Writing about the recent “commencement” speech by the New York Times reporter Chris Hedges that was booed and eventually trumped by the attendees at Rockford (Illinois) College, Harley Sorensen uncovers another tentacle of the vast right wing conspiracy, that is to say, Midwestern values.
Hedges got to a-foaming at the mouth with the treatise:
I want to speak to you today about war and empire.
Killing, or at least the worst of it, is over in Iraq. Although blood will continue to spill — theirs and ours — be prepared for this. For we are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige.
Welcome to the working world, graduates. Your mark will damage our souls and prestige. No, wait, he was talking about the gummint, but with a different tone since his antigummint tone is condescension, whereas the antigummint tone coming from those who disagreed with the previous administration was the raving of madmen. Or something. But Rockford didn’t want to hear his antigummint diatribe. They probably wanted to hear about overcoming challenges and accruing enough wealth to retire and not run out of grubzits before the end of retirement.
Sorensen knows to indict the Right Wing because its 11 spices were all over the crispy skin. How does he know They were in on it, and that it was not a spontaneous outpouring of heartfelt disgust?
In all, it was a remarkable performance by the audience. And, judging from the presence of “foghorns,” it wasn’t spontaneous. It was planned.
Unlike the spontaneous protests where the audience produces whistles to drown out opposing speakers in cosmopolitan or enlightened towns like Berkeley, right? Foghorns at a graduation = conspiracy! Obviously, the worldly Mr. Sorensen has not spoken at many, make that any, graduations here in the Midwest where foghorns make their presences known at most, if not all, graduations from high school or college.
But Sorensen understands why the audience booed: ignorance! Armed with a transcript, he can at his leisure point out the errors that listeners made while transcribing the speech for a write up. I’ll leave it to you, ungentle readers, to read the column to see about what I am talking.
But let me hit, well, not really hit a couple more points. Sorensen saith:
But even ignorance doesn’t translate necessarily into violence. It’s rare for me to understand a church sermon, but I’ve never felt the urge to beat up on a minister because of that.
Interesting. He goes from shouting down to physical violence as though they’re merely different settings on the same potentiometer.
Yet the Rockford incident had a chilling aspect to it. As described in the press, it could well have been a scene out of the recent miniseries on the rise of Hitler to power in Nazi Germany.
The difference between the many incidents at Berkeley and the Rockford incident is that, at Berkeley, it’s usually the rabble against an Establishment spokesperson. At Rockford, it was just the opposite; the incident had the feel of a government protest against an outsider.
Speechless. Wordless. Perhaps when I can once again work my mandibular musculature and can close my mouth, I can tell you what I think of this comparison and straw army.