Your outrage at Dershowitz in pressuring DePaul University to deny Finklestein tenure is understandable. The argument that you make is that it is wrong to ruin the career of someone who you disagree with politically. True, Dershowitz here violates the law of individual morality, but political morality is much different than individual morality.
Dershowitz is operating under the belief that the future existence of Israel is uncertain, and therefore a wide array of means must be used in order to prevent its marginalization or even destruction. One available means is the discrediting and denying of the pulpit of Norman Finklestein, someone who is a known critic of Israel and has been accused of fomenting anti-semitism through his book The Holocaust Industry. Finklestein has influence through his books and position as a professor; but he also has enemies, and those enemies are going to try to limit or end his influence because they fear the outcome of more individuals expressing his views of the Middle East and consequently supporting what is felt to be the appropriate political action according to those views.
I believe the Dershowitz view is this: the tenure or even livelyhood of one man does not outweigh the security of a sovereign nation. And if there is a catastrophe in the Middle East where Israel is greatly marginalized or destroyed, then many who once disagreed with Dershowitz's tactics will have wished they supported them.
- Tom Ragazzi
Without going into the arguments concerning the hiring or firing of Almontasar or Finkelstein the basis of your article that "intemperate, malicious nongovernmental speech" should not be tolerated needs to be examined.
Intemperate, malicious speech is certainly a headache. I have an ongoing e-mail battle with another doctor concerning politics and he is anything but temperate, luckily we have other topics to talk about such as college admissions for our kids*. But I tolerate his intemperate rants and respond with my own temperate rants.
But you do not come out and say how it should not be tolerated. I find this to be an odd omission on your part. Nowhere do you come out and say the standard line that malicious speech should be countered with more speech. You state that "if we tolerate this [speech], don't fight to defend the marginal and unpopular, then the First Amendment itself becomes meaningless." But the point of the First Amendment is that we need to tolerate speech, speech of virtually any kind. But we do not have to accept it, approve it, believe it or condone it. If needed, we have the right to respond either in a temperate or an intemperate manner.
But the absence of how it should not be tolerated implied to me you want a restriction on speech by those "crushing the powerless", perhaps along the same lines as libel trial is different when the target is a public figure or not.
But the people in your article are not just private individuals and are involved in public affairs and know how to use the power of the press. Both were fighting with the means at their disposal and their various allies, as is their right. But they lost, but that is a different issue.
So the question remains, were you implying a restriction on speech?
If you were, how would you implement it? How would you decide who is powerless enough to need protection? Who is powerful enough to require restriction? What kind of penalties would you impose? Who would decide these decisions? Someone from the Left? From the Right? Would you trust me to make such decisions? I wouldn't trust myself. Nor would I trust anyone else.
If you were not implying a restriction of speech then you might consider a clarification for your article.
With warm regards
I have some comments about your latest article on persecution.
First, the easy part. You said:
Almontaser and Finkelstein are examples of people whose careers have been destroyed by intemperate, malicious nongovernmental speech. If we tolerate this, don't fight to defend the marginal and unpopular, then the First Amendment itself becomes meaningless.
The First Amendment becomes meaningless when we fail to tolerate anyone's speech. Without regard to whether you agree with it or even if you think it is "intemperate" or "malicious". For shame. The jerks who said what they said or wrote what they wrote about these "victims" are as much protected by the First Amendment as the "victims" are. Actions have consequences. Words have consequences. If you are unwilling to live with consequences, then you are already a slave and have no rights because true freedom comes from a willingness to accept consequences.
You can do or say anything that the laws of physics will allow as long as you are willing to accept the consequences. Freedom and responsibility are the same thing. By all means, fight what you consider injustice, but please don't think that the First Amendment can be nullified by someone exercising their own rights.
