Education

The Closing of the Centrist Mind

A self-proclaimed "sensible centrist" writes a sloppy attack on the academic left.

|

The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind, by Bruce Bawer, Broadside Books, 378 pages, $25.99.

Some hail Women's Studies, Queer Studies, Black Studies, and Chicano Studies for at last giving due attention to the experiences and perspectives of groups that have traditionally been marginalized and oppressed in Western societies. Others condemn them as bastions of obscurantist jargon, poor academic standards, and intolerant collectivist politics. That there might be some truth in both judgments is a suggestion rarely defended, however obvious it might seem. A book making a sincere effort to sift the gold from the dross would be a welcome contribution to the debate.

Bruce Bawer's The Victims' Revolution is unfortunately not that book. For Bawer, academic multiculturalism is an undifferentiated mass of dishonest, un-American gobbledygook, and the thought that it might have anything useful to teach us seems never to have crossed his mind. Bawer has brought a sledgehammer to a job requiring tweezers.

Unlike several recent books with similar preoccupations, Bawer's does not come from a right-wing perspective. Bawer identifies instead with what he calls the "sensible centrism" of the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. All the same, Bawer often seems as reflexively hostile as any conservative to criticisms of the West in general and the United States in particular. (Uncoincidentally, Bawer has recently devoted three separate books to the "Islamic threat.") He manifests little effort at intellectual engagement with the ideas he opposes. Instead he merely presents them as though they were self-evidently absurd; or else he quotes, as dispositive, the simplistic strictures of hostile critics.

Feminism in particular seems to raise Bawer's ire; the chapter on Women's Studies is the book's longest. Bawer's "refutation" of the view that gender differences or sexual orientation are socially constructed consists in a bare appeal to the fact that most people think otherwise. He makes no attempt to answer the arguments and evidence offered by the other side. But then it's not even clear that Bawer understands what social construction means. He contrasts socially constructed phenomena, i.e., those whose existence or nature is constituted by social practices, with "real" phenomena, as though social constructions were unreal. Does he really think that money or marriage, say, are unreal, or that being red-green colorblind would be just as serious a disability in a society where traffic lights weren't red and green? Moreover, and incredibly, he characterizes the questions "Is sexuality an orientation or a choice?" and "are homosexuals born or are they made?" as "different ways of putting the same thing," as though environmental influences act upon us only via our consent.

While critical of leftist analyses that appeal to "false consciousness," Bawer constantly makes such appeals himself. When a Women's Studies student writes that she now notices gendered power relationships to which she had previously been oblivious, Bawer takes this to show—"plainly," even!—that the student has simply been "indoctrinated" and "manipulated intellectually"; the student's own testimony carries no weight with Bawer, and he never pauses to consider that perhaps she has learned to become genuinely sensitive to features of the social world to which he is not attuned. On the other hand, the fact that some self-identified Muslim feminists defend the hijab shows that they are really "stooges for Muslim men" and are trying to "stifle discussion of the plight of women in the Islamic world." Whether you agree or disagree with the pro-hijab feminists, Bawer's speculations about their motives could hardly survive the process of actually reading what they have written.

Bawer is remarkably careless about getting his opponents' ideas right. According to Bawer, Carol Gilligan's attribution of a justice ethic to men and of a care ethic to women represents a "Women's Studies orthodoxy" from which dissent is regarded as "well-nigh heretical." He even gives his massive chapter on the evils of feminism the title "Gilligan's Island." (Reading it does feel a bit like a three-hour tour ending in shipwreck.) Apart from quoting one feminist dissenter, he offers his readers no hint that Gilligan's thesis is in fact extremely controversial among feminists.

In response to Antonio Gramsci's claim that the "unseen structure of power" in societies like the United States is "even more potent" than that of a dictatorship, because "its invisibility makes it harder to recognize and therefore harder to resist," Bawer counters that the "inanity of all this is obvious," since the U.S. has "no death camps" and "no secret police arresting enemies of the people" to be "tortured, held clandestinely for years, and/or executed without trial." Of course this rosy picture of American justice is not entirely accurate (has Bawer never heard of extraordinary rendition?); but even if it were, how on earth would it be relevant as a reply to Gramsci? Since Gramsci's thesis is that oppression in American society tends to take covert rather than overt forms, Bawer's insistence on the absence of the overt forms seems beside the point.

Bawer also dredges up the usual misinterpretations of Andrea Dworkin (no, she never condemned all heterosexual intercourse as such) while adding gratuitous insults about her appearance; and he caricatures anti-rape activists as believing that "when darkness falls over the quad, male students metamorphose, werewolf-like, into potential rapists"—which suggests he does not understand what the word "potential" means. He moreover exaggerates the difference between contemporary feminism and its historical antecedents, telling us that first-wave feminism "focused largely on suffrage." In fact most first-wave feminists were concerned as much with social equality as with legal equality; and the idea that society is systematically structured by interlocking forms of oppression based on race, class, and gender was likewise a commonplace of first-wave feminism, and by no means the newfangled idea that Bawer supposes. And when these early feminists did focus on law, their target was much broader than suffrage alone; the inequity of marriage law, for example, which allowed husbands to rape their wives, control their property, and deny them access to their children, was a frequent object of criticism.

