David Thompson
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September 11, 2013

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Anna

She says "politicians" (boo, hiss) when what she means is "taxpayers".

atempdog

Politicians shouldn’t be allowed to decide what is “relevant” in research any more than they have the right to tell business owners whether they like or dislike their products

But governments (ultimately managed by politicians & the people) do & must tell business owners whether they like their products when they are deciding to purchase a product or service. How does this yahoo think government procures products & services if not by telling their prospective bidders what they like, dislike, & require? You think he's ever heard of an Request For Proposal?

peter horne

"Politicians shouldn’t be allowed to decide what is “relevant” in research any more than they have the right to tell business owners whether they like or dislike their products…"

Wha? What is this right of which she speaks? Am I not allowed to express a preference for particular products? Shouldn't be allowed? There should be a law against it? What about the 8 out of ten cats who express a preference for you know what? Kitty gaol? My head hurts, I think I might have to lie down...

rjmadden

There is nothing "ridiculous" about research,

Doesn't that depend on the kind of research the taxpayer is being made to fund?

Totally unrelated, I can't wait to find out "how urban media art can best respond to global climate change." Will there be an official decree?

AC1

Maybe there should be a referendum on which areas taxpayers research money could be spent.. They probably wouldn't like the result of that one either.

sackcloth and ashes

'Academics don’t apply for grants for the fun of it, and many continue to wade through endless applications because they believe in the basic worth of the research and its overall contribution to society'.

I'm an academic (PhD in History), and with the exception of the British Academy award I was able to gain to do my doctorate I have never needed a penny of grant money to do my research. What I've found is that the time spent putting together a grant proposal is actually better spent researching and writing a peer-reviewed article, or doing a couple of chapters for a book.

sk60

the boldly titled research project Queering Disasters in the Antipodes, which hopes to probe the “experiences of LGBTI people in natural disasters” and ultimately provide “improved disaster response” to gay people, whose needs in such circumstances are apparently quite different from those of everyone else.

I can no longer tell the difference between academia and The Onion.

BenSix

...a $164,000 grant for studying “how urban media art can best respond to global climate change.”

I wouldn't have minded, but when she turned her paper in it just said, "Buy waterproof paint".

Jason Morris

Meanwhile, elsewhere at the Guardian-on-the-Yarra. Middle class white woman angry that another middle class white woman is racist because she covers a rich black mans song about racism.. or something. http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/this-kanye-west-cover-wasnt-a-good-idea-20130910-2tgpb.html

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

Speaking of art and censorship, how about this: Russian police seize painting of naked Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama?

If you want the NSFW version, click here.

Anna

If you want the NSFW version

Need you ask?

David

If you want the NSFW version

I don’t think there’s quite enough cock in that picture.

R. Sherman

"Queering Disasters in the Antipodes, which hopes to probe the “experiences of LGBTI people in natural disasters” and ultimately provide “improved disaster response” to gay people."

Those emergency strap-ons aren't going to deliver themselves, you know. Although, now that I think about it --and I wish I hadn't-- one could simply take the batteries out of vibrator and replace them with a small fishing kit, first aid, matches, whistle, water purifier and so forth. Excuse me, while I rush to the patent office.

svh

At least four Grauniad commenters are arguing that conservative governments have wasted millions in the past so lefty governments should be entitled to waste even more millions. To make it 'fair'.

Dom

"...experiences of LGBTI people in natural disasters..."

Is it just me, or does the acronym that starts with "LGB" keep changing it's tail end? Now I need to find out what the "I" stands for. Can someone get me a grant of 60K a year for three years?

rabbit

Taxpayers are the milk cows, academics are the farmers. It's not for the cows to say what's done with the milk.

Now no more mooing from you.

David

To make it ‘fair’.

And when one side manages to waste more than, say, 50% of tax revenue, that side will have won.

