But it is indeed a free and unfettered press that is the greatest protection for dissident and left-wing movements! Even when the press "embarasses" the activists and dissidents by exosing their flaws, inadequacies, gaffes, and troubling positions--which is what it is supposed to do. Same as, as I pointed out in my "Letter," the Boston Globe did so admirably when it "violated" the "safe space" of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston on priest-pedophilia and its deliberate cover-up!
Truth is, even when it exposes that which is "embarassing," the free press does the left a service; most notably, as did John Reed's first-hand account of the unfolding of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World, where he revealed not only that Stalin played no significant role in the Revolution whatsoever, but also exposed the deep divisions within Bolshevik ranks over the policy of Lenin and Trotsky to establish a "go-it-alone" exclusively Bolshevik government, with many leading Bolsheviks openly expressing support for a unity coalition socialist government that would even invite the Mensheviks and right and center Socialist revolutionaries to participate--for which, as Reed noted, close allies of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, were retaliated against for their temerity! But such "unpleasantries" exposed by a free press could only serve the socialist nature of the social transformation Lenin and Trotsky envisioned, as their later, reluctant, reaching out to the Left Socialist Revolutionaries to join with the Bolsheviks in forming a socialist coalition government demonstrated.
Unfotunately, this new Millennial left of the late 2015-early 2016 campus protests displayed all-too-common totalitarian procilvities when it comes to journalists, expsoed their censorious vent to shape the news they way they wanted it to go. and sadly, such has been part of the left ofr a long time--the desire to stage-manage the reproting on its goals, activities, programs and outreach. But a truly free and independent press is not there either to be a cheerleader, or a constantly sniping critic, but to be an impartial reporter, telling its readers exactly what is happening, and how it is happening. For truth is the best way for the left to reach its goals; not propaganda, not stage-managed selective reporting, not acquiescing to deamnds that certain things be kept secret "for the good of the cause," and not caving in to demands that only the "correct" version be published. Such censoriousness embraced by the left can only hurt the left in the long run, and even in the short run; as well as give ammunition to the left's nemeses on the right and center to demand the same thing. Transparency is the greatest advocate for freedom and self-determination there is, and the left needs to also realize it--GF.
This second "Letter to the Editor" follows below:
To the Editor:
I recently saw Spotlight [later awarded an Oscar for “Best Motion Picture of the Year,” 2015—GF] , the most engaging movie of how the Boston Globe violated the "safe space" of Boston Archdiocese's Cardinal Bernard Law and his coterie of high-up Catholics that had allowed them to cover up the vicious predation of Catholic priest-pedophiles in the Archdiocese, and exposed what turned out to be an international scandal within the Catholic Church, the widespread molestation of children by such priest-pedophiles, who'd gotten away with it unnoticed for decades. Same as Woodward and Bernstein of the Washington Post had violated the "safe space" of Richard Nixon and his political cronies in promulgating the abuses of Watergate. Same as the muckrakers of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries had violated the "safe spaces" of political bosses and predatory capitalists in promulgating economic misery and political corruption on millions of ordinary people. Same as reporters such as the New York Times' David Halberstam and Seymour Hersh had violated the "safe space" of the policy wonks, military chiefs and political heads who promulgated the Vietnam War. And same as iconoclastic 1920s journalist H.L. Mencken had violated the "safe space" of those he sneered at as the "booboisie" and other assorted obfuscators and promoters of political illiteracy and cultural mediocrity back then. But that's what a serious free pressed is supposed to do—afflict the comfortable, and expose those "safe spaces" of the rich, the connected, and the powerful in keeping from public view that which they didn't want known.
Which is why I cannot sympathize with in the least the whining about the press and its alleged violation of "safe space" by the young activists of the University of Missouri interviewed in the January 2016 issue of In These Times, http://inthesetimes.com/article/18667/Campus-Protest_University-of-Missouri_Racism. A proper free press, even if it is comprised of "mere" student photojournalists who are fellow students in Missouri, are supposed to do--report on all events and affairs that the public has the right to know about without "fear or favor," a duty incumbent on the press to do no matter who is involved--and which we of the socialist left rightly excoriate when the press does not fulfill this adversarial duty, but instead reduces itself to being mere mouthpieces for those it is covering, or else decides, due to hostility on the part of the newsmakers, to refrain from covering lest it "ruffle feathers." To oppose a truly free and independent, even adversarial, press, no matter how supposedly "well-intentioned," as is the case with these young activists, is to transmogrify the press from a source of genuine news and opinion into a mere public relations vehicle on behalf of certain partisans at the expense of the public's right to know--and it's the same whether the press is represented by journalism school students, or by organized partisan private media such as Fox News, or by supposedly "neutral" but corporate-dominated media such as CNN, or favorable media such as Rachel Maddow, or even "official" media at the beck and call of the powerful and influential who happen to be the "good guys," such as Cuba's Granma, China's Renmin Ribao, the pro-protestor Nation, or house organs for vested interests who report very selectively, such as Putin-dominated RT, or even often reliable Al-Jazeera, which leaves out much while selectively publicizing much that needs to be publicly known. The independent, adversarial press is a mainstay of any truly free and democratic society, and its' duty is to expose and properly comment on all the laundry, clean and dirty, regardless of whether it's the laundry of the "good guys" or the "bad guys."
