First Amendment Forum, again Friday, Apr 16 2010 

Today I was able to attend one of the presentations that was a part of the First Amendment Forum on campus, put together by the SCSU Society of Professional Journalists, the Department of Mass Communications, the St. Cloud Times, and others. The topic of the presentation that I attended was “Protecting Journalism in the Era of Dying Newspapers and Social Networking.” Though the topic was about the death of newspapers and the rise of online content and social networking, most of the panelists discussed how they were using or had used social media to complement their writings as journalists, reporters, or editors. However, once the discussion was opened to those in attendance, the issue of the death of traditional media was brought up.

Namely, the issue of charging for online content was brought up. This issue is the same issue that I had addressed in an earlier blog post and letter to the University Chronicle. I didn’t bring it up, but I believe the person who did was the same person I wrote my post in response to (that is, Kyle Stevens). The person asked the panel what they thought about the media charging for online content.

A salient point that one of the panelists (Ramla Bile) brought up was that charging for the news online introduces some problems in that doing so bars certain people (namely the poor) from accessing the news. Bob Collins, who works for Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), said he really wished the Star Tribune would start charging people to read online content, because he believed doing so would drive more people to MPR. Adam Hammer of the St. Cloud Times likened it to the music industry, and the challenges they faced with the digitization of music and the piracy of said music. He explained how people became accustomed to listening to music through digital media, and it was Apple who recognized this and created iTunes to provide a legal channel through which people could access this digital music.

Of course, there’s the other side of this issue. The content wasn’t produced without a cost. How are the media supposed to make money if they can’t charge people to view their content? Both views are valid. We need to balance the ability to make a profit through producing important news and the necessity of not pricing people out of the market for this important news. In other words, we want people to get paid for doing good journalism, but we don’t want to bar people from accessing this journalism simply because they can’t afford it.

Some people might just respond that if people can’t afford something, they don’t deserve it. If you can’t pay for it, why should I give it to you? The problem with this argument, however, is that important news is not just another commodity to be bought and sold. The news, as I have always said, is a cornerstone of democracy. (In economics, it might be called a public good.) Scholars and political theorists have long recognized that a free and vibrant press is the foundation of civic society and liberal democracy. This is what differentiates online news from, say, online music in Hammer’s example. Music is important, yes, but not necessarily a requisite for a functioning democracy.

The question, thus, becomes whether we want to limit the dispersion of knowledge and important news or if we want to make it as free and vibrant as possible. This is where I disagree with Stevens. He believed we should charge for online content, which would have the effect of pricing people out of the market for important news. As I said, though, we need to consider the fact that the content was not produced for free and there is a certain necessity to generate a revenue to at least cover the costs of making such important news available. The suggestion I made, basing my argument off the work of Robert McChesney and John Nichols in their book The Death and Life of American Journalism, was that there be a public subsidy for independent journalism. Both McChesney and Nichols present several convincing arguments in support of their case. A public subsidy for independent (that is, not corporate) news would solve the aforementioned balancing issue; the cost of producing important news would be paid for, and accessing this content would be kept free, allowing for the greatest number of people to access vital information.

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Unfree news Saturday, Feb 27 2010 

Note: This a much longer version of a letter I submitted to the University Chronicle in response to Kyle Stevens. It did not appear in this week’s edition, but perhaps it will next week’s in the edition following spring break (darn!). I’ll update this post with a link if it is.

Update: I was expecting my letter to be published in this Monday’s edition of the University Chronicle. It seems the opinions editor is unaware of any reason why it was not published in this edition and promised to publish in next week’s edition and upload it online as soon as possible. I’ll post another update with a link as soon as there is one.

Update 2: The letter was published in this week’s edition of the University Chronicle. You can read it online here.

