Why we shouldn’t play nice with David Horowitz: A Response to What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts

by Henry on June 11, 2007

Last year, the Chronicle organized a conversation between Michael Bérubé, who’s now my co-blogger, and David Horowitz. I enjoyed the conversation greatly, not least because Bérubé had the better of it; Horowitz had considerable difficulty in keeping up with Bérubé, who clearly didn’t take him at all seriously. But this provoked a debate in the comments section here at CT, with some commenters, including Harry, suggesting that Bérubé should have engaged seriously with Horowitz rather than poking fun at him. I didn’t and don’t agree – I think that poking fun at Horowitz is exactly the right thing to do. But I recognize that it’s necessary to make arguments as to why this is possibly so. Small-l liberal academics – that is, academics who are committed to certain standards of diversity and plurality as a basis for academic argument – have an obligation to engage in reasoned debate with people that they profoundly disagree with, or at the very least to recognize that these people not only have a right to participate in argument, but very likely have something of value to contribute to it.

So why shouldn’t we engage in serious argument with people like David Horowitz? After all, he seems (some of the time) to be inviting us to? In this overly long blogpost, or overly short essay, I want to argue that this question is important to understanding Bérubé’s recent book, What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts?: Classroom Politics and Bias in Higher Education. (Powells, Amazon). I also want to argue on behalf of a possible answer to this question, which I draw from Max Weber’s idiosyncratic and agonistic version of liberalism. The short version: I think that we need not only to distinguish (as Bérubé does) between substantive liberalism and procedural liberalisms, but between different procedural liberalisms that are appropriate to different contexts. I suspect (although I’m not entirely sure) that there’s a proto-argument along these lines buried in Bérubé’s book – and I think that Max Weber’s essays on Politics as a Vocation and Science as a Vocation help to draw it out. This said, my thinking on this is still a bit in flux (i.e. good tough criticisms are greatly appreciated).


First: Bérubé’s book. There’s lots that could be said about it, especially the later sections which really do a very nice job of laying out how classroom discussion of novels should work, and why the skill of interpreting novels well is a precious thing to be cultivated. But the opening sections are less about the positive virtues of interpretation than why people who don’t like interpretation have come to play an ever-larger role in debate. Bérubé seems to me to be trying to figure out how to argue with three different kinds of critics on the right of the spectrum (while he takes potshots at a few lefties too, they’re not his main target). First, he’s trying to figure out how you can “reasonably accommodate” students “whose standards of reason are significantly different than yours.” This is the problem of ‘John’ – a pretty obnoxious sounding conservative student in one of Bérubé’s seminars whose stridency in class was underpinned by an apparent unwillingness to think through the implications of his viewpoints. Second, the hacks – the Michelle Malkins, Dinesh D’Souzas, Abigail Thernstroms and David Horowitzes of the world, who purport to be public intellectuals, but who appear willing to be more or less dishonest in pursuit of political goals, and who in many cases don’t seem to believe in the ideal of independent inquiry that motivates the academy. Third are the serious critics, conservative and otherwise, whom Bérubé is willing to engage with (albeit rather impatiently) while complaining about their sometime unwillingness to dissociate themselves from the hacks.

Bérubé’s ideal academy is one that has a place for conservatives, and for people whom he disagrees with radically. Indeed, this is key to the “pragmatic anti-foundationalism” that underpins his specific form of procedural liberalism. Substantive liberals – those who believe in the importance of equality etc – don’t have a monopoly on the truth. Therefore, we need procedural liberalism too, where “any reasonable proposition can and should be debated from any reasonable angle.” This is a pretty uncontroversial claim in itself, but Bérubé backs it up nicely from classroom experience with students whom he disagrees with radically. And he’s right in practice – critics who claim that universities are hotbeds of leftist indoctrination where brilliant conservatives can expect F’s don’t get that most professors on both left and right don’t care about the ideology of a smart student who is prepared to argue and defend her claims intelligently. Teaching students like this, and helping them to sharpen their arguments is one of the joys that makes the daily grind of the academy worthwhile.

However, there’s something missing from Bérubé’s argument – it doesn’t set out an explicit differentiated account of how to deal with people whom you don’t agree with. In practice, it’s clear that Bérubé treats different kinds of intellectual opponents differently. When dealing with a difficult student like John, he’s prepared, insofar as he can, to bend over backwards to accommodate John’s views and perspectives, even though it’s pretty clear that John is obnoxious and badly behaved. When dealing with someone like Horowitz, it’s a quite different matter – Bérubé clearly revels in ridiculing Horowitz, showing up his inconsistencies and lies and so on. Finally, when Bérubé debates more serious critics, such as Mark Bauerlein, he deplores the ways in which they misrepresent the truth, as he sees it, while recognizing that there’s a real basis to many of their arguments. What gives here? Why should these different kinds of critics be treated differently? Bérubé perhaps provides some clues in the closing section of the book, but he doesn’t begin to offer a coherent account of why procedural liberalism should distinguish nicely between different forms of criticism, and what basis these distinctions should rest upon.

I reckon that Max Weber’s agonistic liberalism provides the beginnings of one very useful way of drawing out these distinctions. Weber isn’t usually thought of as a political theorist, but as one of my favorite professors in grad school used to say, there are elements of a very interesting political theory buried in there; flashes of Nietzschian insight glinting here and there through the sociological stodge. This is especially true of two late essays, both of which are conveniently available on the WWW, Science as a Vocation, and Politics as a Vocation.

They’re relevant to the task at hand in two ways. First, Weber’s liberalism, like Bérubé’s is quite pronouncedly anti-foundational – he borrows heavily from Nietzsche, and believes that political positions are fundamentally contingent. Political heroism, for Weber, is the “hier steh ich” of Martin Luther in a world where we cannot, as Luther did, believe that we are in possession of ultimate truth – there is a variety of possible gods and no universally applicable way to choose between them. Weber also sharply distinguishes between the tasks of the teacher and the politician. The teacher should forebear from seeking to impress his own values on his students; to do so is to betray his vocation.

It is said, and I agree, that politics is out of place in the lecture-room. It does not belong there on the part of the students. … Neither does politics, however, belong in the lecture-room on the part of the docents (lecturer), and when the docent is scientifically concerned with politics, it belongs there least of all.

It is certainly possible that the individual teacher will not entirely succeed in eliminating his personal sympathies. He is then exposed to the sharpest criticism in the forum of his own conscience. And this deficiency does not prove anything; other errors are also possible, for instance, erroneous statements of fact, and yet they prove nothing against the duty of searching for the truth.

The primary task of a useful teacher is to teach his students to recognize ‘inconvenient’ facts—I mean facts that are inconvenient for their party opinions. And for every party opinion there are facts that are extremely inconvenient, for my own opinion no less than for others. I believe the teacher accomplishes more than a mere intellectual task if he compels his audience to accustom itself to the existence of such facts. I would be so immodest as even to apply the expression ‘moral achievement,’ though perhaps this may sound too grandiose for something that should go without saying.

These comments apply primarily to social scientists, but also have more general force as an ethic of scholarship, and one that dovetails nicely with Bérubé’s procedural liberalism in the classroom. They moreover draw a clear distinction between the scholar and the politician. When one is acting as a scholar, one has a clear duty to be faithful to one’s vocation, to acknowledge uncomfortable facts, and to give due respect to viewpoints that are not one’s own. The duty of the professor to the student is not to impart the professor’s values to the student, but rather to help the student to understand his or her own values more clearly.

Thus, if we are competent in our pursuit (which must be presupposed here) we can force the individual, or at least we can help him, to give himself an account of the ultimate meaning of his own conduct. This appears to me as not so trifling a thing to do, even for one’s own personal life. Again, I am tempted to say of a teacher who succeeds in this: he stands in the service of ‘moral’ forces; he fulfils the duty of bringing about self-clarification and a sense of responsibility. And I believe he will be the more able to accomplish this, the more conscientiously he avoids the desire personally to impose upon or suggest to his audience his own stand.

The duty of the politician, in contrast, is precisely to use argument to express one’s own beliefs and, where possible, to sway others towards them so that one’s political goals can be achieved.

When speaking in a political meeting about democracy, one does not hide one’s personal standpoint; indeed, to come out clearly and take a stand is one’s damned duty. The words one uses in such a meeting are not means of scientific analysis but means of canvassing votes and winning over others. They are not plowshares to loosen the soil of contemplative thought; they are swords against the enemies: such words are weapons. It would be an outrage, however, to use words in this fashion in a lecture or in the lecture-room.

The academic can of course act as a politician, but only outside of the classroom. Not only are his roles as educator, and as a citizen engaged in politics distinct from each other, but they are profoundly different; as Weber describes it, they serve different gods. The political realm is one of unending struggle between different and antithetical ethical standpoints, each of which has adherents who want it to win. Here, it is incumbent on the politician to ensure that her point of view prevails, and to use whatever means are available in the electoral system to do so. While the truly responsible politician recognizes the tensions between lofty aims and the morally compromised tools that she must employ, and even that her own point of view is not unassailable, she fails in her responsibility as a politician unless she participates actively and wholeheartedly in the political struggle. The scholarly realm (within the social sciences) is one of debate where one starts from the premises that no point of view is foundationally right. Thus, the teacher imparts two important kinds of moral lesson to her student – lessons that allow the student to clearly articulate his own views to himself, and lessons that allow the student to recognize in principle that no point of view provides an account of the world that is complete and foundationally grounded.

Returning to Bérubé, this provides us with a somewhat modified account of why one should be prepared to tolerate students like John in the classroom, but also of where the limits of that toleration end. Students like John, whether on the left, right, or center, are students who don’t want (1) to recognize the limits of their own point of view, (2) to recognize that other points of view may hold truth, and (3) fail to follow through all the implications of what they themselves believe. It’s incumbent on the professor to do what she can to correct this – not to guide the student to ‘right thinking,’ but to a better appreciation of the strengths and limits of her own perspective as one of a variety of valuable possible perspectives. This is undoubtedly small-l liberal. It isn’t hospitable to points of view that insist on their sole and absolute possession of the truth. But as Weber argues, the academy (in the social sciences, and the kind of humanities that Bérubé is practicing here) has its own logic and a sense of the appropriate academic vocation, which is precisely to provide an arena in which reasoned debate is possible between different points of view. The student need not ultimately be convinced that this small-l liberalism holds in any absolute sense, but she needs to recognize that it is a fundamental condition for academic debate, and that as long as she is in the academy, she needs to argue with others as if it is true.

In practice, however, even within small-l liberalism, I suspect that there are limits to the accommodation that should be granted to specific individual students. Weber’s primary concern is with large classrooms in which the professor (as German professors still do to some extent) lectures without interruption and is vulnerable to the temptation of expounding his own views without fear of contradiction. Thus, he concentrates on the professor’s responsibility. He isn’t writing about undergraduate seminars in which the value to the student of the seminar depends not only on the professor, but on the other students. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that this means that students, insofar as they are engaging in a limited form of mutual education, also take on a limited version of Weber’s vocational responsibility, and it is the professor’s duty to enforce this. Students who persistently and belligerently refuse to recognize in principle that other points of view may potentially hold some truth prevent seminars from becoming genuine intellectual exchanges, and need to be discouraged, if necessary in very strong terms, from so doing. They’re acting to stop the university from doing what it should be doing, from providing a proper environment for people to pursue the academic vocation.

