Hate-Filled Stupidity from Right-Leaning Academics

by Henry on February 2, 2005

Via Political Theory Daily Review, a review of Robert Conquest’s new book, The Dragons of Expectation which apparently makes some rather outrageous claims in the course of a general attack on leftist academics and internationalists. I haven’t read the book yet (I’m trying to get my hands on a copy),[1] but if the reviewer is quoting him accurately, Conquest argues that a fair portion of the blame for September 11 can be laid at the feet of left-leaning professors. The reviewer quotes from Conquest’s introduction:

“And we are told that a number of members of the Middle Eastern terror groups had originally been in the local communist movements … The members of [the Real IRA and the Shining Path], as with those in Italy or, for example, the Naxalites in India, were almost entirely recruited from student elements who had accepted the abstractions of fashionable academics. And the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men, some having been to Western universities and there adopted the extremely anti-Western mind-set.”

According to the reviewer, Conquest doesn’t bother even to try to provide any evidence in support of this accusation.

There’s an interesting juxtaposition between this and the disgusting efforts of Glenn Reynolds and others to use Ward Churchill’s comments as a means to smear the left. On the one hand, Conquest’s language and claims are less inflammatory and offensive than Churchill’s. On the other, Conquest is one of the right’s most senior and respected figures, a fellow of the Hoover Institute, and a key player in the Anglo-American right’s intellectual network. Churchill, in comparison, is a relative nobody who represents no-one except himself. I’ve always had a fondness for Conquest; he was dead right on Stalinism, and he comes across as a very human figure (and a first rate composer of limericks and light verse) in his letters to Kingsley Amis. But if he’s seriously trying to claim, on the basis of no apparent evidence, that leftwing professors in Western universities shoulder some of the blame for September 11, he should be deeply ashamed of himself. It’s a vicious, disgraceful slur, and it’s every bit as unacceptable as the claim that the West and the US had September 11 coming to them. Still, I don’t think that Reynolds or any of his cronies will be following their advice to the left and disassociating themselves from Conquest (indeed, judging by Reynolds’ dishonest and hate-filled post, I wouldn’t be surprised if he agrees with Conquest’s claims).

Update: to be quite clear (there’s already one rather bizarre misinterpretation out there in the blogosphere), Conquest isn’t referring in this passage to Western ideas percolating through into radical Islam in some indirect fashion. First, he draws a link between “the abstractions of fashionable academics” and the propensity of the students accepting those abstractions to then become terrorists. Then, in the very next sentence, he asserts a direct connection between the fact that some of the 9/11 terrorists attended Western universities, and the fact that they absorbed an anti-Western mindset. In the absence of any evidence of a connection between what the 9/11 terrorists were taught in Western universities, and what they then did, this is a slur, clear and simple.

Update 2: “Armed Liberal” replies (or, more precisely, purports to reply) to my post.

fn1. If, when I get the book, I find that the reviewer has seriously misrepresented Conquest, I’ll very happily apologize – however, given the unambiguous slur in the quote above, I don’t expect that I’ll be in a position where I need to.

{ 124 comments }

1

snuh 02.02.05 at 2:16 am

the most depressing thing about the book [if it has been fairly reviewed] is the inevitable arguments that will follow along the lines of “if conquest is wrong about this [which he clearly is], then maybe he was also wrong about stalinism [which he clearly was not]”.

it makes me want to cry.

2

mondo dentro 02.02.05 at 2:22 am

vicious. disgraceful. and effective if left unanswered.

3

Henry 02.02.05 at 2:23 am

To avoid unnecessary misunderstanding and vitriol in comments, I should make it clear that the title of this post is a reference to Reynolds’ original post – not by any stretch of the imagination a slur on right-leaning academics in general.

4

Blixa 02.02.05 at 2:45 am

What “accusation” from that passage specifically do you think is lacking in evidence? The only relevant one is “the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men, some having been to Western universities and there adopted the extremely anti-Western mind-set.”

?

In particular, which is objectionable, in dispute, unproven, or false:

-“almost all comfortably off young men”

-“some” had “been to Western universities”

-“extremely anti-Western mind-set”

Just so I understand what you’re flying off the handle about. Surely it’s not solely the assertion on the part of the Moscow Times writer that the passage in question “appears to” blame professors?

For the record, I read the passage and did not come away thinking that it “blames” professors. Of course, one person’s “appears to” is another person’s overreaction….

5

Robin Green 02.02.05 at 3:49 am

Basically, so what if they did? The Bolsheviks read Marx, which led to the horrors of Stalinism. Does that mean that Marx should never have written Capital or the Communist Manifesto? No.

Or. Some people read Animal Liberation and go and intimidate scientists involved in animal experimentation. Does that mean that Peter Singer should not have written Animal Liberation? No, of course not!

6

Henry 02.02.05 at 3:49 am

Blixa – Conquest is blaming Western universities for the anti-Western mindset of the September 11 bombers. And given the previous two sentences, he’s saying that Marxism, and “the abstractions of fashionable academics” are root causes of terrorism. It’s a very clear slur.

7

Robin Green 02.02.05 at 3:55 am

In other news, the US military blames a hospital in Fallujah for setting off an insurgency in the rest of the country, saying “they were releasing casualty figures. If they hadn’t done that we would’ve gotten clean away with it, god damn it!!”

Ridiculous, eh?

Oh wait – that really did happen!

8

Xavier 02.02.05 at 4:02 am

I’m not sure that Conquest is saying that leftist academics are morally responsible for terrorist attacks. At worst, he’s saying that leftist academics are a but-for cause of the attacks. I think even that is probably a stretch.

I would guess that the argument he’s trying to make is that leftist academics tend to promote an anti-Western views (which I think is pretty clearly true) and there are some ideological connections between the academic left and radical Islam (which is probably more controversial, but certainly defensible).

I agree that the paragraph could be interpreted as blaming academic leftists for 9/11, but that’s not the only possible interpretation. The reviewer only says that the passage “appears to attribute some responsibility for the horrors of Sept. 11 to left-leaning professors in Western universities.” If after reading the entire book, this is the best passage the reviewer can find to support his argument that Conquest is blaming 9/11 on Western academics, it’s probably not a fair interpretation.

9

Blixa 02.02.05 at 4:04 am

Conquest is blaming Western universities for the anti-Western mindset of the September 11 bombers.

More precisely, he’s saying “some” of them “adopted” their anti-Western mindset at universities. By my reading. (CMIIW) One suspects he’s thinking of things such as the “Hamburg student cell”.

This necessarily implicates professors in 9/11 because….?


And given the previous two sentences, he’s saying that Marxism, and “the abstractions of fashionable academics” are root causes of terrorism. It’s a very clear slur.

Whoa. Heh. Let me see if I understand.

Identifying memes that can help attract people to terrorism (if, indeed, that’s what Conquest is doing in this intro excerpt) is a “slur” against the meme-carriers?

I guess you just can’t combat bad memes then. It’s disallowed because to do so is to “slur” people.

And here I’d always thought that ideas were open to critique… guess not. All things being equal I’d have thought that a refutation of Conquest’s point (if that’s what it is) would consist of identifying his chain of reasoning and demonstrating why it is wrong.

Apparently it’s sufficient to just complain that he’s “slurring” the people who, he asserts, have the ideas he’s identified and purports to show are bad. Who knew?

10

Blixa 02.02.05 at 4:08 am

p.s. Yeah – what xavier said

11

P O'Neill 02.02.05 at 4:37 am

By Conquest’s logic, as cited in the review, the blame for the rise of al Qaeda belongs to America, because the intellectual underpinnings for it are attributed to Sayyid Qutb’s writings following his revulsion at what he saw of “the West” during his time in the USA in the late 40s. His “anti-Western mind set” came simply from Americans being Americans, as he saw it. Also, the 9/11 hijackers seem to have had a similar reaction during their time in the US and Germany. It’s hard to see what policy implication Conquest could draw from this — burkas for everyone?

12

Henry 02.02.05 at 4:43 am

Sorry xavier, but the passage simply doesn’t support that interpretation. Conquest is making a quite straightforward argument, which doesn’t rely on vague “ideological connections between the academic left and radical Islam,” but a direct causal connection between what students are taught by academics, and what they then do. Let’s look at what he’s saying here. He starts by claiming that many Middle East terrorists were originally Communists. He then goes on to say that the Naxalites were almost entirely recruited from students who had been taken in by the abstractions of academia. Finally, he says that many of the September 11 bombers had been to Western universities, and had absorbed an anti-Western mindset there.

There isn’t any reference to Western ideas percolating through into radical Islam in some indirect fashion at all in there. First, he draws a link between “the abstractions of fashionable academics” and the propensity of the students accepting those abstractions to then become terrorists. Then, in the very next sentence, he asserts a direct connection between the fact that some of the 9/11 terrorists attended Western universities, and the fact that they absorbed an anti-Western mindset.

It can’t be interpreted as anything _but_ a slur. As I said in the post, it could be that the quote is taken out of context (I can’t see how), and if it is, I will quite happily apologize. But on its face, it is a quite vicious and unwarranted slur.

13

Doctor Slack 02.02.05 at 4:49 am

I would guess that the argument he’s trying to make is that leftist academics tend to promote an anti-Western views (which I think is pretty clearly true)

Oh, this is fun! Let’s try on an equivalent rhetorical tactic: it’s pretty clearly true that Republicans are Klan members.

That sentence is factually accurate, I think. There are, after all, probably a fair number of people out there who vote Republican and are Klan members. So, blixa, xavier — that’s not a slur, right?

14

angry moderate 02.02.05 at 5:15 am

In what way was Conquest “right about Stalinism”? That he thought Stalinism was bad? Well, yes, and I suppose that makes him right in comparison to Sartre and asundry other Communists and sympathizers, but it’s a position shared by millions and millions of intellectuals, including the vast majority of liberals. What makes Conquest particularly “right”? Certainly not his historiography, which was unbelievably shoddy and credulous even by the standards of the sources available at the time, much less by what we know now (and he refuses to correct egregious errors even when we have solid evidence now). His claim that the 1933 famine was intentional genocide against Ukrainians and other nations has not held up; it was peasanticide. His claim of ten million victims of the great terror was provably false at the time and he will not admit it even now that we have solid numbers (is 1.5 million not ‘evil’ enough??). One could go on and on and on. He is an awful historian. It’s pretty pathetic when not being a communist counts as being ‘right’. Bertrand Russell, who went there in 1920, and smelled a rat can be said to have been right. Roza Luxembourg, who smelled out Lenin’s totalitarian impulses before 1917, has a right to claim to have been right. From someone writing the overwhelming majority of his prose after Khrushchev’s secret speech, we might ask for a bit more.

15

angry moderate 02.02.05 at 5:15 am

In what way was Conquest “right about Stalinism”? That he thought Stalinism was bad? Well, yes, and I suppose that makes him right in comparison to Sartre and asundry other Communists and sympathizers, but it’s a position shared by millions and millions of intellectuals, including the vast majority of liberals. What makes Conquest particularly “right”? Certainly not his historiography, which was unbelievably shoddy and credulous even by the standards of the sources available at the time, much less by what we know now (and he refuses to correct egregious errors even when we have solid evidence now). His claim that the 1933 famine was intentional genocide against Ukrainians and other nations has not held up; it was peasanticide. His claim of ten million victims of the great terror was provably false at the time and he will not admit it even now that we have solid numbers (is 1.5 million not ‘evil’ enough??). One could go on and on and on. He is an awful historian. It’s pretty pathetic when not being a communist counts as being ‘right’. Bertrand Russell, who went there in 1920, and smelled a rat can be said to have been right. Roza Luxembourg, who smelled out Lenin’s totalitarian impulses before 1917, has a right to claim to have been right. From someone writing the overwhelming majority of his prose after Khrushchev’s secret speech, we might ask for a bit more.