The young activists of the University of Missouri don't seem to understand this, as evinced by what they said when interviewed; they also don't seem to understand that, just because you're the "good guys" who are supporting the just and noble cause (and they are), there is no arbitrary changing of the rules and delimiting of access simply because the "good guys" wish it to be. An that no group of appointed leaders automatically speaks for all, has the right to decide what shall be and not be the rules, what access shall be allowed and what shall not, and that, even if ruling by "consensus," it does not, and cannot, speak for all; and also, that even the best-intentioned of "good guys" do not simply always remain so, and never have to answer to their adversaries, their opponents, or even their partially-dissident or just questioning followers. The ideals of transparency and accountability are at the core of any truly functioning democracy, and their past "misuse" doe not justify abrogating them--even for the "best of reasons."
This is what our young activists of today fail to understand; further, their very addled notion of "safe space" as a space free from criticism and dissent, that always remains a warm fuzzy haven for the activists free of "contention," is not only unrealistic and is at direct variance with the real world, it is fundamentally destructive of truly democratic give-and-take that is at the core of any really vibrant social movement for substantive change. It transforms those movements into mere shells, and silences those who are supportive but somewhat laden with doubts and questions, making them into enemies of the cause itself. That has become clear from the student protest movements that have occurred to date, and is clearly demonstrated by the course of events not only at the University of Missouri, but also Yale, Princeton, Oberlin and elsewhere, where young activists have veered from demands that were fully justifiable at first to becoming ridiculous and untenable later on. Movements that have far too often pitted students against the faculty an derided professors' legitimate concerns over academic freedom, but have even improperly aligned supposedly protesting students with university administrations in imposing a false harmony of quashing dissent and criticism over those with legitimate, or just questioning, concerns. Just the opposite of what we, as young protestors in the 1960s, were about--then, from the civil rights movement through the Berkeley Free Speech Movement through the rise of antiwar and New Left movements on, we young protestors then wanted to be treated as adults, not as children who wanted to be guided by benevolent administrators acting in loco parentis; and we wanted liberated spaces where we could engage freely, even in disagreement and dissent. The last thing we wanted was to be confined in "safe spaces" where no dissent, disagreement, or mere questioning, was permitted, and where we were delicately managed and "taken care of" as children under the tutelage of some "benevolent" Orwellian Big Brother who "protected" us from "contentious" forces. Back then, we dealt with students and others who disagreed with us, sometimes very hostilely, by marshaling our forces and our arguments, by trying to win over whenever we could; but not impose our will on others through intimidation or aggression (though, certainly, sections of the protesting left did that later), with the always-"helpful" university administrators readily available to "smooth things over." We were aligned with supportive faculty to extend the boundaries of speech and constructive action, to confront positively those who disagreed with us, and opposed, and were opposed by, the university administrators who saw us as "fomenting contention." That, as Josh Zeitz's recent article in Politico,
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/campus-protests-1960s-213450, and in the blog post of leftist writer and academic Fredrik de Boer, http://fredrikdeboer.com/2015/12/22/yes-virginia-there-is-a-left-wing-reform-movement/, have pointed out, is the big difference between the activists of then and the activists of today. We noisily wanted to be adults; but today's activists, sad and unfortunate as it is, only want to remain children coddled in, protected by, "safe spaces."
[Author's note: I am a socialist writer and a left activist since 1965; my activities in the anti-Vietnam War Movement at Michigan State University, 1965-1971, are extensively chronicled in Kenneth Heineman's Campus Wars (NYU Press, 1993), a well-regarded history of the antiwar movement of then on non-elite state campuses, a book I reviewed as reviewer-participant in the February 1994 Monthly Review under the title, "The Vietnam War at Home."