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Elsewhere (47)

John Rosenberg on when cartoon narcissism becomes a job for life:

The time is fast approaching (if it is not already here) when a student can be admitted to a selective university largely on the basis of his or her racial or ethnic identity; major in his or her identity; go to graduate school (also aided by preferential admissions) and get a PhD in his or her identity; and have an entire academic career based on professing his or her identity, perhaps rewarded at some point with elevation to a vice presidency in charge of “diversity and inclusion” to oversee the management and expansion of university-wide programmes based on racial and ethnic identity.

Charlotte Allen on the hardships and heroism of a Women’s Studies professor: 

Lynn Comella’s research and teaching interests include media and popular culture, gender and consumer culture, sexuality studies, and ethnographic research. She is presently at work on a book project that explores the history and retail culture of women-owned sex toy stores in the United States.

Christopher Hitchens on excusing evil:

The proper task of the “public intellectual” might be conceived as the responsibility to introduce complexity into the argument: the reminder that things are very infrequently as simple as they can be made to seem. But what I learned in a highly indelible manner from the events and arguments of September 2001 was this: Never, ever ignore the obvious either. To the government and most of the people of the United States, it seemed that the country on 9/11 had been attacked in a particularly odious way (air piracy used to maximise civilian casualties) by a particularly odious group (a secretive and homicidal gang: part multinational corporation, part crime family) that was sworn to a medieval cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, a religious frenzy against Hindus, Christians, Shia Muslims, and “unbelievers,” and the restoration of a long-vanished and despotic empire. […]

That this was an assault upon our society, whatever its ostensible capitalist and militarist “targets,” was again thought too obvious a point for a clever person to make. It became increasingly obvious, though, with every successive nihilistic attack on London, Madrid, Istanbul, Baghdad, and Bali. There was always some “intellectual,” however, to argue in each case that the policy of Tony Blair, or George Bush, or the Spanish government, was the “root cause” of the broad-daylight slaughter of civilians. Responsibility, somehow, never lay squarely with the perpetrators.

Attempts to be unobvious and therefore sophisticated – even at the cost of distortion and absurdity – are, for some, a regular indulgence. Not least among academics of a certain stripe.

And Guido Fawkes reminds us of the BBC’s Question Time programme that aired two days after the September 11 atrocities. Readers who saw that particular broadcast may, like me, have begun to register some now common themes. I’m not referring to the remarkable number of Guardianistas in the studio audience, which is pretty much a given, or the unhinged anti-American sentiment. What struck me at the time - for the first time - was the composition of the panel, which took the shape of one distressed American ambassador – being continually interrupted and jeered - and three prominent left-wingers. As human dust was still settling on Manhattan, our scrupulously impartial state broadcaster shared with the nation the full spectrum of political thought – from left to further left, with a token visiting dissenter as a fig leaf to “balance.” The BBC’s flagship political debate programme is currently edited by Nicolai Gentchev, previously an editor of Radio 4’s Today and a former contributor to such lofty publications as the International Socialism Journal and Socialist Review. Noting the political composition of Question Time panels has in recent years become an armchair sport.

As usual, feel free to add your own.