[sixties-l] Ad Nauseam - (Horowitz ad)

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Mar 08 2001 - 22:27:33 EST

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    Ad Nauseam


    by Peter Maass

    The Daily Californian is doing it again, bless its soul.
    The newspaper at the University of California at Berkeley has always had a
    Madonna-like ability to reinvent itself, remaining relevant and
    controversial long after its presumed zenith. The Daily Cal found itself in
    the middle of a new controversy last week after it published a full-page
    advertisement against reparations for slavery. The ad, written by
    leftist-turned-right-wing-agitator David Horowitz, was titled, "Ten Reasons
    Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea, and Racist Too."
    It didn't go over well. Protesters representing minority groups showed up
    at the Daily Cal's offices and demanded an apology; they also confiscated
    whatever copies of the offending issue they could find. The incident was so
    heated that the police showed up. The next day the paper published a
    front-page apology and a lengthy explanation from its editor, who said the
    ad should not have run.
    But this political seppuku only sparked another round of objections, this
    time from people who said the paper shouldn't have apologized, because the
    ad was an expression of free speech (albeit paid for, at a cost of $1,200).
    The controversy has revived the familiar debate:
    Should speech, whether free or paid for, be limited at a college paper
    because it might be inflammatory, or racist, or repulsive?
    All of this takes me back to 1983, when I was on the paper's Senior
    Editorial Board and we had to decide whether to run a recruiting ad from
    the Central Intelligence Agency. The paper had refused such ads for many
    years, but the political climate was changing, and the paper was in dire
    financial straits. We needed the money.
    After much debate along familiar lines, somebody suggested a brilliant
    compromise, we should run the ad with a prominent disclaimer, of the sort
    that appears on packs of cigarettes. It would say something like, "The
    Central Intelligence Agency is an organization that has been involved in
    the assassination of foreign leaders, the overturning of
    democratically-elected governments, and the training of right-wing death
    squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras." This way, the CIA would
    get its ad, we could take their money with clear consciences, and the
    language majors would find out that the agency was looking for a few good
    spies to perform work of a potentially unsavory nature.
    In the end, we refused the ad, for what I remember were unfortunate
    doctrinaire reasons. I may have been responsible for some of those reasons,
    since, as co-editor of the editorial page, I was the enforcer of the faith,
    whatever it happened to be. We did, however, accept ads from the National
    Security Agency, I suppose because we thought they hadn't actually killed
    anyone. Consistency clearly wasn't our strong point. If you wanted
    ponderous thinking from no-nonsense strivers, you would have done better to
    swallow a No-Doz and consult the pages of the Stanford Daily or Harvard
    The CIA fuss wasn't the only controversy at the time; in fact, it was a
    trifle compared to the Dos Equis uproar. The beer company had paid for
    color inserts that featured Hooters-ish females in tight shorts and tighter
    shirts, hardly the picture of womanhood that many of our highly-educated
    readers wished to see. A petition that ended up being several feet long was
    gathered on Sproul Plaza and then presented to the paper's editors; some of
    the petition-bearers were carrying copies of the offending insert, aflame.
    We issued the sort of abject apology that today's Daily Cal editors issued
    for the slavery ad. I would not equate the two ads, though. A tasteless
    beer insert is planets apart, in its free speech implications, from an
    inflammatory political statement. You can check out the ad at Horowitz's
    website <http://www.frontpagemag.com/notepad/default.htm> and decide for
    yourself whether it should have run; you can read the apology from the
    paper's editor, too. <http://www.dailycal.org/article.asp?id=4763>
    It's easy to understand why many people view the ad as racist, it's
    certainly provocative, as it was intended to be. It is also intellectually
    sloppy, to an extent that discredits its author. Some of what Horowitz
    writes makes sense, some is utter nonsense, all of which argues in favor of
    running his screed.
    One of the lessons I learned after I graduated from Berkeley is that
    unaired prejudices tend to fester and can, one day, burst in ugly ways. The
    war in Bosnia, which I covered, is a case in point. Much of the nationalist
    fury in the Balkans, especially on the Serb side, stemmed from the
    manipulation of grudges that were not allowed to surface during Tito's long
    rule. Just as truths were suppressed, the truths about which ethnic groups
    were and were not victims in World War II and before, so too were lies
    suppressed. Nothing was proved or disproved, and as a result, terrifying
    wars were fought on the basis of myths.
    Enforced silence is an inadequate defense against prejudice and discord. A
    better strategy is to let everyone say what they think in a civil way. To
    be sure, Horowitz's ad wasn't especially civil, and the paper might have
    requested that he tone down his incendiary language. But by letting people
    air controversial views you at least discover who and what you're up
    against, and can begin to figure out a way to bring the truth to those who
    need it.
    All of which makes the ongoing controversy around the Daily Cal a positive
    event. The ad, the protests, the apology, the protests against the apology,
    and who knows what will come next, it amounts to a valuable debate on
    issues that deserve a public hearing. I learned from the controversies
    during my days at the Daily Cal, and enjoyed them; I hope the same holds
    true for the current group of besieged editors.
    Just beware of the beer ads.
    PETER MAASS is the author of Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. His
    magazine articles, and extracts of his book, are archived at petermaass.com.

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