As is evident by now, my editorial decision to publish
Charles Moore’s ‘political’ piece last Friday has caused
a stir here. I make the following remarks not to justify
myself: I believe I was justified and seek no further
justification. I will explain partly why I made the
decision, but even that not because I think it’s owed
anyone. I answer to myself for my actions because I
have to live with myself after acting in anyway. If
conscience keeps me awake at night, then it is only
because of my own actions, and not that of others which
stirs my slumbers.
First, some background on me. I am a scholar. I am
a university educator, classically trained in philosophy,
currently pursuing further training in the ‘Classics’
(the study of Greek and Roman history, language and
culture). I have been in academics all of my life. I
have seen good academic departments and bad ones. I
have witnessed the downright dissembling and destruction
so-called ‘political correctness’ imposes on academic
freedom. Last summer while in Chicago doing scholarly
work, the buzz was about the decision to take ‘Western’
out of the ‘Western Civilization’ course at the University
of Chicago. The course, it seemed, was just too white
male, Anglo-Saxon, Endo-European, and we all know how
they have brought destruction in the West. It’s garbage.
As Heath and Hanson (see below) say, the Western tradition
is something “intellectuals must stop apologizing
for but rather come to grips with” (“Who Killed
Homer?” xxiv). Traditional scholars are shrugged
off as jealous guardians of their own castles, keepers
of an old and out-dated way, threatened by pluralism
and multiculturalism, whose main weapons are abuse and
ad hominem attacks.
I have been suppressed, repressed and hidden by the
new cultural elite, the haters of the West, in my own
job and work. One of the most dangerous species on earth
is a sixties radical, or merely a multicultural priestess,
who has some power as the head of an academic department
and through that power wants to wheel their own vision
of a just and fair society which unfortunately ends
up in a new lethal discrimination that only a fanatic
could bring about with a clear conscience. Those who
were unlucky, as it were, in “life’s lottery”
as Rawls would say, are the ones who are ironically
locked out of possessing, or, more accurately, given
the chance to EARN their way. No, there are ‘special
groups’ who get to go first. Qualifications, earning
something, respect based on honest work and top-notch
scholarship are no longer the keys to the kingdom. Our
schools suffer and our students are paying thousands
of dollars while narrow-minded and short-sighted political
agendas are dished up to them as real scholarship in
the hopes that we are producing a better tomorrow.
What does this have to do with publishing Charles’
piece, you ask? A lot. You are reading the words of
someone who actually lost a position because he over-stepped,
supposedly, some bound of academic freedom. PC pure
and simple. Funny, I didn’t think freedom had bounds.
I thought academic freedom meant real freedom to carry
on one’s own research without the tug and pull of outside
forces and the demands of life; a position we put people
in (called tenure) because our society has placed a
high premium on searching for truth and goodness and
beauty. Silly me.Silly me to think that there was such
a thing as pure academic freedom anaywhere.
I was devastated. But that wasn’t the end. I have story
upon story of top-notch thinkers being roped in because
they were threats to fund-raising or offended a Regent’s
nephew – offended a Reegent’s nephew!! I have seen this.
The point is that those in power used in wrongly.
If you ascend, or are lucky enough to have any kind
of position of power, be it small or large; whether
it affects 2 or 2000; if you have power, or a voice,
or a place, or an audience, or some kind of authority,
big or small, or have earned the respect of your peers,
or have simply worked hard to achieve some measure listenersâ€¦
whatever it is, then you have the responsibility to
yourself, first, and to society, second, to use it in
just, virtuous and fair ways.
In the age of the Internet, even with these so-called
“blogs”, more people have voices today. They
may not be the loudest; they may not be the best; they
may not be the most popular, but they have it, and some
through very hard work. They too have responsibilities
to themselves first and society second. Forget about
these celebrities who think because they have a following
or fame then that makes them automatic expects on any
social topic. That’s garbage too. But be high and mighty
or low and weak, of you have a voice you have a responsibility.
The Internet has produced many voices or positions or
audience, without, I am sad to say, the required responsibility.
