Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

The Bucknellian recently announced the Bucknell Conservatives Club and FLAG&BT are inviting Tammy Bruce to come to campus to give a canned speech she has been delivering, for substantial remuneration, for years. The BUCC’s president apparently believes that the collaboration of these two seemingly disparate student groups in the organization of the event is itself some evidence of its legitimacy, but even the slightest glance at what Bruce actually says and writes makes clear that she is not an acceptable speaker at a university.

Many readers will likely wonder just who Bruce is. She is a right-wing talk radio host and frequent Fox News contributor who has made a career out of vicious and borderline racist verbal attacks against African-Americans with whom she disagrees. She was (rightly) fired from a mainstream radio job in Los Angeles in the 1990s for calling Bill and Camille Cosby a barrage of offensive names in response to Camille Cosby’s op-ed following the murder of her son. Bruce then realized that the right-wing populist mass media is in constant pursuit of people who will say such things for pay on the air and seamlessly transitioned to that virulent community. Recently, on her syndicated radio show, she has demonstrated her vision of political discourse by calling President Obama a “bastard” and a “freak” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Anrw9nNVUoY) and denigrating both the President and his wife Michelle as “disgusting and contemptible” (http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907100031) “trash in the White House” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/23/tammy-bruce-calls-the-oba_n_178109.html). She has also suggested that the President “secretly wishes the nation to be harmed” and that his mother “certainly did” (http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200906190006).

Her festering hatred of the Obamas, and indeed of anyone with whom she disagrees, cannot be understood in any way as respectable political dissent. Unwilling or unable to muster any substantive intellectual arguments, Bruce simply repeatedly calls them vulgar names. This is unfortunately more or less normative for populist right-wing media these days. Whenever one thinks the bottom has been reached, a Tammy Bruce or a Michael Savage emerges to prove that further descent is indeed possible.

Reasonable political debate and dissent should of course be more than tolerated in a university; they should be embraced. But there is simply no room for someone who speaks in the register of a Tammy Bruce at a university. The University should not be providing her a forum. She does not represent a reasoned, respectful position in political discourse, and her presence cannot serve to do anything positive here, though it certainly might do some harmful things, such as suggesting to students the acceptability of this kind of vapid, malevolent speech in civilized debate. If it acquiesces in this unreflective decision by two student groups rather than endeavoring to educate them by explaining why a university is no place for such uncivil speakers, the University administration would be acknowledging Bruce’s vile rhetorical style as a legitimate option in intellectual debate.

Alexander Riley

Dept. of Sociology/Anthropology

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