Thursday, May 25, 2006

Howard Kurtz Botches Another One

Sometimes an allegedly objective columnist can miss the mark by such a wide margin, and write something so misleading, that one wonders what the true motivations behind the column were.

Today, Howard Kurtz' Media Notes column in the Washington Post astounded me.

In his column, Kurtz delivered a mind-boggling blast at the protest of Senator John McCain's commencement speech at New York's New School.

After bragging about his commitment to free speech, Kurtz writes, "if someone like John McCain comes to your school--even if you strongly disagree with everything he stands for--why not listen to what he has to say, instead of trying to block him from stepping foot on your campus?

"Sure, the students who do that, or wave signs, or heckle, or otherwise protest such appearances, are expressing their free-speech rights as well. But what message are they sending? We feel so strongly about our views that we simply refuse to listen to anyone else?"

Doesn't Mr. Kurtz read? Because it was made abundantly clear that Sen. McCain was giving the exact same speech that he had given at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, as well as Columbia University. The exact same address!

The fact that everyone knew exactly what was going to be said was what motivated student Jean Sara Rohe to refer to what McCain was about to say!

One would think that a commencement speech would take into account the individual institution where the address was being given. Instead, McCain delivered for consumption the same message he delived at the ultra-right-wing Falwell institution. Verbatim! How fair was it for the students there to be subjected to a stump speech? This wasn't a message prepared specifically for them. It was a means to further McCain's campaign posturing for '08.

After railing about the student's refusing to hear what McCain had to say, I expected at least some acknowledgment that many already knew the content because the prior addresses had been posted on the Internet. But, dishonestly, he left that fact out.

Instead, Mr. Kurtz deceptively makes it appear that the only reason that people protested McCain was his politics.

Student speaker Rohe was very clear on her motivations. In a Huffington Post blog, she writes:

"Had he been speaking at something other than our graduation, or had he spoken about almost anything other than his life and his position on the Iraq War and Darfur it might have been OK. But what did he expect? Campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination at the New School is like trying to catch fish in a swimming pool. It was just totally out of place. Many thanks go to the people in the audience who managed to capture with a few yelled and widely-quoted phrases, just exactly what was going on there."

And, she added:

"More importantly, I feel obligated to respond to one thing that McCain told the New York Times. 'I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others,' he said. This is just preposterous. Yes, McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect? We could've all printed out his speech and chanted it with him in chorus. Did he think that no one knew exactly what he was about to say? And it was precisely because we listen to the views of others, and because, as I said in my speech, we don't fear them, that we as a school were able to mount such a thorough and intelligent opposition to his presence. Ignorant, closed-minded people would not have been able to do what we did. We chose to be in New York for our years of higher education for the very reason that we would be challenged to listen to opposing viewpoints each and every day and to deal with that challenge in a nonviolent manner. We've gotten very good at listening to the views of others and learning how to also make our views heard, even when we don't have the power of national political office and the media on our side."

What part of that does Howard Kurtz not get and why does he choose to deliberately mislead his readers by not reporting on this aspect at all, making it seem as if the issue is merely one of intolerance?

Could it be an agenda? I suppose we'll find out if we see Mr. Kurtz fawning over Sen. McCain's every word come campaign time. It would not surprise me.

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