This is usually couched in terms of free speech, but
that is a red herring. The moment we are given anything
that increases our ability to manipulate the world in
any way, the moment we unlock nature, or have an audience,
and so on â€¦ we have responsibilities, like it
Before Rodney Lane took his life he came to me and
said, “Dave, I need to write.” I told him
he did not ‘need’ to but needed to get his medication
therapy under control. We were good friends, though
the sparks could fly around us sometimes times. he was
the best of the best or writers on the Mac web. But
I gave him a column. We know the rest of the story.
he shot himself, thinking his art would save him. It
didn’t. He came to me because Applelinks fired him for
using offensive language – offensive to advertisers
and readers. He knew he could speak his mind here. He
wanted to write about broader issues sometimes, he wanted
publishing freedom, and he knew he could find it here.
We are not beholden to advertisers. We at Applelust
are each responsible to himself for what he writes.
I understand that some earn a living on the web and
have to concerned about advertisers. Applelinks certainly
is. But if that is the path you have chosen then you
need to walk it. I will not chose that path though.Even
LowEndMac has become religion and politics free due
to advertising pressures. I understand this. I accept
it, if that is the path one has chosen. I would rather
have social pressures bought on an issue than any federal
or government solution, and in that way I am a libertarian.
I know this. That’s why we are ad-free, so far.
I have had other dealings with people at Applelinks
and other places that have concerned me. I know some
editors refuse to link to some authors out of purely
personally hurt feelings. That’s all. And they have
long memories. This is a case in which there is a
voice or power but one uses it wrongly, indeed, immorally
at times I think. Like I said, the internet has given
responsibility to many, but few possess the courage,
maturity and intelligence to use what they have wisely.
I could talk about TV executives or CEOs or whomever.
But you get the picture.
With this background, when Charles came to me I
thought, given past experiences, that people were
this articles. Maybe, I don’t know. Charles and
I are friends. We have worked together at other websites.
We share many interests and tastes. He’s helped
out here and there; and I hope he’d say I have
done the same. So when he came to me I simply said “Sure,
I’ll publish it,” while thinking “if no
one else has the courage to.” But that is neither
here nor there.
At Applelust we have covered all kinds of issues other
than the Mac. We say it after 9-11 with many sites.
I have written on political correctness, and technology
and the quality of future life. Applelust was the first
Mac site to exhort others to think about some kind of
code of ethics for our sites. No one
had done this. We did. In fact, at times I have claimed
that none of my articles are really
about the Mac anyway, but I use the Mac to talk about
larger issues. I use the Mac a hokk, as it were, to
people to think.
When writers come here I say we have two rules: (1)
don’t dumb it down (2) take as much time as you need
to make the point clear or the article worthwhile for
a reader. That’s it. I truly believe that creativity
is found only in freedom, and if anything, I think my
writers would tell you they have all the freedom they
need here.They have always, for the most part, used
that freedom reasonably. But you know what? When you
give someone total freedom, he seems to understand,
a priori, that it involves resonsibilities.I’ve
never given anyone complete freedom who later abused
it. Maybe it’s because we just have mature, smart writers
here. But I think it’s a general rule that if you give
someone freedom reason will keep people grounded in
it to use it responsibly. At least that has been my
As a publisher, I have published articles I disagreed
with. These disagreements come on several levels. They
might be on style or on substance. But I always assume
that if a writer writes something, takes the time to
put his thoughts down, that he has thought through them,
that he is willing, even more, able,
to defend those thoughts. Now this is a matter of degrees.
Some pieces I get I can tell were just thrown together
in a few minutes and are shallow. My readers will know
it too. I reject them. Sometimes the article is well-argued
and thought out, yet I disagree. I publish. These are
the decisions a publisher makes and I make them. I have
to trust my own judgment in making these decisions,
and so do my writers. And when all is said and done,
it falls on my shoulders, as well as each writer’s shoulders
Thus I published Charles’ article. I stand by publishing
it. And it’s not just about ‘free speech.’ In fact I
am rather conservative on this issue. I think one can
say WHATever he wants, but that there WHEREever and
WHENever are open to debate. The complaint against me
by some has to do with just this issue: Sure, the what
is fine, but the where was wrong. Yet
as I have stated, we have done pieces like this at Applelust
before. Long, long time readers of Applelust are aware
of this. In fact we used to have an English professor
write here. He used it to hone his writing abilities.
