Sunday May 19, 2013
In Defence of Pacifica ForumJay Knott for Salem-News.com
A group seeks clarification in the wake of a Salem-News.com report.
(EUGENE, Ore.) - This piece was sparked off by Ersun Warncke's opinion piece "Evict Pacifica Forum from the U of O Campus" published on Salem-News, 11 May 2010.
In many ways, some of what Ersun says is uncontroversial: "Hitler should have been beaten to death in the street like a rabid dog the first time he opened his mouth".
Attacking Adolf Hitler is always a safe bet. Whereas, say, the bombing of Hiroshima is still 'controversial', the crimes of Hitler's Nazi party are universally reviled.
It's when he goes on to make a link between the Nazis and the University of Oregon's Pacifica Forum that Ersun enters more contested terrain.
The history of the Pacifica Forum is quite simple. It was founded by a pacifist, Orval Etter. As well as opposing war, Etter always championed free speech. At the height of McCarthyism, Etter invited the head of the American Communist Party to speak at the University.
Around 2004, the Pacifica Forum started discussing the Israel/Palestine question.
It showed two documentaries on Palestine, "The People and the Land", and "Jenin, Jenin".
Naturally, the local Zionists started saying that this was anti-Semitic. Whenever anyone tries to defend Palestinians against genocide by explaining to Americans that their tax money is being used both immorally and against their interests, the Lobby starts a campaign of slander. Salem News writers know this better than anyone.
This had two consequences. First of all, some of the liberal attendees at the Forum stopped attending, and loudly announced in the local press that they were 'no longer affiliated'. They said it was because of anti-semitism. Secondly, Etter invited a genuine far-right intellectual, Valdas Anelauskas, to give talks on 'Zionism in Russia'.
The justification was, if we are concerned about the misuse of Jewish power in Palestine, and to a lesser extent, in the USA, it is valid to re-examine the question in relation to the Soviet Union in the twenties and thirties. It does not mean agreeing with Anelauskas's analysis - but it certainly means one is entitled to listen to it. This is, after all, America. It showed the Forum was not prepared to give an inch to its racist opponents.
Some people don't seem to understand this. The Pacifica Forum has aired quite a number of far-right ideas, including Anelauskas's and the analyses of Professor Kevin MacDonald. It has proudly hosted Holocaust revisionists, without in any way saying "we agree with them". It has also invited its critics, including leftists, anarchists and even Zionists, to take the platform and explain their views. All have refused, hence the continuing right-wing tone of many of the presentations. This is not the result of a conspiracy. If I put more effort into it, I could give left-wing talks every other week, on Marxism, Anarchism, and so on. The Forum has to take what presenters it can get.
Instead of honestly explaining their disagreements with the Forum's presenters, the 'Anti-Hate Task Force' has continued to spread disinformation, some of it to impressionable young people, that the Forum stirs up violence. This is dangerous both to the Forum attendees and the young people, some of whom have been jailed for attacking meetings.
One could defend National Socialism at a Forum meeting. No-one has.
To really find out what Pacifica Forum is about for yourself, look on its website, pacificaforum.org, and attend one of its meetings - most Fridays at 5.30 at the University of Oregon, Eugene.
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