What’s funny is that the people writing articles bemoaning cuts to public funding for the arts and humanities are very often people who aren’t ideal models for their own argument. Over here, demands for more taxpayer gravy have tended to come from dogmatic leftists like Priya Gopal, a postcolonial studies lecturer who tells us that trimming her budget is an act of “far-reaching and systemic violence,” while rioting, attempted manslaughter and setting fire to occupied buildings isn’t “real” violence at all. Because “hypocritical language” is apparently much worse. Similar demands were made by the ludicrous Nina Power, a philosophy lecturer who described a mob that punched female fire-fighters unconscious and burned Mothercare to the ground as “dispossessed” victims deserving of our “understanding.” And whose greatest claim to fame is her belief that “everyone is equally intelligent” and that teachers needn’t be competent because pupils should learn in an environment of “shared ignorance.”

These, then, are the mighty educators who are saving us from a cultural wilderness in which we beat each other with rocks.

JuliaM

Dom, it is (or was, has probably changed again as I type) 'intersex'.

dicentra

I had to look up "intersex," too.

Go to acronymfinder.com and type in LGBT to see what else comes up with it.

LGBTA = + allies, for example.

there is something ridiculous about a country that is proud of its contempt for its thinkers

First show me a thinker, then I'll decide whether s/he is worthy of contempt.

If the intellectuals are as clever as they imagine themselves to be, they should be able to come up with equally clever ways to raise their own funds.

Though you could argue that gulling the taxpayer into funding them is a feat in itself.

D

Why have the poor "questioning" people been so violently excluded by these LGBTI activists?! How can they carry on, knowing that "intersex" people are now considered more important and they are now being hidden away and not mentioned?!

Dom

Thanks, Julia. So "I" has taken the place of "QA" after "LGB". Good. I never understood what the Q was for after the LG anyway. But you're not sharing my 60K a year.

simplius

Or maybe I is just 'I', as 'me", 'ego', 'self'...

matt

Maybe there was some truth in the old joke headline, "World to end tomorrow. Women and minorities hit hardest," in that "Major disaster, LGBTI people hit hardest" is actually accurate. Haters!

Jason

Regarding the "LGB..." thing, I think we need to come up with a good anagram using those letters (vowels can be both I and A). Might need to add a few other...variations (S&M?) to make a real word.

Any ideas?

Rafi

a $164,000 grant for studying "how urban media art can best respond to global climate change."

They're selfless people doing a tough and dirty job for the sake of the world.

bgates

Those emergency strap-ons aren't going to deliver themselves, you know

I thought I was going to make it all day without reading that sentence for once.

David

They’re selfless people doing a tough and dirty job for the sake of the world.

Heh. Cynic that I am, I doubt that Dr Shachar and her peers are overly concerned with the job prospects of students, cultural enrichment or the fate of the world. What I’d guess they’re worried about is maintaining their own fiefdom at public expense. The basic tone is rather telling: “How dare you, the lowly taxpayer, question our funding and the value of our work? Only we get to do that, and we agree with us. Why, you don’t even have an amulet!”

It almost sounds like a caste thing.

Rich Rostrom

The full abbreviation is LGBTTIQQ2S:

Lesbian
Gay
Bisexual
Transgendered
Transsexual
Queer
Questioning
2 Spirit

("Two Spirit" refers to American Indian traditions of ritual transvestism - which actually existed/exist.)

It only returns 3,100 Google hits, so I think the full boat is a little too much even for lefties.

Dom

Again, why include "Queer" after "Lesbian Gay"?

D

why include "Queer"

Why do you hate people who are just a little odd? Shouldn't they be advocated too?

rabbit

LGBTTIQQ2S sounds like a particularly toxic pesticide. And what do we do when we add lovers of animals, plants, children, or household appliances, as will likely happen in the coming years?

Can't we go back to calling them pervs? It saves so much time.

HomerF

"Thinking is for losers..."

When coupled with non-action or those that result in inaction of course it is. Which is of course is the inevitable result for the majority of those so-called "research grants".

Noddy

The ARC does not fund medical research. That's the job of the NHMRC.

