Friday, October 25, 2013

The fight against sophistry


GUEST: Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English & Writing Center Director at Long Island University Brooklyn, talks about her college's attempts to curtail freedom of expression on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I wish we had longer to talk about this. Perhaps we will ask Harriet to be back on Activist Radio at some point.

Describing herself as a "rationalist" in explaining propaganda and racism, I see several examples of this in our interview. According to Harriet the attachment of Zionism to the Jewish religion was an attempt to keep Jews from wondering too far from their own culture. Israel became the way to protect the Jewish religion in America as more and more young Jews were marrying those of other faiths. She also traced the refusal of her college to grant her a sabbatical to recent fundraising initiatives. How to ask wealthy Jews for contributions when the college is supporting a book writing sabbatical that questions the morality of Israel? These are not devious or sinister pressures against freedom of expression on campus. Just the rational need to increase the endowment. 

I wonder if all immoral actions can be viewed like that. Of course, a dependence on logic can also have its drawbacks. The fight against sophistry can never be as emotionally compelling as the fight against racist injustice. But maybe that depends on what motivates people to do the right thing.  

In any case, Harriet is someone who is deeply committed to social justice and human rights. Perhaps she is just more effective in explaining the illogic of those who would deny us of these basic rights. 

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