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ISSUE 120 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/13/2007

Skip Malkin's speech: How St. Olaf still welcomes pundits: a shocking exposé

By Karl Olson
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nearly two years after St. Olaf students witnessed and participated in Ann Coulter's political mudslinging we prepare for another fringe speaker sponsored by SGA's Political Awareness Committee. The fiery and provocative political commentator Michelle Malkin is likely to revive the emotional and unhealthy debate that inflicted campus during and after Coulter's speech.

Juniors and seniors remember the tense atmosphere in Boe Memorial Chapel on that warm Sunday evening. I am sure first years and sophomores have heard about the student uproar and an ensuing e-mail from Dean of Students Greg Kneser. Coulter's rather short speech bashed numerous liberal figureheads without offering a coherent thesis. She dug into the personal lives of both commentators and politicians. The speech was clearly ad hominem attacks and boy, did some students fall for the bait.

The question and answer session following the speech added to the ridiculousness. Both Coulter and students are to blame for the outrageous comments and flagrant obscenities that ultimately contributed to the new policy banning controversial pundits from Boe Chapel. Students were riled up about one of Coulter's claims in particular. Prompted by a poorly unarticulated question, she claimed that she would send a Muslim student's name to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Half the crowd stood up and left; at least a dozen students flicked her off and a handful verbalized this message.

I am afraid next week students will see similar examples of why we should not invite fringe speakers to campus. However, this time we ought not support the pundit with our attendance.

Malkin's speech "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" will likely embrace her neoconservative talking points. Indeed, St. Olaf students need to hear conservative speakers. The school hardly represents the views we will encounter once we leave Northfield. Nevertheless, Malkin's book, which shares the same title as the speech, reveals her emotion-provoking, fast-talking and politically-divisive message. Anybody can see her style on YouTube and it does not "inspire political dialogue"  one of the goals of PAC.

Additionally, potential audience members have seen a slew of posters with subtle yet powerful messages. As if the quotations are not enough, several posters contain screenshots of Malkin on Fox News, which will surely create a hostile audience. The only image that ticks off St. Olaf students more than Fox News is Wal-Mart. The scene on Tuesday will likely include aggressive students and a forceful speaker waiting to pounce back. Just like to two years ago, though, the person behind the microphone will get the last word.

Bringing in speakers is important for promoting political dialogue and a broader educational experience. Although she makes some valid points about America's vulnerabilities in her book, she is in-your-face and scares audiences into believing her argument with chapter titles such as "What Would Mohamed Do?" and the "Torturers Next Door." I would prefer my money be spent on reasonable, constructive speakers like Bob Dole.

Next week I expect Malkin to deliver a predictably biased speech. Being biased is not the problem; being extremely radical is. Two years ago, students were offended and humiliated when Ann Coulter ravaged campus. Many of those students were upset they attended in the first place. Malkin will demonize Islam, act as if we are all stupid for believing we are safe from terrorists, and unleash the message that makes Bill O'Reilly smile. I refuse to show my support for somebody with an unreasonable approach to politics. I invite you to do the same.

Besides, American Idol is on.

Contributing Writer Karl Olson is a junior from Cottage Grove, Minn. He majors in American studies with concentrations in media studies and in management studies.

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