Brave New Wor(l)ds
— A Utopia, of sorts, where “unity” prevails — even if in order to do so free speech is (like some bad Disney project) “re-imagined” as a right that is heavily policed by the state, with the upshot being that only the speech that doesn’t hurt or offend or cause a rift in the progressive unity continuum is protected, with the rest relegated to a growing repository for what is termed “hate speech.”
The argument goes something like this: in order to have free speech, everyone must be able to have his say. But one is not able to have his say if one’s say is not respected, or is met with “intolerant” counter speech — such that intolerance is equated with a refusal to allow the speech of others equal intellectual standing, regardless of its flaws, inconsistencies, lies, etc.
To point out such things is to engage in a “tyranny of facts” — and as we all know, “tyranny” is bad and ugly and wrong. Thus, in a country increasingly unmoored from Enlightenment thinking and the founders’ animating ideological principles, best captured in classical liberalism and some soft forms of libertarianism, “free speech” has become, perversely, a means by which to grant speech the kind of enforced moral relativism favored by — and in fact demanded by — the totalitarian underpinnings of “progressivism.” As with its sociological counterparts, multiculturalism and the “diversity movement,” acceptable speech is increasingly determined by how little it offends.
Or, to put it another way, free speech — which was conceived as a way to protect unpopular speech from majoritarian tyranny and governmental intimidation — is now, in a perfect Orwellian flip, being re-imagined as a way toward “unity,” by factoring out as hateful those bits of speech that move us further away from a leftist Utopia, where we all stand as one, honoring the state and it charismatic secular godhead.
This is fascism — though it is a fascism less of soaring national pride than one of repressive collective national guilt. It is, to put a name to it, the fascism of Oprah.
And — remarkably — this movement has become so brazen that we have the least vetted presidential candidate in history, before his party’s convention has even reached its surreal, almost Caligula-like climax, attempting to intimidate the media (this, even though they have been in the bag for Obama since they first nudged one another and noted that he was clean and articulate and black).
Which is why it is no surprise to see a man who has not yet won the presidency presuming to take his premature media coronation to heart, and attempt to wield his perceived “power” like some tinpot dictator. Case in point? Obamalot vs. Stanley Kurtz.
From the editors at NRO, and worth quoting at great lenght:
While the Obama coronation proceeds apace in Denver, it is in Chicago that Americans are getting a disturbing demonstration of his thuggish methods of stifling criticism.
Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Harvard-educated social anthropologist and frequent contributor to National Review, among other publications. He is widely respected for his meticulous research and measured commentary. For months, he has been doing the job the mainstream media refuses to do: examining the background and public record of Barack Obama, the first-term senator Democrats are about to make their nominee for president […]
Kurtz has written extensively, and with characteristic attention to factual detail, about ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s early career as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“community organizer,Ã¢â‚¬Â his cultivation of benefactors in the most radical cauldrons of Chicago politics, his long-time pastorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s immersion in Black Liberation Theology, his ties to anti-American zealots, and the years in the Illinois state legislature this self-styled agent of change spent practicing the by-the-numbers left-wing politics of redistribution and race-consciousness, remaining soft on crime and extreme on abortion.
This has led Kurtz, naturally, to scrutinize the relationship between Obama and one of his early political sponsors, William Ayers. Ayers, as we have previously detailed, is a confessed terrorist who, having escaped prosecution due to surveillance violations that came to light during his decade on the lam after a bombing spree, landed an influential professorship in education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As he has made clear several times before and after helping to launch ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s political career, Ayers remains defiantly proud of bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other targets. He expresses regret only that he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do more. Far from abandoning his radical politics, he has simply changed methods: the classroom, rather than the detonator, is now his instrument for campaigning against an America he portrays as racist and imperialist.
Obama supporters risibly complain that shining a light on the Obama/Ayers relationship is a Ã¢â‚¬Å“smearÃ¢â‚¬Â and smacks of Ã¢â‚¬Å“guilt by association.Ã¢â‚¬Â A presidential candidateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s choice to associate himself with an unrepentant terrorist would be highly relevant in any event Ã¢â‚¬â€ does anyone think the Obamedia would keep mum if John McCain had a long-standing relationship with David Duke or an abortion-clinic bomber?
But we are talking about more than a mere Ã¢â‚¬Å“association.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Bluntly, Obama has lied about his relationship with Ayers, whom he now dismisses as Ã¢â‚¬Å“a guy who lives in my neighborhood.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ayers and Obama have made joint appearances together; they have argued together for Ã¢â‚¬Å“reformsÃ¢â‚¬Â of the criminal justice system to make it more criminal-friendly; Obama gushed with praise for AyersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 1997 polemical book on the Chicago courts; and they sat together for three years on the board of the Woods Fund, a left-wing enterprise that distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their ideological allies. Most significant, they worked closely together on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC).
The CAC was a major education reform project, proposed by Ayers, which was underwritten by a $49.2 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, complemented by another $100 million in private and public funding. The project ran for about five years, beginning in 1995. As the liberal researcher Steve Diamond has recounted, Ayers ran its operational arm, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chicago School Reform Collaborative.Ã¢â‚¬Â Obama, then a 33-year-old, third-year associate at a small law firm, having no executive experience, was brought in to chair the board of directors, which oversaw all Ã¢â‚¬Å“fiscal matters.Ã¢â‚¬Â
By the time the CACÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s operations were wound down in 2001 it had doled out more than $100 million in grants but had failed to achieve any improvement in the Chicago schools. What little is known about the grants Obama oversaw is troubling. As Diamond relates, one of the first CAC awards in 1995 was $175,000 for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Small Schools Workshop,Ã¢â‚¬Â which had been founded by Ayers and was then headed by Mike Klonsky. It was only the beginning of the CACÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s generous funding of Klonsky Ã¢â‚¬â€ a committed Maoist who had been an Ayers comrade in the radical Students for a Democratic Society (the forerunner of AyersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Weatherman terrorist organization), and who hosted a Ã¢â‚¬Å“social justiceÃ¢â‚¬Â blog on the Obama campaign website until his writings were hastily purged in June after Diamond called attention to them.
