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October 10, 2008

Comments

Anna

"Alas, few, if any, prominent Democrats have expressed concern with the academy’s ideological one-sidedness. From the standpoint of a political realist, I suppose this disinclination shouldn’t surprise: race, class, and gender correspond politically to civil rights activists, unions, and feminists—three pillars of the Democratic Party’s base."

And they correspond to anti-Israel bias and anti-semitism.

David

I’ve had a few exchanges with left-leaning academics which touched on the prevalence of anti-Israel bias and political bias generally. Two didn’t think there was any bias at all, despite some fairly dramatic evidence to the contrary. Another conceded that there is indeed bias, but he didn’t think that was a problem because of the “rightwing hegemony” and such. Censoriousness, irrationality and egregious distortion don’t seem to matter if the end result is ideologically congenial. What’s interesting to me is how one or two people on the left who eloquently criticise unthinking anti-Israel sentiment in academia don’t seem to mind that it arises from political homogeneity and the consequent tendency towards extremism.

clazy

Although many of Obama's defenders insist that his relationship with Ayers is not a problem, Obama's own unwillingness to acknowledge the association shows that he undoubtedly understands it *is* -- but only because many voters would be disturbed by it, not because he thinks he did anything wrong. I believe Obama is convinced that he should be President, and if the people disagreed, they would be wrong, so why confuse them with inconvenient facts.

David

At risk of sounding old-fashioned, I also think the relationship with Ayers and Dohrn is very much a problem. But it’s not just Obama; it’s the broader milieu. What about those who employed Ayers and his monstrous wife, and those who share Ayers’ views on classroom indoctrination? What about the broader academic culture in which many of Ayers’ prejudices are remarkably commonplace? Ayers and Dohrn are absurd and pernicious, certainly - as are Shakti Butler and Caprice Hollins, and Peggy McIntosh, and Noel Ignatiev and Geoff Schneider. But they don’t exist in a vacuum.

clazy

After getting an MS degree almost 20 years ago, I worked as a chemist for a couple years. My nostalgia for academia was keen, however. After two years I quit, believing I would be happier as a penniless student of literature. Yes, I was young, romantic -- stupid. Five years and another degree later, I had determined that I would never set foot on a campus again if I could help it. I like to think that's partly because I was suffocated by the unreality of the place. It is truly a bubble where faculty can construct elaborate theories of the world grounded in nothing but their colleagues' theories, completely buffered from consequences.

phantom menace

"But it’s not just Obama; it’s the broader milieu."

Academic culture isn't running for president though. Obama is.

David

“Academic culture isn’t running for president though. Obama is.”

Indeed. And I’m not excusing Obama’s associations or dismissing the questions they raise. Far from it. A full account of his involvement with Ayers and Dohrn is in order, beginning with the following:

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MjhhOTM1MThhOTNjZWNiZWU2MmEwZjE3YjQwNjE4NjU=

As a presidential candidate, Obama’s involvement is obviously a matter of concern and attempts to downplay the issue have been largely disingenuous. But it seems inadequate to limit that concern to Obama. Ayers has flourished in a particular environment, one which not only excuses his past extremism and lack of contrition, but which actively enables his *ongoing* extremism and his urge to indoctrinate. So it’s not enough to ask Obama how he felt about working with such people and endorsing their efforts. One also has to ask how it is that academia became a favoured nesting site for the far left. Not just for people with the usual range of arguments about public spending or welfare or whatever, but people whose outlook is intensely ideological and who feel entitled to “groom” youngsters with the “correct” political outlook. How did “reform,” “critical thinking” and “political literacy” become euphemisms for the regurgitation of leftist boilerplate?

Franklin

"One also has to ask how it is that academia became a favoured nesting site for the far left."

