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Ashcroft and Me

I've been kind of quiet the last few days because I've been busy working. So here's some fodder for the holier-than-thou Hairshirt Brigade: I'm in Phoenix attending the Restoration Weekend organized by uber-righty David Horowitz (Gasp! Shriek! Moan! Plotz!). Nah, sorry to disappoint my critics. I'm not "pulling a Hitchens" nor "defecting" as some would crudely put it. I've come to this conservative gaggle before and have written about it in The Nation -- so no wild conclusions should be drawn. This is merely a professional visit (Horowitz is also a neighbor of mine and we maintain a respectful friendship across a very deep political divide, occasionally arguing over corned beef sandwiches at the local deli). I am, I might say, having a pretty grand time here -- chatting up a lot of Republican pols including John Ashcroft, Tom Tancredo, JD Hayworth and many other specimens of the Crustacean Right including former Clinton CIA Director James Woolsey. I thought Ashcroft was going to fall over when I introduced myself as from The Nation. It was kind of a shock to watch the former attorney general accept an award cooked up for him by Horowitz and actually present evidence of a Genuine Personality. Who knew? Unfortunately we couldn't get Ashcroft loosened up enough to do one of his singing shticks but we did get him talking a bit about some internal GOP politics. I did have some laughs when a conservative comic who is part of the program here did some stand-up about how Ashcroft's feelings have been hurt by his liberal critics. "No matter what George Bush does, the liberals say 'Bush is Hitler! Bush is Hitler!' How about that, John?" said dinner comic Evan Sayet nodding his head toward Ashcroft. "For those four years you spent toiling in the basement of the Justice Department stripping Americans of their civil liberties you're just called a nameless 'fascist'. You've gotta be saying, 'Hey, wait, I'm Hitler too!'" Yuk. Yuk. I was invited to speak on a panel about the future of the Democratic Party and was joined by former consultant Pat Caddell, current Democratic strategist and all-around wunder-babe Flavia Colgan along with New York Times Magazine correspondent Matt Bai. As a dedicated poker player I believe in the credo "No Free Cards" i.e. you gotta pay to see the flop. So before treating the audience to my usual disdain for the Dems I made them first sit through my all-out dump on the Republicans-- which they took pretty well. (It was, indeed, heartening to have a number of people come up to me afterwards and tell me how uncomfortable they have grown with Bush). Generally speaking, the audiences at these events are usually quite gracious and easy-going if indeed out-to-lunch politically. It's a much friendlier venue than your usual lefty gatherings. The Weekend-goers here are disportionately richer, older, more comfortable, less angry than your average progressive (duh!). And as they will usually admit that their politics are much more about self-interest than purportedly about saving the world, they don't get very worked up if you disagree with them. Doesn't really affect the bottom line, y'know. Friday afternoon after a lunch speech by Senator John Kyl (which he used to justify the warrantless NSA spying program), some of the folks here went out skeet shooting at a local range and were kind enough to ask me along. Given that some of the party-goers here not only support Dick Cheney but are actual friends of his, I decided it was more prudent to duck out (so to speak); so I stayed back at the hotel garden, soaking up the gentle Arizona sun in an Adirondack chair, lazily sipping some Dr. Pepper, and mentally reviewing all the reasons why I could never be a conservative. Anyway, I'll be writing some of this stuff up over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

29 Responses to “Ashcroft and Me”

  1. rosedog Says:

    Hey, Marc, knock ‘em dead. Sound’s wild.

    (Sorry that you couldn’t get Ashcroft to do the “Let the Eagle Soar” thingy, though.)

    Tell Flavia I said hi.

    And come back with good stories!

  2. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Marc, I’m sincerely disappointed — I wanted free cards!

    http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn26.html
    Mark Stein writes:
    In five years’ time, how many Jews will be living in France? Two years ago, a 23-year-old Paris disc jockey called Sebastien Selam was heading off to work from his parents’ apartment when he was jumped in the parking garage by his Muslim neighbor Adel. Selam’s throat was slit twice, to the point of near-decapitation; his face was ripped off with a fork; and his eyes were gouged out. Adel climbed the stairs of the apartment house dripping blood and yelling, “I have killed my Jew. I will go to heaven.”