In an opinion published in the February 22 edition of the University Chronicle, Kyle Stevens argues that The New York Times charging readers to see articles on their Web site is “good news.” People who do not subscribe to the newspaper will have to pay a fee to get unlimited access to NYT online articles sometimes in early 2011, according to Stevens. Though Stevens admits “this does not qualify as ‘good’ news” for the general public, he says “this is ‘great’ news” for the media industry. The reason, he argues, is that when The New York Times began to provide free news on their Web site in 2007, small papers like the St. Cloud Times had “to play the same game.” In other words, other newspapers also had to provide free content in order to effectively compete in the market. Apparently, the news industry couldn’t survive off of this model, and now with this change “maybe the news industry can be saved,” says Stevens. This “fee-to-see format,” says Stevens, “makes so much sense that I cannot believe it has happened.”

Does it make so much sense?

We know that a free and vibrant press is a cornerstone of civic society and liberal democracy. The spread of information, knowledge, discussion is essential for any healthy society. The question is whether we want to limit this dispersion or if we want to make it as free and vibrant as possible.

Knowledge is what economists call a “public good” in the technical literature. Thomas Jefferson wrote that ideas have a “peculiar character” in that “no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening mine.” In economics, that is the idea of a non-rivalrous good. Your possession of knowledge does not hamper or diminish mine. Therefore, we ought to spread knowledge and ideas as widely as possible. Yet, setting up fees to read the news does not accomplish this goal. Hampering the spread of knowledge creates an economic inefficiency. There is a better outcome, which is to make the news as dispersed as much as possible, to share it freely. Therefore, making the news more expensive does not generate a favorable outcome, and Stevens acknowledges this when he states “this does not qualify as ‘good’ news” for the general public. Yes, it might help a handful of private corporations maximize their profit (as Stevens correctly points out), but it does not benefit the whole of society.

Helping large corporations maximize their profits often does not produce the most economically efficient or socially desirable outcome. As many media critics are quick to point out, the interests of large corporate media are not aligned with the interests of a vibrant and democratic society.

In this sense, the ownership of the media has a substantial influence on the output of the media. This is a core thesis of the propaganda model developed by Herman and Chomsky in their 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent, as I’ve discussed in an earlier post. Our dominant source of information is increasingly being controlled by fewer and fewer large multinational corporations. That has an effect on the output, and we experience it on a daily basis. The propaganda model has strong explanatory power.

Explains John Nichols, “The primary one is that the people who own most of the newspapers are not interested in civic or democratic values. They’re interested in commercial and entertainment values, and primarily to make a lot of money.” And it these large oligopolistic corporations that are being subsided and supported by government, through copyrights, Communications Act of 1934, and so on. Furthermore, according to Robert McChesney, this is “encouraged by the corruption of the U.S. political system, in which politicians tend to be comfortable with the status quo and not inclined to upset powerful commercial media owners and potential campaign contributors. The dominant media firms enjoy the power to control news coverage of debates over media policies; this is a power they have used shamelessly to trivialize, marginalize, and distort opposition to the status quo.”

The pre-capitalist Framers of our nation readily understood that the media are to function as a prevailing counterbalance to corporate and state power. In other words, the media are meant to give the people an independent voice. Now, however, we cannot speak of corporate influence on the media, because the media are the huge corporations. They are one and the same. And when you think of the media as agenda setters, which they are, the result is what’s been referred to as a “democratic deficit,” namely because “it was understood that if you just let wealthy people run the media system, it would serve only wealthy people, not viable democratic self-government.”

Well, now there is a crisis that is widely recognized, especially by people like Stevens and those in the media businesses, particularly in the printed press. It’s been referred to as the “death of newspapers.” Small, independent newspapers, local papers, and even some of the big dailies, are closing down or firing thousands of journalists each month. The problem is real and it’s a threat to a healthy democratic process. The reasons for it are numerous and fairly apparent. The real question is what we should do about it. Stevens offers one solution, which is to make the big newspapers like The New York Times less accessible to the general public so that smaller papers like the St. Cloud Times can have a chance. I don’t think this is the optimal solutions for the reasons I’ve already laid out. But there remains a definite problem where the printed news media are struggling to stay alive. It seems reasonable to make people charge more for good journalistic news, because it’s not free to produce. You have to balance the budget somehow.

