Q: As a staunch neoconservative and the author of a new feminism-bashing book called"Manliness," how are you treated by your fellow government professors at Harvard?
Look, if I only consorted with conservatives, I would be by myself all the time. I'm not by myself all the time. Therefore I don't consort only with conservatives. Then again, if I consorted only with myself, who would I be? Or wait. If I only consort with myself, I guess that means I'm a conservative. But I am a conservative. Dammit, where am I? Who am I? Contact, contact.
So your generally left-leaning colleagues are willing to talk to you?
People listen to me, but they don't pay attention to what I say. I should punch them out, but I don't. Alas, as a nearly emeritus 73-year-old, my punching arm is a bit creaky.
In your latest book, you bemoan the disappearance of manliness in our"gender neutral" society. How, exactly, would you define manliness?
My quick definition is confidence in a situation of risk. A manly man has to know what he is doing. Unlike me.
Hasn't technology lessened the need for risk taking, at least of the physical sort?
It has. But it hasn't removed it. Technology gives you the instruments, and social sciences give you the rules. But manliness is more a quality of the soul.
Does the soul have a gender or sexuality?
Hmm. Never thought of that one.
How does someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger stack up?
I would include him as a manly man. In fact I find him attractive. My total favorite was that scene in the AC/DC video"Big Gun" where he puts Angus Young on his shoulders. That was totally cool and really manly. It gave me goose bumps.
But doesn't he exemplify the sort of man whose overdeveloped muscles are intended to mask feelings of insecurity? I mean come on, every sophisticated New York Times pseudo-reporter knows that big muscles signal an insecurity complex in a man.
Yes, but then he stepped up to become governor of California. He took a risk with his reputation.
What about President Bush? He's a risk taker, but wouldn't his penchant for long vacations be a strike against him?
I wouldn't say industriousness is a sign of manliness. That's sort of wonkish. Experts do that. Lazy men are manly men. They take risks when they do nothing—the risk of unemployment, for example.
What about Dick Cheney?
He hunts. And he curses openly. Lynne Cheney is kind of manly, too. I once worked with her on the advisory council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. As I recall, she has a distinct moustache.
In your book, you say Margaret Thatcher is an ideal woman, but isn't she the manliest of all?
I was told by someone who visited her that she is very feminine with her husband.
What precisely did she do with her husband?
It's a bit private, but let me assure you, it was very feminine—something involving a hot pink camisole and rose petals, I believe. The Prime Minister was known to cavort about 10 Downing Street in that camisole, if you want to know the truth.
Why is that so important to you in light of her other achievements?
We need roles. Roles give us mutual expectations of what is either correct or good behavior. Women are neater than men, they make nests, and all these other stereotypes are mostly true. Wives and mothers correct you; they hold you to a standard; they want to make you better. Fathers and husbands on the other hand just want you to fall on your face.
Wait. But aren't fathers men? Is it manly that fathers want their children and wives to fail? If so, how exactly could they function as role models? Anyway, how can Margaret Thatcher's private life provide a role model for anyone?
We need roles. Roles give us mutual expectations of what is either correct or good behavior.
So you're saying that an elderly matriarch Prime Minister cavorting about the places of goverment in a frilly pink camisole is a good role model for women? Or is it men?
Roles, I tell you; roles. Moral values. Importance of family. Traditional values. Roles. And so forth.
I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman. Your ideas are so Victorian. I mean come on, as every New York Times pseudo-reporter knows, the Victorians never spoke to women.
I have a young wife who grew up in the feminist revolution, and even though she is not a feminist, she wants to benefit from it. I wash the dishes, and I make the bed.
So that would make you a girlie- man, right?
Yes it would.
How young is your wife, exactly?
She's 60. I'm 73.
Were you sorry to see Harvard's outgoing president, Lawrence Summers, attacked for saying that men and women may have different mental capacities?