He talked about the Mac, he talked about random violence.
I myself have discussed a larger range of issues. So
it is not out of character to do this.
But the complaint may be deeper – this site should
not even have this character in the first place. I disagree.
We speak to a Mac-using audience, obviously. So we should
keep it that way? But if we were another kind of site
that spoke to other kinds of people with other kinds
of interests, I would still claim that we do these kinds
of things from time to time. This is not about Mac users
or anything. It’s about being intelligent, rational
beings. Mac users are humans in a world, and publishers
and writers share that world with them. Sometimes there
are events in that world which any rational being would
be concerned with. Some are so momentous that everyone,
whether they are the right outlet or not, will make
a contribution to it. I think we are at a point like
that in our society. We are about to go to war. People
will die. Our young men and women will be put in harm’s
way to stop a ruthless dictator who has violated the
human rights of millions. It’s not an issue at whether
we will or not, or whether more time is needed for inspections
and all that. These are all points which are being decided
by people with far more power than us.But I simply believe
we need to air out the issues.
What I can do, at times, not all the time, is use the
little power I have, the small voice we’ve earned at
Applelust, to talk about things that we need to talk
about – we need to talk about. At my university I have
been organizing debates and panels on whether we ought
to go to war with Iraq. It’s been heated and even sloppy.
Democracy is sloppy! But we’re an academy, and if we
need to air out our worries then the academy is certainly
the place to do it. But I also have a website, and with
it I have responsibilities to use it right. I think
at this time in history that a proper use of the power
I have, the fair and just use of the voice I have carved
out for myself and my writers here, is to use it to
talk about things that we are all, Mac users, publishers,
writers, readers, rational beings, are confronted with
right now. History is in the making. Lives are on the
line. The fate of nations is at stake. We are all intelligent
people and know these things.We beeter go into this
And in the end, as I said at the beginning of this
essay – in the final analysis I have to trust my own
judgment as a publisher because in the final analysis
I am accountable only to myself. If I thought Charles’
voice was being suppressed at sites that are beholden
to advertisers and he came to me to ask if I would publishing,
I have to make that call, and I have a responsibility,
and I stepped up and made the call. People know they
have freedom here. That is why some have come here.
I have been shut out by those with power too many times,
I have suffered the indignity of discrimination and
the collapse of academic freedom. And now I have some
power, a voice, small although it is, and I will use
it justly and rightly, and that is something very few
webmasters can say to you while keeping eye contact.
The Mac Web is full of immature editors, half-hearted
writers, spineless publishers, and all sorts who have
no idea that the power they have been granted by this
new technology brings responsibilities. Indeed, as Neil
Postman once said, “to the man with a hammer everything
looks like a nail.” And the point is, for one with
a new technology, he goes around pounding with no regard
for consequences, or responsibility or fairness. He
just wants to use it, come what may. This is mistaken.
Socrates, in the “Phaedo” tells the myth
of King Thamus who one time, so the myth goes, entertained
the god of writing. Thamus told him that the gift of
writing to mankind was a bad thing. It will destroy
memory, he says, since we will have written records.It
will, in other workds, destroy the oral tradition that
was so important to the Greeks, the tradition that,
thankfully, saved Homer for us. But moreover, it will
make too many instant experts. Anyone will be able to
pick up a book and learn to be an expert without the
necessary education concerning the ethical demands that
knowledge may place on him; many will have knowledge
without possessing the wisdom, the practical
wisdom, phronesis, or techne, craft-knowledge,
that allows one to use it well. A little
knowledge is a dangerous thing. So,
says Postman, we must accept a new technology in any
culture with “our eyes wide open.” Unfortunately,
this rarely happens.
Applelust will never be held hostage by advertisers,
or by Apple for that matter. I will suppress my own
intellectual journey and search for truth to no man.
All that matters to me is whether I can live with
the decisions I make. So far, I have been able to.
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