    Is that an gripping story? You’d think so. Particularly when, in the same city, on the same night, a Jewish woman was brutally murdered in the presence of her daughter by another Muslim. You’ve got the making of a mini-trend there, and the media love trends.

    Yet no major French newspaper carried the story.

    This month, there was another murder. Ilan Halimi, also 23, also Jewish, was found by a railway track outside Paris with burns and knife wounds all over his body. He died en route to the hospital, having been held prisoner, hooded and naked, and brutally tortured for almost three weeks by a gang that had demanded half a million dollars from his family. Can you take a wild guess at the particular identity of the gang? During the ransom phone calls, his uncle reported that they were made to listen to Ilan’s screams as he was being burned while his torturers read out verses from the Quran.

    I thought I’d add THIS is the kind of torture I’m against, and I think any and all folks who condemn US abuse at Abu Ghraib, but NOT condemn the systematic Islamic torture, are actually favoring more torture. By Islamic future winners.

    In the same way those against My Lai, but not against N. Viet commies, favored commie victory, and SE Asian Killing Fields.

    I’m strongly against real torture; but also favor firm interrogation less than torture.
    But the GOP folk’s poor PR/ explanations are sure to hurt them — please the fact that they’re likely sleazeballs.

    It’s really too bad the Dems are so full of BDS, and offer no rational alternative.

    Love your lines on why the Reps are less angry:
    “And as they will usually admit that their politics are much more about self-interest than purportedly about saving the world, they don’t get very worked up if you disagree with them. Doesn’t really affect the bottom line, y’know.”

    Too bad the Dems aren’t proposing really tougher reforms, and more transparency through internet publishing of all bills; a 72 hour freeze on any amendments to a bill before it’s voted on; identification of the representative who adds any spending request to any bill.

    Rich Dems aren’t so different from rich Reps — they just hide their greed better.

  3. Mark A. York Says:

    I think it’s safe to say that the Tom Grey’s of the left and right are a good reason not to listen to either of those extreme xenophobes. Both only see each others’ examples of drive by hatred.

  4. Randy Paul Says:

    Friday afternoon after a lunch speech by Senator John Kyl (which he used to justify the warrantless NSA spying program), some of the folks here went out skeet shooting at a local range and were kind enough to ask me along. Given that some of the party-goers here not only support Dick Cheney but are actual friends of his, I decided it was more prudent to duck out (so to speak)

    I bet they would have quailed before your eagle-eyed skills with a rod and reel. Perhaps you could have goosed them a little to the left as you told them about Operation Condor, but I doubt if those turkeys would have believed it. Did you crane your neck into any of their meetings?

    You should have no [r]egrets about going, no matter how fowl the experience. I’m sure you were capable of winging it.

    Okay, I’m done with the puns.

  5. Rob Grocholski Says:

    …so a dove shows up with the flock of hawks…glad your presentation to those doo-doo’s didn’t lay an egg…that you weren’t chicken about speaking your own views…yes you coulda dove-tailed into a discussion about urgent topics like avian flu…but that mighta seemed Daffy…

    Sorry, Randy, couldn’t resist…

  6. reg Says:

    You eat corned beef sandwiches with David Horowitz ???

    I can’t believe this. What the hell are you thinking ????

    You disappoint me.

    I mean, pastrami is obviously the way to go.

  7. Eleanore kjellberg Says:

    I guess Horowitz prefers corn beef, he wouldn’t want to choke on a tongue sandwich, unless of course, he was reassured that you could perform the Heimlich maneuver.

    However, if the Heimlich maneuver was performed on Horowitz, instead of expunging a piece of deli meat; it would cause a lump of bull shit to explode from his mouth and smack his guest in the eye.

    p.s. Marc—I’m surprise you didn’t go down to visit the Mardi gras—you could have told us how little has been done. I guess we’ll have to keep listening to boring Anderson Cooper.

  8. David Cummings Says:

    “However, if the Heimlich maneuver was performed on Horowitz, instead of expunging a piece of deli meat; it would cause a lump of bull shit to explode from his mouth and smack his guest in the eye.”

    How eloquently stated….

  9. Jim Rockford Says:

    It is interesting to see the reaction of the Port deal on a lot of “right” websites. I think broadly speeking that the “Tipping Point” has arrived and it makes people deeply unhappy with GWB.

    I certainly am.

    Go to any of the “right” websites and you’ll see reports of the UAE banning books in American Private schools there (mentions Israel is a democracy); the Iranian Fatwa over Tom and Jerry (no I’m not kidding); various Multi-Culti nonsense about how imposing Sharia on the West is a good thing.

    However Marc I think you will finally end up as a conservative. The world you knew has gone, vanished. Mark A York dismisses a rash of anti-semitic murders in France by Muslims, yet Cartoon Jihad points out that yeah, Islam is the enemy. As demonstrators point out they want Islam to rule the world. This includes what we say and do here in America. To the extent you wish to live your life according to your own values and not Sharia you ARE a conservative. You just don’t know it yet.

    The Nation and yourself already are under Islamic rule. You can’t talk about, publish, or discuss things that Muslims forbid under pain of death. It won’t stop. If Tom and Jerry can set them off (and no I’m NOT kidding either) your existence will. I mean, I understand the abject fear that the Nation suffers from.

    Ashcroft, the Nation, Bush, are all relics of a bygone age. Like buggy whips or corsets.

  10. Snoopy Says:

    Rockford, I think you have it backwards…the extent that he wishes to live his life according to his own values makes him a *liberal*. It is, after all, a liberal notion that a person can live free of government interference in their beliefs.

    That’s why America is called a “liberal democracy”.

  11. reg Says:

    Ashcroft’s beloved barbershop quartets have disappeared.
    Katrina Van Den Heuvel hides under the table in abject fear.
    But to the extent that Tom and Jerry continue to defy Sharia Law and Marc and Dave steadfastly refuse to order the falafel, we are all conservatives and The West survives.

    For how long ????

  12. IllegalImmigrationNews Says:

    At the Nation, Cooper says “Conservative Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake: He pleaded with fellow conservatives to take the high road of liberalized immigration reform in the escalating debate and not go down the immigrant-bashing path.”

    A real reporter might wonder exactly why some Republican$ would $upport “liberalizing” immigration. Can anyone $hed $ome light on why they might want that?

  13. Mark A. York Says:

    “Mark A York dismisses a rash of anti-semitic murders in France by Muslims, yet Cartoon Jihad points out that yeah, Islam is the enemy.”

    Huh? I’ve done no such thing and will continue to respond to those who misattribute vile assertions to me. I will defend myself. Parts of Islam are the enemy of free people including their own but I don’t endorse murder by anyone for any reason. Nor do I take isolated incidents and extrapolate out to a false conclusion as Rockford and others on both sides do regularly. Keep your eye on the ball. It’s just cheap ad populum regardless of who does it.

  14. Wall Says:

    It’s interesting that in the nation piece Pat Caddell is a “Democratic strategist” but on the blog it’s the closer to correct “formor Democratic strategist.” Thing is, “laughably obvious right wing media tool” would be a lot closer.

    Caddell’s long standing dog and pony show is based on a personal , petty grudge, well reported here by Media Matters.

    http: //mediamatters.org/items/200409160005

    Susan Estrich seems to have taken over Caddell’s gig as
    Hardball and Fox New’s designated fake democrat, it’s nice
    Pat can still snab the gig at the Horowitz bash. As we see
    here, David Brock (who Marc Cooper once trashed with
    an extrodonary mean spiritedness he seems to find
    objectionable in others) reminds us that Horowitz has written “Pat
    Caddell is a Democrat with a conscience. Is there
    another?”

  15. Patrick Lasswell Says:

    Marc,

    Was anybody rude or deliberately unkind to you?

    You mentioned that they were more relaxed than a progressive group would have been, but did anybody scream in your face or start chanting in your direction or anything like that? Did anybody try to make you feel unsafe for being there?

    Maybe this is the year that the rovian steamroller gets stuck in the mud, but I suspect that with a healthy economy, the screaming party loses.

  16. ray fosse Says:

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050404/jacoby
    The New PC

    by RUSSELL JACOBY

    [from the April 4, 2005 issue]

    The Yale student did not like what he heard. Sociologists derided religion and economists damned corporations. One professor pre-emptively rejected the suggestion that “workers on public relief be denied the franchise.” “I propose, simply, to expose,” wrote the young author in a booklong denunciation, one of “the most extraordinary incongruities of our time. Under the “protective label ‘academic freedom,’” the institution that derives its “moral and financial support from Christian individualists then addresses itself to the task of persuading the sons of these supporters to be atheistic socialists.”

    For William F. Buckley Jr., author of the 1951 polemic God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom” and a founder of modern American conservatism, the solution to this scandal was straightforward: Fire the wanton professors. No freedom would be abridged. The socialist professor could “seek employment at a college that was interested in propagating socialism.” None around? No problem. The market has spoken. The good professor can retool or move on.

    Buckley’s book can be situated as a salvo in the McCarthyite attack on the universities. Indeed, even as a Yale student, Buckley maintained cordial relationships with New Haven FBI agents, and at the time of the book’s publication he worked for the CIA. Buckley was neither the first nor the last to charge that teachers were misleading or corrupting students. At the birth of Western culture, a teacher called Socrates was executed for filling “young people’s heads with the wrong ideas.” In the twentieth century, clamor about subversive American professors has come in waves, cresting around World War I, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and today. The earlier assaults can be partially explained by the political situation. Authorities descended upon professors who questioned America’s entry into World War I, sympathized with the new Russian Revolution or inclined toward communism during the cold war.

    Today the situation is different. The fear during the cold war, however trumped up, that professors served America’s enemies could claim a patina of plausibility insofar as some teachers identified themselves as communists or socialists. With communism dead, leftism moribund and liberalism wounded, the fear of international subversion no longer threatens. Even the most rabid critics do not accuse professors of being on the payroll of Al Qaeda or other Islamist extremists. Moreover, conservatives command the presidency, Congress, the courts, major news outlets and the majority of corporations; they appear to have the country comfortably in their pocket. What fuels their rage, then? What fuels the persistent charges that professors are misleading the young?

    A few factors might be adduced, but none are completely convincing. One is the age-old anti-intellectualism of conservatives. Conservatives distrust unregulated intellectuals. Forty years ago McCarthyism spurred Richard Hofstadter to write his classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. In addition, a basic insecurity plagues conservatives today, a fear that their reign will be short or a gnawing doubt about their legitimacy. Dissenting voices cannot be tolerated, because they imply that a conservative future may not last forever. One Noam Chomsky is one too many. Angst besets the triumphant conservatives. Those who purge Darwin from America’s schools must yell in order to drown out their own misgivings, the inchoate realization that they are barking at the moon.

    Today’s accusations against subversive professors differ from those of the past in several respects. In a sign of the times, the test for disloyalty has shifted far toward the center. Once an unreliable professor meant an anarchist or communist; now it includes Democrats. Soon it will be anyone to the left of Attila the Hun. Second, the charges do not (so far) come from government committees investigating un-American activities but from conservative commentators and their student minions. A series of groups such as Campus Watch, Academic Bias and Students for Academic Freedom enlist students to monitor and publicize professorial conduct. Third, the new charges are advanced not against but in the name of academic freedom or a variant of it; and, in the final twist, the new conservative critics seem driven by an ethos that they have adopted from liberalism: affirmative action and a sense of victimhood, which they officially detest.

    Conservatives complain relentlessly that they do not get a fair shake in the university, and they want parity–that is, more conservatives on faculties. Conservatives are lonely on American campuses as well as beleaguered and misunderstood. News that tenured poets vote Democratic or that Kerry received far more money from professors than Bush pains them. They want America’s faculties to reflect America’s political composition. Of course, they do not address such imbalances in the police force, Pentagon, FBI, CIA and other government outfits where the stakes seem far higher and where, presumably, followers of Michael Moore are in short supply. If life were a big game of Monopoly, one might suggest a trade to these conservatives: You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court, and we will give you every damned English department you want.

