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The Tyranny of Re-Education

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis /
February 4, 2003

A recent disturbing news item about the rescue from a school in Nairobi, Kenya, of 12 Muslim boys who had for eight months been chained and beaten and starved as part of their Muslim "education" recalls the grim history of so-called "re-education" camps in Communist Russia and China during the past century. The practice of detaining, not to say enslaving, people for the purpose of educating them to "right thinking" (that is, to the doctrines of a totalitarian regime) was of course commonplace in Communist dictatorships. And given the similarly tyrannical and dictatorial nature of fundamentalist Islamic theocracies, it should come as no surprise that such practices exist among Muslims today.

But while the very idea of such practices brings a chill to the heart, the troubling truth is that they are also carried out in America today. From corporations to governmental institutions to colleges and universities, re-education to the "party line," particularly in the form of extorted apologies and mandatory sensitivity training, is rampant in our country. And if the American form is "milder" than that of its Islamic and Communist counterparts, re-education in the United States is ultimately no less insidious and destructive of personal freedom than that practiced by the most gung-ho apparatchiks of Stalinist Russia.

While doctrinal re-education in America doesn't involve torture and starvation, it is nonetheless always coercive. Those who need re-educating are generally bullied into capitulation under the threat of serious consequences if they do not submit. Sensitivity training is the Left/Liberal version of the offer you can't refuse.

Among the characteristics that the re-education practices of contemporary Leftists share with those of Stalinist Russia is reliance on the unsupported accusation. During Stalin's regime, an unfounded assertion about a fellow citizen's political views could easily lead to a lifetime of penal servitude for the person accused. Similarly, in America today, unsupported accusations of racism and homophobia, which are frequently brandished by Left/Liberal politicians and commentators against their political enemies (Senator Charles Schumer's slanderous attempted character assassination of Judge Charles Pickering comes immediately to mind), are often all that is needed to try and convict those enemies in the Kangaroo Court of liberal-dominated media.

One American citizen who did not take his employer up on an "offer he couldn't refuse" was Rolf Szabo. Szabo, an employee of Eastman Kodak Company for 23 years, was recently fired because he had the temerity to respond to a company e-mail promoting gay and lesbian issues with his own e-mail, in which, among other things, he complained that he found the company's e-mail "disgusting and offensive."

The original communication from Kodak corporate headquarters, occasioned by National Coming Out Day, counseled employees to give support to those who would choose to make their homosexuality or bisexuality public. It further advised employees to report anyone making humorous or critical comments about gays to company authorities, who would discipline the offenders as part of Kodak's "diversity" policy.

Now, aside from the glaring autocratic overtones of the company's injunction to rat out fellow employees for their trangressions, Kodak is certainly taking on the role of thought police in promoting, through company communications channels, a sexual agenda centered on National Coming Out Day. The tyranny of the minority exists in our country in a somewhat less blatant but no less pernicious form than it did in Communist Russia. And to shine light on the issue from a slightly different angle: Why does it seem so utterly preposterous to imagine that Kodak, in the interest of fairness and balance, might also be vigorously promoting, say, Heterosexual Awareness Week?

Like the authoritatian re-education tactics on which it appears to be modeled, Kodak's handling of the matter perpetrates a brazen breach of many of its employees' values and sensibilities. Szabo's right to free speech, especially in light of his employer's abuse of that right, was to all appearances violated. While Kodak seems to think it has something akin to a mission to promote a specific point of view regarding human sexuality to its employees, it holds — under the threat of job termination — that it is not permissible for those employees to publicly express their disagreement with that point of view.

Szabo wasn't imprisoned, starved, or tortured for his offense . . . he just lost his job. Indeed, Kodak offered Mr. Szabo a choice: Do penance by publicly apologizing and promising never to make such comments in the future, or be fired. And lest there be any thought that Mr. Szabo is not fully aware of the rights he does enjoy as an American citizen in the 21st century, he has responded to his firing by initiating legal action against Kodak for wrongful termination.

One hopes that the outcome of his lawsuit will help to reverse a disturbing trend which often sees the rights and sensibilities of a majority of workers being violated in the name of not offending members of minority special interest groups. In doing so, such a verdict would affirm that the arbitrary and doctrinaire practice of demanding that speech and thought conform to a rigidly upheld "party line" will not be allowed to gain a further foothold in this country. And perhaps — though this is certainly asking a great deal — an enlightened judge will take the further step of requiring Kodak to apologize for sending the original, and equally objectionable, e-mail to its employees.

Finally, one hopes that the Left's continuing efforts to abrogate civil liberties in this country in the name of a political agenda will be recognized for what they are: attempts to re-educate the American people to a totalitarian point-of-view. There is no doubt in my mind that the Left minority that has cowed Kodak into submission would like nothing more than to deny Mr. Szabo his day in court. Let incidents such as this serve as continuing reminders of the fact that the price of freedom, even as the fight extends to our fellow countrymen on the Left, is indeed constant vigilance.

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