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Have They No Decency?



"LITTLE did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel... You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" These words were originally directed at Joe McCarthy, but they could as easily apply to some of the Senator's modern day moral and ideological counterparts at the The Dartmouth Review.

Exceeding the expectations of even the most hardened critics of the independent right-wing weekly, the Review published a Yom Kippur issue with this frightening quotation in place of their usual vapid front page "credo": "I believe today I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews, I am doing the Lord's work," a repulsive little epigram lifted directly from Hitler's Mein Kampf.

This episode should repulse us all--including the mainstream conservative journalists and foundation directors who have funded the Review to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars each year. These funders should pull the financial plug on a group that has been an embarassment both to Dartmouth and the conservative values it purports to uphold.

THE Yom Kippur episode is the nadir of the 10-year history of the Review. Founded to counter what it saw as the declining intellectual standards and rising liberalism at Dartmouth, the Review staked out a territory far to the right of most conservatives, both in rhetoric and ideology. They personally vilified professors that did not live up to their standards (while choosing to ignore the intellectual slovenliness of their faculty guru, the pompous Jeffrey Hart) and constantly attacked women, Blacks and gays.

Their cowardly nighttime destruction of a few anti-apartheid shacks on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and their ultimately successful attempts to hound music professor William Cole out of the college catapulted them to national attention, but these acts of thuggery are emblematic of their entire approach to journalism.

A couple of examples will suffice. The magazine brought homophobia to a new and vicious low by slipping into a gay students' meeting with a tape recorder and then printing a list of the students who attended. Two years ago, in what can now be seen as a foreshadowing of their Yom Kippur issue, the Review printed a caricature of Dartmouth's President James O. Freedman as Hitler, complete with mustache and stiff-arm salute.

WITH luck, the Yom Kippur incident will be the Review's downfall. The Dartmouth community has acted sensibly. Instead of trying to use disciplinary action against the Review's staff members, Freedman spoke at an anti-Review rally and condemned the magazine's "act of moral cowardice." The student assembly denounced the review for having "fostered an intolerance of diversity at the college."

At first, the Review jumped on the bandwagon by denouncing itself, alleging that "it was an inside job" and pledging, in language that can only be described as Hitleresque, to root out the "human filth" that had typed in the Hitler quote. But a few days later, the magazine went on the offensive and began to push the dubious theory that anti-Review forces were somehow responsible. The usual suspects were trotted out to hint darkly of liberal agents provacateurs who had burrowed their way on to the review's staff. The Wall Street Journal devoted almost an entire editorial page to the defense of the Review, and an American Enterprise Institute scholar told journalists that the Dartmouth administration had "convened a lynch mob to make scapegoats of innocent students."

These conspiracy theories are more the stuff of the John Birch Society than of responsible conservative journalism. It seems likely that the use of Hitler's words was an attempt by a few staff members to embarass the Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Pritchett, who was selected by the Review's trustees after the staff had elected someone else.

But to simply see this as a sick prank played by a few immature right-wing hacks on each other is to ignore the entire history of the Review and its persecution of those students and faculty who do not represent its rich, white, elitist worldview. As the president of the Dartmouth student assembly has said, the Review's writers have "tainted the image of this college." More than anything else, the result of the Review's actions has been to frighten away talented students and faculty. Like the American generals in Vietnam who had to destroy villages in order to save them, the Review is devastating Dartmouth in order to redeem it.

If kids will be kids, one only hopes that adults will be adults. The conservative journalists and think tanks that support the Review would be doing Dartmouth a big favor by removing their names from the the magazine's masthead and their financial support from its bank accounts so that the Review will fade into a much deserved obscurity.

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