The recent spate of commencement speaker controversies has been well-remarked upon, but no one delivers a takedown as devastating as P. J. O’Rourke’s bladder-puncture of the Rutgers ninnies who objected to Condaleezza Rice’s invitation. Some choice excerpts:
I hear Condoleezza Rice stood you up. You may think it was because about 50 students—.09 percent of your student body—held a “sit-in” at the university president’s office to protest the selection of Secretary Rice as commencement speaker. You may think it was because a few of your faculty—stale flakes from the crust of the turkey pot pie that was the New Left—threatened a “teach-in” to protest the selection of Secretary Rice.
“Sit-in”? “Teach-in”? What century is this?
Here you are graduating from Rutgers, which is, as I mentioned, the 69th-best university in America…. Actually, you’re tied for 69th with Texas A&M, an NFL first-round draft with a small college attached.
Granted, Rutgers’ acceptance rate is only 61 percent. This still leaves 1,260 Rutgers graduates who ought to be out providing the world with faith, hope, and charity, and not stuck in this place waiting to receive degrees in Park, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies. That, by the way, is the fastest growing college major in America, so says U.S. News & World Report.
Okay, it’s rude, mean-spirited, ad hominem and outright insulting. That’s what O’Rourke does, and he does it better than almost everyone else. Is this any way to conduct a useful dialogue? Hell, no, and who wants one? Sometimes a plain ass-kicking is more “useful” and, in this case, well-warranted.
In fact, the column is largely a very well-researched, impressive discussion of Rice’s history, beginning with her early days…
You might have heard something useful from a person who grew up poor in Jim Crow Alabama. Who lost a friend and playmate in 1963 when white supremacists bombed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Who became an accomplished concert pianist before she tuned her ear to the more dissonant chords of international relations.
…through her years prior to and during her government service:
She rose from assistant professor to provost at Stanford. (Ranked fifth-best university in America by U.S. News & World Report. You’re ranked 69th.) While she was doing that, she also served, from 1989 to 1991, as the Soviet expert on the White House National Security Council under President George H. W. Bush.
There’s a creepy and sinister acceptance of the censorship of dissent among the disciples of certain thinkers. A junior professor at a third-rate college calls for the imprisonment of those who even question the human influence on what may or may not be a trend towards warming — and so-called “liberals” endorse him. Ditto a confused young woman at Harvard, who demands that “deniers” be refused an opportunity to speak at that august university or publish anything in its journals. Has she looked recently at the single word on Harvard’s coat of arms?
These sentiments are justified by an invidious comparison of incorrect viewpoints with fascist propaganda. Suppression is not only tolerable, but desirable. How frightened they must be, to fear an open discussion. How timid, to shy from debate. How shallow, to actually deny the complexity of issues. And finally, how very, very silly, to believe that by shutting their eyes and ears, they can reshape the realities of this world.