ampus protest spurs comments

Editor’s note: Readers have sent the Daily an overwhelming number of letters about United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson’s Feb. 20 visit to the University, the protests that greeted him and the Daily’s coverage of the event. Today’s opinions page prints a sampling of the letters we’ve received.

Skewed priorities at Daily
There seems to be a disturbing trend at The Minnesota Daily. Your advocacy seems strangely contradictory.
Case in point, the analysis of the protest against Bill Richardson seems particularly flawed. Monday’s news article, “Protesters disrupt ambassador’s speech,” was filled with jibes and minor attacks. The writers used a distorted view of the happenings. I wonder if they were even there because their description of events was rather lackluster. They completely ignored all of the speakers who rallied outside.
Monday’s editorial, “Protesters went too far at Friday forum,” made some key mistakes as well. It is absolutely evident that the writer was not, and has never been to a demonstration of any kind. This tepid surface analysis reflects a general level of ignorance.
Specific analysis of the situation further sharpens the issues involved. Richardson was out of order to speak on Iraq in the first place. The topic of the policy meeting was local responses to global issues. Richardson was scheduled to speak long ago. Only now did he decide to use this forum, on our campus, to spread his message of war. No one seems to recognize that this is a propaganda scheme of our government.
The second flaw in the analysis is the assertion that the protesters acted wrongly in interrupting Richardson. I contend that Richardson wasn’t saying anything new. This same tired old rhetoric was kicked out of Ohio State, and I’m proud to say that it was booted out of the University.
I find it weird that the Daily finally decided to throw some weight around. You develop guts on a rather ridiculous issue. When the people of Iraq, people of color, the impoverished or the student cultural centers are under attack, you sit on your hands. You invoke a cry of objective journalism and turn your backs. Yet when Bill Richardson is under attack, you step up to defend him. Seems like your priorities are a bit skewed.
Pete Johnson,junior, College of Liberal ArtsProgressive Student Organization member

Put blame on Saddam
I have observed, first with interest, then with amusement and finally with disgust, the recent protests against U.S. involvement in Iraq. While it is more convenient — and certainly more “progressive” — in today’s society to vilify the U.S. government for anything and everything that goes wrong in the world, we must remember that Saddam Hussein is the true enemy of the Iraqi people, not the United States or the United Nations.
Saddam Hussein is a coward who hides behind innocent men, women and children. It was Saddam Hussein who attempted the genocide of his own people, the Iraqi Kurds. It was Saddam Hussein who invaded Kuwait without cause. It was Saddam Hussein who has used, and would not hesitate to use again, the chemical and biological weapons he has continued to conceal from the U.N. weapons inspectors.
I don’t think war would have been desirable to anyone. No more desirable are the sanctions which have, admittedly, hurt the Iraqi people. But instead of blaming the United States or the United Nations, it is time to place the blame on the person who really deserves it.
Christopher Gerald Clauson,freshman, College of Liberal Arts
Richardson owed apology
I would like to respond to Wednesday’s letter, “Demo against ambassador was right.”
I am very perplexed by the actions of the Progressive Student Organization at U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson’s speech last Friday. I would not define progressive as shouting down a respected U.S. representative because you disagree with him.
To me, progressive means following and upholding the principles this nation was founded upon. That means allowing others to speak their minds, especially when you vehemently disagree with what is being said.
What those protesters did would be tantamount to the Daily deciding not to print a letter because one of the editors disagreed with it. However, the Daily did print your letter because it is a current issue and should be freely discussed by anyone who has a say. It’s odd that your organization is afforded a degree of respect that it did not provide to Mr. Richardson last Friday.
I am sure that not all members of the Progressive Student Organization behaved so poorly. To those of you who acted in a respectful manner and upheld Mr. Richardson’s right to speak, I applaud you.
It disturbs me that other members of that organization can be not only hypocritical, but ignorant as well. It’s one thing to ignore the ideals of our Bill of Rights but entirely another to say that your actions were based on “concrete moral philosophies.” I find nothing moral or philosophical in your actions. Your philosophy was a brute strength, one of “we can be louder than you.” I would expect much more from students in college, especially those claiming to be progressive.
On behalf of the University, I deeply apologize to Mr. Richardson.
Andrew Villas,junior, Carlson School of Management