Thus, I think Weber’s arguments can be adapted to suggest that there should be a gradated approach to how one treats the viewpoints of students, depending on the teaching format. In both one-on-one interaction and in large lecture classes, the professor should be highly prepared to accommodate diversity, and to seek to guide students towards a better understanding of their own philosophies. In seminar classes, the professor should be equally accommodating of diversity as long as the students themselves seek reasonably to accommodate other students’ perspectives (the professor’s perspective can fare for itself). When a student – from whatever perspective – seeks to disrupt this set of mutual responsibilities, the professor should do all he/she can to remind this student that he/she has responsibilities too (he/she is partly responsible for educating other students, and for engaging in meaningful exchange with them).

A similar logic applies, obviously, to academic debates among scholars. The academic vocation demands that a scholar both express respect for different viewpoints, and honest acknowledge the limitations of his or her own. Without this kind of respect, the academy fails.

The difficult case is that of people like David Horowitz. Here, one could take two plausible positions. The first is the one that I think Harry takes. That is, one could argue that the responsibilities of the academic extend to a broader set of interactions in the public sphere, and that when academics debate as public intellectuals, they need to stick to the same kinds of principles that guide internal debates among scholars, e.g. respect for a diversity of viewpoints, acknowledgement of different points of view on contested issues and so on, even when one is dealing with opportunistic jerks like Horowitz.

One can adduce both principled and pragmatic arguments for this viewpoint. The principled argument (or at least the most obvious one to me) is that academics have a potential role in public debate because they are academics, i.e. because they are supposed to be less caught up in the specific battles of the political fray, and to have a broader commitment to the truth. Thus, if they engage in public argument as academics, they need to stick to the academic rules of debate. As Weber suggests, if they engage in public arguments in their capacity as private citizens, they don’t have the same obligations (although one could, I think, argue that they still have a greater responsibility than others to acknowledge uncomfortable truths in the course of their efforts to sway and persuade others). The pragmatic argument is that even when academics are engaged in argument with others who don’t have the same commitments to pluralism as they do, they can perhaps shame those others into behaving a bit better by the force of example (or at least make it clear by demonstration to outside observers who is complying with the appropriate norms, and who isn’t).

Both of these arguments hold a lot of weight, and should be dispositive across most public debates that academics get involved in qua academics. For example, when academics get involved in a contested debate such as the merits of school choice, where the empirical evidence doesn’t provide decisive reason to favor one side of the debate over the other, academics who are commenting in the wider public arena should acknowledge this.

However, I think that they don’t provide good guidance when dealing with, say, David Horowitz, on, say, the horrible state of the academy. It’s worth examining Horowitz’s modus operandi to see why. His main line of attack is that of the standard political hack, concocting a farrago of innuendoes, half-truths and out-and-out lies in order to beat down those whom he sees as his political opponents. However, when he’s attacked in the same terms as those he himself engages in, he’s perfectly happy to appeal to academic norms of reasoned debate in order to accuse his accusers of themselves being politicized. When academics on the contrary try to engage him in reasoned debate, they’ve lost the battle before they’ve started it. They grant his (often preposterous) claims a credibility that they don’t deserve, and set themselves up to have the bejasus beaten out of them through distortion, selective editing etc.Thus, it’s not the kind of debate where the reasoned adducement of facts and academic expertise serves any useful purpose (especially as the status of academic expertise is itself what’s at stake). Nor, on the basis of the material record, is adherence to these norms likely either to chasten Horowitz towards better behaviour or to edify the audience.

Because Horowitz is able to use the low standards of political debate, while demanding that his intellectual opponents adhere to the high ones of academic argument he wins either way. In order successfully to argue against him, it’s necessary to recognize that the battle Horowitz is fighting is political rather than strictly academic. He’s not acting as an academic interlocutor (some conservatives and other critics are, and they should be treated very differently). He’s acting as a politician and looking to win political changes outside the academy that would radically reshape its internal practices. Indeed, he’s entirely right. The argument over whether or not the university will survive as a place where people of different political points of view can teach, debate and carry out research without being hauled up before state legislatures is a political argument in the Weberian sense; it’s an argument about the extent to which a particular set of values (the academic vocation that Weber describes) should hold sway over a limited area of social life.

The survival of academic life is not itself a purely academic question, and academics who debate this in the public sphere are not so much academics (disinterested experts) as ‘academics’ (adherents to the value-laden political position that academic discussion is extraordinarily valuable, and should be protected). Academics need to defend their vocation in the political arena, and they need to be unashamed about using political means to do so. They surely have an obligation to tell the truth in so doing; otherwise they would be giving the lie to their underlying ethos. But they have no obligation whatsoever to treat political hacks like Horowitz as serious interlocutors in a broad pluralistic debate where every perspective has some validity. Their damned duty is to take a stand, fighting on behalf of the virtues of the academy as they see them, and fighting vigorously against the people who would destroy those virtues.

Thus , the very considerable virtues of Bérubé’s argumentative strategy – it seems (at least to me) rather more likely to be politically effective than other strategies might be. And in this particular set of arguments, political effectiveness is the appopriate measuring stick:

In this context—the Chronicle, as opposed to Hannity & Colmes—this grants Horowitz, and his complaints about academe, a certain legitimacy. My job, therefore, is to contest that legitimacy, and to model a way of dealing with Horowitz that does not give him what he wants: namely, (1) important concessions or (2) outrage. He feeds on (2), of course, and uses it to power the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Massive Persecution Complex he runs out of Los Angeles; and most of the time, we give it to him by the truckload. Liberal and left academics need to try (3), mockery and dismissal, and thereby demonstrate, as I put it on my blog, that when someone tries to blame tuition increases on Cornel West’s speaking fees, that person needs to be ridiculed and given a double minor for unsportsmanlike bullshit.

In conclusion then, a liberal (in the broadest sense of the word) academic should deal with Horowitz in a very different way than she would deal with John, or with a conservative scholar within the academy who was arguing in a reasoned and honest way that conservatives should get more of a voice. She should deal with him as a political actor, using the tools of political debate. She should under no circumstances take him seriously, where taking him seriously would give him political traction. She should, however, take the aforementioned conservative scholar very seriously indeed, and do her best to push students like John to adhere to the basic rules of academic argument, without at the same time asking them to change their substantive values.

Thus the need to distinguish between different kinds of procedural liberalism, which should work in different spheres of activity. As Weber argues, different spheres of social life are governed by different principles; the vocation of the academic is not that of the politician. While a small-l liberal should recognize that it’s healthy that both politics and the academy are populated by a wide range of viewpoints, including some that she is violently opposed to, she should recognize that these viewpoints interact in very different ways in the two spheres, and that the proper standards for vary dramatically from the one to the other. I think that Bérubé’s book points towards something like this, but I also think that drawing on Weber allows you to draw the necessary distinctions more clearly.

{ 90 comments }

1

Steve Fuller 06.11.07 at 5:10 pm

It seems to me that you (Henry) and possibly Berube are underestimating the substance in Horowitz’s challenge. I read Horowitz as taking very seriously the idea that the freedom to learn is something distinct from the freedom to teach, and both are equally valuable rights to maintain. This is something very much entrenched in the original German notion of academic freedom, which implies that both students and faculty are citizens of the university: The faculty’s rights aren’t more important. This idea, of course, was resurrected for a while in the US in the 60s but it’s been relatively absent from the liberal side of the argument for academic freedom since then, which has been largely about the freedom to teach.

Horowitz has been working hard to colonise the freedom to learn for the conservatives. Most of his rhetoric and propaganda is not aimed at changing the minds of academics but of the students (and probably their parents), so that the universities end up having more obnoxious Johns than even someone as gracious as Berube can handle. I doubt that ridiculing Horowitz will do much to prevent that. If anything, Horowitz has done a sufficiently good job of acting as the student’s advocate that the strategy might just boomerang.

2

Sk 06.11.07 at 5:31 pm

“I didn’t and don’t agree – I think that poking fun at Horowitz is exactly the right thing to do.”

Curiously, I agree with you. If I am ever forced to interact with a liberal, I either mock her or ignore her.

Sk

3

Martin Bento 06.11.07 at 5:48 pm

But if attacks on the academy per se are necessarily political, and if such attacks should not be addressed as arguments to be evaluated fairly by reason, but rather as rhetorical weapons that need to be countered, where is there a place for reasoned attacks on the institution of the academy itself? If any argument against the values or practices of the academy is intrinsically political and to be opposed rather than considered, how will the academy itself improve through the advantages of open advocacy of ideas? I’m not saying Horowitz’s ideas specifically would achieve this, but you’re making a very general argument. If the duty of academics is to defend the academy per se, the academy begins to sound rather like a church, whose, well, foundational legitimacy cannot be questioned, or a party within which but not without which dissent is permitted.

If Horowitz blames tuition increases on West, it is easy to demolish that claims with common sense appeals to back of the envelop calculations. I don’t see how countering arguments that silly requires changing the rules.

4

harry b 06.11.07 at 5:49 pm

I agree that the context matters, and it might be that in the context of the Chronicle it is fine to make fun of him. But I think this is a battle for the minds of parents and children on the one hand and legislators and those who vote for them on the other, who are ready to accept Horowitz’s nonsense because the charge of one-sidedness has enough of a grain of truth for him to build his edifice on, and because enough students experience/have experienced bad practice for him to get a hold. So, I’d echo steve fuller (who is echoing me — an echo chamber!), with a bit more detail. I just don’t think there’s much to gain by making fun of him, and there’s some (unspecifiable) chance that it will backfire; whereas there’s also not much to gain by taking him seriously, but the chances that it will backfire are smaller. So my original point was based in the strategic argument; I realise what Horowitz is, and I don’t think there’s any obligation to treat him as one would treat either a fellow academic or a moderately well-willed legislator or parent. Even ill-willed legislators should, I think, be handled carefully in public, because they are often accompanied by genuinely well-willed colleagues whose job (trying to marginalise or defeat their ill-willed colleagues within caucus) is made more or less difficult by our (academics-within-public-universities) behaviour. There are lots of effects to consider, and I’m inclined to caution.

5

Barry 06.11.07 at 6:12 pm

Oh sweet J*sus, not Steve Fuller!

For those unfamiliar with him, he’s a ‘philosopher of science’, where ‘philosopher’ means ‘BS artist’. He testified on behalf of the creationists in the last ID trial, justifying his support of ID by claiming it as the only functional counter to the Darwinist worldview.

If I hadn’t read anything by Horowitz, I’d suspect that ‘Steve Fuller’ is a strawman parody of a leftist professor, created by some right-winger with a *lot* of energy and time on their hands.