16

angry moderate 02.02.05 at 5:16 am

In what way was Conquest “right about Stalinism”? That he thought Stalinism was bad? Well, yes, and I suppose that makes him right in comparison to Sartre and asundry other Communists and sympathizers, but it’s a position shared by millions and millions of intellectuals, including the vast majority of liberals. What makes Conquest particularly “right”? Certainly not his historiography, which was unbelievably shoddy and credulous even by the standards of the sources available at the time, much less by what we know now (and he refuses to correct egregious errors even when we have solid evidence now). His claim that the 1933 famine was intentional genocide against Ukrainians and other nations has not held up; it was peasanticide. His claim of ten million victims of the great terror was provably false at the time and he will not admit it even now that we have solid numbers (is 1.5 million not ‘evil’ enough??). One could go on and on and on. He is an awful historian. It’s pretty pathetic when not being a communist counts as being ‘right’. Bertrand Russell, who went there in 1920, and smelled a rat can be said to have been right. Roza Luxembourg, who smelled out Lenin’s totalitarian impulses before 1917, has a right to claim to have been right. From someone writing the overwhelming majority of his prose after Khrushchev’s secret speech, we might ask for a bit more.

17

Jack 02.02.05 at 5:20 am

And here I was hoping that a Crooked Timber review of a book called Dragons of Expectation would open up another SF-fantasy thread.

18

Andrew Boucher 02.02.05 at 6:00 am

to be quite clear (there’s already one rather bizarre misinterpretation out there in the blogosphere), Conquest isn’t referring in this passage to Western ideas percolating through into radical Islam in some indirect fashion. First, he draws a link between “the abstractions of fashionable academics” and the propensity of the students accepting those abstractions to then become terrorists. Then, in the very next sentence, he asserts a direct connection between the fact that some of the 9/11 terrorists attended Western universities, and the fact that they absorbed an anti-Western mindset. In the absence of any evidence of a connection between what the 9/11 terrorists were taught in Western universities, and what they then did, this is a slur, clear and simple.

I’m afraid I don’t see much distinction between the charge that “Western ideas percolating through into radical Islam in some indirect fashion,” which apparently is acceptable, and the charge that some 9/11 terrorists absorbed those ideas because they attended a university in the West.

19

Ajax Bucky 02.02.05 at 6:01 am

So is it a good thing or a bad thing that Reynolds doesn’t mention Churchill’s a redskin? Doesn’t that give him an in on the long hair thing? Churchill I mean. Also the resentment angle. Doesn’t Churchill’s native identity overpower his left/right position? In a media sense I mean.

20

blixa 02.02.05 at 6:06 am

henry

“He starts by claiming that many Middle East terrorists were originally Communists.”

You could say that, if you change his actual words (“a number of”) to one of your preference (“many”).

“He then goes on to say that the Naxalites were almost entirely recruited from students who had been taken in by the abstractions of academia.”

Based on what you know of the Naxalites, is this false? Remember, you’re offended at this ‘slur’ of… well, somebody…

“Finally, he says that many of the September 11 bombers had been to Western universities, and had absorbed an anti-Western mindset there.”

And that’s…. false?

21

Barbar 02.02.05 at 6:26 am

And the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men, some having been to Western universities and there adopted the extremely anti-Western mind-set.

What the hell is so freaking ambiguous? Muslim terrorists adopted anti-Western mindsets at Western universities? What the hell does that mean?

Maybe after we finish up in Iraq Bush should invade the Western universities, to eradicate this breeding ground for terrorism and terrorist ideals. Let’s weed out the true enemy.

22

Henry 02.02.05 at 6:42 am

bq. In what way was Conquest “right about Stalinism”? That he thought Stalinism was bad?

In the words of Myles na gCopaleen (and John Q.) Conquest argued against Stalinism at a time when it was neither profitable nor popular. The protracted unwillingness of many on the Left to accept just how horrible Stalinism was (in the face of clear evidence of just how bad things were)was a genuine cause for shame. Whatever I may think of Conquest’s recent work, he deserves praise and admiration for making some highly controversial – but absolutely necessary – arguments. I’m not a fit judge of the historiographical debates – but on this specific aspect of the politics, he was right on the mark.

23

Anna in Cairo 02.02.05 at 7:24 am

Another commenter wrote: “I’m afraid I don’t see much distinction between the charge that “Western ideas percolating through into radical Islam in some indirect fashion,” which apparently is acceptable, and the charge that some 9/11 terrorists absorbed those ideas because they attended a university in the West.”

I don’t either. Both ideas are laughably ridiculous. The 9/11 terrorists did not decide to use terrorism BECAUSE they attended university in the west. I think it’s the sloppy use of a causal relationship where none can be shown to exist, that usually dooms right-wing arguments, and this is a particularly egregious case in point.

24

David Tiley 02.02.05 at 8:08 am

You can chop logic all you like about those statements, to say that Conquest did not actually specifically and literally say those things, but we are operating in a particular historical context.

These are witch-hunting times, and smears are dangerous.

25

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.02.05 at 8:11 am

Disclaimer: I obviously haven’t read the book, so all I can go on is the quote:

“And we are told that a number of members of the Middle Eastern terror groups had originally been in the local communist movements”

I don’t know if this is true. Seems like a resolvable factual dispute.

“… The members of [the Real IRA and the Shining Path], as with those in Italy or, for example, the Naxalites in India, were almost entirely recruited from student elements who had accepted the abstractions of fashionable academics.”

This is definitely true.

“And the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men,”

Definitely true.

“some having been to Western universities”

Definitely true

“and there adopted the extremely anti-Western mind-set.”

Is this the slur? It is quite possible that they developed at least a portion of their anti-Western mind-set before they got there. Anecdotal evidence suggests that attending Western university can cause a retrenchment among some Muslims who see horrors like women actually doing things. But this comes right after the communist sentence, so I would infer that Conquest intends at least some linkage. The linkage between Communist philosophy and 40 years of the rise of Islamism–as distinct from Islamism’s specific beef with the Soviet Union over Afghanistan–is undeniable. But whether they picked that up any large part of that in a Western university culture is certainly subject to speculation. Since they are dead it might be tough to come to a firm resolution. But surely it isn’t completely ridiculous to suggest that anti-Western sentiment might have been strengthened in Germany. Isn’t the German university culture (note culture not classes) famously anti-American? Am I wrong about that?

26

x 02.02.05 at 9:07 am

The members of [the Real IRA and the Shining Path], as with those in Italy

To pick on a tangential point (as the main one is so obviously pathetically wrong and sick), I am always fascinated by the capability of these sort of thinkers to completely ignore not just the differences between terrorist movements, the contexts they operated in, but also, to completely forget about right wing terror squads. When mentioning Italian terrorists they think only of the Red Brigades, who targeted mostly politicians (and were not “students” anyway, what a ludicrous idea), but not a mention of the far-right terrorists who threw the bombs that killed the most civilians in the 70’s and 80’s. When talking of Latin America they go and pick the one group that can be associated to The Left(tm), and go totally silent on the handfuls of terror squads financed by the far-right dictatorships that were financed also by the CIA (like the early Afghan jihadis, by the way). Fascinating, this selective global history of terrorism.

27

bad Jim 02.02.05 at 9:14 am

Last night on the Western Channel I watched The Professionals, at the end of which the hard-bitten heroes ride off to join the Mexican Revolution, leaving behind their $100,000 fee.

Upon being called a bastard: “Yes, sir. In my case, an accident of birth. But you, sir, are a self-made man.”

Perhaps the jihadists embraced these familiar romantic Western values rather than the more recently won and more tenuously held encroachments of feminism and multicultural tolerance.

To the extent that Western skeptical and anticlerical attitudes affected them, it would seem that they were rejected.

28

x 02.02.05 at 9:15 am

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that attending Western university can cause a retrenchment among some Muslims who see horrors like women actually doing things.”

Haha, yes, they were such naive nice young men, with no precise mission already set out long before moving to the West, but they became entrenched after seeing women go to college and to work. I’m sure bin Laden would love this explanation!

But how do you explain they went to Las Vegas to party before their 9/11 mission? They just wanted to taste for themselves how far the licentious costumes of The West could go? Or maybe they had no idea what to expect, and what they found there triggered their latent terorrist impulses, which of course required no organisation and no financers and backers from abroad, but could simply emerge on the spot?

Can we blame 9/11 on Las Vegas casinos and brothels, please? Come on, let’s make both bin Laden and the Christian fundies happy. You know they deserve it.

29

x 02.02.05 at 9:30 am

“The linkage between Communist philosophy and 40 years of the rise of Islamism—as distinct from Islamism’s specific beef with the Soviet Union over Afghanistan—is undeniable.”

Oh, I see, that Islamic jihadis flocked to Afghanistan from all over the world to fight the atheist godless perverted communists they hated so much does not disprove any linkage nonsense, nah, because that fight between Islamic fundamentalists and the biggest Communist empire on earth was only “specific”.

The fact those fundamentalists were also gratefully receiving overt help and support from the US because of their common enemy is not getting in the way of claiming the above Communism-Islamism linkage as “undeniable”. Nope.

The fact also that in current Iraq, the Communist Party is the only one that’s completely removed from and opposed to any form of religious fundamentalism is not a problem for that claim of linkage. Or that communists have always been a significant part of the dissidents within Islamic dictatorships like Iran.

Don’t let any of that get in the way of seeing direct ascendancy linkages.

Cosmologically speaking, after all, there’s an undeniable link between everything. All matter and energy is connected at some level. You know?

Nurse, please…

30

x 02.02.05 at 9:37 am

“Isn’t the German university culture (note culture not classes) famously anti-American? Am I wrong about that?”

No, you’re right. In fact, they have a specific course on how to fly planes into New York buildings to fight the Great Evil. That’s where the terrorists learnt about it. It’s undeniable.

Sorry for multiple comments, couldn’t help it.
As someone memorably said, stray offenses to reason annoy me, but coordinated, wholesale perversions of reason piss me right the fuck off.

31

Elliott Oti 02.02.05 at 9:53 am

“Isn’t the German university culture (note culture not classes) famously anti-American? Am I wrong about that? “

Famously anti-American? Famously, as in “supported by empirical evidence and personal experience” or famously as in “subject of numerous near-identical blogospheric rants”?

There are two questions to ask in connection with the subject under discussion:

1. Do German-based al-Qaeda sympathizers attend liberal arts classes taught by radical anti-American Marxist lesbians and full of wanton female undergrads? Or do they attend engineering/business/hard science classes where there is a traditional surfeit of both political talk and women?

2. Do German-based al-Qaeda sympathizers hang out after classes with wanton female lesbian Marxist liberal arts undergrads, from whom they absorb their anti-Western ideals? Or do they tend to hang out with fellow co-religionists and radicals?

