Thursday, June 29, 2006

The GOP Response to Criticism: Sit Down and Shut Up!

Sometimes, Mark Hyman perfectly captures the gestalt of the Radical Right, boiling down the attitudes that drive the movement into a condensed little nugget.

I think he’s accomplished this feat with
his latest “Point,” one in which he chastises Jean Rohe, a graduating senior from the New School University for not practicing “simple adolescent maturity” when she criticized the views of Senator John McCain, one of the speakers at the New School’s commencement ceremony. Noting that Rohe is going to be singing at the upcoming Montreax Jazz Festival (which he unconscionably compares to American Idol), Hyman likens Rohe’s criticism to an audience member heckling her, disrupting her performance, or insulting her.

But Hyman’s wrong on both the facts and on the deeper meaning. He claims that Rohe “collaborated” with other students who vocally objected to McCain’s remarks while he gave his speech. When I looked into this, I saw no evidence to suggest any “collaboration.” Yes, some students in the audience loudly objected to McCain’s remarks. Rohe, however, was an invited speaker who only made the decision to focus her speech on McCain the night before graduation.

Hyman also leaves out the fact that Rohe apologized to McCain after the graduation ceremony for any embarrassment she had caused him. She had simply felt compelled to address the issues she knew McCain was going to bring up in his speech.

Her remarks were brief and respectful, despite the fact that she was taking issue with McCain. (If you like,
you can read Rohe’s comments as well as her account of what led her to make them.)

In other words, Rohe was doing exactly what she was asked to do—share her thoughts on the occasion of her graduation. She wasn’t disrupting anything or going on a wild-eyed rant. She was simply articulating her feelings.

But apparently that’s crossing a line for Hyman. For him, it’s fine for McCain to use the opportunity of speaking at a college commencement to deliver political remarks designed to position himself for a presidential run, but it’s wrong for an invited speaker at the event to deign to disagree with him.

Somehow, I don’t think Hyman would pontificate so self-righteously if a conservative university had invited Hillary Clinton to speak and a student had respectfully disagreed with her views on abortion, the Iraq war, or tax policy.

But when someone dares speak publicly against the conservative party line, Hyman’s response is that they should just sit down and shut up.

It’s here where I think Hyman’s captured the prevailing attitude of the rightwing powers that be. Just as Hyman tells Rohe she should pipe down, the response the administration, the GOP leaders in Congress, and the omnipresent rightwing prattlers on television, radio, and the web all give to those who voice any alternative point of view is the same: sit down and shut up.

You suggest that the Iraq war
is creating more terrorists rather than eliminating them? Sit down and shut up!

a well respected diplomat who went on a fact-finding trip and came back with facts the administration doesn’t like? Sit down and shut up (or we’ll put your wife’s life in danger)!

husband died on September 11 and you think the government should investigate why? Sit down and shut up!

think torturing people is immoral, un-American, and counter productive? Sit down and shut up!

You’re a
general with decades of service under your belt and you think the current Secretary of Defense is harming the military? Sit down and shut up!

You think a
Supreme Court justice should recuse himself from a case involving a friend and political ally? Sit down and shut up!

You’re an elected representative of the people in Congress who served honorably in combat and you
suggest we should come up with a plan for getting our soldiers out of Iraq? Sit down and shut up!

You think
there ought to be an investigation into illegal and unethical money-raising and lobbying practices in Congress? Sit down and shut up!

You are a
newspaper reporter who has written a story about intrusive government monitoring of telephone calls and banking records? Sit down and shut up!

You think that the most august deliberative body in the world, the U.S. Senate,
has better things to do than debate issues like flag burning and gay marriage? Sit down and shut up!

You’re a
minimum wage worker who asks that your pay be raised to at least partially make up for inflation? Sit down and shut up (while the Republican Congress passes itself yet another pay increase and slashes taxes for the aristocracy).

You are
a mother whose son was killed in Iraq and you want to voice your grief and anger? Sit down and shut up!

Of course, when both the facts and the majority of the American people don’t share your views, maybe this is only defense you can come up with. It would just be nice if Hyman and others of his cohort could grow up and practice their own “simple adolescent maturity.”

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.39


At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good advice, especially since you don't care to be accurate in what you write. Perhaps you should do so.


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