Free Speech on Campus: Like a little pastry with your politics? · 17 April 2005

Filed under: Indiana, Press Coverage

Like a little pastry with your politics?

Editorial from the Terre Haute Tribune-Star--04/15/05

Pies as political statements more than just bad manners

A pie tossed in the face of William Kristol last week was a slap in the face of well-mannered political debate -- especially at liberal Earlham College, founded in Richmond, by pacifist Quakers. Kristol edits the influential magazine The Weekly Standard and is a respected neoconservative thinker.

Pastry flew again Wednesday at another Indiana school where a conservative activist struck speaker David Horowitz with a pie at Butler University.

Horowitz is president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

"There's a wave of violence on college campuses, committed by what I'd call fascists opposing conservatives," Horowitz said. "It's one step from that to injury."

Kristol, 52, took his pie on the chin with more grace than most of us would have. He simply wiped his face and said, "Let me finish this point."

Later, his audience of mostly liberal students and faculty gave him three standing ovations.

Conservative commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan was recently doused with salad dressing while speaking at Western Michigan University.

The student demonstrator who hurled the slimy liquid shouted, "Stop the bigotry!" Buchanan cut his lecture short and said, "Thank you all for coming, but I'm going to have to get my hair washed."

Horowitz, Kristol and Buchanan were only the latest people -- mostly conservatives -- literally smeared for expressing their politics in public. In October, two men smacked conservative author Ann Coulter with custard pies as she gave a speech at the University of Arizona. In California, former bodybuilder and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger was splattered with a raw egg during his successful campaign for governor.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was also pied, as was Bill Gates. The ultra-wealthy Microsoft chairman was a victim in 1998 in Belgium when that nation's so-called "Custard Gang" struck him with flying pastry

Belgium prankster Noel Godin took credit for the Gates "hit." Godin, called "L'entarteur" or "The Pieman," is famous in the French-speaking world for targeting the rich, famous and pompous with cream pies.

In the 1970s, counterculture "Yippies" pied anti-gay activist Anita Bryant, artist Andy Warhol, atomic bomb developer and scientist Edward Teller, and Watergate figures E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy.

Today, tossing pies at people one opposes remains the rage in Britain, Europe and Scandinavia. It happens often in Canada, too. Until recently, Americans seemed less at risk in their own country.

Journalist Charlie Brooker, writing in The Guardian, said, "Pie-throwing is seen as offering an improved form of political dialogue Š it poses as a form of expression [and is] the latest implement in a diverse toolbox of global activist resistance."

Maybe so.

Perhaps Fatty Arbuckle, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges and Soupy Sales would have quivered like custard to see their comedic antics continued. But at best, even back then, a pie in the face was lowbrow humor about on par with the prat-fall.

Canadian political analyst David Taras warns, "If it becomes acceptable to throw a pie, maybe it will become acceptable to throw a rock. This isn't the way you want to conduct public debate."

We agree.

Pie throwing is in poor taste and could escalate into tossing things far more dangerous. Besides, there never seems to be a pie-flinger around when folks such as Michael Moore are on stage.

Story created Apr 15, 2005 - 09:32:49 CDT.