He was taking seriously the notion that women, innately, have less capacity than men at the highest level of science. I think it's probably true. It's common sense if you just look at who the top scientists are and dispense entirely with any concept of an empirical methodology. This issue once again reveals me to be the girlie man that I am. I can barely think straight! Abject confusion always brings out my feminine side.
But couldn't that simply reflect the institutional bias against women over the centuries?
It could, but I don't think it does. We have been going a couple of generations now. There are certain things that haven't changed. For example, in New York City, the doormen are still 98 percent men.
Excuse me, but just what the hell does that have to do with anything? Do you have any clue at all what you're talking about? Do you realize that this interview is going to be published in a national publication and your answers to these questions make you sound like a blithering idiot?
Roles, I say. Roles. We need role models. Roles give us mutual expectations of what is either correct or good behavior.
Yes, but fewer jobs depend on that sort of physical brawn as society becomes more technologically adept. Physical advantages are practically meaningless now that men are no longer hunter-gatherers.
I disagree with that.
I don't know. I'm a Harvard professor with tenure. It's not my job to know anything anymore, or make arguments. I just collect my paycheck and come up with increasingly idiotic theses.
When was the last time you did something that required physical strength?
It's true that nothing in my career requires physical strength, but in my relations with women, yes. You'd be amazed if you saw me using my physical strength on women. It's a sight worth seeing.
Women? In the plural?
Oh yes. Why do you ask? Interested in joining the ranks there, Debbie?
No, I'm just trying to interpret your remarks. For the record: how many 'women' do you have 'relations' with?
Hmm, well, I never was good at math....
What sorts of things do you do that require physical strength?
Lifting things, opening things. My wife is quite small. In fact, I'm obliged to keep her in a small box in a corner of the living room.
What do you lift?
Furniture. Not every night, but routinely. Often I lift the box that contains my wife, and do several circumambulations of the house, grunting in a manly fashion at her. Then I open the box and peer in now and then. Her reaction is predictably feminine.
She doesn't like the tough guysI generally dislike Deborah Solomon's interviews in the The New York Times Magazine, but I found the most recent one, of Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield (and author of Manliness), both fair and informative-- on the interviewer's side, at least. As regards the interviewee, I have but one question: Is this or is this not the most embarrassing interview ever to see the light of day?
She says that they've got brains all where they sit
They think they're full o' fire She thinks they're full of...
--REO Speedwagon,"Tough Guys," from the 1980 album Hi-Infidelity
Thought du jour for our conservative friends: Think a bit about the academic merit of Mansfield's defense of"manliness" (or his 'definition' of it, for that matter) before going after Cornel West. Is it really so obvious why Mansfield's hifallutin version of "Hans and Franz" should beat out West's rap album as an instance of top-quality academic work?
MANHATTAN: PROTESTS AT COLUMBIA LECTURE A historian who argues that Jewish organizations exploit the Holocaust to deflect criticism from Israel drew dozens of student protesters last night during his lecture at Columbia University. Norman Finkelstein, a DePaul University professor who is the son of Holocaust survivors, gave a talk titled"Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History." Some students in attendance quietly held up two-sided red signs that showed a picture of his face with a red heart, followed by the word"Hezbollah."
The item (which comes from this morning's Metro section of The New York Times) continues:
They also handed out fliers outside."We're angry because a lot of what Norman Finkelstein says is repugnant and is based in Jewish conspiracy theories that easily spin out of control into anti-Semitism," said Avery Katz, the vice president of LionPAC, a pro-Israel student group that helped coordinate the protest. The lecture was sponsored by 10 student groups."I feel very glad that students who oppose the event are voicing their opposition and engaging in the dialogue," said Sakib Khan, 21, a Muslim Students Organization member who helped arrange the lecture. He said he hoped the event would stimulate conversation that had been stifled by last year's disputes between pro-Israel students and pro-Palestinian professors.Whatever happened to the principle that a speaker has the floor when he speaks and that no disruptions of any kind are to be tolerated? If LionPAC is so"angry" about Finkelstein's views, why not try rebutting him instead of disrupting his lecture? That, evidently, is too much to ask on an American college campus, where discursive activity is obliged to take a back seat to the culture of emotivism.
