Thoughts On Campus Speech 1: Hitler Would Have Been The Most Valuable Campus Speaker

Yesterday,  Yale did not cave to pressure from certain parts of the student body and Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke on campus.  As with many controversial speakers, mostly consisting of folks not on the political Left, a number of campus groups tried to force Yale to cancel her speech because they expressed themselves offended by her.   Among politically correct colleges, there has been a growing trend towards enforcing a right not to be offended, though this enforcement tends to be asymmetric -- Muslims apparently have a right not to be offended, but Christians do not.  Women have it but men do not.  Greenpeace has it but Exxon does not.

People of prominence who offend us or with whom we violently disagree should not be the least but the most welcome speakers on campus.  I will demonstrate this by using the most extreme of all possible examples:  An imaginary speaking tour by Adolph Hitler, say in December of 1938.  Could there be a more distasteful person, the leader of Nazi Germany just weeks after the Reichskristallnacht?  But I think he would have been the most valuable speaker I could possibly imagine.

If he were honest, which Hitler likely couldn't have stopped himself from being, what valuable insights we could have gained.  The West made numerous mistakes in the late thirties and even into the forties because it just could not believe the full extent of Hitler's objectives and hatreds**.   Perhaps we would have understood sooner and better exactly what we were dealing with.

Even if he were dishonest, and tried to "convert" the office without discussing specific plans, that would still be fascinating.  What arguments did he use?  Could we get insights into why he struck a chord among the German people?  Would his rhetoric be compelling to American audiences?  I despise the guy and almost everything he stood for but I would have loved to have him on campus as a speaker.

I will tell one of my favorite stories about the rise of Hitler.   You have heard the story of Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.   Supposedly this was a slap in the face to Hitler, to have a black man winning medals.  But one of the last events of the games was a four man relay race.  The US was certainly going to win.  But one of the US runners was Jewish and the US pulled the runner from the race and substituted Owens.  The US didn't want to embarrass Hitler by making him hand a medal to a Jew.  This sounds odd to put it this way, but one of the problems we had in really taking the worst of the Holocaust seriously as it was happening is that we were not able to see that Hitler's anti-semitism was so much more dangerous than the ubiquitous and run-of-the-mill anti-semitism that obtained all over Britain and America.  We should always have a policy of letting even the most extreme people talk as much as they like.  We might learn that they have a point and adjust our thinking on something, or we might learn that they are even batshit crazier than we thought.  Either outcome is useful.

  • Chris Smith

    What I find funny is that large segments of Islamic societies are real life examples of fundamentalism run amok. Starting in the late 70's, the US had scores of fictional accounts of Christian fundamentalism either resulting in civil war, or simply taking complete control. But, if you compare the horrors presented in a book like The Handmaid's Tale and compare it to someone like Hirsi Ali's, or any Iranian woman's, real life, you will find many similarities. But the people that are vocal opponents of Christian fundamentalism say nothing about Islamic fundamentalism.

  • Roy_Lofquist

    Anecdote....

    Jesse Owens lived in my neighborhood in Phoenix - 32nd St. just north of Squaw Peak. I never met him but my children, not knowing of his fame, thought highly of him.

  • Gil G

    Not to mention the Germans didn't treat Owens particularly badly at all whereas the U.S. at the time petty much forgot who Owens was.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19738_5-iconic-scenes-from-history-everyone-pictures-incorrectly_p2.html

  • Zachriel

    Coyote Blog: An imaginary speaking tour by Adolph Hitler, say in December of 1938. Could there be a more distasteful person, the leader of Nazi Germany just weeks after the Reichskristallnacht? But I think he would have been the most valuable speaker I could possibly imagine.

    Crowds of fascist Americans waving flags, with brownshirts enforcing security. What could go wrong?

  • marque2

    Your analogy falls apart because Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the opposite of Hitler - she isn't spewing angry venom - she is alerting people to the Hitler like radicals in the middle east and elsewhere who are hurting and killing women and anyone from another religion they can get their hands on. It would be more like a college preventing someone from speeking who was warning about Hitler.

  • Realist

    Hitler wasn't even in the stadium when Owens was awarded his gold. However in Jesse Owens own words: " Later, when I passed the Chancellor, he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back...I think the writers have showed bad taste in criticizing Germanys man of the hour...Hitler didn't snub me..Roosevelt snubbed me....he didn't even send me a telegram." Later on the speaking circuit (one of his few avenues of income in the 1960s) Owens story became the generic one of today "It's not what happened, but it's what people want to hear....otherwise...."
    After congratulating a Finnish athlete, Hitler was informed that he would have to congratulate all or none....subsequently even German athletes were never congratulated officially by him.
    I am not an advocate of the regime...BUT on one of my many trips to Germany I was fortunate to see the official Nazi coffee table book of the '36 games. Jesse Owens prowess and victories were given several pages of print with photos including one picture occupying a full page.

  • Realist

    For a more typical speech from the dictator himself...google his "Winter Help" speech

  • irandom419
  • marque2

    Um again, Hitler, evil dictator out to conquer; Ayaan Ali, innocent women, out to warn us about Hilteresque types.

    I don't think she is speaking about starting wars, and conquering our enemies to the east.

  • SimonFa

    A few years ago, here in UK, we had the rise of a right wing demagogue called Nick Griffin who led the right wing British National Party. They started to do well in local elections and opinion polls and there was a debate about whether they should be included in broadcast political debates on the BBC.

    Needless to say there was vitriolic opposition from the left whilst those of us of a more libertarian outlook argued that he should be allowed on as we were convinced that a proper airing would expose not only his rather nasty views but also incompetence. The fact that there was so much vitriol also gained him support, we Brits are an odd bunch at times.

    In the end he appeared on the BBC's flagship political debating program, Panorama, and made a complete fool of himself. That was the end of him and his party as a political force.

    The upshot of this story is that I recently heard a left wing activist admit on a podcast that she had been wrong to oppose his appearance and it had been the best thing that could have happened. The problem is that she still campaigns against free speech where someone might, just might, be offended.

  • Earl T

    Hitler didn't start out with an "evil dictator/war monger" demeanor and he was dismissed as a silly little man with a funny mustache. It would have been a huge, likely very helpful expose to hear him speak outside the insular German republic, at that time. As noted, people who thought him harmless and worthy only of contempt or apathy, might have changed their closed little progressive minds.