Thursday, November 01, 2007

An invasion of college sport

Post below lifted from Suitability Flip. See the original for links

David Freddoso at NRO weighs in on a regrettably resurrected attempt to squelch one of the great American collegiate traditions.
I cannot smile upon any attempt to change The Greatest of All Fight Songs for the sake of politically correct whining. I thought we got beyond this gender-neutral nonsense years ago. But our terrible football season at Notre Dame must be contributing to the insanity. I read with only slight alarm this mother-daughter tag-team letter to the daily student newspaper of my Alma Mater, advocating the desecration of our Victory March:
The student body finished off the fight song with, "while her loyal sons are marching onward to victory." Our family, however, finished it off with, "while her loyal sons and daughters march on to victory."
You can technically force those lyrics into the song's tune, but it requires a cudgel to do so. If it was tried in the past as the writers suggest, then I can see why it did not catch on.

As one of the writers is too old, and the other far too young to know, I will fill them in on something they mention in their letter: Notre Dame men pump their fists and shout at the line, "While her loyal SONS are marching." Why is that? It began when I was at Notre Dame (mid-90's) as a small way of resisting some previous lame-brained attempt to make the fight song gender-neutral. Later on, the women - at least the ones with a sense of humor, who do not see life as a power struggle against men - began emphasizing the "HER" in "her loyal sons."
I also attended the University in the mid-90s and remember this lamentable flap. The women in my corner of the student section must've been less well humored, as I remember hearing angry screams of "AND DAUGHTERS!" befouling the majesty whenever the band got to the last line of the fight song.
Here is my plea to the writers of this letter, on behalf of hopelessly unenlightened patriarchalists everywhere: Notre Dame's songs and traditions were not intended to make you feel good about yourself. Please leave them alone. So far, we have been forced to raise our fists on "Sons." Don't make us do something more drastic, like re-name the university after a man.
Indeed, the prospective slope of gender neutralization at Notre Dame is comically slippery. "University of Notre Personne" doesn't even quite get you there, as "personne" is a feminine noun. The fight song mentions "her" 8 times and "sons" twice. Replacing them all with "its" and "offspring" renders it somewhat less lyrical. The idea of slapping the Victory March with revisionist gender neutrality as it prepares to celebrate its centennial would be enough to make the Gipper turn in his grave (if they hadn't dug him up a couple weeks ago).

And I can only imagine the fundraising letters we'd start getting if the administration needs to reclad the two-ton gold-gilded Virgin Mary statue atop the Golden Dome in more androgynous attire.

All the major Notre Dame songs extol the virtues (oops, that's a man-centric prefix... hertues?) of "Notre Dame men answer[ing] the cry" and "the charge of fighting men". The songwriters noted that when "Notre Dame men fight for Gold and Blue" they "sweep the foemen's ranks away".

What's silliest about the campaign to besmirch this century-old tradition is the fact that the letter writers are pleading with student leaders to lobby for the switch on the basis that it would honor their own family's tradition of singing the sensitive version.

Leftist media think women are brainless

The other day French President Sarkozy walked out of a 60 Minutes interview by Leslie Stahl when she tried to ambush him into responding about his personal life. He keeps going up in my estimation.

Here was a rare opportunity for a woman TV journo to ask some substantive questions of the most pro-American, pro-free enterprise, potentially transformative French leader of our time and she chose to turn it into some tabloid dreck. Surely, there's a lesson to be had for her and for women interviewers in that act. If you expect to be taken seriously enough to get interviews with world leaders, then you must do your homework and make it a serious interview. Why fight for the right to be taken seriously in the work place if you, yourself think so little of yourself that you won't do serious work when you're there?

It is interesting to see what making the newsroom more diverse has devolved into: Katie Couric has "perkified" the news only to find her audience leaving in droves. People expect women who reach that level of success to, like you know, get serious.

Another womanpioneer in TV news, Barbara Walters, is spending a lot of time on her show The View, which seems little more than a gab feast of poorly informed chicks beamed at... who? I can't figure out who watches this foolishness or why. There are more women than men at most American colleges and universities.'' And women are taking on higher roles in all the professions and business. Surely, they aren't leaving their work aside to view this ill-informed drivel.

Welfare reform means that there are fewer low income, poorly educated women lounging in front of their sets all day and those who are probably just tuned in when Rosie was cat fighting and Springerizing the show. Maybe the audience is shut ins and the hospital bound who are unable to get their hands on the remote and are too weak to move out of bed and switch the channel to something more entertaining and informative like the Food Channel.

But as mysterious as that demographic is, the audience for high style magazines is even more beyond my comprehension. Magazines and newspaper supplements aimed at middle class women are chock full of useful information -- how to apply for college scholarships, managing money, making appealing and nutritious family meals on a budget, for example.(Though there remains an odd penchant for interposing recipes for high calorie desserts with the latest diet tips.) But uniformly, the more expensive the merchandise advertised in the publication, the more left wing those articles not about decor or fashion are. Check out the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Vogue, and you'll see, alongside Tiffany and Gucci and Bulgari, ads for charter planes, luxurious cars and exotic resorts in far away places, stuff that you'd expect to hear at Berkeley town meetings.

