It was the end of June in 2003. A young Jared Goldberg had just emerged at noon from his two-hour lecture on the history of medieval Europe lecture by Prof. Rudi Lindner in the Chemistry Building when he noticed commotion on the Diag. Our hero, not afraid of any political speaker, no matter how volatile, walked south to the center of the Diag.
The U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled on the University’s admissions policies – the reason for all the hubbub. Our friendly neighborhood rabble rouser – yours truly – stood and watched as Ward Connerly himself walked up to the podium. Immediately, a group of students approached the left side and began shouting him down. Connerly began to sputter his propaganda on the discriminatory practice of using racial preferences. He even invited a white woman to the podium who went on to claim she had been discriminated against in looking for a job because, you guessed it, she wasn’t a minority. Boo-hoo.
The cops arrived and began to keep the student protestors back while Connerly and his guest spoke. After they finished, the student protestors dispersed across the Diag. Some began to distribute little leaflets describing who they were. Thus was my first encounter with By Any Means Necessary.
I remember the pamphlet they gave me. Besides arguing for affirmative action, the pamphlet also described an interesting conspiracy theory regarding Sept. 11. Some might have found it crazy; I found it anti-Semitic. But then, I tend to find any conspiracy theory stating that Jews were somehow behind Sept. 11 a little bigoted. Flipping to the back, my suspicions were confirmed: The citation for that particular theory attributed it to none other than the friendly anti-Semites at jewwatch.com.
Now, I don’t think BAMN is anti-Semitic. But it is extreme enough that it’s willing to distribute anything as long as some part of it conforms to the group’s narrow agenda. For BAMN acolytes who may feel compelled to write a letter in response to this column, keep this in mind: I support affirmative action. I just don’t support you.
And I’m not the only one. Students Supporting Affirmative Action was formed precisely to establish a voice to support affirmative action without supporting BAMN. But attacking BAMN is not my purpose here. BAMN is radical and extreme and out there. Its members don’t form the base of any mainstream political party. Most people who support affirmative action wouldn’t be caught dead endorsing any of BAMN’s covert issues, mainly Trotskyite communism.
But our political climate, even here in “liberal” Ann Arbor, makes BAMN out to be the rule rather than the exception. Only groups on the left side of the political spectrum are to be marginalized for their extremism. Right-wingers and conservatives are given free reign and their extremists form the basis of the party currently in power in Washington. Case in point: Young Americans for Freedom.
The recent controversy over YAF’s “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” should be news to no one. But few, if any, know of YAF’s other stances. It’s against most forms of abortion, against any sort of minimum wage and, especially during the Cold War, had an irrational paranoia about Communism.
But while our country ultimately avoided direct confrontation with Communist states, YAF continues to take a confrontational attitude toward anyone on the left side of the political spectrum.
A recent documentary about Barry Goldwater by his granddaughter on HBO made the outrageous claim that long after Goldwater’s heyday in Congress, he would be considered a liberal. A man who supported apartheid, a buildup of nuclear arms, a confrontational policy toward the Soviet Union and who was ambivalent toward the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could hardly be considered “liberal.” What makes this claim so outrageous is that it isn’t that outrageous at all. With our current government leading a devastating and unjust war in Iraq, reducing funding for the National Institutes of Health and restricting funding on stem-cell research, giving tax cuts to the wealthy while vital social programs are losing money, Goldwater seems fantastically moderate.
What does this have to do with BAMN and YAF? Our president and his puppets in Congress and on the Supreme Court pursue some of the most radically conservative policies to date, yet BAMN is the one targeted for extremism and marginalization. It’s time to call a spade a spade. If the extremists at BAMN should be ignored and denied any political power, then their political complements in YAF and our government deserve the same fate.
Goldberg can be reached at email@example.com.