white history month” and touted the accomplishments of white people over the centuries. It states the “technological advancements of our people — from the megalithic calendar of Stonehenge to the moonwalk of the Apollo astronauts — are unequaled.”

Grey said another neighbor’s flyer says God loves the KKK, and encourages white people to be proud of being white. None of the flyers were put in mailboxes, which would have been a federal offense, and all were weighted with rice.

The Klansmen knew what they were doing, Grey said.

The pamphlets also provided a website and hotline number for anyone wishing to join the group.

Considering the political climate in the country, Grey’s afraid these leaflets are just the start of trouble, she said.

“I think you’re going to see more of this stuff,” Grey said. “Hate crimes will start.”

Berwick Police Chief Ken Strish says he’s been made aware of the handbills. The ones on Arbor Street are the first of their kind in the borough, he added.

He urged residents who see anyone distributing the flyers to call 9-1-1.

It’s not clear the pamphleteer is breaking the law, but police at least want to talk to the person, Strish said.

Same group
The papers are the work of the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, a Klan group with a home base in Rising Sun, Maryland, just over the state line. It was the same group that distributed flyers in the 800 block of East Third Street in Salem Township in September.

Those leaflets, decrying illegal immigration, angered Hispanic families living in that neighborhood.

According to the group’s website, the East Coast Knights are a “traditional Klan” that seeks to “ensure a safe and secure future for Caucasian Americans.”

“We do not preach hate, and at no time would we react hatefully to any man, woman or child,” the website proclaims. “We strive to cleanse the Klan name by our positive actions.”

But Grey’s not buying their “positive” message.
“It frightens me,” Grey said. “This is significantly nasty.”

Grey said that’s why she was taking her concerns to council.
“It’s not that I want to draw attention, but I want people to be informed,” she said.

Julye Wemple can be reached at julye.wemple@pressenterprise.net, or at 570-387-1234, ext. 1323. Susan Schwartz contributed to this article.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Short Course in the "Logic" of Bigotry--And the Indivisible Will to Take a Stand Against it




Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.3.17


The following is a comment posted in the regional newspaper, The Press Enterprise, call-in feature "30 Seconds." The caller identifies herself as Evy Lysk--a frequent flier whose anti-Islamic, racist, misogynist bigotry has a long and well-established history:


"Travel ban motovates BU protest. Student calls Trump moves "reminiscent of Nazi Germany." Save yourself and drop out of college Jessa Wood. You have been brain-washed by your liberal professors. I'll tell you who's moves reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It's ISIS. To Professor M. Safa I asked you way back. "Do you support sharia law?" I never did get an answer. Miss Wood ask him is he for Sharia Law. If you don't get an answer then that should tell you he is for it. Sharia law does not give women rights--that law kills women. Miss Wendy, yes wear a hijab, but have it cover you whole face and make America beautiful again. Go Trump!"


Let's analyze Ms. Lysk's comment:


Setting aside the poor grammar, misspellings, and the fact that she does not know Professor Saracoglu's name, Ms. Lysk does offer us an opportunity to sharpen our capacity to detect fallacies, unwarranted assumptions, and very poor logic.


1. Lysk claims that BU Professors are "liberal." But she neither defines what "liberal" means, nor does she offer any evidence other than that BU community members orchestrated a very successful protest, one, in fact, whose numbers were significantly under-reported by the Press Enterprise at 100, when the actual number was far close to 300. She appears to assume that BU professors organized the protest--flatly false--and that BECAUSE they did so, BU students must be "brain-washed." This assumes, of course that BU students are children. False, and that BU professors have some sort of magical "brain-washing" power. False. BU students organized this action--with very little time and to very powerful effect. They should be applauded for their initiative and discipline. BU is fortunate indeed to have such thoughtful and committed student citizens.

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.3.17


2. While not bothering to check his correct name, Lysk refers to BU history Professor Safa Saracoglu as a defender of Sharia Law. But like "liberal," she fails to define what that means---she simply assumes we all know it's bad. To be clear, I am neither defending nor decrying Sharia Law--but it is question-begging to assume your audience knows and understands to what you're referring without any additional definition or clarification. The overwhelming likelihood is that, given Ms. Lysk's past history and references, she is appealing to a far right wing website like Infowars or NewsMax--neither of which are remotely credible sources for, well, anything.

