Just As I Thought

Foregone conclusion

This experiment was hardly necessary — I think by now we all know what the results would be. But here it is nonetheless:

The question: Which presidential campaign better tolerates dissent?

The experiment: A college professor wears a Kerry-Edwards shirt to a rally for President Bush, then a Bush for President shirt to a John Kerry rally.

Result: Bush people make the subject remove his shirt, then give him the boot. The Kerry people don’t make a peep.

John Prather, a mild-mannered math prof at Ohio University’s Eastern Campus, says he carried out this one-man study a couple of weeks ago, attending both rallies in one day. “It really was to satisfy my own curiosity,” Prather, 38, told us. “It’s been my opinion that George Bush has stifled dissent . . . I think John Kerry doesn’t. In neither event was I a threat to anyone.” Yet, he says, at the Bush rally, “I was tailed the whole time.”

It turns out the Bush-Cheney campaign acts preemptively against what it regards as suspicious attendees. Spokesman Terry Holt told us yesterday: “Unfortunately, there have been a number of people who have sought to be disruptive, and unfortunately a small disruptive presence can ruin an event for the rest of the people who go to see the president and participate in the event.”

Prather, who lives in Wheeling, W.Va., calls himself a “moderate Democrat” who voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had a ticket to an afternoon Bush rally July 31 in Cambridge, Ohio. At the first ring of security, Prather says he was told to turn his Kerry shirt inside out. He did. At the second ring, he was told to remove the shirt. He did, then donned a soccer T-shirt. “I was in for 10 or 15 minutes,” he recalls, when security escorted him out. It was before the president arrived. “I was so far away I couldn’t have even heckled him,” Prather notes.

A few hours later, he entered the Kerry rally, in Wheeling, wearing his Bush shirt. “Nobody said anything to me. I took the Bush shirt off after it was clear no one was watching me, and put on the Kerry shirt.”

The professor realizes that this limited sample does not provide a sturdy conclusion, and offers an assignment: “I would encourage other people to carry out the experiment.”

Civics class dismissed.


  • A rebuttal to John Prather from a co-worker

    1) From his experience with the security at the first rally in Cambridge, John wishes to portray the Republican party as insensitive and restrictive toward people. However, in subsequent discussions, he said that he thought that it was the Secret Service that asked him to leave. So, if anyone was insensitive toward him, it was the Secret Service, not the Republican party. The primary duty of the Secret Service is to protect the President of the United States. Therefore, John must feel that his “rights” are more important than the safety of the President.

    2) The few minutes that he wore a Bush t-shirt at the Kerry rally pale to the hour-and-a-half that he wore the Kerry shirt in line for the first Bush rally. Also, it is much easier to notice an individual’s clothing when they are standing in a line than when they are crowded together in a group.

    3) It was the security people at the Cambridge rally that asked John to change his shirt, while the security at the Kerry rally didn’t notice anything. It is entirely possible that the Kerry security people are so obtuse that they failed to notice the possible disruption.

    4) John Prather is “mild-mannered”? As a co-worker of John, I can tell you that “mild-mannered” is NOT an adjective normally applied to John. He normally takes great joy in annoying various people.

    5) The rallies for President Bush were private events. The ball field and the arena were rented by the Bush/Cheney campaign, and as such, they have the right to allow (or disallow) certain people into the rally. Restaurants often have signs that they “reserve the right to refuse service to anyone;” this is the same concept as applied at the rallies.

    6) Private businesses and events are allowed to set their own dress code and may remove people who violate it. For example, the Cedar Point amusement park states “Clothing that might offend other guests is not allowed . . . At every entrance there are signs stating that ‘Cedar Point reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone not properly dressed,'” and “Inappropriate items cannot be worn inside out.” So, it can be seen that it is not uncommon for people who wear clothing that is deemed offensive to other people to be asked to leave an area.

    7) John states that he wondered if he was on a watch list for the August 29 Bush rally. Besides the fact that he announced on the news that he was going to attempt the same thing again, it is probable that someone attempted to alert the rally organizers that a troublemaker was going to try to gain access to the rally. If a thief announced that he was going to try break into a bank, there are very few people who would complain that security was keeping an eye out for him. It is the responsibility of security to watch for possible troublemakers and to remove them before they can cause any problems.

    8) Though John says that he wasn’t going to protest or to cause trouble, only people close to him would know if he intended to remain true to his word. How many of the 9-11 terrorists told the truth when they entered the US? Did their visas say that they were going to hijack planes and kill people? I doubt it. This is not meant to imply in any way that John is a terrorist; it just points out that some people can be less than honest about their intentions.

  • Okay, well…
    I’ll grant you items 1 and 2. Nevertheless — and I speak as a person with Secret Service in the family — the Service takes protection very seriously, and a person wearing a t-shirt promoting the President’s opposition is simply not something that calls for Service action. The Secret Service is non-partisan. If he was ejected by the Service, he was doing something other than wearing a t-shirt.
    Your number 3 flags you as a complete partisan in this argument, as you couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make a slight to the Kerry camp. Do I need to point out that the security at a Kerry rally is ALSO Secret Service?
    Number 4: I don’t know him, so I can’t comment on whether he’s mild-mannered or not. But this hardly makes any difference. The constitutional guarantees on free speech apply to everyone, whether they are purposely annoying or not.
    Number 5: Yes, the Bush rallies are private events. You are completely right, they can refuse admission to anyone. And that, I think, is the point. Bush’s rallies, like his government, are only for like-minded people.
    6? See 5.
    7: You’re right, if you announce that you’re going to do something, why be surprised if they expect it?
    8: Using the September 11 terrorists in this context, despite your disclaimer, is unfair and inappropriate — just putting it in the same sentence invites connection. You know, the way that Bush uses “September 11” and “Saddam Hussein” in the same sentence, to lull the more gullible in the audience to make a connection that doesn’t exist.

    Regardless of what John Prather did or didn’t do, in the end the point is quite clear. The Republican party, despite its rhetoric and slogans, is not interested in diversity of opinion, belief, race, creed, or anything else. The few dissenters and minorities who uneasily exist within it are the exceptions that prove the rule. The Democratic party is completely inclusive and diverse — albeit at the expense of “unity” and a clear-cut message. Democracy is messy. Fascism is laser-sharp.
    I am a great believer in dissent. That’s why I’m glad to have people leave comments here with a different point of view. I only wish that they felt comfortable enough to give a name rather than remain anonymous.
    This commenter posted from an IP address at Ohio State Eastern, so I take him/her at their word that they are a co-worker of the man mentioned in the article.

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