Beechert: Anger and Lies

by Michael Beechert | 10/20/13 10:00pm

Wherever there is a corkboard on this campus, there is almost invariably a mass of flyers and leaflets advertising a number of student organizations or events. I think that, as a rule, most of us largely ignore these eclectic collections of paper, and I am no exception. Last week, however, one of these posters actually managed to catch my eye. The flyer, which began with the text "Anger is Not Enough" and prominently featured an upraised clenched fist, looked like the offspring of a piece of Soviet propaganda and an Occupy Wall Street leaflet. Curious, I read on and saw that this was an advertisement for a "resistance workshop" to provide "tools and training" and "practical blueprints" to combat "racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, militarism and rape." The goal of this workshop, the last piece of the flyer indicated, was to "build a new Dartmouth culture." I sighed and thought back to last spring.

First, I would like to commend the makers of this poster (I would hesitate to call them artists) for creating an effective piece of propaganda the flyer did, among over a dozen similar pieces of literature, command my attention. The text itself, which was handwritten, was large, bolded and chaotic. The upraised fist in the center of the paper alluded to any number of groups or people, from socialist parties and politicians around the world to the Black Panthers to Hezbollah almost all of which elicit some sort of emotional response. The words racism, sexism and so on were capitalized and surrounded the aforementioned fist. And the last thing the reader saw, the call to culture war, was bolded, capitalized and cut right to the heart of the matter. This piece of paper left no ambiguity as to the intentions of its makers, who left no signature.

And so, a quick internet search of the language on the poster led to surprise! the Real Talk Facebook page. It seemed that the Dimensions protesters of last spring were up to their old tricks, by either creating the poster themselves or enthusiastically endorsing its message. Below a picture collage of Real Talk members holding up various signs decrying rape and racism was this text: "Honesty and dialogue are necessary for change." I believe this to be, at face, a true statement. But when viewed within the context of who its authors were, as well as the tone and substance of the poster I saw, the message seemed laughably ironic. It was impossible for me to believe that the people behind the "resistance workshop" (or as I'll call them, the resisters) sought either honesty or dialogue.

The premise on which the resisters apparently rested was that Dartmouth, as a whole, was racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, militaristic and condoned rape. I wholeheartedly reject all of these sentiments and find it hard to believe that they can be honest assertions. Yes, there have been a select number of ugly events which could be construed as racist or homophobic, and there have been sexual assaults on this campus. It is irresponsible, offensive and simply false, however, to paint over 4,000 individuals as bigoted due to unfortunate incidents which, while preventable, occur everywhere. The charge of militarism, meanwhile, is incredibly bizarre and only serves to delegitimize an already dishonest set of assertions.

The ideological gulf between the stated desire for dialogue and the actual message of the resisters, meanwhile, is incredibly large. The resistance workshop poster unabashedly embraces tones of aggressiveness and confrontation sentiments that, while inconsistent with an actual desire for civil conversation, fall nicely in line with Real Talk's shouting, forceful trespass of the Dimensions show. It seems that the resisters are less interested in facilitating dialogue than they are in attempting to unilaterally change Dartmouth through force, shock and shame. And if the final piece of their poster is any indication, it seems that the resisters feel that they must first destroy what they believe to be an intolerable campus culture and build anew from the ruins. The true nature of the message, then, is one shrouded in deception it is a violent cry to action disguised as a call for peaceful, principled and constructive resistance. If we do wish to change Dartmouth, this is not the way.