It's a separate and worthwhile question whether Finkelstein ought to have been invited to Columbia in the first place. It is also a question why a Muslim student organization is doing the inviting. Don't Finkelstein's anti-Zionist strictures apply with equal rigor to Islamic conceptions of politics? What do Columbia's Muslim students have to say about that? Can an anti-Zionist consistently accept the justification offered for the legitimacy of the state of Pakistan? Can someone who accepts the legitimacy of the latter state be a consistent anti-Zionist? It's revealing that for all its"anger," LionPAC has no clue what questions to ask. (Don Willis raises similar and highly pertinent questions in a similar context in a comment on Mark LeVine's blog.)
But such questions aside, once an invitation has been tendered and accepted--be it to Norman Finkelstein or Benjamin Netanyahu--"free speech" means that the speaker has the right to speak without impediment or disruption. Disruptions of the Columbia variety are not an exercise of free speech but its negation.
Four jobs I've had
1. Janitor in a hospital
2. Billing clerk for a medical billing company
3. Medical assistant in a doctor's office
4. Assistant to the vice president of Global Quality Assurance and Regulatory Compliance for an agricultural research company.
Four movies I can watch repeatedly without tiring of them
1. A Passage to India (1984)
2. Earth (1998)
3. In Custody (1994)
4. The Five Deadly Venoms (1978): simply the best martial arts film ever made.
Four places I've lived
1. Montclair, NJ
2. West Orange, NJ
3. Princeton, NJ
4. South Bend, IN
Four TV shows I like (none current)
1. Get Smart
2. Rescue 911
3. The X Files
4. Namaste America, the #1 South Asian TV Network in America! (Saturday morning Indian TV, with perfunctory news from the Homeland, accompanied by disastrously bad Bollywood films)
Four famous TV shows I haven't watched and probably never will
2. The Sopranos
3. Sex in the City
4. Six Feet Under
Four albums I can't do without
1. AC/DC, Back in Black (1981)
2. Rush, Moving Pictures (1981)
3. Saint-Saens, Organ Symphony with Carnival of the Animals and Danse Macabre
4. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Shahbaaz (1993)
Four vacation spots (given the first one, it's perhaps better to describe them more neutrally as"four places I've visited")
1. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
2. Lahore, Pakistan
3. San Juan, Puerto Rico
4. Island Beach State Park, New Jersey
Four favorite dishes
1. Curried pumpkin, i.e," chalaw kadu"(Afghan style, as cooked either by Ariana Afghan restaurant in Manhattan or Pamir restaurant of Morristown, NJ)
2. Curried squash (Pakistani style; as cooked by yours truly)
3. Eggplant parmesan (as cooked by Carrie-Ann Biondi)
4. Bean curd in spicy bean sauce (as cooked by Tiger Noodles of Princeton, NJ)
Four sites I visit daily
2. The Christopher Hitchens Web
3. Arts & Letters Daily
Four places I'd rather be
1. Kalam, Pakistan
2. Lahore, Pakistan
3. The Everglades
4. Inside a true-life version of virtually any scene from a painting by Sanford Gifford
On"four bloggers tagged," I defer to (i.e., openly plagiarize) Roderick Long's approach (scroll down).
The AGABBP bloggers are right: the word has to be spread, and the Pakistani government has to be embarrassed on this issue in public view to the maximum extent possible.
[W]hat's the boundary between advocating a rights-violation and threatening a rights-violation? Presumably the former should be legal…and the latter should be illegal.Three recent cases bring this question into sharp focus, and call for some serious, sustained, collaborative thought by philosophers, historians, and legal scholars.