He killed many electrons over on Michael Berube’s blog; I’d give links, but they appear to be broken (must have been that nuke at the end of the blog).

6

Gary Imhoff 06.11.07 at 6:18 pm

Let me see if I can condense your argument into three sentences. Liberal academics do not have a monopoly on truth, but conservatives who disagree with them are obnoxious, stupid, dishonest, or all three. Allowing conservatives to express their obnoxious, stupid, and dishonest views merely highlights the virtuous tolerance liberals have. There is a place for conservatives in academia, and it is a place where they should be barely tolerated, mocked, and dismissed.

7

Steve Fuller 06.11.07 at 6:24 pm

I see where Harry B is coming from, and while we end up in roughly the same place, we are coming at it from different directions.

I think Horowitz should be taken seriously – in a serious sense of ‘serious’ (i.e. not simply for strategic reasons). And here is how I would put his challenge. And I would be interested to learn if it’s been dealt with in these terms:

Academics claim that they are protecting the student’s freedom to learn when they do the liberal things they do in class. However, that’s about as reliable as saying that producers manufacture goods with the consumer’s interests at the forefront of their minds. This is why students, like consumers, need to wise up and stand up for their own rights, so they don’t get force-fed inferior knowledge products from unscrupulous academics. Enter David Horowitz, the Ralph Nader of academia.

8

soullite 06.11.07 at 6:28 pm

You can’t win a debate with dishonest people, because dishonesty will enable them to claim anything without any recourse on the part of the honest person. It is always far better to ridicule them and make them the butt of jokes. Sure, people might not take you seriously, but they won’t likely take the other person seriously either. That’s what matters.

9

dsquared 06.11.07 at 6:30 pm

5: really! dammit! I’ve got a rope, let’s hang the bastard now!!!!

for shame.

10

bob mcmanus 06.11.07 at 6:38 pm

A million dead in Iraq, and I get Miss Manners and/or Laugh-In. Or maybe Cabaret.

Carefully modulated discourse with the righties, and kick the dirty hippies off your blog. Doing the 60s over again with no drugs, no sex, and bad music is a pain in the ass.

But Marcuse was so stupid.

I am taking my puppet with me.

11

dsquared 06.11.07 at 7:19 pm

There is surely a difference between taking Horowitz’ position seriously and taking the man himself seriously – just as there’s a qualitative difference between Ralph Nader and Steven Milloy. If the position we are meant to take seriously is the one that Steve outlines, then surely it is only common courtesy to demand that Horowitz takes it seriously himself, and defends it without making accusations that turn out to be untrue, calling people names that he then won’t back up and generally acting the dick. So I’d suggest that Steve’s last sentence ought to read:

This is why students, like consumers, need to wise up and stand up for their own rights, so they don’t get force-fed inferior knowledge products from unscrupulous academics. Enter David Horowitz, an ideological hack trying to pretend to be Ralph Nader.

I mean really; there certainly ought to be a presumption of good faith when debating one’s political opponents, but David Horowitz pissed on his chips with respect to that one about eight years ago.

12

Dæn 06.11.07 at 7:28 pm

Not that bringing a knife to a gunfight was ever such a hot idea, but to the extent that civility of discourse truly has gotten worse over the past decade or so, it’s that much less attractive. I think it’s high time liberals learned to embrace guns (of the rhetorical type, anyway) and not beat themselves up about it.

13

Barry 06.11.07 at 7:34 pm

Dsquared, I read his crap on Michael’s blog; it’s really, really bad. And incredibly long-winded.

Someone like you, who’s never been slow to call a spade a spade, should know better.

14

bob mcmanus 06.11.07 at 7:41 pm

I meant to link this in the name above

Repressive Tolerance …Herbert Marcuse, 1965.

42 years.

15

harry b 06.11.07 at 8:06 pm

Yes, steve, I see that we are coming from different places. I think the argument you present is perfectly reasonable, and absolutely should be engaged reasonably. If I ever get the chance to talk to Horowitz and don’t have something better to do (unlikely)I’ll say something like “Ah, do you mean something like what steve fuller attributed to you, that would be a reasonable thing say” and then engage the substance of that argument.

But that’s because I’m excessively earnest. Horowitz really does not appear to have a scrap of intellectual honesty, and the only thing I can say about Daniel’s #10 is…where the hell did you get that 8 years from? He was intellectually dishonest when he was at Ramparts 40 years ago, and that dishonesty is one of two things that he has been completely consistent about over the years (self-promotion being the other).

16

Martin Bento 06.11.07 at 8:14 pm

I’m all for employing rhetorical guns and have long argued that liberal culture has undermined itself by applying the assumption of good faith beyond its proper domain. If one is engaged in debate where all that is being decided is that legitimacy of some ideas, then one should assume good faith, not because it is necessarily true, but because it doesn’t matter if it is false; one can make a valid argument insincerely, though it is psychologically harder to do. However, this does not mean one should assume good faith in presentation of claimed facts; things will go much more efficiently if one can, but it is an assumption that lends itself to abuse. In large part, our current situation is because people who were ideologically unsympathetic to the Bush administration were nonetheless willing to attribute good faith to him – in his WMD claims, in his claimed objectives in Iraq generally, in his accusations against those detained in our secret prisons, in his purposes for NSA wiretaps, in his stated purposes for the USA hirings and firings, etc. In large part, the last six years have been a saga of liberals being painfully dragged kicking and screaming from their assumptions of good faith.

It seems to me the same applies to Horowitz; his arguments can be taken seriously – which may mean seriously dismantling, not ridiculing, them – but that doesn’t5 mean one should assume he is telling the truth, even as he sees it. If you catch him in a lie of fact, hit him over the head with it hard. Make him prove every assertion. But to act as though any argument of the sort he makes is fundamentally illegitimate is itself illegitimate from the perspective of the very procedural liberalism that is being defended.

Consider the debate about torturing terror suspects. If one argues that it is morally acceptable to torture terrorists, one should not attack them on the grounds of bad faith, without other reason, but should take the argument seriously. It is an abstract question of ethics. But if that some person asserts, as is likely, that all or the vast majority of those in our prisons are in fact terrorists, this should not be accepted based on some “good faith” assumption. To me, this is the crux of the matter, and why I think the basic problem is habeas corpus, not torture. I have no problem with torturing the mastermind of 9/11, but I don’t for a minute believe that the majority of those in our prisons are guilty or even likely guilty of doing or intending such things. I demand proof, and that is the soul of defendant’s rights. Now, one can certainly disagree on the torture position, and that is the starting point for a debate. In such a debate, there is little point to accusations of bad faith, unless they are also instances of, for example, inconsistency. The difficult matter is whether one should assume good faith when the US government makes an assertion like “all these people are (or probably are) terrorists”. What I’m hearing a lot on the blogs now is “yes, unless the President is named George W. Bush”, which in light of the lies that have been told by previous administrations does not fly either. I don’t know a simple way to resolve incomplete knowledge of fact in these cases, but “assuming good faith” on the part of the government has been an utter disaster.

17

Barry 06.11.07 at 9:21 pm

Martin, that’s the mistkae that liberals made with Bush and his posse – taking their arguments seriously, when they themselves didn’t. Arguments based on lies are not valid. Getting down in the mud with them just plays into their hands; any concessions or stipulations will be used to the max.

18

Bloix 06.11.07 at 9:36 pm

If you think you’re playing blackjack and the dealer is playing 3-card monte you have a problem.

19

Bloix 06.11.07 at 10:16 pm

Professors “tolerate” students like John because that’s their job. John is a student. What’s the alternative, to flunk him? If in the end the professor cannot find any way to bridge the gap and bring John into the world of reasoned debate, then yes, he has to flunk him, but if he must, then he has failed as a teacher. Horowitz is not a student and the professor owes him nothing.

20

harry b 06.11.07 at 11:01 pm

Re #18 and 19: I think there is broad agreement here that Horowitz is not owed reasons (a different person who made steve fuller’s argument would be, but that’s a different matter). But my caution, which will seem excessive to some, is partly motivated by a lack of confidence that we, as academics, either understand the rules of or are skilled at playing, the game that Horowitz is playing. I worry that Michael’s response to Horowitz comes off very badly to people who we need to be able to persuade. Of course, mine might too, especially if they could actually hear it, and therefore realise that I have a foriegn accent.

21

Barry 06.12.07 at 1:11 am

The way I see it, Horowitz doesn’t need to win; he’ll declare himself the winner, in his propaganda. Any cooperation on the part of academia simply makes it easier for him. He can show how he was debated, that academics accepted his arguments and treated them as worthy of consideration.

The analogy that I have would be creationism; biologists don’t owe reheated, obsolete, fraudulent arguments and lies one iota of consideration. The classical debate format of a couple of biologist vs. a couple of creationists simply lets the creationists declare their ideas to be debatable.

22

vivian 06.12.07 at 1:54 am

14: Wow, that article is online – fantastic! If only someone would reprint the whole book, the other two essays are as good or better. But this made the whole thread worthwhile, for me.

The David Horowitz problem is unsatisfying because he combines (1) the cry of the lost student who doesn’t understand why he doesn’t understand, to which academics and reasonable beings have a pavlovian reaction, with (2) the neighborhood bully’s scrawny sidekick, who starts some fights knowing he has backup. Gives us the anxiety that, if (1) is even a little genuine, then a really dedicated teacher could help. Outside the academy people like that are called “codependent” but inside it’s called “tenure-seeking.” Bah.

23

Steve Fuller 06.12.07 at 7:12 am

Reading over the discussion so far, I don’t quite understand how calling David Horowitz a liar helps to mount a case against him — that is, outside of a courtroom. However, if you sue him, even over something small, then you can use that an opportunity to operationalise ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’, establish motive in formally demonstrable terms, etc. Maybe this has been done already. In any case, I would have thought that if you want to take the liar attack seriously, that is what you should do.

However, if you try to prove he’s lying outside of such a rigorously procedural context, it will always appear petulant and self-serving (even if you provide evidence) and I’m sure Horowitz is perfectly capable of representing it as such. After all, the rhetorical force of calling someone a liar is to deny your having to deal with what they literally say because (so you claim) they don’t really believe it. Even if you’re correct in the charge, you already begin the argument by discounting the opponents’ remarks — which makes YOU look like a bully.

Actually, the feud between evolutionists and creationists/IDists illustrates this point well. I know that evolutionists these days think it’s smart to call all creationists/IDists ‘liars’ (and of course try to demonstrate it by lining up quotes, etc.) but the strategy has only worked when it’s been made to stick in a courtroom — and then when the issue has been narrowed to something (as in the Dover case) discrepancies of expressed and revealed motive on the part of the school board.

So, my advice is if you want to take the liar strategy seriously, sue Horowitz over something. Otherwise, it really sounds like whining.

24

Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 7:28 am

Barry, one basic difference is that the truth or falsity of Darwinism does not depend on what society believes, but the academy really is socially constructed; it is what society decides it is. So challenges to its values and practices are normative claims, not errors of fact, though errors of fact may be cited to support them.

