Friday, April 13, 2007

Their own private security state

El Presidente of Slapstick Politics and I thought it might be fun to attend the second event of Churchillpalooza: "Framing Ward Churchill," a colloquium with Professor Eric Cheyfitz (flyer, pdf) and others who were going to point out, once again, the alleged errors in the CU report on Ward's scholarship.

It was fun, all right. We got thrown out.

I knew I'd been made soon as I walked in: there was the professionally ethnic-looking chick I'd seen yacking to the news cameras yesterday, giving me the hairy eyeball. Shit.

We sat high up in the sloping, theater-seated classroom. I got out my mini-tapie and put it in the pocket of my shirt, recording. El Presidente had his laptop running. Two seconds later, there she was. She wore a badge that said "Media Liaison."

"Who are you with?" she liaisized, meaning, of course, what media outlet.

"No one," I answered.

"Then you'll have to shut that tape recorder off. We don't allow recording unless you're with the regular media."

We didn't even argue, much. They pulled almost the same stunt at the teach-in, remember, so I'd planned on taking notes anyway.

But Cheyfitz hadn't used the word "genocide" more than a dozen times before Media Liaison reappeared, this time accompanied by a punk wearing a badge that said "security." There were maybe five of these apparats in the room, one at each door and a couple on the landing over the classroom. Gulag in a can. This one whispered at us that we had to take our "equipment" "back to our cars."

Back to our cars? Forget it. Neither of us got up, but I showed the guy my tape recorder to prove it was turned off. He left without further jawboning, so we (at least, I) thought that was the end of it. Nope. They'd already called the cops. Two minutes later a campus security homonculous showed up and gave us the "step outside so we can talk" routine.

While this was going on, Cheyfitz kept right on talking, even though everyone in the room had their eyes on us [update: Dean Saitta was there and says he didn't notice a thing] as we gathered up our stuff (I'd brought, among other things, a camera, a Thermos of coffee, and a book (The Black Book of Communism) and stalked out.

Two more cops were waiting in the hall. That's three cops. One of them told us that since this was a "private" meeting, the organizers could indeed bar us. Naturally we were reluctant to accept this. How can it be a private meeting when it's been advertised on the internets (here's the announcement on the WCSN site) and is taking place in a classroom of a public university?

Well, it just is, the cops said. And then, probably because we talked back, they made us produce ID and wrote down our names.

What's strange is that the Chutchites went all security-state on us even though Cheyfitz, et. al were surely going to divulge nothing we hadn't heard before, more than once. They were just being totalitarians, using state power to get of rid of pests. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta do whatever it is fish do.

But again, how could this be legal? And even if it were legal, why would a university supposedly devoted to transparency (as the cant has it) permit it? Maybe somebody he can't ignore will ask Hank "Mission Accomplished" Brown.

Update: And I'd love to know what local media were there, if any. No stories in the papers (Post, News, Camera) yet, but if they attended they saw what happened. Wonder if anybody will mention it? (That's, I say, that's a rhetorical question, son).

Update II: "Framing Ward Churchill." Typical self-important po-mo piece of crap title.

Update III: Professor Dean Saitta: has your free speech-crushing bogeyman David Horowitz ever had security physically prevent someone from recording one of his public appearances? Or had non-disruptive people ejected by the police? I don't think so. Enjoy defending the indefensible.

Update IV: I keep trying to work in the fact that as we were walking out I audibly used the word "fascist" to describe what was going on and "nazis" to describe those in attendance. Hackneyed, but heartfelt.

Update V: The Post has a useless story that manages to overstate the number of attendees (a figure desperately important to Chutcharama ding-dongs given how often they've been ridiculed for poor attendance at their functions in the past). Even Cheyfitz said there were about 75, which was a slight exaggeration (it was 60-65), but the Post's no-doubt communistically named Electa Draper says 100.

Update VI: Been meaning to quote from this account of CU's annual pomposathon, the Conference on World Affairs, from Colorado Confidential:
One discussion held Wednesday afternoon titled, "Imagine a World Without Newspapers," featured Chicago Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dodd, Newseum editor Margaret Engel and Financial Times columnist Jurek Martin. While all three agreed the newspaper industry is changing, they had conflicting notions of where it is headed and about the implications of new media.

A major problem with news outlets is pack journalism, [Martin] said. It is a waste to have dozens of reporters covering the same story. Tongue in cheek, Martin said that prior to the session he and Dodd had been outside covering a rag-tag rally [yes, that one] in support of Ward Churchill.

"Fifteen sophomores and a bullhorn that didn't work," he said, does not warrant extensive coverage. "A gross misallocation of resources," he joked.
Two facts wrong in one sentence: there were 27 sophomores, and while I was there the bullhorn, unfortunately, worked just fine.

(via PB, who's had it posted for days, and who's back up now after a brief outage)

Update VII: The Newseum. Do you ever find yourself wishing the old media would just go off in the bushes and die, already? Or is that projection on my part?

Update VIII: Oh yeah: CU ethnic studies instructor Ben Whitmer did not attend the colloquium. With his no show at the rally, this makes a trend. Wonder why he's lying so low (cough*contract renewal* cough)?

Update IX: Et tu, Algore?

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