Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Over the Top and Off the Deep End at The Bulletin

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 9:33 PM

The first thing I turn to after I bring in my copy of The Bulletin every morning is the editorial page. I never know what kind of inspired idiocy I’ll get to read as I eat my Cheerios.

This morning there was a particularly outstanding specimen – an “In My View” piece by one Alfred Ferguson titled “Oligarchic collectivists, the Ivy League and liberals gone wild.”

I know nothing about Alfred Ferguson except that he lives in Bend (I know that from the curt line at the end of the piece, which is usually the only information The Bulletin deigns to provide about “In My View” contributors) and that he dislikes Barack Obama. Man, he really, really, REALLY dislikes Barack Obama.

Ferguson begins by informing us that “oligarchic collectivism” is a phrase “that we Americans are slated to become very familiar with as Obama and his wrecking crew have their socialist/Marxist way with us.”

From that point, it gets wacky. Ferguson goes on to describe how “Obama and his wrecking crew” knew they could never “dump this load of collectivist nonsense onto freedom-loving, common-sensical American people all at once without risking outright armed rebellion by citizen/patriots,” so they’re doing it in sneaky piecemeal fashion “by legislative manipulations, payoffs, backroom canoodling of one sort or another.”

Ferguson doesn’t go into specific examples, but presumably the very modest health care reform legislation passed on Sunday qualifies.

Then comes a strange paragraph that appears to hint that Obama is some sort of Manchurian Candidate:

“Obama himself attended Occidental College for two years, then transferred to Columbia, from there to Harvard Law. All of these places are expensive. His parents were not affluent, so how was it all financed? You didn’t see Obama scurrying about at minimum wage jobs as most financially average-to-poor American men and women must to get a college education. Scholarships if any are never complete. So what agent picked up the tab? Whoever or whatever it was, Obama the student got a solid, if not fanatical, grounding in oligarchic collectivism.”

From there Ferguson segues into a shot at Van Jones, an environmental advisor to the Obama administration who stepped down last September after controversy over his past associations with leftist groups, which in turn segues into a sneer at uppity Ivy Leaguers in general: “So Mr. Jones was unleashed into the night — to wind up as a lecturer at Princeton, where the rich go to be rich together. Ah, yes, the Ivy League of privileged gentlemen and ladies.”

Class envy much?

It might interest Ferguson to know that according to Director of Financial Aid Robin Moscato, 54% of this year’s freshman class at Princeton is receiving financial aid. Then again, it might not interest him; why let an inconvenient fact get in the way of a perfectly good opinion?

Anyway, Ferguson goes on to expend some of his limitless supply of outrage on Yale for holding something called “Sex Week,” which he appears to think is some kind of massive orgiastic ‘60s-style love-in, and then produces the following curious conclusion:

“Any authoritative or authoritarian unleashing of the libido invariably accompanies the imposition of tyranny, the elimination of privacy in all respects, the enslavement of the self for some purpose determined by the oligarchy, and, finally, the death of the individual soul — in the context of abandoning common sense.”

Historically, totalitarian regimes of the left or right have tended to be sexually repressive – and it’s rather difficult to figure out how the “unleashing of the libido” would square with “the elimination of privacy in all respects.” (Remember how much trouble Winston Smith and his girlfriend had finding a place where they could carry on without being under Big Brother’s eye in “1984”?) But, whatever.

Ferguson’s rant is comical, but there’s nothing funny about the behavior that can be inspired by this kind of over-the-top rhetoric. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of extremist groups in the country “exploded” in 2009 “as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream.”

Of particular concern was a 244% increase in the number of “Patriot” groups “fueled by anger over the changing demographics of the country, the soaring public debt, the troubled economy and an array of initiatives by President Obama that have been branded ‘socialist’ or even ‘fascist’ by his political opponents.” The “Patriot” militia movement of the 1990s led to the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

When a supposedly respectable newspaper like The Bulletin gives space on its editorial page to imbecilic ravings like Ferguson’s, it gives them an aura of legitimacy and credibility they don’t deserve – and it abdicates its responsibility to its readers and the community.

And this was not the first time Mr. Ferguson’s babblings have graced The Bulletin’s opinion columns; a search of the archives revealed that he’s had at least four other pieces published in less than a year. The titles: “Reality has never been friendly to the dreams of liberals,” “After the Obama wrecking crew,” “When hubris is your leader, disaster surely will follow” (believe it or not, that was NOT talking about the George W. Bush administration) and “Modern art piece is an insult to the White House.”

Please don’t tell me this is a “free speech” issue. Yes, the Alfred Fergusons of the world have a constitutional right to hold and voice whatever loopy opinions they want – but that doesn’t mean a newspaper is obliged to give them a platform and a bullhorn.

I put in a call to Erik Lukens, The Bulletin’s editor of editorials (and, incidentally, one of those privileged Ivy Leaguers) to try to find out why the paper is so enamored of the prose of Alfred Ferguson. Lukens hasn’t returned my call, so I may never know the answer. Maybe it’s because, contrasted with Ferguson’s tirades, The Bulletin’s editorials sound like the voice of sweet reason.

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