Notes on the Atrocities
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Wednesday, August 20, 2003  

Kevin Drum has an interesting post about the politics of the academy. He quotes a professor new to the blogging game. A conservative who goes by the psuedonym John Lemon to "slip under the radar" of the brownshirted liberals at his university, he asserts that "some of my colleagues refuse to tenure Republicans." This is a constant theme with conservatives: the universities are filled with pointy-beared Marxists who seek to destroy Republicans. Kevin wonders if it's true.

A few thoughts. First, let's take the case of John Lemon. If he is really a university professor, his story doesn't make much sense. Although the liberals will blackball conservatives, he's got tenure. Well, why not come out of the closet, then? If he has tenure, he can do his fellow conservative tenure-trackers a lot more good out in the open. (Office politics? He wants the corner office, maybe. Well, at a certain point, you have to ask yourself if you really stand for anything if you're worried about a little office politics.)

Never mind Lemon, what about universities? Are they really cabals of liberalism? Truth? Yes (or sort of--more in a minute). But not because colleges are the last hold-out of the intellectual scoundrel. Rather, because professors let reason guide their views, not mindless ideology. The reason the Limbaughs and Coulters of the world so intensely dislike academe is because its the one place where the population knows the patent lies from the facts. In my (admittedly limited) experience (I made it a couple years in a Ph.D. program in the humanities before flaming out), conservatives would be just fine if they had the data/theory to back their positions. But it's pretty damn hard to be a supporter of, say, the pre-emption doctrine, if you have even a passing knowledge of history.

Finally, not all departments are equally liberal. The humanities are notoriously pinko, but schools are increasingly dominated by the hard sciences and business departments--places where politics aren't discussed, or lean right.

This is one of those pillars of misinformation of conservative rhetoricians, along with the welfare queen and the limosine liberal: it's the "liberal elite." It's far easier to identify the elitism as a kind of effete snobbery based on discredited ideas, to characterize the elitists as victimizers, than to admit the "elitism" is education and knowledge.

posted by Jeff | 4:34 PM |
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