32

markus 02.02.05 at 11:31 am

I would like to apologize on behalf of the famously anti-American German university culture I belong to.
Outside the wackos, AFAICT it boils down to “like the country as a whole, sceptical of particular beliefs and positions, hate the current leadership”. Which is not anti-American AFAICT.

33

abb1 02.02.05 at 12:33 pm

I think one could plausibly argue that Afghan mujahideen turned 9/11 terrorists do represent an evolutional off-shoot of Western Enlightenment ideas. Clearly not all of the ideas, and clearly in a kinda perverted way, but certainly some ideas, to the extent these guys represent a national liberation anti-imperialist movement.

It would’ve been difficult to hide those dangerous ideas from them, though, even if all the leftist professors have been sent into concentration camps. Bummer.

34

Jeremy Osner 02.02.05 at 1:09 pm

Eliot — a beautifully drawn distinction.

35

jet 02.02.05 at 1:31 pm

So you haven’t read the book, but don’t know the context of this passage, yet have promised an apology if you are being too rash. So if this quote is from the introduction where the main points of the book are summarized, then more clearly explained in the rest of the book to your satisfaction, we can expect an apology in the J section on page 186 in the lower right hand corner?

May your critics treat you the same.

36

Peter 02.02.05 at 1:43 pm

I suppose this is the new version of Rev Falwell’s rant on 9/11:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’

Or, maybe it was religious fanaticism that caused both 9/11 and Falwell’s ravings. What is it about religion that turns ordinary people into foaming at the mouth loonies?

37

jet 02.02.05 at 1:50 pm

This thread has turned hilarious. A bunch of fanatics (can anyone say X) so threatened by this mans 50 words they are making up things to attack him with. None of you appear to have read his book, but certainly are on the war path. It isn’t like this excerpt stands on its own. It is part of a complete book and you are all acting like twittering 14 year olds over the latest gossip about what Sally said about Jennifer.

Why does this seem so familiar? Visions of Lomborg and people quoting people who were quoting people who’s brother’s dentist had actually read the book start running through my head.

38

Jack 02.02.05 at 1:57 pm

jet,
Can I criticize you for things you might do if my worst fears are confirmed?

39

Conrad Barwa 02.02.05 at 2:08 pm

The members of [the Real IRA and the Shining Path], as with those in Italy or, for example, the Naxalites in India, were almost entirely recruited from student elements who had accepted the abstractions of fashionable academics.

There is a lot of sloppy connections in the extract cited, wrt the Naxalites specifically, the charge is quite distorted and reveals more about the person making it, than the subject supposedly under scrutiny. Although certain sections of the urban middle-class student body in India were attracted to and joined the Naxalites; the bulk of the latter’s cadre from the beginning and continuously so came from the poorer peasantry and landless labourers along with other marginalised rural groups, such as adivasis. The whole university student-Naxalite connection gets blown well out of proportion because the latter coming from relatively prominent backgrounds and deciding to practise highly visible forms of urban militant action, terrorised vocal sections of the chattering classes and were often used as a shorthand by what one could describe as the fearful element of the proprietary classes of what would happen if the Left ever got real power. The actual reality of the countryside, in those areas where class-caste conflict has become incredibly polarised between militias of the landlords and various Naxalite guerrilla outfits has become obscured; in places like Jharkhand where about 10% of districts are completely outside police control; there is a very nasty near-Hobbesian war of attrition going on between these two antagonistic groups.

As has become fashionable of late, Conquest, seems to be following in the trend of identifying Islamist fundamentalism with the favourite bugbear of the Right. Usually one sees this in the by now, well worn comparison between Radical Islamist movements and Soviet totalitarianism (propounded by those belonging to the so-called ‘neo-conservative’ stream), most critiques see this with justification as just another way of trying to substitute one enemy for another by disorientated Conservatives; who despite their brave rhetoric, can’t seem to fully adjust to the realities of the present. There is also a Leftist variant of this, as espoused by Hitch et al., which persists in comparing extremist Islamist movements with Fascism. I find it amusing that these two supposedly divergent elements of the Right and the Left both see in Islamic Fundamentalism, the spectre of alternately Stalinist or Fascist totalitarianism. It doesn’t fill one with confidence that either of them know what they are talking about.

As others have noted Qutb and his successors were going down a line of thought quite before, ‘academic abstract’ thinkers arrived on the scene in an influential way. The comment about many radical Islamist members being ex-Communists is quite laughable given the hostility between these two streams of politics in the region. They may frequently have been persecuted by the same regime (i.e. Nasser in Egypt) but that hardly made them bedfellows; a look at what the Islamists did to the Tudeh and the Afghan civil war during the 80s is a more accurate picture of how these two contending groups treated each other in practise.

As a final note, I also don’t see what is so great about Conquest’s condemnation of Stalinism. Okay, he may have done it early on; but his was hardly the only voice – even from the quite Far Left, that attacked Stalinism and I am unsure as to what exactly is meant to be ‘new’ or ‘original’ about his critiques. From what I know a lot of this stuff was being debated in the 1950s in one fashion or another. The fact that most people don’t contest the real nature of Stalin’s regime, is a definite move forward in the debate but how far this is due to the efforts of Conquest, is not clear to me.

40

jet 02.02.05 at 2:12 pm

Jack, are you asking if you can criticize me for things I might do? Like criticize me because I might support a Republican next election? Sure, I would invite the debate. Criticize me because I might rob a liquor store tonight? Eat shit and go to hell.

But since this thread was provoked by the great satan Glenn, let’s add a quote from him on this very subject: “eh. And for those who email saying “what about Falwell on the right,” well, it’s worth remembering that the term “idiotarian” was coined with Falwell in mind. It’s just that the right has done a better job of muzzling and marginalizing its idiots, while the Left has embraced them.”

I’ve noticed how the faculty at Berkley of Colorado have closed ranks around Churchill, protecting him from the rabid free-speech hating Republicans. You might even say they’ve embraced him ;)

41

Jack 02.02.05 at 2:17 pm

Hitching a ride on Elliot’s wagon, would the training given to the like of OBL by the CIA not also be an influence on terrorists?

Also should we, by extension of Mr. Conquest’a apparent argument, be on the alert for armed insurrection by post-structuralist philosophers? Once in power would they make it compulsory to criticise the government? I can imagine a lot of people finding that extremely unpleasant.

42

Andrew Brown 02.02.05 at 2:22 pm

I actually spent an afternoon with Conquest shortly before the war started and he went some distance out of his way not to have a quotable opinion on it. He certainly isn’t a gung-ho neocon, though he likes Condi Rice. As for the specific quotes, I really woouldn’t take them as a huge slur without seeing their proper context.

43

Uncle Kvetch 02.02.05 at 2:25 pm

But surely it isn’t completely ridiculous to suggest that anti-Western sentiment might have been strengthened in Germany. Isn’t the German university culture (note culture not classes) famously anti-American?

Fascinating.

44

Chris Martin 02.02.05 at 2:28 pm

Someone once pointed out that despite all the left-leaning people in academia, you can go to any college and you’ll see hordes of seniors applying for jobs in corporate America. You don’t see hordes of them joining leftist revolutionary movements.

45

Uncle Kvetch 02.02.05 at 2:34 pm

It’s just that the right has done a better job of muzzling and marginalizing its idiots, while the Left has embraced them.

Patently ridiculous. Jerry “You Made This Happen” Falwell was “guest-hosting” CNN’s “Crossfire” just last December. And I don’t recall anybody on the right expressing concern about this. If that’s marginalization, I’d love to see what constitutes a place at the table for the right.

46

x 02.02.05 at 3:06 pm

jet, giles, brett bellmore and dan simon – what would the comment section of this site be without you? full of terror-loving anti-american communist fanatics, that’s what it’d be. God knows, some terrorists might even come here and if it weren’t for your enligthening insights, moral clarity and historical accuracy, they might come away inspired to take down another skyscraper or two.
Believe it or not, your misunderstood genius is actually saving Crooked Timber from sharing the terrible fate of German universities, ideological accomplices to mass murder.
Thank you, jet and all, thank you. Your keyboard efforts keep America safe. Allah bless you all.

47

Jack 02.02.05 at 3:33 pm

Jet,
I was only asking. You did exactly that to Henry.

I assume I would find your dinner plans unappetising and the air conditioning ineffective.

48

Mitch 02.02.05 at 3:43 pm

“It’s a vicious, disgraceful slur, and it’s every bit as unacceptable as the claim that the West and the US had September 11 coming to them.”

But aren’t those who make the latter slur also promulgating the similar “slur” that the Iraqi occupation is creating more terrorists? Why all the “how dare you”‘s? So far, it’s -all- baseless mudslinging.

49

Giles 02.02.05 at 4:01 pm

You think CNN is one of the “tables” of the right.

Fascinating uncle.

50

Blixa 02.02.05 at 4:02 pm

The Falun Gong are well-known to have been influenced by the science-fiction book series “The Foundation”.

Clearly, this is a “slur” against Isaac Asimov therefore no one should say it.

Apparently, objectively tracing the lineage, growth, and influence of ideas is now off-limits here at “Crooked Timber”.

It’s also hilarious how it’s sufficient to level these charges based on one excerpt from the freaking introduction of the book. And since the intro excerpt contains no evidence, well, Conquest didn’t document it. (For the record, I suspect that the reviewer didn’t read much beyond the intro.)

Anyhow, from the bizarre defensiveness on the display here, methinks some people doth protest too much.

51

Blixa 02.02.05 at 4:03 pm

ARGH

Aum, not Falun Gong! Duh.

But my point stands :)

52

Uncle Kvetch 02.02.05 at 4:10 pm

You think CNN is one of the “tables” of the right.

And you apparently think that appearing on CNN as a representative of “the right” is a form of “marginalization.”

Can I be marginalized too? I could use the cash.

Reynolds expects “the left” to account for everything that comes out of Michael Moore’s mouth, but dismisses people like Falwell by saying that “the right” has “marginalized” them. There’s no evidence of this. Point me to the people on the right who have diassociated themselves from Falwell.

Reynolds is full of shit.

53

Jack 02.02.05 at 4:16 pm

“You think CNN is one of the “tables” of the right.

Fascinating uncle.”

giles,

it would have been if that is what he had said.

54

Thomas 02.02.05 at 4:31 pm

What’s this? A review of the intro to Conquest’s new book?

And Conquest doesn’t provide the entire argument of the book in the intro? What kind of low-life scum are we dealing with?

55

abb1 02.02.05 at 4:35 pm

Yeah, I have to agree that ‘slur’ is a wrong word here.

It’s perfectly reasonable to observe that intelectuals criticizing the West may have affected some people – slightly. And “Natural Born Killers” movie may have instigated some violence. But so what? What’s the point of this? What are you going to do – burn books, lynch the dissidents? This is not ‘slur’, it’s just a trivial and irrelevant observation.

56

Henry 02.02.05 at 4:38 pm

bq. So you haven’t read the book, but don’t know the context of this passage, yet have promised an apology if you are being too rash. So if this quote is from the introduction where the main points of the book are summarized, then more clearly explained in the rest of the book to your satisfaction, we can expect an apology in the J section on page 186 in the lower right hand corner?

Jet – As you should be quite well aware, I have “apologized publicly”:http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002997.html in the past when I’ve misinterpreted something. I’m inviting you to withdraw the slur.