Now, the more complicated one:
I have never understood the idea of a "multicultural society". This is an oxymoron. Society is not about our diversities, it is about our commonalities. It is about working together towards common goals with common interests and beliefs. A culture is not about diversity. A culture is about common beliefs. A culture reflects a set of shared attitudes, values and goals. They are synonyms. Each are words used to describe our commonalities. Saying "multicultural society" is like saying "multihued color" or "multitonal pitch". A monochromatic painting is usually very dull. A single tone does not make a song. When the colors are blended correctly, and set in proper contrast or complement, then a painting is much richer. With harmony and melody, a song is can become true beauty. But for the painting to look right or the song to sound right, then all the pieces, however different they may be, have to work in concert. I prefer to think of us as a melting pot, not a slop bucket. When I was a kid, my mom could take leftovers from Sunday dinner and turn it into a wonderful pot of stew for Monday night. She would also sometimes take the leftovers from Sunday dinner and put them in the slop bucket for us to feed the pigs. Same ingredients, much different result. As long as so many in our country refuse to accept that they are a part of a greater whole, then we are just a slop bucket. We used to be a melting pot. Immigrants would come to this country with different ideas, languages and religions. I am part English, part German and part Cherokee. I can look around at our country and see where my heritage has contributed in many areas to what used to be American society. So many immigrants today do not want to be a part of traditional American society. They want to come here and bring their own culture with them. They don't seem to realize that what makes America great is not the land, it is the spirit. It is the old culture, the culture where people are judged based on what they can do and contribute. Even though this did not always work perfectly. They are coming here because, in some way, their own native culture has failed them. They want to have the benefits of America without wanting to be a part of it.
As every immigrant group has come to this country, the good things from each group have been assimilated. The excess baggage has been let go. How can we be a culture if we can't even understand each other? It is not enough to live here, a person must sink roots here. The deeper the better. Until people learn to give up ghosts of a culture they abandoned and learn to focus on what we have in common, then we will continue to slide until there is no more America left. All that will be left is a plethora of remnants of other societies without a common purpose or vision. The remnants will inevitably be forced to assimilate into whatever strong society comes along and conquers us.
Immigration is wonderful. My Cherokee ancestors derive from nomads that immigrated here over the Bering Strait. My English ancestors immigrated here for a chance to build a life without religious persecution. My German ancestors came here for a chance to farm and build homes in peace. Some of my ancestors came out of it better than others because their cultures were better adapted to the new world they where inventing. I want more immigration. Immigrants are the lifeblood of our country. They inject new ideas, new enhthusiasm, and renew our hope. At least they used to. They still can. If only they will share with the rest of us instead of choosing to hold themselves apart.
Anyone who knows me should realize I was not suggesting government regulation of speech, but I see that what I wrote was somewhat ambiguous. What I meant, as the ending of the essay implies, is that more of us should personally rise up in indignation against Alan Dershowitz and the other people persecuting the two educators mentioned in the article. In other words, fight speech with more speech.
In 1997 you published a letter wriiten by Adam Ness which was impressively on target.
The link to IPC's website, now MacroTech-sm, he was promoting and requesting for furthering the "Ben-Avraham Plan," as the solution for Israel and the Region's need, to effect and sustain Peace.
The "Ben Avraham Plan," is now Humanomics and its four programs are now emerging as the NEW East West 'Convergence Model,' that in particular for Israel is evolving in recognition and is emerging as the post collapse of Zionism, new national and Klal specific NEW 'central organizing principle.'
I did not know of his writing you and just found your Internet posting of his letter to you; perhaps now is the time to look again if you have not already?
I seemed to have stumbled upon your website and I'm glad for it. It's a place with some of the best, most clear-headed thoughts I've found anywhere. It even rivals the best from good publications, such as Atlantic Monthly and Harper's. Keep up the good work and know that you have a life-long reader.
I have been struggling for some time now to put down in words my feelings about what I percieve as the limitations inherent in the concept of Natural Rights. Imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across your wonderful piece on the topic. To find a piece that takes such complex political/philisophical ideas and distills them down to their essence is gratifying.
As a fellow veteran of anti war protests on the mall I suspect we share many views on the issues of the day. I look forward to reading more of your writings and those of others you post on your web site.
In the cacophany that is modern media, your words resonate like a message whispered straight to the ear. Thank you so much.