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Friday, November 22, 2013

Is There a Mind Meld At Georgetown?

Relishing spirited discussion but promoting open dialogue with those whose views differ from our own is upheld as basic to democracy if not intellectual inquiry. For this reason, free speech on campus was traditionally celebrated or at least upheld as a basic right.  Not so much today.

College is not just a disinterested dispenser of information and skills; colleges also cultivate group think indoctrination in current ideology.  Perhaps the best evidence of this mind meld-like hold on college students' intellectual faculties is seen in the lengths college administrators go to in order to silence dissension and the willingness of students to go along. The University of Cincinnati, in fact, claims they do not exist to provide a free speech forum, as noted in this analysis of campus censorship by a group called FIRE(Foundation for Individual Rights Education):


Georgetown University recently held a "Coming Out" day on campus, and the conservative group TFP (Tradition, Family, Property) who filmed their interaction with them was asked to leave.  In the TFP video, it is clear the university administrator prefers to silence rather than allow dialogue with those holding conservative views.  Likewise, the student newspaper fails to question the reason for TFP's presence on campus, and in fact essentially falls in line with the university's censorship of the conservative group.  Given the power base
, those who utter conservative views are asked by the administration to leave, escorted off campus, or relegated to small peripheral  "free speech zones" away from the actual public square. 

Although tagged and posted as "News," the campus Vox Populi article appears to be an an echo chamber for the administration's liberal viewpoint rather than a voice of all the people, since the Catholic position is not represented even on this ostensibly Catholic campus. Instead, reporter Isabel Echarte's news story "Yet Another Conservative, Catholic Group Thinks Georgetown Isn't Catholic Enough" ridicules the video as tiresome, juvenile, and not worthy of response.  

Admittedly, the title of TFP's video, "The Smoke of Satan at Georgetown University on Coming Out Day" is over the top,  intended to provoke viewership.  Yet, the Vox article further criticizes the video maker's right to question those celebrating homosexuality on a Catholic university. 

Indeed, Vox Populi does little to serve as a voice representing alternate viewpoints.  Rather than examine the conservative position, Echarte belittles TFP for using "philosophical jargon." While the video includes three phrases referencing Catholic doctrine, these are necessary to understand Catholic teaching.  Those taking classes on a Catholic college campus should presumably be aware of such "jargon" or be willing, as college students, to grapple with the terms.  

Above: A free speech wall ripped down by students, suggesting students are becoming intolerant of opposing viewpoints.

Of the phrases that could be construed as "philosophical jargon," two are introduced by a "Coming Out" day spokesperson: "hierarchy," and "individual revelation."  The term "hierarchy" is typically used to malign Church leadership, the media often suggesting that an all-male leadership can't possibly understand any sexual choices other than celibacy.  This may be the way the "Coming Out" spokesperson uses the word, since "hierarchy" is paired with "individual revelation," seeming to contrast the terms.

Actually, the Church sets in contrast
 "private" as opposed to "public" revelation, in order to distinguish scripture from ongoing claims of miraculous events or experiences, such as healings.  Whereas Catholics are required to believe in public revelation, private revelations are subject to extensive review and may not ever be officially sanctioned by the Church.  In the context of the video, it appears the "Coming Out" spokesperson is making a case for acceptance of alternative lifestyles such as homosexuality on the basis of private revelation.

The TFP person conducting the interview points out that homosexuality is considered "intrinisically disordered" by the Catholic Church.  This phrase asserts that homosexual actions are inherently or in themselves not directed toward a person's well being. According to Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson N.J., head of the committee on doctrine, "Homosexual acts are never morally acceptable.  Such acts never lead to happiness," he said, "because they are 'intrinsically disordered,' meaning they are not directed to the bonds of marriage and the goal of procreation that are 'part of God's design.' But having an inclination that is disordered does not in any way diminish human worth."

 Echarte might have included such definitions and thus moved the debate to genuine dialogue.  Instead, her Vox populi article demonstrates the "Mutz paradox."  This term was coined after Diane Mutz's book, Hearing the Other Side.  She found that the higher a crowd's educational level, the less willing they are to hear divergent views.  The result is an echo chamber.

Journalists from the Washington Post and the New York Times admit to submitting veto power to the liberal power base.   In another example mentioned in "Mainstream Media Censors the News," a journalist admitted that CNN had accepted advertising money from a third world dictator, later succumbing to becoming a mouthpiece for state-sponsored propaganda

This reality of media corruption requires what might be called a total review mentality in which every assertion is checked for "nutritional value." Steven Johnson uses the phrase in "Everything Bad is Good for You" to refer to the value of junk tv.  Like junk tv generally junk news forces us to be smarter, to track the real story by noticing what gets left out, to notice how adversarial shout downs, slander, ridicule, and straw man formulas dominate as sophisticated digital tactics. The left is now the new far right, willing to suppress those who disagree with them.