57

George 02.02.05 at 4:40 pm

Mostly off topic, but are you guys going to say anything about the new Peter Huber/Mark Mills book that’s making the rounds? Their argument (that there’s no such thing as an energy shortage) seems quite audacious, and will likely be waved triumphantly by righties, even if that isn’t the authors’ precise intent.

I’m not a scientist, and I’m not likely to read the book. But I’d be interested to know what respectable opinion on the left (ie, CT) may think of it.

58

Dan Simon 02.02.05 at 4:55 pm

jet, giles, brett bellmore and dan simon – what would the comment section of this site be without you? full of terror-loving anti-american communist fanatics, that’s what it’d be.

Wow, I’m flattered. Apparently, I’m important enough for people to speculate on what my opinions might be, even on topics that I haven’t even mentioned yet!

Actually, I haven’t completely figured out my position on this one. My intuition is that Conquest has gotten the story wrong, overemphasizing the importance of his longstanding bugbear, Communism, and that the connection between leftist academic radicalism and Islamic radicalism is that both stem from similar sources–such as romanticism, in Isaiah Berlin’s sense.

Both of these should be distinguished from the general leftist tilt of Western academia, which is actually an expression of very conservative sentiments, in the non-political sense–that is, campus liberalism is largely about preserving and extending the power of academics and those politically allied with them. (I discussed this a bit some months ago.)

As I said, my ideas on this topic aren’t fully formed yet. But I hate to keep my fans waiting!

59

T. Paine 02.02.05 at 4:55 pm

This is somewhat off-topic, but I really must protest the mischaracterization of Ward Churchill’s comments as suggesting that the US somehow deserved 9/11. Ward’s point (and this is perhaps too fine a distinction for the cable and radio bloviators) was that it shouldn’t be surprising, based upon American military and economic policies, that someone would launch an attack against America.

When the there is a concerted media campaign to destroy Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and all the rest of the highly-paid apologists for genocide and fascism, then I’ll acknowledge the possibility that Ward’s critics might have a point. Until then, this is just one more proto-fascist attempt to silence dissent and constrain the range of debate.

60

abb1 02.02.05 at 5:32 pm

“It’s a vicious, disgraceful slur, and it’s every bit as unacceptable as the claim that the West and the US had September 11 coming to them.”

Here’s what Gore Vidal says:

Vidal writes: “It is a law of physics (still on the books when last I looked) that in nature there is no action without reaction. The same appears to be true in human nature — that is, history.” The “action” Vidal refers to is the hubris of an American empire abroad (illustrated by a 20-page chart of 200 U.S. overseas military adventures since the end of World War II) and a budding police state at home. The inevitable “reaction,” says Vidal, is nothing less than the bloody handiwork of Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh. “Each was enraged,” he says, “by our government’s reckless assaults upon other societies” and was, therefore, “provoked” into answering with horrendous violence.

Some might take that to be a suggestion that America had it coming on September 11. So when I met up with Vidal in the Hollywood Hills home he maintains (while still residing most of his time in Italy), the first question I asked him was this:

L.A. WEEKLY: Are you arguing that the 3,000 civilians killed on September 11 somehow deserved their fate?

GORE VIDAL: I don’t think we, the American people, deserved what happened. Nor do we deserve the sort of governments we have had over the last 40 years. Our governments have brought this upon us by their actions all over the world. I have a list in my new book that gives the reader some idea how busy we have been. Unfortunately, we only get disinformation from The New York Times and other official places. Americans have no idea of the extent of their government’s mischief. The number of military strikes we have made unprovoked, against other countries, since 1947-48 is more than 250. These are major strikes everywhere from Panama to Iran. And it isn’t even a complete list. It doesn’t include places like Chile, as that was a CIA operation. I was only listing military attacks.

Is this “had it coming”, is it unacceptable slur? Or is it just stating the obvious?

61

Uncle Kvetch 02.02.05 at 5:47 pm

Giles (and Jet), if Falwell on CNN isn’t convincing, allow me to offer a couple more examples. Maybe I’m flogging a dead horse here, but I find Reynolds’ garbage about the right successfully “marginalizing” its fringe elements so fundamentally dishonest that it screams out for rebuttal.

Consider the following two examples (these are just off the top of my head–I’m sure it would be easy to come up with more):

1) The opening invocation of last year’s Republican National Convention was presented by a Mormon minister by the name of Sheri Dew. In an article for a publication called Meridian Magazine in February 2004, the Rev. Dew explicitly compared Christians who don’t vocally oppose gay marriage to Germans who failed to speak out against Hitler in the 1930s. A choice quote: “At first it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the family–but maybe not.”

2) Senator Trent Lott, who was widely and rightly condemned for publicly bemoaning Strom Thurmond’s defeat in the presidential election of 1948, presented the opening remarks at President Bush’s inauguration last week.

Now, given these facts, I think you have three choices:

A) You can argue that one can be invited to give the opening invocation at the Republican convention, or to stand next to the President while he’s being sworn in, and still be “marginalized” by the right. (It wouldn’t make any sense, but you could argue it.)

B) You could argue that the Rev. Dew’s and Sen. Lott’s statements are not, in fact, “extreme.” If you’d care to argue that gay marriage really is comparable to the extermination of 6 million Jews, or that the United States really would have been better off had Strom Thurmond won in 1948, I’m all ears.

C) You can concede that Reynolds’ statement, which Jet cites approvingly, is unmitigated horseshit.

62

Joe O 02.02.05 at 5:49 pm

Blixa is right, nothing in the excerpt appears to be false. However, if Conquest really means to critique current western academics as a main source of terrorism, he is off his rocker.

The teaching of radical marxism at western institutions did have bad concequences in the real world. One would wish that Pol Pot took different classes in Paris.

The current college educated terrorists tend to be engineering students rather than misguided liberal arts students. Their professors have little to do with their radicalization.

This great article describes the sociology of the Al Qaeda terrorists:

http://www.fpri.org/enotes/20041101.middleeast.sageman.understandingterrornetworks.html

63

Joe O 02.02.05 at 5:50 pm

Blixa is right, nothing in the excerpt appears to be false. However, if Conquest really means to critique current western academics as a main source of terrorism, he is off his rocker.

The teaching of radical marxism at western institutions did have bad concequences in the real world. One would wish that Pol Pot took different classes in Paris.

The current college educated terrorists tend to be engineering students rather than misguided liberal arts students. Their professors have little to do with their radicalization.

This great article describes the sociology of the Al Qaeda terrorists:

http://www.fpri.org/enotes/20041101.middleeast.sageman.understandingterrornetworks.html

64

Ted Barlow 02.02.05 at 6:06 pm

Kvetch,

See, that’s what’s so clever. Right-wing extremists have talk shows (remember MSNBC’s “Savage Nation”?), Congressional seats (“Isn’t protecting marriage the ultimate homeland security?”), and the ear of the President (the guy who wanted to burn all the gay books in the library has met Bush five times.)

They don’t even know they’re marginalized!

65

roger 02.02.05 at 6:11 pm

Actually, it is a very sweet screen. Osama bin Laden learned that attacking a superpower was a good strategy not from Karl Marx, but Bill Casey, who suggested that the Afghan jihadists attack the Soviet Union in 1984. The jihadists were packaged by the Saudis and the Pakistanis, and their weapons were paid for by Ronald Reagan’s administration, who, further, knocked down any effort on the part of on the ground observers to retrench the effort or find out where the Pakinstan ISI was distributing U.S. money. The general ideology of Moslem fundamentalism was enthusiastically embraced by the American foreign policy establishment in the Middle East since at least the fifties, when it was considered a neat weapon to field against both Nasser (socialist) and the godless communist conspiracy. If you want to blame 9/11 on a prominent Western figure — well, he was buried, with full honors, last year, even had a lying in at the White House. His name is Ronald Reagan.

66

jet 02.02.05 at 6:12 pm

X, as always, you are a raving hoot. Your power to confuse the issue and divide opinions into strict interpretations of two distinct sides is amazing. And I, sir, always appreciate the entertainment. Oh, and every once in a while something you say does actually promote the discussion, but I won’t hold that against you ;)

Jack,
So Henry’s worst fears were realized when the introduction of a book he hasn’t read held in summary that the 9/11 hijackers were influenced by academia? We live in a pretty connected world, and there might even be a good explanation in the rest of the book that Henry might even consider a reasonable conclusion, yet wrong. So I was criticizing him for being so presumptive. Just as I would criticize you for assuming I was going to rob a liquor store. Just as I criticized all the “me-too’s” who went on and on about Lomborg’s book but couldn’t give any indication as to central premises or themes.

Henry,
I apologize for giving the impression I was impugning your honesty. I spoke of your apology’s obscurity, not that it would exist. Your last apology’s audience didn’t match up to well against the original article it was for (at least if you use comments as a metric). But hopefully you were dead on and no apology will be needed. I guess we will find out after we read the book ;)

But I am serious for the poorly written comment. My wife is doing a paper on the rhetoric of wit. Perhaps I should study it closely, as I will probably find that it only serves to cloud the discussion (and leave insult where none was intended). Or that people who think they are being witty are only half right. Is that a self-effacing enough apology? Because I may have confused you with X and said something to someone I respect that I would normally reserve for abb1.

67

roger 02.02.05 at 6:13 pm

Actually, it is a very sweet screen. Osama bin Laden learned that attacking a superpower was a good strategy not from Karl Marx, but Bill Casey, who suggested that the Afghan jihadists attack the Soviet Union in 1984. The jihadists were packaged by the Saudis and the Pakistanis, and their weapons were paid for by Ronald Reagan’s administration, who, further, knocked down any effort on the part of on the ground observers to retrench the effort or find out where the Pakinstan ISI was distributing U.S. money. The general ideology of Moslem fundamentalism was enthusiastically embraced by the American foreign policy establishment in the Middle East since at least the fifties, when it was considered a neat weapon to field against both Nasser (socialist) and the godless communist conspiracy. If you want to blame 9/11 on a prominent Western figure — well, he was buried, with full honors, last year, even had a lying in at the White House. His name is Ronald Reagan.

68

jet 02.02.05 at 6:31 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

You made a good case that the great Satan wasn’t as right as he’d like to be, but he only used the word “better”, not “perfect”. So when Lott made his famous statement, I’m not sure who gave him more hell, the left of the right. In the blog sphere, I’m gonna have to guess it was the right. As for Falway, perhaps the right on the web would like him to be marginalized, but there are still powerful sections of the right who support his ideas. As for the Mormon, her ideas are, unfortunately, not a radical concept of the right.

But Falway’s arguments aren’t used verbatim in Congress as Moore’s were. Falway got hammered on every right blog (except perhaps LGF) for the crazy “the gays caused 9/11” speech. At least in the blogsphere there is a deep divide in how the two sides treat their lunatics, ie Reynolds et al asking for him to step down while Churchill gets support. And when Republican Senators are on record calling for Trent to STFU and maybe resign, yet Democrats are all for Teddy “the ladykiller” Kennedy and Feinstein “Condi is a babykiller” using Michael Moore as their main speech writer, we can see a difference outside of the blog world.

So the difference probably isn’t as much as I, or the dark one Reynolds, would hope, but I would point out there is an arguable contrast.

