April 08, 2003

Hi, I'm the Most Overwrought

Hi, I'm the Most Overwrought Person Ever.

In the latest Chronicle (sorry, subscription only), we have a lovely first person account of the "chilling effect" of the Patriot Act on scholarship. And who, may one ask, is the academic experiencing the chill? Perhaps an outspoken pro-Palestinian political science professor? Maybe a high-profile critic of imperialism, like Edward Said? Why no, not at all. Just plain ol' Judith Grant, associate prof at USC who teaches poly sci and--wait for it--women's studies.

Far be it from me to paint with the broad brush just by looking at Judith's disciplines. Let's allow her to speak for herself:

"I am now experiencing what American legal scholars call 'a chilling effect' and I was indeed first aware of it as a sort of chill running up my spine--a half-second of anxiety, almost subconscious, the moment I heard the act had been passed. I feel that chill again when I realize that I now pause a moment before I write almost anything."

Well, the case could be made that the pause is a good thing, in that it might let you actually EXAMINE the self-absorption apparent in this article and perhaps develop a sense of embarrassment about writing it, but I guess the chill isn't yet that pervasive. Why, may you ask, is she feeling chilled?

It seems she gets emails about politics from former students who are now abroad. They run the gamut from the reluctant American soldier to the Israeli citizen puzzled by her increasing feeling that many Arabs in the region are "crazy extremists" to the South Korean who wants to know if capitalism caused the mental illness of a mass-murdering countryman. Our good professor thinks of contacting other former students in Saudi Arabia and China, to see how they're doing, but she doesn't. Why? Well, that pesky chilling effect, why else?

"Is my email monitored, now that I have been in contact with people in countries that border the 'axis of evil'?"

Short answer: no, you self-important hack. But it goes on in this vein, concluding that:

"I hear President Bush tell the nation that the number of protestors against the war with Iraq doesn not matter, that the opinions of American citizens are irrelevant."

I must have missed the "Fuck You, Hippies" speech. Or perhaps they only aired it on Planet Judith.

Okay, so she concludes that she must now stand up and speak out about the eeeville Bush while she still can, dammit, or else she won't be able to hold her head up in class. What. Ever. This article is most instructive as an exampe of the sanctimonious hysteria and egoism that thrives on campuses. Obviously, the eeeeevillle hegemonic imperialist mental-illness inducing capitalist globalizing Bush junta will not be appeased until it can read every trite email from a no-profile academic with the hopes of crushing her freedom.

I get the impression that secretly she yearns for just a taste of real oppression, perhaps to lend legitimacy to her persecution complex. And what better indicator of a free society is there than a complete lack of understanding of what oppression actually means? Hey Judith? Chill.

Caveat: I'm not addressing the whole good/evil issue of the Patriot Act. Here's the text of the Patriot Act--read and decide for yourselves. Here's my short take: can it be abused? Yep. Can every law written be abused? Theoretically, yes. Example: NARAL's attempt to prosecute pro-life protestors with RICO. Didn't work. Why? Courts. Overly simplified point here? Probably. Do I care? Not really, because I'm more of a "wait and see" person when it comes to this stuff. And anyway, I'm all about the mocking. I'll leave that legal analysis to folks who do it for a living.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 8, 2003 08:30 AM