“Z-poppers and genocide” is the title I gave a letter I wrote to my university student newspaper around 1972. It’s probably my first opinion piece and a preview of opinion writing I would do on bulletin boards, Internet news groups and finally on my own web sites and blogs – culminating here at Obama Conspiracy Theories. I don’t have a copy of that letter now, but the subject was the misrepresentation of the views of the Zero Population Growth group (derisively called “z-poppers” by opponents). “No, Zero Population Growth doesn’t advocate ‘zero population.’”
The other student letter I wrote as an undergraduate was titled “The Calley Rally,” an observation on how people on different sides of the Vietnam War controversy rallied around Lt. William Calley (who was eventually convicted of murder in the killing of Vietnamese civilians) in support or opposition to the War. For some Calley was a symbol of all that is wrong with war and for others he was a symbol of what one sometimes has to do to win a war. While I wasn’t ready to condone what Calley did, I acknowledged that war does things to people.
Those two letters showed my interest at debunking misrepresentations, my interest in looking at both sides of issues, and my fascination with how people’s perception of events is colored by their personal biases.
The Vietnam War was a major division in American Society in the 1970’s. While I was trying to understand those who disagreed with me, Jerome Corsi was asking whether we should shut them up. 1972 was also the year Corsi wrote his PhD thesis in Political Science at Harvard, titled: PRIOR RESTRAINT, PRIOR PUNISHMENT, AND POLITICAL DISSENT: A MORAL AND LEGAL EVALUATION.
While I wouldn’t want to suggest that Jerome Corsi couldn’t have changed in 40 years (I certainly have!), I still find it interesting that he was questioning things like academic freedom back then when it went against public policy. One bit that caught my eye was a quote (deliciously ironic from today’s perspective) of Professor Meiklejohn who Corsi cites, I think, approvingly (Corsi cites 4 works by Meilkejohn, more than any other author) on page 108 of his thesis:
The radio as it now operates among us is not free nor is it entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. It is not engaged in the task of enlarging and enriching human communication. It is engaged in making money. And the First Amendment does not intend to guarantee men freedom to say what some private interest pays them to say for its own advantage. It intends only to make men free to say what, as citizens, they think, what they believed, about the general welfare.
…The radio, as we have it now, is not cultivating those qualities of taste, of reasoned judgment, of integrity of loyalty, of mutual understanding upon which the enterprise of self-government depends. On the contrary, it is a mighty force for breaking them down. It corrupts both our morals and our intelligence.
Alexander Meiklejohn, Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948). Ellipsis in Corsi’s paper.
And yes, several irony meters were harmed in the writing of this article.