3. Lysk commits fallacy of appeal to ignorance: She claims that because professor Safa Saracogluu did not answer her very likely loaded question about Sharia Law, that this means he supports it. But no such conclusion follows--and absence of evidence (his not providing an answer) is NOT EVER evidence for some other claim (such as, he supports Sharia Law). This is simply Lysk's way of making an accusation for which she has no evidence whatever--and it assumes a definition of Sharia she has not provided. In short: Lysk set a trap, and Professor Saracoglu didn't take her bait.
4. She then claims that Sharia Law "does not give women rights." But rights are NOT given. Rights are recognized, and Ms Lysk's own view of women's rights is made clear in the very next line where she refuses to address me as Professor Lee--a fact she has been aware of for at least 15 years. Indeed she does refer to "Professor Safa," but not to "Professor Lee." This makes very clear her own patent sexism, a fact confirmed by her claim that I should wear a hijab to cover my "whole face." In other words, I'm a legitimate target for ridicule because, according to Lysk, I'm an ugly woman--one not deserving of the recognition of human rights. This, of course, is ad hominem: attack the person instead of their argument--and it is the common recourse of the assailant who has nothing else to offer in defense of their claim.
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee 1.3.17


Lastly, it's very unclear what Lysk's claim is other than "Go Trump!" But that's not a claim--it's just an exclamation, one as groundless as her comment.


Nonetheless, this is precisely the kind of frenzied, irrational, and bigoted fodder that far right supremacist groups like this one feeds on. 

White Nationalist Recruitment Posters Reported on Kutztown University Campus as Part of National Campaign | Raging Chicken Press

The point is not merely that Lysk is a racist and sexist bigot--she makes that clear on many occasions in 30 Seconds. The point is that she knows she has an audience for this horse-pucky--and that audience put a fascist into the White House.

That audience would ban Muslims from entering the United States because they are Muslims--and it has a president who will utilize every nefarious means at his disposal to fulfill that promise.

That audience holds that the drowned child of the Syrian refugee is less valuable than the child of a wealthy white real estate mogul.

That audience will remain silent as the new president makes it impossible for citizens to know whether their new puppies came from puppy mills.

That audience will allow the president to sell off the country's national parks as private drilling sites to his cronies.

That audience thinks reservations are the natural condition of Native Americans, and would just as soon see the bravery and citizenship personified in the siege at Standing Rock crushed as give up driving their Jimmies.

That audience confirmed the far-right charlatan and donor Betsy DeVos for education czar, a religious ideologue poised to destroy public education and use tax dollars to rape the separation of church and state. DeVos is more concerned about Grizzlies attacking classrooms than she is about whether children become literate. Come to think of it--far better for the Trumpledites that we remain illiterate and ignorant. That's what makes DeVos perfect for education secretary.


That audience celebrates ignorance as a virtue.
That audience silenced Elizabeth Warren for daring to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King that lays out the bigotry of Jeff Sessions who, if confirmed as Attorney General of the United States, is likely to preside over the most racist and repressive voting restrictions the country has ever seen.

That audience would foul its water and air beyond reclamation in order to deny climate change.

That audience mouths "Energy Independence" and "jobs" as if these were magic-bean words--even after the evidence is made clear to them that hydrocarbon exports will weaken national security.

That audience made a CEO of Exxon-Mobil and "Friend of Putin" its Secretary of State.

That audience would rather be ruled by the autocracy/kleptocracy of a psycho-maniacal child-king via Twitter than do the hard work of actually being citizens.

That audience would allow the complete militarization of the police--making our communities effective fiefdoms of martial law.
That audience mistakes power for justice--at the absolute peril of the latter and the ultimate self-defeat of the former.

I could of course go on. But this is surely sufficient to show how important it is we remain not merely vigilant but insurgent against this tyranny.

Perhaps Lysk thinks a desiccated environment dominated by uber-wealthy white guys is a suitable life.

I do not.

And I will resist the violent illogic of the Trumpledite Autocracy until that moment sanity returns to our civic discourse and to our country.


