Truth and Fiction

Thomas Kegler, Class of 2021

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Before I start, I would like respond to Oliva Shackleton’s article from three weeks ago, which I was too busy previously to respond to. In the interest of space, I will summarize my refutation with two points. First, laws, including the Constitution, are NOT inherently ethical; therefore, the argument that the Carroll News should continue publishing these articles because of the first amendment is moot since the argument against the News is purely ethical. Second, if everyone is telling you that you are wrong, then maybe you are doing something wrong. End.

When I last wrote four weeks ago, my response was not aimed at Declan, but rather the Carroll News as a whole. Because of this, I only gave myself a few words to discuss his article, and I used my creative license by writing a piece out of a place of anger. I made both of these points very clear. I do not believe my wording was perfect nor fully justified; however, I stand by my words, and will defend them here.

The articles of Declan Leary have serious, negative political ramifications, and he and the Carroll News have an ethical obligation to resolve the conflict in a meaningful way. There is one piece of this thesis I need to explain before moving forward: the word “political.” I believe, my colleagues and professors in Political Science have largely led us astray when they have attempted to explain what is political by generally presenting a definition along the lines of “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power” (Dictionary.com). This definition may be more pragmatic when discussing coursework, but it is misleading when examining politics in the real world. The true definition of politics is as follows: politics is power relations within a social system. Politics defined this way emphasises the interconnectivity of actions in a society. Whether the object exerting power is living or non-living it has effects on the social conditions on our (human) society. Take, for example, how natural disasters affect the flow of people within a given region which causes changes in educations systems, justice systems, etc. which, in turn, changes the future entirely. On a smaller scale, take how ignoring your friends for a night affects their grades which affects their future decisions. In short, politics is one long experiment of the Butterfly Effect. Now we ask, why does this matter in the context of Declan’s articles?

Those things which Declan calls “jokes” have an effect on our campus social system. For example, “jokes” in which the punchline is an insult to the LGBTQ+ students serve to normalize such language. To the same end, relying solely on ideology, rather than solid fact, serves to normalize the destruction of rational discourse. Examining this point on a larger scale, we see these normalizations occurring within American social life. There was a time before 2016 when openly mocking a disabled journalist and admitting to sexual assault meant one could never win the Presidency. Now we have a president who has done both. Because of this normalization, pedophile Roy Moore was nearly elected to the senate, and we are expected to have rational debate on whether Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are bad guys. Rather than being detested, these things are on the margins of american social life while issues such as sexually assaulting a woman are no longer enough to ensure that horrible people are not appointed to the Supreme Court. To simply call Declan’s “jokes” harmless and his articles free thought neglects the actual, meaningful political effects they have on our campus.

Moving to Declan’s examples of academics being attacked by the left, we must discuss David Gelernter and Rachel Fulton Brown. Declan points out that Professor Gelernter was claimed to be “anti-intellectual” by the Washington Post, is this true? I must admit I have not read his book “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered In the Obamacrats);”  however, throughout a multitude of reviews of Gelernter’s book critics have noted he rarely supports his wild claims about American political life with fact, which hardly seems to be an academic positions. In addition, the Washington Post, in the very same article, notes that Gelernter claims American culture is in decline due to “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges.” Beyond this, he openly expresses doubt about situations such as man-made climate change change which “97% of active researchers agree is a problem” (Washington Post).Knowing this, I do not believe we can see Gelernter as a standout academic.

      Onto Professor Brown, we must ask if she is justifiably under attack for her “refusal to turn her field into a fairground for race-baiters?” It is true that she and fellow professor, Dorothy Kim, are academically opposed, and that Kim has openly critiqued and disavowed Brown claiming that she is an apologist for white supremacists. However, Brown works in the field of Medieval Studies; a field which Professor Mark Bauerlein notes “is tainted by white supremacy.” He makes this claim for a couple of reasons. First, Medieval Studies are extremely Euro-centric and Christian-centric which can serve as a breeding grounds for people with supremacist ideologies. Second, the intense language skills needed (Latin and Greek) for a high level of study in the field generally bars outsiders from commenting which can create an echo chamber. Third, we empirically see a large amount of Medieval worship among white supremacists at places such as the Charlottesville rally where they carried shields and wore armor. I personally have learned Medieval history through Latin, and can say that in my experience these things are true. However, we have yet to uncover if Professor Dorothy Kim was correct in her critique of Professor Rachel Brown. This answer is quite easy, Professor Kim critiqued Professor Brown’s open agreeance and acceptance of unapologetic white supremacist and Charlottesville speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. Brown validated a nazi and Kim told her she should not have done that.

      Having discussed Declan’s examples, I would like to return to the topic of free speech. Namely, I want to address the difference between free speech and factual speech. Free speech, for the sake of this argument, is the ability to write anything one wishes regardless of whether or not it is true. Factual speech will be defined as the ability to write anything WITH the ethical obligation to ensure your opinion is supported by evidence. This brings us back to the problem of normalization. A commitment to free speech allows any opinion, no matter the factual support, to become normalized. On the other hand, a commitment to factual speech allows only for the truth to be normalized. This is vital because if non-factual ideas become normalized we are no longer living in reality since our views no longer reflect reality.

       This is the core issue of Declan’s writing. He does not operate in a factual world, but rather a purely ideological one. He has yet in his op-eds to identify a problem and come to a ration solution. Instead, he identifies a problem, says leftists are ruining society, and ends his article. Thus, he is not normalizing a fact, he is normalizing a worldview where one group is wholly evil, and everyone associated with it is evil. This allows for readers to think “well if leftists are evil and X group is composed of leftists or associated with social justice they must be evil.” This is clearly a problem and must be resolved.

        Lastly, I want to discuss the left’s view of conservatives. Conservatives are not “cavemen”: no one honestly thinks that (at least no one with rational thought). To the same end, there are plenty of conservative who think liberals are “cavemen.” In fact, you seem to think of us as less than “cavemen” at times. In the real world, liberals and conservatives can get along. I have many conservative friends and family members who are quite intelligent, but if any of them tried to tell me basic facts are wrong I would be upset. The left does not want conservatives to disappear: we want ethic, concise, factual writing. We are willing to engage with your view points; however, to do so we need writing we can respond to. When the news is publishing purely ideological columns that are riddle with ad hominems, we can only respond with the same. Declan if you want us to treat your ideas with respect, treat us with respect, and write articles that are deserving of logical, calm refutation. I do not fully know what the solution is, but the Carroll News must stop allowing the normalization of hatred and the dissolution of fact.

p.s. You control all three branch of government, stop acting like conservatives are oppressed.

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