25

magistra 06.12.07 at 8:17 am

One obvious argument against Horowitz’s claims of bias in academia is surely to invoke one of the right-wing shibboleths: market forces. Right-wingers are not becoming lecturers because bright conservatives can make more money in other careers. It’s then up to people like Horowitz to argue where you can find large numbers of good quality right-wingers who want to be academics. (The answer incidentally is probably in some Oxbridge colleges, but too many of them might be gay for US right-wing standards).

26

reason 06.12.07 at 8:24 am

martin bento #3

If the duty of academics is to defend the academy per se, the academy begins to sound rather like a church, whose, well, foundational legitimacy cannot be questioned, or a party within which but not without which dissent is permitted.

Sort of reminds me of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and the University as a “Church of Reason”. To put it in context, this was where in a midwest university, the academics were fighting for the right to fail some students against right wingers who wanted everybody passed.

Well maybe, there IS some fundamental aspects to what goes on in a university that cannot be compromised. But surely dogma is about content not process, so there is a substantial difference here.

27

dsquared 06.12.07 at 9:16 am

#23: but isn’t it rather unfair to people like Mark Bauerlein to be treating David Horowitz as the main opposition? Quite apart from the expense and inconvenience of dragging everything into court, this would involve sending out the implicit message that the way to be taken seriously by the academic establishment is to behave like David Horowitz. As I say, I don’t see why the duty to take DH’s arguments seriously and deal with them in a considered, intellectually fair manner shouldn’t be taken as extending to DH himself.

28

Barbar 06.12.07 at 9:32 am

I don’t see why the duty to take DH’s arguments seriously and deal with them in a considered, intellectually fair manner shouldn’t be taken as extending to DH himself.

If you were truly serious about this you would attempt to prove this in court, or perhaps in a mathematics classroom. Since you don’t seem to be inclined to do this I can only assume you like to complain about David Horowitz.

29

Steve Fuller 06.12.07 at 9:36 am

#23: but isn’t it rather unfair to people like Mark Bauerlein to be treating David Horowitz as the main opposition? Quite apart from the expense and inconvenience of dragging everything into court, this would involve sending out the implicit message that the way to be taken seriously by the academic establishment is to behave like David Horowitz. As I say, I don’t see why the duty to take DH’s arguments seriously and deal with them in a considered, intellectually fair manner shouldn’t be taken as extending to DH himself.

In principle, you’re right. But in the final analysis, this is not a matter of who’s worth arguing with at an intellectual level. All this stuff about academic freedom — applied to students and faculty — IS grounded in law. Horowitz’s rhetoric makes this much clearer than perhaps those of us on the left want to admit. If Horowitz fails, a more sophisticated version of him will pop up, and he’ll be dragging you into court. You should simply sue him and plan to win the case. That’s the clearest message you can send.

30

Michael Bérubé 06.12.07 at 11:33 am

Hi, folks. Bad form though it may be to comment in such a thread, I just wanted to say two things. One, thanks so much to Henry for such a bracing reading of What’s Liberal, and for putting such useful pressure on my invocation of procedural liberalism. Had I known my Weber better, I’d have written a better book, and another thanks to Henry for suggesting this so genially. Two, I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that my discursive dealings with Horowitz, in the mockery-and-raillery mode, consisted of something like writing “neener neener neener” twenty or thirty thousand times on my blog. I actually did engage his various arguments in some detail, largely to demonstrate (in a lively fashion, I hoped) that most of them are without merit — and that the potentially meritorious ones have to be made with much greater care and honesty if they are to be taken seriously.

Oh, and I’m really really really sad about Rorty. So that’s three things.

Thanks again, Henry!

31

Barry 06.12.07 at 11:35 am

Steve: “You should simply sue him and plan to win the case. That’s the clearest message you can send.”

Well, you do have the experience of being on the losing side of a junk science lawsuit.

32

Barry 06.12.07 at 11:37 am

Martin: “Barry, one basic difference is that the truth or falsity of Darwinism does not depend on what society believes, but the academy really is socially constructed; it is what society decides it is. So challenges to its values and practices are normative claims, not errors of fact, though errors of fact may be cited to support them.”

And one basic similarity is that there *are* facts at issue. DH has been caught lying a number of times.

33

Laleh 06.12.07 at 12:57 pm

The difference between John, David Horowitz, and serious conservtive critics can also be elucidated without recourse to the Weberian cop-out that somehow there is an Archimedean point outside our knowledge upon which we can stand as social scientists: disparities of power.

In the interaction with John, we, as lecturers are in a position of authority and power, and as such we have to bend over backwards to accommodate him.

With a serious academic conservative who is him/herself in academia, we are often in parity (notwithstanding questions of tenure, hierarchies of universities etc.) and as such we should engage on an equilavent level.

As for Horowitz, he is a shil for a particular and particularly pernicious form of authority. HE is the one in power in that interaction, and as such, the strategies we use have as much to do with this inequity, as they do with effectiveness (and thus the use of mocking, which as Jim Scott tells us, is the weapon of the weak).

34

Henry 06.12.07 at 1:09 pm

Harry – sorry that I misunderstood your argument. I think that one can still make a fair political case for relentless mockery of Horowitz combined with serious engagement with conservatives who have better arguments and a proper commitment to the truth. To put it this way – at the moment, academics face a bind where either (a) they engage with Horowitz (and build him up) or (b) refuse to engage with Horowitz (and build him up in a somewhat different way). I don’t see any good way out of this bind beyond making it clear in a variety of ways that he really is a thug (and as you say, was a thug when he was on the left too), and simultaneously engaging properly with people who aren’t thuggish. I didn’t dwell on the latter – but it is an important part of the half-worked-out argument that I am advancing here. Simply refusing to debate him doesn’t work, I don’t think. But I may be plain wrong on the tactics – this is something that is difficult to figure out from first principles, obviously.

35

roger 06.12.07 at 2:00 pm

I’m not sure I see what the Weberian background actually does, in this argument. It seems to me that the point you are making, Henry, of distinguishing the political from the academic, could be made without the Weberian reference.

But granting the reference, it seems to me that the next step is not to look at Horowitz’s lies and misrepresentations, or his gaming of the rules of academic debate, but rather at the central rhetorical feature employs. Horowitz is, after all, operating with modes forged in the rhetoric of other controversies in the public sphere that, a., touch upon topics that have a certain degree of complexity and obscurity, and b., worry a certain entrenched elite. The one that comes to mind is the debate over liability in court. Both Horowitz and the numerous rightwingers who have pushed for limited liability use one argumentive tactic above all: the anecdote. Here, I think, an academic reflex works against producing a reasonable public defense. The anecdotal is, for an academic, a pejorative word, implying a failure to understand how to generalize to the correct level of abstraction in making an intellectually rigorous argument. But it holds a much different value in polemics. The anecdote about the woman who sued mcdonald’s for spilling hot coffee on her and won a million dollars has been a lot more influential in spinning a constituency to, basically, move against their own interest and limit their ability to demand recompense for injury than, say, statistics that show that liability law is not a series of mcdonald’s cases.

Horowitz, so far, hasn’t invented an anecdote with the power of the McDonald’s case (urban legend as that may be). In fact, for a polemicist, Horowitz is really terrible. He’s a joke. But one day some similar right winger will finally hone some exemplary anecdote. Then things will get interesting.

36

Peter C. Caldwell 06.12.07 at 3:21 pm

Thanks to Henry for raising some very interesting issues. (And thanks to my student Jimmy Pearson for bringing this to my attention.) I hope that I don’t simply repeat his arguments in a less articulate way.

I think that Weber is exactly the right person to invoke in this debate because he elaborates the often anguished stance of a person both committed to academic discussion and to political issues of the day. At the heart of the discussion is the difficult distinction between authentic and inauthentic argument. Authentic discussion would involve the possibility of agreeing that an interlocutor has a reasonable point, or at least a point that is intended to be reasonable though that reasonability may be contested, in the expectation that the interlocutor would be willing to recognize the intended reasonability of one’s own point. In short, that there be some kind of ideal orientation toward reasonable dialogue (Habermas). It seems to me that this intention of reasonability can be undermined from many different angles. First, if the aim of at least one individual involved is pragmatic, oriented toward a practical aim rather than a theoretical one. Second, if the aim of at least one individual involved is to protect something taken as sacred and inviolable. (Note that advocacy of a practical aim and defense of a sacred aim are relatively distinct.)

Here’s my all too quick thesis, then: the authentic dialogue in the academy, ostensibly oriented toward the questioning of the rational grounds of an argument (whether factual or moral), can be undermined by the intrusion either of a practical orientation or of an absolute, ethical orientation.

“Practical orientation” doesn’t necessarily mean commitment to an absolute ideal; it can also mean that one wants to use an argument for the purposes of accomplishing something other than a rational resolution of an argument. In other words, an ethic of responsibility in the arena of politics could conceivable wreck an authentic academic dialogue as well as could an ethic of absolute commitment.

Now the really difficult case begins, for the status of the academy starts to come into question itself. (In this, I am summarizing a position that an excellent student of mine raised in an honors thesis completed a couple of months ago.) For what is the purpose of authentic dialogue if not to articulate pragmatic positions and develop absolute commitments? Weber would say: to explore the rationality of positions and commitments, in other words to offer a special sphere to explore both coherence and implication of arguments being made. This is a pragmatic defense of an institution that would be seen by those outside of it as interfering with pragmatic aims and blocking strong ethical commitments by raising doubts. My student raised the question in his thesis of whether such a defense offers up anything like a strong ethical foundation of the academy, or more precisely of the calling of scholarship in itself.

Thus to the anguished position of Weber, who wants to affirm some notion of a “calling,” but at the same time lacks the firm belief of his pietist upbringing in defending it.

So here are some questions.

First, are we left with a weak defense of the academy as a special social system that should not be impinged upon by other social systems? I.e. a liberalism that argues for the exclusion of practical orientation in a certain space, not in the interest of absolute truth but in the interest of ultimately more efficient practice?

Second, is this defense of the academy sufficient as a defense in the world of politics/interests? (Here a cynic might add: is it really the defense that matters, or does the status of educational institutions as sites of money, power, and prestige matter more?)

The Horowitz case is an interesting one, since it calls into question the entire basis of the academy, and is by that very fact difficult to answer from within an academic logic. It might be more interesting to take on a different case, Chomsky’s attack on the New Mandarins from some forty years ago. The attack on the academy is not a monopoly of the right.

37

Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 4:25 pm

Barry, so bash Horowitz for his factual misstatements, as I earlier suggested. No one here, least of all me, is saying not to attack Horowitz on factual grounds. The discussion is the legitimacy and wisdom of ridicule and refusal to debate.