Wendy Lynne Lee


For more photographs of the inaugural Indivisible action at Bloomsburg University, please see:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wendylynnelee/albums/72157679824860996

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Jenny, The Quiet and Beloved

Jenny the Wonder greyhound with Mr. Luv-Lyte, the Intrepid Maltese.



2016 was a ridiculously difficult year, in a ridiculously difficult world, for a ridiculously immense number of reasons.

And it's just this  kind of absurdity that makes the care and companionship of the animal family to whom I return home every day that much more precious.

That much more essential.

It's the precious refuge of the daily care I am lucky enough to be able to offer to my animals that makes the world inside the tall fence around my yard rational, sensible, and infinitely good. It's all the more that refuge when I get to know at the end of each day that each of the individuals who will live out their lives in this sanctuary are safe, comfortable, warm, fed, and as happy as I can figure out.

Jenny came home with Kevin and I in June 2013.

She was the last dog to hobble off a transport van where she had stood on the three legs that she could still use for several hours.

She was tired, confused, and frightened. Not because the rescue folks hadn't done everything they could to make her trip comfortable--but because being a three-legged Greyhound just is no easy thing. Especially when you're old and have lived the unconscionably cruel life of the racing dog.

The racing dog whose track-broken leg wasn't worth setting because she'd not win anymore--even if a broken-legged dog could still be used as a puppy mill.

Like its abominable analogue in horse-racing, Greyhound racing should be banned, its promoters shamed into ignominy, its tracks closed and bull-dozed to the ground.

But none of this deterred my baby from wagging her tail as Kevin and I settled her into the backseat of my little Honda to take her home. 

To take her home for her forever.

She was absolutely beautiful.

Jenny came home to a world of  doggy beds and bones, arthritis-prevention supplements and dental treats.

She loved throwing around her beds, her bones.

She could run.

She chased squirrels with Disney.

She lounged in front of the nightly news with me.

She snuggled.

She barked--but rarely.

More often, she peered out of big dark brown eyes, out of her quiet demeanor, with that bottomless love reserved for dogs.

And for greyhounds--the kitty-doggies of the doggy world.

The week before New Year's eve, she began to limp on her left front leg.

A bump? A sprain?

Cancer. Fucking cancer. Fucking Goddamn Robber cancer. 

The thing that only gets worse. The thing that eats away the bone. The thing that a three-legged dog cannot brook in her leg.

I held her whole anxious body in my lap on the floor of the veterinary hospital.

I sang to her, "You are my Jenny-Pants, and I love you with all my heart."

She quieted, and I kissed her forehead.

The feeling of life drifting away to silence. It makes you hold on so tight you can hardly breathe.

In the Spring Kevin and I will bury Jenny's ashes under my giant Cyprus tree along with Disney, the Squirrel-Chaser.

Jenny had big brown eyes. To gaze into them was to see that at the center of the universe was still love.

Good night my precious Jenny-Pants. 

I love you, my quiet girl.

Wendy Lynne Lee





 


Friday, December 2, 2016

A "Turning Point" for a Witch Hunt: The TPUSA Professor Watchlist and Trump's America, Inc.

  

While much and excellent analysis of Turning Point's recently launched foray into the repression of academic freedom is already available, Id like to make a few observations that I haven't seen so far.

What we know is that this 23 year old brain-child of the Alt-Right's Breitbart and Fox News contributor Charlie Kirk follows in the ugly footsteps of earlier efforts like David Horowitz' "101 Most Dangerous Professors." 

Professor Watchlist seeks to reincarnate the same objectives: the repression of academic freedom

Yet unlike earlier such witch hunts, for example, avowed Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy's, Kirk's objectives seem both bigger and narrower.

Bigger in that Kirk's the Executive Director of Turning Point USA and thus the self-identified guru of a movement to "promote the principles of free markets and limited government" to this generation of college students. Indeed, his motives are even bigger, as we'll see shortly.

But Kirk's aims are also narrower in that, however despicably misguided, McCarthy appears to have actually thought he was acting on behalf of his country, Kirk's aims are to promote not a country, but a brand: America, Inc.

McCarthy, in other words, believed something--however warped.