    Conservatives claim that studies show an outrageous number of liberals on university faculties and increasing political indoctrination or harassment of conservative students. In fact, only a very few studies have been made, and each is transparently limited or flawed. The most publicized investigations amateurishly correlate faculty departmental directories with local voter registration lists to show a heavy preponderance of Democrats. What this demonstrates about campus life and politics is unclear. Yet these findings are endlessly cited and cross-referenced as if by now they confirm a tiresome truth: leftist domination of the universities. A column by George Will affects a world-weariness in commenting on a recent report. “The great secret is out: Liberals dominate campuses. Coming soon: ‘Moon Implicated in Tides, Studies Find.’”

    The most careful study is “How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?” Conducted by California economist Daniel Klein and Swedish social scientist Charlotta Stern, it has been trumpeted by many conservatives as a corrective to the hit-and-miss efforts of previous inquiries by going directly to the source. The researchers sent out almost 5,500 questionnaires to professors in six disciplines in order to tabulate their political orientation. A whopping 70 percent of the recipients did what any normal person would do when receiving an unsolicited fourteen-page survey over the signature of an assistant dean at a small California business school: They tossed it. With just 17 percent of their initial pool remaining after the researchers made additional exclusions, some unastounding findings emerged. Thirty times as many anthropologists voted Democratic as voted Republican; for sociologists the ratio was almost the same. For economists, however, it sank to three to one. On average these professors voted Democratic over Republican fifteen to one.

    What does it show that fifty-four philosophy professors admitted to voting Democratic regularly and only four to voting Republican? Does a Democratic vote reveal a dangerous philosophical or campus leftism? Are Democrats more likely to deceive students? Proselytize them? Harass them? Steal library books? Must they be neutralized by Republican professors, who are free of these vices? This study opens by quoting the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the loneliness of campus conservatives and closes by bemoaning the “one-party system” of faculties. Nonleftist voices are “muffled and fearful,” the researchers say. They do not, however, present a scintilla of information to confirm this. It is not a minor point. No matter how well tuned, studies of professorial voting habits reveal nothing of campus policies or practices.

    The notion that faculties should politically mirror the US population derives from an affirmative action argument about the underrepresentation of African-Americans, Latinos or women in certain areas. Conservatives now add political orientation, based on voting behavior, to the mix. “In the U.S. population in general, Left and Right are roughly equal (1 to 1),” Klein and Stern lecture us, but in social science and humanities faculties “clearly the non-Left points of view have been marginalized.” This is “clearly” not true, or at least it is not obvious what constitutes a “non-Left” point of view in art history or linguistics. In any event, why stop with left and right? Why not add religion to the underrepresentation violation? Perhaps Klein, the lead researcher, should explore Jewish and Christian affiliation among professors. A survey would probably show that Jews, 1.3 percent of the population, are seriously overrepresented in economics and sociology (as well as other fields). Isn’t it likely that Jews marginalize Christianity in their classes? Shouldn’t this be corrected? Shouldn’t 76 percent of American faculty be Christian?

    The Klein study and others like it focus on the humanities and social sciences. Conservatives seem little interested in exploring the political orientation of engineering professors or biogeneticists. The more important the field, in terms of money, resources and political clout, the less conservatives seem exercised by it. At many universities the medical and science buildings, to say nothing of the business faculties or the sports complexes, tower over the humanities. I teach at UCLA. The history professors are housed in cramped quarters of a decaying Modernist structure. Our classiest facility is a conference room that could pass as generic space in any downtown motel. The English professors inhabit what appears to be an aging elementary school outfitted with minuscule offices. A hop away is a different world. The UCLA Anderson School of Management boasts its own spanking-new buildings, plush seminar rooms, spacious lecture halls with luxurious seats, an “executive dining room” and–gold in California–reserved parking facilities. Conservatives seem unconcerned about the political orientation of the business professors. Shouldn’t half be Democrats and at least a few be Trotskyists?

