Graduation season has once again brought the usual round of controversy and fauxrage over speakers who are selected to address the crowds of happy, hopeful students preparing to set out into the adult world. We’ve covered some of these stories already here, particularly the exit of Condi Rice from the celebration at Rutgers, but there have been others. In response to all of this, Timothy Egan, writing at the New York Times, made the apparent mistake of preaching to the liberal choir and suggesting that just maybe hearing people with opinions differing from your own might not cause brain cancer.
Near as I can tell, the forces of intolerance objected to [Rice’s] role in the Iraq war. O.K. And by shutting her down, the point is … what? That extremism, whether in the climate-denial echo chamber of Republican Party elites or in the fragile zone of college faculty lounges, is the worst enemy of free speech.
Thanks to the bigots, Smith College graduates will be deprived of the thoughts of Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund. She withdrew this week, under pressure from people who object to the I.M.F.’s role in the “strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems.” So, one of the world’s most powerful women will not share insights with one of the nation’s most prominent women’s colleges because of a concern about patriarchy. Evil men — that’ll show ’em.
This was followed by the swift departure of Robert J. Birgeneau, a former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, as a speaker at Haverford College. Yes, you heard that right: The man from Berkeley is not suitable for the sensitive souls of Haverford.
Egan goes on to point out that most commencement speeches are torturous enough in their own right, and walking down this path of filtering speakers out to accept only those who support our preconceived notions will result in an even more unpleasant outcome.
But if every speaker has to pass a test for benign mediocrity and politically correct sensitivity, commencement stages will be home to nothing but milquetoasts. You want torture? Try listening to the Stanford speech of 2009, when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy gave an interminable address on the intricacies of international law, under a broiling sun, with almost no mention of the graduates.
Give me a brisk, strong, witty defense of something I disagree with over a tired replay of platitudes. It matters little if the speaker is a convict or a seminarian, a statesman or a comedian.
This season, the left is better than the right at pressure tactics designed to kill opposing views. But who wants to claim that title?
That should put matters to rest nicely. Let’s face it… the Left is the home of free speech for all, the open exchange of ideas and touchy feely inclusiveness, while the Right just wants to tell everyone to sit down and shut up. Right? So the progressive blogs quickly lined up to support Egan’s clarion call for peace and harmony. Let’s look at a few examples as we toast our new solidarity.
How about it, Lawyers Guns & Money?
Don’t Want A Torture Facilitator to Get $35K for a Bad Speech? Why Are You A Bigot?
Leaving aside the fact that it’s enormously unlikely that any public figure like Rice would give a speech of the slightest interest, there’s a rather obvious problem here. What’s potentially objectionable about Rice isn’t her life story
Well, I suppose there will always be one or two holdouts. What say you, Jim Naureckas?
Object to a War Criminal at Your Graduation? You Must Be a ‘Bigot’
It needs to be pointed out that a graduation is not the PBS NewsHour; it’s a celebration of students’ accomplishments. If they feel that honoring a war criminal is an inappropriate way to mark their milestone, they have every right to say so.
Hmm… I seem to be sensing a pattern here. How about No More Mister Nice Blog?
HEY, KIDS, LET’S WATERBOARD TIMOTHY EGAN
Enough of this intellectual pabulum — let’s mix it up! Let’s get some commencement speakers who’ll really challenge these overprivileged snotnoses! Send Ted Nugent to Virginia Tech! Dispatch Donald Sterling to Howard University, or maybe George Zimmerman! And at Brandeis, in place of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, why not see if we can bail out Frazier Glenn Miller? It would be better than (ick! ptui!) political correctness, right?
There’s probably nothing which will ever make the average commencement speech more than a grip and grin opportunity for the faculty and a few of the top performing students. The occasional speaker, however, may sneak through and actually deliver something memorable. But trends like the one we’re seeing again this year will only diminish the chances of that ever happening. Well done, liberals! Free speech for me, but not for thee, eh?