Letter to the Editor: Biddle’s comments unfairly criticized

The characterization by Fox News of the events reported on in the Royal Purple’s March 5 article “From UW-W classroom to national media” suggests that something inappropriate happened in the classroom.  In citing the UW System policy on political campaign activities, the Royal Purple writer suggests that this policy may have been violated, when that is clearly not the case.

Eyon Biddle was invited to speak on a topic relevant to the class.  Since he is active in Democratic Party politics at the county level, it is reasonable to expect that he will speak from that political perspective.  Further, it is not incumbent upon any speaker to represent the positions of other parties, including the Republican Party, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, or the Socialist Party.

In some cases Biddle presented a Democratic interpretation of state and national politics since 2010.  In other cases, such as that about redistricting, he presented facts that Republicans publicly embrace as strategy. Unfortunately, the Royal Purple did not accurately represent Biddle’s statement.  Biddle explained that the result of the Republican-led state legislature’s redistricting in 2010 was to create districts that are either predominantly Republican or predominantly Democrat, eliminating districts where there was a more even split between the two major parties.  The stated goal of the Republican Party at the national level was to create more districts that favor Republican Candidates (check out “Redmap”).  Biddle cited other facts, such as the shift in funding from public schools to charter schools, and the effects on campaign advertising of the Supreme Court decision on “Citizens United” to show that the political climate in Wisconsin has become polarized since the 2010 elections.  In some cases he presented a Democratic interpretation of events, which makes sense, given his position, and in other cases, he was just laying out the facts. He was not out of line.

The instructor encouraged, expected, and required critical responses to the speaker’s presentation, as reported by theRoyal Purple.   The student who posted the recording on social media made an unfortunate choice that took on a life of it’s own when Fox got involved. Just as there is an obligation to critically evaluate statements by guest speakers, there is an obligation to critically evaluate the characterization of events as covered by media outlets such as Fox News.

Crista Lebens

Associate Professor

Philosophy and Religious Studies