Friday, August 17, 2007

Controversy Closes The Door

There used to be a preacher who stood on a busy corner in Chicago's Loop, his voice artificially amplified. For hours on end, it seemed, he would spread the word and give it his all to save the souls of those who passed by. And pass by they did, not paying any attention to the gentleman who was answering the call of the Lord.

John J. Mearsheimer may or may not have seen the preacher, for who knows if the professors from the University of Chicago ever venture onto State Street. If he had, he might have observed that a few people did, rarely, pause to listen. Some folks walked along, ears open, taking in the lecture without pausing in their busy day, but finding comfort and inspiration in the words of a street corner minister. Mr. Mearsheimer may be forced to emulate the old man, and bark his thesis from the corner of State and Madison.

With a new book to plug, Mr. Mearsheimer and his colleague Stephen M. Walt are finding it increasingly difficult to find venues that will host their book tour. They have, to their misfortune, written a book that is critical of the Israel lobby and its heavy influence on American Middle East policy. In essence, they are blaming the Jews for the Iraq War, and Jewish community leaders won't have any of it.

Critics claim that The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is an anti-Semitic rant, poorly researched and deeply flawed. The authors put forth their hypotheses, that the pro-Israel lobby worked behind the scenes to keep the US from talking with Syria and Iran, while preventing US legislators from saying a bad word about Israel's incursion into Lebanon in 2006. In contrast, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has written his own analysis which sets out to prove that there is not Jewish cabal hard at work in Washington D.C. His book is due to be released on the same day, not unlike a duel where the pen is mightier than the pistol.

The end result of all this squabbling? Nothing more than the censorship of the marketplace.

Appearances at several events have been cancelled in light of the controversy, out of fear that supporters of those organizations will take offense and pull their much needed donations, putting the organization out of business. The whole premise of the yet to be released book is entirely too controversial, too dangerous, and the authors are being shut out of one site after another, as if there is some cabal at work trying to prevent them from selling their book.

No one will allow them to expound on their premise in the comfort of a meeting room. But there is nothing to stop Mr. Mearsheimer from mounting a soap box in Bughouse Square and setting forth his hypothesis. He could plug his new book at the same time, although an open air venue is not the best location to sell a large number of copies.

Free speech is alive, but sometimes it takes a bit more effort to get the message out.

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