Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Free Speech (not) strikes again at the Ivies

Here's the Harvard Crimson's own report about the hostile reception to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith:

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith ’75 fended off hecklers, protesters, and cries of condemnation last night during a speech defending the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq and strategy in fighting terrorism. Speaking to a largely hostile audience gathered at Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), Feith—the third-highest official at the Department of Defense—addressed issues from civil liberties to the Middle East. In the speech, Feith said the United States must make an effort to delegitimize terrorism by making it an evil as reviled as slavery.
The article very nicely reports the gist of Feith's speech, all of which makes sense to me:
“To defeat our enemies in this war, we will have to do more than disrupt and attack—we’ll have to counter their ideology,” he said. Feith said that the attacks of Sept. 11 exposed the costs of international terrorism. “To protect ourselves physically, we might be compelled to change fundamentally the way we live,” Feith said. In addressing Iraq and Afghanistan, Feith said he hopes “tolerance and compromise” will lead to the creation of more democratic societies in the Middle East. *** Feith dismissed allegations that the United States is forcefully imposing democracy on Middle Eastern countries. “It’s inherently self-contradictory to talk about ramming democracy down someone’s throat,” he said. “We’d like to see people in the area choosing to democratize their countries.” *** But at the event, Feith stood by his agency’s analysis, stating that the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee proved that there was no “systematic pressure” by his agency on the White House to go to war. “In fact, that report gave [the OSP] a completely clean bill of health,” he said. But Feith did identify what he called an “inordinate focus on the WMD issue” as one flaw in pre-war intelligence. “In retrospect, one thinks it might have been better to have a more balanced discussion of all of the elements,” he said.
What the article also points out is the fact that Feith had to fight to speak:
Some audience members flashed peace signs and chanted “1,500 dead because of what you did” in unison during the speech, referring to the latest death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq. *** During the course of the question-and-answer session, an attendee brandished a sign calling Feith a “war criminal,” prompting a Harvard University Police Department to confiscate it. Brooks E. Washington ’06, a board member of the Harvard College Democrats, said that he thought the audience constituted “the most hostile environment towards free speech” that he has ever seen at Harvard. “That’s not the spirit we’re going for at Harvard and I’m quite frankly ashamed of the display I saw tonight,” he said, adding that he personally enjoyed the speech, although he disagreed with some of what Feith said. Kennedy School of Government first-year student Steve W. Aldridge, a supporter of Feith, said that the audience’s behavior was a reaction to Feith’s political affiliation. “I think if the roles were reversed—if you had somebody from the left wing up there—I don’t think you would have seen a whole bunch of conservative students laughing, holding up signs, and jeering and snickering,” he said. “That reflects poorly upon the school.” Before the event, a group of 10 students staged a protest organized by the Harvard Social Forum outside of the IOP’s main doors.
I've always thought it's a sign of the Left's profound intellectual weakness that its members are so desperately afraid of hearing others' ideas. They seem to be unaware of the old saying that "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." That is, if you allow people to air bad ideas, and then intelligently refute them, that exposure to light will destroy those bad ideas more surely than anything else would. The only reason I can think of to muzzle the opposition is because you're afraid that the opposition makes more sense than you do.