In a word: tenure. As I said on an earlier thread, Marxism and postmodernism don't have much influence on pursuits that entail observable breakage or provable falsity. Conversely, they thrive in pursuits that are buffered from consequences: education, the arts, and the softer humanities. Where these three intersect with tenure, which itself is a stalwart barrier against consequences, the result is a cozy safe haven for the flimsiest of ideas. Since tenured academics cannot be fired for offenses lesser than murder, it seems, attitudes that have long since been remaindered in the marketplace of ideas hang on in academia for decades past their sell-by date. I have often wondered what to do about it, since I'm in the arts, and I see no solution except to wait for these people to retire or pass away. That, or start my own institution, which is rather beyond my means at the moment.

To be fair, it's only as bad as it is in the germane departments. I doubt that there are any radicals who regret not having thrown more bombs in their youth teaching in, say, the economics program at the University of Chicago. It's somewhat comforting to reflect that the problem is pervasive but not universal by any means.

georges

It's news to me that the US Democratic Party is the "anti-Israel" party. I don't have figures to hand, but I seem to remember that:
1. Most US voters who self-identify as Jewish vote Democrat.
2. US governments give Israel a huge subsidy. I think it's around 3 billion dollars a year, and it's more than the US gives to any other country. It means each Israeli citizen is getting around a thousand dollars from the US taxpayer. I know of no evidence that Democrat governments have been less willing to pay it than Republican ones.

I don't think it helps the debate to automatically bracket together anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. There have always been people of Jewish background who take an anti-Zionist position. Edwin Samuel Montagu was the only Jew in the British Cabinet at the time of the Balfour Declaration, and he opposed it. You may also find this link interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_Against_Zionism_(book)

One person I hope we can avoid calling an anti-Semite is Desmond Tutu. It is Tutu's considered opinion that Israel's behaviour is comparable to that of Apartheid South Africa:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/29/comment

When I was a student, there was definitely a bias against the Apartheid government of South Africa. It was almost impossible for someone to speak in favour of the Apartheid system. Should corrective pressure have been applied, to ensure the pro-Apartheid case got a fair hearing?

Anna

"It's news to me that the US Democratic Party is the "anti-Israel" party."

Who here said it was? No-one.

"I don't think it helps the debate to automatically bracket together anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism."

Who here did that? No-one.

David

Franklin,

“Since tenured academics cannot be fired for offenses lesser than murder…”

I was hoping intellectual vandalism would be added to the list.

“I see no solution except to wait for these people to retire or pass away.”

[ cough ] Sack beatings. [ cough ]

This interview with Evan Maloney elaborates on possible causes of the phenomenon:

“Some would say it goes back as far as the Frankfurt School in the early 1900s, and that it represents an ideological desire to engage in ‘the long march through the institutions.’ Certainly, if we look at it today, it appears that in academia, the long march has succeeded. The ideology of the Frankfurt School now seems to be the default position among academics. But even though the roots of the movement may go back that far, it really was in the late 1960s when today’s crop of academics became politically active. Anti-war activists in the late 1960s ran the risk of getting drafted for Vietnam. And because they opposed that war, they naturally wanted to stay out of the fighting. So a lot of them worked around the draft by going into academic programs that would allow them to avoid the war. And finding an environment that they found friendly to their views, they stayed. And their presence served as an advertisement to like-minded people who may not have wanted to go work for ‘the man’ in the private sector. This attracted more fellow travellers into academia.”

“By the late 1970s, there was enough of a critical mass of ideologically-driven academics that they began to amass power within academic institutions. By controlling hiring committees, they were able to ensure that their colleagues were as ‘ideologically pure’ as they were. And by attaining power within school administrations, they were able to institute policies such as speech codes that tried to ensure that same ideological purity from their students. By the mid-1980s, we started seeing political correctness dictate the intellectual environment on campuses, and people started facing academic retribution for saying things that were ‘incorrect’ and for thinking things that ran counter to the dominant thinking. Groupthink set in, and the group became more extreme in the conformity that it demanded from people.”

http://www.411mania.com/movies/columns/57331/411-Movies-Interview:-Evan-Coyne-Maloney-of-Indoctrinate-U.htm

gaffee

"Ayers is scarcely less incoherent and extreme than he was when urging students to kill their parents."

