Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Muzzlewatch vs. Consequences

Muzzlewatch’s Commander-in-Chief Cecilie Surasky returns to the issue of the UC Irvine students who decided to shout down Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, when he attempted to speak on campus last spring. Having never brought herself to consider the irony of a web site allegedly dedicated to free speech having nothing to say when her allies deny that right to those with whom they disagree, Surasky again chooses to focus on the punishment allotted to the Muzzlers.

At least this time, she’s dealing with realty vs. speculation, although the punishment meted out by the Irvine administration (suspension of the group responsible for the incident – the Muslim Student Union or MSU –for one year, plus a year on probation) could very likely be turned around via appeal or even legal challenge. The ability of the Middle East dispute to generate actual hard costs (in the form of legal bills) to student government is just one more aspect of the expensive chaos that tends to ensue when Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP – the organization that actually works the Muzzlewatch hand-puppet) decides to import the Arab-Israeli conflict into every institution in the land.

When reviewing Muzzlewatch’s selectivity on campus muzzling mattes previously, I pointed out my personal discomfort with campus administrators telling students what they could and could not say while also commenting on the challenges such administrators face when one person (or group) decides that their own free speech rights include the right to harass, intimidate, or put a halt to the free speech of others.

JVP/Muzzlewatch (as usual) also misses a bigger picture in which the type of debate they have dragged into campus after campus has a 100% track record of coarsening conversation, turning student against student, dividing the school along racial and religious lines, leading inexorably to a poisoned college atmosphere that administrators (not JVP) must deal with.

Naturally, Surasky presents “context” for the Irvine decision by pointing out a number of alleged (and undocumented) instances where people with whom JVP does not agree (supports of Israel, Republicans) supposedly behaved in ways Muzzlewatch’s friends always do. (And just as naturally, she hides this unproven set of accusation behind the quote from someone else, in this case the MSU’s lawyer.)

But even presuming these accusations are true, shouldn’t that trigger some spark of reflection on the part of those behind Muzzlewatch regarding the degeneration of discourse on our campuses to which they have contributed so much? When I attend events that require me to run a gauntlet of protestors (or cops), and have to pull myself closer to the stage to hear over protestor’s bullhorns, it depresses me that another place where a conversation could have taken place has been turned instead into an infantile shouting match.

Is there any similar sentiment to be found at Muzzlewatch? Any thought that their activity (including attempts to accuse critics of censorship for having the temerity of criticizing them) might be doing more harm than good? Not a chance. Just the usual self-righteousness and childish attempts to restate their ongoing case which can be boiled down to: “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”

1 comment:

  1. I don't read everything Muzzlewatch writes every day for the same reason I don't listen to the Emergency Broadcast audio signal every day, but there are three general facts about MW that interest me: the best commentaries there (not necessarily ones I agree with, but coherent and well-written arguments) are quoted from other sources and not written by Cecille S.; examples of past behavior that excuses MW favorites tend to be as non-specific as possible for locations, dates, etc.; and the bar for self-introspection is amazingly low for a site that spends so much of its time demanding that other sites spend most of their time doing exactly that.


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