Saturday, March 08, 2008


Semantha Power has resigned from the Obama campaign staff following a European newspaper publishing her offhand and off-the-record remark about Hillary Clinton. The Washington Post today has an article about an American university closing down the exhibition of an artists production which involved projection of a controversial video game on Iraq; the institute reportedly wanted time to review the show's "origin, content and intent.

Thinking about these, it seems to me that Semantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize winning author affiliated with Harvard University can speak our more forcefully for Obama as a private citizen than as a staffer. She clearly did the right thing in stepping down from the campaign rather than run the risk of embarrassing her candidate, especially since doing so is likely to make her more effective in his support.

The university certainly should have decided before starting its exhibition as to whether it chose to exhibit the work. Inviting an artist to exhibit and then closing after one showing is not fair to the artist. Universities, especially private universities, have not only the right but the duty to screen the exhibits that they provide. They have the right to define their own screening criteria. Fortunately we have to freedom to avoid or ignore those universities that choose not to exhibit high-quality, thought-provoking materials on the sole basis that they are deemed too controversial by university bureaucrats.

I am far more concerned with political appointees that try to keep public servants from providing the public with information from publicly funded research and analysis because the politicians don't like the information. Of course, the protection of freedom of speech in the United States is much greater than in many other countries, and of course we need to continue to fight for that freedom if we want to continue to have a strong democracy.

i am, however, worried more about the protection of other human rights in this country than for protection of freedom of speech. The social and economic rights of too many people are endangered, and the prison population suggests we need to spend more effort protecting freedom from unreasonable incarceration.

No comments: