It would seem the capacity to confuse freedom of speech with the utterly unrealistic expectation of freedom from the consequences of that speech is a bipartisan thing. Though I firmly believe my conservative friends are far more prone to this particular malady, whenever a fellow liberal goes off on this tedious tangent, they don’t do it halfway.
The best example of what we speak is an op-ed piece by not-quite-hired U of I professor Steven Salaita in yesterday’s Tribune. I say “not-quite-hired” because when the folks in Champaign got wind of the professor’s questionable tweets, they rescinded their job offer.
So Salaita bitterly complained that the University done him wrong and, in the name of all First Amendment holiness, he’s fighting to keep his job and for college faculty and students all across this great nation of ours.
But the professor’s first problem is his repeated use of the words “fired,” “termination,” and “reinstatement,” because, unless you’re in a Seinfeld episode, you have to be hired before you can be fired and then reinstated. Someone needs to tell the professor the difference between a withdrawn offer and a pink slip.
And all Salaita had to do is avoid Twitter for one short month and his pending Board of Trustee approval would’ve been a slam dunk. After that, the unfettered cyber-floor would be his for the tenured taking!
C’mon! Any decent middle school teacher regularly warns their young charges against the indiscriminant use of social media.
Then the professor tried to explain his passionate Twitter outburst by claiming, “I posted tweets critical of Israel’s actions, mourning in particular the death of more than 500 of Gaza’s children.” Considering some of his previous tweets (Yikes!), Hamas aren’t the only ones willing to solicit sympathy on the backs of dead children.
And his short musings were not merely “critical of Israel’s actions” nor did they “ask difficult questions and find answers that challenge conventional wisdom.” They were blatant blanket statements designed to disparage, dismiss and debase.
In light of three murdered Israeli teenagers, one advocated the mass murder of West Bank settlers. Another referred to anti-Semitism as something potentially “honorable,” and a third relegated anyone with the temerity to defend Israel to sub-human status.
So much for the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.
So I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Salaita meant when he said his academic career was being “destroyed over gross mischaracterizations of a few 140-character posts.” Dude! As a former eight-year Sun-Times Media Network opinion columnist who frequently tested the boundaries, even I think you went too far.
Salaita attempted to justify his vitriol by asking us to consider his more moderate tweets and entire body of Twitter work before condemning him. But isn’t that like saying, in order to truly understand me, you have to read the bumper stickers on all seven of my cars? And doesn’t that excuse remind you of the NFL abuser who insists he should be absolved for the latest punch because, yesterday, he bought her flowers?
Then Salaita went on to “clarify” the “true meaning” of two of his oft cited tweets in 619 characters which perfectly demonstrates the inherent peril of being relegated to just 140.
And finally, our intrepid professor claimed this kerfuffle has nothing to do with his exemplary classroom work.
If he was almost-hired by a college that only cared about the classroom, he’d probably still have an almost-job. But even Sheldon Cooper eventurally realized that a university is an expensive proposition that greatly relies upon the kindness of wealthy benefactors. And if you aggravate one or more of those donors, especially when you don’t quite have tenure, it probably won’t turn out too well.
But the most ironic thing in this fascinating scenario is, contrary to Salaita’s hypothesis, it actually proves that unfettered freedom of speech is alive and well.
The professor said exactly what was on his mind without being jailed, tortured, or shot. A couple of wealthy alumni exercised their freedom of speech through their wallets. Sixteen separate U of I departments used their First Amendment rights to vote no confidence in the administration, as did the professors who are boycotting the University, and the students who are staging protests.
All imagined nefarious intentions aside, what I can tell you with certainty is, if any red-blooded American citizen lights up Facebook with comments casting a shadow over their company or their boss this evening, I guarantee you they will not have a job tomorrow.
Better yet, try telling your wife (or girlfriend) those pants really do make her butt look big and see what happens.
We’re talkin’ simple Newtonian cause and effect. There ain’t nuthin’ the least bit McCarthy about any of this.
You see, the real problem is that Professor Salaita isn’t satisfied with freedom of speech. No! What he really wants is freedom from all the consequences of that speech when neither the founding fathers nor the Constitution ever made that kind of promise.
So dude! You’re done! You don’t have a moral leg to stand on. With your talent, I’m sure you’ll catch on somewhere, but it won’t be at the U of I. They’re not going to back down now. Be grateful you learned a tough lesson early enough in life to come back from it.
And lastly, if you truly believe that words should never come with consequences, then why are you teaching?
