The Potatoe Is Not for Mashing!

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Van Dyke is a "Racist Fascist Nazi Homophobic Bigot."
At least, that is how his critics describe the Christian conservative
who refuses to knuckle under to PC peer pressure at Michigan State
University (MSU) where he is student. In the first week of April,
Van Dyke’s regular column appeared in the student paper The State
News. As a result of this piece – entitled "Gay Rights
Movement Teaches Tolerance Hypocritically" Van Dyke was dismissed.

almost the same time and for similar reasons, William
Barnwell – a Christian conservative who now writes for

was ousted from The South End, a student newspaper at Wayne
State University (WSU).

suppression of anti-PC sentiment on tax-supported campuses across
the United States is hardly news. But Van Dyke and Barnwell are
fighting back and not through the usual channels of university appeal
boards or lawsuits.

they used the Internet and created ThePotatoe!
– a militantly anti-PC site that serves as a home for writers
who have been dismissed or otherwise disenfranchised because of
their conservative views. For example, Chris Lilik – editor
in chief of the student newspaper entitled Conservative
at Villanova University. Earlier this year, his newspaper
was banned from campus because of running a parody aimed at a bank
with which the university had a business relationship. He now writes
for ThePotatoe.

the strange spelling of a strange name? True to the iconoclastic
streak that occupies the entirety of both founders’ backs, ThePotatoe
is named in honor of former Vice-President Dan Quayle. Seriously.
"Therefore, ‘ThePotatoe.Com’ is spelled exactly the way Mr.
Quayle read it" in the famous television news clip that was
used to ridicule him.

are the homophobic Nazi views and behavior for which Van Dyke and
Barnwell are reviled by "right-thinking" people at MSU
and WSU? Barnwell describes a typical incident that occurred while
he attended a discussion of race relations at WSU. The audience
was asked a question: if you were the principal of a school that
received complaints about racial discrimination, what would you
do? Among the solutions offered: students would be forced to sit
at integrated tables in the cafeteria; the parking lot and lockers
would be similarly integrated. When Barnwell’s turn to speak arrived,
he opened with, "for one thing, I would honor the right to
free association."

Dyke explained another incident – his refusal to go along with a program
called "Our Divided Reality" at MSU. The segregation was
intended to heighten student – read white male – sensitivity toward
minority groups. Accordingly, various elevators, cafeteria tables
etc. were labeled "For blacks (or gays) only." Figuring
that he had paid full tuition to the university for access to all
public facilities, Van Dyke refused to comply. He was excoriated.
In one of his biweekly columns, Van Dyke replied, "As long
as you agree with advocates’ positions on issues, you’re their best
friend, but the minute you even start questioning their agenda,
it’s an entirely different story. When a person speaks out in opposition
to their movement, whether for religious reasons or otherwise, they
are instantly branded bigots and hate mongers."

are two aspects to what ThePotatoe and its founders advocate.
The first is the specific content of its e-pages. They are aggressively
conservative with a take-no-prisoner edge. As an anarchist and a
feminist, I could sit down for hours with these two men and explain
why they are utterly wrong on a certain few issues. For example,
I don’t see anything unnatural or offensive about homosexuality.

second aspect of ThePotatoe is a restatement of the first
one: "I could sit down for hours with these two men…"
In other words, both Van Dyke and Barnwell believe that people should
respect the "diversity" that PC voices on campus so hypocritically
champion. The most fundamental form of diversity is the toleration
of differing opinions. This does not mean being forced to listen
to those opinions, to provide a forum for them, or to be silent
in their presence. It means extending freedom of speech to opinions
with which you disagree. From all I know of Van Dyke and Barnwell,
both of them would be far more interested by the quality of my arguments
than by the fact that we have disagreements. This is almost a definition
of respecting diversity.

dismissal of columnists, speech codes, the burning or confiscation
of student papers, sexual harassment charges, the "heckler’s
veto" of drowning out speakers…the tactics through which
conservative voices are squelched on American campuses have become
common place. But, coming this fall, PC censors at Michigan State
University will face a new and formidable challenge. The mission
statement of ThePotatoe vows "to promote Conservative
and Christian political thought on the World Wide Web and beyond."
The "beyond" is occurring almost as I write this column.
Van Dyke’s latest venture The
Spartan Spectator
goes to press and hard copy versions of
its e-message will blanket the MSU campus. With such features as
a regular column by "The Voice of Jane Q. Liberal" –
a figure of fiction – Van Dyke comments, "The first issue
is guaranteed to offend just about every liberal on campus and we
are anxiously awaiting what the response from distribution will

as one of Irish descent, I’ll cast my vote sight unseen – "Long
Live That Noble Vegetable!"

30, 2000

McElroy is author of The
Reasonable Woman
. See more of her work at
and at her personal website.

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