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Documenting the Cost of Free Speech

By Richard Leiby
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page D03

Together at last: Muckraking liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and arch-conservative Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity have at least one thing in common: As campus speakers, neither comes cheap. The battling blowhards are the focus of a new documentary, "This Divided State," which chronicles the bitter controversy that erupted when a college in Orem, Utah, invited the "Fahrenheit 9/11" director to speak there last fall.

Students and residents went ballistic over Moore's $40,000 speaking fee and brought in Hannity to present a counter viewpoint. Although Hannity waived his customary $100,000 fee, the tab for his travel by private jet came to $50,000. The story captivated 25-year-old Steven Greenstreet, who dropped out of Brigham Young University and maxed out his credit cards to make his movie.

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Though he has yet to secure a national distributor, Greenstreet has launched a 23-college tour underwritten by Campus Progress, a division of the left-leaning Center for American Progress here. Although it's true that Utah is a deeply conservative state, "a lot of people supporting Michael Moore were Republican, Bush-supporting Mormons who also supported free speech," Greenstreet told us during a visit to town last week. The film's lesson: "There was a lot of labeling and a lot of judging people without getting to know them or their sides."

Tomorrow evening Greenstreet will show his documentary at George Mason University, which coincidentally canceled Moore's appearance in October after conservative state lawmakers objected to his $35,000 fee. Contact speakers@campusprogress.org for more info on the screening.

Rumsfeld's War on Gobbledygook

Back to (old) school: Donald Rumsfeld has declared that English must henceforth be the official language of the Pentagon. No, he isn't outlawing other tongues -- he just wants more clarity in the endless paperwork generated by the military establishment.

The curmudgeonly defense secretary recently dispatched a classic "snowflake" -- as the curt notes he showers on underlings are known -- and attached a 1958 Department of Defense directive to make his point.

"It is interesting. It is short, clear, and written in English," Rummy's memo states. "Think of what today's directives read like, by comparison. They are almost unintelligible. Thanks."

We hear the SecDef is boiling in frustration after several unsuccessful years of waging war against the acronyms, jargon and PowerPoint-ese that infest the bureaucracy. Known for his own clear writing, he is said to commonly ask subordinates, "What is that in English?" or "Is English your second language?"

The Feb. 7, 1958, directive from Defense Secretary Neil H. McElroy established the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- or DARPA, though you won't find that acronym or any other in its text. In a page and a half, it lays out with shocking precision DARPA's function and mission, e.g.: "The Agency is authorized to acquire or construct such research, development and test facilities and equipment as may be approved by the Secretary of Defense . . . ."

Some say the 72-year-old Rumsfeld would have made a great English teacher. But after decades of service in Washington, and well into his second tour as defense secretary, he must know by now that there's no escaping obfuscation or insider lingo. Even his own snowflake succumbs to these acronyms: OSD, DoD and FOUO.

That last one means "For Official Use Only," but we can only surmise that this Rumsfeldian lesson was leaked for the betterment of memo writers everywhere.

A Former CIA Operative's Mission: 'Wife' Support

CIA operative-turned-Broadway-producer Anthony Marshall will return to his old Washington stomping grounds when the Tony Award-winning production "I Am My Own Wife" opens at the National Theatre on Tuesday. "I can't help but feel nostalgic," the 81-year-old Renaissance man tells us.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning one-man play stars Jefferson Mays as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a real-life German transvestite who survived both the Nazi and communist regimes in Berlin. Marshall is co-producing the play with his wife, Charlene, and Broadway veteran David Richenthal. " 'Wife' is a personal drama and a historical drama," Marshall explains. And given his own background, "I appreciate that."

Marshall's storied résumé starts in World War II, when he served in the Marines and took a piece of shrapnel on Iwo Jima. He later graduated from Brown University, worked on Cold War ops for the CIA, served as a diplomat in Turkey, became ambassador to the Malagasy Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya and the Seychelles, worked as an entrepreneur in Nigeria and eventually found time to author seven books.

When he lived in Washington during his CIA days in the 1950s, "there was very little theater," Marshall says, "but I did attend the National Theatre." He first produced a play in 1982. These days, Marshall says his busy non-retirement in New York resembles a trip to the salad bar: "At 81, I look at life as a chef's salad. You take some ingredients out, you put some others in. I love chef's salad. That's my life."

With Chris Richards

© 2005 The Washington Post Company