Friday, November 6, 2009

UMass Library Under Fire

No, not from "cleared" Gitmo detainees relocated to the People's Republic of Amherst, just from the usual suspects--right wing radio shock jocks who moonlight as Boston Herald columnists.

And yes these are the same folks who flamed Umass Amherst last spring when Nitwit left wingers interrupted and shut down conservative speaker Don Feder.

But when the shoe is on the other foot...

Yeah, the old First-Amendment-is-great-as-long-as-it-only-applies-to-me routine. You would think folks who make a living spewing vitriol would be passionate defenders of the right to say whatever the Hell you want. Of course this is the same journalist that told Amherst Selectman Gerry Weiss a few weeks back that "innocent until proven guilty" should only apply to Americans.

The speech/discussion by convicted domestic terrorist Ray Luc Levasseur scheduled for next week is now cancelled. But Herald columnist McPhee is dead wrong that the Governor "pulled the plug." UMass Amherst Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives director Rob Cox, with the greatest of regrets, pulled the plug. Because he feared a circus like atmosphere possibly endangering public safety.

Of course police officers should be upset with what this man once represented caused the murder of one of their own (not by Levasseur but somebody in his group so that still makes him complicit). But he paid his dues--twenty years of hard labor. And if you believe in our American system of justice he has a right to get on with his life. That includes using the constitutionally guaranteed protection of the First Amendment.

What better way to find out what motivates somebody to violence then to hear a first hand account; so that maybe in the future we can take measures to avoid it. Computer security companies love to hire hackers fresh out of the Federal pen and put them to work protecting systems they once pillaged.

The library was going to cover his travel expenses (so yes, some tax money was involved) but the small honorarium was going to be donated to the Rosenberg Fund for Children. And it's not like they were putting him up in a fancy Sheraton Hotel for a week and giving him champagne and call girls.

The Springfield Republican reports:

The Boston Herald brags

FIRE gets fired up

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.


Anonymous said...

larry...nice picture of 'bach's public art:



Anonymous said...

"What better way to find out what motivates somebody to violence then to hear a first hand account; so that maybe in the future we can take measures to avoid it."

How long would the family of those lost on 9/11 listen to Osama Bin Laden explain his side of the story?

I'll answer your question.

Preemptive action.

The guy who shot the people at Fort Hood said Muslims should "rise up" and attack Americans in retaliation for the US war in Iraq.

Who ignored that statement?

Maybe if he's "cleared" he could come live in Amherst.

LarryK4 said...

Even the major figures from Nazi Germany were given a fair trial at Nuremberg, where of course the vast majority were found guilty and "hung by the neck until dead."

Anonymous said...

The 1st Amendment protects speech, it does not guarantee an invitation to make it. UMass has discretion over who they invite.

Last time I checked, Don Feder didn't try blowing up courtrooms. But everyone's equal, right?

LarryK4 said...

Last I checked he was convicted of that and spent 18 years at hard labor to make amends.

Although if you listen to talk radio they make it out that he capped a NJ State Trooper. And they also insist the Governor pulled the plug on his appearance (which is also dead wrong.)

If you believe in the American system of justice then he has paid his dues and now has the rights of any American.

I for one wanted to hear what he had to say.

Anonymous said...

The right to free speech gets dismantled one brick at a time.

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

If individuals do not want to hear what he has to say then they can simply choose not to attend.

Rob told me he offered to set up a panel discussion before Levasseur's for the police union or family of the slain NJ Trooper so they could have their takers.

LarryK4 said...

I stole this comment from my friends over at Masslive:

Just a couple of thoughts on canceling the talk by Ray Luc Levasseur...

People always wonder what motivates someone to do something that they themselves could not fathom. Just look at the news of the past 24 hours; Fort Hood and Orlando. More often then not it becomes speculation and theory in the absence of facts.

Ray Luc Levasseur was not a revolutionary who turned to violence, he was a kid who grew up in Maine, served his country in Vietnam, returned to the states, became politically active and THEN became a revolutionary who turned to violence.

He served his time for the crimes he was convicted of.

2009 is not 1979; I don't think his talk was designed as a recruitment drive or to spread propaganda.

