Friday, 9/26/14

  1. Free speech at Berkley 50 years later
  2. Neologism alert
  3. One cheer for Ted Cruz
  4. Channeling a demeaning caricature of Reagan
  5. Christian Philosemitism in action is sectarian
  6. Karen Armstrong calls “Bullshit!”
  7. Politician Serenity Prayer
  8. Banned in Boston (and Bangor, and Kennebunk and …)


The great irony is that while Berkeley now honors the memory of the Free Speech Movement, it exercises more thought control over students than the hated institution that we rose up against half a century ago.

How did this Orwellian inversion occur? It happened in part because the Free Speech Movement’s fight for free speech was always a charade. The struggle was really about using the campus as a base for radical politics.

Unlike our old liberal professors, who dealt respectfully with the ideas advanced by my generation of New Left students, today’s radical professors insist on ideological conformity and don’t take kindly to dissent by conservative students. Visits by speakers who might not toe the liberal line—recently including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Islamism critic Aayan Hirsi Ali —spark protests and letter-writing campaigns by students in tandem with their professors until the speaker withdraws or the invitation is canceled.

On Oct. 1 at Berkeley, by contrast, one of the honored speakers at the Free Speech Movement anniversary rally on Sproul Plaza will be Bettina Aptheker, who is now a feminist-studies professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Writing in the Berkeley alumni magazine about the anniversary, Ms. Aptheker noted that the First Amendment was “written by white, propertied men in the 18th century, who never likely imagined that it might apply to women, and/or people of color, and/or all those who were not propertied, and even, perhaps, not citizens, and/or undocumented immigrants. . . . In other words, freedom of speech is a Constitutional guarantee, but who gets to exercise it without the chilling restraints of censure depends very much on one’s location in the political and social cartography. We [Free Speech Movement] veterans were too young and inexperienced in 1964 to know this, but we do now, and we speak with a new awareness, a new consciousness, and a new urgency that the wisdom of a true freedom is inexorably tied to who exercises power and for what ends.”

Read it and weep—for the Free Speech Movement anniversary, for the ideal of an intellectually open university, and for America.

(Sol Stern in the Wall Street Journal, from a forthcoming article at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal)


Neologism noted: Los Angeles Times refers to “New Atheist” Sam Harris as a “god-free thinker.”

“Free.” Nice touch.


All of these claims about his critics were completely and laughably untrue, and Cruz’s interview produced a quick backlash from these conservatives that reacted poorly to being falsely accused of bad faith and of having biases they don’t possess. Faced with the backlash, he quickly backed away from the failed attempt to vilify his critics and offered an apology. Nonetheless, he confirmed in the process that he was perfectly willing to make false accusations and misrepresent the views of his critics in order to portray himself as some sort of bold truth-teller.

(Daniel Larison) So one cheer for the apology and two boos for spewing garbage, from deep within his ambitious, demagogic self, in the first place.


Cruz’s view is more or less what Paul Miller described as “killing lots of people and then going home,” except that the approach Cruz favors would make it unlikely that the second part–going home–ever happens. Cruz really does represent the worst of both worlds in that he wants to intervene in the affairs of other countries while remaining oblivious and indifferent to their political realities. That isn’t a “middle ground” between Bush and Obama or between McCain and Paul, but rather a dangerous and mindless foreign policy of “shoot first and don’t ask any questions.” It’s as if Cruz looked back at the caricature of Reagan that Reagan’s opponents created and chose to become that caricature in real life.

(Daniel Larison)


“Philosemitism” might be wrong if you’re talking ideology, but the ten Boom family protected Jews during the Holocaust and paid dearly for it. New their story is too “sectarian”:

Joel Miller brings us the shocking story of a Temecula, California charter school that ordered removed from its shelves The Hiding Place, the fantastic memoir of Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian woman who was sent, along with her father and sister, to a concentration camps for the crime of hiding Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland. Pacific Justice Institute, the Christian religious rights group that wrote to ask school leaders to reverse its ban, reported the following response from theSprings Charter Schools superintendent:

Last week, the Superintendent of Springs Charter Schools, Dr. Kathleen Hermsmeyer, ignored the precedent in PJI’s letter and instead insisted, “We . . . do not allow sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves.”

The Holocaust Museum understands that Corrie and her family did what they didbecause of their Christian faith. You cannot understand why the ten Booms did what they did without understanding that they did it out of faith conviction. Yet these small-minded California bigots with their mindless laïcité find Corrie’s Christian faith intolerable. They deny schoolchildren the opportunity to learn about one of the great acts of moral heroism of the 20th century.

(Rod Dreher)

UPDATE: The charter school is sorta kinda defending itself and drawing murky distinctions. Stay tuned.


It slips so easily off the tongue. In fact, it’s a modern mantra. ‘Religion causes all the wars.’ Karen Armstrong claims to have heard it tossed off by American psychiatrists, London taxi-drivers and pretty much everyone else. Yet it’s an odd thing to say. For a start, which wars are we talking about? Among the many causes advanced for the Great War, ranging from the train timetables on the continent to the Kaiser’s withered left arm, I have never heard religion mentioned. Same with the second world war. The worst genocides of the last century — Hitler’s murder of the Jews and Atatürk’s massacre of the Armenians (not to mention his expulsion and massacre of the Greeks in Asia Minor too) — were perpetrated by secular nationalists who hated the religion they were born into. The long British wars of the 18th and 19th centuries — the Napoleonic wars and the Seven Years’ War — were cheerfully fought by what Wellington called ‘the scum of the earth’ for land and empire, not for the faiths to which they only nominally belonged.

We have to go back to the 17th century and the Wars of Religion to find a plausible candidate ….

(Ferdinand Mount, Religion does not poison everything – everything poisons religion, review of Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence) H/T The Browser, by the way. I’ve been lax about all the credit it should get.


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Oh, yeah, God: And the serenity to know that some of the things I cannot change are simply beyond the reach of politics, not just that I don’t have enough votes to pass it over the obstruction of the other Party.


Just to round things out with number 8 (my template allows 8 before I play with it), an historic oddity from 84 years ago, an interview with the man who probably created some of the “Banned in Boston!” advertisements, the official Censor of New England. H/T The Browser again.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.