    Another recent study heralded as proving leftist campus domination was sponsored by the conservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni; it sought to document not the political orientation of professors but, more decisively, the political intimidation of students by faculty. Claiming an “error rate of plus or minus four,” the sponsors assert that their study demonstrates widespread indoctrination, that almost 50 percent of students report that professors “use the classroom to present their personal political views.” According to the sponsor, “The ACTA survey clearly shows that faculty are injecting politics into the classroom in ways that students believe infringe upon their freedom to learn.”

    Closer examination of the study reveals dubious methodology. Most questions were asked in a way that nearly dictated one answer. Students were asked if they “somewhat agree” that “some” professors did this or that. A key statement ran: “On my campus, some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views.” And the possible responses ran from “Strongly agree” and “Somewhat agree” to “Somewhat disagree” and “Strongly disagree.” Of the 658 students polled, 10 percent answered “Strongly agree” and 36 percent “Somewhat agree,” which yields the almost 50 percent figure that appeared in headlines claiming half of American students are subject to political indoctrination.

    Yet the statement is too imprecise to negate. Asked whether “some” professors on campus–somewhere or sometime–interject extraneous politics, most students (36 percent) respond that they “Somewhat agree.” That is the intelligent and safe answer: “somewhat” agreeing that “some” professors misuse politics. To partially or even completely negate the statement would imply that no professors ever mishandled politics. Yet a vague assent to a vague assertion only yields twice as much vagueness. The statement does not so much inquire whether the student him- or herself directly experienced professors misusing politics, which might be more revealing. Yet these murky findings are heralded as proof of campus totalitarianism.

    These scattered studies are only part of the story. A series of articles, books and organizations have taken up the cause of leftist campus domination. An outfit called Students for Academic Freedom, with the credo “You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story,” is sponsored by the conservative activist David Horowitz and boasts 150 campus chapters. It monitors slights, insults and occasionally more serious infractions that students suffer or believe they suffer. The organization provides an online “complaint” form, where disgruntled students check a category such as “Mocked national political or religious figures” (mocking local figures is presumably acceptable) or “Required readings or texts covering only one side of issues” and then provide details.

    At the organization’s website the interested visitor can keep abreast of the latest outrages as well as troll through hundreds of complaints in the Academic Freedom Complaint Center. Most listings concern professors’ comments that supposedly malign patriotic or family values; for instance, under “Introduced Controversial Material” a student complained that in a lecture on Reconstruction the professor noted how much he disliked Bush and the Iraq War. A very few complaints raise more serious issues, and some of these are pursued by other Horowitz publications or are seized on by conservative columnists and sometimes by the national news services. A Kuwaiti student who defends the Iraq War recounts that he fell afoul of a leftist professor in a government class, who directed him to seek psychological counseling. “Apparently, if you are an Arab Muslim who loves America you must be deranged.” To his credit, Horowitz’s online journal also ran a story from the same college about a student who was penalized after he defended abortion in an ethics class conducted by a strident prolifer [for background on Horowitz, see Scott Sherman, "David Horowitz's Long March," July 3, 2000].

    Virtually all “cases” reported to the Academic Freedom Abuse Center deal with leftist political comments or leftist assigned readings. To use the idiom of right-wing commentators, we see here the emergence of crybaby conservatives, who demand a judicial remedy, guaranteed safety and representation. Convinced that conservatives are mistreated on American campuses, Horowitz has championed a solution, a bill detailing “academic freedom” of students; the proposed law has already been introduced in several state legislatures. Until recently, if the notion of academic freedom for students had any currency, it referred to their right to profess and publish ideas on and off campus.

    Horowitz takes the traditional academic freedom that insulated professors from political interference and extends it to students. As a former leftist, Horowitz has the gift of borrowing from the enemy. His “academic bill of rights” talks the language of diversity; it insists that students need to hear all sides and it refashions a “political correctness” for conservatives, who, it turns out, are at least as prickly as any other group when it comes to perceived slights. After years of decrying the “political correctness police,” thin-skinned conservatives have joined in; they want their own ideological wardens to enforce intellectual conformity.

