Sunday, May 14, 2006

Prove all things, hold fast that which is good

I am proud to say that I was quoted a while ago by the Yale Daily Planet--for which, btw, Clark Kent used to work--on the Kiwi Camara controversy. Someone just pointed this fact out to me, and what I said. My gut feeling is to deny saying any such thing, but the reported statement's sheer incomprehensibility (1) means there's really nothing to deny, and (2) makes it pretty clear that it was indeed I that said it:
This made me feel that we're a long way away from having any serious reconciliation about the issues if a single phrase in a student outline can uncover such venom," he said. "For me, it seems like the free speech value outweighs the need for the University to make clear that it disproves of its speech, because that should be clear from the get go.
I think the words "get go" here are especially revealing. Of something.

I agree with the first part: the fact that Kiwigate would lead to someone emailing a picture of black folks being lynched to the entire YLS community---comparing Kiwi's one word comment on Shelley v. Kramer to blacks strung up and then burnt half-alive---certainly does make me think we're an infinity away from any resolution of the "race issue," since we can't even discuss it. Good God. I also agree with the get-go part. Doesn't anyone believe anymore in John Milton's areopagitic idea that good ideas win out if we let people talk? Hasn't Habermas updated this effectively enough to make it okay for the neophiliacs to endorse it? Are we going to destroy free speech for fear that it will destroy itself? The idea that a prior commitment to publish an unrelated academic paper would be abrogated---and with its abrogation a "teachable moment" missed out on---really tests one's faith in human forgiveness as the fundamental source of progress. As Orson Welles said in Compulsion, an anti-death penalty movie, "It's taken us such a long time to get even where we are..."


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