Friday, October 03, 2008

Readers Respond to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Acceptance of the Bigoted 'Obsession' Political Ad Campaign of American Conservative Groups


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

DVD Is 'Nothing but Virulent, Incessant Lie-Mongering'

The Chronicle of Higher Education [October 3, 2008]

To the Editor:

It has been brought to my attention that The Chronicle circulated an advertisement for a DVD entitled Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West (advertising insert, September 12). After conducting further research, and reviewing the movie trailer, I am shocked and appalled that you would include such obviously racist and discriminatory propaganda in a paper that is designed to serve the intellectual community.

I have always been a supporter of The Chronicle, and have considered your paper to be a leader in raising intellectual awareness. As a result, your actions are particularly disturbing because this movie is a classic representation of "anti-intellectualism." It clearly panders to the portion of our nation that celebrates fear and hatred, and it perpetuates the notion that all Muslim and Arab people (even young children) are seeking to destroy our nation and culture. Although the filmmakers attempt to include a disclaimer they are not targeting all Muslims, the film's content clearly belies that message.

My assumption is that The Chronicle would not advertise any material that explicitly targets other racial or ethnic groups (at least as an African-American woman I hope you would not), and I cannot understand why you would allow such blatantly anti-Muslim material to appear in your paper. Frankly, I believe it is not only irresponsible, but also unethical for The Chronicle to endorse a message of division, hatred, and violence.

Leslie M. Alexander
Associate Professor
Department of History
Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

***

To the Editor:

I was upset to pick up the current Chronicle and find attached a slick piece of junk mail disguised as an informative video called Obsession. A perfume ad? No such luck; rather I watched a blatantly racist and inflammatory propaganda piece. Shame on you.

Your defense will likely be that commerce trumps truth in today's world, and that may be a fact. But if intellectual honesty, the importance of evidence and argument, and the relentless, unfinished pursuit of truth mean anything at all to you, you have a responsibility to note in a forthright way to your readers what you did and why, and then to open your pages to an all-sided and fair treatment of the complex and difficult matter of Israel/Palestine, and the huge implications of that conflict in our lives today.

William Ayers
Distinguished Professor of Education
University of Illinois
Chicago

***

To the Editor:

Your distribution of the Islamophobic DVD Obsession as a "paid advertisement" represents poor moral judgment. In the last seven years the United States has seen an epidemic of mosques being vandalized and burned to the ground; American Muslims being accosted, threatened, beaten, and sometimes murdered for their religious identity; and an increasingly virulent racist commentary on Islam in various media, mainstream and otherwise. Why add to it?

Given that the media tell us constantly about how awful "radical Islam" is, the intent of Obsession's creators cannot possibly be "educational." Its intent is to inflame the non-Muslim population against their Muslim neighbors. Your cooperation in furthering this goal is little different than if you had taken money for distributing copies of the infamous anti-Semitic tract "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" or D.W. Griffith's film Birth of a Nation.

Gregory Starrett
Professor of Anthropology
University of North Carolina
Charlotte, N.C.

***

To the Editor:

I was delighted to receive my copy of Obsession: (the word complete with scary crescents and guns!) Radical Islam's War Against the West. I look forward to the next installments: Obsession: Jewish War Against the Gentiles by Control of the Banking System and Obsession: The Negro's Wars on White Women. It is disappointing to see The Chronicle servilely joining in this kind of fear-mongering and hate-making. It is most disappointing that The Chronicle of Higher Education acts inimically to that which it purports to chronicle.

A. Kevin Reinhart
Department of Religion
Dartmouth College
Hanover, N.H.

***

To the Editor:

As a university professor who teaches about Islam and sexuality (amongst other topics), I am horrified by the wide circulation of the DVD Obsession. I am especially disturbed by the fact that it is The Chronicle of Higher Education that has chosen to sanctify this horrendous act of Muslim baiting. Yours is no innocent act supporting "free speech."

I cannot separate your circulation of this DVD from the immediate, historically produced conjuncture: the widening of the U.S. war on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq; rhetoric over the invasion of Iran; the terrorizing of citizens of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; and conservative anxiety over long overdue changes in the leadership of U.S. politics.

The DVD is nothing but virulent, incessant lie-mongering. Our campuses, our streets, and our countries are not safe; innocent Muslim men and women are under constant danger. We are all experiencing a massive white backlash, manifested especially through such acts of Islamophobia as your publication has chosen to support.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has bolstered one of the most egregious acts of U.S. white supremacy that we have witnessed in many months. Please add my name to the growing list of academics who have opposed your support of Obsession.

Shefali Chandra
Assistant Professor of History;
Gender & Women's Studies
University of Illinois
Urbana, Ill.

***

To the Editor:

I am extremely disappointed that a publication of your standing and integrity, dedicated to higher education, would stoop so low as to distribute through your publication (for advertising money) a DVD that in actuality is a propaganda tool and scare tactic instituted and distributed by the Republican Right. By including it in your paper, although labeled as an advertising supplement, there is an implication of endorsement and legitimacy. I am seriously considering canceling my subscription, but even if I don't, my estimation of and trust in your publication have been lowered significantly.

Lindy McKnight
Dean of Counseling and Student Support
City College of San Francisco
San Francisco, Calif.

***

To the Editor:

As I hope were most of us in academe, I was shocked to find a copy of a virulent anti-Muslim DVD in the September 12 edition of The Chronicle. Serving as a propagandistic vehicle for Islamophobia, the manufactured fear of our times, is not worthy of this newspaper. In fact, it is every bit the functional equivalent of Nazi fear-mongering of a "global conspiracy by world Jewry." Whatever possessed you to distribute Obsession, I hope that malady has vanished from your editorial offices, but fear this obsession with hate is spreading due, in part, to your inexcusable and inexplicable action.

Werner Lange
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Edinboro, Pa.

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