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Commencement meltdown– students are wisely rejecting elite authority

on 44 Comments
Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Here is an incomplete list of moralists who are upset that students are protesting against certain college speakers, notably including Condoleeza Rice:

“Dear Class of 2014, Thanks for Not Disinviting Me,” by Stephen Carter, at Blooomberg;

“The Commencement Bigots,” by Timothy Egan, in The New York Times;

and “Commencement Speakers Are Dropping Like Flies,” by Andrew Sullivan.

I don’t necessarily endorse all the student protests against all the speakers–for one thing I don’t know enough–, but Rice is a no-brainer. She participated in deceiving America with her nonsense about smoking guns and mushroom clouds and, according to the most recent study, the Iraq War caused 500,000 deaths.

There’s no real accountability for American elites, so at the moment those who think American war criminals should be brought to justice are forced to cheer for tiny symbolic victories that let the criminals know that whatever the powerful may think, ordinary decent people who know their records do not wish to socialize with them or honor them or treat them as gurus with interesting words of wisdom to impart on graduation day. There should be no public embrace of such people. It is the least we can do to honor those who died because of their actions.

But how do our moralists react? With shock and horror at students unwilling to listen to those who “disagree” with them. They should know better than to trivialize the issue this way; Stephen Carter even goes on to say that Obama is guilty of killing civilians in the drone campaign and he also points out that the Clintons were complicit in the runup to the Iraq invasion. But the lack of accountability for the powerful in American life doesn’t seem to bother him. What bothers him is the symbolic rejection of elite authority. He couches it in terms of students listening to those with whom they disagree, but this is nonsense.

Anyone even faintly familiar with the Iraq War knows what the pro-war arguments were. No, this is about authority and knowing your place. Condoleeza Rice has wisdom to dispense–the students should graciously accept what she has to teach. It is only by listening politely to the likes of Condoleeza Rice that they demonstrate their worthiness to take their place among those who matter.

Donald Johnson

Donald Johnson is a regular commenter on this site, as "Donald."

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44 Responses

  1. Mooser on May 19, 2014, 12:34 pm

    I’m sorry, I’m a little broke up right now. All famischt too, but I’ll go upstairs and have some breakfast. I see that the term “ziocaine” is still in current use! 64,000 + hits when I Google it. As my wife would say, “What has the old God-help-us wrought?”
    I thought it would decompose as quickly as last year’s discarded antlers, but it seems to still be around. That would be gratifying, except that with so many people using it, I’m convinced I must have stolen it from somebody else in the first place!

    • annie on May 19, 2014, 1:25 pm

      Mooser!!!! where have you been? i have sooo missed you!

      • Bumblebye on May 19, 2014, 2:51 pm

        Whoopeee! Mooser’s back!
        I couldn’t help thinking of you a couple months ago, when my niece got her motorbike….

        As far as I know, I don’t think UK universities do ‘Commencement Speeches’, so she won’t be starting off with a protest. Bound to follow tho’, the nose-ring’s already there.

      • lysias on May 19, 2014, 2:59 pm

        Public figures are invited to participate in debates at UK universities, so there may be a chance to protest.

      • Bumblebye on May 19, 2014, 7:44 pm

        I know there’s many public figures at debates, but I didn’t recall anything as formal as a ‘Commencement Speech’ from my own time, nor heard of them elsewhere in the UK.

      • seafoid on May 19, 2014, 5:02 pm

        Mooser is Mondoweiss’s 12th imam

      • bintbiba on May 19, 2014, 5:48 pm

        Mooser… Mooser… Mooser. Welcome back into our space !!!!

      • RoHa on May 20, 2014, 12:58 am

        In the UK they are called “Graduation Ceremonies”. The idea of the end of a degree programme being called “Commencement” is bizarre.

      • James Canning on May 20, 2014, 6:52 pm

        Agreed. Bizarre.

    • jon s on May 19, 2014, 1:51 pm

      The moose is loose!

      • philweiss on May 19, 2014, 2:48 pm

        Holy moses! Mooser sighting????

      • Kathleen on May 19, 2014, 2:59 pm

        Yes! Welcome back

      • eljay on May 19, 2014, 3:00 pm

        The day just got a little brighter… :-)

      • annie on May 19, 2014, 3:50 pm

        scroll up phil! he’s back! i hope for good!

    • AlGhorear on May 19, 2014, 3:55 pm

      Mooooooooooooser! You’re back!!!

      Now you mooset promise not to disappear again.