There are alternatives to increasing charges (which is not likely to save the printed press), and two leading media scholars offer some in their book, The Death and Life of American Journalism. The subject of their book deals with the problems of the current state of affairs in the media and journalism, and how we can overcome the current crisis that the media face. This was also the subject of a fascinating interview the two authors had that aired on PBS last month. Had I not watched that interview last month, I probably would have thought nothing of Stevens’ letter. But Nichols and McChesney offer an alternative to Stevens’ argument, which I think is both sensible and pragmatic. What they suggest is subsidizing independent journalism. I can’t do their proposal much justice here, so I implore you to listen to the interview or buy their book (both of which I linked to above).

Obviously, the idea of a government subsidy makes a lot of people uneasy, and not just right-wingers who want to see the government disappear. There are concerns by people who think the government getting involved in the media would be akin to something like state media or, at the very least, government meddling in the generation of opinions and ideas. This, too, would be very unhealthy for a democracy. These concerns are addressed by Nichols and McChesney and they offer solutions to prevent any of this from happening. And the reason they urge a government subsidy for journalism is for the same reason that the Founding Fathers were very aware of. A free press is meaningless without a vibrant press. This was instantly recognized by the key Framers of the United States. So, for example, there were debates in early American history about how to subsidize the press, to ensure the democratic process flourished. And the government offered many subsidies to the press, one of the primary ones being postal subsidies. Congress debated how little presses should be charged for postal services. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, thought the debate was nonsense. He thought there should be no charge, that it should be completely subsidized by the government, because anything less would interfere with the free flow of ideas and opinions, which, again, was recognized as the cornerstone of liberal democracy. Madison wrote, “Whatever facilitates a general intercourse of sentiments, as good roads, domestic commerce, a free press, and particularly a circulation of newspapers through the entire body of the people … is favorable to liberty.”

In order for there to be liberty, there needs to be a free press in addition to a vibrant press that offers a whole range of ideas. Madison and other key Framers understood this well. It’s the only way that independent voices could actually challenge, for example, state power. It’s how the abolitionist press stayed alive even during the years Congress banned any debate about slavery. Journalism and democracy are intimately linked, and so it is our imperative that we support it to its fullest. If one role of government is to protect and ensure democracy, as some libertarians might agree it is, then there exists an obligation on its part to protect and ensure independent journalism, in the same way it ensured it during the early years of the republic. One idea that Nichols and McChesney offer is vouchers or tax write-offs for citizens to give money to independent news sources. Again, you can read their book or listen to their interview for a more in-depth discussion. When you look at the subsidies the early republic offered to the press as a percent of the GDP, it would translate into roughly $30 billion in today’s money. Moreover, when you look at the places recognized as the freest and most open democracies in the world, where the press is rated as the most independent and freest, it’s places like Finland, Norway, Sweden, and so on, where they also offer roughly $30 billion in subsidies. It is in this way that vibrant, healthy, and independent news is ensured and maintained. Writing for the CATO Unbound blog, Paul Starr says, “we should be open to the idea” of public subsidies for journalism. I also think we should be open to the idea as a viable and pragmatic alternative to Stevens’ solution, to ensure that independent journalism can survive, that it is vibrant and healthy, and that it can continue to challenge corporate and political power.

Pornography vis-à-vis feminism and rights Wednesday, Sep 30 2009 

Pornography can be a touchy subject to deal with because many people are uncomfortable discussing sex, let alone its commercialization. I concede this fact, but will try to anyway.