Surely even Dos Passos would blink at the juxtaposition of ads for the $45,000 Vuitton Tribute handbag, shoes and baubles to accessorize your outfit which cost as much as a medical school with calls to arms on whatever is the left's cause of the moment -- from banning all reasonable domestic energy sources in favor of make believe alternatives to tributes to the fraud Rigoberta Menchu..

So, to whom are these articles aimed? Are the second wives of fabulously rich men plotting revolution in their anger at having been forced to sign a pre-nup? Are their daughters cutting their credit cards into silhouettes of Che? Rosa Luxemburg famously said: "Those who do not move do not notice their chains. "

Was she speaking to those women swaddled in golden Chanel links hooked on this mindless pap?

Thomas Lifson adds:

I agree and can only add that this odd juxtaposition of conspicuous consumption and radical posturing demonstrates that for the affluent left, politics amounts to a fashion statement.


The "offence" defence


* Accusing your opponent of causing you offence has become an everyday tactic in public discussion.

* This is a cowardly tactic, which means that you don't have to bother putting your own case, or pointing out the other's flaws.

* This also presents another's opinions as mere `hate' or `phobias', suggesting that your opponent is blind or irrational, and not worth arguing with.

* Against this, we should celebrate the virtues of public argument. It is through arguments that we develop our own ideas, and learn from each other.

* We should avoid playing the `offence card', and continue with the match of public debate.

A series of recent UK laws has restricted speech judged to be offensive to others: the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 banned strong criticisms of religion, while the Terrorism Act 2006 criminalised `indirect incitement' to, or `glorification' of, terrorism. Institutions across the Western world have brought through codes to limit offensive speech, covering everything from dating behaviour to references to another person's socioeconomic status. These developments have been subjected to lively public critique and discussion, with some quite rightly pointing out that there is no right not to be offended, and that open public discussion necessarily involves some rough and tumble.

What has gone relatively unnoticed has been a parallel shift in everyday life: claiming offence has become a normal part of the way people argue in public. Playing the `offence card' has become an almost universal tactic for debate. Rather than arguments being an exchange and competition of views, many discussions now consist largely in the two sides trying to get each other censored. Accusing your opponent of `hate speech', `Islamophobia', `homophobia', `Christophobia' or `anything-else-o-phobia' is now a way of trying to win an argument. Many discussions degenerate into mutual accusation: `You hate us'; `No, you hate us'.

What is now called `hate speech' includes a whole swathe of plain old opinion - from supporting Israel or supporting Palestine, to supporting or opposing the war in Iraq, to religious or moral opinions about sexuality. Discussions become a case of two sides competing to present themselves as the victim. This is all heat and no light: there is little revealed in the exchange, and indeed it is often easy to forget why people are arguing in the first place. It is also unnecessarily fractious, obstructing the possibility of a genuine dialogue, where discussants could learn from each other and clarify their differences.

This Thinkpiece is a plea to kick the crying of `offence' out of public discussion, and for those with strong views to play clean and fair - to concentrate on putting their case, and taking up their opponents' views. Reaching for the `offence' card is a cowardly tactic, a shortcut to the semblance of victory rather than a meaningful argument. It is the debating equivalent of diving in a football match, and should be frowned upon equally.

Playing the `offence card'

Few groups of opinion are immune from the fashion for calling `offence': the same tactic is used by right and left, religious and atheist. Nor does it seem to matter whether a group is large or small, powerful or weak: self-proclaimed victims of offence include everybody from marginal lobbyists to George W Bush, from small sects to established state religions.

In key UK discussions about the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example, the two sides accuse each other of `hate'. In a case at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the Board of Deputies of British Jews delivered a dossier of evidence about anti-Semitic behaviour at SOAS to the school's principal. As a consequence of the board's concerns, the school overturned SOAS student union's decision to elect London Mayor Ken Livingstone (seen as an opponent of Israel) as honorary president, and reprimanded a Muslim student for an article in the student magazine Spirit, in which he supported the Palestinian cause.

In response, an academic defended the student against the ban - by arguing that he was the real victim, a victim of Islamophobia. SOAS academic John Game wrote in an open letter to the school's principal, saying: `Islamophobia in the wider society means that SOAS' "reputation" is under assault. Either one aggressively stands up to such Islamophobia or one decides to sacrifice a few students to it.' (1) The Muslim Council of Britain also claimed that the university's actions were actually Islamophobic.

People seem to be aware that this is an underhand tactic. Facing the accusation of anti-Semitism/Islamophobia/homophobia, many will often complain that this is a `smear' to `silence my opinion'. Yet they seemingly fail to realise that they are playing the same game - and almost invariably finish by claiming that the other camp is the real hate group and that they are the genuine victims.

