Stanford Progressive

Letter from the Editor

By Ross Raffin, published March, 2010

Aside from the occasional rhetorical flatulence, Stanford has been refreshingly devoid of the ignorantly hostile approach of Bill O’Reilly, the incomprehensibly inane “questioning” of Glenn Beck, and other arguments which make conservatives pine for the days of William Buckley Jr. While some Stanford activists and columnists occasionally dip into intellectually questionable positions, they nearly always do so in a professional manner. The occasional acerbic remark is a sign of style, not hostile intent. The destructive discourse of pundits, however, is not only unhealthy for America but diminishes America’s willingness to help others abroad and generally participate in the democratic system.

The rhetoric of right wing talking heads is to alienate, not to engage in dialogue. If Bill O’Reilly was truly interested in debate, debates on his show would include more words than “shut up” and “turn off his mic.” If Glenn Beck yearned for consolidation rather than division, he would have read books other than those authored by Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin. Or he could just read a few books in general.

The destructive rhetoric employed by these pundits serve only to tickle the fancies of the already fanatical. I am proud to note, however, that these destructive practices have had limited effect on Stanford students. This interest in real dialogue is especially evident in treatments of gay marriage, abortion, and Israel. Despite a few rhetorical slips such as “Obamacare” and “socialism:” the treatment of healthcare has maintained a respectful distance from the insane accusations of national pundits. Of course, the Stanford left has by no means purged itself of political posturing. For example, its reaction to Condoleeza Rice’s re-entry into Stanford included some emotional and rhetorical appeals more reminiscient of high school pranks than valid political dissent.

The destructive results of these fire-breathing provocateurs is most evident in the recent disaster in Haiti. When several thousand Americans died back in 2001, partisanship seemed a thing of the past. When over 100,000 Haitians die, relief efforts are called partisan ploys to win over the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black community.” Instead of comparing Obama’s Haiti reaction to those experienced after other natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, pundits attack Obama reacting more quickly to Haiti than the Crotch Bomber. Conservative pundits are using Haitian lives as rhetorical capital. Every dollar that won’t go to Haiti because of the conspiracy theories of an inflammatory ex-DJ further proves the ruthlessness that these pundits will resort to. In order to win, they would easily scorch the earth (or, as Limbaugh suggested, our country’s economy) and decimate attempts at dialogue. Stanford stands out because it seeks resolution through discussion, not diatribes. However, only the future actions of the Stanford community will reveal if our tree will remain standing in the midst of the politics of scorched earth.

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