I’m generalizing a bit, but I think it’s fair to say there are two broad categories of people when it comes to pornography: those who believe it should be illegal and those who believe it should not be illegal. I belong in the latter category. I’m not alone by any means, and I believe I’m in good company. But I want to make myself very clear that supporting the legality of something does not necessarily mean condoning it. For example, when I say I support the decriminalization of marijuana, I do not mean to imply that I condone the use of marijuana (recreationally) or that I would use it myself. When I say abortion is an absolute and inalienable right of women, I do not mean to imply I support women getting abortions (I prefer they don’t, but that doesn’t mean it should be outlawed). So when I support the legality of pornography, I do not mean to say porn is necessarily a good thing. I’m sure there’s a good deal of people who support the legality of pornography but do not necessarily agree with the act (and definitely a great deal that do support the act itself).

Tonight (Wednesday), however, the SCSU Women’s Center along with the Residential Life Social Justice and Diversity Committee will be hosting an anti-pornography special event at 6:00 P.M. in Ritsche Auditorium (I’m not sure that I will be able to make it, because I’m also going to a special event on Palestine). The event is titled “The Price of Pleasure” and it will show the documentary that goes by the same name followed by a presentation by Robert Jensen who is an anti-pornography activist and a professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin (he also appears in the documentary).

In one of the few times I’ve been impressed with the quality of a student-written opinion appearing in the University Chronicle, Neil Panchmatia writes a scathing criticism of the Women’s Center position on pornography that it takes in showing the documentary and hosting the professor, which he says is contrary to “the consensus of most feminist scholars.” Panchmatia, a graduate student in social responsibility, writes, “In feminism there is lively debate on whether porn is harmful, but through Professor Jensen the Women’s Center is promoting only Andrea Dworkin’s extreme perspective, which not only claims that porn itself embodies the violation of womens rights, but equates the term ‘porn’ with ‘gender violence,’ and even that porn ’causes’ rape and fuels violence against women.”

Indeed, arguments about pornography are nuanced, even among feminists, but there’s little doubt that the position the Women’s Center endorses is out on the extreme. A thorough survey of the American public by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman in 1986 showed 78% of people did not believe pornography should be illegal (finding reliable polling on this subject somewhat difficult). I do not deny that pornography can cause problems. I don’t think anyone doubts there can be detrimental effects in the participation, production, or consumption of pornography. There is, in fact, robust scholarly literature that deals with this important subject. But to conclude from that that pornography should be illegal is misguided.

In their 1969 ruling in Stanley v. Georgia, the Supreme Court of the United States declared every American has the “constitutional right to keep and enjoy pornographic material in his home.” Though the court said they have the “broad power” to regulate “obscenity,” it concluded every American may “satisfy his intellectual and emotional needs in the privacy of his own home.” That is, the court affirms, Americans have the right to free speech and privacy. (In a true perversion of the Constitution, the court later ruled in 1973 in Miller v. California that it had to right to determine what “obscenity” is and therefore declare it not a form of protected speech or expression under the First Amendment.)

So if we have the right to view pornographic material, one can infer from this that there also exists the right to participate in and produce pornography. That is, consenting adults have the right to perform sexual acts with each other and they also have the right to disseminate depictions of these acts with other consenting adults. They have these rights, but whether you want to argue that engaging in these activities is right or wrong is an entirely different thing. You may wish to educate people, inform people of risks, discuss its immorality and so forth, but we cannot deny them the right to engage in the activity. I can certainly agree, for example, that pornography can have the effect of distorting views on sex and sexuality and objectify and dehumanize women, but it doesn’t follow from that that pornography ought to be outlawed.