Kirk, however, wants to sell us a this shiny bauble called "America." And he doesn't want it getting tarnished by these inconvenient things called facts. His isn't patriotism--however distorted. It's marketing--and among the obstacles in his way are those pesky professors who might dare to critique capitalism, or call out bigotry--or (god forbid) insist that climate change is real.

To call Kirk a "conservative boy wonder," as does Julie Bykowicz of Bloomberg news is, in fact, something of an misfire.  

(http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-07/conservative-boy-wonder)

He's more like an up-and-coming poster child for the Alt-Right whose connections to the dark side of the hard right blogosphere is well-documented by Pam Vogel of Media Matters.
 
(http://mediamatters.org/people/charlie-kirk)

That Kirk's cynically transparent attempt at repression is cast in the rhetoric of protecting naive and impressionable youngsters from the indoctrination of "Leftist" professors is, of course, the effort to clamp down on the critical evaluation of ideas, arguments, theories, or worldviews. 

It's not the repression, in other words, that's new.

What is perhaps different about Kirk's brand of trying to silence academics who don't conform to his free-market, anti-regulation, just say no to government ideology is that its underbelly is crawling with the "alt-right." As we know, thanks to Trump, they're that new breed of white supremacist that can brook neither science nor literature, neither the truly civic nor the philosophical because knowledge undermines their claim to authority.

Professor Watchlist isn't then just the latest bit of right-wing buffoonery to intimidate academics. Once you browse through its selection 0f 200 professors, it becomes clear that it's an attempt to remake the academy into a marketing tool for an entire worldview--one that's white, patriarchal, heterosexual, fundamentalist Christian, and very very wealthy.

McCarthy likely couldn't have dreamed such a big white dream.

And nothing could be more terrifying to these America, Inc. marketers than what a "liberal" professor does--what I do--everyday in class: demand that my students think. On their own. Equipped with respect for facts, attuned to a wide range of ideas and arguments, ready to examine their assumptions and convictions, and humbled by the recognition that what we want to believe doesn't necessarily cohere with what the evidence supports. 

That's called "education," and neither Charlie Kirk nor his Trumpster backers have the least bit interest in anything so potentially transformative or radical.

After all, that might let in the ideas of other people.


Indeed, it's precisely critical thinking that the Turning Pointers seek to stamp out, and hence it's no wonder that an academic witch hunt would find new life in the incoming Trump regime.

Perhaps young Kirk is just trying to find his own way onto the Trumpster Gravy Train of "free market" fascism. If so, what better way to make a name for himself among the millennial voters of 2020 than something splashy like making students into spies on their professors?

No time like the present, what Charlie Kirk has figured out is that among the last best bastions of critical inquiry, real science, and that dissent that comes in the form of art, music, theater is the academy. 

Hence it's precisely universities and colleges that must be conquered, subdued, and made to conform to the worldview of a president-elect whose own disposition is not "merely" racist, homophobic, and misogynist--but profoundly and perversely anti-intellectual.

Trump's world cannot brook dissent. And we academics are a dissident lot. 

Think: Socrates.

What better avenue for the transformation of citizens into technocrats for the corporatist state than to fear-monger and harass their teachers into a curriculum (if we can call it that) devoted to insuring that the Trumpsters who've extorted and hate-mongered their way into power get to stay there, making ready for Mr. Kirk's run for national office.

Kirk wants to make it as easy as possible to participate in the alt-right regime. Turning Point will sell you t-shirts and buttons with catchy smart slogans like "Socialism Sucks" and "Taxation is Theft" right on the website replete with photographs of a virtually all white sea of smiling college students apparently ready to turn in their brains for "Make America Great, Again!" baseball caps.

Hell's Bells, you can turn in your professor right on the "Professor Watchlist" website. There's a form waiting just for you.

And that's what brings me to the addition I'd like to make to the growing defense of not merely of the academy--but of the value we must preserve for truth, for facts, for science, for that capacity for critical thinking no decent polity can survive without.

Then again, the Trumpsters aren't interested in  the country, the public good, or human decency.

This is all and ultimately about money, and in whose bank accounts it accrues interest.

I took a good look at the sources Professor Watchlist utilizes to determine whether a professor merits inclusion on the list.

