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Blog War is Hella Awesome

It looks like with the recent controversy over John McCain’s commencement speech tour, The New School has solidified its place as New York City’s predominant stronghold of liberal student activism. (Oh, Spirit of ’68! Why have you forsaken us?) The result? A blog war to end all blog wars, courtesy of The Huffington Post.

For those of you who have been out of the loop of academic controversy lately, Bwog regales you with a rundown of what you’ve been missing.

1. Senator John McCain delivers the same commencement address at three American universities in the span of one week— Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Columbia, and The New School. Despite a warm reception at Liberty, McCain is met with protests at each of the other two institutions.

2. Jean Rohe, the web-savvy Senior Speaker at New School’s commencement, is made aware of McCain’s policy of giving the same speech on multiple occasions. She logs on to the Senator’s website and reads a transcript of the speech that he gave at Columbia, thereby learning the contents of his address to the New School before he has actually given it. She does not take kindly to the Senator’s remarks. Hence, armed with the text of his speech, Rohe, who is scheduled to speak just ahead of the Senator, discards her original prepared address and instead delivers a hastily-written attack on McCain, his support of the war, and his presence at New School’s commencement, quoting from the speech that he is about to deliver to bolster her attacks.

3. McCain makes a snarky comment thanking Rohe for “the cliff-notes version” of his address. The New School at large is not amused. McCain proceeds to deliver his speech as written, for the third time in seven days.

4. In response to the media attention garnered by her speech (see the story in the New York Times), Rohe writes a defense of her decision to attack McCain in her commencement address for The Huffington Post.

Here’s where things get interesting. In the comments section of Rohe’s original blog post, McCain staffer Mark Salter, who has co-authored at least three of McCain’s books and who claims to have helped write the Senator’s commencement address, gives a strongly-worded rebuttal to Rohe’s speech. At least, the commenter claimed to be Mark Salter—Bwog would hope that one of the top aides to one of the most prominent politicians in the country could string a sentence together better than this guy.

In this less than artful comment, Salter is harsh and insulting to Rohe, telling her that “The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself.” His most damning blows, however, come as he addresses the entire New School graduating class:

Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it very unlikely any of you will ever posses the one small fraction of the character of John McCain.


The Huffington Post followed up by giving Rohe another post in which she responds to the comment. No word yet on whether or not Salter will chime back in, but if he does, Bwog can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

Also adding his two cents on Huffington Post is blogger Russell Shaw, with his directly titled post “Jean Rohe, You’re Wrong”. Between the four posts on the subject, a veritable blog war is raging with over a thousand comments. That’s good, even for Huffington Post. Bwog salutes you, Arianna, as we look on in awe.

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  • As a prefrosh in the California Bay Area, says:

    @As a prefrosh in the California Bay Area, I’m loving the use of the word “hella” in the title of this post.

  • cmon bwog says:

    @cmon bwog (let me caution this reply w/the statement that i’m very proud of columbia’s protestors, who showed their disagreement with mccain in a dignified, adult and respectful manner which got across their point)

    your blue is seeping through the bi-partisan suit you’re trying to keep on. If you’re going to claim salter was ineloquent at least post ‘his’ (is there any confirmation it was him) comment: contrary to your beliefs, which are obviously biased by your political opposition to him, they are quite eloquent and definitely a strong defense of McCain’s characters vs. Rohe’s, which is what she appears to challenge.

    Secondly, if you wish to quote to take political potshots as ad hominem attacks, at least contextualize. Don’t selectively choose lines to make a speaker look foolish, especially if you wish to do a close reading, because then you’ll just descend to one of the many books that tries to get 1000 bush gaffe’s by taking unusual lines out of entire paragraphs. For example the line you claimed was rude was actually in the following paragraph by Salter:

    “Let me tell you a little bit about the Senator, the man you dismiss so derisively. Once upon time, even among the young, the words courage and hero were used more sparingly, more precisely. It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. And please don’t worry about the Senator’s discomfort with you. He has managed to endure much worse. McCain was once offered release from imprisonment and torture because of his father’s position as a senior military officer. He declined because he would not leave his comrades behind, and thus, willingly, accepted four more years of hardships life will spare almost all of us from. In his political career he has shown the same character he showed as a Navy officer all those years ago. He has, over and over again, risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interests of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself.”

    in response to what was the obvious self reverential, arrogrant and disrespectul claims Rohe made in her post:

    “What if I tore McCain’s speech apart before he even opened his mouth? After reading his speech a couple of times I picked out a few particularly loathsome sections–and believe it or not, none of these actually came from the extensive section where he defends his position on the war in Iraq–and I began planning an attack against him using his own words.
    o in the wee hours of the morning I set out to revise my speech, re-saving it as “mccain speech subversive.doc”.
    I almost wanted to warn the guy that I was about to make him look like an idiot so that he would at least have a fighting chance and an extra moment to change his speech to save himself.
    “I’m sorry, man,” I told him, “I just had to do it.” People who truly care about human beings don’t vote for an unjust war, among other things, simply as a political maneuver. Enough, McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect? gnorant, closed-minded people would not have been able to do what we did. We chose to be in New York for our years of higher education for the very reason that we would be challenged to listen to opposing viewpoints each and every day and to deal with that challenge in a nonviolent manner. I think we must remember that as big as this moment may seem to me today and perhaps to other supporters who are reading this article, this is a very small victory in a time when democracy is swiftly eroding under the pressure of the right wing in this country.hope that other people found strength in my act of protest and will one day find themselves in my position, drawing out their own bravery to speak truth.”

    Ms. Rohe is certainly very full of herself and very sure of her righteousness when she proclaims statements which essentially demonize half the country. She also directly attacks teh character of McCain, a war veteran who is much, much (he can’t lift his hand above his head because of the torture he suffered defending this country) more familiar w/war by suggesting his support was in good part merely a political decision (one wonders he opinion of kerry and hillary and others who are now backpedaling). On top of that she also repeatedly claims that coming to new york to go to school as a liberal or somebody who was very liberal allowed her and her classmates (who again were the vocal majority in the crowd when they disrupted–once again proving it doesn’t necessarily take courage to protest) to view other viewpoints and debate them. I would query Mrs. Rohe as to what percent of the 80-90% of the liberal populace of teh city or her school did so directly challenge her views. The only people who truly challenge themselves politically are those who do immerse themselves in an honest intellectual and open minded way amongst their opponents’ views, and I seriously doubt she or many of her protestors really did that or wish too. In fact, their actions seem to be more of a self-reverential self segregation than any attempt to engage in real discourse. What is amusing and is lost in this thing is Rohe’s original speech and other overrarching idea—peace through music. That’s the ticket. Perhaps the answer to war is music! A Jam session to blow smoke into the war machine’s monkey face. In that sense, we may need to applaud Rohe, who so gallantly has decided to be our generation’s Nero, who will fiddle while Rome burns.

    1. Nice says:

      @Nice post.

    2. (no subject) says:

      @(no subject) well said, poster #2

    3. cmon yourself says:

      @cmon yourself I don’t claim to be especially well-informed politically or even coherent, but: While I agree that trying to “make [the invited commencement speaker] look like an idiot” is not a polite thing to do, perhaps especially if the speaker in question is a war veteran, he is also a politician and Ms. Rohe was not attacking him as a war veteran but as a politician—a politician who took his campaign to an event intended to honor the graduates. As far as I can tell her speech responds to (if you insist, attacks) the content of his speech, not his own character. This—and not “Mark Salters’” response—should be the nature of a rational political debate. “Respect and tolerance” (which we can evidently learn from our friends at Liberty University–) should go both ways: towards McCain (and it was, among many protesters, lacking) but also towards the student speaker.

      Furthermore, I don’t really see the difference between self-segregation in a homogeneous community and “immersing” oneself only physically. Congrats for being a dissenter at Columbia, but really, how much have your views changed since you arrived?

      And a final note–Nero? Look, she’s a music major. And don’t underestimate the power of music. There’s a reason why the Taliban banned music on the radio in Afghanistan; there’s a reason why there are still military bands in countries with nuclear weapons. (Even so, you’re not so far off scientifically; there’s military research into directing very high- or low-pitched sound waves to scare enemies, perhaps literally, shitless.)

      1. but says:

        @but I would buy what you say about respect and tolerance going both ways, but I subscribe to MLK’s maxim: the only thing we should be intolerant of is intolerance itself. Rohe was over the line. “Mark Salters,” whoever he is, had it right: “It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more.” This doesn’t mean I agree with McCain’s opinions, by any means. It just means I don’t agree with the infantile behavior the New Schoolers have exhibited.

      2. sorry. i was unclear a little in my post. says:

        @sorry. i was unclear a little in my post. I don’t mean you have to immerse yourself physically. I meant to stress ‘intellectual’ in that statement. So by that, the physical location matters less as long as somebody seriously considers opposing viewpoints even if they aren’t necessarily in the mainstream. This goes for both the average campus liberal and the campus conservative who challenges her/himself and asks for more diversity but at the same time hypocritically suggests a Prof. De Genova or Prof. Churchill be censored for their views.

        Poster #5 and I may legitimately disagree over whether any of Rohe’s comments constituted character attacks (though i don’t think there was anything in her speech that constituted a character attack). In terms of character attack, I quoted only one thing she claimed in her post and generally agree that her speech was completely fine and legitimate even if one disagrees w/the content. Either way, mccain didn’t deserve to be shouted out, but here at Columbia the student body already agrees w/that in order to preserve civility (i don’t know if we have that much to learn from liberty).