Bawer's portrayal of contemporary identity studies as rigidly monolithic is no more convincing. Whenever Bawer comes across instances of dissent within the academic left (he is always "surprised" or "amazed" by these—over and over), rather than recognizing these as evidence that the hegemony of postmodern orthodoxy is less complete than he would have us believe, he takes them to show that this orthodoxy is so awful that even some of its supposed adherents are driven to reject it. "Even the literary critic Gerald Graff, a star of the PC academy and certainly no conservative, has deplored [Paulo] Freire's influence," Bawer tells us; or else "the therapeutic aspect of Women's Studies" has taken such a "major psychological toll on the professoriate" that "even good soldiers are now willing to carp about it." (Emphases added.) For Bawer, any signs of ideological diversity are simply pressed into service to reinforce his narrative of stifling ideological conformity. Or else such signs are simply ignored, as with Catharine MacKinnon's critique of Marxism, Judith Butler's defense of free speech, and Michel Foucault's engagement with the free-market ideas of Austrian economics—three interesting topics that go unmentioned in Bawer's superficial, dismissive, and often insulting treatment of these thinkers.

There is, to be sure, plenty to criticize in postmodernism, multiculturalism, and identity studies, and Bawer scores some legitimate points. He rightly points out the gross ignorance involved when contemporary academic critics describe the tradition of literary criticism "from Dryden, Johnson, Coleridge, De Quincey, and Hazlitt through Arnold, Macaulay, Pater, and Ruskin to Eliot, Jarrell, Trilling, and Orwell" as "dry and staid." He is right to complain of many identity theorists' uncritical acceptance of dubious scholarship (such as Afrocentrists' extravagant claims about the ancient Egyptians). And he makes a valid point in observing that students are too often being taught to "have contempt for a rich tradition with which they haven't even taken the trouble to become acquainted."

Indeed, a critique of the academic left could be pressed farther than Bawer takes it. Too many postmodern critics treat their own terms of criticism in the very "essentialist" manner they purport to oppose, making uncritical use of such (for them) pejorative concepts as "rationality," "capitalism," and "individualism" as though they represented unitary and unambiguous phenomena. And most of their arguments for relativism are hoary old sophisms that any freshman philosophy student should be able to recognize and diagnose. It's likewise a bit awkward for multiculturalists—though also, of course, for their critics—that multiculturalism is itself a distinctively Western idea; and many on the academic left seem unable to distinguish between cronyism and genuine free markets. Even their defensible claims are often made in exaggerated form.

Bawer's charges of academic intolerance and intimidation are often on target as well; "political correctness" has a pointy end with harmful effects. It is not news to postmodernists—indeed it is a Foucauldian commonplace—that the tools of liberation may all too easily be turned toward a new oppression. So it should likewise be no surprise to them, though it often is, that postmodernism's own ideas and strategies can be misused in the service of hegemony. In Foucault's own oft-quoted formulation: "My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous."

Yet the fact that these tools can be abused does not prove that they have no legitimate use. Bawer is dismayed at the postmodernists' tendency to see nothing in the values of western civilization but tools of domination. But his own approach, which sees nothing in the values of postmodernism but tools of domination, is a mirror image of what he opposes. Each side seems hypersensitive to the potential for abuse in the other's tradition but incuriously complacent regarding the potential for abuse in its own.

The extent of this mirror-image problem becomes still clearer in Bawer's discussion of the proper aims of higher education. Bawer says promising-sounding things (as, no doubt, would his opponents) about "learning to think analytically and critically" and "developing the individual, critical, questioning, adventurous mind." But such desiderata are quickly forgotten when Bawer begins insisting that the task of instructors should be to "introduce students to the glories of western civilization" and instill in them a "respect, even reverence, for the cultural heritage of the West" and the "universal values that make it unique in human history"—to "help young citizens to understand, respect, and build upon the values on which their nation is founded" and to "appreciate, cherish, and pass on to others the glories of Western civilization."

In short, Bawer's model of education is as unabashedly propagandistic as the postmodernist model that he condemns. It's fair to criticize modern academics when they are too quick to subvert and deconstruct classic texts rather than seeking to learn from them. But Bawer's alternative model of passive adulation of the mighty dead is no improvement. Both approaches evade the responsibility of critical engagement. (And wouldn't students gain more from studying both Aristotle and Foucault, both Samuel Butler and Judith Butler, than from studying just the one or just the other?)

