I suppose that Dinesh D'Souza’s speech at Washington State University late last month was indeed polarizing, as its critics charge. After all, how can you even have poles when only one side of a debate is permitted a voice? As is typically the case on a college campus, every effort was made to shout down a conservative voice and further, to intimidate those who might consider inviting another conservative speaker.
Edward Weber, the director of the WSU’s Thomas S. Foley Public Policy Institute, expressed dismay last week in a Spokane Spokesman-Review guest editorial at the vitriol generated by the appearance of a conservative speaker. The title of Dinesh D'Souza’s speech was "Racism is not the Problem" and in it he argued against racial preferences in public policy. Dr. Weber seemed to have been taken by surprise by the antagonistic response from the left that the speech or even the invitation evoked.
“The question-and-answer period immediately following the talk and ensuing commentary in WSU's campus newspaper, The Evergreen, made clear that many took offense at D'Souza's message, going so far as to accuse D'Souza and, by extension, the Foley Institute, of further polarizing the campus on the issue of race, and accusing the Foley of being irresponsible,” he wrote.
Welcome to my world Dr. Weber. This is WSU, where faculty feel free to confront and attempt to bully the College Republicans for taking a position on a debate that departs from their own. This is WSU where the administration purchases tickets for protestors, with a former president’s approval, so that they can disrupt and shout down a play. This is WSU, where a student of mine once informed me that she and several others had been paid out of state funds to protest a speech. This is WSU where a student was nearly forced out of the College of Education for holding conservative religious beliefs and for wearing a camouflage cap to class.
It was a revealing editorial that everyone should read. In it Dr. Weber admits that he had allowed himself to be intimidated into shunning conservative speakers.
“While no one has ever stopped me from inviting a conservative speaker to WSU, the hegemony of the left-leaning liberal viewpoint is such that the only grief I've ever received from my advisory board or others is when I have invited John Ashcroft, John Sununu, Mr. D'Souza, and a handful of others to campus under the Foley banner. I have never been interrogated or otherwise questioned about any liberal speaker so invited....”
“As a result, I have shied away from inviting too many of "the wrong kind" of intellectual. For that lack of courage I must apologize to all of the conservatives on campus -- students, staff and professors -- and in the surrounding communities of Washington State. I should have fought harder to bring more conservative voices to campus.”
That’s an admission that should leave honest people quaking, but is more likely to cause WSU’s academic lefties to lift their chins high in smug satisfaction. Here is a man who is entrusted with encouraging philosophical conversations and yet confesses that he has allowed himself to be bullied into muzzling one side of the debate. All the while he insists that he believes in the “marketplace of ideas.” He just lacked the courage to stand up for that belief.
And of course, the left does not believe in any marketplace, whether it’s the marketplace of ideas or the marketplace of retail stores. The left believes that it should be making choices for all of us who lack their intellectual capacity and fail to grasp the issues as they do. Stated simply, the left does not trust the great unwashed to arrive at the correct conclusions when presented with both sides, and so only one side should be allowed on the podium.
There is quite an irony to this episode as the former speaker of the United States House of Representatives Thomas Foley himself was not especially tolerant of contrary opinions. Before the voters sent him packing into an earlier than he had planned retirement, he was attempting to shut down conservative talk radio by re-imposing the “Fairness Doctrine.” It wasn’t enough for him that the left either dominated or monopolized all other news and entertainment. In its own way, the Foley Institute has upheld one of its namesake’s doctrines.