Had Dante Alighieri written his epic Divine Comedy today, there would be a tenth circle of hell in which the final and most fearful ring would be airports. I cannot imagine a fate worse than that which befell those lost souls attempting to get out of Chicago last weekend.
Standing in an eternal line amidst a mass of desperate travelers as you watch any hope of escape fade like the color from your fellow flyers’ faces, has got to be the very definition of damnation.
Since I’m sure you’ve already read the news stories, suffice it to say that one disgruntled Aurora Air Traffic Center employee just wreaked the kind of national air traffic havoc that the best international terrorist could only dream of.
We don’t have the final word yet, but we do know this “gentleman” wasn’t too happy with some recent staff shakeups and decided to take facility and himself down with it. Luckily, he wasn’t completely successful with either endeavor, though I’m sure the flyers who fear ever having to see the word “canceled” again wouldn’t describe themselves as “lucky.”
But there is a lesson we can take away from this massive misfortune and that message is that this was yet another inside job. There was no terrorist sleeper cell, no Hydra-esque conspiracy to render us as compliant as sheep, and no foreign government intelligence agency doing their damndest to bring us to our knees.
It was just one pissed off guy. And that’s the way it almost always is. Not only does life fall far outside those random parameters, but the term “random violence” is actually an oxymoron.
With one exception in the Amish community, people don’t just walk off the street and start shooting up a school. Every last perpetrator – even those with a mental illness – has had a major connection to their chosen venue. And they typically leave a trail a mile long.
All the Chicago shootings are far from coincidental. The real problem is that some folks will inevitably get caught in all that gang war crossfire.
Our two recent Kane County murders weren’t random. One man stabbed his grandmother over money while the other strangled his wife over an affair. The police know that 80 to 90 percent of murder victims knew their attacker so they always head for family first.
I can understand why my school district moved a bus stop from proximity to a sex offender’s home, but the truth is, virtually every pedophile grooms their victims – sometimes for months – before any actual abuse occurs.
Ed Snowden, the subprime mortgage crash, Enron, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff, Arthur Andersen, and most cases of corporate espionage were all inside jobs. There’s a reason the myth of the nefarious “other” who descends upon Earth’s hapless inhabitants to destroy our cities and steal our beer only happens in H. G. Wells novels and Marvel movies.
And the unyielding irony is, because we’re so willing to buy into it, we’re inviting a far more dangerous form of cultural cancer than the few mass shootings that actually do appear to be random could ever cause. (Though if we had a better mental health care safety net, even those could be eliminated.) Whenever we choose to exist in a state of perpetual unfounded fear, there are always those politicians and panderers more than willing to step in and fill the void.
To wit, the NRA would have us believe there’s a threat around every white suburban corner, while conservative Republicans love to proclaim they’ll “take back our country” from a variety of imagined threats that would make the average paranoid schizophrenic downright jealous.
Meanwhile, while we scan the philosophical horizon for the ubiquitous bad guys who never seem to show up, the folks who whisper in our ear with an arm around our shoulder are making our worst fears come true. It didn’t take a radical Muslim despot to almost destroy our financial system! We accomplished that all by ourselves!
We really gotta start looking in the right direction folks!
So while the TSA has yet to nab a single terrorist, one unhappy employee set a fire and took out O’Hare and Midway airports for the better part of a weekend. And I guarantee you, when the final investigative smoke clears, this event will come as a surprise to absolutely no one.
Though I’m equally convinced that the answer will have to be more guns!
Yesterday, Courier-News reporter Dave Gathman joined for the debate in the WRMN studios and, as usual, he summed up the proceedings up perfectly. But why listen to me ramble on when you can read it for yourself right here!
I would heartily encourage you to read Dave’s work on a regular basis because he’s the last old-school reporter out here and he regularly provides the kind of insights that are sorely lacking in today’s local newspaper coverage.
Again, Larry and I want to thank Jeff Meyer and Anna Moeller for choosing our venue for one of their debates. We also want to thank the candidates for setting the political discourse bar so high. This is the way it should be folks! The vast majority of voters want to hear your thoughts on the issues and not what you think about the other candidate.
And Larry and I hope you listen carefully to this show. You have a real choice here folks – one that doesn’t boil down to the lesser of two evils. There are major differences, subtle differences and outright similarities. You now have the ammunition to choose wisely!
Enjoy the show!
I’m sure you already know today’s 1.5 hour installment of Left, Right and You will feature a debate between 43rd District State Rep candidates Jeff Meyer and Anna Moeller (in alphabetical order).