The gravamen of Bawer's charge is that, for many in the academy, politicization has replaced a concern for objective truth. As I've noted, this is in many ways a legitimate complaint. Yet Bawer's criticism seems to apply at least as much to his own writing as to the intended targets of his critique. Bawer rarely shows any interest in understanding the reasons behind postmodernist and multiculturalist thought, or in showing that these reasons are mistaken. His concern is almost solely with the political use and political implications of these ideas. For Bawer no less than for his opponents, ideas are first and foremost tools of power in the service of political ends.

NEXT: Brickbat: Eat It

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m having a difficult time sympathizing with the purveyors in academia of identity politics. If Bawer interviewed them for two seconds he would come away with a bad taste.

  2. Roderick T. Long is a professor of philosophy at Auburn University and the president of the Molinari Institute.

    Philosophy? Sold a lot of french fries have you?

    1. I don’t know how many French Fries he has sold, but he has sold a number of books and journal articles:

      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nt…..r=Roderick T. Longie=UTF8search;-alias=bookssort=relevancerank

    2. That would have been funny, if Long, you know, didn’t have a job in philosophy.

      Jus’ sayin’

      1. Agreed. Funny FAIL, Troy!

        1. It’s the only job in philosophy, isn’t it? Or is there something else?

          1. Actually, the top grad in my med school graduating class already had his PhD in Philosophy (I forget his specific discipline) when he applied to medical school, so there’s that.

            Everybody hated that guy…

            1. Everybody hated that guy…

              Not surprising. It’s been my experience that most people with philosophy PhDs are smug, insufferable douchenozzles.

      2. A “job” in philosphy? Get serious.

        He has a job in academic bullshitting.

        -jcr

    3. As someone with a minor in philosophy, all I can say is “French Fries? OMNOMNOM!”

      1. No wonder your endocrinologist is so unhappy with you. Surely there is some aggrieved minority studies group in which you can find solance, Saccharin Man -)

        1. Sucrose-Intolerant-Americans won’t stand for this sort of abuse!

          1. Ahem, that’s glucose, you nitwit! -))

            1. We self-define! It’s our identity!

              1. And here is a fine example of the Balkanist and Separationist rhetoric that Bawer, for the most part, rightly decries, even if in a slightly heavy handed manner.

    4. Philosophy? Sold a lot of french fries have you?

      No, he sells bullshit by the truckload.

      1. Oh you lovable curmudgeon!

        I loved your show!

        1. Who holds up better, Archie or meathead?

  3. I once dated a girl who majored in Psychology and minored in Women’s Studies.

    I didn’t know her before college, but if she wasn’t fucked in the head before, she certainly was after.

    Word of advice: If you have the opportunity to date someone who has enough interest in these things to study them…

    RUN AWAY! RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN! KEEP RUNNING! RUN, FOREST, RUN!

    1. Even more remarkable you managed to escape (I assume) with your various members relatively intact.

      Also, why am I unable to preview comments? They appear as a blank screen.

      1. Previewed comments are one with the nothingness that is the perfection of the human soul freed of the wheel of dharma.

        1. I see you resumed your moonlighting as a writer for fortune cookies; your eloquent bullshit is so poetic in it’s simplicity, the reference to dharma notwithstanding. I do hope you get over that writer’s block soon. -))))

          The Saccharin Man of Yore would have simply told me, “Preview is for Pussies!”

        2. Gate, gate, parasamgate, bodhi savah!

          1. ?Bodhisattva / Would you take me by the hand / Can you show me / The shine of your Japan / The sparkle of your china / Can you show me?

    2. As an addendum, I’ve never met a child of a psychologist/psychiatrist who wasn’t bat-shit crazy.

      1. I have found this to be more or less true, mostly more. The psychiatrists’ children, in my experience were/are less likely to bear of the brunt of practical application of neurological practice (including pharma), whereas the psychologists’ children were almost without fail to receive a dose of the latest psych fad (FAIL!), and pretty much insuring a screwball for in place of reasonable facsimile of a well-adjusted child.

      2. Both her parents were shrinks.

        1. Both her parents were shrinks.

          Poor girl, she didn’t stand a chance…

          1. Her brother came out OK.

            1. Clearly, this is some sort of Medical Industrial Complex gender role imposition unfairly foisted upon the girl. Or she is simply a gullible nutcase, congenitally speaking. Which sib was the elder?

              1. I’m starting to have PTSD thinking about the relationship.

                1. Take some ritalin, you be back to normal in no time.

    3. DANGER! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

    4. I once dated a girl who majored in Psychology and minored in Women’s Studies.

      I’m currently majoring in Psychology, as well as Law and Society, and I haven’t had any problems yet. I’ve had teachers elsewhere that were plenty full of shit, though.

