Book Reviews

GW Students Organize to Fight Oppression By Oppressing Reading Choices

Obvious propaganda should be labeled propaganda, obviously.

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The Internationalist Students' Front, a new organization at George Washington University, seeks to "oppose nationalism across the world and contest popular narratives about U.S. foreign policy." To achieve these lofty goals, the group also wants to ban books.

The Students' Front is calling for the banning of two books from the school's Gelman Library. One of them is "The Alleged 'Nanking Massacre': Japan's Rebuttal to China's Forged Claims," an obviously propagandistic book written by members of Japan's far-right. The student group intends to circulate a petition on campus to have it removed or labeled propaganda.

Members of the organization did not respond to requests for comment on the group, its goals, or its choice of books. They have not yet disclosed the title or the author of the second book they want removed from Gelman.

Given that 86 percent of the Amazon reviews of the book are one-star ratings, it seems the vast majority of Americans already see the book for what it is: a wholly unsubstantiated, and overall quite ludicrous account of a historical event, akin to Holocaust denial in the West.

The Nanking Massacre has been widely documented. Japanese forces captured the Chinese city of Nanjing (or Nanking) and, in six weeks beginning in December of 1937, killed anywhere between 40,000 to 300,000 people in a rampage of rape and pillage. Estimates are still contested. Some have accused the Chinese government of inflating the numbers. Others deny the massacre happened.

It's unlikely George Washington students accept the book as factual or allow such obvious propaganda to distort their understanding of the Nanking Massacre. The fact that the massacre has been denied is an interesting and important aspect of study for those interested in the history of relations between China and Japan.

As George Washington Law faculty member and legal commentator Jonathan Turley writes, "…as an academic institution, our faculty and students research such views as part of their studies and discussion. Sometimes we buy books to gain perspective of fringe or discredited views. The denial itself is a legitimate matter of study for some academics."

Even requiring the book to be labeled as propaganda is a bad idea—the floodgates of what constitutes "propaganda" versus what constitutes a reliable interpretation of the truth could easily be opened.

The Students' Front seems like your traditional left-wing, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist student organization. The club's Facebook page laments the anniversary of Fidel Castro's death, saying, "as internationalists, we must commemorate his fight against oppression in Cuba, and his contributions to anti-imperialism and international struggles against oppression." Fighting oppression around the globe is certainly a worthy cause.

In attempting to ban certain books from the library, is the group really overthrowing oppression, or attempting to advance only their preferred ideologies and causes?

GW's student newspaper, The Hatchet, reports that "the organization will host teach-ins about the consequences of fascism and advocate internationalism, a political ideology similar to socialism that believes all people should unite to advance common interests."

There's an obvious flaw in their logic. Calling for book-banning is ridiculous. When students concerned with ending global oppression fail to see how censorship can contribute to the very oppression they're fighting against, it's a sorry state of affairs.

There's a certain irony when students crack down on the free exchange of ideas in the process of attempting to promulgate particularly radical ones—ones that could also be in danger of being suppressed one day. Free speech is valuable for many reasons, but especially because there's no guarantee that the most odious ideas will be removed from the public discourse—we can never be certain who will be targeted, or which ideas will be banished.

American foreign policy goes wrong in myriad ways, as any libertarian can tell you. We need more diverse narratives presented about our involvement in foreign regimes and wars. But censorship in the form of book banning isn't the way to achieve more just foreign policy or an end to oppression.

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45 responses to “GW Students Organize to Fight Oppression By Oppressing Reading Choices

  1. “oppose nationalism across the world”

    How’s that cosmopolitanism working out? Good?

    1. “oppose nationalism across the world”

      Does that include Palestinian nationalism?

      1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

        This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

      2. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

        This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

  2. “The Internationalist Students’ Front”

    Liz, Liz, Liz. You have completely screwed the pooch.

    This is obviously the work of The Students’ International Front

    1. SPLITTERS!

  3. “laments the anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death, saying, “as internationalists, we must commemorate his ‘fight against oppression’ ”

    If these are college students, the robot take-over can’t come soon enough.

    1. If these are college students, the robot take-over can’t come soon enough.

      What do you mean *if*? I’m a Gen Xer and college student’s adoration of Castro is as old as I can remember. You’re probably going to get your jetpack before the robots rid colleges of commie worship.

    2. Rich ones too.

    3. Right? Adhering to a set of rules is kind of the definition of what a machine does.

    4. I was gonna say… That’s some sweet cognitive dissonance right there.

  4. So, um, how many members does this campus group have? How far have they gotten in actually getting these books banned? Is there any indication that the library or the school administration is planning to take their request seriously?

    1. Going by the number of likes on their facebook page, I’m going to say membership is on the order of 2-3 students and maybe 6-7 sympathizers.

  5. Little miseducated fascist vermin.

    You cannot be kicked out to a life of student debt and working for fast food soon enough.

