Brown Shirts in Cyber-Space
Dr. Clifton Snider is an English professor at California State University – Long Beach as well as poet, novelist and literary critic. He is also the target of a systematic and coordinated effort to intimidate and discredit him.
It all began a few months ago in his English 100 class. Anyone familiar with first term college English can easily see that there is nothing unique about his requirements for this course, although it may be a bit more demanding of both the students and instructor than some. Judge for yourself from his syllabus:
The first freshman course in English has also long been a venue where students are encouraged to stretch what they think and know of the world on current issues as topics for developing analytical and writing skills. Every good instructor offers a range of topics from which students may select and includes some that are of special interest to the instructor. Dr. Snider succeeds admirably on this measure and makes no secret of the fact that he is a gay man and includes works by and about gays and lesbians on his recommended reading list. A quick review of it made me realize how many good works fall into that category and any instructor, regardless of sexual orientation or special area of expertise, could easily include these works. book list
He also makes no secret of the fact that his politics are to the left of the political spectrum, an issue that I will cover later. The point isn’t that Dr. Snider has biases, we all do, but that his don’t lead him to impose this on his students who are given such a wide variety of material from which to choose. It ranges from Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror to Robert Heinlien’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Barry Goldwater to C.G. Jung. It is a list that those who seek to be educated should keep and read from for years to come.
The problem for Dr. Snider began when a student named Marissa Freimanis appeared to take offense at the number of works on the recommended list that were in some way related to homosexuality. Unlike normal healthy adults who would merely opt to read something that interested them and ignore that which didn’t (it’s not as if she were limited to choosing among Barbara Cartland or science fiction novels – my own definition of a reading list from hell), she went public with her complaint. Not to Dr. Snider nor the University, again what normal healthy adults would do, but to GOP students. There is nothing “academic” or “free” about their agenda. It is an online “clearing house” for reporting on instructors and institutions that do not conform to a rightwing orientation. It is like McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and the KGB for individual fascists to take matters into their own hands. And they are effective.
Based on Marissa’s complaint: complaint
Dr. Snider’s name spread throughout rightwing internet sites and led to the publication of a piece by her on Horowitz’s “FrontPageMag:
From there it spread to the rightwing Townhall.com:
Then she joined another student, Sean Holland, in an appearance on Fox News. All of these efforts resulted in Dr. Snider being inundated with hate mail and threats so extreme that he was given police protection for his safety.
I would defy anybody to name a single student who complained about a rightwing instructor (yes, they exist and I’ve sat through courses given by such instructors – unfortunately, I can’t say that I learned anything from them, not because I’m close minded but because the course material was so thin and propagandistic that there was nothing to learn; so, I just took my easy As from them and moved on) on some leftwing internet site, was promoted to the main page of a left leaning on-line magazine, was invited to appear on any news show and all this started a cyper-stalking campaign against that instructor. Hasn’t happened. This is the stuff of Operation Rescue. The intent is the same – to intimidate – and they are fully aware of the possibility that at some point, some individual who ascribes to their fascistic notions will act out the threats against one of those that they have identified as an enemy. That possibility is what gives their threats so much power. Power far greater than that of the American Association of University Professors' statement on this matter: aaup
I don’t know how many others have been subjected to what Dr. Snider has been put through. Have had their names so tarnished in the on-line world. However, he is not alone and the reports are beginning to filter out. We know that Onieda Meranto at Metropolitan State College of Denver is one and her story is similar to that of Dr. Snider’s, complete with landing her on the main page of FrontPageMag. (see: Lancaster ) Also from Lancaster’s Diary at Dailykos, “…Robert O'Neill, founder of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, argues that an atmosphere of intimidation is being created by a small group of campus conservatives.” There’s a report from Boulder by kvillegas also at DailyKos: kvillegas.
For the general public this week, we get George Will bemoaning the over representation of liberals at colleges and universities (nypost). This could be a coincidence or it could be part of the overall campaign to destroy liberals in academia now that they have essentially completed the destruction of journalism and turned it into an annex for GOP propaganda. But Will being of the conservative elite doesn’t do or disclose the really dirty stuff of this campaign that is taking place on college campuses and rightwing internet sites. It’s like the GOP “Southern Strategy” that much of America is unaware of and fails to recognize it for the racist political strategy that it is. Juan Cole smacks Will down hard in “Shock of the Week: Liberals in Liberal Arts” (juan cole). They get published in newspapers and the counterpoint is found on an academic blog. At least for the moment and the GOP is doing its best to make that a brief moment in time.
I know that nothing I write will get the amount of attention that that mean spirited little twit Marissa got for going after Dr. Snider. This bothers me only because my words cannot restore the reputation of Dr. Snider and may be nothing more than a drop in the ocean of screaming invectives against him that is now on the internet. Dr. Snider, I wish I could do more and do it better. I also wish that you, Dr. Snider, had been my English 101 professor as you would have broadened my horizons faster and made me a much better writer. While I have little hope that people like Marissa will develop their minds, without dedicated educators like Dr. Snider our world would have even more Marissas, and this great experiment in democracy known as the United States would soon end. It’s up to all of us not to ignore these Cyper-Brown Shirts or the end will come much sooner than we may care to imagine.