    While some propositions of the academic bill of rights are unimpeachable (for example, students should not be graded “on the basis of their political or religious beliefs”), academic freedom extended to students easily turns it into the end of freedom for teachers. In a rights society students have the right to hear all sides of all subjects all the time. “Curricula and reading lists,” says principle number four of Horowitz’s academic bill of rights, “should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge” and provide “students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate.”

    “Where appropriate” is the kicker, but the consequences for teachers are clear enough from perusing the “abuses” that Students for Academic Freedom lists or that Horowitz plays up in his columns. For instance, Horowitz lambastes a course called Modern Industrial Societies, which uses as its sole text a 500-page leftist anthology, Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies. This is a benign book published by a mainstream press, yet under the academic bill of rights the professor could be hauled before authorities to explain such a flagrant violation. If not fired, he or she could be commanded to assign a 500-page anthology published by the Free Enterprise Institute. Another “abuse” occurred in an introductory class, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, where military approaches were derided. A student complained that “the only studying of conflict resolution that we did was to enforce the idea that non-violent means were the only legitimate sources of self-defense.” This was “indoctrination,” not education. Presumably the professor of “peace studies” should be ordered to give equal time to “war studies.” By this principle, should the United States Army War College be required to teach pacifism?

    In the name of intellectual diversity and students’ rights, many courses could be challenged. A course on Freud would have to include anti-Freudians; a course on religion, atheists; a course on mysticism, the rationalists. The academic bill of rights seeks to impose some limits by restricting diversity to “significant scholarly viewpoints.” Yet this is a porous shield. Once the right to decide the content of courses is extended to students, the Holocaust deniers, creationists and conspiracy addicts will come knocking at the door–and indeed they already have.

    The bill of rights for students and the allied conservative watchdog groups that monitor lectures and book assignments represent the reinvention of the old un-American activities committees in the age of diversity and rights. The witch hunt has become democratized. Students for Academic Freedom counsels its members that when they come across an “abuse” like “controversial material” in a course, they should “write down the date, class and name of the professor,” “accumulate a list of incidents or quotes,” obtain witnesses and lodge a complaint. Rights are supposed to preserve freedoms, but here the opposite would occur. Professors would become more claustrophobic and cautious. They would offer fewer “controversial” ideas. Assignments would become blander.

    More leftists undoubtedly inhabit institutions of higher education than they do the FBI or the Pentagon or local police and fire departments, about which conservatives seem little concerned, but who or what says every corner of society should reflect the composition of the nation at large? Nothing has shown that higher education discriminates against conservatives, who probably apply in smaller numbers than liberals. Conservatives who pursue higher degrees may prefer to slog away as junior partners in law offices rather than as assistant professors in English departments. Does an “overrepresentation” of Democratic anthropologists mean Republican anthropologists have been shunted aside? Does an “overrepresentation” of Jewish lawyers and doctors mean non-Jews have been excluded?

    Higher education in America is a vast enterprise boasting roughly a million professors. A certain portion of these teachers are incompetents and frauds; some are rabid patriots and fundamentalists–and some are ham-fisted leftists. All should be upbraided if they violate scholarly or teaching norms. At the same time, a certain portion of the 15 million students they teach are fanatics and crusaders. The effort, in the name of rights, to shift decisions about lectures and assignments from professors to students marks a backward step: the emergence of the thought police on skateboards. At its best, education is inherently controversial and tendentious. While this truth can serve as an excuse for gross violations, the remedy for unbalanced speech is not less speech but more. If college students can vote and go to war, they can also protest or drop courses without enlisting the new commissars of intellectual diversity.

  17. Andrew Says:

    “Generally speaking, the audiences at these events are usually quite gracious and easy-going if indeed out-to-lunch politically.”

    Ignorance is bliss, Marc. Ignorance is bliss.