ILaleh, if ridicule is necessarily the weapon of the weak, then minstrel shows are evidence of the great power of blacks under Jim Crow, right? All humor based on derogatory gay stereotypes reflects the tremendous power gays have always had? Ridicule is a way for an in group to police its boundaries and assert its superiority against outsiders. Ridicule in opposition to power can be very powerful precisely because it implicitly challenges the notion of who is the “in” and who the “out” group in society. This is why almost all memorable ridicule is contra power; precisely because it is working against the grain of existing power relations. If you look, though, at the bulk of the ridicule in any culture – the popular jokes, the stereotypes – I think you will find most of it affirms rather than challenging the existing power relationships. It can be very subversive because it does not *necessarily* serve power, but it certainly does not necessarily oppose it. And it does not necessarily serve power simply because it is a gun that can be aimed in any direction; anything can be mocked. Which is, of course, why mockery should not be taken as an argument.

In this specific case, Berube is explicitly claiming a position of power in the debate. He assumes he has the power to “grant” Horowitz legitimacy and is using ridicule to refuse to do so. He speaks, in the dialog linked, of a “we” who do not trust Horowitz. Whether or not Berube’s position is legitimate, it cannot be contra power while simultaneously asserting a unilateral claim to legitimacy.

Peter, I think you have put the matter well. At first glance, I am inclined to accept the weak defense and am not so sure it is that weak, given how destructive inflexible ideas have proven to be historically. But I will have to give it a bit more thought.

38

steve fuller 06.12.07 at 5:04 pm

I’ve just had an opportunity to read over Michael Berube’s original March statement about how to deal with Horowitz. I draw your attention to the following quote:

In Horowitz’s many shell games, one can find—if one has more patience than I do—a couple of interesting questions. For instance: although Horowitz claims to abide by the American Association of University Professors’ definition of “academic freedom,” he is campaigning, as I have often argued, for a definition of “academic freedom” that extends the concept to students, thereby rendering it either incoherent or indistinguishable from some nebulous concept of “intellectual freedom” or “freedom from professorial haranguing.” The AAUP definition, by contrast, is tied to the idea of disciplinary expertise: professors who have spent their adult lives studying a subject should have, in the words of the AAUP Statement, “full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.”

This is the sort of rhetoric that Horowitz – or maybe a version of him that you respect – could have a field day with. Berube unwittingly shines a very unflattering light on the guild character of the AAUP’s definition of academic freedom, as if professional academics were the only, or at least the primary, possessors of academic freedom in a university. Some of you here reinforce the point by appearing to suggest that ‘the academy’ is simply the collective noun for professional academics. I must confess that I defend this guild-based view of academic freedom myself but it’s all grist for Horowitz’s mill. It shows that you regard the students’ freedom to learn as perhaps derived from the academics’ freedom to teach but not a proper sphere of freedom in its own right.

One reason why Weber wanted to draw such a sharp distinction between science and politics was to argue that by failing to respect the two sorts of freedoms – e.g. by dictating to students what’s appropriate to say or believe – the academic steps over the line from science to politics. And isn’t this precisely what Horowitz is claiming?

By the way, other than waste a lot of academics’ time arguing and worrying about him, what has been the practical import of Horowitz’s activities? For example, has his academic bill of rights been adopted by groups and applied in ways that have demonstrably harmed academia (both academics and students)? I’m still thinking about the prospective lawsuit….

39

Functional 06.12.07 at 5:13 pm

I object to your description of Abigail Thernstrom as one of the people who “who purport to be public intellectuals, but who appear willing to be more or less dishonest in pursuit of political goals.” She’s clearly head-and-shoulders above the likes of Malkin and Horowitz, just as “Black and White in America” is head-and-shoulders above “In Defense of Internment” (or whatever Malkin’s book was called). She may take a few positions that you disagree with, but this doesn’t make her a dishonest hack any more than you are. (Put another way: The fact that you slur her so casually is just as hackish as anything that she has supposedly ever done.)

40

Henry 06.12.07 at 5:55 pm

Object all you like, but the shoe fits. MB’s book describes her hackishness in some detail; specifically an appalling piece that she wrote in _The New Republic_ as part of the campaign (which she had herself largely instigated) to scotch Lani Guinier’s nomination. The piece not only disgracefully misrepresented Guinier’s position, but used quotation marks in a quite dishonest fashion to suggest that Guinier had said things that she hadn’t. Ain’t nothing to do with positions that I disagree with; it’s to do with minimal standards of intellectual decency.

41

JR 06.12.07 at 6:33 pm

a couple of relevant letters to the editor of my college’s alumni magazine are here-
http://www.reed.edu/reed_magazine/spring2006/columns/Letters/index.html

42

JR 06.12.07 at 6:53 pm

“as if professional academics were the only, or at least the primary, possessors of academic freedom in a university.”

Well, yes, Steve Fuller, professional academics ARE the only possessors of academic freedom at a university. Not students, or administrators, or staff. Just academics.

Academic freedom is a unique and special right accruing to people who have demonstrated that they have earned that right. Our society has collectively made a judgment that the work of academics is vital for the operation of a free and vibrant civil society. And our society has decided that in order for academics to do their work, they must be free from coercion resulting from their expression of their ideas. Therefore, within the sphere of their professional lives, they must be free from the fear that what they say might jeopardize their livelihoods. This is a fear that the rest of the members of society face as a matter of course, as well they should. An academic can say anything at all within the area of his or her work, broadly defined, including the sorts of things that would result in the loss of employment for any non-academic.

This is an extraordinarily broad right and it is granted to academics for one reason only – that the work they do is of very great importance to the rest of us. We grant academics this right, moreover, only to people who have proven themselves, through the qualifications and hiring processes, to be capable of academic work. The expectation, not always fulfilled, is that by the time a person is entitled to the protections of academic freedom, the person will have the wisdom to exercise that freedom responsibly.

Students, on the other, do no work of importance for the rest of us. Academic freedom for them would be of no value to the society as a whole. Students generally would have no capacity to exercise academic freedom responsibly – to the contrary, after career criminals, students are perhaps the most irresponsible class of persons in society. Students have the protections that any ordinary citixen has with respect to what they can and cannot say, but only someone who does not understand academic freedom would think that students are entitled to its protections.

43

Michael Bérubé 06.12.07 at 7:11 pm

Berube unwittingly shines a very unflattering light on the guild character of the AAUP’s definition of academic freedom, as if professional academics were the only, or at least the primary, possessors of academic freedom in a university.

No, Steve, I quite wittingly shine a nice neutral light on the actual definition of academic freedom in the U.S. It’s worth checking out what the AAUP has to say on the subject, since, after all, they defined it.

44

Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 7:21 pm

The rest of society “should” be subject to loss of livelihood if they say the wrong thing? So I can be legitimately fired from any non-academic job for my criticisms of Bush? Doesn’t sound like a free and vibrant civil society to me. As a knowledge worker, I can legitimately be fired for saying something in the realm of my supposed expertise that is wrong or otherwise unsatisfactory. Is academic freedom then the right to be wrong? I suppose so, in a sense. But I insist on much broader freedom of speech claims for society generally.

45

Steve Fuller 06.12.07 at 7:40 pm

No, Steve, I quite wittingly shine a nice neutral light on the actual definition of academic freedom in the U.S. It’s worth checking out what the AAUP has to say on the subject, since, after all, they defined it.

I have read it, Michael, and I stand by my original point. Your gloss really gives short shrift to the student’s freedom to learn. The original AAUP text is fine. Maybe you intended to criticise Horowitz but I’m afraid you engaged in friendly fire, appearing to deny that students have any sense of academic freedom. The AAUP, following the German precedent, grants students a special kind of academic freedom — and that’s what Horowitz claims to be defending. He may be a bad defender but you seem to be denying that there is anything to defend. (You might wish to have a look at comment 42, just above yours, and you see yet more grist for Horowitz’s mill.)

46

martin bento 06.12.07 at 7:46 pm

Berube slipped in. My comment was directed to JR at 42.

47

Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 8:00 pm

OK, looking at the AAUP doc itself, I don’t see anything about academic freedom extending to students generally, though it does apply it to teaching assistants. The document does incorporate the Statement on Professional Ethics by reference, and that document makes the following statement:

They [Professors] protect their [student’s] academic freedom.

So it does seem to recognize an academic freedom for students without spelling it out. Is it the same as for Professors? By default, I would assume so, since a contrary use of the term would require a separate definition. However, I’m sure there is a rich literature on the subject, since if there is anything the academy does, it’s generate rich literatures.

48

Functional 06.12.07 at 8:00 pm

So Michael Berube is accusing Thernstrom of making up quotes? Well, I don’t have the original Guinier article(s) in front of me, and until I do, I’m going to consider this unproven at best, as I personally don’t have any prima facie reason to trust Berube’s account over Thernstrom’s.

49

JR 06.12.07 at 8:10 pm

“So I can be legitimately fired from any non-academic job for my criticisms of Bush?”

I dont’ know how the word “legitimately” is supposed to function in that question but if it means “legally,” the answer is yes unless you have a contract to the contrary. If you say things that make you a liability or a burden to your employer, you can be fired. People are fired for running down their companies, for praising the products of the competition, for attacking their bosses in public. And yes, if you are an employee working for a private employer you can be fired for your expression of your views on topics having nothing to do with your employment. Imus, for example, was fired as he should have been.

50

Barry 06.12.07 at 8:15 pm

Martin: “Barry, so bash Horowitz for his factual misstatements, as I earlier suggested. No one here, least of all me, is saying not to attack Horowitz on factual grounds. The discussion is the legitimacy and wisdom of ridicule and refusal to debate.”

Martin, let me give you a clue – when somebody has, time and time again, lied through their teeth, assuming that they come to the debate in good faith is foolish.

51

engels 06.12.07 at 8:21 pm

This is an extraordinarily broad right and it is granted to academics for one reason only – that the work they do is of very great importance to the rest of us. …

Students, on the other, do no work of importance for the rest of us. Academic freedom for them would be of no value to the society as a whole.

I would be interested to know what makes you so certain that

(i) all wage-labouring academics do work “of very great importance to the rest of us”. (Maybe I’m just cynical but, mentioning no signifiers, it seems to me that quite a lot of work is published these days which isn’t of any real importance, let alone “very great importance”, to anyone outside of academia.)

(ii) students do no work of importance for the rest of us

52

Michael Bérubé 06.12.07 at 8:39 pm

The AAUP does, of course, recognize students’ freedom to learn. See the Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. I feel confident, however, that even after you peruse this document, Steve, you will stand by your original point. For my part, I will stand by the point I made last year, when I argued that Horowitz’s “Students for Academic Freedom” project works by confusing the meaning of academic freedom — by construing it as a property of students. Steve Fuller has helped that project along here, for reasons that so far elude me.

As for Thernstrom’s misrepresentation of Guinier:

Well, I don’t have the original Guinier article(s) in front of me, and until I do, I’m going to consider this unproven at best, as I personally don’t have any prima facie reason to trust Berube’s account over Thernstrom’s.

Well, that seems fair and open-minded. Of course, you could always start with the relevant passage of What’s Liberal, pp. 44-45, and then read Guinier’s Lift Every Voice. I take it you’re already sufficiently familiar with Thernstrom.