But proponents of outlawing pornography point to the alleged negative social effects it creates. Particularly, they argue pornography incites violence against women including through rape. “Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice,” goes the saying. Is it true? The Classically Liberal blog, in their post on the benefits of pornography, cites a study by Todd Kendall, a professor at Clemson University. Kendall finds, “a 10 percentage point increase in Internet access [to pornography] is associated with a decline in reported rape victimization of around 7.3%,” among other benefits. There is a preponderance of evidence that supports this claim. (In fact, in 1969, Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress, in response to the SCOTUS ruling in Stanley v. Georgia, set up the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. What the commission found was that exposure to sexual materials does not create adverse social effects, does not corrupt the individual, that restrictions on the “sale, exhibition, or distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults should be repealed,” and that adults believed they had the right to view pornography on their own accord. Congress rejected these findings.)

To conclude, the right to own, view, participate in, produce, and distribute pornography has been affirmed for consenting adults. We have strong and overwhelming evidence that pornography does not create adverse social effects and, in fact, may reduce violent crimes against women such as rape. Yet, the Women’s Center will dismiss these rights and ignore the research to instead advocate the idea that pornography is fundamentally and necessarily wrong and detrimental and ought to be illegal. Needless to say, I believe they are taking the extreme position and it ought to be firmly rejected.

LeMay responds in University Chronicle’s defense Saturday, May 2 2009 

Back in February, I wrote an indictment of the University Chronicle for what I perceived to be bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, namely as it relates to the two panels held on campus. To provide some context (see my previous post linked above for a more detailed explanation), the editorial board (consisting of Joey LeMay, mind you) published a diatribe lambasting the first panel’s outspokenness on the plight of Palestine. Keep this fact in mind for later. Then, in the next edition, LeMay wrote a front-page article on Dr. Edelheit’s presentation, which was supposed to be a response to the first panel that Dr. Edelheit rudely interrupted. The article, of course, was blatantly one-sided, as I noted in my previous post. Dr. Edelheit himself might as well have written it. Absolutely no perspective was given to the first panel’s point of view. But that’s all the past.

Now, however, LeMay has written a defense for the University Chronicle, in part because of what I wrote here. (Since I doubt they’ll publish anything during finals week and because of size restraints, it’s probably most prudent for me to respond here.) The gist of LeMay’s argument is that the University Chronicle simply does not have enough writers to cover all stories, however important they may be. Actually, he doesn’t quite say this. He says the panel’s discussion was too unimportant to be covered by its limited amount of resources. Expounds LeMay, “For its newsworthy value, the panel put on by Slisli and Tademe was not high on the list of intriguing events.” OK, so a panel of professors and students who have the courage to stand up against the predominating view in American society and say Israeli aggression is not acceptable is not “newsworthy.” To hold a panel on explaining the perspective that is too often ignored and not understood during a time of misperception and bias in coverage of a recent Israeli attack on Palestine is not “intriguing.” This is simply something that the student body would not be interested in hearing about, if we were to take the Chronicle’s argument. Gathering by the size of the crowd there that night, which was substantially larger than most crowds for 95% of university events, I think those people would beg to differ; the presentation was delayed because there were not even enough seats set out to accommodate all the people flowing in to hear this panel’s discussion. But that’s simply not “newsworthy” for the school newspaper. This, LeMay explains, is the reason no one showed up to cover the story.

It only became an “intriguing” story after a professor rudely interrupted the panel and disallowed them to present their topic, as the story goes. It takes a scandal of sorts—not actual relevant educational information—for there to be a story, apparently. So how does this explanation that LeMay gives jive with what actually happened? You’ll remember that in the publication following the first panel’s discussion (i.e. February 16), the editorial board responded to the events that took place that night. “As one of Minnesota’s largest higher learning facilities, where free thought and academic debate should be encouraged, we would be doing our students, faculty, and community a disservice by leaving voices unheard and considerations unexplored. Unfortunately, last Wednesday’s panel discussion on Israel’s invasion of Gaza was partisan and many question went unasked and unanswered,” writes the board. How could they possibly know this if no writers actually went to cover the event? Were they there to hear what the panel had to say? Were they there to listen to what question were asked? Were they there to hear what responses the panel had to give? Either LeMay is blatantly lying to us in his defense for the Chronicle or the editorial board (Ali Tweten, Paul Crawford, Andy Downs, and LeMay) was being intellectually dishonest in their response to the panel.

