Monday, May 22, 2006

# Posted 9:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO MUCH IRONY EVEN FOR NEW YORK INTELLECTUALS: Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you should know that the Weekly Standard now has a first-rate blog written by Dan McKivergan. I met Dan a couple of weeks ago and had a great time talking to him.

Ten days before John McCain spoke at the New School graduation, Dan pointed to this quote from an organizer of student opposition to McCain's presence:
"This ceremony is supposed to represent the culmination of these students' experience at a school that is known for being progressive, liberal, and open-minded," she said. "For the speaker not to represent these values at all is appalling."
Dan commented:
So we're "progressive, liberal, and open-minded" but we only want to hear from those we agree with. Wonder if they offer an introductory course in logic at the New School?
I'm not sure I could come up with such an absurdly ironic quotation if I tried. And to add to the irony of it all, the emphasis of McCain's commencement addresses at Liberty College, the New School and Columbia has been on tolerating dissent and promoting civil dialogue.

On top of that, throw in the pathetic and disrespectful heckling of McCain while he delivered his speech. Now, I don't mind at all that Jean Rohe, the student speaker at the New School commencement chose to attack McCain rather than talking about her music. K.Lo describes it as "rude", but that's exactly the rough-and-tumble-dialogue McCain welcomed in his remarks.

In fact, if you look at Rohe's remarks, they are a testament to just how successful McCain was at forcing civility on those who might be otherwise inclined. Rohe said that:
Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak...

Finally, Senator Mc Cain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace.
Well, I sort of fear Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and various folks in Darfur, but I think you get the point. Somehow, a Republican senator wound up as the poster child for tolerance while self-professed liberal dissenters sought to shout him down.

And at the same time, McCain plays to the GOP base by showing just how much lefty wing-nuts resent him. Ya think McCain's staff payed those students to heckle him?
(11) opinions -- Add your opinion

No mention of McCain's Chief of Staff's response? There is a bit of irony in it as well, re. 'civil dialogue'.
"So, let me leave you with this. Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it very unlikely any of you will ever posses the one small fraction of the character of John McCain."
"Ya think McCain's staff payed ..."?
Pedantic rejoinder: No, but they *might* have PAID them.
Stupid rejoinder: Paid them with what? Oven-ready fries?
The quote is worse than being absurdly ironic, though it is no doubt that as well. It is pragmatically contradictory, as when one whispers "I'm screaming!" And there's no need for logic classes to understand that, either. Commonsense and adequate English skills ought to be enough.
So the argument here is that, if someone who is anti-war does not want his or her college graduation ceremony to be used as a platform for a canned pro-war political speech by a presidential aspirant, we can safely conclude that this person is close-minded and never wants to hear from people with opposing viewpoints?

That's your take on the hecklers, which you seem to share with The Corner & the Weekly Standard. On Rohe, you guys seem to disagree. Either her speech was highly inappropriate, in which case she is responsible for making it and her rudeness is a perfect sign of what's wrong with the left, or else it was completely appropriate, in which case John McCain is responsible for her making it and he deserves the credit for producing an open and civil dialogue. I guess that we can add this to the Glenn Greenwald file, alongside the startling InstaFact that pro-war students who heckle an anti-war politician during his graduation speech are compelled to do so by the vileness of the speaker, while anti-war students who heckle a pro-war politician during his graduation speech are acting out of their own vileness.
Two quick points, Blar. First, it's one thing to be anti-war and therefore oppose the invitation to McCain. It's another thing to declare oneself to be open-minded and then oppose the invitation to McCain because he doesn't share your opinion of the war. That, I believe, is precisely the point Dan McKivergan was making.

Second, with regard to hecklers, I don't see how anyone interested in open-mindnesness and civil dialogue can favor heckling. My point was never that heckling represents the sort of dialogue McCain wants. Rather, passionate (albeit misguided) speeches like Jean Rohe's are what he wants.
I do not defend the hecklers, but after reading the text of the speech, I think that McCain is hardly faultless. About half of it was appropriate to a graduation ceremony; the rest seemed like an overtly political excercise with an eye towards '08.