  4. (Uncoincidentally, Bawer has recently devoted three separate books to the “Islamic threat.”) He manifests little effort at intellectual engagement with the ideas he opposes. Instead he merely presents them as though they were self-evidently absurd

    I like this. Nothing is funnier than accusing someone else of doing something that you are doing at that very moment. Place the words “Islamic Threat” in scare quotes and move on. Of course, one supposes that a philosophy professor wouldn’t understand the term “intellectual engagement”, and Roderick apparently doesn’t disappoint.

    1. Marshall, My life, my property and my liberty are far more threatened by the criminals who claim to represent me in Washington D.C. than they are by the government of any majority Islamic country or any supposed terrorist group run by Muslims.

      1. Marshall, My life, my property and my liberty are far more threatened by the criminals who claim to represent me in Washington D.C. than they are by the government of any majority Islamic country or any supposed terrorist group run by Muslims.

        That’s absolutely true, but so what? Just because I’m far more likely to catch a cold, doesn’t make the Ebola virus not a “threat.”

        1. How would you view a scientist who talked about the “microorganism threat” and made sweeping generalizations about all microorganisms as though ALL microorganisms were a threat to humanity? Of course this completely ignores all of the beneficial microorganisms and neutral microorganisms but, screw them, if those “beneficial” microorganisms can’t convince Ebola not to attack humans it is their own damned fault, right?

          1. if those “beneficial” microorganisms can’t convince Ebola not to attack humans it is their own damned fault, right

            Not to be too “cute”, but that’s how antibiotics work, yes? That’s why you have to eat yogurt afterwards to replace your gut flora.

            As for the “neutrals,” stepping away from anything American-centric, when 1000s of Buddhists are being massacred in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia, just for the crime of being Buddhist, without a peep from the “neutrals,” I start to doubt their neutrality.

            1. Not to be too “cute”, but that’s how antibiotics work, yes? That’s why you have to eat yogurt afterwards to replace your gut flora.

              Correct, and the supposed “nuetral” non-pathogenic organisms always have the capacity to become hostile and pathogenic given the correct conditions and environs.

              As for the “neutrals,” stepping away from anything American-centric, when 1000s of Buddhists are being massacred in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia, just for the crime of being Buddhist, without a peep from the “neutrals,” I start to doubt their neutrality.

              No pun intended, but the claim and practice of “neutrality” is a double-edged sword, and often there is a fine line b’twixt “neutrality” and complicity by omission or permission, passive or otherwise.

              1. What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold, power, or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?

            2. “That’s why you have to eat yogurt afterwards to replace your gut flora.”

              This actually helps to prove the validity of my statement. The microorganisms in yogurt are beneficial.

              “without a peep from the “neutrals,” I start to doubt their neutrality.”

              When they do speak out they are often ignored because it does not fit the statist template. Have you heard of the The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement?

              http://www.muslim.org/

              1. The Ahmadiyya are unorthodox and are considered heretics by every school of mainstream Islam. The Ahamdi are routinely arrested in Iran and Pakistan.

                What does that tell you?

                1. That Fascists can make a jolly good mess of it using religion as a foil, in lieu of racism?

                  1. “That Fascists can make a jolly good mess of it using religion as a foil, in lieu of racism?”

                    That’s true too.

                2. “What does that tell you?”

                  It tells me a great deal about the governments of Pakistan and Iran. It tells me nothing about Islam itself. But the very fact that the Ahmadiyya movement exists proves that Islam is not inherently violent or intolerant.

                  1. But the very fact that the Ahmadiyya movement exists proves that Islam is not inherently violent or intolerant.

                    ?!?

                    Do you even know anything about the Ahamdi and how they are viewed within the Muslim world? Mainstream Islam rejects any commonality with the Ahamdi community, stating they are not Muslims by any definition in that they reject the finality of Muhammad’s prophetdom.

                    To argue anything about Islam through the Ahamdi is like trying to use Catharism as an example of mainstream Catholic doctrine.

                    1. To argue anything about Islam through the Ahamdi is like trying to use Catharism as an example of mainstream Catholic doctrine.

                      Isn’t is more like using the Protestant movement to show not all Christians are Catholics?

                    2. Isn’t is more like using the Protestant movement to show not all Christians are Catholics?

                      It would be if the Ahamdi were more populous, however, I doubt they are even 1 percent of the 1 billion or so Muslims in the world. The influence Ahamdiyya has on Islam is vanishingly small.

                    3. It would be if the Ahamdi were more populous,

                      There was a time when the Protestants weren’t very populous either. That doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way.

            3. HM, you always bring up massacres in Thailand as an example that proves that it’s just inherently violent Islam at work and that discredits theories like blowback or other partial explanations. I didn’t know much about the conflict, but just from what I’ve looked up, it seems that the groups doing this are separatist organizations who want the majority Muslim regions in the South to separate. Now, obviously religion plays a part, and I don’t know what life is like in Thailand in those parts (although I have read that the government has done some killing of their own in this conflict), or what the percentage of people in those areas want independence is, and I’m not justifying killing innocent people, but let’s not pretend like Muslims are the only ones to have conflicts like this. Northern Ireland anyone? Sri Lanka? Shall I continue?

