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The shallowness of debate on campus

By Jackson Murphy
web posted March 25, 2002

The war on terrorism scarcely six months old is beginning to take an increasing amount of criticism. University campuses have returned to places where speech is free, only if that speech is anti-American, anti-war, or anti-globalization.

The newspapers and clubs on campus are primarily skewed towards the left of center on the political spectrum. While the major news media tries to duplicate the success of Fox News by putting conservatives on air, university life continues to marginalize the right wing. There is no spark in news and opinion that doesn't address the other side of the story or involve a plurality of ideas.

The Daily Campus at the University of Connecticut featured an op-ed questioning the war. "How soon are military units sent to Iraq, North Korea, or Somalia, as President Bush bolsters his approval ratings by pumping more and more money into defense spending? More importantly, what are we looking to accomplish? When will we be safe from terrorism? When we have recognized our foreign policy mistakes, or when we have bombed the very last militant off of the very last mountaintop?"

There is nothing wrong with asking questions -- that is what one goes to university for. But these are loaded questions the author knows the answers to. Worse than asking questions is printing articles that wouldn't get printed anywhere else because they are full of misleading or wrong facts.

In a Vancouver university paper, Simon Fraser University's The Peak, a writer in the features section asks, "How anyone with a functioning brain can buy into the current Bush agenda is beyond me. War on terrorism to defeat evil; fighting the forces of evil to protect the American way; manifest destiny - these are the kind of jingoistic slogans that preceded the genocide of First Nations people on this continent and today precedes the genocide of the people of Iraq."

The student goes on to repeat now standard canards such as the, "5,000 Afghani civilians [who] have died as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom" and "U.S. blind support for the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and the senseless sanctions regime in Iraq that continues to murder children at the alarming rate of 5,000 per month."

The Carnegie Mellon student newspaper The Tartan recently had an opinion column stating, "The tragedy of September 11 provided a convenient new pretext for global aggression, as the 'terrorist threat' replaces the antiquated 'communist threat.'"

The article goes on to explain: "Terrorism is fueled largely not by hatred of America but of America's genocidal foreign policy, which has resulted in the deaths of millions over the last half-century. With the expanding 'war on terrorism' claiming more and more innocent lives (the number of Afghan civilians estimated to have died from American bombings is now almost equal to the number believed dead from the 9/11 attacks), we can only expect anti-American sentiment to increase. Only a dramatic restructuring of our nation's economy and global agenda can ultimately defeat terrorism."

The student papers printed these with no sources or consideration of the large body of scholarship, which has, particularly in the case of the Iraqi 'murders' refuted much of these global myths. The paper certainly didn't look into the work of Matt Welch whose Reason feature "The Politics of Dead Children" (March 2002) looked at the inflated numbers and hyperbole created by individuals such as Noam Chomsky. Using information and agreeing with Saddam Hussein is a dangerous gamble for those using the effects of sanctions as a way to criticize US action?

"While firefighters were still pulling out warm body parts from Ground Zero, foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky and his followers on college campuses and alternative-weekly staffs nationwide were insisting that it was vital to understand the "context" of the September 11 massacre: that U.S.-led sanctions were killing "5,000 children a month" in Iraq. Meanwhile, on the Iraqi government's own Web site, the number of under-5 deaths from all causes for the month of September was listed as 2,932," writes Welch.

These student articles seem to thrive on the theory that repeating things often enough somehow makes them true. Sure and Al Gore should be president right now. This should not come as a surprise, but rather as a reflection that for some, the world certainly did not change on September 11th. For many students and some of their 'professors' the terrorist attacks and the subsequent war only confirm their world views-that the US foreign policy is bad, globalization is evil, and war isn't an option.

University newspapers are a microcosm of the big network newscasts with each paper fiefdom having their respective Rather, Brokaw, and Jennings 'mini-me's'. Usually they have intolerable combinations of all three. What they don't have time for is conservatives. It is time that each campus gets a mini-Fox News or a mini-National Review.

Debate on campuses is decidedly one-sided-that's obvious and about as intuitive as saying professional wrestling is fake. President Bush has framed the war on terror as being one of people being with you or against you. That is what the reality of campus life is-you are either with the anti-American, anti-globalization, and anti-war crowd or you are against them. This is the shallowness of debate on campus today.

Jackson Murphy is a writer from Vancouver, Canada. He is a regular contributor to Enterstageright.com and edits "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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