Pacifica Forum only advocates free speech
by Billy Rojas
Michael Williams in the Dec. 31 issue of the EW has accused Pacifica Forum (PF) of “attacking Muslims, African-Americans, non-white immigrants, homosexuals and Latin-American citizens as well as Jews.” He has also characterized Pacifica as “anti-Semitic” and “a sponsor of full-blown white supremacist neo-Nazi dogma.” These charges are demonstrably false and legally libelous.
PF is a free speech group which sponsors speakers who have diverse viewpoints which some members of the group strongly disagree with. There is no PF “party line” that anyone follows except respect for the First Amendment.
Today’s PF is not the same Forum as 2007 or 2006 or any previous years. Yet Williams persistently cites incidents from the pre-2008 past, which are mostly irrelevant for 2008 -09.
At the recommendation of the group’s founder, UO emeritus professor Orval Etter, PF set out on a new course starting on Aug. 1, 2008, with focus on free speech and education. In part this was simply a continuation of Etter’s policy of re-inventing PF from time to time, but also as something new, intended to make it clear that PF, whatever its limitations, strives to be a responsible part of the Eugene community.
Unfortunately, Williams cannot understand the obvious, that his viewpoint is essentially a form of secular religion with its own dogmatism and which is not adverse to falsifying the record to advance a partisan political agenda.
Williams insists on judging PF from the viewpoint of the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party in the guise of “objective reporting.”
Pacifica, if it is anything, is a forum for political independents. Its membership is diverse and eclectic, and sweeping charges against it such as Williams makes are prima facie false since they only apply to some members, and others may vehemently disagree. As for his specific charges:
• Since the time I became part of the group in mid 2008, to the best of my knowledge, no one at PF, with one exception, is or has been anti-Semitic. That exception is Jimmy Marr, and the two of us are scheduled for a debate Jan. 15.
Several PF members object to Marr’s neo-Nazi views and want them discredited. This would be impossible unless there was a free speech forum in which to do so, a forum that gave Marr an opportunity to speak for himself. There are NO other free speech groups in Eugene — none at all.
• Valdas Analauskas, mentioned by name in the Williams’ article, and accused of anti-Semitism, definitely has anti-Zionist views, but he was the prime mover in inviting Barry Sommer, a Jew, to participate in PF. Orval Etter, when told of a request by Debby Bloom to speak to the group in early 2009, was happy to invite her to do so and authorized me to make all necessary arrangements. Regrettably Bloom backed out, but the response of the Forum to her is on record.
• Yes, a few presenters at PF have been critical of some groups which Williams singled out. But two of these groups have not even been mentioned by any speakers in 2008-2009 except in passing remarks, Latin Americans and black people. Yet Williams makes the unfounded claim that PF is anti-Latino and racially biased. This viewpoint is libelous in that it flagrantly misrepresent PF and damages its reputation.
• Williams characterized an un-named speaker for “bigotry” in “attacking” homosexuals. I happen to be the only speaker in 2008-2009 to have addressed the issue of homosexuality and regard this accusation as personally libelous.
Williams refuses to acknowledge the obvious, a host of some of the greatest names in the history of the psychological sciences have concluded that homosexuality is pathological in nature, some of whom have taken strong exception to the American Psychiatric Association and its views. My critique of homosexuality was based on five years worth of scholarly research and on the work of NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. At this same presentation I made it clear that, regardless of the clinical status of homosexuals, they deserve all rights guaranteed to any American citizen. Yet Williams, who seems to have done no research on the subject whatsoever, made completely false accusations about what I actually said.
• Three speakers have been sharply critical of Islam: myself, Barry Sommer, host of CTV’s Islam Today, and Valdas Analauskas. Since there have been thousands of violent terrorist “incidents” perpetrated by Muslims since 9/11, and thousands more from 1968 until then, just maybe we have a case to make that Islam is a danger to us all, not to mention the fact that the Qur’an sanctions slavery, wife beating, murder of Muslims who quit Islam to join another religion, murder of homosexuals, murder of atheists , murder of goddess devotees and much more; just maybe the three of us have something worthwhile to say about the criminal nature of Islam itself. Yet Williams condemns us for bigotry. This is also libelous.
PF has any number of faults, which most of us who are part of the group freely admit. But groups associated with Williams deserve the kind of rebuke he levels against the PF. CALC and the misnamed Anti-Hate Task Force do not make even a pretense of promoting free speech or competition in the marketplace of ideas, which is PF’s public mission.
Michael Williams’ false charges against PF are defamatory to virtually everyone who has participated in it in 2008-09, and now 2010. And if it becomes possible, at least some of us associated with PF will seek legal action against Williams for libel.
Billy Rojas is a former social science teacher at several colleges, including assignment to the U.S.S. Enterprise, on contract to the U.S. Navy from the City Colleges of Chicago, where he taught U.S. and Russian history. This is an abridged version of a longer article that the author will email to anyone who requests a copy at BILROJ@aol.com