Mark Spitzer

 

Read a rebuttal of this article here.


Transcript of an Ed Dorn Rant

Back in October of 1991, I was in a graduate-level literature class at the University of Colorado, taught by Ed Dorn. The class was called Literature of the High West, and it met once a week at night. One evening I was sitting there listening to Dorn, when all of a sudden it seemed like there was something different about his voice -- something a bit more agitated than usual, something that made me sit up and break out my tape recorder, because I felt that something was about to happen. And something did happen: Dorn drove a student who had made a complaint about him to leave the classroom, as well as the University. I marked the tape "10-8-91" and threw it into a box which I pulled out ten years later. This is what it says:

Dorn: "And I'm not just saying to you that I'm from a long line of writers and I'm on ready for all this stuff. You can look it up. So there's no reason for anybody to be... ummm... ummm... what? There's no reason for anybody to be... let's see... there's no reason at all."

Tim Dardis: "Are you saying that the work you want from us... you specifically don't want anything to have anything to do with mass-kill?"

Dorn: "Not at all. I'm just saying that I don't want any... ummm... uhhh... grief... because I'm the way I am."

Dave Gessner: "Are you getting grief?"

Dorn: "Yeah."

Dave Gessner: "Can you fill us in?"

  [Class laughs]

Dorn: "Well, I mean, I'll make this very clear, it's favoritism every time because somebody went to uhhh... and you know this is anonymous like it is in the Third World, so I don't know who it is... and nor do I want to, but he's complained that ummm I was drunk on our last meeting, that I was using drugs and that I had no method. Well, the method thing might be true, but I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't even eat meat. Now what that really means is, we're talking about a personality clash here. This is what happens when uhh the administration arbitrarily says, 'Students get to check people on their attitude toward race... as in the newly initiated questionnaire as of about two years ago. I instantly saw that as a hidden secret method where students who didn't agree with the professor can take him on race. Who talks about race anyway? It's boring. You got race, you're already fucked. I mean it's just not even there, so it's gotta be one of those things where, you know, it's a typical action of a police state. And this is a big-time police state too, by the way. This is why there's this very very big argument going on about what's politically correct and what's not. And it's a typical state device to like divide people and distract them. Obviously nobody knows or cares what's politically correct. I mean you don't care about like invading poor little Central American countries, then you also don't care about what's politically correct. And ummm... [the tape is unclear for a few seconds here] ...and uhhh so I mean, I can, obviously by their behavior and their action... Don't Care! So you know I can just make those assessments, apparently, well obviously, so I mean you know, since we're just a big bunch of hypocrites, I mean, and that's everybody, a blanket statement... it's like... let's not criticize each other. That's all I'm gonna say about this, I mean, in one sense because ummm times are a little bit rough for me right now--otherwise it rules out my back--I've been doing this for thirty years and I've had objections to my personality like before you were born."

  [Class laughs]

Dorn: "I mean that in itself doesn't even bother me, but you know, it's a nuisance actually, it took up a lot of my time."

Dave Gessner: "Just out of curiosity for those of us who might want to like go into academics, I mean what can they do to you and what can they--you're in a position where you're a professor here, what do they say to you? Do they say..."

Dorn: "Oh, it's not--I mean, the, the, the, the Head, the, the, the Head of the Department--the Head?--yeah. That's right.

  [Class laughs]

Dorn: "Sometimes I forget. [Laughs] La Head. [Laughs] You can't really tell in this case... uhh... came around and said, you know, uhhh, 'You didn't do that stuff,' and I said, 'Oh great, thanks.'

  [Class laughs. Dorn's words start to run together more frenetically]

Dorn: "But anyway you know, I... I know the guy. You know, nothing's gonna happen to me. Uhhh... you know, I mean, that's not the point. It's not the point, you see. I mean I, because I think of of... you know, I know... uhhh, there, there was an exchange, it was rather stiff, but you know... about race, and homosexuality and stuff like that, and I was just trying to see like who would jump up and like turn the table over, whatever, you know, it's just like because suddenly the conversation drifted that way, I, you know, I had to do this, not all the time, but you know, you might, you see... well how far is this actually possible to go, I mean, you know, let's see, really... who's gonna object very much, and then we can see... [voice gets too low to hear]... you guys. Because let's face it you know, for the most part we're uhhh on our best behavior.. as we should be. I mean who wants the populations going out screaming at each other about like race and homosexuality? I mean, that's stupid. But you know, there are occasions in which uhh maybe people ought to you know, just come out... and, and uhhh, we are talking about the West, where there's still very little toleration. That's just not the old West is it? That's the West right now. So, I mean, all of that is pertinent, all of that is fair. But I think that in the university context there is NO question, there is NO language, there is NO thing to end the format that is verbotten. I'm talking about the verbal display now. At any rate... I'm not very [inaudible]."