Protest coverage biased
It is very strange these days in the land of Minnesota. The Daily has defied logic and lost any shred of integrity. It appears that you have used Hearst-like suppression tactics in your coverage of the local anti-war movement.
On Feb. 20, I expected to see some coverage of a protest held at the federal building. Unlike other local papers, the Daily ignored the event all together. I find this very suspect, since many University students were directly involved with running the demonstration.
I thought the purpose of a student newspaper was to write on student activities, not make political decisions on what groups are worth covering. You decided to report on a George Bush event later that evening, so I know that the Daily could have attended the rally.
Then on Monday I faced further loathing at the editorial and the news article written about the Bill Richardson demonstration. The Daily set a bad tone in the article, “Protesters disrupt ambassador’s speech.” I feel that the tone and descriptive elements showed a predisposition against the activists. The very low estimate of the number of protesters — the lowest count in all media — is just the beginning. The tone of the story paints Richardson as a victim of the mental terrorism of the crowd. It then asserts that he was able to quiet the crowd, implying that he had some control.
The editorial, “Protesters went too far at Friday forum,” also seems like it reflects a political agenda set by the Daily for the war, and against the protesters. It is obvious to this reader that the Daily has some personal vendetta against these activists, and is censoring and distorting the facts of the day.
The story about the Richardson incident was an international one. So why was this protest attacked on this campus? I guess the local activists will learn a valuable lesson from this reaction. That lesson is that the campus, and especially the Daily, is hostile to their actions. They should learn who is against them.
On CNN I saw one of the protesters holding a sign that read “Say no to the U.S. war junkies.” I thought he meant the military and the other kings of the land. Now I’m not so sure.
Ron H. Tenille,sophomore, General College

Protester would do it again
I’d like to respond to Monday’s editorial, “Protesters went too far at Friday forum,” which expressed offense at the audacity and downright rude manners of the protesters who came out to spoil last Friday’s breakfast forum with U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson.
As one of the protesters, I must say that we did act quite reprehensibly — chanting those tired old slogans, yelling and screaming while Richardson tried to speak, even dumping ashes over innocent peoples’ breakfast sausages! I admit, all this behavior is quite rude and for this I say, I’m sorry.
But if Richardson came back next week, I’d do the same thing again. Only I’d yell louder and I might even be tempted to hurl some scrambled eggs in his direction. You see, demonstrating is practically the only choice we have. In today’s social landscape, with a corporate-controlled media monopoly, with an ever-shrinking amount of public space, and with the ruling parties’ billion-dollar spin masters manipulating public policy, this is the only way we can express our indignation and disgust that in 1998 our government is still talking about dropping bombs on civilians as a way to save them.
Asking the protesters to keep silent would be like asking Richardson not to defend U.S. government policy. That’s what he came here to do, and we went there to yell and scream.
Perhaps you should criticize the mass media for doing more to limit dialogue than any of us ever could.
Furthermore, if the bombs do start falling on the Iraqi people, I’ll be a little comforted knowing that at least I yelled until I was hoarse to try and stop this barbarism. All some people did was tell us to shut up.
John Gwinn,student, University College

Defense of protest was weak
I really am in full support of the demonstration against Bill Richardson. He has acted currently and historically in the interests of suppression and the murder of the Iraqi people. The U.S. policy is immoral and illegal.
That being said, I want to express a dissatisfaction with the so-called defense presented by the Progressive Student Organization in Wednesday’s letter, “Demo against ambassador was right.” The three women who apparently represent this group are falling victim to the tactics used by the people they are attacking.
The first trend that I find disturbing is the strange gender balance and politics in this letter. I contend that balance of gender contributes to balance of opinion. I also feel that use of language affects or forecasts our views about issues. The PSO has a skewed gender balance and these women go out of their way to use improper pronouns, such as the repeated use of she where he/she is far more appropriate. This lack of balance leads us to believe that either there are no men in the PSO, or that something else is amiss about this letter.
The second objection lies with the responses given. These students could all use a logic class for the purpose of defending their claims. They go after Richardson for skirting the issue, then do the same thing themselves. They don’t deal with the main thrust of the editorial — that the protesters prevented the audience from making up their own minds.
I have problems with this argument on many levels, but the PSO doesn’t address this. They choose instead to hide behind vague language and descriptions of moral right and wrong. Anyone who read their letter closely can see the logical flaw in their argument.
The three PSO members foolishly chose to argue on the grounds set by the poor editorial, rather than to refute its logical contentions. Their statement about being “based on reality” is vague because they don’t coherently stand on anything. Their own rhetoric holds the key answer to my satisfaction. “It is unacceptable to silently walk away with inadequate answers to burning questions.”
The third objection is to the PSO. They seem to be painting themselves as the head of the campus anti-war community. All I see is the same person on the television and in this Daily “advertisement” restating again and again the same tired responses.
They fail to react and change their defense to the backlash they had to know would come after such an incident. They should try to form some unified intellectual understanding, and not just grab all the media they can and then try to sort it out.
The progressives seem to support sexism, ignore the need for logical refutation and have an odd impulse to grab the media to spout imprecise and often illogical rhetoric.
Sophie Appleton,alumna, College of Liberal Arts