69

Lee Scoresby 02.02.05 at 6:39 pm

What does Chappaquiddick have to do with whether conservatives or liberals are better about silencing outrageous political positions taken by mainstream figures in their ranks?

70

Matt Weiner 02.02.05 at 6:42 pm

At least in the blogsphere there is a deep divide in how the two sides treat their lunatics, ie Reynolds et al asking for him to step down while Churchill gets support.

If Churchill were a U.S. Senator, I would call on him to resign (if his remarks have been accurately characterized). If Reynolds et al haven’t called on Lott to resign from his senate seat, then there is an arguable contrast, but it’s not the one you think.

As for the Lott story, bza summed it up well in this comment:

Let us not forget that the Lott was “rebuked” only several weeks after the remarks in question, when the major dailies began running stories about it, and that only happened because Josh Marshall and Duncan Black had kept the issue alive. (Remember how Eschaton had the 1948 Mississippi Dixiecrat ballot guide on its front page for the better part of a month?) The Republican leadership was hoping the issue would fade, and showed virtue only when forced to do so by increasing negative publicity.

Let us also remember that Reynolds et al only starting criticizing Lott after Marshall and Black had done so.

Lott’s radical views were well known long before the Thurmond incident–addressing the Council of Conservative Citizens, for instance. Yet he was made Majority Leader, and remains a very powerful Senator. Your attempt to spin this into an advantage for the right is not very convincing.

71

abb1 02.02.05 at 6:44 pm

Who is Falway? It’s Falwell, Dr. Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University.

72

Henry 02.02.05 at 6:49 pm

Jet – apology accepted.

73

Urinated State of America 02.02.05 at 7:08 pm

‘“… The members of [the Real IRA,… were almost entirely recruited from student elements who had accepted the abstractions of fashionable academics.”’

If Conquest’s being quoted here correctly, then he’s talking out of his arse.

My impression of the Real IRA was that it was made up of the more trogodytic Irish Republican elements based around Dundalk, with a few South Armagh hard men thrown. The fashionable students elements in NI were if anything, helping Sinn Fein in their advice centers. Gerry ‘Armani’ Adams was far more fashionable than Bobby Sand’s sister.

74

abb1 02.02.05 at 7:13 pm

Some get an apology, others get no respect. Alas, no respect at home, just like Jesus.

75

Mrs Tilton 02.02.05 at 7:15 pm

Jet,

so Reynolds attacked Lott for his racist remarks (and for that, credit where due), but there has been no similar condemnation of Churchill issuing from ‘The Left’ (assuming that nobody on ‘The Left’ has in fact condemned him?) Well, I fear your parallel might be less than perfect.

For starters, who the hell is Churchill? I’ve certainly heard of Lott (and I live in Germany). But I’d never heard of this Churchill fellow before the past day or so.

Not that I could really fairly be described as being on ‘The Left’, but doubtless that is how many American conservatives would perceive me. So here, if it makes you feel better: ‘Bad Churchill, no biscuit’. Or even: ‘Dickhead’. (No, really; if he said anything like what it is suggested he said, he deserves the brickbats.)

That being said, it’s a bit hard to marginalise somebody like Churchill, who is (save perhaps to colleagues in his field) pretty well marginalised already. Lott, OTOH, is somewhat close to the centre of power, isn’t he? Senator or something, yes? I understand he had to resign some important post or other, but he is still in a rather important post, wouldn’t you say? Republican senator in a Republican-controlled Senate, chairs a couple of committees, that sort of thing? Invited (as somebody noted above) to play a conspicuous role in George Bush’s recent innauguration, and so on? If it be the margin that Lott has been forced off into, then the rightwing concept of marginalisation is a pretty indulgent thing.

It really isn’t the responsibility of ‘The Left’ to police the utterings of every obscure ranter, you know. And if by saying that I invite the disapprobation of somebody as manifestly intellectually dishonest as Glenn Reynolds, then I shall just have to try to be strong about it. When Republicans manage to muck out their own stable, or even to look as though they were aware it could use some mucking out, I’ll be more inclined to listen to their complaints about ‘The Left’.

76

Kieran Healy 02.02.05 at 7:18 pm

It’s funny how quickly some of the “moral clarity” types turn into Clintonian logic-choppers and literary critics of Derridean subtlety when it comes to parsing a bit of lazy sniping from someone they like.

Similarly, we often find committed individualists subscribing to the doctrine of collective guilt when the supposed guilty party is “the left.” Or defenders of truth and standards in education who start sounding like Jean Baudrillard when the evidence for global warming or excess deaths in Iraq is under discussion.

77

x 02.02.05 at 7:19 pm

dan simon, don’t be so modest, I was gratefully referring to your unforgettable ruminations on torture. They were more than enough for me to become your lifelong fan, no matter how much more brilliance you can contribute.

I feel sorry for the right wing, they’ll never get out of their terrible marginalisation if they don’t stop being so shy about everything.

78

Uncle Kvetch 02.02.05 at 7:30 pm

And when Republican Senators are on record calling for Trent to STFU and maybe resign, yet Democrats are all for Teddy “the ladykiller” Kennedy and Feinstein “Condi is a babykiller” using Michael Moore as their main speech writer, we can see a difference outside of the blog world.

The Democrats aren’t “all for” Kennedy–if they were, we’d be having an actual substantive debate about Iraq in Washington right now. Kennedy, Boxer and Byrd are still voices in the wilderness. The mainstream of the Democrats either agree with Bush on Iraq or are too spineless to say otherwise–and that includes the raving bitch-goddess boogeywoman of right-wing fantasy, Hillary herself.

Diane Feinstein praised Rice effusively on the Senate floor, and then voted for her. So I have no idea what the “babykiller” line refers to.

And since you’ve expressed an interest in effective rhetoric, Jet, I’ve got to tell you that the strategy that consists of invoking Michael Moore at every opportunity, whether relevant or not, isn’t going to get you very far. Hard as it may be for you to believe, not every person who opposes the Bush administration’s foreign policy does so because Michael Moore told them to. I, for instance, opposed the Iraq War before I even saw Fahrenheit 911–just imagine that!

Finally, I understand that the rules on your side dictate that the name of Teddy Kennedy cannot be uttered without a gratuitous reference to Chappaquidick in the same breath, but once again, I have to tell you it’s not exactly effective, much less original, rhetoric. It’s just inane and childish.

79

Thomas 02.02.05 at 7:40 pm

A bit off topic: Roger, the person who deserves the credit is Jimmy Carter, not Ronald Reagan. Aid to the mujahadeen began in 1979, not 1984.

80

jet 02.02.05 at 7:43 pm

Matt Weiner,
Count me convinced. I’ll not concede that the right isn’t doing a better job at muzzeling their lunatics, only that they aren’t doing well enough to matter.

But when you say this “If Reynolds et al haven’t called on Lott to resign from his senate seat, then there is an arguable contrast, but it’s not the one you think.” I’ll only agree when the left calls for Robert Byrd to step down. Maybe you’d call for a third string Senator to step down for saying something stupid. But a Senator who can make things happen gets a few freebies from his team, regaurdless of how disgusting his actions.

81

jet 02.02.05 at 7:47 pm

Thanks Uncle Kvetch. I dream of the day I can cancel, edit, or delete my posts.

82

Dan Hardie 02.02.05 at 8:27 pm

Given that Robert Conquest was born in 1917 and will be celebrating his 88th birthday in a few days’ time- ie his mind isn’t what it used to be and at the same age you’ll be lucky if you can do more than dribble- could you just all grow up a bit and take this very minor event with a little more equanimity? ‘It’s a vicious and disgraceful slur…’No, it’s a very old man’s nonsensical ramblings, Henry. If you’re upset by this, get a bit more going on in your life.

83

Dan Simon 02.02.05 at 8:32 pm

It’s funny how quickly some of the “moral clarity” types turn into Clintonian logic-choppers and literary critics of Derridean subtlety when it comes to parsing a bit of lazy sniping from someone they like.

Similarly, we often find committed individualists subscribing to the doctrine of collective guilt when the supposed guilty party is “the left.” Or defenders of truth and standards in education who start sounding like Jean Baudrillard when the evidence for global warming or excess deaths in Iraq is under discussion.

Yes, Kieran, that is what partisans do–they overlook the shortcomings and misdeeds of their allies, while magnifying and fulminating about the shortcomings and misdeeds of their opponents.

But this is Crooked Timber, where everyone’s a thoughtful, detached, contemplative intellectual. Why would you call attention to that kind of ugly nonsense here, of all places? Are you suggesting that some of it has managed to sneak, unbidden, into your noble sanctuary?

84

roger 02.02.05 at 8:39 pm

Thomas, you are right. Carter’s supposed human rights policy took a back seat when it came to dictators in Pakistan. But Carter was too pre-occupied with Iran to really make a difference — the money started flowing in serious amounts when Reagan came into office, and the emotional support from the likes of Casey and other freedom fighting D.C. types was notorious. Hell, we were so enthused we let paid for Omar Abdel-Rahman, the man who blessed the first WTC attack, to travel around the world in style, as well as letting him settle down right here in the good old U.S.A.

This, of course, is politely left out of “intellectual histories” in which the intellectual never touches the real at any point. Conquest’s claim is parallel to Berman’s little bagatelle pour un massacre, Terror and Liberalism, an exercise in imperial amnesia that spends much energy linking Osama to ideologies rooted in fascism, and no energy at all on the last fifty years of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, in which we either subvented these people, had the Saudis subvent them, or favored real pro-Nazi types (the types who were thrown in jail in the forties for supporting the Nazis) in our quest for subaltern states in such places as Iran. Conquest doesn’t seem to be out of the norm in his guilt by booklist history — that’s become the low standard in intellectual histories in general.

85

Giles 02.02.05 at 8:58 pm

“And you apparently think that appearing on CNN as a representative of “the right” is a form of “marginalization.””

Uncle you say that Falawell is sitting at the table of the right – so its for you to give and example why that is the case, not for others to disprove it aint so.

All I said is that appearing on a left wing tv station cant be construed as evidence that someone is part of the mainstream right. I never made an assertion that he’d been marginalized. Why would anyone need to do that since he’s not considered part of the mainstream?

By contrast Michael Moores appearance and reception at the democratic conference seems to me pretty conclusive evidence that he isn’t marginalized but rather is pretty mainstream. Or at least thats the impression that the voters probably get.

86

Uncle Kvetch 02.02.05 at 9:44 pm

All I said is that appearing on a left wing tv station

Oh, great. It’s the “CNN is to the left what Fox is to the right” meme–one of my favorites.

For what it’s worth he’s appeared on “Meet the Press” too. But I guess they’ll take any ol’ tinfoil-hatter there. And besides, NBC must be “left wing” too, since it isn’t Fox.

Michael Moores appearance and reception at the democratic conference

Michael Moore did not appear at the convention as anything but a spectator. He was in no way part of the proceedings. If you want to extrapolate from his mere presence at the convention to his “representing” or “leading” the left, that’s your prerogative.

And while we’re on the subject of conventions, any thoughts on Sheri Dew? She didn’t just show up at the RNC; she gave the opening invocation.

87

Donald Johnson 02.02.05 at 10:01 pm

I’m coming to this late, but it’s hard to get excited by this Conquest comment even if he means it the way Henry assumes, which I think likely. I think it likely because it’s pretty standard practice on the right, sometimes center, and even the center/left to equate harsh Chomsky-style criticism of American foreign policy with support for fanatical anti-American terrorists. The logic seems to be this–

A) We far lefties agree that the US has been guilty of supporting or committing many acts of immoral violence, some far exceeding the scale of 9/11. Rightwingers know we believe this.