If Ayers and Dohrn have kids maybe they'll do what their daddy said.

David

Franklin,

“To be fair, it’s only as bad as it is in the germane departments. I doubt that there are any radicals who regret not having thrown more bombs in their youth teaching in, say, the economics program at the University of Chicago. It’s somewhat comforting to reflect that the problem is pervasive but not universal by any means.”

I’m not sure I’d take comfort from that. There are, for instance, efforts to graft race/class/gender “relevance” onto an enormous range of subjects that are utterly unrelated to politics or social “science”. Yes, it’s absurd to expect lessons in mathematics and ornamental horticulture to be framed in this way, but that hasn’t stopped official demands to that end. See Indoctrinate U for examples:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/02/what-to-think-n.html

There’s also the question of why we should become resigned to the bias and disrepute of large parts of the humanities. Is it okay that huge areas of intellectual interest are now widely regarded as dogmatic and/or worthless? As KC Johnson, himself a Democrat, says in the piece quoted above,

“Democrats have much to lose from the current state of affairs in higher education. First of all, Democrats no more than Republicans should want a generation of students trained in ignorance of U.S. political structures and culture. Second, as Emory professor Mark Bauerlein most persuasively has argued, ‘when like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs.’ A campus environment overwhelmingly dominated by people who occupy one side on issues of race, class, and gender has allowed extremist voices—such as the Group of 88—to become an increasingly public face of the academic left…”

Stephen Fox

Re mathematics, Al Fin (http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2008/10/males-3-x-more-likely-to-be-highly.html) has a piece on the vast sums spent trying to encourage girls into studying maths, despite clear statistics that boys are better at it.
Needless to say, the only real interest is that girls do maths. Boys should not, as it would be too easy. They should study something that develops, say, their networking skills...
What is striking about all this is the sheer perversity of it all, the hatred of doing the natural, right thing...

Stephen Fox

Sorry, the brackets spoilt the link. Here it is again:

http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2008/10/males-3-x-more-likely-to-be-highly.html

W.S.

Suppose Barack Hussein Obama can't provide a precise date and time of day when he first denounced Ayers, or stammers a bit on the question of whether and, if so, how many times, Ayers entered his residence and vice-versa. Let's suppose that to be so, hypothetically -- then ... what? What, precisely, is being insinuated? Are we to infer that Barack Obama is hoping to bomb the Pentagon (etc.) and then not apologize for it? (Why would he need to be president to do that?) Should we expect Obama to name Ayers as Secretary of Education? Secretary of Defense? Will he create a new Department of Risible Academic Leftism, and name Ayers as Secretary? Will he introduce legislation granting William Ayers the authority to spend $700 billion of taxpayer dollars, subject to no oversight, no review, no checks? Really? Should we believe some or all of that and vote accordingly?

In short, could you please spell out the predicate? Please don't be shy.

While you're at it: does Sarah Palin's much more recent and much more direct "pallin' around" with the Alaska Independence Party not trouble you? Why or why not? Do you mean to say you find no one and nothing to worry you in McCain's decades of associations and fund-raising and miscellaneous "pallin' around"? You're completely OK with Charles Keating and Henry Kissinger, to name two? Really?

It's a pretty small world, especially when it comes to the world of high-ranking US political offices. Making scary noises by drawing diagrams indicating "personal connections," let alone financial donors, is extremely easy.

You've amplified the scary noises here. What do they mean? Please translate them into plain words or shut up.

David

W.S.,

Morning.

“Are we to infer that Barack Obama is hoping to bomb the Pentagon (etc.) and then not apologize for it?... Should we expect Obama to name Ayers as Secretary of Education? Secretary of Defense? Will he create a new Department of Risible Academic Leftism, and name Ayers as Secretary?”

