Truth in Advertising?

Peninsula's Latest Attempt Betrays More Empty Bombast

The most recent issue of Pensinsula has a purple 'V' emblazoned on its cover, presumably meant to herald the publication's fifth year of gracing this Bastion of Liberalism.

Below the giant purple 'V' is the old Burkean observation that "All that is necesary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I assume the reader is supposed to feel grateful that the folks at Peninsula stand ready to disabuse the student body of the evil notions foisted upon it by evil campus publications and their co-conspiritors, the Evil Professors (Mansfield excepted).

Thanks, guys.

Upon opening the 'V' issue, one is greeted by the large block inscription "Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus" found on the first page. This is presumably the second meaning of the giant purple. 'V.' In a short five years they have come, seen, and conquered the evil found on the Harvard Campus. Burke would be proud.

One can safely assume that the 'V' is meant to represent the original Latin phrase, rather than the merely English sign for victory popularized by an egghead historian named Churchill. After all, these heroes of the Harvard press are distinguished classicists as well.


The remaining 31 pages contain a series of self-deifying articles by luminaries of Peninsula's past (i.e. graduated charter members and current staffers), chronicling the bravado and machismo of the Peninsula staffers. The pages brim with anecdotes relating the intellectual courage shown by Peninsula writers in slaying liberalism's sacred cows.

I cannot describe the tone of most of the articles as anything but masturbatory. Reading certain passages, I felt an unwilling thrust upon a personal moment between the Peninsula staffers past and present.

The Peninsula Timelime, found in the center of the magazine, contains exactly eight noteable events since the publication's genesis. These include Cicero's First Catilinarian oration, the birth of Christ, Peninsula's first issue, and finally Peninsula's fifth aniversary. These rowdy fellows are so crazy!

The most substantive (and autoerotic) article is one written by Roger Landry, now of the St. Phillips Seminary in Toronto. It is titled--in a typically pompous Latin-laden style--"Veritas Revisited." Landry recounts the heroic story of Peninsula's attempt to create a campus dialogue on the moral position of homosexuality.

Apparently Landry was one of "a group of men and women who thought that there was such a thing as evil in the world [really?}, and that this evil was extending its dark tendrils even within Harvard Yard." Homosexuality? No. Actually Landry refers to the notion that objective truth doesn't exist.

Maybe these saucy lads and lasses are merely a misunder-stood band of Realists ready to defend the fort against rabid Continetal philosphers clutching copies of Sartre, Foucault, Kuhn and Rorty? If so, these intellectual roues deserve much adulation. Actually, Peninsula seems much more interested in debates about homosexuality than abstract issues in epistimology. But, it is in the best tradition of the public intellectual to lend one's mind to social debates of import, so let's see what they've got to say.

Landry portrays the homosexuality issue as the product of "a year...[of] pouring through the biological, psychological and sociological studies on homosexuality published in English over the past fifty years" Just English? Well I suppose this is enough research to demand serious consideration of the conclusion contained in their preamble "We believe that homosexuality is bad for society, that it can harm even those who might otherwise not seem affected by it. More importantly, we think it is bad for the individual; submitting to the homosexual 'lifestlye' [Why is this in scare quotes?] can destroy individuals emotionally, physically, and spiritually."

This is a legitimate intellectual position--upheld by a dwindling number of secular thinkers (noteably Harvard's own Harvey C. Mansfield Jr.), but nonetheless strong within the church. In the best and kindest spirit of the intellectual (which is, after all, to uncover truth), Landry notes that "In our treatment of the subject...we constantly affirmed the dignity of the homosexual person, and explicitly suggested...that all others do the same."

The issue, on Landry's account, succeeded in stirring up vigorous debate. The issue even precipitated Plummer Professor of Christian Morals the Rev. Peter J. Gomes to make the surprise announcement that he is gay. This is the fact to which the current Peninsula staffers must be referring on the De Scopulo page, which contains the following sneering words: "Art lmitates Life: Demons [a current play]...stretches the limits of imagination. In it a Harvard Divinity school 'professor of Christian morals' sells his soul to the devil. Where do they get this stuff?"

Comparing homosexuality to selling one's soul to the devil? Is this what Peninsula means by "affirming the dignity of the homosexual"? The highminded, bombastic rhetoric found in Landry's piece seems a little undermined by snide wisecracks such as this. With such nastiness masquerading as a service to benighted Harvard liberals, no wonder Peninsula is so defensive about its intellectual legitimacy.

In an equally successful attempt to affirm gay dignity, the current issue also contains the following gem, quoted in The Crimson: "Truth in Advertising? "The poster originally read 'Come hear Barney Frank'.. Later his name was blacked out and the word 'faggot' written across it..."" Apparently, Peninsula believes that in service of the twin goals of truth in advertising and affirming gay dignity, we should call all gays "faggots."

Apparently Truth and Courage (Peninsula-style) mean calling a faggot a faggot. How very pleasant. How very thoughtful. How very enlightening. How very dignified. Lest one suppose that these instances of "affirming dignity" are the work of a rogue among the Peninsula staff, the masthead assures us that "The Council [the three highest ranking members of Peninsula] accepts responsibility for all unsigned pieces." The two wisecracks quoted above are both unsigned.

If Peninsula truly believes in truth in advertising, maybe it should shed its transparent intellecual veneer and instead continue only to wallow in unthinking epithets, giving all readers a taste of Peninsula's real feelings about the personal dignity of homosexuals. Peninsula cannot have both highminded rhetoric and gutter slurs. On the occasion of its fifth aniversary, Penininsula's writers have betrayed the emptiness of their pretensions to inteilectual discussion, making even more transparent the blatant, bombastic bigotry that we've come to expect from them.