No surprise, it's Breitbart. The homeland of the Alt-right, or far more honestly, the one-stop shop for the resurgence of the white supremacism of the likes of Richard Spencer.

 
Consider Abdul-Malik Ryanm, Director of Religious Diversity, DePaul University. He's accused of having "publicly criticized supporters of Israel" and "supporting the idea of a Caliphate before the rise of Isis."

Two things must be said about Ryanm's inclusion on the list.

First, the only source offered is Breitbart (http://www.breitbart.com/), a fake conspiracy-driven news site devoted to nurturing a deeply bigoted and violent worldview, and the home of Trump's choice for chief council, the bombastic, antisemitic Steve Bannon.

Second, as John Stewart Mill warned long ago, even speech that's false, distorted, and offensive must be protected in any republic that offers the promise of civil liberty. For none of us can say with certainty that we are definitively right, that others are definitively wrong, or that new evidence might alter our disposition towards the world.

Free speech must be free

It's that bulwark of democracy that is becoming an endangered species as we near the Dark Ages heralded by the Trump inauguration.

Charlie Kirk, however, seems quite comfortable with preserving the rights of fake news reporting that is Breitbart--but more than happy to stifle the rights of Professor Ryanm--and anyone who'd dare to evince a view anathema to Mr. Kirk's ideological-own.

That's called calculated self-serving hypocrisy. 

It's the standard operating procedure of the ideologue who pretends to the sober task of ferreting out those who'd dare question the authority a worldview he "knows" is right and true, all the while insisting he values documents like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights--so long as they favor him and his.

Much the same story can be told about virtually every professor on the watchlist. We dare to discuss socialism, racism, feminism, Islamophobia, Homophobia, the causes of terrorism, climate change.

Even more threatening, we're doing science and performing scholarship. We're writing novels and making art. We actually make the world better.

The heralded bioethicist Arthur Caplan (NYU) is singled out for allegedly daring to compare Trump's plan to mass deport millions of undocumented immigrants to "the repugnant tradition of Hitler." 

That the only source we have for confirmation of this claim is the far-right whose reason for being is to "expose liberal bias on college campuses." The source itself is certainly enough to make us suspicious,  but that's beside the point. Whether or not Caplan made any such comparison, it's his to make. And if we're going to respect academic freedom, it's ours to consider, accept or reject.


College students are not children.

But, of course, they must be if professors are to be demonized as scary indoctrinators.

And on the list goes, a lazy mutual masturbation of self-confirming references: Breitbart, Campus Reform, David Horowitz' particularly vicious Discover the Networks (http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/default.asp), and Project Veritas.

It's hardly surprising, of course, that a disproportionate number of the names on the list are women and/or persons of color and/or Muslims. 

How Mr. Kirk hasn't wandered into me, I have no idea. But, much like a number of professors elsewhere, I've now requested admission to the list so that I can stand with my fellows in defense of academic freedom.

I'm a woman, a feminist, a stalwart defender of science.

Just because there aren't any disgruntled students who want to turn me in to the Turning Pointers--why should that keep me off the list?

Indeed, it seems that simply having a "Middle Eastern" or "African American" sounding name is probably sufficient for inclusion, or god-forbid identifying as feminist or queer.

George Yancy writes that the watchlist is a "new species of McCarthyism." 

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/opinion/i-am-a-dangerous-professor.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

That's right--with one caveat: Kirk's ultimate aim isn't merely to ferret out alleged "Communists," it's to make way for the Trumpian Century of America, Inc--a Free Marketer's Big Dream made for fellas who are just--and only--like him.

Here's what I think Professor Watchlist richly deserves: ridicule

Raucous loud ridicule for its slovenly self-confirming research, it's transparent racism, heterosexism, and white supremacist objectives.

Incredulous laughter at its idiotic, if dangerous, pretense to a movement to train students to believe the world is storehouse of endless resources awaiting their entrepreneurial brilliance and exploitation. 

Gazillions of professors demanding admission to its "watchlist" of infamy.

To be clear, my advocacy of ridicule isn't because there's anything funny about this menacing volley at surveillance and repression.

There isn't.