Heh. Er, no, I don’t think those would be remotely obvious inferences, colourful as they are. You’d really have to bear down and squint to get there. The point made in passing, and which seems to bother you, is simply that an association with Ayers raises questions, given the nature of his past and present politics. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask such questions of any candidate with associations of that kind. If a Republican presidential candidate had been involved for some time with an unrepentant abortion clinic bomber whose views remained extreme and not without influence, that would, I think, be newsworthy. And rightly so. It seems quite proper that presidential candidates are pressed on such matters.

“Please don't be shy.”

Not, I think, my most obvious vice.

“Do you mean to say you find no one and nothing to worry you in McCain’s decades of associations and fund-raising and miscellaneous ‘pallin’ around’?”

That isn’t the purpose of the post. You’re assuming a tribal motive. (If you search this site I doubt you’ll find pages of McCain boosterism.) I picked an item which interests me and on which I could elaborate.

“Please translate them into plain words or shut up.”

It’s curious how so much passion has entirely ignored the central point of the post above, which concerns the prevalence of extremism in some academic circles.

Anna

Maybe WS and Georges should meet up and throw straw at each other. :)

W.S.

David,

I agree your blog does not present a tribal/partisan point of view. I also regretted "shut up" as soon as I realized I hadn't edited it out -- I don't want you to "shut up" on this or anything else.

You say: "As a presidential candidate, Obama’s involvement with Ayers and Dohrn is obviously a matter of concern and attempts to downplay the issue have been largely disingenuous. There are questions to be answered, beginning with these."

I see nothing to suggest this is a matter of concern, let alone an obvious one. There is no "obvious" predicate. There is no reasonable basis for expecting important new information to come tumbling out if Obama provides detailed answers to all the questions the National Review pretends to find so urgent, and to which you link.

Presumably all the questions apply equally to all the other members of the non-profit board (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Annenberg_Challenge#Board_of_Directors) -- granted, none of them are running for president. But are we really looking at a neo-weathermen cell here?

I'll concede you are principally concerned with loony academics. But the National Review, Wall Street Journal editorial page, McCain campaign (etc.) aren't clinging to this meme because of overpoliticization in the state university system of Illinois. You're carrying their phony insinuations forward.

Ayers is a prick and a loon on his own terms -- why bring Obama into it unless you're saying something about Obama? This "connection" has been beaten to death and there's very little to it.

http://fightthesmears.com/articles/22/AyersSmear

Thanks.

David

W.S.,

“I agree your blog does not present a tribal/partisan point of view. I also regretted ‘shut up’ as soon as I realized I hadn’t edited it out -- I don’t want you to ‘shut up’ on this or anything else.”

Noted, and appreciated. I don’t pretend to be politically disinterested and I don’t feel obliged to make sure my posts address the inadequacies of each candidate; but I try not to let tribalism obscure the points I’m making. My criticism of Obama and Ayers shouldn’t be construed as an endorsement of his opponents and everything they’ve done or wish to do. As I hope the above makes clear, I’m more interested in Ayers and his academic environment than in Obama.

“I see nothing to suggest this is a matter of concern, let alone an obvious one.”

I beg to differ, but rather than rehash recent and quite lengthy discussions, I refer you to the links in the post above. Also the discussion following this:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/10/incuriosity.html

And this:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/08/youthful-indisc.html

And this, on classroom advocacy, seems relevant:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/09/rebellion-revis.html

“But are we really looking at a neo-weathermen cell here?”

