OP-ED: Extreme rhetoric clouds shock debate
The actions of Brandeis Students Against the Judge Rotenberg Center have crossed the line. During their tabling in Lower Usdan, the group advertised, in large, bold lettering across a banner: "Stop the torture of children."Furthermore, at the table itself, literature presented by the group, as well as the statements of the members themselves, attempted to compare the group to the alleged torture prison Abu Ghraib by using gruesome political cartoons from Mother Jones magazine to augment their comparison.
Aversive therapy is the use of negative stimuli, such as the mild electric shocks used at the Judge Rotenberg Center, to condition the behavior of an individual. Although the merits of the therapy are debatable and its use rightly controversial, aversive shock is not torture by any reasonable use of the term.
Torture is the use of extreme physical or psychological pain as a means of interrogation or for the purpose of cruelty. BSAJRC not only uses this term incorrectly, but, in doing so, insults the entire Brandeis community. Rather than present the community with evidence, research or even the truth, BSAJRC is employing over-the-top and deliberately misleading propaganda to inflame and confuse the community.
In defense of BSARJC's actions, Liza Behrendt '09 stated in an interview, "We're trying to get an extreme reaction out of people because we think this an extreme issue." She went on to say that, once BSAJRC had a student's attention, they would offer evidence of their claims if that student asked for it. It is not enough, however, for a group to offer evidence only after inflaming the passions of its audience.
Regardless of the quality of the evidence or the objectivity of the audience, any viewing of that evidence will be inherently prejudiced by the presentation of the treatment as torture.
It is unfortunate that BSJARC are choosing to lead with scare tactics, because the evidence the group actually has to offer is well-researched and compelling. Brandeis is a high-level university, and if its students are concerned about the JRC, they are intelligent enough to examine the evidence objectively. By refusing to present us with that evidence in an unbiased manner, BSAJRC have shown very little respect for the student body.
In addition to being wrong in their own regard, the actions of BSAJRC also threaten to set a dangerous precedent in the Brandeis activist tradition. Propaganda presents a great temptation for any activist group, as it garners an impressive response from students. However, any gains made by manipulating public sentiment or using scare tactics are made at the expense of the community's sense of trust.
Our University is one that prides itself on examining the objective truth of a situation, truth even unto its innermost parts. This motto is reflected well in groups such as Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, the members of which pride themselves, and rightly so, on presenting the reality of a the genocide in Darfur using objective evidence.
However, if BSAJRC succeeds in its campaign of emotional misdirection, the efforts of such groups as STAND to maintain our community standards will be in vain. We as a community will face groups more interested in manipulating us than informing us. At a campus as intellectual and critically minded as ours, such a paradigm would be tragic.
Whatever one's opinions are on aversive therapy, it is important that we do not, as a community, support BSJARC until they are willing to treat us with respect and lead with the truth as it is, not how they believe it will be most digestible.
The writer is a member of the Class of 2009.