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engels 06.12.07 at 9:43 pm

only someone who does not understand academic freedom would think that students are entitled to its protections (JR)

confusing the meaning of academic freedom—by construing it as a property of students (Michael Berube)

But in the words of the AAUP statement

the minimal standards of academic freedom of students outlined below are essential to any community of scholars

Are you claiming that the AAUP “does not understand” and is “confusing the meaning of” academic freedom?

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Henry 06.12.07 at 9:53 pm

peter (carl) – there are a lot of very interesting issues here that I have only partly thought through. One partial response – is Weber really interested in pragmatics so much as the development of individual personality? Politics is important insofar as it allows the politician, if he is wise enough, to exercise a certain kind of heroism; scholarship, through a particular kind of abnegation of individual values allows for a different kind of fully achieved personality to develop. In these two essays at least, there is a disconnect between his discussion of the actual mechanisms of politics (and to a lesser extent academics) and the sense of what they are collectively supposed to achieve. The Nietszchian stuff doesn’t sit well with the sociology I don’t think – but insofar as he attributes meaning to politics and the academy it does seem to be about the development of vocation rather than collective pragmatic ends. I am not sure how this plays out in the specific clashes that you talk about – of course part of the problem is that these are rather imperfectly worked out (albeit brilliant) essays.

Martin – funnily enough I have been reading a book on the precise topic of how the ability to fire, say, workers who drive to work with John Kerry bumper stickers, militates against a free vibrant society etc. It’s Bruce Barry, _Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace._ I got sent a free copy – probably because it discusses blogging and the workplace in one chapter – altho’ I’ve learnt more from the more general argument (I was horrified to find out how easily employers can punish employees; had known about it in labor relations, but had never thought through the implications of US labor law for other kinds of speech too). I want to think a bit about how this relates to the specific issue of academic free speech before posting – I have yet to figure out for myself exactly what I think.

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Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 10:41 pm

JR, the word “legitimately” in that sentence functions to indicate that I am speaking of normative not pragmatic, e.g. legal, concerns. You were yourself defending the “legitimacy” of academic freedom, were you not? So why does my invocation of legitimacy present problems for you. The definition of legitimacy I used was given in the next sentence. For the sake of argument I accepted yours: the furtherence of a “free and vibrant civil society”. If you want to argue that I have no basis to claim legitimacy on such grounds, you can, but you have then tossed out your own defense of the legitimacy of academic freedom. Why is it that you can defend your position is such general and idealistic terms, while I am supposed to be constrained to legalisms?

Imus was certainly not fired for something that had nothing to do with his employment. He was employed as a commentator and fired for comments he made as part of his professional work product. To compare that to my example of being fired because of comments I make on a blog about Bush from an unrelated job is ridiculous. Nonetheless, you seem to think that Imus “should have been” fired. You mean, his firing was “legitimate”?

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Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 10:45 pm

barry wrote:

“Martin, let me give you a clue – when somebody has, time and time again, lied through their teeth, assuming that they come to the debate in good faith is foolish.”

I was against excessive attributions of good faith before said opposition was cool, and my very first post in this thread is largely an attack on same. In fact, for the argument, I will stipulate that Horowtiz has not made a factually correct statement in his life, which is probably a tad extreme. It is still the case that beliefs about how the University should be run are of a different logical order than beliefs about how biology works.

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Martin Bento 06.12.07 at 10:48 pm

Henry, yes, I think this is getting to be a serious problem now. Previously, keeping track of people’s political opinions and such was in general more trouble for employers than it was worth, but the Internet makes it so much easier.

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Steve Fuller 06.12.07 at 11:36 pm

Reply to 52 (Michael Berube)

The AAUP does, of course, recognize students’ freedom to learn. See the Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. I feel confident, however, that even after you peruse this document, Steve, you will stand by your original point. For my part, I will stand by the point I made last year, when I argued that Horowitz’s “Students for Academic Freedom” project works by confusing the meaning of academic freedom—by construing it as a property of students. Steve Fuller has helped that project along here, for reasons that so far elude me.

I’m sorry to confuse you, Michael, but it should be perfectly obvious why I bring up the student’s freedom to learn. It’s because historically ‘academic freedom’ has been more than just a way for academics to protect the integrity of their work, not to mention their jobs. Rather, it’s been a set of reciprocal rights and obligations between students and teachers all of which are protected under the legal status of the university. At least that’s the original German conception. The AAUP obviously drew on this precedent but then spun it in the direction of job security for academics (via tenure), pretty much leaving the student’s academic freedom only mentioned but not really addressed. Considering what the AAUP was founded to do, this is quite understandable. But it does raise legitimate questions about whether professional academics are the most reliable guarantors of ‘academic freedom’ in its original broad sense.

Liar though he may be, Horowitz did not make up these issues. According to Walter Metzger’s ‘Academic Freedom in the Age of the University’ (p. 123), the student’s freedom to learn was probably the primary sense of academic freedom in the US prior to the AAUP statement. And that freedom has been periodically asserted since then, sometimes presented in harmony with – but sometimes in opposition to – the professional academic’s freedom to teach. The student revolts in the 1960s were at least as much about the freedom to learn as the freedom to teach. (Horowitz may not have changed his ideological spots as much as one might think.)

This issue was first brought to my attention last year at a conference in Germany on the democratisation of knowledge, when a couple of German scholars discussed Horowitz in critical, but respectful, tones, observing his mindfulness of the history of academic freedom. On the other hand, they wondered about whether liberal US scholars were really in touch with the idea of academic freedom beyond its function as a labour union ideology. I originally thought the formulation was a bit extreme, but several people in this blog – including you, Michael – appear to be very dismissive of students as possessors of academic freedom. I would be the first to admit that much of the original German social context for students’ academic freedom doesn’t transfer easily to the US, but I don’t see why the ‘freedom to learn’ can’t be given some updated content, so that the task is not entirely left to the Horowitzes of the world.

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Functional 06.12.07 at 11:57 pm

52: Of course, you could always start with the relevant passage of What’s Liberal, pp. 44-45, and then read Guinier’s Lift Every Voice.

But not Guinier’s law review articles? Thernstrom could have been quoting one or more of those, you know.

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Martin bento 06.13.07 at 12:20 am

Excuse me, it was my second post in this thread where I raised objections to excessive attributions of good faith.

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Michael Bérubé 06.13.07 at 1:00 am

Steve, engels: the student’s freedom to learn is essential, yes. But please don’t try to confuse the 1940 Declaration of Principles by pretending you don’t understand why the AAUP would treat the freedom of students under a separate heading altogether.

Here in the US, where Steve and I attended (the same) high school, the 1940 Declaration defines “academic freedom” as a property that pertains to research and teaching:

1. Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

2. Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.

3. College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

The AAUP’s Committee A covers academic freedom and tenure. OK, so let’s get unconfused, shall we? Students are not conducting research. They are not teaching. They do not have tenure. They have rights and freedoms, but no good purpose is served by confusing these with the rights and freedoms of teachers and researchers.

As for Thernstrom/ Guinier:

But not Guinier’s law review articles? Thernstrom could have been quoting one or more of those, you know.

By all means, Guinier’s law review articles! Here’s the Thernstrom Challenge: cut and paste Guinier’s work until you can write the following passage:

[I]n Guinier’s world, black constituents can lack representation even if their elected officials are black. If the officeholders are not “community-based,” “culturally rooted” and politically and psychologically “authentic,” then they’re “tokens”– contaminated by white support. Thus neither Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder nor Andrew Young counts as a “black advocate”; they are too “assimiliated” into the political mainstream. The authentic black has a “distinctive voice” and a level of group consciousness incompatible with white enthusiasm.

If you can duplicate Thernstrom’s feat here, functional, congratulations! You may be eligible for a fellowship from the Manhattan Institute. Because in reality, Guinier sought voting mechanisms that would empower any 49-percent-or-less voting minority in the American version of rotten boroughs, regardless of whether that minority consisted of African-Americans in gerrymandered Mississippi districts or conservative Republicans in inner-city Chicago. (I recommended Guinier’s book because it explains those mechanisms in detail.) Taking seriously those Madisonian warnings about the tyranny of the majority, Guinier read the 1965 Voting Rights Act as a device for democratizing undemocratic, winner-take-all electoral systems. Thernstrom, who has long argued against the Voting Rights Act, tried to paint Guinier as a “quota queen” who was looking for truly “black” representatives. You can defend Thernstrom’s efforts on that score if you insist, but you won’t like yourself in the morning.

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engels 06.13.07 at 2:26 am

But please don’t try to confuse the 1940 Declaration of Principles by pretending you don’t understand why the AAUP would treat the freedom of students under a separate heading altogether.

Well, I hate to be pedantic but according to the document you linked it does not seem to be the case that they treat the freedom of students under “a separate heading altogether”.

Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom.

That seems to say, pretty unequivocally, that students and teachers both partake in the same thing: academic freedom. Now it’s true that the 1940 Declaration does not mention the second facet of academic freedom, but when you take the two documents together (as I would imagine you must do; there doesn’t seem to be any reason for assigning greater interpretative weight to the first) it would seem that the 1967 Joint Statement extends and modifies the 1940 declaration in order to define academic freedom as a value which both teachers and students have a share in.

Now is all this just a semantic quibble? Possibly, but I think there are substantive issues underneath it. You want to say that academic freedom belongs exclusively to professors by virtue of their occupational role, that it is largely concerned with protection of tenure and protection from outside interference in faculty members’ decision making (a system of safeguards which is roughly analogous to judicial independence, perhaps?) and what students have (“freedom to learn”) is deserving of a different label because it is qualitatively different. This privileges the rights of professors in a way which others find unacceptable. An alternative view, which seems to me to be both more attractive and to be closer to the spirit of the AAUP documents you have cited when taken both together, is that “academic freedom” has a grammar similar to “freedom of the press” and different from “freedom of conscience”, say. It doesn’t denote a right (or set of rights) held by individuals but a value which inheres in the academy as a whole and which entails various rights for different individuals according to their role in the life of the academy, but which anyone who plays such a role must possess to some extent. On this view it’s possible to argue about the correct assignment of such rights to students or professors but it’s not possible to brush aside complaints about students’ “academic freedom” on the grounds that they involve a basic conceptual confusion. Even if the first view of the nature of academic freedom is to be maintained this would seem to require justification.

I agree with you that it is not incumbent upon anyone to take Horowitz himself seriously but I think Steve Fuller is right to point out that the substance of his challenge calls for a more reasoned response.

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Martin Bento 06.13.07 at 5:19 am

On one hand, I see Berube’s point that most of what the AAUP describes as academic freedom does not apply to students, at least not in their role as students. On the other, the documents do refer to the academic freedom of students as Engels and I discovered. To be more specific, this is from the Statement on Professional Ethics:

“Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them. They protect their academic freedom. [emphasis added]”

To me, this is sloppy work. The AAUP should either explicitly define what “academic freedom” means as applied to students or remove the verbiage.

But it looks to me like the more basic problem is that we have granted Horowitz his framing. He claims to advocate academic freedom for students, but does he really? He evidently means thinks like students being able to drag Genesis into biology class, to not be exposed, or exposed too strongly, to ideas they don’t like, or conversely to be strongly exposed to those they do, etc. Even if we granted students the same academic freedom as full professors, would these rights fall under it?

Academic freedom concerns outputs, not inputs. Professors have the right to teach or conduct research as they please. They do not have a right only to be exposed to ideas they like. A professor having lunch in the quad cannot order students to shut up if they say something he doesn’t like within his earshot; that is not part of his academic freedom. In the classroom, it is a little trickier, but the standards clearly say that open debate is to be encouraged, and professors do not have the academic freedom simply to suppress views they don’t care for.

A professor has the right to write whatever he pleases in a paper. But no journal is obliged to publish it: he writes what he pleases, and the appropriate venues judge as they please. If a student wants to write a biology paper explicitly based on the Bible, does he have the right to sit at the computer and type those words? I think I speak for all of us when I say that no one should saw off his hands to prevent him. He can write what he pleases, and the professor can fail him. And if the professor does the same, the journals can “fail” him. There is no issue of academic freedom here. Of course, the professor has protected employment. This doesn’t apply to the student because it cannot: the condition of being a student is not a form of employment.

Explicitly opposing academic freedom for students doesn’t sound good to students, nor necessarily to the public, regardless of the merits; it also concedes more to D. Ho than it should. What he is trying to do is use the state and (ironically) tort law to control the academy and having the debate on his terms obscures this.

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Steve Fuller 06.13.07 at 8:19 am

Back to 61 et al. (Michael Berube)

Michael, nobody here is denying that academics have a freedom to teach and research, that you have defined it correctly or that it needs to be institutionally protected. The point of disagreement is whether these points, on which we all agree, can be articulated without further reference to the student’s freedom to learn.

You will notice that in the original Germanic formulation, ‘freedom to teach’ and ‘freedom to learn’ (Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit) are complementary expressions: They were meant to be co-articulated because they share a common boundary that must be managed at all times. This is the backdrop for making sense of Weber’s worries about politics entering the classroom – politicising the classroom threatens to blur, if not destroy, the boundary. None of your rhetoric recognises this point, and I’m afraid Henry’s amicus curiae doesn’t help either.

It is also clear that the AAUP statement was meant to do rather different work from this but with the same Germanic tools. Your rhetoric is true to that different work, which is much more professionally self-serving: e.g. to protect academics from being fired arbitrarily by disgruntled trustee boards. Unfortunately, the old linguistic tools, including the ‘freedom to learn’, are still lying around in the text and other related documents on academic freedom, which Horowitz can then use for his own nefarious purposes, in the name of restoring some original integrity to the idea of academic freedom.

It’s not clear from the tenor of your remarks whether you believe there is anything to the old German idea. Is it simply that the messenger (Horowitz) prevents you from granting the message, or are you averse to the message itself? At this point in the discussion, the very image of Horowitz appears to be providing a convenient excuse to duck the issue.

Now Max Weber actually offers some useful tips in how to take the old German idea of academic freedom seriously. At one point in ‘Science as a vocation’, he observes that one way students exercise their freedom to learn is by choosing which lectures to attend, which means some teachers get many more students than others. He seems to find this fact distasteful but he accepts it as an implication of student’s freedom to learn. However, what he doesn’t accept is that teachers should cater to this tendency or that universities offer incentives for teachers to cater to this tendency. For example, he is very much against the idea that keeping your academic job should depend on student enrolments. In other words, he wants to give the freedom to learn its space without contaminating the space for the freedom to teach (and vice versa, which is what he’s better known for). This is an example of managing the boundary I mentioned earlier: It recognises the tensions inherent in maintaining both freedoms at once. The question is how to design institutions that will enable these tensions to be managed effectively.

Were Weber alive today, he might argue as follows: Students have the right for courses to be given in topics like Hospitality Management, Sports & Leisure Studies, Astrology and Young Earth Creation Studies – if the numbers are sufficient, given the university’s resources. However, this prospect in no way should enter into the judgement of the suitability of academic staff for tenure and promotion, all of which should be judged on their own terms based on the candidates’ claimed fields of academic competence. Now exactly how can this be pulled off without student demand swamping teacher supply – or vice versa? Clearly universities decide these matters all the time in their various ways, but should there be some principled sort of solution, the kind of thing that might be drafted as, dare I say it, ‘academic bill rights’? And if so, is the AAUP the place to initiate it?

One reason why the AAUP may NOT be the right place is that it treats universities largely as outposts or branch offices of academic disciplines, whereas the old conception of academic freedom presupposes that universities also protect the rights of students understood as distinct from those of academics. And so we’re back to Horowitz.

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James Wimberley 06.13.07 at 10:55 am

Can’t one get to Harry’s conclusion a bit quicker by invoking Sartre’s concept (or the grain of truth in it) of bad faith? Good faith – implying a readiness in principle to be persuaded by counter-argument – is a characteristic of the arguer, not the argument. Bad faith implies a purely sophistical concern with the effect, rather than the value, of the argument. A TV debate between rival candidates for political office is normally conducted in bad faith; candidate B is under no obligation to respond to candidate A’s arguments, and is entitled to say something else entirely, or ridicule his opponent. It looks as if Berubé was in this position with Horowitz.

It’s of course a very serious charge in academic life to accuse another scholar of bad faith, and you need a lot of evidence for it: such as a history of changing the subject or resorting to ad hominem attacks when offered a convincing refutation.

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Functional 06.13.07 at 2:18 pm

Well, this is an ironic kettle of fish:

Thernstrom, who has long argued against the Voting Rights Act, tried to paint Guinier as a “quota queen” who was looking for truly “black” representatives.

You put quotes around the term “quota queen” as if Thernstrom used that phrase; whereas “quota queen” was famously the phrase used by Clint Bolick (who is actually a different person) in his Wall Street Journal op-ed. Did Thernstrom ever use that phrase elsewhere? Or are you the one inventing quotes here?

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Michael Bérubé 06.13.07 at 6:49 pm

You put quotes around the term “quota queen” as if Thernstrom used that phrase; whereas “quota queen” was famously the phrase used by Clint Bolick (who is actually a different person) in his Wall Street Journal op-ed. Did Thernstrom ever use that phrase elsewhere? Or are you the one inventing quotes here?

Hmmm, a misdirection and a reversal of the charges. Very good. Well played. Yes, it was Clint Bolick who used that phrase, and I apologize if I left the impression that the actual words were Thernstrom’s. However, Thernstrom was of course the person who put Bolick on the Guinier Trail in the first place. It seems unlikely that they differed on this. So if you’re trying to suggest that I’m mischaracterizing what Thernstrom sought to do (in the way Thernstrom mischaracterized the point of Guinier’s work on voting rights), you’ll have to try a bit harder.

Now to more intellectually honest interlocutors. Engels:

An alternative view, which seems to me to be both more attractive and to be closer to the spirit of the AAUP documents you have cited when taken both together, is that “academic freedom” has a grammar similar to “freedom of the press” and different from “freedom of conscience”, say. It doesn’t denote a right (or set of rights) held by individuals but a value which inheres in the academy as a whole and which entails various rights for different individuals according to their role in the life of the academy, but which anyone who plays such a role must possess to some extent. On this view it’s possible to argue about the correct assignment of such rights to students or professors but it’s not possible to brush aside complaints about students’ “academic freedom” on the grounds that they involve a basic conceptual confusion.

OK, I think this is fair criticism of my comments here, and I take the point. I still prefer to speak of “academic freedom” on one side and “student rights and freedoms” on the other (Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit), but I agree that the AAUP statements must be taken together, and they do speak of the “academic freedom” of students. I would prefer to keep the terminology clearer. Which brings me to

Steve Fuller:

It’s not clear from the tenor of your remarks whether you believe there is anything to the old German idea. Is it simply that the messenger (Horowitz) prevents you from granting the message, or are you averse to the message itself?

The answer is (a). Horowitz has indeed tried, time and again, to come up with a Hot McDonald’s Coffee anecdote, and in order to do so has floated any number of lies and distortions (which we really don’t need to revisit here). Better messengers, please. And speaking of better messengers, Steve, I agree with you that “the AAUP statement was meant to do rather different work from this but with the same Germanic tools,” and that this accounts for the terminological confusion I’d like to avoid.

The AAUP has, by the way, drafted a new policy statement on politics and indoctrination in the classroom. I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear that it’s quite good — and I hope that when it appears this fall, it answers some of the objections about students’ rights that I’ve dealt with inadequately in this thread.

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Functional 06.13.07 at 7:28 pm

Talk about misdirection. You get caught misattributing a quote — the very thing which prompts you to get on such a high horse about Thernstrom — but because I pointed it out, I’m the one who’s not “intellectually honest.” The term “projection” comes to mind.

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Functional 06.13.07 at 7:35 pm

And thanks, by the way, for so perfectly demonstrating why there’s no prima facie reason to believe that you’re better than Thernstrom at quoting Guinier with meticulous accuracy.

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Henry 06.13.07 at 8:55 pm

functional – come off it.

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Functional 06.13.07 at 9:18 pm

Come off it yourself. You’re accusing Thernstrom of being a hack because she (supposedly) put something in quotes that Lani Guinier didn’t say. And here, her very accuser does exactly the same thing! (And not about an obscure quote either; I knew that Bolick was really the one who used the “quota queen” line, just from remembering what happened 14 years ago, and I haven’t even written publications about this incident). So forgive me if I don’t just take Berube’s word for it that when Thernstrom wrote Guinier that wanted “authentic” black representatives, Guiner had never used the word “authentic” in any of her writings.

And maybe you should show a little independent thought here. Rather than taking Berube’s account at face value, how’s about being a little more diffident and agnostic before accusing other people of scholarly misconduct?

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Michael Bérubé 06.13.07 at 10:52 pm

Hey, you know, I don’t think functional is going to come off it anytime soon. And I don’t think he’s going to check Guinier’s work against Thernstrom’s, either. He’s played his little game, and he thinks he scored a Big Point. Good for him!

But the real point remains: my account of what Thernstrom did to Guinier is quite accurate, and Thernstrom’s account of Guinier’s scholarship is the work of a partisan hack. And yes, that remains the case even if, somewhere in her work, Guinier used the word “authentic” in some other context.

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engels 06.13.07 at 11:46 pm

Regular readers of this blog suspect that functional’s screen name is missing a prefix.

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Matt Weiner 06.14.07 at 3:42 pm

Michael, just to clarify: Is your accusation that Guinier never said the words that Thernstrom put in quotes, or that even though she did say those individual words in various contexts, Thernstrom put them together into a paraphrase that deliberately distorts her views?

From what you say it looks like the latter, but functional seems to be accusing you of the former.

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JM 06.14.07 at 3:47 pm

Though I’m jumping into this debate rather late, I’d like to go back to the question of strategy and presentation. One thing has been missing from this discussion: an attention to the media.

While it might be comforting to think that we, as academics, have the ability to grant legitimacy to some critics and not others, we don’t. The public will judge the claims of even total hacks for themselves.

Increasingly, then, the information venue in question becomes of primary importance. While it’s one thing for Horowitz to rant on his website, it’s quite another to have “mainstream” venues like Fox News and talk radio disseminate his views. (In fact, they not only give him a venue, but actively ape his rhetoric even when he’s not present.)

Academia, in general, and public universities, particularly, derive at least some of their legitimacy from the public’s acceptance of its mission. Once the public turns on academia, there can be serious consequences. So, when multiple media outlets actively undertake smearing academia, then there’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

If we choose to simply ignore Horowitz, academics run the risk of having no voice in the debate. Perhaps any response grants Horowitz and his complaints some degree of academic legitimacy. But, if we take it to be true that the public does have a role in granting broader legitimacy, then it doesn’t really matter whether academics choose to ignore him. After all, places like Fox News will just have him on by himself — maybe noting that “several prominent academic spokespersons declined to appear.”

Engagement is the best option.

Michael Bérubé’s Chronicle discussion with Horowitz was, indeed, very smart and clever. But he was in a friendly forum. Would that have worked on Fox News? I’m not so sure. Perhaps a mocking response might alienate the public.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect that — particularly in “hostile” venues, like Fox News — it’s best for academics to be courteous, polite, etc. in refuting his arguments. Faced with some (likely false) anecdote about an aggrieved student, maybe the blindsided academic should simply expressing a belief in a student’s right to be respected and graded fairly (nothing more, nothing less). That would probably satisfy most of the public, and, in the face of such a courteous opponent, Horowitz will come out looking like the problem. (I think Kevin Mattson did a good job in this respect when he took on Horowitz on Horowitz’s own turf.)

Being a little critical of my own point, though, it’s worth noting that outlets like Fox News usually select the most idiotic representatives of their enemies to appear on multiple occasions. So, I’m sure they’d find some completely out-there, ultra-lefty cultural studies professor to represent all of academia — and simply not return the requests of more sympathetic academics to appear.

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JM 06.14.07 at 3:48 pm

Apparently I have no idea how to create a link (any tips?), but the Mattson/Horowitz link is here:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19029

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Martin Bento 06.14.07 at 5:46 pm

jm, I agree. I think academics mostly interact, especially in their role as academics, with peers and students, both of whom have reason to give more deference to the institution than the public does. Therefore, their estimation of their power to “grant” legitimacy is likely to be highly exaggerated. If I read the Berube/Horowitz dialog and set aside everything else I know about the people and issues involved, I do not reach the conclusion that Berube is necessarily right. I reach the conclusion that Horowitz is trying to debate, and Berube is mostly deflecting debate, and where Berube scores points, it is where this is not true. For example, on al arian, Berube makes the serious point that AA was an active Bush supporter, and that liberal institutions nonetheless backed his right to due process on principle. Very good serious points. However, Berube obviously means his “two Horowitzes” complaint seriously; yet, when Ho attempts to reverse this – a perfectly fair form of argument – Berube deflects it into a joke before he even makes his case, indicating to me that he does not take his own argument seriously. The debate on Hayden White comes down to: “White is a fraud. No, he’s brilliant. Is not. Is so. Is not. Is so.” What am I supposed to take away from this?

The great fear here seems to be that people will be ambushed by some preposterous lie that D. Ho tells that they will not be able to refute on the spot. Easy to believe; Cornel West makes $35,000 a hour? I’ve seen West speak, and damned if he’s worth a penny more than $12,000. The thing is, if Horowitz has a history of saying ridiculous things like this – and he does – cherry-pick a few of the most ridiculous and easily-refuted and hit him with them. Hit him pre-emptively. Before he says anything, hit him with what is this about West making $35,000 an hour? Make him either defend the claim or disown it. Either way, he undermines his own credibility in a way that is perfectly fair, clear to the general public, and not relying on some special deference to academics.

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Functional 06.14.07 at 6:33 pm

Matt Weiner: I’m not sure what the book says, but Berube has made BOTH of those claims in the past:

The content of Thernstrom’s claim was ludicrous, bearing no relation to Guinier’s actual writing; but what was really astonishing about this hit job (as opposed to similar items by Clint Bolick and Paul Gigot in the Wall Street Journal) was Thernstrom’s pretense that she was citing Guinier in those scare quotes. Apparently, TNR was familiar with fabricated quotes and intellectual fraud long before anyone heard of Stephen Glass.

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alwsdad 06.14.07 at 7:18 pm

I can’t help but notice that functional has yet to actually refute a single thing M. Berube said in his book about Thernstrom. If you have evidence that M. Berube was wrong, why not just present it, rather than being so coy?

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Functional 06.14.07 at 8:11 pm

I don’t claim to have proof; I don’t have all of Guinier’s writings, and even if I did, I can think of few things more tedious than reading all of them with a fine-toothed comb to see if she ever expressed a desire for representation that is “community-based” or “culturally rooted” or “authentic.”

What I am saying, however, is very simple: 1) Berube accused Thernstrom of completely fabricating those quotes; BUT 2) Berube himself has proven in this very thread (oh what a selfless gift to his detractors!) that he himself is sloppy and inaccurate when it comes to quotations; 3) Therefore, Berube very well may have been unfair to Thernstrom; 4) Therefore, Henry should take a grain of salt before accusing Thernstrom of being a fraudulent hack.

Understand?

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Michael Bérubé 06.14.07 at 8:33 pm

Is your accusation that Guinier never said the words that Thernstrom put in quotes, or that even though she did say those individual words in various contexts, Thernstrom put them together into a paraphrase that deliberately distorts her views?

Good question, Matt. The answer is (b), and to clarify (a), here’s what Thernstrom actually wrote (it’s the passage I cite in my book):

[I]n Guinier’s world, black constituents can lack representation even if their elected officials are black. If the officeholders are not “community-based,” “culturally rooted” and politically and psychologically “authentic,” then they’re “tokens”– contaminated by white support. Thus neither Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder nor Andrew Young counts as a “black advocate”; they are too “assimiliated” into the political mainstream. The authentic black has a “distinctive voice” and a level of group consciousness incompatible with white enthusiasm.

As you can see, the scare quotes are almost random, and no “quotation” is longer than two words. It’s a cut-and-paste exercise, the kind Horowitz himself has done with my own work.

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Manhattan Institute 06.14.07 at 8:44 pm

Congratulations, functional! We’ve been reading this thread since Tuesday, and we admire your work. We are especially impressed at your ability to keep up the pretense that Michael Bérubé was quoting Abigail Thernstrom directly in comment 61 above, rather than paraphrasing her attack on Guinier as an attempt to cast Guinier as a “quota queen.” We note with pleasure that even though you have not refuted Bérubé’s argument, and have long since abandoned any interest in determining the merit of Thernstrom’s account of Guinier’s work, you have taken the offensive and have repeatedly accused Bérubé of sloppiness. That kind of brazenness and — dare we say it — chutzpah is precisely what we look for in our Senior Fellows. Please drop us a line when you have a moment and we can discuss the details of your appointment. In the meantime, keep up the good work!

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Functional 06.14.07 at 10:19 pm

I take it that 82 is from Berube? Funny. It must get tiresome, though, to be in this perpetual mode of ridicule and ironic detachment. Don’t you ever want to utter a serious thought once in a while?

81 is a useful clarification, however — some people might have thought that when you accused Thernstrom of the “pretense that she was citing Guinier in those scare quotes,” and of “fabricated quotes,” that means that Guinier never actually used the words quoted. But apparently you were just being sloppy again, and you really meant that Thernstrom wasn’t summarizing accurately, or something like that.

OK, then. I’m going to have to look up Guinier, because I still strongly suspect that your interpretation of Guinier (and hence your accusation against Thernstrom) is wrong. After all, amongst a certain liberal crowd, it’s as common as dirt to argue that black politicians don’t really count as “black” unless they authentically represent the black population (Google “Clarence Thomas” or “Ward Connerly” before pretending to find these sentiments unfamiliar). So it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Guinier did write such a thing; but, as I say, I’ll have to look up the articles.

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Michael Bérubé 06.14.07 at 11:34 pm

It must get tiresome, though, to be in this perpetual mode of ridicule and ironic detachment. Don’t you ever want to utter a serious thought once in a while?

As I’ve explained before on this blog (in the post Henry quotes here, as a matter of fact), I save my serious thoughts for serious interlocutors. Thanks for playing, though!

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fardels bear 06.14.07 at 11:46 pm

Gosh, functional will have to go do some reading to actually be able to make the argument he’s been spouting for such a long time. Think of how much more powerful it will be when s/he actually assembles some evidence!

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Functional 06.15.07 at 12:24 am

Fardels: I don’t have to prove beyond a doubt that Berube is completely wrong in order to show that it takes a degree of gullibility or hackishness to trust his accuracy here. In other words, “proof positive that Berube is full of crap” is a higher standard than “reasons that Berube isn’t so meticulous that he deserves everyone’s blind trust.” The latter is what I’ve shown — well, it’s what Berube has thoughtfully demonstrated by his own inability to ascribe (famous) quotations correctly. And thus, if Berube doesn’t merit blind trust, then Henry shouldn’t so cavalierly label Thernstrom a fraudulent hack. That’s all. Thank you.

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Functional 06.15.07 at 12:28 am

In other words, forget Berube for a moment. Instead, Henry, how’s about this as a blogging standard: Don’t accuse other people of intellectual fraud unless you personally can vouch for it, or unless someone who is both trustworthy and who has provable expertise on the particular substantive issue has vouched for it.

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Henry 06.15.07 at 12:40 am

functional – not only do I trust Michael on this, but he has provable expertise in the substantive issue area; e.g. the identification and excoriation of political hacks (he has made rather a specialty of this). That he doesn’t convince you is neither surprising nor dispositive – you rather give the impression of someone who was, and is, disinclined to be convinced by any evidence whatsoever of anything that might hold inconvenient implications for your ideological priors.

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Functional 06.15.07 at 1:22 am

No, the substantive issue is voting rights, in which Thernstrom is an expert, and Berube is not. And I marvel your ability to trust Berube’s ability to ascribe quotations correctly. So be it.

I don’t have any “ideological priors” here except that I was quite surprised to see Thernstrom (a serious scholar) indiscretely lumped in with the likes of Malkin and Horowitz (you’ll notice that I don’t disagree with your characterization of them as hacks).

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harry b 06.15.07 at 2:45 am

functiona – just go read Guinier. Her position is unrecognisably different from that which Thernstrom describes. Of course, because some crude people say X, that makes it much easier for someone who is completely dishonest to attribute X to someone they want to dismiss. What surprised me when reading Guinier was not how unreconisably different her views were to those that were attributed to her, but how congenial some of them should have been to conservatives. (No surprise, perhaps, then, that her book was published by the Free Press, at the time known for its right-leaning tendency, and iirc, she thanks some conservative head honcho there for having sought her out to get the book published).

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