Utah Valley State College Students know a thing or two about throwing temper tantrums over the imminent Oct. 20 appearance of filmmaker Michael Moore on their campus. Too bad some of them know little or nothing about American democracy.
The latest news out of Happy Valley comes from UVSC senior Sean Vreeland. He’s distributed a petition calling for Moore’s cancellation, plus the recall of a student body government arrogant enough to spit in the face of Utah County’s conservative shock troops by inviting Moore in the first place. But in the process of gathering petition signatures, Vreeland has also discovered that some UVSC students have never heard of the guy. This is not shocking. After your typical bank safe, few items remain closed more tightly than the Utah County mind.
Call Moore what you want: “fascist,” “demagogue,” “manipulator of facts” or “outright liar.” What you cannot call him is cowardly. It’s nothing for Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh to visit UVSC. In Limbaugh’s case, the typical UVSC student would no doubt politely sidestep questions about the radio host’s struggles with drug addiction, or the fact that his three divorces don’t quite square with “family values.” Moore could easily jet back and forth between speaking engagements at Berkeley and Cambridge, Mass., or other similar places Hannity and Limbaugh would astutely avoid. Instead, Moore delights in steering right into the hornets’ nest of the Republican National Convention, bodyguards in tow. UVSC, for one, ought to be flattered.
Many UVSC students argue that Moore’s appearance ought to be “balanced” with an appearance by Hannity, or that students who don’t agree with his politics shouldn’t be forced to contribute to his $40,000 speaking fee. Balderdash. American democracy isn’t a buffet from which anyone can pick and choose. If it were, Americans who opposed spending billions on a war that’s claimed more than 1,000 American troops and the lives of at least 17,000 Iraqis could ask for a refund of their federal taxes. Living in a democracy means tolerating the policies and beliefs of people with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye. Tolerating different beliefs in a civil society means tolerating the expression of those beliefs. That’s the mechanism by which democracies thrive and evolve, the tool ensuring that a minimum of mistakes are made, hopefully because everyone gets a say. What, then, are UVSC students afraid of?
Of all the comments bandied about since the news of Moore’s UVSC speaking engagement, my favorite is from a Deseret Morning News letter to the editor penned by Dan Bartholomew of Orem. He called Moore a “purveyor of hate and savageness.” The mind reels.
Sean Hannity complains of liberals who appease the forces of evil and terrorism, even as he rubs shoulders with Lt. Col. Oliver North, a man who openly dealt with terrorists. Conservative radio host Michael Savage tells a caller to “get AIDS and die.” Alan Keyes, a man who spoke at UVSC, derided Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, as a “selfish hedonist.” Ann “kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” Coulter is promoting her new book, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). If these are the people we rely on to further meaningful debate, bring on Michael Moore.