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Tough Guy

Earlier this week Yale lecturer Jim Sleeper attacked two conservative freshmen in print, likening them to "Fedayeen." It's an Ivy League education!

7:00 AM, Apr 18, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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JIM SLEEPER is a lecturer in political science at Yale, and an author and former columnist at the New York Daily News. He wrote a column for the Yale Daily News on April 14. We can assume he knows about the need to choose words carefully, and we can assume he chose his words below carefully.

Eliana Johnson and Jamie Kirchick are freshmen at Yale. They are members of Yale Students for Democracy. They are not professional pundits, though Johnson is a contributor to one of Minnesota's leading blogs, www.powerlineblog.com.

Johnson and Kirchick filed an online report with Frontpage Magazine on April 11. They recounted the goings-on at a Yale "teach-in" held the evening that Baghdad was liberated. Professor Dmitri Gutas used the occasion to raise the specter of a neoconservative cabal--the names he listed were all Jews--running American foreign policy. Professor Glenda Gilmore spoke on the attempt to silence voices of the left. It sounds like a typically silly session of the tenured left, and Johnson and Kirchick report the posturing with gusto, and with a tough conclusion: "Indeed, the conspiracy theories espoused by Gutas and Gilmore are a symptom of the hateful bitterness that characterizes the campus left in the face of American success."

They are correct, of course, as many other commentators have noted.

Sleeper, however, saw in their article a challenge to the civility of the Yale campus. He dubbed this commentary an expression of "the belligerence of some students who think themselves entitled to subject their peers and even professors to baiting, ridicule, and ad hominem attack." Sleeper uses that line as a jumping off point to engage in baiting, ridicule, and ad hominem attack.

Specifically, Sleeper brands the two freshmen and another group, Campus Watch, as neo-Stalinists and, even more incredibly, the "Fedayeen Uncle Sams." His April 14 column contains not a single line disputing any assertion made by the students in their report. Sleeper does not assert they got the facts wrong in even the smallest detail. He complains only that their style is not civil.

This sort of hypocrisy is difficult to swallow. Sleeper summons up the image of William Sloane Coffin Jr. as the perfect example of gentle activism, and then hammers undergraduates as terrorists.

Notice how the left quickly abandons its own self-professed ideals when confronted with publicity. Where are the Critical Legal Studies scholars to note that the power hierarchy of the university is being employed to silence first-year students? Where are the Women's Studies professors to note that an old white male is using verbal brickbats to silence young women seeking to be heard?

Help will not arrive from the usual suspects. Sleeper and his kind, however, are reminders of how far the campuses have slid into intellectual chaos. The absurd are tenured and the truth-tellers are freshmen. Alumni should take note. Is this where you want to invest your dollars?

My producer contacted Sleeper with an offer to appear on my radio program to discuss his article. "Sorry, I don't do radio interviews," he e-mailed back. What a surprise. Professor Sleeper only tackles freshmen.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.