In a piece titled `Playing the Anti-Semitism card', Asghar Bukhari outlined how Jewish groups pounced on his every utterance as evidence of anti-Semitism. Yet he fires back by accusing them of Islamophobia. `Why should a Muslim be beaten up for it by the press, and demanded they make it clear, when a pro-Israeli Jew could get away with anything about Muslims, often writing for the very Islamophobic press that was so outraged at the Muslim use of lax language!' (2)

One blogger defends his right to criticise Israel, taking up pro-Israeli `efforts to conceal the Israeli spy scandal. behind cries of "hate" and "anti-Semite"'. He argues persuasively that `Israel's supporters constantly spin any criticism of Israel's actions as hate against the Jewish people'. Yet he finishes the article, `But if you want to see REAL hate in action, please read on', proceeding to give a list of Israeli statements about Palestinians that he believes are really offensive (3).

Religious and gay rights groups are engaging in the same dance of death. The gay popstar Elton John has said that he wanted all religion banned, because it `promotes hatred and spite against gays' and turns people into `hateful lemmings'. In response, however, Christians say that the real hate crime is against them. When the EU commissioner for justice was criticised for his comments about gays, and accused of homophobia, he responded by saying that there is `an anti-Christian "inquisition" in the EU': `There is a hate campaign against me.' (4)

Muslim and gay groups fought it out over Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, who has patronised both groups in the past. After Livingstone invited the Muslim scholar Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi to speak in London, gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said: `In the name of fighting Islamophobia the mayor is colluding with homophobia.' (5) Tatchell also criticised Livingstone's reception for the mayor of Moscow, claiming that the Moscow mayor was homophobic and had tacitly supported an assault on a gay rights parade.

In response, Livingstone's press office hit back: `The attempt of Mr Tatchell to focus attention on the role of the grand Mufti in Moscow, in the face of numerous attacks on gay rights in Eastern Europe which overwhelmingly come from right-wing Christian and secular currents, is a clear example of an Islamophobic campaign.' (6) Tatchell's supporters retorted: `Mr Livingstone is clearly determined to treat Islam with kid gloves no matter how stridently homophobic its adherents are. The slightest criticism of Islam is immediately branded Islamophobic.' In these exchanges, we see how discussion reaches a dead end. The claims and counter-claims of offence replace an exchange of views. The discussion becomes increasingly rancorous, but it is an empty tit-for-tat.

Denigrating your opponent

The accusation of `hate speech' or `phobia' characterises an opponent as irrational, and not worth arguing with. Their views are apparently not opinions, to be listened to and debated, but merely the expression of instinctive hate or a knee-jerk phobia.

The first use of `phobia' to describe an opinion was `homophobia', used in the late 1960s. At that time, homosexuality was in some circles still considered a mental illness requiring treatment. Some psychiatrists sympathetic to gay rights turned the tables, and declared that it was heterosexuals who had the mental illness. There was no interval where sexuality was discussed as a matter for morality or ethics: the diagnosis of illness was simply switched from one group to another.

Still, the use of the term `homophobia' remained in the margins until the 1990s, when it was taken up by governments and gay rights groups. It was in the 1990s, too, that other phobias made their appearance, with `Islamophobia' given profile in a 1997 report by the Runnymede Trust. In recent years, there has been a veritable epidemic of phobias, with groups diagnosing their critics as suffering from illnesses including Christophobia, Hinduphobia, Sikhphobia and Hibernophobia (fear of the Irish).

Prior to the epidemic of phobias, opinions - even objectionable ones - were described as `isms' (as in racism, sexism), which could be engaged with and argued against. If you did not agree with somebody's views, you had to explain why, and illustrate their errors. Accusing critics of `hate' or `phobia' suggests that they do not have ideas worthy of recognition, only beastly black bile. Discussion would be like talking spider anatomy with an arachnophobe. They don't need conversation: they need treatment!

Campaigners for complaint

The focus on crying `hate speech' means that lobby groups become organs for complaint. Their role is less to celebrate their own cause, than to present themselves as the victims of their opponents. Muslim organisations now spend very little time talking about the virtues of Islam, or offering moral guidance for a good Muslim life: instead, many have dedicated themselves to unearthing Islamophobia in every nook and cranny, analysing TV coverage and the subtexts of newspaper reports.

Similarly, gay organisations talk less about free love, free choice, or the virtue of love between people of the same sex. Instead they dedicate themselves to highlighting homophobia - for example, by exposing the use of the word `gay' as an insult in school playgrounds and students unions.

It becomes a matter, not of making your own argument, but of dishing the dirt on your opponent. Online, supporters of Palestine or Israel set up their `anti-Semitism watch' or `Islamophobia watch', documenting day-by-day the numerous ways in which the other side is deemed to be insulting them.

Religious groups start to become more interested in other people's services than in their own. In Australia, religious groups sent their representatives into each other's services to gather evidence in order to level claims of hate speech. The Islamic Council of Victoria had delegates in one sermon by the evangelical Catch the Fire Ministries, and took the organisation to court for its unkind references to Islam.

Insult is uncovered in small print. The UK-based Islamophobia Watch was offended by a Human Rights Watch job advert for a position of Sharia adviser for its Women's Rights section - on the basis that Human Rights Watch had not also advertised for Christian and Jewish advisers on women's rights (7).....

More here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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