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Why Are `Good Men' Hard to Find?

By Joshua M. Sharfstein

WHEN a line from Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf appeared in the Dartmouth Review's masthead on Yom Kippur, conservatives across the country picked sides. Some right-wingers, including William F. Buckley, rallied to the paper's defense, calling the incident a fake and the Dartmouth equivalent of the Tawana Brawley case. Others argued that the Review's patently offensive tactics discredited a more thoughtful conservative voice.

But at Harvard, the staff of the conservative Peninsula does not "take a position on the Dartmouth Review as a newspaper."

Leaving aside the question of whether Peninsula editors take a position on the Dartmouth Review as, say, a vegetable, the Peninsula arguments begs the question: why not? On such a key issue, why are Harvard's most self-confident truth-seekers so afraid to find the truth?

Peninsula lists three reasons for their non-position.

Reason number one: "We have not seen enough issues of the Review to be able to judge its quality or content."

Ironically, in the same article, Peninsula betrays a startling knowledge of the intimate details of the Review. Peninsula correctly points out the Crimson's error in alleging that the Review printed the list of students who attended a confidential gay students' meeting. (The Review published proceedings of the meeting, according to the New York Times).

Peninsula lists the Review's total circulation, notes its "longstanding support of Israel" and even specifies how many relatives one Review member lost in the Holocaust.

But even with all this knowledge--and the fact that it wouldn't be so hard to actually get some copies of the Review and read them--the magazine does "not take a position."

Why?

Reason number two: "The Dartmouth Review serves the Dartmouth community, which we are unfamiliar with and therefore incompetent to assess."

In the very same issue, Peninsula overcomes its essential ignorance of South Africa, Wellesley College and the state of Minnesota to comment on issues in all of these places. And surely Peninsula shouldn't limit itself to areas of the world they have personally experienced; after a few more issues, tired jokes about "p.c." at Harvard would begin to grate.

Reason three: "Just as we have our own publication and can speak for ourselves, the folks at the Dartmouth Review have their own publication and can speak for themselves."

So where does this response leave Peninsula's insistent sniping at The Crimson and Perspective? Don't we have our own publications? Can't we speak for ourselves?

Obviously, the press should not be immune from criticism--not daily news papers, liberal magazines or conservative journals. The "folks" at the Review may indeed be able to speak for themselves, but that doesn't mean other publications can't speak back.

IN ITS editorial, The Crimson did speak back. While acknowledging that the Hitler comment was probably a fluke, The Crimson condemned the Review for its vicious and debasing approach to conservatism and traditional thought.

Despite Peninsula's claim our editorial was "littered with false statements," the facts show a history of very suspect tactics by those at the Review, including:

.A comparison of Jewish Dartmouth President James O. Freedman '57 with Adolf Hitler on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the day in 1938 when Nazis began their concerted campaign of murdering Jews.

.The destruction of shanties erected to protest apartheid with sledge hammers on the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.

.The comparison as "equally tragic" the deaths of 1,400 Moslem pilgrims and 7,000 Australian pcnguins.

.The "moral endeavor" of the Review to "delegitimize the Gay Students Association" of Dartmouth by sneaking into a meeting, taping it and printing part of it in the paper. (Quotes are from Harmeet Singh, editor of the Review from 1988-89.)

.Holding a lobster-and-champagne dinner the same day as a campus-wide fast to raise awareness of hunger.

In light of this history, The Crimson called upon conservative sponsors to withdraw their multi-thousand dollar support of the Review. Peninsula responded that no "individual or foundation" has given extensive contributions to the Review.

That's just wrong. Peninsula reporters must have forgotten to call Olin Foundation spokesperson William E. Simon, who told the Boston Globe that his group had given $295,000 in the 1980s, or Dinesh D'Souza at the Institute for Educational Affairs, which has contributed $15,000.

DESPITE its professed mission to unravel the facts behind the issues, Peninsula has assiduously avoided the sad truth about the Review. The truth that caused Dartmouth's president and entire faculty to condemn it. The truth that caused 2,000 of Dartmouth's students to rally against it. The truth that I hope will lead to its demise.

Peninsula's non-statement reveals that even conservative journalists are wary of criticizing their own. But it also may reveal something more fundamental about Peninsula. A magazine that applies its rigorous critique to liberal thought, but not to conservative peers, cannot rise above petty ideology. It cannot earn the respect of students who disagree with its stance on the issues.

That's why Crimson staff editorials have attempted to present a thoughtful critique of contemporary liberalism, despite our editors' sympathy for many liberal causes.

What is especially sad is that a thoughtful critique of the Review by its peer Peninsula might persuade Review staffers to abandon their hateful antics. It might have pushed the Review towards the coherent, reasoned approach to conservatism that occasionally appears in Peninsula.

And yet Peninsula did not "take a position." It reminds me of the old saying I read somewhere, something like, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Joshua M. Sharfstein '91 is Editorial Chair of The Crimson.

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