Grant Harris

Politicians don't decide what products businesses make and sell because politicians for the most part don't give them money to make those products. It is consumers who vote with their wallet and they very readily decide what businesses make and sell by taking their wallet out of their pockets and handing over their cash or leaving it in their pocket and spending their money elsewhere. Perhaps Helen is advocating the freedom of academics to appeal directly to consumers just as businesses do; liberated from the dictates of politicians in the same way that businesses are I a sure they would all feel much happier and more confident about their ability to fund their vital research.

Unidude

Special pleading, public funds for useless/destructive work, nepotism, shaming of 'commoners', contempt for the democratic process.

Sounds like the same pathologies that infest Wall Street and the City of London.

Spiny Norman

The basic tone is rather telling: “How dare you, the lowly taxpayer, question our funding and the value of our work? Only we get to do that, and we agree with us. Why, you don’t even have an amulet!”

I laughed so hard at that one the neighbor's dog started barking at me.

David

Spiny,

Well, the tone does rather give the game away. “Politicians” [i.e., the taxpaying electorate] “shouldn’t be allowed to decide what is ‘relevant’ in [humanities] research [that they, taxpayers, are funding].” And they “shouldn’t be allowed” to do this any more than they, the public, should be allowed to determine the value of commercial products. Which of course they do, in their millions, every day. As I said, Dr Shachar seems to think democracy is important. She mentions it four times. She just doesn’t think the public should have any say in how its money is spent - say, by voting for a government with particular spending policies. Whichever party you vote for, nothing should ever change, at least in the humanities.

[ Added: ]

Several Guardian commenters sneer at Dr Shacher’s critics as “anti-intellectuals” and “the anti-culture mob,” as if the people who find the humanities (at least in part) disreputable and in need of a shave must want a world in which only STEM subjects get funded. But the degradation and disrepute of the humanities, here and overseas, is largely self-inflicted. And so we’re told, for instance, that cuts in humanities funding are jeopardising the “cultural legacy essential to any great society” – by columnists who haven’t noticed that many humanities departments no longer serve that function, and haven’t for some time. It isn’t the taxpayers or “conservatives” that have jeopardised these things; it’s the doctrinaire leftists who now dominate many, if not most, humanities departments.

To pick an obvious example. Duke University is by most accounts a fine and reputable institution – except in one, rather dramatic respect – its humanities department, which is notorious and the butt of jokes. As we’ve seen, repeatedly and vividly, classroom political activism is openly declared in the humanities at Duke, and elsewhere, as if that were the professors’ primary and most noble goal, to which all else must submit. As if they were just entitled to indulge their personal politics and assorted psychodramas and inflict them on young people, all at someone else’s expense. Why such self-declared “activists” should receive funding earmarked for teaching the “liberal arts” is unclear, since the liberal arts don’t appear to be being taught - except perhaps as an afterthought, a pretext, or a fig leaf.

Torquil Macneil

But if there is no funding all that will be left will be the puny efforts of unsubsidised intellectuals like Clive James and his Dante translation or the scribbles of Les Murray. Who could bear that in a world stripped of urban media art.

David

Who could bear that in a world stripped of urban media art?

Quite. And this casual arrogance – this assumption of some proprietary claim on a mental life – may actually repel intelligent people, let alone anyone else. It’s so smug, insular and self-flattering. And so we find prideful ideologues who apparently can’t imagine why anyone, including their students, should think differently to them.

John Williams

I am a deep thinker.
I think Dr Shachar gives serious weight to the classification "educated idiot".

watcher

It is revealing of our times that people who have had a thought -- however irrational or distorted by self-analysis -- can label themselves as thinkers.

I expect my dog has a thought or two. and though they revolves round dog biscuits, frotting (occasionally) on available legs and barking at birds, I don't class him as a thinker.

aelfheld

"Democracy is all well and good -- but why give it to the people?" --Audrey Forbes Hamilton

Wally

Does that mean if I think about whether these projects should be funded and I conclude that there are more valid projects to think about then I am not really thinking and I am an anti-intellectual? Hmmm I think to think about that one but maybe the good doctor doesn't want me to think.

