Making it safe for progressives to talk about population

Candid Conversations?

Still no word from Jesse Sanes and Rebecca Poswolsky.  I suppose I should give them the benefit of the doubt; maybe they are on vacation in one of those few places where the internet is not available. I would have thought Jesse, in particular, would respond almost immediately. He seems like such a fighter, or so I thought, not one to just slink away to some hiding place and refuse to respond.

Or perhaps he is just taking his time, getting his response in proper form, maybe even sharing it with Dr. Hartmann to make sure that he is parroting her views correctly.  I would have thought that he could find something in my earlier post, which is pretty long, after all, that he could vigorously dispute.  Or, if he were a good fellow who knows when he’s made a mistake, he could do what other good people do in that circumstance, admit his errors, apologize to those he has wronged, and take down the offending material that he has published on the website of America’s foremost Academy of Slander, Imagine2050.

In reality, it seems likely that Jesse, being a good surrogate in Dr. Hartmann’s army of fledgling smear artists and smear artists in training, is faithfully following orders. Those orders, I’m pretty sure, are to avoid engaging with the people he attacks.  Engaging with them, after all, would draw attention to the inconvenient truth that these victims of their slanderous work are actual human beings with complex and carefully deliberated views on the complex issues of our day. No room for that kind of depth in the smear campaign business, though.  Far better to launch these feeble attacks and then refuse to respond.

Personally, I like to engage in back and forth, even with people who disagree with me on important issues, and I still hold out the hope that Jesse and Rebecca will come forth and defend their work. I even believe that if they did so, we would find common ground, areas of agreement that are far more numerous than their attacks on various progressive populationists would seem to suggest.  They might even make a spirited defense of their real goals, and in particular their beliefs that population growth is not a problem for humanity or the environment, and that the U.S. should have open borders allowing free entry to all. I confess that I can only infer that this is their position on immigration, however, because they never actually come out and say so. Instead, they devote all of their writing to attacking the characters of people who, no matter how liberal they might be on other topics, have a different view about U.S. immigration policy.

Of course, one could argue that, in criticizing Jesse and Rebecca, and perhaps others in the future, I am using that same tactics as Imagine2050, but the facts would not support those allegations. For starters, I tell the truth and provide valid context when quoting the work of others, and that, as I discussed in my earlier post, is by no means a given with Jesse or Rebecca. Furthermore, I am willing to provide an opportunity to respond to the people I criticize. Perhaps they will continue to decline to do so, but the opportunity is there for all to see.

Imagine2050, meanwhile, describes itself on its web page as being “  . . . committed to igniting candid conversations around race, immigration, environment, and American identity.”  Such a commitment would be worthy of praise if this statement of commitment weren’t such a blatant lie.  Consider the meaning of those two key words, “candid conversation.” The noun, conversation, is defined by Merriam Webster’s as “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.”  Here I dig a little deeper, and point out that the word “exchange” is defined as “reciprocal giving and receiving.” “Reciprocal” would require more than one party, wouldn’t it? Then there is the adjective, “candid,” defined as “free from bias, prejudice, or malice : fair.”  Well, we certainly can’t fault someone trying to be candid, now can we?  But is Imagine2050 really working to “ignite candid conversations?”  I’m afraid they are not. You see, unlike, Imagine2050 doesn’t let its readers benefit from the “exchange.” They will not publish rebuttals to their lies and slander.  Even in the case of the most flawed and dishonest attacks–attacks riddled with “bias, prejudice and malice,” and anything but “fair”–  Imagine2050 operates on a hit and run business model. This purported desire for “candid conversations,” is a lot like Rebecca’s stated interest in hearing from “women of color,” a statement of lofty principles that is egregiously ignored in practice.

Not only do the editors at Imagine2050 refuse to allow civil discourse in response to the attacks they publish, but when reasonable people respectfully request the opportunity to respond, they take the request itself as an opportunity to further attack the character and distort the views of the person making that request. A single paragraph readily illustrates how far removed Imagine2050’s practices are from their claim to offer “candid conversations.”

In July 2010, they posted a response to an e-mail from Leah Durant, about whom Rebecca has posted outrageous falsehoods as described in my earlier post. The response included this paragraph:

Leah Durant, executive director of Progressives For Immigration Reform, sent us a rebuttal defending her friend (Cafaro) and attacking me. In her email she asked that we publish her lengthy response on our site. Normally, we would, but we have this policy about providing platforms for bigots – we just don’t do it.

The rest of their response engages in the same flawed reasoning and guilt-by-association described in my earlier post. It includes a number of quotes from Leah’s e-mail, but declines to share the entire e-mail so that the reasonableness of Leah’s response can be fairly evaluated.  Although the author of this piece accuses Leah of “attacking me,”  the only example of this she included was when Leah wrote, “Garvey is too lazy to actually examine the arguments within Cafaro’s writings and refute them with academic analysis of her own.”

Does this rise to the level of an attack?  Perhaps so, but I think it accurately reflects the default mode of pseudo-journalism as displayed so prolifically on the Imagine2050 website. Furthermore, it pales in comparison, on the continuum of ad-hominem attacks, to calling Leah Durant, an African-American attorney, a bigot.

The real whopper in this paragraph, however, is the claim that “Normally, we would” print Leah’s rebuttal to their earlier smear piece. This is pure hogwash; they never allow people an opportunity to respond to their attacks. Instead, they use the rebuttals as an excuse to further attack, throw in a few extra paragraphs of guilt-by-association, and call the person requesting the opportunity to respond a bigot.

Does that sound like your idea of “igniting candid conversations?”

Instead of partnering with a group that merely pretends to foster open, civil dialogue, I would like to think that Hampshire College staff, students and graduates could find a better venue.  I expect that Imagine2050 will eventually be widely recognized for what it is, a website that pretends to offer news and opinions in an open and respectful format but in fact is only interested in promoting a particular point of view and slandering anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I hope that Hampshire College will reconsider its association with America’s foremost Academy of Slander. In particular, I should think that faculty working under the auspices of the “School of Critical Inquiry” would resist associating with such a sleazy outfit as Imagine2050. In reality, the POPDEV program is deeply entwined with them. If you don’t believe me, just go to Imagine2050 and enter the search term “Hampshire College” and see how much material comes from your school community. And when you get to the bottom, click on “Older posts” to see how far back this partnership goes. But put on your critical thinking hats, people; the BS is pretty deep throughout this website.

After the conclusion of Occupy Hampshire College, I wrote a post in which I expressed the expectation that I would not need to follow through on my earlier plans to post detailed critiques of the work of other Hampshire students and recent graduates. I would like to see that expectation come true, but I now realize that it is going to be very hard to leave off that additional written work, and to discourage other activists and journalists from exposing it, as long as this slanderous material remains on the Imagine2050 website. I would have thought that, after reading about Jesse and Rebecca’s logical fallacies and dishonesty in my earlier posts, those other contributors would remove their similarly weak and mean-spirited attacks from the web. They could still take that material down, but I suspect that they won’t do so. All the same, I offer this advice: This kind of sleazoid pseudo-journalism is not what you want to be known for as you venture out into the real world and try to find a place for yourself as a professional.

If the Hampshire College community actually believes that this is a form of activism that they can look at with pride, then I have gravely misjudged the people and the academic community that I experienced there. The Hampshire College I experienced, and the one I have heard described by friends, was not one that praised character assassination and deceit as valid modes of civil discourse. Of course, we all fall short of our ideals from time to time, and I can only hope that the Hampshire community, and the contributors to America’s foremost Academy of Slander, will hear my concerns and choose a new path for their future endeavors.

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Progressive Populationist

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