Friday, March 30, 2007

Not exactly fair and balanced, nor should it be

BYU announces Reid will speak on campus in the fall

All of Utah is in a twitter over Vice President Dick Cheney's looming visit as commencement speaker at Brigham Young University's graduation. The latest news has BYU and its owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, trumpeting their "fair and balanced" approach by announcing that Democratic Senator Harry Reid will be speaking on campus later this fall. BYU and the LDS Church are also responding to a recent editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune that says the church, despite its so-called "long standing policy of political neutrality", is really showing its biases with this invitation.

If you missed the latest articles here they are:
LDS Church and BYU officials stand by Cheney invitation (Daily Herald)
LDS Church fires back at criticism over Cheney (Deseret Morning News)
LDS Church responds to Tribune columnist (Salt Lake Tribune)

The LDS Church's full response can be found here

So what does this have to do with UVSC?"

We are glad you asked. As many of you recall a similar controversy gripped all of Utah nearly 3 years ago when UVSC announced that liberal filmmaker Michael Moore would speak on campus. Immediately there were petitions and protests calling to rescind the invitation and punish those who would dare suggest such a thing. If you need a reminder of how fun that whole thing got check out the first 40 or so minutes of the film This Divided State.

There is a scene in that movie when UVSC professor Alex Caldiero essentially grabs the camera by the lens, puts it right on his mug, and says, "There is no such thing as an objective viewpoint!" over and over.

Truer words were never spoken. There is no such thing as an objective viewpoint. Trying to balance one speaker with another, as UVSC tried to do by inviting Sean Hannity, is an exercise in futility. Public schools like UVSC better serve their communities by getting the best possible speakers to come to campus, and letting the audiences evaluate the messages.

But when we try and second guess the public, or appease the cries for balance (as if such a thing exists) we end up dumbing down the issues and further feeding the cult of personality.

Why balance is stupid

Look what BYU has done by announcing that Harry Reid will speak in the fall. This was a forum that had been planned for months, certainly before the Cheney invite. It was going to be a chance for BYU students to listen to a man, who just so happens to be of their same faith, discuss important political issues. Now it is nothing more then a half-assed attempt to quell the public outcry over the Cheney visit. Instead of listening to either of these important leaders and their messages, we will instead spend our time discussing the fact that they were invited in the first place. Both men and their words will be reduced to nothing more than another Red vs. Blue grudge match that will rile up everyone and solve nothing.

But balance should be the goal, right?

The short answer is no. An informed electorate should be the goal. But when entities try and frame the debate by "getting both sides" they end up only expressing their own biased tendencies. Here is a line from the LDS Church's official response that illustrates what we mean:

The invitation to the vice president of the United States is not a violation of that policy, any more than inviting the majority leader of the Senate would be. In fact, Senator Harry Reid — a Democrat from the opposite political pole to the vice president — has already accepted such an invitation for this fall.

So according to the LDS Church Harry Reid is the political antipode of Dick Cheney? Harry Reid? Just because he is a democrat? In order to come close to Cheney's polar opposite BYU would need to invite Hugo Chavez or raise Lenin from the dead.

The fact is that trying to achieve balance, even at a state school, is ridiculous. Now try doing it a conservative religious school and it goes from ridiculous to retarded.

We long for a day when the those in the media, and those in positions of authority, have enough confidence in human intelligence to let us evaluate messages and messengers without their silly and often meaningless labels.

We also hope that those engaged in trying to stop someone from speaking, no matter who it is, realize that their time is better spent coming up with a message of their own. Show your disagreement with more speech, better speech, not restricting the speech of others. The Michael Moore visit should have taught us at least that.


The Pipeline said...

Another fine article from Tad Walch of the D-News on the Cheney visit.

The Pipeline said...

According to an article in this morning's Daily Herald BYU will be requiring those attending commencement to have tickets, and will be limited to 4 tickets per graduate.

The Pipeline said...

Here is the Des News article about the Cheney visit and the school requiring tickets. Des News reporter Tad Walch is all over this story...just look at the difference between his article and The Herald's.