Richard

Some of the worst "anti-intellectuals" are working in the humanities, which is why they're in such trouble.

David

Some of the worst “anti-intellectuals” are working in the humanities.

Well, you do have to wonder; especially when the most ardent champions of the humanities include a philosophy lecturer who sneers at “white men discussing formal logic,” a skill she herself doesn’t appear to have mastered, and who bemoans the “ideological devastation of the education system” while claiming that educators needn’t know pertinent facts. When leftwing philosophers tell us that they and their peers no longer need to be knowledgeable or competent in any conventional sense, this isn’t a great incentive to publicly fund more leftwing philosophers.

_scarymatt_
Politicians shouldn’t be allowed to decide what is “relevant” in [humanities] research

I find this quite convincing, actually. The only logical conclusion is for them to not fund any of it (unless out of their own pockets, of course). Not that I expect a humanities prof to follow logical thought, as that's outside of postmodernism's toolbox.

Surreptitious Evil

There's also an "AA" in the extremely full 'official' abbreviation for the sexually-diverse grievance-mongering class. One is for Asexual and the other is for Allied.

Clyde

The fact Dr Shachar equates (long overdue) budget cuts with 'censorship' tells me she isn't much of a thinker.

David

The fact Dr Shachar equates (long overdue) budget cuts with ‘censorship’ tells me she isn’t much of a thinker.

It doesn’t exactly help her argument, no. But it does remind me of our own subsidy-seeking caste and how they like to imagine themselves. As when the leftist playwright Jonathan Holmes declared himself heroic and “speaking truth to power” – yes, he actually used those words – while his peers denounced the prospect of reduced taxpayer subsidy as “censorship” and the suppression of “dissent.” You see, according to Mr Holmes and his peers “the sole genuine reason for cuts is censorship of some form… the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy.”

The idea that artists and playwrights might consider earning a living is apparently beyond the pale and only an evil person would even entertain it. Yes, Mr Holmes and his fellow artistic titans are “speaking truth to power” by sharing their hackneyed 80s politics with other leftwingers. Though I’m inclined to wonder who has more power in the current funding formulation. The taxpayer – who’s forced to bankroll projects that typically sneer at his values and who’s denounced as an oppressor when his own pockets run low - or those who take the taxpayer’s money with the force of government and expect to go on doing so indefinitely?

AC1

It's strange that there already exists a valid mechanism for expanding funding for the arts called "tickets" in which funding is democratised down to allow each person to choose exactly how much arts they need to satisfy their appetites.

David

there already exists a valid mechanism for expanding funding for the arts called “tickets”

Ah, but ticket sales imply that an artist should be mindful of what the public might enjoy and regard as having value. And the whole point of the Arts Council is to circumvent such petty, bourgeois conventions. As we’ve seen, many, many times, the loftiest ambition of our self-elected betters is to thwart popular appetites and make us pay for our own thwarting. Which is why the Arts Council is forever pleading victimhood despite the fact its unspoken ethos is, and always has been, We Have Your Wallet And We Know What’s Best™.

The ideal, it seems, is to forego bums on seats and other ghastly commercial metrics. Which enables a remarkably narrow and politically uniform class to force taxpayers to serve as patrons, whether they wish to or not, while leaving the artist immune from the patron’s customary discrimination between talent and tat. Which in turn explains why one of my local publicly-funded galleries - a glorified coffee shop for two dozen middle-class lefties - can be relied on to disappoint, and to go on disappointing, precisely because there’s no obvious mechanism for correction.

Biffo

She sounds like the voice of the self-entitled to me. Let her earn her own livibg, rather than leeching off others.

Bart

"There is nothing “ridiculous” about research, but there is something ridiculous about a country that is proud of its contempt for its thinkers"

So... you stiff Australians for $900m a year just so you can "research" pointless crap like how urban art should respond to climate change. You vent your contempt for the people you leech off in foreign newspapers while simultaneously puffing up your own overblown ego and sense of self importance. And it turns out that Australians don't have a very high opinion of you?

