It has happened again and it has to end. The use of the term "Animal House" to represent foul political behavior or historical events gone very badly has got to be stopped. This time the misuse is by the usually very wise Robert Borosage in his recent post on the Huffington Post entitled: "Mathews and Coulter: No Shame." His column states that having Ann Coulter on the Chris Mathews show Hardball lowered it to the level of Animal House. Last year Maureen Dowd got it equally wrong in her column about the President's boorish behavior at a G8 summit entitled "Animal House Summit." The single most egregious misuse of the term was in James Schlesinger's report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison describing conditions there as "Animal House on the night shift" (I should add that he was equally off-base in citing the comedy Night Shift).
What really happened at Animal House? Delta Tau Chi or Delta House as its members called it was a place where everyone was welcome. People of all races and religions were embraced as was made clear when John Blutarsky welcomed freshmen Larry Kroger and Kent Dorfman after they had been summarily dismissed from Omega House. They were invited in to a party and offered refreshment and friendship. At no time were they subjected to any of the practices that came to light at Abu Ghraib.
In fact it was Omega House, run by Doug Nedermeyer and Gregg Marmalard that had a record of discrimination and attempts to subvert the justice system on campus. Film from that time makes that clear. The film also shows that there were clear discriminatory practices as part of the command structure of Omega House. Witness the treatment on Rush night of Larry and Kent along with freshmen Clayton, Sidney, Mohammed and Dave who happened to be African American, Jewish, Muslim and an American with disabilities.
Delta House was an institution that celebrated democracy. It was known at Emil Faber College as the place that resisted authoritarianism and fought back when tyrants like Dean Wormer attempted to make its citizens bend to their one party rule. One cannot help but be struck by the resemblance between Dean Wormer and Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld. Both can easily be pictured saying the Dean's infamous words, "No more fun of any kind."
What happened in 1962 on the Faber campus should be remembered as a time when freedom loving individuals came together to defend the beliefs that they stood for.
When Delta House was faced with an illegal, unconstitutional attempt by a dictatorial regime to eradicate it from existence it did what it had to do. Its members turned their boat around and headed into enemy fire. Yes, they practiced civil disobedience but at that homecoming parade they made their stand for all of our rights.
Any objective review must state that Ms. Dowd did get it right when she wrote that President Clinton was "the first Animal House President." The egalitarian beliefs that he espoused, the way he conducted himself and his love of popular culture were in the proud tradition of the Deltas. It should be noted that running on those same beliefs got John Blutarsky elected to the United States Senate after his years at Faber. There is one point, however, on which former Sec. Schlesinger and any member of the Bush administration would be right to invoke Animal House. Looking back at the decision to invade Iraq and the administration's handling of events in that country the only words that come to mind are those spoken by Delta House leader Otter to his freshmen fraternity brother Flounder: "You fucked up. You trusted us."