Battle Lines

Last year I wrote this about liberal orthodoxy’s unavoidable antagonism to truth:

A sine qua non for the modern liberal ideologue is a flair for living comfortably in a state of cognitive dissonance. This is made necessary by the internal contradictions of his worldview, and by its frequent, and calamitous, collisions with the social, political, economic, cultural, mathematical, and biological realities of the actual world.

That this reality-denying orthodoxy dominates, to the point of suffocation, our educational institutions has from time to time been a contentious issue in our comment-threads (which is in itself a meta-effect of the same cause, I suppose).

Well, then, here’s another exhibit for you, from the very heart of the Cathedral itself: the Harvard Crimson. It “puts the cards on the table”, clearly and without apology: when truth and ideology collide, truth must die.

We read:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

It’s easy to understand the real threat that such research poses: not the justification of oppression, but the revelation that human groups actually do differ in nontrivial ways, that the stubborn differences in life outcomes among various human groups may in large part be due to these innate differences, and that therefore the systematic, malevolent “oppression” that they plan to devote their lives to eradicating, and that they have dedicated entire academic departments to vilifying white male Europeans for, might not exist at all. For the acolytes of this priesthood, then, such research poses not just a social threat, but an existential one.

The article is very clear and direct (and to those of you familiar with the history of the last century, will seem ominously familiar). We should thank the author, Sandra Korn, and the editors of the Crimson for publishing it. That they are comfortable enough to publish it, however — that, dear Readers, should disturb your slumber.

16 Comments

  1. the one eyed man says

    If your slumber is disturbed by what a twenty year old undergraduate writes in a college newspaper, then I would hate to find out what would happen to your circadian rhythm if someone people actually pay attention to said something outrageous.

    If you think that the musings of someone too young to buy beer is a synecdoche for the putative cognitive dissonance of progressives, then I think there is some cognitive malfunction going on a little closer to home, if you know what I mean.

    Dude. She’s twenty years old. Who fucking cares what a twenty year old has to say?

    If it makes you sleep better, you can console yourself with the fact that when Christopher Hitchens was twenty, he probably said dozens of things even dumber than what Ms. Korn has to say.

    Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Were Ms. Korn on her own here, just a youngster trying on an audacious little idea, I’d be quick to agree.

    But I have heard, for example, precisely the same argument from a woman more than twice her age, who was not a student at Harvard, but a member of the faculty. (Indeed the former president of that university heard it too, loud and clear.)

    No, our young Ms. Korn is not an outlier, but an acolyte. This is how she has been trained.

    Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:43 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    I see. In addition to an undergraduate, there is a faculty member at Harvard who apparently shares her views. This is shocking! From that we can conclude that liberals are antagonistic to truth, deny reality, and willing to sacrifice truth for ideology.

    Earlier this week, a noose was found around the statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, which followed an incident where a Negress was called racial epithets on her way to class. From that we can conclude that universities are hotbeds of white supremacists and racists.

    It is also evident that the entire Republican Party considers President Obama to be a sub-human mongrel chimpanzee who should suck on a machine gun. (OK, bad example. The fact that only Rand Paul had the decency to condemn Ted Nugent tells you more than you want to know.)

    The wellsprings of conservative indignation are inexhaustible, principally because extrapolating anecdotes and isolated incidents into synecdoches purportedly representing the entirety of those you wish to demonize is a dandy way to remain in a happy state of perpetual aggrievement.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 12:21 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Peter – do you really not see anything wrong here?

    Perhaps this will help.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 2:15 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    I see. In addition to an undergraduate, there is a faculty member at Harvard who apparently shares her views. This is shocking!

    Not being a member of the Harvard sociology faculty, I’m not personally acquainted with many of its members. But the one I do know happened, a couple of years ago, to make exactly the same case that Ms. Korn did. Worth mentioning, I thought.

    You seem to be resisting the suggestion that the ivied halls are, these days, under the sway of a particular social and political ideology. Did you read the item linked above?

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 2:24 am | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    And let me say also that what Ted Nugent said was coarse and ungentlemanly, as well as tactically stupid. But if you’re going to chide me for what a twenty-year-old at Harvard said in the editorial pages of The Crimson, then I’m surprised you’re paying any attention to Ted Nugent, or expecting anyone else to.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 2:25 am | Permalink
  7. “The wellsprings of conservative indignation are inexhaustible, principally because extrapolating anecdotes and isolated incidents into synecdoches purportedly representing the entirety of those you wish to demonize is a dandy way to remain in a happy state of perpetual aggrievement.”

    That’s rich, coming from one who survives on continuous subcutaneous aggrievement infusion therapy and three platefuls of crazy per day.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  8. the one eyed man says

    Are colleges and universities out of sync with modern conservatives? Those who teach in academia undergo years of rigorous training, and are unlikely to agree with the 57% of self-described conservatives who don’t believe in evolution, or those who believe that global warming is a hoax. Similarly, they are likely to recognize Fox News for what it is – a political operation masquerading as journalism – and to see through the shrill polemics of right wing talk radio, periodicals, and blogs. For what it’s worth, the ten states with the most educated citizens (measured by percentage with college degrees) all voted for Obama in 2012, while nine of the ten states with the least educated citizens voted for Romney. Hence the well-worn phrase that truth has a liberal bias.