College students need to learn how to see through intolerance in- the- name- of- diversity--you know, the bullies who smear and snipe at anyone whose views do not adhere to the dominant narrative.   So, Georgetown students encounter a doctrinaire celebration of diversity on "Coming Out" day  while not encouraged to discuss, let alone fully investigate the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Make no mistake, this is a form of censorship.

  Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving people in their variety and their beauty, but that does not need to mean embracing any and all beliefs as equally valid and true.   


*"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.


The Philosopher's Daughter


  1. I mean...

    Obviously, we are all entitled to our beliefs, and we absolutely have the right to voice them, regardless of what they are. However, there is a time and a place where doing so is appropriate. The BSA Kwanzaa Dinner would hardly be the proper setting to discuss the potential benefits of slavery, for example. That said, the time to debate the merits of homosexuality in the context of the Catholic Church is not during a day officially designated to celebrate gay identity and help people overcome the often overwhelming social pressure and fear associated with coming out. If someone really thinks such a discussion needs to be had, then they have their right to start it, but it's hard to argue that actions like those of TFP are anything but disruptive and mean-spirited. To hold up as some martyr for free and intelligent discourse a group whose entire goal is to highlight the "wrongness" of an opposing viewpoint, and in fact argue that opposing viewpoints are in themselves invalid, seems misguided.

  2. Can we all just focus on what really matters here and point out the fact that mind-melds are used for sharing and/ or erasing memories? Not for brainwashing, or whatever it is you're trying to imply is happening on college campuses.

    But, in all seriousness, Georgetown University is a school built on promoting, discussing, and celebrating differences. This is taught to every single student during NSO's "Pluralism in Action." We are all about free speech, do not let this one instance convince you otherwise. Two high schoolers walked onto our campus, knowing it was a day designated for the LGBTQIA, and asked the most provocative questions possible. They pushed for irrational answers and edited out the logic in between. TFP was asked to leave after being disruptive to the event and rude to those running it. Free speech is constantly promoted on campus, but never when it is intended to harm others emotionally, spiritually, physically, or mentally. This is pluralism. This is Georgetown.

  3. This is an epic debate at the national level, and the Georgetown administrator seen in the video censors any dialogue by offering to escort the film makers off campus on the very day when the LGBTQIA community made themselves available to answer questions. Rather than serving to give a voice to those not part of the current political power base, the student newspaper reveals it has a "mind meld" with the administration and goes further to silence opposing views by means of an article that ridicules the opposition-- basically attacking the speaker rather than bothering to accurately represent let alone address the Catholic teaching put forward. I do not see any evidence of the rudeness you claim,and it is at this point a hearsay claim. Rather than cast aspersion on them, why not work toward genuine pluralism that includes those currently out of favor at the national level? It is possible to provide a forum, in other words, for both those representing "Coming Out" day and those who can explain Catholic doctrine fully--there must be someone available on a Catholic University who can explain Catholic teaching, surely? Safeguarding a forum for authentic debate should be the primary role of the administration, surely, not ongoing censorship of any who disagree, a trend on college campuses as documented by Stanford graduate Greg Lukianoff in a book called Unlearning Liberty. Harvey Silverglate calls this "mindless totalitarianism" that later leads to more public officials who take away American liberties.

  4. You're making a false equivalence. The entire point of Coming Out Day is to positively and openly celebrate the LGBT identity, not a day to discuss its merits. In the context of a Catholic university, the time and place to discuss the Catholic view on homosexuality is, minimally, every Sunday of the year, not to mention all the masses that don't happen on Sunday, the scores of Theology classes on campus every week, and the events for student Christian groups that happen every so often. Are you really claiming that /one day/ where a group at odds with the Catholic Church gets the spotlight in a positive way is unreasonable? As a Catholic, I think that's patently absurd. Perhaps the university wasn't right in kicking TFP off campus, I'll grant, but from my discussions with the GU Pride members they interacted with, they were being aggressive, disruptive, and rude. So if nothing else, asking them to leave wasn't some knee-jerk response to opposing viewpoints. It's clear from watching their video that their intentions weren't to fairly and intelligently engage with the GU Pride representatives.

  5. I witnessed what happened at Georgetown. The truth is this: as soon as the administration and GU Pride reps understood that TFP had a different viewpoint -- in fact, a Catholic viewpoint, they turned against them and told them not to film.