In that vein, and since the ancillary players are at it again, Larry and I would like to clearly stipulate that neither candidate as much as hinted at any kind of demand before before appearing on the show. In fact, both Anna and Jeff have been very gracious about the entire proceeding.
Larry and I set the debate ground rules before inviting the candidates and, with help from listener JoAnn Armenta and Courier-News reporter Dave Gathman, Larry and I came up with the debate questions ourselves. In an effort to be reasonably thorough and accurate, I read the questions to Oberweis legislative aide Kim Murphy and Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain, both of whom were sworn to secrecy.
We also welcome your debate input at 847-931-1410. Producer Dave Weiser will take your calls and pose your questions.
That’s Left, Right and You, today at 3 p.m. on WRMN AM1410. We certainly hope you’ll join us!
Have I mentioned that a good political friend likes to say that whenever any red-blooded American runs for office, they immediately slough off 30 percent of their brain cells? Considering my own experiences with candidates (and one in particular), I’d actually put it a lot closer to two-thirds of ‘em.
While there are certainly those political hopefuls who are so nuts out of the gate that any intellectual descent would be difficult to discern, it’s amazing how normally rational adults lose their minds the minute they throw their hat in the ring.
Much like it is with a multi-car crash, whenever one of these well-intentioned folks goes completely off the rails, you really don’t wanna look, but can’t keep your eyes off it either. And the current state of the Rauner campaign is a particularly perfect example of this phenomenon.
Beset by the slow Chinese water torture drip of the ongoing GTCR nursing home federal bankruptcy trial, Bruce’s people decided they needed to change the conversation.
The problem with their obfuscation theory is, you can only take advantage of the average voter’s short attention span if the story ain’t in the bleepin’ Tribune every single bleepin’ day. When faced with that kind of coverage, your only option is to face reporters head on, answer their questions, and do your damndest to put it to bed.
We all know that ain’t exactly Rauner’s forte. C’mon! This is the guy who barred some eager Columbia College journalism students from one of his press conferences.
So instead of taking that bull by the horns, those great Rauner campaign minds got together and decided to go Willie Horton on us by attacking a Quinn early release program in which a purported parolee shot and killed 9 year-old Chicagoan Antonio Smith.
The only problem with that contention was, it was actually the Illinois Department of Corrections who turned this guy loose after serving half of a 3.5 year gun-related sentence. And they used a state law that applies to all convicts who can earn time off for good behavior – not an early release program.
Not only that, but after correctly determining he’d have to appeal to moderate Democrats to prevail, I can’t figure out how Rauner thought the Horton tactic would help him. Republicans fall for it all the time, but they’re gonna vote for him anyway. Meanwhile, the vision of George H. W. Bush appealing to our lower angels still leaves a bad taste in many Dems’ mouths.
Even more baffling, in an effort to win black votes, the Rauner campaign resorted to the audio from a 1987 interview in which the late Harold Washington explains why he fired then Chicago Revenue Director Pat Quinn.
Oh lord! First, we’re talking about something that occurred 27 years ago. Second, Dan Hynes did the same thing during the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary only to have it blow up in his face. And most importantly, third, you have to believe Pat Quinn was competent to begin with for this to work. So in the end, Mayor Washington is only telling us something we already know.
Meanwhile, like legionnaires lost in the desert, Illinois voters are dying for a drop of sanity in a state that’s teetering on the edge of a fiscal abyss. But instead of hammering that message home and providing some sort of sentient solution, Rauner, like most Republicans, would rather attack his opponent instead.
And they aren’t even very good attacks!
When pressed by reporters for particulars, instead of providing details, Rauner loves to respond with “I’ve been successful at everything I’ve ever done!” Bruce! I hate to have to tell you this, but you’re about to find out exactly what failure feels like!
Hey radio fans! The reason there was no new blog post yesterday is because Larry and I were hunkered down in the Left, Right and You bunker doing our damndest to come up with some great debate questions. And with a little help from our friends, we believe we did just that.
So we want to thank listener Jo Ann Armenta for wading in via LeftRightandYou@hotmail.com with three cogent questions. And crack Courier-News reporter Dave Gathman came up with the kind of potential topic list that can only be called “comprehensive!” Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty!. We certainly won’t have time to touch on all of them, but we’ll do our best to get as many in as possible. Thanks Dave!
Of course, we’re talking about the 43rd District State Rep Left, Right and You debate between Jeff Meyer and Anna Moeller tomorrow, September 25, at 3 p.m. on WRMN AM1410.
If you’re so moved, please call 847-931-1410 and producer Dave Weiser might just ask your question on the air. Larry and I hope you’re looking forward to tomorrow just as much as we are!