              1. HM, you always bring up massacres in Thailand as an example that proves that it’s just inherently violent Islam at work and that discredits theories like blowback or other partial explanations.

                Partial explanations is the key phrase here. I have never argued that it’s just Islamic ideology that motivates violence, just as I reject the argument that it’s just blowback, because we’re the Great Satan and all.

                However, to ignore the effects of a certain ideology because they us uncomfortable from our ideological stand point is nonsense. Case in point, the United States has interfered with politics in Southeast Asia for decades. When the United States supported the regime of Ngo Dihn Diem, who systematically opressed the Buddhist majority, the Buddhists protested through self-immolation.
                [cont]

                1. [cont]
                  That they chose to protest this way is clearly based on the Buddhist prohibition of violence toward others.

                  I don’t think it’s so controversial to point out the fact that under certain circumstances orthodox Islam has no such prohibitions. Of course, if we didn’t constantly intervene in Afghanistan, Pakistani, et al., we wouldn’t be a target for Islamic jurists to declare us a target for a “just war”. So I am not denying the concept of blowback; however, I argue it does us no good to ignore what fuels said fire which blows back to us. To ignore the great influence thinkers like Sayyid Qutb have on the modern definition of Islamic holy war is foolish. (Especially considering that Qutb is now the intellectual founder of the new Egyptian republic.)

                  [cont]

                  1. but let’s not pretend like Muslims are the only ones to have conflicts like this. Northern Ireland anyone? Sri Lanka? Shall I continue?

                    I have never said they have. But I don’t see where tu quoque is going to get us, especially considering the violence in Sri Lanka is over, just as “The Troubles” are, for the most part, over.

                    1. My point was that this stuff happens or has happened in the very recent past (the violence in Sri Lanka ended just a few years ago) in places where Islam is clearly not a factor. Not saying it excuses it or anything like that

                    2. My point was that this stuff happens or has happened in the very recent past (the violence in Sri Lanka ended just a few years ago) in places where Islam is clearly not a factor.

                      Again, I don’t deny that, nor do I claim that any religion or ideology has a monopoly on violence.

                  2. HM, if you have read what I’ve wrote on these topics in the past, you’ll know that I admit that modern Islamic culture (or more properly, the lack of a modern culture in many places) does play a role (although I do think it’s possible for Islam to eventually evolve to a state like modern Christianity where religiously-motivated violence is very low compared to the past). My view is pretty similar to yours that it’s a combination. Our meddling at the very least certainly makes recruitment easier for the people who legitimately hate and want to kill us no matter what.

            4. I also hate it when libertarians of all people use BS collectivist justifications. If some random guy I don’t know goes out and kills someone, I’m under no obligation to shout from the rooftops or go to the media to let everyone know I disapprove of it just because the guy claims the same religion as me.

              1. “If some random guy I don’t know goes out and kills someone, I’m under no obligation to shout from the rooftops or go to the media to let everyone know I disapprove of it just because the guy claims the same religion as me.”

                Very well said!I could not agree more!

              2. I’m under no obligation to shout from the rooftops or go to the media to let everyone know I disapprove of it just because the guy claims the same religion as me.

                If you can’t be arsed to condemn killing of innocents that is done in the name of your religion, don’t get your hackles up when someone observes that you are judged by the company you keep. Or as Groovus remarked earlier, “and often there is a fine line b’twixt “neutrality” and complicity by omission or permission, passive or otherwise.”

                1. Judging from your name, I assume you’re half black? Do you go out of your way to make sure to let everyone know you disapprove of every murder committed by blacks in this country? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. And yet, there are idiot racist fuckheads in this country that make arguments like “Yes, not all blacks commit crime, but they commit far more crime on average, and it’s up the non-violent ones to prove they’re different blah blah blah” Substitute Muslim for black, and terrorism for crime, and that’s pretty close to what you’re saying. This isn’t judging by the company you keep. This is judging based on who lives by you and what religion they claim. Just because someone doesn’t go on world television to speak out against something every time it happens doesn’t mean they approve of it, implicitly or explicitly.

                  1. Judging from your name, I assume you’re half black?

                    1/4 actually, but Heroic Quadroon just doesn’t have the same ring to it. On my father’s side, I also have a lot of relatives with the last names of “Ali” and “Hossein”. The difference though is that one doesn’t choose one’s ethnicity, but one can choose one’s religion. A religion is a philosophy, a set of beliefs about the world and how to interact with it. One would assume that if one is a member of a certain religion that one agrees with most, if not all of its doctrine. I, myself, converted from one religion to another because I disagreed with the views of the former and found, what I believe to be truth in the views of the latter.