Again, I don’t recall suggesting anything remotely to that effect. I’m rather baffled by how you arrive at that question. Your approach is a tad apagogical. You’ll see that while I feel legitimate questions are raised, for reasons discussed above, my concerns are somewhat removed from the fanciful interpretations you’ve offered, repeatedly. I’m generally happy to defend or revise positions that I actually hold and express. I don’t feel obliged to defend bizarre and lurid claims that I haven’t actually made and which are divined by some enormously circuitous and speculative process. I find it odd that inviting readers to consider how it is that Ayers, Ignatiev, Lubiano et al retain status and influence within parts of academia should be construed as a cartoonish fear of Obama bombing the Pentagon. And I’d prefer to wait for Obama’s answers, if any are forthcoming, before offering an emphatic opinion on the nature of his dealings with Ayers and what that might mean.

“But the National Review, Wall Street Journal editorial page, McCain campaign (etc.) aren't clinging to this meme because of overpoliticization in the state university system of Illinois. You’re carrying their phony insinuations forward.”

I’m not interested in McCain’s political motives in this regard, or those of the WSJ. It’s the arguments and evidence that matter. (I don’t think much of the Guardian, but if one of its writers makes a good point, then so be it.) I’m not “carrying their phony insinuations” anywhere and “phony insinuations” is rather presumptuous language. You seem to be projecting far too much into what I’ve actually written. Surely the increasingly politicised and doctrinaire nature of academia should be of concern, regardless of one’s political leanings? See KC Johnson’s post, quoted above, and, for instance, this:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/02/what-to-think-n.html

W.S.

David,

The extended discussions you link to are interesting and informative. I am not arguing the point about the state of academia. I have no quarrel with any of that. I don't rank its importance as highly as you seem to, but to each his own priorities.

Once more: assume that Obama's denunciation of Ayers (http://fightthesmears.com/articles/22/AyersSmear) is insincere; assume that they visited one another more frequently than Obama has been willing to admit; assume that Ayers' $200 donation to Obama was every bit as impactful as every other $200 donation in the history of $200 donations; assume all the journalistic investigations of this connection have been too lazy or incompetent or biased to properly connect the dots they've assembled.

Assume all of the above: so what? What did the journalistic investigations leave out? What is the conclusion to be drawn about Barack Obama and his fitness for the presidency? Anything? Nothing?

You laugh off my suggestions that Obama will name Ayers to the cabinet and that the two have formed a neo-weatherman cell. Precisely! They're silly! So tell me what's not silly about this connection. Fill in the gap. State why it is "obviously a matter of concern." Say why you broach Barack Obama while you're issuing legitimate criticisms of Ayers and other academic loonies.

You say we need to know " ... how he [Obama] felt about working with Ayers and endorsing his efforts." "Working with" and "endorsing" are hyperlinks:

- "Working with": The extent and nature of "working with" has been exhaustively documented, including in the WSJ article to which you link. What more is there to know? What do the facts and evidence as established tell us that is "obviously of concern" and in what way?

- "endorses": This links to a brief National Review online piece where we find nothing more than insinuations of the "questions that need to be asked" variety we're already belaboring here -- a journey once more around the same circle of invidious innuendo.

I want to know what the answers are expected to be, or feared to be, or whatever, and upon what basis to expect those answers.

Here what the evidence supports: Barack Obama and William Ayers have had limited and inconsequential interactions. Each merits a brief footnote in the life story of the other, and no more.

David

W.S.,

“So tell me what’s not silly about this connection. Fill in the gap. State why it is ‘obviously a matter of concern’… I want to know what the answers are expected to be, or feared to be, or whatever, and upon what basis to expect those answers.”

Again, you’re jumping the gun and assuming far more than was written or intended. I’m basically suggesting that questions (and answers) are in order. That’s pretty much it. The non-trivial association between a presidential candidate and an unrepentant former terrorist and current educational extremist is hardly “silly” or unworthy of examination. On the whole, it seems to me a good thing that presidential candidates get their laundry fingered, however unseemly the business can be. And it is a non-trivial association, one which is neither brief nor isolated. I’ve said elsewhere that it’s probably difficult to have a political career of any length without acquiring some unsavoury associates, but Obama has had quite a few and their expressed ideology has commonalities and is dramatically at odds with Obama’s recent public persona. Hence the curiosity.

