Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Crass and Class at George Mason University

Dr. John's Lewis' lecture last night at George Mason University on Islamic totalitarianism was one of the most surreal public experiences I have witnessed in all my years as an activist and advocate. It evidenced in no uncertain terms that rationality and common decency are under assault at even our most distinguished forums. Academic freedom means tolerating opposing views and countering them with reason and facts in an atmosphere of respect and civility. It is not an orgy of rude and abusive mindlessness—a description that defined the conduct of many in the audience that evening.

The philosophic theme of Lewis' talk was that individual freedom is a value and that the free have the right to protect themselves from the initiation of physical force. Lewis defended religious freedom on explicit grounds, including the freedom of those in attendance who stood up, turned their backs to him and attempted to shout him down to peacefully practice their respective creeds without fear of threats or physical coercion. Lewis contrasted the exercise of freedom in America with life in the totalitarian Islamic regimes, where there is no distinction between the power of the state and the practice of religion.

Quoting various Islamic theocrats in power today, Lewis showed how these theocrats define themselves as advocates for the initiation of force, including one chilling quote from the leader of the Indonesian Islamic fascists that called for Islamic control of the government and the ruthless imposition of Islamic law upon non-believers. Drawing upon the same right of self-defense that allows a woman to defend herself from her would-be rapist, Lewis argued that a free America has an unassailable right to defend itself by destroying the connection between Islam and the state. Lewis pointed to the example of post WWII Japan to show how fighting for such an enemy's willful surrender led to an era of peace, happiness and freedom, for both us, and the peaceful people who had previously suffered under totalitarianism's boot. War may be hell, but a quick and decisive war is far, far better than living in a state of permanent terror.

For this, Lewis was decried as a racial bigot and murderer, and was taunted with endless interruption, bile and obscenities. That Lewis was even able to keep his focus and not throw his hands up in despair was testament to his moral courage and his unwillingness to concede the floor to any heckler's veto.

The lowest point of the evening came during the Q&A, when a GMU campus administrator took the podium in an effort to settle the audience down. He chose his words poorly though, for he ultimately thanked the audience for their behavior, which was little more than failing to engage in an all-out riot. It is one thing to be thankful that there was no riot; it is another thing altogether to thank people for obeying the law and for (barely) respecting the rights of others in attendance. Furthermore, by thanking rude and abusive students for their thuggish behavior, this administrator all but guaranteed that the next controversial speaker will face a similar rude treatment from those who may happen to disagree with him.

The questions asked during the Q&A could hardly be described as that; rather then even attempt to challenge Lewis by a thoughtful or revealing question, many "questioners" simply grandstanded and repeated non-sequiturs that reflected their own refusal to consider any aspect of his thesis. And in a disgusting and contemptible display of arrogance and hypocrisy, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations frothed to Lewis that he was "too angry" and needed to "lighten up" a bit; it was this same gentlemen who had worked to press the university into denying Lewis a venue when his talk was originally scheduled for February.

Yet the most telling event of the evening was when Lewis, after being pummeled with interruptions and derogatory remarks implying that he was a lackey for the political status quo, simply noted that he did not support the current political administration in Washington on the grounds laid out in his speech. He was not without interruption long enough to be able to fully explain why he disagreed with Washington's current war fighting-strategy, but knowing Dr. Lewis, his position can be distilled as follows: the President's religious sympathies have blinded him to fully realizing the pernicious threat caused by the union of religion and state, thereby weakening his resolve to defeat the cornerstone of religious intolerance today, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rather than propel him to lead America to victory against religious tyranny, Lewis argues that the President's philosophy undercuts his very ability to identify the enemy and fight him accordingly.

Such a statement criticizing the President's philosophy and policies may have challenged the ideas and comfort zone of many of the College Republicans in attendance, yet these College Republicans neither screamed nor howled, nor did they interrupt Dr. Lewis and yell that he didn't understand the President and his creed like others in the audience had done. Instead, the College Republicans were nothing but polite, respectful and thoughtful, even as their own thinking was being challenged by their guest and under less than ideal circumstances.

The politeness and thoughtfulness of the GMU College Republicans evidenced the key difference between the civilized and the savage in attendance that night. The civilized can tolerate differences of opinion and they seek to understand why these differences exist in the first place. In contrast, savages are simply unable to tolerate any thinking other than their own emotion-laden opinions. If the police had not been there to preserve order with their overwhelming presence, I am convinced that Dr. Lewis would have easily been strung up from the nearest tree. That from students at my alma mater.

It was not lost upon me, the event's organizers, or Dr. Lewis himself that our men and women on the battlefield have it far, far worse than anything we may have experienced last night. Our defiance and refusal to yield to any form of intimidation or heckler's veto is an act of solidarity with these men and women; it is our determined effort to say that we will fight for them just as they fight with courage for us.

And bravo to Dr. Lewis and the GMU College Republicans for standing fast in the face of intolerance. More than anyone last night, they earned the title of GMU Patriot.


Anonymous said...

No one has the right to blaspheme Islam; Lewis should be ashamed of himself for daring to utter a word against any Muslim brother.

Bill K. said...

Anon. has it ass backwards. Everyone has the right to criticize Islam (and any other religion or creed) whether you think it is blasphemy or not.

Unlike Islam you do not have the right to use force to shut down those you disagree with.

Grant Jones said...