                    Now, I understand that many in the Islamic world don’t have the ability to convert to another religion or philosophy and that is an issue in and of itself.

                    ((I have a class to teach in a few minutes, so I have to step away from my computer…hopefully we can continue this another time?))

              3. “If some random guy I don’t know goes out and kills someone, I’m under no obligation to shout from the rooftops or go to the media to let everyone know I disapprove of it just because the guy claims the same religion as me.”

                One Random Guy killing someone is not equivalent to thousands killing and oppressing thousands in DIRECT ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT THE RELIGION FUCKING DEMANDS.

          2. “How would you view a scientist who talked about the “microorganism threat” and made sweeping generalizations about all microorganisms as though ALL microorganisms were a threat to humanity?”

            Depends. Does the dogma upon which the microorganisms operate promote violence, slavery, hatred of women and unquestionuing obedience to a Great Dictator in the Sky?

            It’s not “generalizing” if it’s what the practice actually states.

          3. “How would you view a scientist who talked about the “microorganism threat” and made sweeping generalizations about all microorganisms as though ALL microorganisms were a threat to humanity?”

            Depends. Does the dogma upon which the microorganisms operate promote violence, slavery, hatred of women and unquestionuing obedience to a Great Dictator in the Sky?

            It’s not “generalizing” if it’s what the practice actually states.

    2. We ask a person nicely to convert, but if (s)he refuses….

      That sounds like a “threat” to me.

      By the way, remember when America won the Vietnam War and, after victory, dropped a nuke on them?

      1. We would not have won were it not for Doctor Manhattan.You know if we’d lost in Vietnam, I think it might’ve driven us crazy.

        1. Rorschach? I thought you died!

      2. By the way, remember when America won the Vietnam War and, after victory, dropped a nuke on them?

        You learned that in a sociology class didn’t you? Asian Studies?

  5. “Bawer is dismayed at the postmodernists’ tendency to see nothing in the values of western civilization but tools of domination. But his own approach, which sees nothing in the values of postmodernism but tools of domination, is a mirror image of what he opposes.”

    I would have to agree with this. If, for example, you listen to the fiery speeches of the infamous Reverend Jeremiah Wright you will find at least a few nuggets of truth. Granted, much of it is bovine excrement but some of his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy are quite excellent and truthful ? and those are the very parts that got the ire of the neo-cons and were played and replayed the most on Fox News.

  6. Why waste your time? The definitive, best-written, best-researched book on the subject was first published in 1996, and is still in print. Higher Superstition: The Academic Left And Its Quarrels With Science by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt (both leftists politically) absolutely destroys any remaining shreds of legitimacy post-modern academic leftism laid claim to in the wake of the Sokal Hoax.

    Well researched, extensively footnoted, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a book anybody who cares at all about science, academic politics– or who just appreciates a good read– should not be without.

    1. first published in 1996… that was right when the sokal affair occurred. does it reference the sokal incident much?

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

      1. ugh,i think i answered my own question…

        nevermind, cheddar. it appears sokal WAS highly influenced by Gross and Levitt… and THAT is high praise indeed.

        “In an interview on the NPR program All Things Considered, Sokal said he was inspired to submit the hoax article after reading Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science (1994), by Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt. In their book, Gross and Levitt reported an anti-intellectual trend in university liberal arts departments (especially English departments) which had caused them to become dominated by a “trendy” branch of post-modernist deconstructionism.

        Higher Superstition argued that in the 1990s, a group of academics whom the authors referred to collectively as “the Academic Left” was dominated by professors who concentrated on racism, sexism, and other perceived prejudices, and that science was eventually included among their targets?later provoking the “Science Wars”, which questioned the validity of scientific objectivity. Academic journals in the humanities were publishing articles by writers who, scientists argued, demonstrated little or no knowledge of science. Per the introduction: “A curious fact about the recent left-critique of science is the degree to which its instigators have overcome their former timidity, of indifference towards the subject, not by studying it in detail, but rather by creating a repertoire of rationalizations for avoiding such study.”[5]

        1. Sorry, I mistyped the publication date, but the book was updated post-Sokal to include that marvelous affair.

          1. yea, that would explain the date thing.

            np.

        2. Ahh yes, I remember the era well.

          All that stuff about how science is sexist because it is based on sterotypical masculine “linear” thinking instead of curvaceous feminine intuition.

          Also racist, because Africans can’t think in “western” logical/rational terms.

      2. It covers the entire matter pretty thoroughly; both authors were, in fact, friends with Somali.

        1. Ummm, Sokal, not Somali; my android spell-check has a sense of humor, I guess.

          1. “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity and ROADZ11!BITCHES!!!”

            🙂

          2. Too late! They’ve already been deported to Cuba.

    2. That book is immensely entertaining. There’s a follow-up (I think?) book of essays called something like The Flight from Science and Reason.