        As for the music comment. You don’t have to take it seriously as it was just an ironic side note (one which really stood in contrast to her claims that the class wasn’t just naive youth that didn’t have a comprehensive view of the real world). She is a music major and it makes sense for her to write about what she’s familiar with–which doesn’t preclude it from criticism. As for using sound to scare enemies, I know (quite thankfully) that our army depends on far more effective methods to achieve its goals. And yes, music is important–it can be a voice for dissent, a tool of propaganda and a way to surpress. However, in light of the fact that these students are entering the real world, its important to recognize that ideas likemusic against war and music as a tool for peace is a relatively simplistic, naive and incomplete approach to a serious issue.

      3. i'll be the blunt one says:

        @i'll be the blunt one she did attack his character. She claimed that his vote for the war was largely motivated by his political ambitions and that people who truly care about others don’t wage ‘unjust’ wars. That sounds pretty despicable a characterization (ad hominem for sure) for a guy who has experienced far more in the heat of battle fighting for this country than just about anybody else in this country. Her bravery was really an arrogant audacity which did demonstrate her naivety when she talked down a man who has seen war, has seen its worst sides, and who does have a nuanced and truly experienced approach to it. What has Mrs. Rohe seen to give her such a better vantage point that she can claim moral superiority?

        As for respect and tolerance to both. BS. She was cheered on in an audience which was dominated by sympathizers, while he was heckled throughout…yeah..i’m sure we shoudl take this occasion to decry how she was disrespected as well..stop trying to deflect.

        For being a dissenter at columbia..if commenter 2 is, which isn’t that apparent to me..i don’t think they’re conservative[genova openly advocated treason]…then yeah, they’re more praiseworthy than you. Going to a place dominated by views opposing yours will challenge them but doesn’t necessarily have to change your outlook. It will however humanize your opponents and perhaps convince you to use less inflamatory language than Mrs. Rohe did.

        Finally, nice to see you’re supporting Mrs. rohe’s take on music as a weapon. I’ll tell you what, we’ll drop you off in hills of afghanistan with a tuba, guitar and whatever 5 cd’s you want, and you can change teh hearts and minds of taliban members who’ll be weilding ak 47’s and grenades. Sometimes I wonder whether some students here have a grasp of reality when it seems like their view of war is informed by absurd sociological/artistic narratives.

        1. well said says:

          @well said well said, #14

        2. Stephen says:

          @Stephen Ok so Ms. Rohe’s take on music as a weapon is no fun. How about using M16’s as weapons?

          We’ll drop you off in the hills of Afghanistan with a M16 rifle and you can change the hearts of minds of taliban members who’ll be weilding ak 47’s and grenades. Sometimes I wonder whether some students here have a grasp of reality when it seem like their view of war is informed by run-of-the-mill-anti-liberal-anti-anti-war narratives.

          Write facetiously just to be an asshole much?

          1. hmm.. says:

            @hmm.. lets see..what would be the latest run-of-the-mill-anti-liberal-anti-anti-war narrative be?

            V for vendetta? The Sum of all Fears? Syriana?

            At least i actually have substance backing up my view. I’m sorry I touched on one of your nerves, but one asshole deserves another (its unfortunate you’re so angry i also have a legitimate point though–i suggest therapy–and something to help you w/that credibility problem considering you addressed nothing else in my post) and to be fair, mccain was essentially dropped in a scenario similiar to the one your posed. it’s a shame mrs. rohe can’t enact her method of combatting terror and ending war.

          2. re: writing facetiously says:

            @re: writing facetiously hell, i’d let you be dropped off in the hills of afghanistan with five ak-47s and any grenade of your choice to change the hearts of taliban members with ak 47s and grenades.

            it’s still kinda a stupid point.

  • Mark Salter says:

    @Mark Salter yo yo. yous guys can suck it! stoopid librals all blows.

  • Huffington post reader says:

    @Huffington post reader as a reader of huffington post, i seriously doubt the poster was actually mark salter. Simply, people post on the HP comments section often with names not their own. tis the glory and bane of internet anonymity. However, it does not make his comments any less meaty.

    1. ha. says:

      @ha. you may be right, considering salter just apparently posted on bwog. Far less eloquently than in the huff po section by the way.

  • If I were says:

    @If I were in the place of Rohe, I would have just printed McCain’s speech and read it as mine. That would have been fantastic.

    1. that says:

      @that would have been brilliant in embarrasing him, though i dont know what point it’d have

  • I stand corrected says:

    @I stand corrected Apparently, it was mark salter! according to the Daily News…

  • everything says:

    @everything from 14 on has been stupid

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