You don't say?

WTP

Damn you selfish conservatives.

The only remedy for hardcore conservatives is shaming for their abuse of the Queen’s or queens’ English. Taxation is not theft. It is forced spending. The hapless tax-payer is forced to buy things which have little or no value for himorher. At the same time, the hardcore conservatives are typically the first to line up at the Gov’trough for freebies and entitlements.

There's no arguing with such people
http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=7532#comment-209527

Spiny Norman

Invincible Ignorance, WTP, there's no argument it can't repel.

How do you find such rubbish, anyway?

David

Damn you selfish conservatives.

One commenter quotes Professor Alex Rosenberg, a member of Duke’s infamous humanities department, mentioned earlier, one of the presumptuous and dogmatic ‘Group of 88’. Rosenberg says, “The trouble for conservatives is that inequalities in wealth and income are almost never earned. That’s because the abilities and ambitions that produced the inequalities were themselves almost never earned… Being ambitious or slothful is no more a choice than being left-handed.”

Setting aside the assumption that critics of authoritarian leftism must be “conservatives,” the basic argument is this: If a person has a high IQ and an industrious or meticulous disposition, or some other uncommon attributes that make a high salary more likely and more justified, that person still doesn’t morally deserve what his or her employers are willing to pay, perhaps happy to pay. Being skilled, insightful and inclined to work hard isn’t something one can take credit for, apparently. It’s practically Obama-esque: If you’re smart, you didn’t earn those smarts. If you’re diligent and organised, those attributes aren’t earned and so, by this reckoning, the use and cultivation of those attributes – to do things of value, to learn how to do more things, things that others can’t do – is a matter of luck and terribly unfair. It should therefore be punished with high taxation.

And hey, let’s extend the premise. If, as the professor suggests, we disallow any attribute that might, in part, be “a matter of genes and prenatal environment” along with other “environmental factors” such as the “contributions of family,” i.e., whether a person has competent and supportive parents, where do we go from there? Why, families that are conscientious and plan ahead, that don’t have more children than they can care for - families that are mindful of their neighbours, that encourage their children to learn and be responsible… these families don’t deserve the fruits of their endeavour. These families are no more deserving of what they work for than their obnoxious and irresponsible neighbours, whose children run wild, play loud music at 3am and drop cats from upstairs windows. Because… well, they were just born that way, born “privileged.”

Perhaps the professor doesn’t believe his own salary is deserved. Perhaps he should give most of it away. Maybe he should let someone less clever and less motivated take over his job.

[ Edited for clarity. ]

dicentra

If a person has a high IQ and an industrious or meticulous disposition, … that person still doesn’t morally deserve what his or her employers are willing to pay

Well, see, your assumption that one "owns" one's skills and can therefore trade them for trinkets is IN QUESTION.

Consider yourself refuted, sir.

David

Consider yourself refuted, sir.

Heh. I remember those – and how impressed I was by your patience. It’s curious how much time some people are willing to spend on elaborate, if rather dubious, rationalisations for why they or their proxies should be allowed to confiscate even more of the money you had to earn. And by curious I mean telling.

WTP

How do you find such rubbish, anyway?

Interesting that you ask. The Philosophers' Magazine was founded by a somewhat well-known philosopher, Jeremy Stangroom. Got into bit of a tiff with him and his minions a few years back and he banned me. Stangroom co-authored a book Why Truth Matters with Ophelia Benson. Ms. Benson has been referenced at times by our very own kind and generous host. The madness is closer than you think.

rjmadden

Being skilled, insightful and inclined to work hard isn’t something one can take credit for, apparently.

It's good to know that everything my wife and I have done over the years to give our kids the advantages we didn't have is nothing we can take credit for. It was all just "nature's and culture's lottery". Thanks for clearing that up, Professor Rosenberg.

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