B) America is a democracy, so to some extent its citizens are responsible for the crimes of its government. Rightwingers also know (and they’re right) that we Chomsky-types believe this.

C) Unspoken assumption–Here’s the sneaky part. Some people, probably including many rightwingers, think that if you are complicit in some evil policy, even in only a general sort of way or refuse to know what is being done in your name, then you deserve whatever act of violence comes your way. Some go further and would support collective punishment for everyone in the guilty country. Most lefties don’t accept this. Ward Churchill apparently does. So do many ordinary people, including a great many rightwingers and they assume that the left agrees with them on this bloodthirsty principle. They just don’t think the US is guilty of anything remotely as bad as 9/11 in the recent past.

D) So given all the above, rightwingers conclude that lefties must have been cheering when 9/11 happened.

I’ve been the target of this kind of thing a few times–in the months after 9/11 if you said anything like “Well, the US has also inflicted terror on people”, it was often assumed you meant that we had 9/11 coming. The unspoken assumption seems to be that one in part C–a belief that would have nearly all of us subject to the death penalty if you look hard enough for ways in which we as individuals might be complicit in some great evil.

So maybe Conquest meant it just the way Henry says. What else is new? Even center-lefties pull this kind of crap on the far left sometimes.

88

Matt Weiner 02.02.05 at 10:09 pm

Jet, thanks. I don’t really think Lott and Byrd are analogous, but let’s not rehash that; I admit that no party is going to give up a Senate seat on principle at these times.

89

Katherine 02.02.05 at 10:41 pm

Has Michael Moore been called to testify before the United States Senate?

Last year, Senator Sam Brownback invited Dr.* Judith Reisman to testify on the possible addictive qualities of pornography–you remember, the junk science about “erotoxins”.

These are some of Reisman’s lesser known exploits:

In her research on gays, for instance, she has written that the “recruitment techniques” of homosexuals rival those of the Marine Corps. The Kinsey paradigm, she holds, created the moral framework that makes such recruitment possible. Reisman also endorses a book called “The Pink Swastika,” which challenges the “myths” that gays were victimized in Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were largely the creation of “the German homosexual movement.” Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes. “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’”

*of Communications. No joke.

90

Katherine 02.02.05 at 10:52 pm

Lest you think I took that out of context, here are some further excerpts.

“The Storm Troopers and the Gestapo were schooled in what the authors call the “Hellenistic” Greek ideal of man-youth-pedagogy. Concerned about the man-boy aspect of homosexuality, The Pink Swastika connects-the-dots for readers from the homosexual power structure in Germany to the current social debate in the United States. The naked, copulatory San Francisco “gay rights” parades, the violent homosexual burning of buildings when Governor Pete Wilson originally refused gay minority rights, the bullying attacks on Cardinal O’Conner and former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan and scores of others, note the authors, are a replay of the homoerotic Nazis.

Our own research on Heterosexual v. Homosexual Partner Solicitation Language (The Advocate v. The Washingtonian), as noted earlier, regularly finds men and boys pictured in naked Fascist chic, strutting the black Luftwaffe cap, boots, whips and black leather–Fascist sadism.. While Lively and Abrams cite at least 160 ex-gay organizations nationwide which identify sex abuse, neglect and authoritarian trauma as triggering homosexual conduct, on the evidence, a post-World War II Fascist model is afoot in American schools under the protective cover of “AIDS Prevention” and “gay youth” protection, controlled largely by adult homosexual activists.

Parallel with these subversive activities is the effort to divorce children from their parents, by painting the fatal and lonely life of homosexuality with a patina of heroism and martyrdom, via mass media, institutional education and law (the privilege of marriage being a recent assault) undermining America’s survival as the international standard barer of a Judeo-Christian moral order. Lively and Abrams are concerned, and I would conceded properly so, that idealistic “gay youth” groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original “Hitler youth”.”

Lest you think this was an obscure book review that Reisman has since renounced: I got this from a link on her website.

She has testified to the U.S. Senate. I doubt Brownback knows about this part of her research, but I wouldn’t swear he didn’t.

91

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.02.05 at 11:05 pm

Donald Johnson, are you really responding to Conquest at all? At least in that introduction quote I don’t see him accusing leftists of cheering 9/11 or anything like that.

92

Giles 02.02.05 at 11:29 pm

kvetch this meme – that most of the US media is to the left – simply reflects public opinion – as measured by the Pew Report and others.

Now of course you could demand a new public – but I dont see whats the point of denying the obvious.

93

Ajax Bucky 02.03.05 at 12:12 am

Donald J.-

“Some go further and would support collective punishment for everyone in the guilty country. Most lefties don’t accept this. Ward Churchill apparently does.”

I’m still not sure it’s acceptable labeling practice to call Ward Churchill a “left” anything. He’s an American Indian, and has been an activist Indian for decades.
I guess it’s accurate inasmuch as anyone in the ethnic bag(s) who doesn’t hold Rice and Gonzales and Powell, pere et fils, in awe, as paragons of minority assimilation and progress, is a “leftist” pretty much. But Reynolds elides that whole chunk of the mix when he barks and spits at Churchill.
Maybe you should read what Churchill wrote entire, including his comment on the reaction to what is a three year old essay – calumny, insult, slander, death threats etc. – because of Reynolds and ilk attaching themselves to it and doing that negative spin thing they do so well.
Churchill carefully separates the people who died in the WTC who were there as janitors and waitresses, the children and sight-seers – the servants and the innocent – from those who were there to stoke the fires of iniquity, or globalization rather, or maybe more accurately business-as-usual. And he very clearly compares the outrage at the deaths of 3,000 contemporary Americans to the placid acceptance of a long list of still-unaddressed, equally barbaric deaths of native Americans. It seems almost beyond politics to speak to that from his place as a descendant of the victims. Reynolds is, of course, speaking as an heir of the perpetrators in those cases, and defending the richness of his consequent inheritance against all comers.
Once again we have egregious villains, profoundly unbrave, hiding behind the massacred innocent and attempting to perpetrate cohesion with the somewhat befuddled but decent mass.
The American people weren’t attacked on 9/11, big creepy business was; Churchill goes to great length to make the distinction between those two – Reynolds devotes most of his simpering strut to conflating them. There are parallels in other parts of the world.
I can understand the reluctance of the self-identifying left to be associated with someone who had the spine to insist that some terrorist acts are the inevitable result of acts of injustice – these are dangerous times for honest men, after all.

94

Derek 02.03.05 at 12:30 am

This may come late and thus not be useful, but could we learn to distinguish what we mean by “the left,” and especially could we distinguish between “liberals” and “radical lefties”? A majority of historians may well be liberal. I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that most are far lefties. That we can find some is not surprising. I am a historian, and it has been my experience that most professors would qualify as liberal Democrats. Few are lefty nutjobs. I’ve known more conservative academics than most would want to admit exist in the academy. I’ve known few rightie nut jobs. And whether right or left, most people know who the nut jobs are. These are not well kept secrets. Most of their colleagues keep their distance. Most students ignore their rantings or ignore their classes. I just hate this process of tainting with a broad brush.

In any case, if we find that most of these terrorists who attended college in the West also ate at McDonalds, how do we know that it was Sociology 101 and not a Big Mac that sent them into their apoplexy? Or why does it not make the most sense to assert that rather than a class that inspired their anti-western ideologies, it was the west itself, and we should not apologize for them any more than a victim of a serial killer should have to apologize for fitting the serial killer’s preferred profile?

If the extracts and assessments of Conquest’s book are accurate, this is wildly irresponsible. Let us wait and see if they are. But keep in mind — the burden of proof is on him if this is in fact his assertion. This defense by way of “isn’t x plausible? And if x is plausible then couldn’t y have followed, and if so . . .” simply does not hold water for this sort of accusation.

dc

95

Mrs Tilton 02.03.05 at 12:51 am

Ajax Bucky,

a timely comment, that, reminding us as it does that assclownery is no monopoly of the right.

96

James C. Hess 02.03.05 at 1:01 am

It is interesting you should bring this matter up just now, given at the University of Colorado in Boulder there is quite a roar and battle going on with regards to comments made by one Ward Churchill, a left-leaning professor of Ethnic Studies, who suggested in an essay he wrote 9/12/2001, that those who did in the World Trade Center deserved it for the sins of the United States.

For his remarks Mr. Churchill has been forced from his position as chair of the Ethnic Studies department and now faces the possibility of being fired by the Board of Regents. Furthermore, an invitation to speak at an East Coast college has been terminated and it is possible Mr. Churchill may face a collection of charges, ranging from fraud to fraud: It seems ‘Professor’ Churchill does not have a doctorate. In anything. He claims American Indian heritage, but AIM is charging he is a fraud on the front. And so it goes.

And goes to the charges made herein: That left-leaning professors in higher education provoke certain actions and verbal assaults.

97

Katherine 02.03.05 at 1:10 am

“The American people weren’t attacked on 9/11, big creepy business was; Churchill goes to great length to make the distinction between those two – Reynolds devotes most of his simpering strut to conflating them.”

Okay, so what’s the cut off size of a business beyond which it’s justifiable, or at least more understandable, to blow it up its headquarters and murder its employees?

98

Donald Johnson 02.03.05 at 1:33 am

To Sebastian–
I’m not sure if I’m reacting to Conquest, to be honest. It depends on what he means. When someone links Islamic terrorists with “anti-Westernism” at universities, it sounds like the kind of thing I was complaining about. I could be wrong, but if so, he was at least careless to write the way he does in the quoted lines.

To Ajax–

If the 9/11 terrorists were aiming at American imperialists, they missed and hit about 3000 innocent people. I didn’t know anyone who died, but I knew people who were there and I spent some hysterical moments mistakenly believing my then-fiancee might have been in the vicinity when it happened. There are, I think, plenty of American war criminals walking around, and they should be put on trial instead of being re-elected or appointed to high government postions, but to my mind freedom fighters who blow people up are on the same level as the war criminals they claim to fight. They are unconscious allies in the struggle against decency.

I saw Churchill’s defense at the Zmag site a few minutes ago. Some of his points are correct–I think the term “collateral damage” is used much too often to excuse the killing of civilians by American bombs in circumstances that can’t be justified and this isn’t really any different from terrorism. We just have some terms to make it sound prettier, or at least boring and bureaucratic. But in his later points I wasn’t sure what he was saying–who are the “technicians” he was referring to and does he think that some were killed on 9/11 and had it coming? Who, specifically? I suspect he’s just shooting his mouth off in an abstract sort of way about Pentagon office workers and CIA employees. Yes, we dehumanize foreigners when we kill them, but you don’t fight dehumanization in one direction by doing it in reverse.

99

Martial 02.03.05 at 5:13 am

Back to Robert Conquest: Part of Conquest’s critique of Communism involves tracing the way in which ideas are promulgated, promoted to Idea, and then turn into piles of stinking corpses. He has stated quite clearly that he sees a link between the university and the killing fields. The beginning of Chapter XII (“The Answer is Education”) of Conquest’s 2000 book, Reflections On a Ravaged Century reads:

” It has often been said that the ‘answer’ to most problems is ‘education’.