The front-page article written by LeMay that was in the following publication was, as I mentioned, completely biased. LeMay even admits this in his defense of the Chronicle: “I chose not to simply summarize Eidelheit’s [sic] claimed clarification of the events in Gaza. Instead, I focused on Eidelheit’s [sic] reaction to his treatment at the panel conducted by Slisli and Tademe, his problem with the Warsaw ghetto photo and the flyer, and the mixed reception he received from the audience.” You’ll note that he says nothing about the first panel’s reaction or their explanation for the photo they used. No, it was simply Dr. Edelheit’s perspective. But LeMay continues, “So, in order to say University Chronicle showed favoritism towards Eidelheit’s [sic] panel is misleading.” So, even after admitting he was biased in his coverage he says it’s misleading to call that favoritism towards Dr. Edelheit. That’s simply confounding. LeMay calls it “one of the best definitions of news I can think of.” Is it any wonder why there is “distrust in media and the idea that media skew their reporting”?

SCSU University Chronicle & Israel Thursday, Feb 19 2009 

It appears the University Chronicle, the student-run newspaper for St. Cloud State University, has abandoned all journalistic integrity.

First, some background information: On February 11, 2009, two SCSU HURL (human relations) professors, Drs. Slisli and Tademe, led a panel along with some students to discuss the plight of Palestine from a decidedly pro-Palestinian viewpoint. Their objective, as far as I could tell, was to discuss some of the issues that most Americans don’t get to hear about from their own media. Within the first few minutes of their program, Dr. Edelheit, a professor of philosophy and the director of Religious and Jewish Studies, interrupted them in an outburst, demanding that the panel explain the juxtaposition of Gaza images and Warsaw images on a promotional poster for the event. The panel rebuffed the shouting professor and refused to continue until the professor calmed himself or left the room. After realizing his efforts were fruitless, Dr. Edelheit left the room and the panel went on with their discussion. (It should be noted that the panel did respond to questioners after they finished the presentation, regarding the poster and the images they chose to use.)

On February 18, Dr. Edelheit hosted his own forum on Gaza in order to present his side of the Gaza conflict, but mostly to explain his anger over the images used in the aforementioned poster. He stated that he invited the two HURL professors, who did not respond to his invitation; they were not present at his forum.

(On February 12, the University Chronicle published a letter I wrote regarding Israel’s war crimes in Palestine, that was completely separate of and written before the February 11 panel’s discussion. It can be read here.) (Link fixed.)

In the February 16 publication of the University Chronicle, the editorial board–consisting of Ali Tweten, Joey LeMay, Paul Crawford, and Andy Downs–wrote a diatribe on the panel’s discussion of massive human rights violations taking place in Palestine. “An environment that actively suppresses opposing viewpoints is misleading to its audience, creates polarizing results, and causes problems rather debates possible solutions [sic],” they wrote.

Sure, I think we can all agree to that. But it does not apply to the panel’s discussion of U.S.-Israel and Palestine. If anyone, it would apply to Dr. Edelheit who very purposefully disrupted the program so that they could not present their discussion to the audience that was all too eager to get a new perspective on the very important issue. It was Dr. Edelheit who was showing his contempt for the audience by prohibiting the panel from discussing and presenting their case. In his own presentation on the topic, Dr. Edelheit admitted he knew full well what he was doing and that he acted very deliberately (“I did disrupt, quite willfully”). As I already wrote in a letter I sent to the Chronicle, published in the February 19 edition, the professor’s actions were completely unbecoming for a professor of this institution. Excuses for Dr. Edelheit’s actions and behavior have no merit and have been repeatedly dismissed by a majority of people who have spoken on the issue.

