Murdering Americans Online - Ruth Edwards

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This has all been great fun, even if the central issue is terrifying. Thanks to the many people who have given me inspiration and support and answered questions, particularly Stephen and Deborah Cang, Amanda Carpenter, Nina Clarke, Beverley Cohen, Colin and Betsy Crabtree, Miles Donnelly, my brother Owen, Paul le Druillenec, Dick and Kathryn Kennison, Neasa MacErlean, James McGuire, Janet McIver, Ken Minogue, Séan O’Callaghan, Úna O’Donoghue, Henry Reid, Richard Reynolds, Robert Salisbury and Alec Swanson. Carol Scott, as ever, has coped in great good humour with the sheer mess I generate, Barbara Peters’s suggestions were constructive editing at its best, and with her husband, my publisher, Rob Rosenwald, she has been a constant source of encouragement. So too has Jane Conway-Gordon, my agent, with whom I had a great time in Las Vegas.

I’ve been visiting America for work and pleasure since 1964, have had fascinating experiences from coast to coast, am fortunate to have good American friends and have always been deeply interested in its culture, its politics and its people. Over the past few years, with this book in mind, I’ve had a most enjoyable and instructive time reading innumerable’ critics and provocateurs in the American right-wing press, and am particularly grateful to Mike S. Adams, Tony Blankley, John Derbyshire, Victor Davis Hanson, David Horowitz, Roger Kimball, Bill Lind, John O’Sullivan, Thomas Sowell, Mark Steyn and Walter Williams. I have also learned much from South Park.

Although several times a week—as I read of new lunacies from campuses throughout America—I have moaned ‘Pity the poor satirist,’ I should emphasise that Freeman State University and the town of New Paddington are products of my own fevered imagination.

EPIGRAPH

We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

—Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence,4 July 1776

It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of looking insufficiently progressive.

—Charles Péguy, 1905

There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped.

—G.K. Chesterton, 1908

Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another power is trying to destroy it.

—Jean-François Revel, 1984

PROLOGUE

‘What in hell’s going on here, Helen?’ shouted Martin Freeman down the phone to the Provost. ‘If any of the shit I’ve just read in the New Paddington Sentinel is true, the whole damn university should be closed down. And where’s the blasted President when I need him?’

Having never known the Chairman of the Board of Trustees even to raise his voice, let alone swear, Helen Fortier-Pritchardson, Provost of Freeman State University, was unable to emit more than a series of little panic-stricken cries.

‘Say something, will you, Goddammit? What is going on?’

As her shaking hand knocked over her cup and coffee spread over her toast, the Provost recollected that one of her unique selling propositions was that she was supposed to be calm in a crisis. ‘I’m sorry, Martin. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Freeman took a couple of deep breaths. ‘In that case, Madam Provost, you’d better find out fast. Get hold of the Sentinel, read its exposé, and call me. Oh, and set the wheels in motion for an emergency board meeting.’ This normally considerate, polite man slammed down the phone without even saying goodbye.

The Provost, who had taken one look at the Sentinel when she first took up her job and had dismissed it as a pathetic little small-town rag, abandoned her coffee, ran from her house to her car, and drove wildly towards the nearest supermarket. When stopped for speeding, she burst into tears.

***

‘They’ve got a group of students who’ve given them stuff anonymously,’ she told President Dickinson, when she finally tracked him down in New York. ‘They call themselves the VRC.’

‘What’s that?’

‘No idea.’

‘How bad is it?’

‘Terrible. The headline is: VIOLENCE, SEX AND DUMBING DOWN: FREEMAN GOES TO POT. There’s a lot on alcohol and drug abuse and sex orgies and violent hazing at the frat houses.’

‘So fucking what!’

‘And stuff on what the jocks do to cheerleaders that’ll drive parents crazy.’

‘Fuck ’em,’ said Dickinson. ‘There’s nothing new here. Happens everywhere. We just deny everything and repeat our zero-tolerance of any kind of initiation involving bodily, mental, or emotional harm.’

‘You don’t understand, Henry. The students are alleging we’re complete hypocrites who issue high-sounding statements of policy but ignore depravity because we think about nothing but money.’

‘Shit,’ said the President. ‘That’s more difficult.’

‘And they’re saying that mission statement about intellectual excellence is fraudulent, that we overlook plagiarism and collaborate with lazy,