Saturday, November 1, 2008

Stay Classy, St. Olaf

St. Olaf gets a shout-out from PowerLine. Sadly it's about a visiting professor, Phil Busse, who has admitted on the Huffington Post to stealing McCain-Palin lawn signs along Highway 19. Sad, though not as surprising as I'd prefer, that a faculty member would exhibit such immature and proto-fascist behavior (more disappointing that the college would hire such a poor writer). Unsurprisingly, the culprit has some seriously twisted analysis of his guilt:
But unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo, I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt. I believe in free speech, and also believe and encourage political expression. I guess I could argue that I was flexing my free expression to say "shut up." But that would put me at the same low-level of political discourse as Bill O'Reilly, who consistently steamrolls over anyone who disagrees with him. If I need to justify my actions, I could argue that I was trying to achieve some great public service for rural voters. In his 2004 book, What's The Matter With Kansas, Frank Rich explains that working class and family farmers, like these in Minnesota, increasingly vote conservative and against their own interests. By pulling out the McCain signs, I was hoping to curb the impression for passing motorists that family farmers in Minnesota supported McCain. Or, at least that's the most high-minded explanation that I can offer.
Sir, your free expression is in your yard. Your act is not equivalent to O'Reilly's (admittedly annoying) railroading of interlocators whom he has provided with a platform on his own show. It is, rather, equivalent to O'Reilly sabotaging the satellite feed of someone else's show. And I can't even bring myself to discuss how Professor Busse considers "high-minded" his rationalization that he was censoring less enlightened citizens for their own good. Just last week I came across the Arabic expression "an excuse more damnable than the offense", and didn't entirely understand its application. Now I do.

UPDATE 04NOV08: Phil Busse has resigned his position at St. Olaf. Good riddance.

No comments: