Bald men, comb

by Henry Farrell on August 29, 2007

Or perhaps rather, _Clash of the Titans_; only Ray Harryhausen could properly depict a “stand-off”: of such magnitude – intellectual (and I use the term in its _very_ broadest sense) fisticuffs between Dinesh D’Souza and Alan Wolfe.

Now, D’Souza says Boston College is withholding videotape of a debate on the book he conducted there with the scholar Alan Wolfe — because it shows that the college’s “intellectual emperor has no clothes.” …But the producers of the video maintain that it was an embarrassment for both debaters. “It was uncivil, they talked over each other, they … cast aspersions on each other’s character, they made jokes at each other’s expense, it was a snipe job, it was a street fight, it was a brawl. And frankly it doesn’t meet Boston College’s intellectual standards,” said Ben Birnbaum, the executive producer of Front Row. While it was clear that the taping was intended for an online audience, the written agreement with the debaters left the decision on what to do with the video in the college’s hands.

Boston College’s media people should be warmly congratulated for protecting us from this abomination. On the one hand, not much can be said about Dinesh D’Souza that hasn’t “been said already”:’Souza. On the other, it seems to me that Alan Wolfe doesn’t come in for anywhere near as much flak as he deserves. Not that he’s a D’Souza, or anything like him, but he _is_ Gertrude Stein’s Oakland in human form, a sort of Lowest Common Denominator of liberal wuffle. Wolfe is the source of relentless waves of book reviews, opinion articles, magazine squibs and monographs; in short, of ideas journalism of all kinds except the kind that actually has ideas. I have a friend whose cure for writer’s block is to pick up the latest Wolfe emanation in the _New York Times Book Review_ or wherever it might be, and use it as a class of a purgative. As he reads it, he gets increasingly furious that this sort of guff can _get published_ by apparently serious journals; this anger serves to clean out the system. It may be that sometime, somewhere, Alan Wolfe has said something that is both interesting and true; if so, I have yet to see it (readers who believe that they have spotted insightful Wolfe articles in the wild should of course feel free to link to them in comments).

Where the Smarm hits the Road

by Kieran Healy on August 29, 2007

For those inclined to think that a willingness to grind up real people’s lives in the pursuit of grand political causes is a distinctively left-wing vice, we present Mr Bill Kristol.