Thursday, June 26, 2008

First of the summer whines

Just as you know that come Halloween, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly will start his War on Christmas schtick… just as you know that come Memorial Day and Veterans Day, NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez will start bitching about Google’s lack of holiday-themed logos, just as you know that, you know that come graduation season some rightwinger or another is going to screech about the lack of conservative commencement speakers at the nation’s top colleges (nobody ever seems to care about the nation’s bottom colleges).

This year, one of the screechers is Jason Mattera. In his Washington Times op/ed piece, “ No diversity on campus: Commencement indoctrination,” he claims that the nation’s top colleges and universities are discriminating against Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and other “conservative media star[s]“ and not asking them to speak at graduation ceremonies.

Now this is just a working hypothesis, but maybe their not being invited is personal and not political: Hannity, Malkin, and Coulter are known to be full-tilt bug-fuck crazy. No one willingly invites the boorish to a once-in-a-lifetime party.
Sadly, if you've attended a graduation ceremony in the last 15 years, chances are you heard from a Democratic Party official, liberal activist, or someone within the mainstream media. Young America's Foundation has kept a record. The tabulations are fairly simple.
Well, you might think the tabulations would be fairly simple to make, but Young America’s Foundation screws it up several times over in their list for 2008.
We match the U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the top 100 universities with the commencement speakers at those institutions.
Well, no -- no they don’t.* Listed among actual commencement speakers on the 2008 YAF list are speakers and guests appearing at more informal and more lighthearted class day festivities, such as Stephen Colbert, who turned up at Princeton University’s Senior Class Day, as well as individuals who say a few words as they pick up honorary degrees.
Our analysis shows that the overwhelming majority of those who can be classified on an ideological spectrum are left of center. For more than a decade conservative commencement speakers haven't even come close to halving the number of those who are liberals.
The critical problem with the YAF analysis is that they don’t explain their definitions for “liberal” and “conservative.” I can understand assuming that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Univ of Georgia) is a conservative and that Oprah Winfrey (Stanford) is a liberal, but the YAF list gives no indication how the group considers speakers such as actress Angela Lansbury (Univ of Miami), veteran sportscaster Vin Scully (Pepperdine), former pro-football player Dan Marino (Univ of Pittsburgh), Archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan (Columbia), Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (Univ of Notre Dame), Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (William & Mary), or even General Richard Myers (Auburn).

Is it safe to assume that author J.K. Rowling (Harvard) is a liberal because Albus Dumbledore might be gay?

Is Tony Blair counted as a liberal because he’s the former Labor Party Prime Minister? Or is he counted as a conservative because he’s a gung ho Iraq War hawk?
By our count, there were only six recognizable conservatives this year -- less than one-fifth the number of liberal speakers.
Well, it may be by their count but no one else’s. And note that it’s no longer satisfactory that a speaker be a conservative; he or she must be a recognizable conservative. I don’t know how Mattera and the YAF can come up with such a specific count (only six recognizable conservatives!) using an invisible sliding scale. And to help keep the number of recognizable conservatives low, the group rather conveniently overlooks some critical biographical information about some speakers.

For example, William S. Cohen (Univ of Oklahoma) is considered a liberal on the YAF list because he was secretary of defense under Bill Clinton; the list compilers fail to note that for 26 years, Cohen served as a Republican senator and congressman from Maine. Bill Schneider (Brandeis) is demurely listed as a CNN commenter. No mention is made of his resident fellowship at the uber-conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Other than the YAF and a few disgruntled conservative media stars who didn‘t get invited to the festivities -- who cares? Most of us know it would be far better if at every commencement that wonderful speech by Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School was shown on a Jumbotron.
Members of the graduating class. I have only one thing to say to you today... it's a jungle out there. You gotta look out for number one. But don't step in number two. And so, to all you graduates... as you go out into the world my advice to you is... don't go! It's rough out there. Move back with your parents. Let them worry about it.

*For a much more accurate list of 2008 commencement speakers, see this database, compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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