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Gucci Radicals By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 02, 2004

With college commencement season in full swing, leftist propagandists are making the rounds of our nation's universities -- as they do all year 'round. In fact, the nation's universities not only provide a welcome home for speakers of the political left, but they also provide them a very generous income. These wealthy politicos pretend they represent the views of the downtrodden, even as they negotiate sweetheart deals to compensate their appearances. Their dirty little secret is: Our nation's money and prestige buoy the careers of the nation's most divisive leftist figures.

Care to hear Noam Chomsky skewer America's soulless, capitalist wealth and privilege? It will set you back $12,000, roughly one-fourth of the average MIT student's tuition. And Chomsky's leftist academics-in-arms have similarly immodest asking prices. Take Princeton's resident race baiter, Cornel West. With an official per-lecture fee of $15,000 plus first-class traveling expenses, West ranks among the priciest academics. Recently he spoke at Denver U. for $35,000. For one hour.

West's pal Jesse Jackson also demands the big bucks. When not extorting money from Nascar (the "last bastion of white supremacy"), Jackson demands between $10,000 and $20,000 for appearances. This is the same Jesse Jackson who spent the Sixties urging the nation to accept socialism, a "person-centered" rather than a "profit-centered" economy. Today, it seems, he's discovered that profit isn't all that bad.

Nor is he alone. Few may be shocked to learn that Michael Moore's speaking fee, like Moore himself is, well, hefty. The left-wing filmmaker asks $15,000 to $20,0000 per speech. Similarly, the fact that "comedian" Al Franken doesn't joke around about his $25,000 fee is unlikely to raise many eyebrows. (He has to make up for his gratis performance on Air America somehow.)

Slightly more surprising is the fact that even the Greens, the Left's self-styled "principled" base, like to see green. Look at Winona Laduke, Ralph Nader's running mate in the 1996 and 2000 elections. She will help college students save the earth -- for only $8,500. But then fellow Green Party activist Jello Biafra, will do the same speechfor onl $7,500. Enviro-activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s cash intake is nearly double that, at $16,000 bills. (So much for saving the trees.) As for perennial Green nudnik Ralph Nader, he comes with a price tag anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. (Staff at his D.C. campaign headquarters were none too eager to specify an exact amount.)

That goes for leftist "journalists," too. Socialist essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, who groused about spending a year working minimum wage jobs in her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, is a long way from the $7-an-hour experience now. She charges $15,000 (plus hundreds of dollars in expenses) for speaking engagements. The better to pontificate about class inequality, one assumes.

Radio lefty Nina Totenberg's NPR salary doesn't prevent her from charging $15,000 a pop to lecture the kiddies. Lefty scribbler Molly Ivins, meanwhile, has been known to ask a very unprogressive $25,000 for an hour of her conspiracy theories. Molly Ivins Can't Say That -- unless there's a paycheck involved.

In fact, the speech industry is going so well some left-wingers have developed qualms about not charging enough money. Radical leftist Alexander Cockburn, who doesn't have a standard fee or an agent, gamely tells me he's having second thoughts about charging little for appearances. Says Cockburn: "After hearing the other day (very reliably) that Spike Lee charged $50,000 to give what was reported as a rotten, ill-prepared series of off-the-cuff remarks, I'm reconsidering my position." He forgot to mention that Spike flies to these events in his private jet (perhaps it's the fuel fee he's making up).

The selfless leaders of the Left don't just speak for the money, of course; there are also the perks. The director of one D.C.-based booking agency tells me her leftist clients require the works from their hosts (usually colleges): a room at one of the area's nicer hotels, meals, travel fare and a car. Lest you think they're all closet high lifers, she helpfully notes that, in some instances, the car "doesn't even have to be a limousine."

Not that leftists always need a financial incentive to hawk their divisive wares. Sometimes the prospect of a captive audience of young minds is compensation enough. E.L. Doctorow had something like that in mind as he took the stage at Hofstra University last Sunday to give a self-serving anti-Bush commencement address (in front of one of the president's daughters), which offered little to graduates but a portrait of a geezer radical whose politics have not aged well. After trotting out the lie that Saddam Hussein had no connection to terrorism or WMDs, the fiction-inclined novelist found himself pummeled by a salvo of student boos. How bad was it? Put it this way; Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz had to plead with the crowd to please let Doctorow finish. Under normal circumstances, at least he would have had a few grand to comfort him. Leftists may be rank hypocrites or merely stuck in the 60s, like Doctorow, but if Yale's Class of 2004 is any indication, our children are learning after all.

Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com

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