Anonymous and the stolen concept. Anonymous Moslem, please define "right." Under your creed rights do not exist. No doubt you believe you have the "right" to murder those that blaspheme your moon god.

Someday you and yours will discover the purpose of the U.S. Navy's Ohio Class missile submarines. Learn the difference between force and reason, freedom and slavery, and aggression and self-defense before the patience of America is all used up.

steve b. said...

I wonder why the rules of the game were not stated at the beginning of the event? Simple rules such as this: "People may ask questions or respond with rational comments. Heckling or any behavior for the purpose of disruption will not be tolerated. You will be escorted from the room if you engage in such behavior." Then, if that happened, the event would be stopped while those people were escorted out of the room by the police. That would establish the principle of rights and civil behavior.

It is completely off purpose to allow, in the name of free speech, anyone to destroy an event by being a bully at the event. That, to me, is a "no pass" in the handling of the event.

I think that all of these procedures need to be identified and then worked out with the police/security personel for the civil unfolding of the event. If the venue's managers cannot have this happen, then the event should not be there.

madmax said...

"I think that all of these procedures need to be identified and then worked out with the police/security personel for the civil unfolding of the event. If the venue's managers cannot have this happen, then the event should not be there."

I agree with this 100%. Speakers should tell the university administrators what they expect and that if there are any violations of the rules of civil discourse then the event will end. There should be a zero tolerance policy for disruptive behavior. Some rules for consideration should be: any protests conducted at any time during the talk will result in the immediate removal of the protesters, any disruptions at any time during the talk will result in the immediate removal of the disruptors, any threats before, after or during the talk to the speaker will result in university and possibly law enforcement investigation and prosecution, etc.

Objectivist and other anti-Islam, anti-Left speakers should adopt a "take-no-prisoners" approach to these events.

Michael Caution said...

To note: If I were in Dr. Lewis' shoes I would have demanded that those standing with their back to me obstructing others' views be escorted out of the room where they can officially protest their sentiments instead of obstructing the entire speech itself. The right to speech and peaceably assemble does not give one the ability to trample on others' rights. Rights between individuals do not conflict.

It is certainly disgraceful when any university spokesman calls such contemptible behavior "for the most part pretty orderly". If what you recounted here is "orderly" I don't even want to know what they would consider to be disorderly. Would it be anything similar to that experienced at Concordia University in Montreal?

I'm glad that Dr. Lewis was able to finally give his lecture. His ideas bring much needed light to disinfect the disease that is currently spreading around the world.

Just as a reminder, could you add me to your blogroll? Abandon Caution

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at the event but I wonder if Lewis gave a pass to the Liberal Democrats whose unrelenting obstruction of President Bush's policies have contributed to the boldness of the fascist defenders of Islam.

Jim said...

"... wonder if Lewis gave a pass to the Liberal Democrats whose unrelenting obstruction of President Bush's policies have contributed to the boldness of the fascist defenders of Islam?"

Democrat obstruction is not significant in its effect. Even if all the Democrats were fully on board, the Bush Administration policies would have failed anyways because they have been a contradictory goo of altruism, pragmatism, and failure to act on principle.

Lewis contrasted current policy with WWII to demonstrate the utter weakness, unfocus, and self-sacrifice for others that characterizes Bush's war policy.

Ed Cline said...

"No one has the right to blaspheme Islam; Lewis should be ashamed of himself for daring to utter a word against any Muslim brother."

Thus wrote Anonymous. Quite the contrary, sir. I have every right to blaspheme Islam and anything associated with it. If the program was still on the air, I would submit a script to Monty Python on Islam, because I'm sure that group would have done just as fine and hilarious a job of mocking Islam as it did Christianity in "The Life of Brian."

Also, sir, you contradict yourself (and this is just a matter of argument). If Islamic and Arab publications can blaspheme Christianity and every other ghost-haunted creed, and do so with impunity or chastisement by Christians, why is Islam so special that it is exempt from the same blasphemy? Can't answer that, can you? I'll make an educated guess here: Islam is regarded by Muslims with the same emotionalist ferver as Germans regarded Nazism, and for the same fault reasons: it's just "naturally" superior to everything else because Allah and his bellicose mouthpiece said so.

Well, sir, that's the language of a thug: because I said so.

Mel McGuire said...

So, in front of a GMU administrator, SDS thugs were able to disrupt Lewis's presentation and get away with it. The administrator did nothing? I don't understand. Frankly, I see no reason why Lewis should tolerate being abused at any venue. If the sponsors and/or GMU won't provide appropriate supervision of the event, then that's too bad for GMU.

Mike L. said...

Thank you Anonymous. It took just 24 words for you to demonstrate why Dr. Lewis' characterization of the enemy we face as "Islamic Totalitarianism" is no exaggeration.

Anon$ said...

Standing in front of a vicious crowd and talking to open mouthes but closed ears doesn't accomplish very much. That just buys into the left's notion of "free speech" which consists of everyone rioting for a platform for speech.

Giant n00bs that stand up and block the view of others, and shout making the the speech blurred deserve to be escorted out. To not do so is to buy into their idea of "protest" which involves flooding the street with their useless selves blocking everyone else from going about their day.

That is not free speech and this was not a demonstration of heroism, but rather a heroic speech
delivered with compromise.

By not tossing them out we send the message that this behavior is okay, emboldening them, and that their own definition of "free speech" and "protest" is the truth.