But it is obvious that a high level of education in a general sense has often failed to protect twentieth-century minds from homicidal, or suicidal, aberrations. As we have seen, these have often been generated by men of high educational standing. And it has often been in colleges and universities that the bad seeds first bore fruit. “

Any familiarity with Conquest at all would lead a reader of the passage from Dragons firmly in the direction of Henry’s rather tentative interpretation. This sort of unseemly railing against the academic culture which treated him shabbily is just something Conquest does and has done – not that there’s anything right with that. Despite this (and despite his rather serious mote-beam issues), people should read Conquest. He has some smart things to say about the totalitarian mindset and its damnable persistence into our time.

100

Ajax Bucky 02.03.05 at 6:14 am

Katherine- The point isn’t what’s okay, it’s what’s inevitable, and why.
The manufactured sense that the American people have, of having been attacked as a people on September 11, 2001, is what the words you quote address. That distinction’s more pertinent than any facetious sorting of jots and tittles.
This conflict, or this aggregate of conflicts, has a body count much much greater than the 3,000 people who died in the WTC, and most of them, and most of the suffering living, are on the other side. Churchill was pointing that out.
9/11 is an emotional cudgel and goad that’s been used since the day it happened to manipulate the American public, many of whom are in reaction willingly funding and supporting something they don’t understand and can’t see clearly. Their responses, genuine decent emotional responses to horrible events, are being played.
Ward Churchill never said, and never implied, that the murder of innocent people is a good thing – on the contrary, he’s clearly saying just the opposite. And I’m certainly not saying that it’s a good thing.
What Churchill and I seem to have in common is a recognition that the deaths of other innocent people, caused by American business interests and the American government as their representative, are consistently ignored when the talk turns to morality.
I’m an American, and there are places in the world where that alone would endanger me, even though there’s very little I have in common with the America George Bush is currently leading. It’s not about whether that’s OK – obviously it’s not OK with me and the people that care about me – but it would be stupid to pretend that such an attack was a condemnation of my person.

101

ogmb 02.03.05 at 7:27 am

1. Do German-based al-Qaeda sympathizers attend liberal arts classes taught by radical anti-American Marxist lesbians and full of wanton female undergrads? Or do they attend engineering/business/hard science classes where there is a traditional surfeit of both political talk and women?

Ah yes, I remember the days when our prof used his class in Datenbanken & Informationssysteme as a pulpit for his radical pro-Palestinian views, and I also distinctly remember the droves of hot lefty engineering fräuleins who all couldn’t wait to hop in the sack with me after a hot night of coding in the Universitätsrechenzentrum

102

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.03.05 at 7:27 am

“Any familiarity with Conquest at all would lead a reader of the passage from Dragons firmly in the direction of Henry’s rather tentative interpretation. This sort of unseemly railing against the academic culture which treated him shabbily is just something Conquest does and has done – not that there’s anything right with that.”

Ahh, are we denying a link between 1920s-1940s academic Marxism and its actual practice? Because especially in South America, the link is undeniable.

103

DeadHorseBeater 02.03.05 at 8:31 am

The ship has already sailed on this, I think, but:

Racist psuedo-science was fairly widely taught at universities in, say, the 1880-1920 period, yes?

If Conquest’s passage were altered to be about the crimes of colonialism and the Nazis, would we find it a dangerous slur or a reasonable request for academic responsibility?

104

abb1 02.03.05 at 8:40 am

It’s like if you’re shitting on the floor in your house and then complaining about the stink. And then someone (amazingly, it usually takes a professor to figure it out) would tell you: hey, shit stinks – what did you expect? And then you’ll pretend that what the guy said is that it smells nice – why, he must be crazy, he should be marginalized.

Well, OK. Suit yourself.

105

Mrs Tilton 02.03.05 at 1:25 pm

abb1:

people of good faith can differ over what, precisely, constitutes shit. But I don’t think any people of good faith would argue that shit, if shit it be, stinketh not.

Which is an appropriate segue to what bothers me about Ajax Bucky’s comments (and, by extension, Churchill’s remarks, assuming Bucky has accurately reflected them).

Bucky asserts that Churchill disapproves of murdering innocent people. (And certainly we should all give Churchill the credit he deserves for taking this brave and lonely stance.) But some of those in the WTC, it turns out, were not innocent. They were The Man, you see, and The Man should not be surprised when The Wretched Of The Earth rise up and kill him.

Indeed, that they do so is inevitable (so Bucky, and, apparently, Churchill). To which I would say: no, it’s not inevitable. The majority of South Africans during the apartheid era would have had as good a claim as anybody, I’d say, to rise up in violence against their oppressors. By and large they did not. And (not before time, but in a manner that gives some reason for hope) they succeeded in destroying that vile system. Poles and East Germans and Czechs and Hungarians were under the thumb of The Man as certainly as were non-white South Africans, and they too deposed The Man without going to the length of killing individual men and women who The Man might be seen as comprising.

So much for inevitability. What about justification? Hard luck on all those toiling charwomen and messenger-boys in the WTC, of course, but a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald had it coming, I suppose. Well; if Bucky finds that adequate conscience-salve, it would be churlish of me to begrudge it. But why stop there? Nobody is innocent, after all. This all smacks rather of the IRA. Yes, they’ll tell you: they’ve killed and maimed. But they only go after Legitimate Targets, so it’s all right. Look into the things they’ve done, though, and you will see that, past masters though they are at terrorising both their own community and The Others, they are even more adept at target legitimisation. If you were a British squaddie or a policeman or a unionist politician, your legitimacy went without saying. But if you weren’t, don’t worry: all you needed do was sell fruit to the army or paint a barracks, or be a woman who comforted a British soldier as he lay dying on the street before your house, and you too were legitimate.

But all this talk of inevitability and justification is anyway empty if these categories were not part of the thought process of the people who actually blew up the WTC. Are you really certain that what al Qaeda was about was attacking ‘creepy big business’? You might dislike creepy big business, and I daresay al Qaeda does too, in some abstract way. But I doubt creepy big business as such was high on their enemies’ list. And I really do not think you want to be arguing that the suicide pilots were rising up against the Capitalist Oppressor. That would put you in Reynolds’s corner, you see.

Are there some on The Left who apologise, weaselishly or otherwise, for what happened at the WTC? Apparently there are. And there are patently those on The Right who maintain that we are engaged in a Great Civilisational War aginst essentially evil Muslims. Both subgroups are stupid, malevolent and annoying. But I think it unfair to tar the entire broad spectra of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ with the brush of their respective cretins. (And though I would add that the trogs of the right seem to me to make up a larger and much less ‘marginalised’ proportion of their ‘side’ than do those of the left, this perception is doubtless highly subjective, and rightwingers of good faith could easily think the opposite.)

But it is this ‘marginalisation’ to which we must return. ‘The Left’ is but Ward Churchill writ large, Glenn Reynolds concludes (with ‘regret’, he hastens to add; a regret surely similar in substance to Churchill’s regret over those inevitably murdered Cantor Fitzgerald traders). I think it’s pretty plain that Reynolds is wrong. And I also think it’s pretty plain that people like Reynolds have beams of their own to worry about before they turn their attention to motes like Churchill.

As for what started all this: Henry has been quite clear that he will need to see Conquest’s assertion in its full context before reaching a definitive judgement that it is a vile slur (and just as clear that he will retract the charge if it prove unsupportable). But it certainly looks like a slur. At any rate, it is plainly daft. As though al Qaeda flew the planes into the tower, their hearts aflame with the doctrines of Marx and Derrida; as though the ‘Real IRA’ were inspired to devastate Omagh by reading Social Text. Well, as somebody pointed out above, Conquest is an old man, and perhaps one may dismiss his mutterings gently. I don’t see any reason why Glenn Reynolds merits such indulgence.

106

Mrs Tilton 02.03.05 at 1:34 pm

Ehh, for clarity: where my comment above slips into the 2d person address, it is addressed to Ajax Bucky, not abb1 (to whom only the first paragraph spoke directly).

107

The Navigator 02.03.05 at 4:00 pm

I’m afraid Henry’s missed an important point here, which is that it is simply not worth one’s time to pay attention to, must less debate, Glenn Reynolds, a man who, in the post you link to, says the following:

“Various lefty readers email to say that Ward Churchill is not the authentic face of the Left.
I wish I agreed with that. But, sadly, he is its very image today….
There was a time when the Left opposed fascism and supported democracy, when it wasn’t a seething-yet-shrinking mass of self-hatred and idiocy. That day is long past, and the moral and intellectual decay of the Left is far gone. Don’t believe me? Listen to Naomi Klein: [Klein quote which describes zero self-hatred or idiocy]…There’s an endless supply of guys like Churchill. And I’d love to believe that they’re marginal figures. But then I see the embrace of Moore, and the behavior of major Democrats like Boxer and Kennedy, and it’s just hard to believe. There certainly are some well-meaning people on the Left who don’t like that, but I”m afraid that they are the marginal figures nowadays.” etc. etc. ad nauseum.

That’s right, Ward Churchill, Democratic party, the Left, same thing, no difference, all seething, self-hating idiots.

Ignore him, Henry.

108

Jeremy Osner 02.03.05 at 4:07 pm

Mrs. Tilton steps up to the plate with an early contender for best comment of 2005.

109

Uncle Kvetch 02.03.05 at 4:09 pm

a seething-yet-shrinking mass of self-hatred and idiocy

Wow. Even worse than I thought. Not even at attempt at a reasonable argument, just the usual parade of feces-flinging and strawman-tipping. Truly hacktacular. Somebody please explain to me how his man ever came to be taken seriously.

A question that never fails to pop into my head when I read this kind of thing: if the “left” that Reynolds is so exercised about is, in fact, “shrinking,” then why on earth is he so exercised about it?

Thanks for digging that up, Navigator. I don’t have the stomach to go picking through Reynolds’ droppings.

110

lunacy 02.03.05 at 5:14 pm

“Reynolds is, of course, speaking as an heir of the perpetrators in those cases, and defending the richness of his consequent inheritance against all comers.”

Reynolds is American Indian too.

111

chris waigl 02.03.05 at 6:40 pm

Gracious. Mohammed Atta studied civil engineering/urbanism, a tedious, technical, bureaucratic, stuffy subject if there ever was one. I’d be very surprised if he’d ever gotten within 100m of any professor who was in any way recognizably anti-American. (He probably never had a female professor either.) His final thesis topic was about some urban development project of a middle-eastern town. His thesis advisor was reacting in a very professorially-befuddled tone to the concept that his student became or was a radical islamist, let alone a terrorist.

It does appear significant that terrorists often come from a privileged background and have had the occasion to broaden their horizon. You need power and a trained mind to take any particular brand of extremism a step further. Untrained, poor, uneducated young men without the experience of the western lifestyle would simply have been unable to carry out (or plan) the 9/11 attacks.

112

old maltese 02.03.05 at 10:35 pm

In the interest of appelational accuracy: it’s Hoover Institution.

113

John Thacker 02.03.05 at 11:00 pm

Professor Reynolds is apparently more of an American Indian than Professor Churchill, according to various reports.

