Monday, November 13, 2006

NewU: Ayn Rand Institute Director Yaron Brook Speaks to Divided Audience

Here's the second of two articles published in the NewU on last week's Yaron Brook event.

Link to my blog post of the first of two articles

Link to article

Ayn Rand Institute Director Yaron Brook Speaks to Divided Audience
POLITICS: Amidst protest, controversial speaker gives two-hour lecture at Social Science Lecture Hall.
By Julian Camillieri
Staff Writer

A disruptive renegade youth choir, a deeply divided crowd, a World War II history lesson, a radical soap-box performance by a former Israeli Military Intelligence Agent and a dead writer whose philosophy is still influential all came together at UC Irvine on Nov. 6.

Ayn Rand Institute President Yaron Brook spoke Monday to an audience of varying ages, cultural backgrounds and political ideologies for an event held by UCI’s Ayn Rand Club, titled “Destroying Islamic Totalitarianism: The West’s Moral Imperative” at the Social Science Lecture Hall.

The Ayn Rand Club is a student organization whose goal is to promote objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of books like “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Specifically, the club argues that “reason, laissez-faire capitalism and rational self-interest are the foundations of a free society.”

Brook, whose advocacy group has encountered controversy and protest at many of its lectures at campuses across the country, argued for taking a much stronger stand against countries he deems “Islamic totalitarian regimes,” expressing concern primarily over Iran, and using past military action against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan as models for ending terrorist attacks against the United States.

The first half of the event was marked by a pre-planned protest organized by the LaRouche Youth Movement in which protesters stood during the speech and sang songs critical of Brook. Fifteen of the protesters, some of whom were peaceful and others who violently resisted police, were escorted from the building one by one and were arrested.

This did not deter the calm, collected Brook, who continued his lecture after each wave of protesters were dejected and followed his speech with an extensive question-and-answer section. Ayn Rand Club President and first-year undeclared humanities major Eric Brunner was pleased with the event’s turnout and was also not fazed by the protesters.

“The event was a total success,” Brunner said. “About 170 people attended. The people who disrupted my event are less than zeros and are barely worth mentioning. Simply observing their behavior speaks for itself.”

In his speech, Brook identified several countries – including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria – as “Islamic totalitarian regimes,” which he defined as countries that believe that Islam should dictate all aspects of life and “support terrorists and the ideology that supports those terrorists.”

“The Iranian regime is the fountain of the Islamic totalitarian regime,” Brook said. “As long as that regime is dedicated to the establishment of the Islamic totalitarian state and to the destruction of the United States, it has to be the number-one target on our agenda to eliminate.”

Brook was met with the most vocal opposition when he suggested that the United States should deal with “Islamic totalitarianism” in the same way that it dealt with Germany and Japan during World War II. Brook was never exactly specific about what action should be taken, but he did not rule out options that could take many civilian lives.

“We are attacked by Islamic totalitarianism,” Brook said. “What needs to happen is that we go to war like we did in World War II and doing in that war whatever is necessary to defeat the enemy. Yes, that is going to involve, unfortunately, killing a lot of people. If you don’t want people to die, don’t go to war, and accept the fact that you will be the one that dies.”

In the second half of the evening, Brook answered questions from the audience for over an hour. While there were some supportive audience members, most questions came from students and community members who strongly disagreed with Brook.

“People get worked up over what Brook says because he says the blunt truth,” Brunner said. “A good portion of those who get worked up are Muslim students who actually agree with the Islamic totalitarians’ goals, and other Muslim students are offended because they misunderstand and seem to think that what Brook says applies to everyone who calls himself or herself a Muslim.”

Brook answered every question calmly, almost always reverting back to his original thesis and never wavering on his stance.

Brunner agreed with Brook’s criticism of Iran.

“Those who are living in Iran and do not support Islamic totalitarianism should have left a long time ago,” Brunner said. “If for some reason some people cannot leave Iran and are against Islamic totalitarianism, they should welcome the destruction of Iran even if it could mean their own death. In such a context, the people are better off dead than being a slave to a totalitarian state.”

Iranian Student Association President and third-year international studies and sociology double-major Leyla Rezvani declined to comment about the event, noting that ISA is strictly a social group, not a political one.

In weeks leading up to the event, LaRouche Youth Movement representatives told New University reporters that they were organizing a protest along with the Muslim Student Union. However, the LaRouche Youth Movement, which has no university affiliation, did not actually have MSU support.

“MSU was not going to protest,” said MSU External Public Relations Officer and third-year social sciences major Marya Bangee. “[The LaRouche Youth Movement] presented their case for why there should be active protesting against the Ayn Rand club; we disagreed. We didn’t think a fringe group like Ayn Rand was worth our effort. Any group that advocates the murder of millions of innocent people does not have a legitimate voice. As Muslims, we believe human life is sacred.”

Despite Anteaters for Israel being listed as a co-sponsor on some posters advertising Brook’s talk, the Ayn Rand Club was the sole sponsor of the event.

“For a day or so there was miscommunication that AFI was considering co-sponsoring, but we did not,” said AFI Co-President and second-year Spanish and sociology double-major Emily Shaaya. “While Yaron Brook generally does take on a pro-Israel stance, it would be unfair to AFI’s members to co-sponsor the event, seeing as the members of our organization come from all political affiliations, religions and backgrounds, all of whom would approach today’s current circumstances in a different manner.”

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