In fact, Turning Point's Professor Watchlist epitomizes that against which we must be fully prepared to take a stand in the name of something even greater than our democratic values: our commitment to tell the truth and to work for a world not dominated by the prerogatives of wealthy white Christian men.

Ridicule is simply the best way to make immediately and abundantly clear that we in the academy--we who are intrepid enough to teach, to write, to think during the coming Dark Age of Trump--aren't going anywhere.

In fact, we're the frontline of resistance.

Every day. Every class.

Perhaps young Mr. Kirk would have been interested in my course this term on the question whether Just War Theory can any longer speak to contemporary war, terrorism (including state and corporate sponsored terrorism), or the uses of secret torture prisons in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. 

Perhaps he'd like to sign up for my course next Fall where we'll consider what constitutes institutionalized violence such as slavery, internment, racism in imprisonment, marriage, or compulsory heterosexuality.

Or just maybe he'd like to wait for my course on Critical Theory and contemporary applications of the Communist Manifesto.

Your choice, Mr. Kirk.

Your move.







Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Burn the Flag

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


As he just can't seem to help himself, the Trumpster twitters: "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"

Here's my response: There is no right more fundamental to freedom of expression than flag-burning. 

Burn the flag.


It is the symbol of refusal to bow before this infant who would be king.
It is the rejection of Trumps racist, misogynist, money-soaked worldview.
It is the rejection of his terrifying cabinet appointments. 
It is the repudiation of his corporatist fascism.
It is the single most powerful recognition that America has become America, Inc.
It is an action in defense of the country.

That Trump is already wondering aloud--on Twitter--about whether he can criminalize this most essential right tells us everything we need to know about his character, his motives, his assault on the Bill of Rights.

And it's irrelevant whether or not he can outlaw flag-burning.

He can't. At least not alone.

That we should be burdened with a president so completely cavalier about the protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is precisely why we must burn the flag.

The first amendment doesn't exist merely to protect safe, conciliatory, or banal speech. 

As John Stewart Mill rightly argues, it exists to protect unpopular, offensive, vulgar, and woefully wrong speech.

It protects Trump's insane climate change denial.

It protects his references to Mexicans as "drug-dealers and rapists."

It protects Trump's vulgar references to women as pigs and pussies.

It protects Attorney General Nominee, and "career racist" Jeff Sessions' reference to black men as "boys." (https://theintercept.com/2016/11/18/career-racist-jeff-sessions-is-donald-trumps-pick-for-attorney-general/).

It protects Chief Council Steve Bannon's antisemitic sentiments, and his "alt-right, "fake news, conspiracy theory driven, white suppremacist website, Brietbart.

The first amendment protects all kinds of speech that is false, brutal, and divisive--even the completely off the rails ranting of Alex Jones' "Info-Wars," (http://www.infowars.com/).

Burning the flag--that is an act that can and should bring us together against a fear-mongering white nationalist regime who will dispatch soldiers to die for a country that represents nothing more than Trump's latest scheme to fill his own coffers.

Burn the flag.

And let's be very clear: we have every right to be protected from harm. There are important questions to be considered about whether hate speech constitutes harm. But these are far too sophisticated for either Trump or his entourage of sycophants to contemplate--especially as they jockey for greatest advantage to see out the narrow gauge that is the president's arse.

We do not have the right to be protected from being offended, even disgusted.

Burning the Americans flag is thus radically unlike the commission of hate speech.

In fact, it's among the most important acts we can perform in the defense of the country. 

Burn the flag.

That Trump has no comprehension of this fact bespeaks a willful ignorance so profound that we should all shudder at the very idea that he could be president. 

He personifies not merely hate speech but a repugnant worldview now celebrated by the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, sexual assailants, and the willfully ignorant everywhere.

That Trump apparently thinks he has the power to expel citizens from the country on the grounds of his infantile rants should leave us embarrassed and ashamed for our horn-swaggled neighbors who voted for him.

They have no excuse.

Possibly the only thing more frightening than a Trump presidency are the emboldened bigots for whom hate speech has now been given a new lease on life, but who'd condemn the real patriot--the one who burns the flag in mourning over the death of the promise of democracy.

What besides setting the flag to flames could more eloquently express this catastrophic threat to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

What better way to recognize the preeminent importance of free speech?


Burn the flag.