In a recent post on political bias in the classroom, I pointed out the insatiable nature of academic radicalism:
“Radical” academics aren’t driven to greater extremes and grander, more lurid claims because society is becoming more sexist, racist or whatever. The caricatures they become are a result of their own narcissism and a need to be oppositional, or be seen as oppositional. As mainstream society in general becomes less fixated by race, gender, sexuality, etc, so peddlers of grievance and victimhood must search out - or invent - something to oppose. Overstatement and escalation are all but inevitable.
Several, rather vivid, examples were given, but if another illustration is needed, here’s Martin Kramer on Rashid Khalidi, a terribly oppressed radical now anointed as Edward Said Professor at Columbia University:
Consider this strident claim: “There’s a ludicrous allegation that the universities are liberal. That allegation is ludicrous because huge chunks of the university which nobody ever talks about are extremely conservative by their very nature.” (Notice the trademark hyperbole: ludicrous, huge, extremely.) Khalidi mentions business and med schools, but doesn’t stop there - no, he can’t stop there. For Khalidi is determined to prove that there’s a plot to snuff out the last embers of liberal dissent on campus.
“Where is there a law school that’s liberal?” Khalidi asks. “Well, there might be a couple of law schools that are slightly liberal. Slightly. But there’s a range of opinion in most of them, and most of them are quite conservative, and many of them are extremely conservative. The University of Chicago, for example. Nobody ever talks about that.”
Does Khalidi have even a clue as to who populates the faculty of America’s law schools? A new study… has researched the campaign contributions ($200 or more) of professors at America’s top 21 law schools over eleven years. 81 percent of contributing profs gave wholly or predominantly to Democrats; only 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans. “Academics tend to be more to the left side of the continuum,” commented the dean of Northwestern’s law school on the study. “It’s a little worse in law school.”
And what about the University of Chicago’s law school, which Khalidi cites as his prime example of an “extremely conservative” school? A study of the party political affiliation of law faculty has established that Chicago’s law profs include 55 Democrats and 8 Republicans - a ratio of about 7 to 1. (That’s only “conservative” by the standards of Columbia, where the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 12 to 1.)
All this leaves one wondering just what's going on in Khalidi’s head. The answer, of course, is that Khalidi is a radical. If you’re a campus radical, you dismiss anyone who isn’t totally with you as a “conservative” or an “extreme conservative.” You may be surrounded by people who view themselves as liberals, who opposed the Iraq war, who believe in “soft power.” But because they won’t denounce America as a resurrected empire or rally to the likes of Joseph Massad, you cast them all as “conservatives” who are part of the problem.
Quite. By Professor Khalidi’s calculus, we’re all NeoCons now. Why? Because maintaining a self-image of heroic radicalism isn’t as easy as it may seem, especially for a statusful professor, surrounded by likeminded peers in one of the freest societies on Earth. The goal posts of persecution must always be moving and ever more rarefied forms of oppression have to be discovered, or invented. And the alternatives would be unthinkable. After all, what does a tenured radical do when the most obvious “hegemony” in town is, in fact, his own?