His talk could have been insightful.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, no one in authority would ever suggest that our local free enterprise anxiety machines, i.e. our local television station news operations, should be shut down for disturbing the populace.

But, if you pay attention to how they operate, they create and then tease fear and anxiety and distrust so that viewers will watch. A week or so ago, it was about the potential for coyote attacks on humans on Channel 22 (no joke). But next week, it could be about breathing. Look at the employees for these operations and they're predominantly fresh out of college. They're working on broadcast careers, not reflecting on what they're doing. It all appears to be driven by corporate consultants from somewhere else.

All of this seems to me to be far more damaging to the social fabric in our area than anything Mr. Levasseur would say.

The thread between the detainees warrant article controversy and this story at UMass is an underlying problem with just what "freedom" means.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"I for one wanted to hear what he had to say."

Call him up on the phone then, idiot.

LarryK4 said...

If I did and published the interview here, would you have me censored for spreading those words?

They are just words. Only words.

Anonymous said...

So you're defending Levasseur's freedom of speech, but not the freedom of speech of people who think he's an unreformed thug? Seems like you're falling victim to the same hypocrisy you're condemning.

Either we have totally free speech, in which case Mr. L. would be able to urge mass murder in public, and people would be able to urge that he by lynched --

-- or we recognize limits on free speech. Which means the things being said and the speaker are important factors. Which in turn means Mr. L. should not be invited by a state University to speak at public expense (unless he's apologizing for his prior career).

LarryK4 said...

Those folks were invited to put on their own talk/seminar, to have their free speech and criticize Levasseur, Umass or the library as much as they wanted.

But no, they wanted to shut him down. That is not free speech.

As the ACLU often says "the way to handle bad speech is with good speech, not censorship."

Free speech is a two way street.

Anonymous said...

He can speak all he wants - it is just not sponsored by the state. Since when is censorship the State refusing to pay you to speak.

LarryK4 said...

I hardly call a small stipend that he was going to donate to a worthy charity getting "paid"

Sounds to me like he would have done it for free. It is censorship.

Couves said...

“But he paid his dues--twenty years of hard labor.” He did hard labor? I’ve never heard of that in today’s US.

And just to correct you, he has not finished ‘paying his dues.’ He’s out on parole with 22 years left on his sentence. He only has liberty by the good graces of the US justice system.

And if he really wants to make good, he could start by showing some remorse. Otherwise, he deserves public ostracism, especially from our academic community. Oh, and if this is really all just about learning what made him demented, then I’m all for him being studied by the FBI. But something tells me he wouldn’t consent to dealing with a law enforcement community that he clearly still considers “the enemy”.

LarryK4 said...

Obviously you carry a freaken gun. What the Hell are you afraid of?

Couves said...

Gun? Are you responding to me?

By the way, it’s rather offensive for you to equate discrimination against Jews and socialists to opposition of this guy speaking at our University. It has nothing to do with who he is, but what he’s done. And when you resort to violence, a civilized society deprives you of your liberty and, at the very least, of your respectability as a citizen in good standing.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah and we don't ever have to worry about the DC sniper ever coming to town 20 years from now because a civilized society decided to execute him.

But for this guy they decided 18 years in jail was enough. Now he's an American citizen again.

What are you afraid of?

"It's only words, and words are all I have..."

Couves said...

I see, you choose to insult me rather than respond rationally. Classy.

What I'm "afraid of” is that our academic community is giving respectability to an unreformed violent man.

Much as you would like to believe otherwise, he is on parole, which means he is not "free" as you and I are. (and if you haven't heard, his parole officer is now preventing him from leaving Maine to speak at UMass). Those 22 years are still hanging over his head - he can be returned to prison for not complying with the terms of his release.

Incidentally, if he were in the MA justice system, he would have been required to show remorse prior to being released on parole.

LarryK4 said...

So why is asking you what you're afraid of an insult?

"Not complying with the terms of his release", eh? Like expecting to exercise his First Amendment rights.

The Springfield Republican seems to suggest that he originally had permission to leave the great state of Maine and only very recently did that change. Gee, I wonder why.

Yeah let's hold up the Mass justice system as a shining example. How do you spell Willie Horton?

Couves said...

"Obviously you carry a freaken gun. What the Hell are you afraid of?"

I assumed this hostility was being directed at me.