    1. They are commies not fascists. Commies ban books, fascists burn books.

      But remember, the horseshoe is totally not supposed to be a thing.

      1. A Socialist is a Communist is a Fascist is a Nazi. Any differences are largely cosmetic. The results are always mass murder and misery.

  6. Commies want to ban books… will wonders ever cease.

  7. Where are the death camps we were promised?

    Trump is the worst fascist ever!

  8. advocate internationalism, a political ideology similar to socialism that believes all people should unite to advance common interests

    Hm… I wonder what word they’re dancing around here.

    1. Caliphate? Hive? Utopia? Commune? (That one’s getting close)

      1. The Borg are problematic. It’s pretty clear that they predominantly assimilate men and that women are the hardest hit by that.

        Something more like a xenomorph den is probably more apt. One queen who’s gender is identified by her exercising the choice to procreate and the rest of us.

        1. Sometimes a hose is just a hose

    2. “I don’t think we can really be characterized as a communist student org because our main focus isn’t communism”

      1. Pay no mind to all those heroic portraits of Lenin, Stalin and Castro.

  9. When students concerned with ending global oppression fail to see how censorship can contribute to the very oppression they’re fighting against, it’s a sorry state of affairs.

    It’s not the oppression they’re fighting against that concerns me, but the oppression they want to replace it with.

  10. Given that 86 percent of the Amazon reviews of the book are one-star ratings, it seems the vast majority of Americans already see the book for what it is: a wholly unsubstantiated, and overall quite ludicrous account of a historical event, akin to Holocaust denial in the West.

    In other words, the folks in the “Front” think that college students are dumber than the average shopper at Amazon.

    Hmm they may be on to something.

  11. a roughly 20-member student group that launched on campus two weeks ago, … was formed to help spread the idea that students should take a “cosmopolitan” approach to politics

    and to get credit in the social studies classes they cut while out being activists.

  12. They have not yet disclosed the title or the author of the second book they want removed from Gelman.

    If I had to guess:
    1. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
    2. The Book Of Mormon
    3. They’re actually leaving their banning process open ended in hopes Disney will pick up the franchise rights.

    1. m.c, #1? Come on. All the “erudite” college kids and government “resistance” types seem to read is Harry Potter.

      Bunch of nerdy-ass losers.

      1. Right, ban the book that kills the gay(?) patriarch and replaces him with his less-magic twin brother (or whatever). Otherwise, ugh, reading a book to find out what’s in it in order to figure out whether to ban it is so problematic.

  13. Liberty is tyranny. Tony said so. You see, to have liberty you must first force those who use force to stop using force. You must oppress the oppressors. Which is oppression. It just replaces oppressors who oppress the masses with oppressors who oppress those who oppress the masses. Liberty is oppression of the wrong people. Freedom means asking permission and obeying orders. Liberty oppresses those who give permission and issue orders. Thus liberty is tyranny.

    1. Having to make a choice is tyranny of one’s self. So I’ve heard.

      1. What if you don’t want to make choices? What if you want to just live your life and have everything decided for you by people who are like really smart and stuff? Huh? Liberty imposes choices onto you that you have every right to have your betters make for you. Not only should your betters make those choices for you, they should make them for everyone! It’s called “order”! Something libertarian dipshits just don’t understand. Libertarians want to impose “liberty” which is really tyranny because it forces our betters to stop telling us what to do! Sheeple want to baaah! Libertarians want the sheep to impose their will on the shepherds!

        1. “”Sheeple want to baaah!”‘

          Lol.

        2. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

          1. + 1 For the Rush reference.

  14. We should ban all books since they discriminate against those who can’t read.

  15. “as internationalists, we must commemorate his fight against oppression in Cuba, and his contributions to anti-imperialism and international struggles against oppression.”

    Castro fought international oppression, apparently.

    Oppression in Cuba, though, he was pretty cool with. He is a true internationalist.

    1. “Castro fought international oppression…”

      I suppose if you believe that nations can be oppressed, and not their citizens. He was perfectly happy with mass murder and oppression when performed by the right (“left”) people, within or without his country.

  16. “The Students’ Front seems like your traditional left-wing, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist student organization.”

    As other commenters have suggested, there’s a concise word for what they are.

    1. ‘Pillocks’

  17. To be fair, Japan is mostly disputing the scale of the massacre. The Turks say the same thing about Armenian Genocide, they insist it was not systematic.

    One of the more sensational claims they make is that some of the decapitations were actually done by the Chinese military.

    1. To be completely fair, the Japanese were pikers in killing (and raping and pillaging) Chinese civilians compared to either the Chinese Communists or various Chinese civil war partisans before them, even if the worst atrocities attributed to the Japs are all true. It’s a funny world where there’s not at least an equivalent level of outrage directed agaist the Chicoms.

  18. “oppose nationalism across the world ”

    We’re against representative government. The peasants of every country will take and like whatever the international ruling class decides.

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