    There is no reason why university faculties should reflect the political complexion of the nation as a whole, as educational achievement and the ability to think critically are qualities which distinguish them from the nation as a whole. Let’s not mince words: a lot of conservative analysis is sheer hokum. One can usually go through editorials in the Wall Street Journal or NRO, or read pieces by George Will or Charles Krauthammer, and refute their content without breathing hard. (Don’t believe it? Try me.)

    However, within the hundreds of thousands of university professors, there is a wide variety of opinion. Some are on the extreme left, and others – like Victor Davis Hanson or the late Allen Bloom – are on the other side. Conservative economists like Arthur Laffer, Kenneth Rogoff, and Glenn Hubbard are influential and respected in the academy, if not always agreed with. I’m just down the road from the Hoover Institute, where Condi Rice and many others operate on the Stanford campus to provide staunch conservatives with analysis and fodder for their convictions.

    The flaw in your argument is that anecdotes and isolated instances prove nothing except the prejudices of the observer. For every Bowdoin College, there is a Liberty University. Your preferred method of inquiry is to find some egregious example of idiocy, and then suggest that it is therefore emblematic of the whole. It isn’t. The examples you cite are illustrative of nothing besides those specific instances, and the presumption that they prove a larger point is a hollow one.

    * * * *

    The difference between Ted Nugent and Sandra Korn, of course, is that Sandra Korn is not campaigning alongside a gubernatorial candidate, attending the State of the Union as the guest of a Republican congressman, entertaining (if that’s the word) at Republican conventions, or being praised by the 2008 Republican nominee for Vice President. When you see Democrats campaign alongside Louis Farrakhan, or rally their base with performances by Roger Waters, let me know.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  9. the one eyed man says

    I would add that the person who had the most profound effect on my political thinking was Hadley Arkes, a staunchly conservative professor who was my advisor. Not because I agreed with him on anything – I didn’t – but because I learned never to make an argument without imagining what his response would be. “What is the strongest argument against your position?”

    He is one writer whose works I would not want to try to refute or deconstruct. He looks like Groucho Marx, but has a mind like a steel trap.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadley_Arkes

    http://www.nationalreview.com/author/hadley-arkes

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    For what it’s worth, the ten states with the most educated citizens (measured by percentage with college degrees) all voted for Obama in 2012…

    And you think this is inconsistent with colleges being centers of liberal indoctrination?

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  11. the one eyed man says

    Of course not. The fact that educated people tend to vote Democratic reflects the fact that those who are capable of observation and ratiocination are unlikely to vote for a party which elevates faith over science, nominates Vice Presidential candidates who claim to see Russia from their front steps, and has no cogent agenda for problems like immigration, health care, or global competitiveness beyond what can fit on a bumper sticker.

    Nor is there any truth to the notion that liberal faculties will “indoctrinate” their students in liberal beliefs, just as the notion that journalists who tend to be liberal skew their reporting to display a liberal bias has no basis in fact. If they are any good, professors and reporters alike will present an objective and balanced view of the world, independent of their personal beliefs.

    As an example, I recently saw a speech by Austin Sarat, whose classes I once took. Sarat is the country’s leading expert on capital punishment, and he went through the best arguments for it (if I could prove that executing one man would save eight innocent lives, would you do it?) and against it (the possibility of error). I am sure that he has a point of view on the subject, having studied it for years, but I have no idea if he is for it or against it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Sarat

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says

    Of course not. The fact that educated people tend to vote Democratic reflects the fact that those who are capable of observation and ratiocination are unlikely to vote for a party which elevates faith over science, nominates Vice Presidential candidates who claim to see Russia from their front steps, and has no cogent agenda for problems like immigration, health care, or global competitiveness beyond what can fit on a bumper sticker.

    I won’t even dignify that with a response.

    Nor is there any truth to the notion that liberal faculties will “indoctrinate” their students in liberal beliefs… If they are any good, professors and reporters alike will present an objective and balanced view of the world, independent of their personal beliefs.

    Sheer fantasy. You did read that Bowdoin report, right?

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 12:49 am | Permalink
  13. Eric says

    Geez, Henry – what a farrago of lies and distortions. Do you really hold those opinions, or are you incapable of distinguishing a comedy show from reality?

    Liberals are hardly alone in denying science; it just depends on which scientific subjects you want to deny.

    And as far as a cogent agenda goes, all I’ve seen from the liberal side is doubling down on failure.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    I don’t think that’s Henry you meant to respond to, Eric.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  15. Eric says

    You’re quite correct. I apologize for my misattribution.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    Not at all – I can understand how it might have happened, in the heat of the moment. It was quite a farrago. We’re used to it over here, but I can imagine how it might have been quite a shock.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

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