Drawing lines between the political and the personal

Guest speaker William Jacobson’s visit to our class this past week put many things in perspective that I’ve been considering for some time now. While I was very interested in how he started up his conservative news website Legal Insurrection, I took a bit more interest in the initial response from his peers when he first launched the project as a blog.

As a law professor at Cornell University Jacobson said the idea for his blog came to fruition after debating with a more liberal friend of his before the 2008 election. After defending his vote for McCain-Palin the friend recommended starting a blog due to how eloquently he voiced his opinions and Jacobson launched Legal Insurrection shortly after. Starting up as a simple Google blog a few weeks before the 2008 election Jacobson said he had no experience with blogs or how to run and maintain one, but he still wanted to share his thoughts to whoever would listen. Something worth noting is how he did not use a pseudonym like many of his peers were doing at the time as the idea simply never occurred to him that he would need to protect his identity.

The blog picked up speed with time and acquired more readers, but with this increase in attention came a significant amount of backlash from the campus community at Cornell. As a mainly liberal campus Jacobson said his posts were met with public outcry to the point where a police detective was assigned to protect him during graduation that year. The resistance he was met with over a personal project was shocking to me, but I still wasn’t very surprised.

My main issue with this situation is how common it is now for this to happen especially in this day and age. On liberal campuses there is this increase in resistance to the exposure of opposing viewpoints not only in the classroom, but anywhere on campus. While I’m a firm believer that if a speaker or guest with a history of hate-filled rhetoric is invited to campus the students have every right to protest against their appearance, I have a harder time understanding doing such a thing when the person in question is a member of the campus community. In this case I believe Jacobson did not let his conservative beliefs alter how he taught his courses, nor do I believe he punished students who did not agree with the content he put on his blog. This means he must have been attacked due to his personal political beliefs, which I do not believe is fair. Having healthy discussions and arguments about politics are needed, but backlash that resulted in the need of a police presence at graduation for Jacobson’s safety is, frankly, ridiculous to me.

While I label myself as more on the liberal side of the spectrum and there are few, if any, points I agree with on Legal Insurrection, I would never feel the need to attack and berate Jacobson or his team over the content simply because it is from a conservative stance. I’ve noticed since this most recent election how being liberal and conservative mean much more than I imagine they did in the past. Being conservative is now essentially synonymous with being racist, sexist, anti-feminist, fascist, etc, and I can’t find it within me to find that fair in any way. One person does not a movement or ideology make.

I see the importance of exposing oneself to multiple viewpoints as there is no one right way to believe in/support anything. While I admit it is occasionally difficult to be that open and accepting of ideas, especially in this political climate, it’s still a valid move to make for many of us.

A few examples of how conservatism is treated on liberal campuses (1)(2)(3)

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