One of the tasks of political analysis is to see what is being said by those with whom one normally disagrees. Sometimes this is pleasant - and provocative in the best sense of the word. The blog "Mirror of Justice" is the brainchild of Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett and whenever I consult his blog, or receive an email from him, I learn something. Other times, the task is less uplifting. For example, try as I might, I can’t make it through more than ten minutes of a "Glen Beck" show even though I know it is important to keep an eye on him.
One of the websites I visit each week is called the "American Papist." It is the online equivalent of "The Wanderer" which is to say that it does not recognize journalistic standards, it trades in nostalgic tirades against modernity, and presents a hate-filled view of anything that smacks of liberalism. If it were only another screeching blog it could easily be ignored, but its proprietor, Thomas Peters, is also now the Communications Director of the American Principles Project, a D.C. advocacy organization founded by Princeton Professor Robert P. George.
In our culture, rightly or wrongly, we accord university professors a status that requires them to be exemplary in their professional associations. We do not pry into their private lives, but most university contracts include a clause about not bringing professional disrepute to the school. Stealing is always bad, for example, but stealing someone else’s ideas if you are a university professor is rightly viewed as especially base because it violates the spirit for which the university exists, the promotion of truth and learning. Men and women like Professor George are entitled to engage the political process by establishing groups like the American Principles Project, but if they lend their name and title and credibility to the organization, then we should expect that organization not to indulge anything that is beyond the pale, such as, say, cavorting with Holocaust deniers.
Yet, according to his website, Professor George’s Communications Director attended, and spoke at, a conference in Poland last week sponsored by the "College of Social and Media Culture." The so-called college was founded by Father Tadeusz Rydsyk who is better known as the founder of the viciously anti-semitic "Radio Marija" which has not only featured Holocaust deniers on its shows, but has been the subject of a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for its anti-semitism. In 2004, the radio station led a campaign to defend a cleric charged with both anti-semitism and child molestation. One Polish bishop called the radio station "extremely compromising and shameful, sick and dangerous." Former President, Nobel laureate and Solidarity hero Lech Walesa said the station "is lying if it considers itself a Catholic station." The papal nuncio insisted that the Polish bishops’ conference establish an oversight committee.
Perhaps Mr. Peters, who is young, does not realize what a problem anti-semitism remains in Poland, especially in rural Poland where Radio Marija finds most of its listeners. But, even he knows that Ozwieczim is not a French word. And, anyone who fancies himself as the "American Papist" must know something about the life of Pope John Paul II and how he strove to eradicate anti-semitism from both Polish nationalism and Catholicism.
The historic role of anti-semitism in Polish culture is undeniable, and sadly some of that history is still being written. A few years ago I brought my father to see the farm on which his father had lived before coming to America in 1912. It did not take long to discover the anti-semitism that animates rural political thought in Poland and to excuse myself from the table.
Mr. Peters may not be wise enough to know better, but Professor George has some explaining to do, at least to the contributors to his American Principles Project and to his colleagues at Princeton. This is not a case of guilt by association: Peters is on his payroll, their relationship is not just social but professional. It would be one thing to hire a firebrand who occasionally steps out of bounds, but participating in anything sponsored by ferocious anti-semites is not the typical transgression of truth or even decency that the blogosphere often exhibits. Anti-semitism is the filthiest and most dangerous lie ever produced in Western culture. Peters may not know that, but surely his boss does.