  [Class laughs]

Dorn: "It's just--but that's the way--because I'm an old time uhh teacher, I mean that's not--I'm as aware as anybody--that that is not the current view. I mean those people who, you know, got their PhDs five years ago don't look at it that way. Also... I'm aware of that. But so what? You know, I mean, when I graduated, I had a lot of views that were uhhh quite upsetting to uhhh people who were uhhh my age and perhaps younger at that time. I mean this is just the way it is, and that's the way it always is. But you know, I do believe uhhh, in uhhh, in that uhhh these--which is my time--uhh uhh--my time being finished as a student... finished, like you know, finished all the scratching for whatever... there was, uhh... those were difficult times as well, because those were the accomplishments, it's like, you know, and important... not for uhh, for uhh, you know, ummm, lascivious behavior but actually what we did say, I mean, people got through that time. That's why, to me, the most valuable thing you can do is to never let, uhh, never let restrictions--no matter how uhh uhh [unclear] to this, or how sensitive they seem to other people, one should never let restrictions, you know, uhh, raise their ugly heads again. I mean, that leads directly to... well, my opinion is that this leads directly to what the people who want those restrictions made wanted it to lead to, and that's why I think it's a nightmare. I think it's a real big nightmare. Because I see this as protofacism... Well, I mean, I, I, I didn't want to uhh, I just want to say that, you know, having said that uhh, I understand. You know, I understand the people who are upset because I've been through times when people were upset. I mean, I was like in my thirties, uhh, uhhh, during the 60s, so you know, I already knew a thing or two. And those were pretty wild times. And I wasn't really too old that I didn't think: 'These really are wild times,' you know, it's like when I thought a lot of this I really... fantastic. And a lot of it just made me cringe. Uhh... 'Relevancy'... which was the first attempt to uhh... rather than helping a race to uhh to try to help one race by depressing another. There was some talk in 68, 69, 70, 71 when everything had to be relevant. And people were like screaming at each other that it wasn't taught. I went through that period without actually--Now I know about the word 'relevant,' means, but I never knew what they meant by 'relevancy.' I've dated--actually, what was not relevant was just something that they didn't think you should be saying or that they didn't read about. Which is what's happening now. Like you know: 'I'm going to, I'm going to uhh shout you down because I uhh disapprove of your attitude.' Same thing, actually. It never goes away. That's why... uhh, what is it? It's uhh... 'Freedom... requires... a term of conditions,' isn't it?"

[someone replies, unclear]

Dorn: "Ummm... uhhh... '[something]ness is the better part of valor?'"

  [Somebody chuckles. There's an awkward moment as Dorn's accuser gets up and leaves the classroom, slamming the door behind him. Dorn goes on, slightly distracted]

Dorn: "Okay, let's see. Let's, okay, let's see, uhhh... what are we going to do now? We should, we should start off... now everybody's read uhhh Monkeywrench Gang and uhh Hayduke Lives and uhh Redline and... those are the three main ecological... and does everybody know about--now, before we start talking about it, because I'm sure you're dying to really discuss this, ummm, I just got the other day a book I saw--I never actually owned it, but I decided well maybe I better, it's uhh, there's a book that I, uhh, I don't frankly understand how it could be published. If this were any kind--you know, one does have to love America in the sense that the word is so useless that there's nothing you can't say. In any country in the world, this would be banned! The government would cut off the paper supply as Malcolm says in Redline, that's why the messages doesn't have any trouble with censorship, they don't have to bother because the government controls the paper, right?"

[Class laughs, Dorn does too]

Dorn: "It's really, that's terrific."

Some Student: "Well they can be taken to trial for that. The printer can get in trouble..."

Dorn: "That's right. Anyway, I'm going to pass it around and you can take a look at it, because this stuff, I mean, is..."

Tim Dardis: "What's the title?"

Some Student: "Eco-Defense."

Dorn: "This is the actual handbook, you know, uhh, and it's got drawings of big V8s and..."

  [Someone laughs]

Dorn: "...and stuff like that, and umm, what's it called? Eco... Eco-Defense. And you know, uhh, Eco-Defense...

  [End of tape].

 

 

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