Hmm. I wonder if Mr. Farrell has ever engaged in “hate-filled stupidity” by noting that many graduates of the School of the Americas went on to engage in terror in their home countries, and thought that that was a telling argument? It seems to me that the arguments are quite similar, with similar rebuttals. (Would’ve done it anyway, the people who have the ability to go to either school are simply more likely to engage in such acts becaue they have the means and opportunity, etc.)

It is generally a sign of open societies that they have academics and others who openly question and attack the society. The US has many such. Overall this is beneficial, but it’s unremarkable when such criticisms get taken and used by those in other countries, and with other agendas.

114

Mrs Tilton 02.03.05 at 11:15 pm

The School of the Americas, John? Turned out lots of literary theorists and the like, did they?

Spot on, that analogy. While you’re at it, you should probably cast a gimlet eye at the College of Cardinals and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

115

Doc Rampage 02.04.05 at 12:58 am

Uncle Kvetch: Glenn Reynolds has written thousands of words of reasonable argument on the topic of the descent of the left, and posted hundreds, if not thousands, of examples on his blog.

Is he never allowed to allude to all his past work. Must he build the entire structure up anew whenever he repeats the point?

That would sure make it harder to criticize the left, wouldn’t it?

As to why the left is so important when it is shrinking: the point is that as it shrinks, it gets worse. It’s like a brine lake that is cut off from its water source. As the lake evaporates, it becomes more briny because the poisons become a larger part of the remaining whole.

116

jet 02.04.05 at 1:44 am

I vote Mrs. Tilton commenter of the year. Sorry Sebastian.

But as far as Reynold’s comment goes, what do Americans see on tv or read in the news that would lead them to believe that Kennedy, Boxer, and Pelosi aren’t the face of the Democratic party/Left with a sympathy for Michael Moore’s ideas? Kerry sounded defeated over the Iraqi election. Kennedy might as well have worked “American puppet” into his speech about the Iraqi election. I’m listening. Who’s the face of the Democratic party? Now that we’re stuck up to our balls in Iraq, the “Left” can’t even throw in full support for Iraq even though there isn’t another option. Who are these unheard leaders?

117

Uncle Kvetch 02.04.05 at 1:52 am

Is he never allowed to allude to all his past work. Must he build the entire structure up anew whenever he repeats the point?

No. I never argued anything of the kind. All I’m saying is that the single most prominent political blogger in the blogosphere might attempt a reasoned argument, instead of talking trash.

If you look at my earlier comments, I’m taking specific issue here with Reynolds’ argument that the American right marginalizes its most extremist voices, while the left embraces its own. I provided several examples that, I think, serve to refute that notion, and Katherine contributed another one. If you care to respond to any of that, please feel free.

As to why the left is so important when it is shrinking: the point is that as it shrinks, it gets worse. It’s like a brine lake that is cut off from its water source. As the lake evaporates, it becomes more briny because the poisons become a larger part of the remaining whole.

Wow…very evocative imagery. Can I play too? Here goes: the right is like the crusty stuff that forms on my cat’s canned food after it’s been sitting out overnight. Your turn!

118

jet 02.04.05 at 2:55 am

Uncle Kvetch (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=kvetch) Very interesting, but something tells me something is lost in translation.

Perhaps we should look at this from a different angle. How many examples can we find of those on the right criticizing those on the far right for speaking outside their secret meetings? Michael Moore was probably the widest heard whacky lefty of the last few years, and I don’t recall many on the left telling others he wasn’t one of them.

Just as a public apology helps soothe a mistake, publically admonishing your fringe helps distance you from the fringe.

119

The Navigator 02.04.05 at 3:33 am

OK, I don’t really give a flip about playing the who’s-condemned-who-in-a-sufficiently-loud-voice pissing contest. Uncle Kvetch can play, but it’s a child’s game and I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll just be drawn into an endless morass of demands for further denunciations of people you’ve never heard of before your opponents will agree to concede that you’re a decent human being. It’ll never stop, and if you don’t believe in guilt by association there’s no reason to let it start.

I just want to respond to the “Glenn Reynolds has written thousands of words of reasonable argument on the topic of the descent of the left, and posted hundreds, if not thousands, of examples on his blog” bullshit.

What Glenn Reynolds wrote, without irony or exaggeration, is that “There was a time when the Left opposed fascism and supported democracy, when it wasn’t a seething-yet-shrinking mass of self-hatred and idiocy. That day is long past, and the moral and intellectual decay of the Left is far gone.”

IOW, he did not, as Jet implies, write that certain respectable leaders on the left have permitted the implication that they agree with Michael Moore. Rather, he wrote that the left does not oppose fascism, does not support democracy, and is a seething mass of self-hatred and idiocy.

There is no need to prostrate ourselves and beg forgiveness from such a juvenile taunter.

120

Ajax Bucky 02.04.05 at 7:19 am

Mrs T. –
Reynolds gets his steam from Churchill’s use of the term “little Eichmanns”

Churchill:
“Finally, I have never characterized all the September 11 victims as “Nazis.” What I said was that the “technocrats of empire” working in the World Trade Center were the equivalent of “little Eichmanns.” Adolf Eichmann was not charged with direct killing but with ensuring the smooth running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide. Similarly, German industrialists were legitimately targeted by the Allies.”

The point of contention between you and I, or you and Churchill through me, is the “collateral damage” aspect.
What Churchill’s really doing in that essay is trying to redirect the natural outrage at the horrifying event toward its root cause – because it was plain to many of us at the time that it would be used, as I said above, as a cudgel and as a goad, to get the already bewildered American public to bankroll and emotionally support actions that were, and are, creating violent resentment in other parts of the world. As it has and continues to be.

Churchill again:
I am not a “defender”of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people “should” engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”

Analyzing the violence from the safety of your parlor gives you a latitude of perspective that the participants obviously don’t have. It also allows you to make fatuous statements about South Africa that ignore completely the violence of the resistance to Apartheid, that predates the contemporary phenomenon we think of as Apartheid South Africa, violent resistance that was so thoroughly shattered there remained nothing strategically effective for those who continued but non-violence and hope. In your version of the timeline there was

  • native Africa, all primitive and everything
  • then the colonial invasion
  • then an indistinct blank period
  • then the settled and colonized South Africa with its well-behaved, though horribly suffering, non-lethal resistance to the sadistic racism that we think of as Apartheid
  • Let’s pretend it wasn’t a broken and degraded underclass stripped of its dignity and pride and resources to the point it couldn’t fight back, shall we? After the violent resistance to colonization was annihilated by superior force.
    Closer to home we have the savage conflicts of 19th century America, with its bloody battles and cowardly massacres, that resulted in total defeat for the invaded and total victory for the invader.
    Great men had to make humiliating choices to allow their people to survive, at the cost of their freedom, and it’s a testimony to their greatness that they did; Chief Joseph and Red Cloud being but two of many men who had no equal on the other side, in wisdom or integrity. It was not a question of the superior morality of non-violent compromise, it was pragmatism and a responsibility toward what could be saved.

    “Poles and East Germans and Czechs and Hungarians were under the thumb of The Man as certainly as were non-white South Africans, and they too deposed The Man without going to the length of killing individual men and women who The Man might be seen as comprising.”
    I think what you mean there is something like “they didn’t use the excuse of collateral damage, because they didn’t have to, because they didn’t cause any, because they were morally superior though in an oppressed position”. I think.
    Wasn’t it mostly because the situations they were in made it impossible to attack “The Man” as you term it, at his base, his home – in the case of the East Europeans that would have been Russia – and the idea of some radicalized Hungarians smashing a 707 into Moscow doesn’t seem outlandishly implausible to me, except that strategically it was undoable and it would have likely been met with cruel reprisals. To say that it not happening was evidence of moral restraint is specious and naive.
    The French Resistance during and immediately post-WWII might open your eyes to the idea of “the length of killing individual men who The Man might be seen etc…”
    The bombing of Dresden fits in here somewhere, possibly, as well.
    Of course eventually I’m in the corner defending all forms of violent resistance in a black-and-white schoolboy view of the world, much like the one Reynolds and his detractors, and the still-conscious but timid left, accuse Churchill of advocating. The truth is not so pat.
    Viet Nam. Nicaragua. El Salvador. Guatemala. Chile. Iran. Iraq. The Congo. Kenya. The Philipines. That’s just the 20th century, and it’s a very incomplete list. The body count is in the millions. And the blood is on the hands of what you snarkily call “The Man”. I don’t have a name for it. It isn’t America, I’m an American and I know lots of Americans who are decent moral people, we didn’t do that.
    Ward Churchill wasn’t defending the suicide attacks on 9/11 and he wasn’t excusing the deaths that resulted.
    Calling something inevitable doesn’t equate to saying it’s OK. There are events that I see as nearly inevitable still to come, that I reject with every ounce of my being. It’s why I’m writing this.

    121

    x 02.04.05 at 9:56 am

    That anyone would think of putting Falwell and Moore on the same level, as if the only difference was left/right political association and degree of “marginalisation” or mainstream presence… A mysoginst homophobic reactionary fundamentalist preacher vs. an award-winning film-maker. I understand some sophisticated souls may not like to be associated with fat populists who make it big and are loved in France, quelle horreur. But that anyone should feel the need to “denounce” Moore as if he was anywhere near as insane as Falwell, well… It’s a bit like all the fuss about Kerry’s wounds, while the President gets away with desertion, nepotism, corruption, financial scandals that never actually made it to scandal status, and that’s only the activities before he became President. It’s always going to be a winning game for the right, as long as the opposition plays along. Deflect and conquer.

    122

    Uncle Kvetch 02.04.05 at 2:29 pm

    In all seriousness, Uncle Kvetch does not want to “play.” I only want to second The Navigator and X.

    The notion that Michael Moore is so beyond the pale that he needs to be “denounced” by all right-thinking folk is ludicrous.

    The notion that Moore has been given any kind of imprimatur from the Democratic Party analagous to that given to, say, Sheri Dew or Trent Lott by the Republicans (see my posts above) is equally ludicrous.

    And the notion that Glenn Reynolds can still hold any claim to the adjective “reasonable” is most ludicrous at all.

    Finally, Jet, you asked where-oh-where were the good, sane Democrats who would step up to the plate and do the right thing–i.e., just agree with everything the President does in Iraq. I suggest you try Joe Lieberman.

    123

    melissa 02.04.05 at 3:17 pm

    Ajax – does it matter to you that Native Americans denounce Churchill’s opinions when he pretends to speak for them? Check out today’s edition of Indian Country Today, article by Jim Adams. Churchill claims to be a Native American, only because his former in-laws had some ancestry. He exploits the Native Americans, and fraudulently claimed to be Native American in order to get a faculty position.
    Regarding Moore and Falwell, the point is that both have political agendas. You cannot argue that Moore does not, he is very clear on that point. Both pretend to preach the truth-loving gospel for purely political profit.

    124

    x 02.06.05 at 2:09 pm

    “He exploits the Native Americans, and fraudulently claimed to be Native American in order to get a faculty position. “

    Good point. As we all know, for Native Americans, anyone who is not 100% pure native all the way for forty generations is only a fake. They are more scrupulous about it in Hollywood casting that in leftist academia. Says a lot, doesn’t it.

    “Regarding Moore and Falwell, the point is that both have political agendas.”

    Yeah, good point, too. It should also be noted that they’re both male. And they both drive cars. And speak English. The similarities are striking.

    Comments on this entry are closed.