Friday, July 23, 2004

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (3)

Entering the lion's GOAt's den

Monday night I'll be debating Kennette Benedict, the director of the International Peace and Security Area of the Program on Global Security and Sustainability at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, about "Democracy Defined: Wield or Yield?" -- in a bar.

Monica Eng explains why in the Chicago Tribune:

If you've ever been to any, you'd know that few Chicago Council on Foreign Relations events wrap up with the emcee shouting: "You guys rocked tonight!"

But the program at Schubas last month was not your grandfather's CCFR event.

Instead of mature types nodding -- and nodding off -- over coffee, tea and long foreign policy speeches, the place was full of hipster kids with bare bellies and Ira Glass-like specs who occasionally yelped at debaters between gulps of beer.

That is exactly what the planners were hoping for when they hatched the concept of moving council events into the neighborhoods and bars. Like many venerable Chicago institutions facing aging memberships, the 82-year-old CCFR is clearly in the market for a new generation of patrons.

The program, which started last month and is scheduled to continue monthly through November, is called GOAt, a rough acronym for Globally Occupying the Attention of Chicago's Untapped Audience.

"The usual council audience is a lot of gray-beards like me and a couple of young people," noted Richard Longworth, the executive director for the Council's Global Chicago Center. "But tonight there were a couple of graybeards in the audience but mostly much younger people. It's great. We wanted a younger, more diverse crowd and one that might have been a little intimidated about going to meetings downtown. Schubas is a great place to do it."

Well, I'm certainly looking forward to "getting down," as they call it, with the young people.

Of course, the crowd might not feel the same way, as Eng elaborates:

In June, Northwestern political science professor Karen J. Alter (sporting frizzy hair, a tank top, peasant skirt and clogs) challenged Lincoln Legal Foundation President Joseph Morris (sporting a standard-issue blue suit, red bow tie and carefully combed hair) to a debate about U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.

From the shouts and applause during the debate it was clear that most attendees were not Bush fans....

Dick Prall (the name as published has been corrected in this text), the GOAt organizer, said he hopes these events will counter the perception that the council is only for oldsters and liberals.

"CCFR is not a liberal organization, not when we bring in people like Richard Perle and Condoleezza Rice," he says. "We want people to bring along conservatives so we can get the sparks flying."

Schubas booker Matt Rucins, who also schedules the emcees, concedes that both [Hideout nightclub co-owner Tim] Tuten and Monday's host, [Raucous singer/artist] Langford, are not exactly conservatives.

But as he explains, when the equation is hipster plus rock plus Chicago -- a liberal sum is hard to avoid. Does Rucins think he'll be able to come up with at least one righty emcee before the series is up?

"That would be very hard," he said. "In all honesty I don't know if I could find anybody. Maybe after this article comes out someone will suggest somebody."

[Sounds like a tough crowd--ed. No sweat -- all I have to do is pull off the frizzy hair-tank-top-peasant-skirt-and-clogs look.]

In all seriousness, this kind of format and venue is a great idea, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to drink and debate at the same time.

To repeat, this GOAt session will be held at Schuba's (located at 3159 N. Southport), starting at 7:00 PM. Chicago residents interested in attending can buy their tickets by clicking here.

posted by Dan on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM


Dude, I am so there. Now I just have to find my giant foam finger and facepaint.

posted by: Independent George on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

Jon Langford!


He's not just a "raucous singer/artist", he's a founder of the seminal British punk band the Mekons, and also a member of the Chicago-based alt-country band the Waco Brothers.

I think he also plays in a band known as the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, so there ya go.

posted by: Jon H on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]


Jon Langford! Schubas! Dan - I'll buy ya a beer if I can shove the kids off somewhere....

posted by: mickslam on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

I was an intern at CCFR last year. A lot of very nice people work(ed) there, but A) it is one of the most overtly liberal organizations I have ever stepped foot into and B) they don't "bring in" the likes of Perle and Rice. They organize the venue and send out announcements for people who are already on a book tour or making the rounds. I assumed this GOAt concept was fairly goofy and intended to bring together the "Bush lied" crowd over beers, and I am sure it isn't far from that, but good to see they are inviting the likes of Drezner.

posted by: Kevin on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

I am optimistic that simple exposure to rational thought from outside the liberal echo chambers will have a salutary effect on the republic.

Of course, I was also optimistic that Hayley Mills would somehow fall in love with me in 1965.

posted by: Assistant Village Idiot on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

I don't have any problem with you appearing with frizzy hair, tank top, and peasant skirt. However, I think the clogs may be bad for your feet.

posted by: jeff davis on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

In judging the ideology of an event, don't forget the sponsor. The MacArthur foundation may have had sponored a conservative (or moderate) event, but, if so, I missed it.

posted by: Jim Miller on 07.23.04 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?