    • Hostage on May 19, 2014, 4:52 pm

      I see that the term “ziocaine” is still in current use! 64,000 + hits when I Google it. . . . That would be gratifying, except that with so many people using it, I’m convinced I must have stolen it from somebody else in the first place!

      Mooser old buddy, I can’t believe you’re back! (suspending disbelief is sooo hard for us agnosticis). Maybe you borrowed ziocaine from Naftali Bennett? He’s been complaining about that “shrapnel in the ass” feeling and can’t seem to get any relief. In any event, I’m glad you dropped by. Please stick around.

    • Shingo on May 19, 2014, 4:52 pm

      Great to see you back Mooser. We missed you big time!

    • LeaNder on May 19, 2014, 5:15 pm

      A shtik naches! What a great joy to see your name around here.

      For me ziocaine is your invention. At least I heard it first from you. ;) Should I check Jews sans frontiers?

    • RoHa on May 19, 2014, 7:10 pm


    • ritzl on May 19, 2014, 8:51 pm

      You had me at “last year’s antlers…” Welcome back! Please stick around.

    • on May 19, 2014, 11:20 pm

      google “eric legrands speech at rutgers”
      scroll down the comments section till you get to a jewish professor who is whining about being dismissed by what he thinks is an antisemetic and because hes a supporter of israel.

    • Kris on May 20, 2014, 12:03 am

      Mooser, I enjoy your comments so much, and am thrilled that you’re back! Please stick around, we need you!

    • MRW on May 20, 2014, 6:48 am

      Babee! You’re back!

    • MRW on May 20, 2014, 6:50 am

      Fukinay. We missed you, Mooser. Shit. Don’t do that to us again. It’s not the same without you. Seriously.

    • Eva Smagacz on May 20, 2014, 8:23 am

      I have just donated 50 bucks to Mondoweiss out of sheer joy of seeing you here!

      • Ellen on May 20, 2014, 8:53 am

        Me too! I also just donated again. Have been wanting to get around to that.

        So the Moose is back? I thought he was kicked out for being well….you know, the noisy jester, the class clown. The one who is smart and gets away with the cracks all year long and then is asked to sit in the back or sent to the dunce corner.

        Anyway, so glad the Mooser is back!

      • Susie Kneedler on May 20, 2014, 10:04 am

        “Deer” Mooser, “ziocaine”‘s but a tad of your genius. We NEED you: thanks for coming back.

  2. pabelmont on May 19, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Good essay, Donald. The essence of conservatism (of Republicans and sadly also of Democrats) is the protection (or re-acquisition) of privilege to the (already) rich and powerful. Those who wage war are particularly members of the class of the powerful, and therefore to be protected. Why did Obama not prosecute the Bushies for torture and war crimes? Because he is (in the sense I set forth) a conservative and works for the oligarchy, conservatives all, and therefore must protect others of the rich-and-powerful class.

    The students are protesting the criminality of the rich and powerful. Yes, they disagree, but not with ideas onlt but with the fact of immunity and impunity for the ricdh and powerful.

  3. Citizen on May 19, 2014, 12:59 pm

    The Rice girls are totally bought; they are the worst examples possible of free blacks in the 21st Century. They broadcast total lack of moral integrity for all to see.

    • lysias on May 19, 2014, 3:00 pm

      I heard Susan Rice defend the Kosovo War at a meeting of Oxford alumni (and alumnae) in the Waldorf Astoria in 2001, on the basis of the genocide that never happened in Kosovo. The Clintons were there, so I suppose they approved.

      • MRW on May 20, 2014, 6:56 am

        @Lysias May 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm

  4. annie on May 19, 2014, 1:33 pm

    this reminds me of the awesome action by George Mason’s Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) walking out when renown billionaire and apartheid profiteer Shari Arison received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at their university’s winter graduation ceremony.

    big salute!

  5. James Canning on May 19, 2014, 2:16 pm

    If Condoleezza Rice would publicly admit she helped neocon warmongers set up the idiotic invasion of Iraq in 2003, perhaps she would be a more popular choice among students.

  6. James Canning on May 19, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Walid has made some comments on this site, on how Condi Rice encouraged Israel to smash Lebanon in 2006.