The text reads like he had a commencement address ready, then added some filler material from the back of his file drawer. Parts of it were excellent (such as the section on his own sense of infallibility when he graduated from Annapolis), but much of it had the feeling of a recycled campaign speech. If he had stuck to the former, then the irony would have indeed been that much thicker.
David, my point is that there is a subtle but important difference between only wanting to hear from people who share your values and objecting to a speaker at your graduation ceremony who doesn't represent your values and is giving a stump speech for the run-up to his 2008 presidential campaign. The former is closed-minded and wrong, the latter more ambiguous, and the latter in no way implies the former.

I'm not sure what your second point is responding to - maybe you thought that my comments on Rohe were also meant to apply to the hecklers? Again, The Corner & Weekly Standard seem to think that Rohe's speech was wrong and her fault, you seem to think that it was fine and to John McCain's credit, and Glenn Greenwald provides further topical examples of this kind of convenient flexibility in assigning responsibility.

I should also note that you, McCain and the others who are criticizing the hecklers for being rude cowards and so forth are failing to acknowledge that the format of the graduation ceremonies gave them no opportunity to respond in any way other than booing, shouting out things like "We're graduating, not voting!", and holding up signs that said things "Our commencement is not your platform." They had no chance to engage in civil debate with McCain because McCain wasn't there to engage in civil debate with them, he was there to give a speech which would help him politically.
No chance to engage in civil debate? They had a student speaker to blast McCain on their behalf.

And that's only in the narrow context of the ceremony itself. At a presidential debate, does the audience get to heckle because it has no official speaking role? Of course not. It gets to blog or argue around the water cooler or whatever.

With regard to Glenn Greenwald's post, he seems to nail Gateway Pundit but really misses the larger point. It's ridiculous to compare the New School hecklers to purple band-aids at the GOP convention. The latter my be distasteful, but they weren't trying to prevent Kerry from speaking at his own rally.
The latter my be distasteful, but they weren't trying to prevent Kerry from speaking at his own rally.

And the New School hecklers weren't trying to prevent McCain from speaking at-- at this event. McCain still got to give his speech just as he'd written it, and just as he'd delivered it at Liberty University, albeit with interruptions. And this event wasn't supposed to be a John McCain rally or a Presidential debate, it was supposed to be the students' graduation ceremony. That was kind of the point of their protest.
Good for you Blar! You really have the gist of it in pricking the bubble of the self-riteous. Obviously the students were set-up by the McCain campaign and by their own College President. BTW- I love that blog remark about being afraid of some of those guys in Darfur. Yup-- those "bad guys" are getting ready to come over here and attack us!! Get real Oxblog
David, Glenn's larger point is that "Thou shalt not heckle" is not a commandment, and that those who are pretending that it is are just continuing the practice of opportunistically adopting principles of civility when they help them spin stories about the "angry left" and setting such principles aside when they're inconvenient. The purple band-aids comparison is just one of many examples of this, and it's mainly in there to counter the invocation of McCain's war hero status.

Anon, my take on the McCain campaign's scheming is a little different. McCain was delivering the speech at Falwell's school in order to try to win over that part of the base, and his campaign decided that he'd give a commencement speech at a liberal school as well in order to counter the charge that he was pandering. In order to emphasize his integrity and further weaken the charge of pandering, they had him deliver the exact same address at both schools. If the New School speech went off without a hitch, as I think they would have preferred, then they would've used it to bolster his centrist cred, along with his reputation for widespread popularity and electability. If it met with opposition from the students, they could instead use it to further shore up support among the base by making the case that we're hearing now about how the unhinged left hates and disrespects him, etc. The students didn't want to be used as props in McCain's presidential campaign, so they put together a response (with pins, armbands, banners, talking points, petitions, Rohe's speech, and so on, though these elements were not all centrally planned or coordinated) that easily escaped the first horn of the dilemma, but they got caught by the second, and now we're seeing quite clearly how their commencement is being used as a prop in McCain's presidential campaign (as if they'd been paid, as some have put it). Many are portraying their response as mindless heckling and efforts to shout McCain down, and they're claiming that this response to McCain's speech proves that these students never listen to anyone who disagrees with them, are passing up opportunities to learn, etc., etc. If they'd been savvier political operatives (rather than, you know, college students) I think that they would've restrained the protest a bit, perhaps keeping the Rohe speech and the banners and armbands and petitions, but having the entire audience listen to McCain's speech in silence, without any applause, boos, or heckling. That would've made it harder for McCain and the other conservatives to use the spin that we're hearing now.
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