  7. Is this steaming pile of bullcrap a parody of some sort?

    If so, well done.

    If not, Holy Crap!

    1. To what are you referring, VGZ: the book proper, or the review thereof? Either, I suspect the answer is, “YES!”

      1. The review of course.

        1. Konechno, spasibo. -))

  8. I won’t be around for Morning Links, so:

    Well hurr durr, whocoodanode?

    Electric Car Lifecycle Emits More Toxic and Greenhouse Gases than Regular Automobiles’

    The analysis, penned by academics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and presented in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, expounds by saying that the toxic materials employed to build such cars exceeds traditional ones. Furthermore, they are adding that the fuels used to create the electricity are also important considerations, noting that if is coal then it may not be worth the environmental and economic costs.

    1. Kock lies!!!1!!1!

    2. What you point out is part of the unseen.

      Next you’re going to claim that breaking windows doesn’t stimulate the economy.

    3. The link doesn’t work for me.

  9. So, basically, if I want to understand what is wrong with his arguments, I have to be familiar with the subjects he’s arguing against because you’re not going to tell me.

    He manifests little effort at intellectual engagement with the ideas he opposes. Instead he merely presents them as though they were self-evidently absurd

    Project much?

  10. “Some hail Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, Black Studies, and Chicano Studies for at last giving due attention to … groups that have traditionally been marginalized and oppressed in Western societies.”

    These would be the statist morons who have ruined Higher Education. At the university I attended it was well known that you either agreed with them in class, or resigned yourself to a “B” at best. No free speech for the oppressor class and its minions.

    “A book making a sincere effort to sift the gold from the dross would be a welcome contribution to the debate.”

    The fact that you think there is gold to be mined in that shit pile shows how clueless you are. And there is no debate. Don’t believe me? Enroll in one of their classes and try.

    “…such signs are simply ignored, as with Catharine MacKinnon’s critique of Marxism…”

    In favor of another completely inane and authoritarian ideology.

    “…Judith Butler’s defense of free speech…”

    Don’t you mean “defense of incomprehensible speech”?

    “…and Michel Foucault’s engagement with the free-market ideas of Austrian economics…”

    There isn’t time or space to fully describe how ridiculous this comment is.

    Let’s face it. The author of this article is too much in love with his colleagues from the left. I suppose if you have to work with these types in an authoritarian, pro-statist, anti-capitalist environment every day, it is perhaps natural to hold the bar low when it comes to expectations.

  11. Why the hell would anyone go 10s of thousands of dollars in student loan debt for a worthless “identity studies” degree (or Sociology, Philosophy, [insert nationality here] Literature, etc)? If you’re going to go into that much debt I’d think you’d want to get a degree in something that might lead to a decent paying job* after college as opposed to being the most highly educated barista on the block.

    I’m sure those things are interesting to study, but you could save yourself a lot of money and just study those as a hobby. To paraphrase Good Will Hunting, you could get the same education for “$1.50 in late charges at your local library.”

    *I realize not everyone has the interest or the chops for hard science or engineering, but there are plenty of degrees such as business admin. that are also “useful” in terms of qualifying one for a good paying job.

    1. i think your argument about DEBT makes sense, but i wouldn’t extend that argument about liberal arts degrees in general. iow, i think philosophy, literature, the classics, etc. have a lot of merit as college majors.

      their merit as VOCATIONAL degrees otoh is another issue entirely.

    2. The reason is you assume you are going to get a job with the wonderful government or a noble non-profit. In those environs you won’t have to ever challenge your biases.

      1. You should never just assume you are going to get a government job just because you spent your college years memorizing agitprop.

        You have to be proactive, and do something like sue your school to force them to buy your birth control for you. And make them over-pay for it, too. Then you’ve got an in.

        1. You have to be proactive, and do something like sue your school to force them to buy your birth control for you.

          Bonus points if your school is a religious institution that believes birth control to be immoral.

    3. Generally not EVERY credit you take has to be related to your major.

      I took one liberal arts class each semester along with my engineering degree.

      You get the chance to dabble a bit in whatever interests you and still pick up a degree that will get you a decent paying job.

    4. Because then they can keep going to college and not have to even think about getting a real job until they’re almost 30.

    5. Progressives like money as much as anyone, but if they can’t feel morally righteous and pompous about their education it’s not worth it.

  12. You have got to admit dude, thats got some serious baawww effect to it.

    http://www.VPN-Network.tk

  13. Nobody ever has a problem with dead ends in science. It’s just part of the process. Some branches of literary criticism, sociology, etc., have been dead ends too. But it’s not too difficult to figure out that what characters like Bawer really have a problem with is any attempt to challenge the dominance of heteronormative, masculine, “Western,” and Christian perspectives in the world.

    Lots of what comes from the academic so-called left is pointless, but almost everything that comes from the anti-intellectual right is not only pointless but dangerous.

