May 4, 2006


The Self-Inflicted Wounds of the Academic Left (TODD GITLIN, 5/05/06, The Chronicle Review)

Truly this is a bizarre time for the life of the mind in America. The airwaves and best-seller lists are noisy with anti-intellectual jeers. The ruling party embraces the nostrums of "No Child Left Behind" while tossing the teaching of all subjects besides reading and math to the winds. Many of its leaders declare that the Republic was founded not in the name of enlightenment but as a "Christian nation." When the topics of evolution, climate change, stem cells, and contraception arise, the president of the United States blithely jettisons scientific judgments. On the evidence of his dialogue with reporters, and his behavior toward underlings like former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and the former Environmental Protection Agency chief, Christine Todd Whitman, his interest in and capacity for reason are impaired.

Conservative pundits apologize for him. According to his rapturous chronicler, Fred Barnes (Rebel-in-Chief), early in 2005, Bush devoured Michael Crichton's novel State of Fear, which maintains that global warming is a scientific fraud, and met with Crichton at the White House for an hour. They were, Barnes writes, "in near-total agreement." Meanwhile, the great straight-talking hope of the ruling party makes ready to traipse off to Jerry Falwell's university, while another leading candidate for the presidency, a medical doctor, diagnoses a brain-damaged patient from a family videotape. Nor is the reign of fantasy limited to the titular leaders. One year ago, 79 percent of Republicans (and 37 percent of Democrats) still believed that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction when the war began, according to public-opinion experts Yaeli Bloch-Elkon and Robert Y. Shapiro.

In this perverse climate, dissenting intellectuals might gain some traction by standing for reason.

Their standing for Reason is why Americans have always been so hostile to intellectuals to begin with, a hostility that has served us incredibly well

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2006 1:14 PM

Reason is a tool to reach one's goal. It is not the goal.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 4, 2006 1:34 PM

Ah yes, Mr.Gitlin, the voice of reason.

I read the piece yesterday.

Those first paragraphs are doozies.

I doubt any thought whatsoever went into writing them.

Pure reactionary nonsense, the product of third-rate minds nodding together in the bubble of the faculty common room.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 4, 2006 1:36 PM

So much nonsense but "tossing the teaching of all subjects besides reading and math to the winds" is particularly bad. To the extent it is true, so what. Reading and math are the basics of all knowledge. Unless our kids learn to read and do basic math, what can they hope to do in life?

By the way, in a world run by reason, this founder of the terrorist organization SDS and Viet Cong fellow traveler would be in prison or dead, not at a cushy tenured job at Columbia.

Posted by: Bob at May 4, 2006 1:51 PM

I'm sure that Mr. Gitlin feels that this is a very bizarre time because people everywhere are openly questioning (and even mocking!) beloved liberal shibboleths. I'm sure he hasn't seen that happen for most of his lifetime. I haven't either, but I feel that it's actually an exhilarating time.

Posted by: Bryan at May 4, 2006 2:09 PM

Perhaps they could try standing for decency?

Posted by: Mikey at May 4, 2006 4:07 PM

"When the topics of evolution, climate change, stem cells, and contraception arise, the president of the United States blithely jettisons scientific judgments." What scientific judgments?

Evolution: how can anyone prove evolutions? It can well be true that a God being created every thing on earth. Evolution is based on the belief that animals are alike because they were derived from the same ancestor, then evolved differently to survive different environmental conditions. May be God is so efficient, he created different things from the least amount of materials. Just like a brilliant sculpter who make different things with the same piece of clay. Evolutionists' faith in happenstance that celestrial mush somehow comes together to become living things is as mind boggling as a Creater of all things. May be a Creater created some basic things, then they evolved. As some famous street fighter said "Can't we all get along?"

Climate always changes, otherwise we are still covered with snow, wearing the skins of saber- toothed tigers.

Stem cells: nobody is against stem cells research. Prolifers are only against using women as embryo-factories, then kill the little "non-living (according to the abortionists) things". Bush's against harvesting little humans for research, not against stem cell reserch. There are stem cells inside one's nose, stem cells inside one's mouth, inside one's bone marrows. The left has to distort Bush's actual objection in order to demonize him. If they want to kill humans for research, or transplants, go to China.

Contraception: Bush objects to using abortion as a means of contraception. I don't believe he has said anything about other kinds of contraceptions.

Posted by: ic at May 4, 2006 4:30 PM

"his behavior toward underlings" : how about firing someone and accusing him of wrong doings from the travel office in order to install your freshly out of college distant cousin for the job; how about not letting your underlings to look you in the eyes when they talk to you; how about enjoying a cigar with an intern underling and lied about it in front of millions of people with a straight face?

Posted by: ic at May 4, 2006 4:40 PM

It's been proven that Saddam did possess WMD when the war began, unless Gitlin thinks the insurgents whipped up some sarin and mustard gas and went to the trouble of putting them into artillery shells they didn't have the artillery to use properly.

Sure, we didn't find huge stockpiles, but so what? If police get a warrant to search a heroin dealer's place and only find a pound instead of a ton, that doesn't make the dealer innocent.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 4, 2006 4:46 PM


I agree totally.

But who do you blame for the failure to get the message out. If I recall correctly Bush was apologising a week after his State of the Union in 2003 for stating that merely that British Intelligence said Iraq had "sought" uranium in Africa. That type of action undercuts defenders of Bush.

Posted by: h-man at May 4, 2006 6:53 PM

I used to subscribe to Reason until the majority of the editors/writers revealed they were voting for Kerry or not voting at all in 2004 (sanctimonious little twits). Having revealed their defective reason, I found I had no reason to continue.

Posted by: jd watson at May 4, 2006 7:25 PM