  7. Kathleen on May 19, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Great essay Donald. For those of us who were paying very close attention to the run up to the invasion of Iraq the media coverage and lack of coverage of accurate facts was astounding and eventually extremely deadly. Was not difficult to realize that if an individual had limited time to dig into the web that basically with the exception of Jonathan Landay and a few other outlets Neil Conan of Talk of the Nation did have a few folks who were questioning the validity of the intelligence like Ritter on his program. We know that most mainstream outlets were replaying the warmongering comments of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Rice, Gaffney, Bolton, Kristol, Friedmann, Kenneth Pollack and the rest of the warmongers (Addington, Woolsey, Feith etc). So if you did not have the time or make the time to dig it was difficult to find opposing views……Democracy Now, Informed Comment, Counterpunch, Firedoglake. There were plenty of experts questioning the validity of the intelligence but you had to dig a bit.

    Anyone who was at the anti invasion marches across the country and the world knows that the crowds were diverse in age, professions, race etc. You know that people were piling on in the halls of congress meeting with their Reps begging them to not support the invasion on the questionable intelligence.

    As a nation we watched a President be held accountable for lying under oath about blow jobs. And then as a nation we watched not one person be held accountable for a very deadly intelligence snow job. We heard Reps from both sides and Obama say “next chapter, don’t be about vengeance, turn the page, forward” yada yada in regard to holding the Bush administration accountable for these horrific lies and actions. We heard Rep Pelosi tell us (not ask, not listen) that “impeachment was off the table.” No need to wonder why less than 10% of Americans have any faith in our Reps.

    This is a very small price for Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice to pay for her dangerous and deadly lies. Small price to pay. If life were even close to fair she and the rest would be missing a few limbs and be subjected to what the soldiers that they sent into another country based on their lives are dealing with. Ultimately these war criminals belong in orange suits behind bars…and that would be compassionate

    • James Canning on May 19, 2014, 3:16 pm

      Great points, Kathleen. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post did question the strength of the case for war, but his articles tended to get buried in the back pages of the newspaper.

    • Donald on May 19, 2014, 11:35 pm

      Thanks Kathleen. You laid out the details that I left out. It’s funny how our elites start screaming “censorship” because of the legitimate protests of students over who speaks at their graduation, while they have little or nothing to say about censorship where it really matters.

    • Kathleen on May 19, 2014, 11:39 pm

      oops their “lies”

  8. Walid on May 19, 2014, 3:48 pm

    In 2011, 100 faculty staff signed a petition and succeeded in getting James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President and fervent anti-BDS campaigner blocked from being the speaker at Lebanon’s American University’s ceremony. The following year, the university astutely did not announce the speaker until a week before the event to not allow the faculty and students enough time to organize a protest. That speaker for 2012 was Donna Shalala, former Clinton Sec of Health and President of University of Miami, with Lebanese roots, and above all, a very pro-Israel and normalization activist that is also a fervent anti academic BDS. She was so heckled and booed by the students that she couldn’t put in an audible word. Last year, the university played safe by inviting Noam Chomsky for the speech that shared the stage for the honorary doctorate with the Lebanese-born Charles Elachy, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As to this year’s ceremony, it’s still a closely guarded secret but after the 2011 and 2012 fiascos, it will surely not be any pro-Zionist.

  9. piotr on May 19, 2014, 6:07 pm

    To me, a defining moment for my sentiments about Condolezza Rice was when Israel was pounding civilian targets all over Lebanon and she commented that as “birth pang s of democracy”. While males defining war policies of Bush Administration were largely “chicken hawks”, with no personal military experience, Ms. Rice ventured to comment on birth pangs.

    I could venture a much more diatribe against Condolezza Rice, but perhaps one should be more economical with arguments and ask Stephen Carter and others: in what sense can she present an inspiring example to young people? That a mediocre thinker can climb to the top by dint of opportunism and absorbing the hypocrisy of the political elite?

    • James Canning on May 19, 2014, 6:38 pm

      @Piotr – – Condoleezza Rice did such a great deal to bring about the Iraq War catastrophe because she helped Dick Cheney and the neocon warmongers to dupe GW Bush. Bush’s own father would not have attacked Iraq based on the intel that was available.

  10. Citizen on May 20, 2014, 8:13 am

    I’m happy a significant number of American students know what the neocons did and don’t think they are worthy of respect. So happy, I’m going to share with you all this little piece on Israel’s Catch-22:″/
    I hope American college students read it too.

  11. ThorsteinVeblen2012 on May 20, 2014, 11:48 am

    If only Hillary Clinton could get the same deserved approbation as Condolezza Rice the prospects for the next election might give us more to cheer about.

    Watching her protege Victoria Nuland handing out neocon cookies in Ukraine is enough to convince me that Hillary would find a place for like thinking and morally compromised Condi in her administration.

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