Saturday, May 2, 2009

"Combating the Right" at CUNY
Gail Heriot

This weekend, the folks at CUNY put on a conference that was advertised by e-mail this way:

Second Annual Conference on "Rightist Movements"

Friday, May 1, 2009
The Graduate Center, City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue

Free and Open to the Public

In light of the election of Barack Obama and rollback of the conservative movement’s dominance in the U.S. political arena, analyses have predominantly focused on new openings and possibilities for the left. Yet how various factions on the right proceed at this critical juncture will prove crucial to understanding U.S. political and popular culture for years to come, with significant implications for those working on a wide range of issues, from economic justice and international human rights to racism, immigration, gender discrimination and sexual freedom.

This conference brings together academic researchers, activists, and representatives of non-governmental organizations involved in understanding and contesting both contemporary trends toward the right and rightist efforts, from fiscally or socially conservative movements to hate groups. The aim of the conference is to draw on the insights of those conducting this important work across diverse professional fields toward an understanding of shifts to the right currently underway, as well as to build alliances and encourage collaboration between activists and academic and non-academic thinkers and researchers."

Studying conservative political movements is certainly a legitimate academic exercise.  But "combating the right?" (Hat tip

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Gail Heriot


Ah yes, right wing politicians are nasty bastards, eh? In the light of which, I draw your attention to this in this morning's Telegraph.

"Esther Rantzen
Broadcaster and president of ChildLine

“ChildLine owes Margaret Thatcher a great deal. Soon after it launched, she held a reception for us in Number 10, and made sure that every relevant politician was there – secretaries of state and ministers responsible for child protection, as well as philanthropists who could help us in our work. One of our speakers, a survivor of child abuse, broke down while explaining the impact of the abuse upon her life. I finished her speech for her and later found her being comforted by Mrs Thatcher in her private study. Mrs T was saying: 'You can stay here as long as you like, no one will disturb you – it’s far better to express your feelings than try to bottle them up.’

This was not the Iron Lady. She was empathetic and compassionate.

“On a subsequent visit to ChildLine, she quietly pulled a personal cheque made out to the charity from her famous handbag. No other politician or visiting celebrity has ever done so.” "

Posted by: dearieme | May 3, 2009 8:22:55 AM

Well, the "fiscally or socially conservative" stand in their way just like the Kulaks did in the old Soviet Union. From the language ("combat", "injustice", "hate groups") it sounds like they are simply gearing up the propaganda machine to clear the way for a political clampdown. Not that they would see it that way nor do they really have the power to execute such a plan. However, as in all radical political movements, left or right, revving up the hate and demonizing their opponents is a necessary prelude: a way to condition the masses to support obvious crimes against others.

If this was an analysis of *true* hate groups, left or right, along with a discussion of how to preserve order an undercut the appeal of radicalism, I think it would be very interesting. However, it looks more like an incipient hate group itself than a dispassionate analysis of one.

Simply leaving people alone, I guess, isn't an option when utopia beckons.

Posted by: Wildmonk | May 5, 2009 7:25:08 AM

Whatever the official transcripts of the conference may say, I'm sure there was a lot of off the record rumblings in the corners and over cocktails about the need to truly constrain the right, by reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, for example, or similar measures "that really have some teeth." After all, why should gains by the left be compromised, or worse, reversed, by people who basically have no right to speak or to advance their reactionary agenda. There's no need to be tolerant of or extend "formal rights" to people who are on the "wrong side of history."

Posted by: zhombre | May 5, 2009 7:28:48 AM

"This conference brings together...activists, and representatives of non-governmental organizations involved in understanding and contesting both contemporary trends toward the right and rightist efforts, from fiscally or socially conservative movements to hate groups."

How silly I am. I had the idea that non-governmental groups were tax-exempt organizations required to avoid political activities in order to keep their tax-free status. ARE YOU LISTENING IRS?

Posted by: Fred Beloit | May 5, 2009 7:29:00 AM

Isn't the bright line rule about "non-political" the advocating for a specific candidate or party. Not the advocating for a specific belief or issue? This is an important distinction, as it allows churches to come out against prop-8, abortion, etc. or the NAACP to advocate for affirmative action / reverse discrimination with losing their non-profit status.

Posted by: james | May 5, 2009 8:46:52 AM


I can never understate my admiration for Margaret Thatcher, the greatest lady and politician of my lifetime. In some respects, I almost regret that she's lived to see the despicable pandering state that her beloved Conservative party has come to today.

Posted by: sestamibi | May 5, 2009 8:56:25 AM

Kind od ironic the title "THE RIGHT IN THESE TIMES:
UNDERSTANDING AND COMBATING CONTEMPORARY SHIFTS TO THE RIGHT" and then followed by the statement "Free and Open to the Public". What a joke.

Posted by: John | May 5, 2009 9:14:52 AM

Well, isn't this the same university that had black supremacist and antisemitic whackjob Leonard Jeffries on the faculty (and leading an "African-American studies" department at that)?

Posted by: Former Belgian | May 5, 2009 10:40:10 AM

Never underestimate the Left's capacity for irony.

Posted by: Constitution First | May 5, 2009 1:17:34 PM

It is the duty of the government and its aligned interests to protect itself from all threats. The right is clearly a threat to the interests of the government so these forums are needed for the purpose of self preservation. Any notion that the populace can even survive without the government inserted into every crevice of their lives must be thwarted. Universities are allies of the government because of their funding sources yet are also perceived as open, objective, and promoters of free thought which makes them ideal outlets for pro-government propaganda. However, CUNY erred in its blatency. So high marks for intention, low marks for subtlety.

Posted by: Forgotten Man | May 5, 2009 3:32:30 PM

The response is clear. Show up at the conference. Challenge everything that is said. Don't be intimidated. Bring your friends, and lot of them. Engege, engage, engage. The left-wing fascist can't be allowed to hold these conferences unchallenged. Be bold and be there.

Posted by: neal | May 5, 2009 5:09:00 PM

Yes, we've got to use the old Hunter S. Thompson theory he stated in "Fear & Loathing" that it's always necessary to be willing to "challenge the bastards on their own turf,"

Posted by: virgil xenophon | May 5, 2009 7:40:09 PM

CUNY (formerly CCNY) was in the thirties/forties a cesspool of Communist operatives and Soviet agent wannabes. The Rosenberg espionage 'ring' consisted mostly of CCNY/Young Communist League grads. No wonder the school changed their name. Nothing else has changed there since. Most of the NYC intelligencia is still Marxist, Leninist, Trotskiist, Stalinist. Steer clear of these creeps and their debased theology.

Posted by: GR Leonard | May 5, 2009 11:13:28 PM