    1. characters like Bawer really have a problem with is any attempt to challenge the dominance of heteronormative

      Bawer is a gay man who moved to Europe because he found America too intolerant of his sexuality. He currently lives in Norway with his partner.

    2. Seriously? Lots of stuff the left has put out is dangerous.

      Identity Politics are dangerous. They induce people to vote along identity group lines nad lobby for special favors for their group, as opposed to a univerally fair or just system. They induce individuals to bind their identity to only one or two facets of their life – race, or sex, or maybe sexual orientation – arguably superficial traits instead of exploring things they have in common that cut across those lines.

      It shouldn’t need to be said but the left’s attacks on capitalism have been particularly dangerous and destructive. Leaving aside numerous brutal totalitarian regimes that have attempted to implement leftist economic models, lets just look at the impact on individuals. Have you noticed that there are very few hard-core leftists that can hold down a full time job? Almost all of them are hopeless deadbeats who won’t even look for a real job because they don’t want to have their “suplus labor value” exploited by The Man.
      The best they can do is form an artists cooperative and sell stupid trinkets to bohemian hipsters.

    3. Lots of what comes from the academic so-called left is pointless, but almost everything that comes from the anti-intellectual right is not only pointless but dangerous

      I’d say instituting political correctness into the national culture–just to name one example from recent times–has been arguably the most poisonous contribution the academic left has provided this country. Theodore Dalrymple’s observation on its impact on modern society gets to the heart of it:

      “In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”

      1. Not to mention, as has been discussed here before, that the university in the liberal arts and social sciences in particular has become little more than a feedback loop for this kind of ideology. It’s resulted in an environment that is so intellectually ossified that students have largely become incapable of finding succor in areas that don’t conform to the Class-Gender-Ethnicity holy trinity and the Marxist dialectic.

        Given that the people graduating from college are supposed to be the ones directing the future of this country, I’d say it’s just as dangerous when they are all compelled to march through an institution that hasn’t evolved intellectually in over 30 years.

  14. Actually, I think it is a problem that deserves a sledge hammer. Identity Studies are so ripe for ridicule that a set of tweezers would seem timid. Sledgehammer, please.

    1. Amen.

      Any good aspects of multiculturalism are far outweighed by the crap. Good example: a liberal friend of mine works in a university. One of her coworkers has decided to be non-gender specific and needs everyone else to play along. So now they insist that everyone refer to them by their made-up pronoun “Z”, rather than he or she. “Where did Z go?” “Z went to the store” If someone doesn’t comply, they get a lecture.

  15. “For Bawer, academic multiculturalism is an undifferentiated mass of dishonest, un-American gobbledygook,”

    That sounds about right to me.

  16. “Centrist”. Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?

    1. Moderate? Elevator music?

  17. As someone who has red green color blindness, unable to distinguish the subtler reddish browns and greenish browns from each other (and like most such people, better than a normal at seeing differences in purples and blues) I can allay your fears that we RGCB drivers will mow you down. Traffic lights have long been socially reconstructed so that drivers like me see a whitish green light where you see green, and a reddish orange light where you see red. We know the orange light means stop and the white one means go. The yellow one looks yellow to us, and means “hurry up” as it does to everyone.

  18. I have no problem with these fields of study in concept, but it seems to me that segregating these into separate areas from regular history doesn’t help fix the mainstream bias against them. History has for too long been taught from the predominant perspective of Western white males. While I would never say that we need to afford both genders and all races and nationalities equal time in our history classes and textbooks (which would be the height of political correctness), it does seem that a more balanced and broad approach to history should be taught so there is less need for such divisions.

  19. Hmm…

    One party and candidate is 100% steeped in this academic bullshit. Another party and another candidate are diametrically opposed to any and all of this nonsense….

    Yet, the fucking idiots that write here, both the paid scribblers and the unpaid nitwit commenters, keep trying to push: there’s no difference in either party.

    Really? Okay, whatever. Sure, there’s no difference between New Coke and Tony’s diarrhea splatters, either.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure Obama is a big Foucault fan.

    2. You seem to be too focused on their rhetoric.
      When you look at how they govern, those differences seem quite miniscule, especially to those here who think the problems we have are very serious. You think they differ on big things, but people here think they are too similar on even bigger things.

  20. Bruce Bawer gave up his right to criticize anything about the American Left, Right or whatever when he turned his back on America in 1998 to go cohabitate with the Eurotrash. He and Johnny Depp both.

  21. Islam will always be tied to violence until it is no longer intertwined with the state in so many nations.
    Just like Christianity, the separation between church and state is infinitely healthier for the religion as well as the government.

  22. “[Bawer] even gives his massive chapter on the evils of feminism the title ‘Gilligan’s Island.'”

    I like mine better: “Feminism: Socialism with Tits”.

  23. I like Long, except when he talks about feminism.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.