Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The BookMarq: Fair and Balanced 
This is a copy of the Viewpoint I'm submitting to the Marquette Tribune. Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated.


Prior to my visit to the Marquette University bookstore, the BookMarq, on Tuesday, I had never had the opportunity to call into question the politics of the bookstore. However, on Tuesday, I entered the BookMarq to pick up a couple of things, and I noticed a collection of books prominently displayed in the front of the store. The sign above the display stated something to the effect of “Vote ’04 Read up on the issues and candidates”. I consider myself very well versed in the world of politics, but the display drew my attention anyway. As I was looking at the books that were prominently displayed for my perusing and edification, I noticed that nearly all of the books were, in one way or another, left-leaning. Nearly every book in the display was anti-Bush, anti-Bush Administration, or pro-Democrat. For example, a few of the books displayed: “Bushwacked”, “The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America”, “House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties”, “Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War”, “A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America” (author: John Kerry), “John Kerry: A Portrait”, “Cover Up: What the Government is Still Hiding About the War on Terror”, “Four Trials” (author: John Edwards), and “Against All Enemies”.

There was, however, one book that was right-leaning: “Uncivil Wars”. By my count, and math is not one of my strong points, that is nine books either attacking the Bush Administration or supporting Democrats, and one book that is conservative in nature (although, by no means political in nature). The only books that I could see that were missing were Kitty Kelley’s slanderography “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty” and any book of lies written by Michael Moore.

Now, I have no problem with authors writing slanderous books, or books that attack Bush or his administration. The freedom to question and attack the people in power is a freedom that is necessary and fundamental to our great country. What I do have a problem with is when an individual or group attempts to “educate” voters in a manner that is biased from the outset, and they fail to plainly state the bias. Which brings me back to the BookMarq. Instead of entitling this selection of books as informative on the issues and candidates, how about plainly stating that this group of books favors those of the liberal persuasion? Then the bias is open and obvious, and a group of books can be put together that favors the conservative viewpoint. Having a potential voter that is uneducated on the issues or candidates look through a selection of books that heavily favors one side, without giving the same potential voter an opportunity to examine the other side of issues or other candidates, defeats the entire purpose of voter education. If you only offer one side of a series of issues, you have simply achieved voter indoctrination, not education. And if your goal is voter education, you have failed.

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe the people responsible for overseeing operations at the BookMarq are simply unaware of the bias nature of the display. Maybe one lone employee was responsible for this horrible attempt at voter “education”. If that is the case, then consider yourselves informed. Now that those in charge are aware of the situation, they can provdie a remedy. If and how the display is balanced is beyond my control. But let me make a suggestion. Stock the bookstore with a few more books written by authors spouting a conservative viewpoint. I easily found any Michael Moore book I wanted, but finding a conservative author required a much more dedicated search. If the BookMarq stocked more books by conservative authors, a second display could easily be made in order to achieve the balance necessary to reach the stated objective: voter education.

Again, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it was an innocent mistake. If so, it is easily correctable. If it was not an innocent mistake, then I think it speaks volumes about the willingness of the university to accept a diversity of viewpoints.

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