Absurd, combative, impractical — these (among many more) are descriptors that I’ve overheard on campus for the recent manifesto published by the Sixth Circle. In the blog post titled “You Are Not Safe Here,” the authors detail their antipathy for the culture and institutions at Wake Forest and clarify certain ‘demands.’ Among these demands are the democratization of campus politics, freedom of ideas, better treatment of service people on campus, the end of Greek life and an overhaul of the current curriculum. While the manifesto does bring up numerous relevant issues, the way in which the authors present them undermines the potential cogency of their argument. I think the best adjective in describing the article is misguided.
Do not get it confused, I do believe that the authors bring to light numerous areas where Wake Forest has an opportunity for improvement. The service people need to be treated better — one only has to look at their recent struggles for adequate transportation and job security to see that their safety and wellbeing are not appropriately prioritized. Sexual assault is an issue and needs to be addressed in a frank and transparent manner, involving students, faculty and administration. Unfortunately, various elements of their argument(s) undercut the change the five authors want to see. Ad hominem attacks, aggressive rhetoric and anonymity severely weaken the authors’ purpose behind the article and make individuals (especially individuals within the specific circles criticized in the blog post) turned off to a constructive conversation that could improve the dynamics mentioned in the article.
Throughout the blog post the authors engaged in personalized attacks that diminishe the legitimacy of the arguments provided. Objectively, criticizing the content of OGB does nothing to serve the stated goal of facilitating the broadening of nuanced political discussions on campus. Furthermore, essentially calling the staff at The Wake Forest Review racist is unproductive concerning the authors’ proposed demands and is borderline libelous. Even with the many issues I have with The Wake Forest Review, I commend them for creating an alternate medium for opinion. Maybe a better way of addressing the issue of the stagnant and unrepresentative politics of our campus would be to establish one’s own publication or submit your own opinion to the OGB or WFR, instead of using ad hominem attacks on those who are actually fostering civil discourse on campus.
The anonymity of the blog post is also a glaring issue. These ‘demands’ were made without direction. To whom can someone open to a dialogue go and converse about the concerns raised? A reoccurring motif in the manifesto was the varied use of ‘scream.’ What does screaming look like? I would like to know, but have a feeling that this question will not be answered. Look, I realize that the intended purpose was to facilitate conversation, but at the same time history tells us that solely starting a dialogue is not enough. Dialogue followed by suitable action is how change happens. With the anonymity and reclusiveness of the authors, this will prove to be difficult if not impossible.
The rhetoric used is also hindersome. An aggressive and uncompromising tone rarely makes an opposing party embrace discussion. Instead, it polarizes individuals further, making change that much harder to come by. Additionally, allusions to Hell and the vague threat that the authors come in “relative” peace give the complaints an ominous tone that distracts from the general message. Most importantly, the pairing of playing the part of the victim while engaging in the previously-mentioned aggression misses the mark. When these two traits are paired it damages stated beliefs and turns them into a list of complaints.
I am and will always support anyone who publicly states their convictions, but when the conditions of identification aren’t met, in my opinion the gravitas of an author’s argument is lessened. The use of personal attacks furthermore delegitimizes convictions and the antagonistic rhetoric is useless in a practical sense. The issues raised by “Heretics of the Sixth Circle” aren’t unfounded. In fact, they raise numerous points that the university and students should strive to improve upon. Regrettably, the arguments listed in the manifesto are misguided and counterproductive.