The CAC records, said to comprise 70 linear feet of files, have long been maintained at the library of the UIC, the public university where Ayers teaches. This summer, Kurtz made an appointment to review them and, after being assured access, was blocked from seeing them by library administrators, who stammered about needing permission from the Ã¢â‚¬Å“donorÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€ whom they declined to identify. Kurtz energetically raised public awareness to the stonewalling, and the library finally relented this week. That is, as Barack Obama prepares to accept the DemocratsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ nomination tonight, the records of his only significant executive experience just became available for review on Tuesday.
Kurtz began his review, and on Wednesday was invited on Milt RosenbergÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s radio program to discuss it. Rosenberg is a Chicago institution. His program, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Extension 720,Ã¢â‚¬Â has aired for more than 30 years Ã¢â‚¬â€ a civil forum where knowledgeable guests from across the political spectrum discuss important issues in revealing two-hour interviews. What happened Wednesday night was stunning, as even the normally unflappable Rosenberg observed.
The Obama campaign Ã¢â‚¬â€ which has emissaries appearing everywhere Ã¢â‚¬â€ declined RosenbergÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s invitation to have a representative appear on the program and respond to KurtzÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s factual assertions. The campaign did, however, issue an Ã¢â‚¬Å“Obama Action WireÃ¢â‚¬Â that encouraged supporters to contact the program (telephone information was provided) and use scripted Ã¢â‚¬Å“talking pointsÃ¢â‚¬Â to disrupt KurtzÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s appearance, which it deemed Ã¢â‚¬Å“unacceptable.Ã¢â‚¬Â As the PoliticoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ben Smith reported, the campaign also urged supporters to demand that Rosenberg scrap the appearance of Kurtz, whom the campaign libeled as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“smear-merchantÃ¢â‚¬Â and a Ã¢â‚¬Å“slimy character assassin.Ã¢â‚¬Â The rant was reminiscent of the work of the left-wing media Ã¢â‚¬Å“watch-dogÃ¢â‚¬Â Media Matters for America.
Other than denigrating Kurtz for being conservative, ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s operatives have provided no response to the substance of his claims. In their only pretense of engaging him, they accuse him of telling Ã¢â‚¬Å“a flat out lieÃ¢â‚¬Â that Ayers recruited Obama for the CAC. Though it is a reasonable inference that Ayers recruited Obama, the careful Kurtz has stopped short of making it Ã¢â‚¬â€ observing only that Obama offers no explanation of how he was recruited if not through Ayers, his friend and the CACÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s driving force.
The station, WGN, has made a stream of the broadcast available online, here, […]. Remarkably, as Obama sympathizers raced through their script, they echoed the campaignÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s insistence that it was Rosenberg who was Ã¢â‚¬Å“lowering the standards of political discourseÃ¢â‚¬Â by having Kurtz on, rather than the campaign by shouting him down.
Kurtz has obviously hit a nerve. It is the same nerve hit by the American Issues Project, whose television ad calling for examination of the Obama/Ayers relationship has prompted the Obama campaign to demand that the Justice Department begin a criminal investigation. Obama fancies himself as Ã¢â‚¬Å“post-partisan.Ã¢â‚¬Â He is that only in the sense that he apparently brooks no criticism. This episode could be an alarming preview of what life will be like for the media should the party of the Fairness Doctrine gain unified control of the federal government next year.
What is stunning in all this is that there is really nothing stunning about it.
For all Obama’s talk of hope and change and post-partisanship and post-racialism, his campaign — whose very call for “unity” is presupposes a mechanism that suppresses unfavorable speech — is proving itself to be an enemy of the very heteroglossia progressives always ostensibly champion.
But, as is the case with even the best postmodern novelists, the appearance of openness is one that needs to be carefully constructed and maintained, with the narrative always controlled by an abiding intent — even if that intent is something so seemingly open-ended as a desire not to intend.
In that sense, Obama is a “post” candidate — a postmodern candidate. His reliance on calculated pragmatism, problematizing contexts, deconstructing and “re-imaging” classically liberal tenets — all to give the appearance of an organic movement that has been carefully inscribed since his first deliberate steps toward a political career — gives away the game.
Or as Pynchon once expressed it:
It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.
—Gravity’s Rainbow, V148
A paean to openness, carefully crafted by an intentional agent.
There’s is a lesson in there, somewhere.
My only regret is that I didn’t do more.
update 2: Bonus: During the Kurtz radio interview, left-labor advocate Steve Diamond phones in and calls the “new left’s” Bill Ayers a bureaucrat and an authoritarian — not a real “lefty.” Other “new leftists” — whose followers and heirs apparent represent the voice of the “progressive” movement — get mentioned in this light, as well.
Somewhere, Jonah Goldberg is smiling. Lord knows I got a chuckle out it. But a sad chuckle.
I’m a crying-on-the-inside-type clown, I guess.