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YOU'VE almost got to pity the guy. Kevin Pritchett, that is. He's editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth Review, the notorious right-wing journal that cannot seem to extricate itself from explosive controversy. Despite his best efforts to turn the Review into a thoughtful voice of intellectual conservatism, he remains prisoner to the magazine's immature and suspect past.
In an issue published on the eve of Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, the Review's masthead featured a quotation from Hitler's Mein Kampf, which read as follows: "I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord's work."
The incident, of course, sent the campus into convulsions of protest and indignation. At a nationally publicized "Rally Against Hate," Dartmouth President James O. Freedman '57 denounced the Review for its "moral cowardice" and "vicious hatred." He continued his quarrel with the Review on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, calling the journal an "instrument of intimidation."
Pritchett's dilemma is this: He suspects that a wiley student--perhaps a disgruntled Review staffer--sabatoged the paper's computer system in order to embarrass its editors. But given the Review's history of outlandish behavior, who'd believe him?
Certainly not Freedman, who has so far refused to meet or talk with the Review's editors. The president's spokesperson told reporters, "No one on campus believes it was an accident." And in his Op-Ed piece, Freedman dismissed the possibility of sabatoge as "hardly credible."
Had he not been delivering high-blown speeches on the Dartmouth Green, Freedman might have paused to consider some pertinent facts.
Upon discovery of the quotation, Pritchett (who, incidentally, is enrolled in Religion 34: "Modern Jewish Thought") repudiated the slur, denied any knowlege of its presence in the paper before publication and hand-delivered letters of apology to the community on behalf of the Review. He also retrieved and destroyed some 10,000 of the 13,000 copies printed.
Over the years, the Review has consistently supported Israel, and several of its members are Jewish. Dartmouth sophomore Andrew Baer, who lost more than 30 family members during the Holocaust, defended the Review's integrity, only to come back to his dormroom one evening and find swastikas and epithets on his door. So much for the "rally against hate" at Dartmouth.
Furthermore, staffers say the apostrophe in "Lord's" is different from standard Review style, and Pritchett recalls past incidents in which editors have discovered mysterious insertions of foul language in the paper's articles. The case for sabotage is plausible, if not convincing.
It's understandable that a college president--eager to attract minority applicants and alumni contributions--would want to defend his institution's reputation. Harrassed by midnight ringings of his doorbell by Review staffers, Freedman has particular reason to bash the publication.
But in galvanizing the campus, Freedman forgot that academic administrators are not supposed to stir the passions of students. Nor are they supposed to play into the hands of obnoxious and fringe elements on campus. By doing so, however, Freedman has drawn disproportionate attention to some of Dartmouth's least flattering qualities. A prominent legal scholar, Freedman is no expert on public relations.
WHATEVER the outcome of Pritchett's investigation, his rescue attempts can never revive the Review. Founded 10 years ago, the paper has alienated so many readers that it will always be remembered for such antics as the destruction of anti-Apartheid shanties on the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
An intellectual conservative, Pritchett is paying the price for the immaturity of his predecssors (and some of his peers, no doubt) who, over the years, have poisoned the Review with their anti-intellectualism and mean-spiritedness.
The self-destruction of Dartmouth's strongest conservative force on campus was inevitable, but also regrettable. As campuses grow increasingly hypersensitive and humorless, as lefist faculties continue to trash Western culture, the need for alternative viewpoints is greater than ever.
Which is precisely why conservatives cannot afford to discredit themselves and their ideas with insensitive and hateful behavior. Morally reprehensible, such antics are also self-defeating. How can the Review expect anyone to take seriously its principled skepticism of affirmative action when the paper mocks the "Brillo pad" hairstyle of a Black professor?
Perhaps by starting a new paper--one that is both witty and respectful--Pritchett can save conservatism at Dartmouth from the extremists and pranksters who have given it a bad name. No more free champagne-and-lobster brunches during campus-wide hunger protests. No more racist articles written in "Black English."
Just pure intellectual conservatism.
There's no better way to stand up to the Campus Left.
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