The Dartmouth Observer

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Wednesday, August 28, 2002
I have updated this post as there was some information that I did not expound clearly and some typos in the presentation. A new ending has been also added.

Who's Afraid of Partisanship: A Dartmouth Student's Reply to Just Criticism

Even though I obviously borrowed the title of this entry from the title of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, I shall not adopt the same tone in this piece as he did in his. I am happy to see that there is a link on this site from Campus Nonsense. I would be as equally happy if it were a link from say the Nation or the Village Voice. We are also on Google, which is arguably more conservative than Campus Nonsense because if you type in a search term there may be links to conservative sites also. I would make fun of Tim save for three restrictions: 1. this is a public forum, 2. We have never met things could be misinterpreted and 3. People in the world exist who think that ABC news is conservative. (To be equally fair, one of my friends told me that Thomas Sowell espouses left-wing nonsense even though said friend is Democratic.)

However, to address another question that I have yet to answer from Tim's post "Who's Afraid of Partisanship?" One starry and warm night, two people: a certain editor on campus and the distinguished founder of the Southern Society, Mr. B. E. Fuller, suggested to me that there is nothing wrong with politics (and partisanship) as these provide the basis for our thinking. They suggested that I was being somewhat dishonest or naive in believing that an opinion driven blogmagazine could be free of partisanship. Fair enough. To answer them and Tim: I am not afraid of partisanship; I do, however, have a problem with any political position that assumes that their truths are apparent in a multicultural democracy.

This critique stands for both the "progressives" and the classical liberals (although often called conservatives today for some strange reason.) In a democracy every position, from the progressive to the religious fundamentalists, must undergo strict scrutiny. To often, the progressive elite, with their ever-growing monopoly on our society's discourse, and the multiculturalists (I would add push-overs here but then I would be being polemical for no reason), prefer to make "safe-spaces" for differences so that they will not be questioned. These safe-spaces, ghettos by any other name, prevent differences from confronting each other and add to the atmosphere of fear that already surround these differences. In democratic culture, we cannot afford to have any belief, regardless of the false dichotomy of the public/private sphere, reproducing without being questioned. This is the problem I have with the partisanship of Fox "News" where a liberal and a conservative go at it, not by questioning their values and engaging in a process of learning, but by reasserting their obvious truths loudly between commerical breaks.

I have also observed what a postmodernist, or a lover of turgid prose, would call the "foxification of campus discourse." (I couldn't resist.) Certain words, even by the inquiring minds, cannot be uttered on campus, and certain dialogues are not permitted to happen. Once, when I was presiding over Agora in the spring, we were having a discussion about race and racism. Some non-PC ideas were uttered (are blacks lazy, one Pakistani student asked) and the attacks began. Luckily, I can be imposing when I want to and the Thought Police were executed upon their entrance into the room. Instead of the name-calling and buzzwords that come with partisan bickering (reverse racism, diversity, racism, stereotypes, "education-needed", anti-Semite), we had an honest discussion about the relationship of success to immigration and the ratio of hard work to monetary success.

Another example of this happened when two professors were visiting the Malcolm X Center, also known as Cutter-Shabazz, and I asked "Why do we criticize whites with penises for their privilege, heap mounds of guilt upon them, but not allow them to engage in a dialogue with us due to this Edward Said type idea (presented in his book Oreintalism) that differences are incommunicable across racial, religious, and ethic barriers?" After the initial shock of the "people of color" and "whites" in the room, an honest discussion ensued after two hours of niceties and identity BSing.

My last example of ugly partisanship was in the D op/ed by Sam Stein in reaction to the Grossman comments on He issued a call to the progressive community reinforcing the pernicious lie that anyone who doesn't march to the multicultural; difference-worship is a "regressive racist." The implication from his article and the long and hypersensitive email that went out is that the conservative and moderate elements of campus are incapable of being outraged at racism.

It is this partisanship that I am afraid of: the kind that does not allow room for moral learning because they partisan worlds we have constructed for ourselves may be too easily broken by the facts.