[ Update: One might, I suppose, argue that Obama associated with such absurd and revolting people because those are the people who are there, and with whom a politician with Obama’s general leanings is likely to interact. The premise being that personal judgment and ideology are secondary features, not decisive ones. Well, if that’s the case – and I’m not entirely convinced - that raises the question of how it is that unhinged ideologues, extremists and unrepentant terrorists find academia so congenial and obliging, to the extent that a left-leaning politician encounters them repeatedly. ]

I’ve no idea what Obama’s answers will be, should they be forthcoming, nor am I suggesting what might be made of any answers that are offered. I fail to see what’s so unreasonable about my position, as opposed to, say, your own. And, as I said, I’m more interested in the academic culture in which Ayers, Ignatiev, Lubiano et al can flourish. That’s what this thread is supposed to be about.

If you want to defend Obama at length, you probably need to find someone who’s been attacking him in a more emphatic way.

AMac

W.S. puts forward the Obama campaign's "Fight The Smears" as the go-to source for Truth on Hope and Change.

Sometimes. Obama has suffered his share of scurrilous attacks, and he certainly should respond.

But I would hesitate to assume that this Obama website's version of controversial events is necessarily both truthful and complete.

The campaign scrubs Obama's association with ACORN:
http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2008/10/oops-obama-camp-caught-scrubbing-its.html

The campaign scrubs ACORN's association with Project Vote:
http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2008/10/breaking-barack-obama-registered-150000.html

gaffee

You're a patient guy, David.

David

Gaffee,

“You're a patient guy, David.”

I know, I know. I’m practically a saint.

Having re-read yesterday’s exchange with W.S, it does seem a little strange. Setting aside the indignation and reductio ad absurdum, the basic assumption seems to be this: Unless it can be proved that Obama (a) has terrorist sympathies or (b) plans to implement Ayers’ ideology verbatim on an official scale at enormous cost, then there’s no reason at all to view their association as worthy of interest. It is, apparently, “silly” and “inconsequential”. (And those who think otherwise should, I quote, “shut up”.)

Given I hadn’t suggested either of the above scenarios, or anything remotely like them, I suspect W.S. is dumping someone else’s argument on my rug. But those aren’t the only (or obvious) reasons why Obama’s association with Ayers is noteworthy. W.S. asks, “What is the conclusion to be drawn about Barack Obama and his fitness for the presidency? Anything? Nothing?” Well, it seems to me that conclusions are premature, and the urge to hear them now on an all-or-nothing basis is disingenuous. Yet there is a question of character here, and of political sympathy. Endorsing Ayers’ book, which advances some rather extreme and tendentious ideas, is not an entirely trivial matter; nor is the funding, via CAC, of Ayers’ extremely politicised “educational” programmes. Would Obama still endorse and fund such things today? I have no idea. But it seems to me a reasonable question to add to the list.

gaffee

So if you don't know what the answers will be- before you ask the questions -then you shouldn't be asking them? Awesome!

Anna

Looks like Professor Noel Ignatiev is also a moonbat when it comes to Jews: "Osama bin Laden was no more than telling the truth when he said that the Muslim world is facing an alliance of Zionists and Crusaders."

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/10/13/macmillan-usa-encyclopedia-damns-zionism-as-racism/

And then I had a look at Ignatiev's "Race Traitor": http://racetraitor.org/

If this freak was teaching my kids I'd be furious.

David

Anna,

Ignatiev is, I think, unwell. His self-loathing is pathological and he wishes to inflict it on unsuspecting students. If you read “Race Traitor” you’ll struggle to find coherent argument and evidence, but you will find reams of bald assertion and revolting psychodrama. If I discovered Ignatiev peddling his illness to a child of mine, I’d consider it a kind of intellectual molestation, and act accordingly.

gaffee

"The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them... The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin."