Nonetheless, the editorial board continued: “The United States’ role as peace negotiator is crucial, as it is utterly impossible to envision lasting peace between Israel and Palestine without the U.S. endorsing, helping implement, and standing by a proposed agreement. But coming up with an agreement for long-lasting peace has proven difficult, especially when we give our attention to only one side.”

Let me first address the first sentence. It actually shows, quite clearly, the contempt the editorial board has for Palestinians and their right to self-determination. They basically parrot the U.S. government’s stance on the issue, which is that the U.S. owns the world and anything that goes on in a region that interests us has to go through us first. This is unimaginable to most sane and rational human beings, as it flies completely in the face of self-determination, which states that nations and peoples should have the freedom to make choices and determine their future without external pressure and demands. However, as a world superpower, the U.S. and, apparently, the University Chronicle editorial board believe we have the right to dictate the existence of other people.

(I should note that it was in the very rare exception to U.S. rejectionism that Israel and Palestine got the closest they’ve ever been to resolving the long-standing conflict. I am, of course, referring to Taba, 2001–before Israel pulled out and abandoned the negotiations, that is. It is actually very easy to envision a peaceful Israel and Palestine without the interference of the U.S. In fact, that is the only possible way to move forward on this issue. For those who see the U.S. as needing to impose its will on others, this is not an option.)

But the editorial board brings up a good point in that second sentence I quoted. When we give our attention to only one side, it is very difficult to come up with rational and pragmatic solutions. But this is exactly all the U.S. media, including the University Chronicle, do. They present one side, which is unconditionally favorable to Israel and the United States. They mimic longstanding American beliefs that we, or Israel, can do no wrong; that what is right for Israel is right for the United States; and that Israel and the United States are unjustly criticized. I made a point about this, actually, in my letter to the newspaper that was published in the February 12 edition. I quoted Noam Chomsky, who wrote the following: “The basic doctrine is that Israel has been a hapless victim of terrorism, of military attack, of implacable and irrational hatred. . . . Israel is sometimes chided for its response to terrorist attack, a reaction that is deemed wrong though understandable. The belief that Israel may have had a substantial role in initiating and perpetuating violence and conflict is expressed only far from the mainstream, as a general rule.” This, though written nearly 30 years ago, is still the predominant view that is expressed by the media and the U.S. government. And, as the editorial board pointed out, this “is misleading to its audience, creates polarizing results, and causes problems rather [than] debates [on] possible solutions.”

Okay, so the editorial board has merely expressed its opinion, however ignorant it may be. I agree, this is perfectly acceptable in a free and just society that is supposed to pride itself on free speech. However, when the Chronicle to decided to publish a story on the Gaza issue and Dr. Edelheit’s presentation in the February 19 edition, they chose no other than Joey LeMay, the same student who espoused quite clearly his contempt of Palestinians and ignorance on the issue just a few days earlier. In fact, the Chronicle deliberately decided not to publish an article on the first panel discussion that spelled out the atrocities taking place in Palestine; but they chose to publish, very prominently as the lead story, only Dr. Edelheit’s position on the issue. But what should we have expected from the author who just days earlier attacked said panel? This is a pretty good vindication of Chomsky’s point and shows quite clearly the overwhelming bias there is in favor of U.S.-Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

The type of ignorance the editorial board and others display is the exact reason I, along with others, have called for a more reasoned debate on the issue. All too often one side is presented, which is the U.S.-Israeli side, naturally. I would be more than willing to sit vis-à-vis Dr. Edelheit and debate the real issues that affect Palestinians and Israelis and anyone else who believes Israel is justified in committing grave war crimes against the Palestinian people. If the HURL professors who led first panel are unwilling to engage in open discourse with their dissenters, then I think there should be a student-led dialog on the issue, as there are clearly very vocal proponents of both sides, and this should include Dr. Edelheit and any other professor if they so choose.

Update: Joey LeMay wrote a defense for his and the Chronicle’s actions in an April 30 editorial. I wrote a response to his defense on this blog, here.