  18. Mike Says:

    Marc, I can’t believe you work at the Nation, you seem so sane. I watched you editor Van Den Heuvel on Hardball a few months ago and as a rino I would like to offer her a little advice: The chewbacca defense (check wiki for the definition) does not work as a political arguement. It only works on a jury of your peers.

    Andrew, I noticed your comment right before I submited my comment and it is retarded. That is the sort of comment one 15 year old makes to another before one of them calls the guy working at seven eleven a fascist because he wouldn’t give him a book of matches. You are not as smart as you think you are. Cut your damn hair it looks stupid when you pull salt and pepper into a ponytail. And tull sucks by the way. Frickin’ jazz flute?!?

  19. Menlo Bob Says:

    Marc, Your comments regarding the Horowitz event seems to bolster the theme being pomulgated by Ken Melman of the RNC. The left is angry–and it scares people.

  20. reg Says:

    “The left is angry–and it scares people.”

    Yeah with that damn salt and pepper hair pulled back in the pony tails and the frickin’ jazz flutes !!!!!

  21. reg Says:

    If anybody thinks the Horowitz crowd are nice polite people, go check out the comments at his wackjob website.

    As for the level of analysis and and example of how unhinged and slippery the pro-warriors can get, here’s the featured offering at Davey’s Frontpage from the “expert” Daniel Pipes :

    “Iraq’s plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West…

    Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition’s responsibility nor its burden. The damage done by Saddam Hussein will take many years to repair. Americans, Britons, and others cannot be tasked with resolving Sunni-Shi’ite differences, an abiding Iraqi problem that only Iraqis themselves can address.

    The eruption of civil war in Iraq would have many implications for the West. It would likely:

    · Invite Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of a U.S. confrontation with those two states, with which tensions are already high.

    · Terminate the dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push toward elections. This will have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago.

    · Reduce coalition casualties in Iraq. As noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Rather than killing American soldiers, the insurgents and foreign fighters are more focused on creating civil strife that could destabilize Iraq’s political process and possibly lead to outright ethnic and religious war.”

    · Reduce Western casualties outside Iraq. Vali Nasr, a professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School notes: ‘Just when it looked as if Muslims across the region were putting aside their differences to unite in protest against the Danish cartoons, the attack showed that Islamic sectarianism remains the greatest challenge to peace.’ Put differently, when Sunni terrorists target Shi’ites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt.

    Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.”

    Remember the Purple Finger triumphalism that was all the rage of the right-wing blogs just a few short months ago ? I guess the “internationalists” of the right who were all about fighting to liberate the Middle East are going to have to settle for “We are all Danes now!” as their stirring battle cry. Kinda sad…

  22. Easter Lemming Says:

    An Israel paper is reporting that Dubai World Ports participates in the boycott of Israel. I wonder how that will go over with them.

    I see they have covered up pretty well that they were also caught trying to ship nuclear weapons development material to Libya.

    This splits the base of the GOP from the older fat cats that you hung out with who run it.

  23. syn Says:

    Begs the question, how many pies were thrown in your face when you were on the platform freely speaking your mind? You are lucky you are not Hitchens because all the times I have attended his debates with the Left the mob does everything to shut him up.

    And, beg your pardon on the stereotyped generalization about the audience….I was there and much of what I heard was about freedom (individual right to express freely)so if freedom is a self-serving concept I say bring it on. I was once a member of the Liberal party who at the age of 40 recognized it was overtaken back in the 60′s by Marxism. Yeah, ‘Democrats’ use all the words representing Liberalism but impose collective Marxist policies. For example, how is it possbile for a Liberal to support the policy of containing dictators or imposing speech codes or restricting debate?

    I left the Left because the arguments always fail Reason and The Nation is lost becasue of such inane thought control.

    That said, after Bush leaves office who will you declare as the next Hilter?

  24. Marc Cooper » Blog Archive » Shooting The Messenger Says:

    [...] When I looked in on David Horowitz’ regular gathering of movement conservatives last week there was a lot of loose talk about hoping the New York Times will get prosecuted. Y’know, for publishing the leaked info about the NSA surveillance program. [...]

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