This is education? For fuck's sake.

David

Quite. And it goes on like that. It’s essentially a series of inexcusably loaded or simply ludicrous assertions, one after another, each one stated as if it were profound and self-evidently true. It’s actually quite hypnotic. And it’s pretty much a textbook case of postmodern argument – which is to say, there’s precious little argument in the technical sense, no structured reasoning, just a pile of assertion.

Anna

Oh wow. 3000 academics have signed a petition defending Ayers. Criticizing him is "an affront to academic freedom." http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/10/14/ayers
http://www.supportbillayers.org/

David

Cough. [ opens window to release clouds of smoke ]

Sorry about that. My irony meter just exploded.

It was the “character assassination and slander” that did it. That, and the evil hegemon trying to “stifle critical dialogue.”

Horace Dunn

I love this bit...

"...what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes"

They way that lefties think that all their shop-worn 1960s preoccupations still constitute "progressive causes" is a constant source of delight for me.

And how about this one...


“It [the classes] really was less about him, and that’s another refreshing thing,” said Sofia Kokkino, who took a course in graduate school with Ayers. “He’s not a megalomaniac who wanted to talk about himself.”

So, we should we "refreshed" and admiring of university lecturers who don't use lectures purely to talk about themselves. And now this Kokkino half-wit is teaching school-children. Blimey.

If there is a hell for lefties it will be one in which they are all imbued with the faculty for objectivity and then forced to listen to themselves.


Rich Rostrom

David:

Academia has been a nest for extremists for a long time; Eric Hobsbawm, an overt Communist, was appointed professor at Birkbeck College in 1947 (he is now President). Unfortunately, the hard sciences have not been immune - there have been many prominent scientists with strong Communist sympathies or even open allegiance (the Joliot-Curies, for instance).

It is extremely disturbing to note the acceptance of vermin like Ayers in academic life. It condemns not only the academy, but a larger segment of society. The $50M for Ayers' Chicago Annenberg Challenge came from Walter Annenberg, a billionaire supporter of Reagan. He was 87 at the time, and probably did not personally vet the grant, but it is disturbing nonetheless.

Another question raised by the Ayers-Obama relationship is: what did Ayers see in Obama? Steve Diamond's work makes it clear that Ayers brought Obama into the CAC and made him the chairman. Why? He brought nothing to the table in terms of political influence or financial support. But Ayers certainly knew all about him: they were connected through Obama's former employers: ex-SDS leader Marilyn Katz, radical attorney and Dohrn classmate Judson Miner, the Sidley and Austin law firm.

Gaffee:

Aters and Dohrn have no children of their own, but they were the foster parents of Chesa Boudin, son of Kathy Boudin, imprisoned for her part in the bloody armored-car robbery by the Weathermen in 1981. Chesa has grown up to be a flaming radical. But of course neither he nor Ayers would kill their parents, even though Ayers' father was a big-time capitalist pig: CEO of Commonwealth Edison, the electric utiiity for northern Illinois. (Sidley and Austin is outside counsel to Comm Ed.)

David

Rich,

Well, my concern is with how Ayers has become sufficiently “mainstream” to be an obvious and influential associate for Obama, one who is defended by other statusful and influential academics. That so many educators were willing to defend Ayers, and on such ludicrous terms, tells us more than perhaps they realise.

As I suggested earlier, one might argue that Obama associated with such absurd and revolting people because those are the people who are there, in positions of influence, and with whom a politician with Obama’s general leanings is or was likely to interact. But this leaves the question of how an extreme ideologue and unrepentant former terrorist - whose politics remain delusional and somewhat sinister - should find academia so congenial and obliging. (Again, a comparable figure from the extreme right would not, I think, be so welcome or so readily excused. Nor would such a figure find so many colleagues with broadly similar prejudices.) Even the most positive reading of events suggests a serious dysfunction in the academy’s overall political outlook and what passes for acceptable.

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