May 6th, 2009
04:14 PM ET

The chilling effect

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on
In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

I like Condoleezza Rice. I met her at the Glamour Awards dinner last fall where she was honored for her work in Africa. It was the Tuesday after the presidential election and she spoke honestly, before a distinctly liberal audience, about what it meant for her, as a child of segregation, to see a black man in the Oval Office. She was graceful, eloquent and yes, even beautiful.

But here’s what she had to say last week, back at her old stomping ground — and mine — Stanford University: “Anything that was legal and was going to make this country safer the President wanted to do. Nothing that was illegal, and nothing that was going to make this country less safe. And I’ll tell you something – unless you were there, in a position of responsibility after September 11th, you can not possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans.”

With all do respect to the former Secretary of State, she is just wrong on this. No one, not even the President, in a time of war, is above the law. But, while I disagree with Secretary Rice, there is something I find even more troubling in this latest dust up over her remarks: The fact that we were privy to them at all.

The video of her comments hit YouTube, after an informal meeting with students at Roble Hall, a dormitory on campus. When a young man engaged Professor Rice on the issues of torture and presidential powers, she listened respectfully and took up the debate. This is, after all, what teachers and students have done going all the way back to Plato and Socrates.

But now, every conversation a scholar has with students can show up on the internet. What would Socrates have to say about that? I think he’d say that this kind of ambush-video blogging can only hinder the healthy exchange of ideas on campus. And he’d be right.

What will happen to open and honest debate? How will students, like the confident young man who challenged a former Secretary of State, hone their arguments, or perhaps even rethink them?

Simply put, they won’t. The debate won’t happen. The dialogue will stop.

The chilling effect has begun. And we are all the worse for it.

Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Lisa in CA

    An act of war was committed on the US on 9/11. Frankly, I think we too long to respond, trying to obtain UN approval, etc. No country would have thought twice about an immediate respondent attack. We thought too long. We allowed our enemy to dig further in and hide – like the coward he is. Further, when we finally did retaliate, we didn't finish the job we set out to do – locate and bring OBL to prosecution. Instead, we diverted our attention to invading a sovereign nation (something that as far back as the Reagan administration had been contemplated and dicussed by the same people who mastermind and handled the strings of Bush) and overthrowing/deposing of their elected leader. Rather, we got bogged down in a war we had no place instigating while trusting that War Lords would keep the peace in Afghanistan.

    Meanwhile, because of our decreased presence, the Taliban has risen again and OBL is still free to terrorize the world. Our ally, Pakistan, hasn't really been one to us and the Middle East is more destablized now than ever.

    May 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  2. Jim Carroll internet free press.com

    Are we making too much out of 9/11? We lost 3000. The flue kills 30,000 a year. 50,000 gets killed in accidents. We are fighting a war
    in Afghanistan when we trained the terroist in America the first and last time they attacked the World Trade Center. American is a sucker for giving too much to too little.

    May 6, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  3. Michael Rae

    Why should you be should stunned about it. Governments and contries kill folks over speaking their mind. Moreover, some folks cant handle the truth. We in america have prisons full of who say there not guilty depite overwheliming evidence. So should it be any surprise that folks with money who want to articulate there particuliar point of view are going to be stopped from doing so. I dont thihk so. Misinformation is a way of life in america. examples whould be, how are you doing today, the usual reply is fine but do folks really care how you feel? Look at racism, some folks whould have you believe that its non existant in america or the fact that in prison there are a disportional of people of color in relation to there overall perentage of the american population. So im not really suprised, and finally the student has to be extra careful because if the line the student is trying to present is not in line with the professor his or her grade is likely to suffer because of it.

    May 6, 2009 at 4:31 pm |