The first case, on which Roderick was commenting, concerns Muslim anti-cartoon protesters at a distance from Denmark: some of them were advocating rights-violations but not necessarily threatening them. We see a similar phenomenon in this New York Timesstory about anti-Bush protests in India: is proclaiming a readiness to be a suicide bomber the same as threatening to be one? Is a blowhard assertion the equivalent of an actual threat?
The second, which I’ve blogged before (in a somewhat cavalier way, I’ll admit) is the (serious) case of Abu Hamza al Masri. Should Masri have been imprisoned for saying what he said? The hook-handed bastard may be loathsome, but evidence of his involvement in terrorism seems pretty thin.
This third case, involving a group of animal rights activists, brings things closer to home. I happen to have seen these people’s tactics up close, and happen personally to know some of their victims. It would be an understatement to say that I find the activists' philosophical and ideological views indefensible. Let me also stipulate that the crimes in question are serious ones, and that there is at least poetic justice, though perhaps not literal justice, in the imprisonment of Lauren Gazzola.
But courts are supposed to mete out literal, not poetic justice, and for that reason, this should strike us as problematic:
During the three-week trial, defense lawyers acknowledged that a Web site run by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty posted home addresses and other personal information about animal researchers and others. But the activists said they were simply trying to shame their targets into dissociating themselves from the company, Huntingdon Life Sciences, and they disavowed any involvement with the vandalism, death threats, computer hacking and pipe bombs against those on the Web site.I don’t have access to the trial transcript, so there may be some other incriminating evidence against the activists. In my view, the closest that the article comes to supplying any genuinely incriminating evidence about the activists is the penultimate sentence about Kjonaas’s phone call to the person charged with the bombing.
Although federal prosecutors presented no evidence that the defendants directly participated in the vandalism and violence, they showed jurors that members of the group made speeches and Web postings from 2000 to 2004 that celebrated the violence and repeatedly used the word"we" to claim credit for it.
Prosecutors also produced telephone records indicating that the president of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, Kevin Kjonaas, called a man charged with bombing a California biotech lab shortly after the explosion.
Jurors were also shown a videotape of the group's director, Lauren Gazzola, at a protest in Boston, making reference to the previous acts of violence and warning a target,"The police can't protect you!"
Evidentially, that's pretty weak tea: it's consistent with mere foreknowledge of the crime, and implausible as it may seem, with coincidence. By itself, it doesn’t come close to qualifying as “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt” that Kjonaas was actively involved in the bombing. (Recall that the man to whom the phone call was placed was charged with the bombing, not convicted of it. A call to a presumptively innocent person is not evidence of guilt.) Again, I realize that “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt” applies to the totality of the evidence. But if the totality consists of stuff like this, I don’t see how it adds up to evidence sufficient for a conviction.
I suspect that we’re going to see more and more cases like this. Terrorism is by its nature hard to deal with by ordinary police work and prosecution. Terrorist activity (like governmental covert operations, on which it's modeled) is highly compartmentalized, and thrives on networks of handlers and advocates who are not themselves involved in the dirty work of planting bombs or slashing tires. It thrives, in short, on its Julius Streichers as well as its Eichmanns, Heydrichs, Mullers, Hitlers and SS men.
Our criminal code and our courts system are ill-equipped to deal with a phenomenon like this: in this respect, terrorism really isn't like"ordinary" crime. The result is that the system doesn’t really deal with it--at least not by the usual standards. It flails away by lowering its standards. The result is a serious dimunition of respect for civil liberties--for evidential standards, criminal procedure, and the rule of law.
I don’t have a neat lesson here to offer beyond the by-now trite observation that this weakening of the rule of law is bound to be as problematic as the terrorism it’s intended to combat. I would thus be less enthusiastic than the animal researchers are about this decision. The SHAC case is not a victory, but a harbinger of trouble to come.
I should make my view of this episode clear for those lacking the subtlety or inferential power to figure it out on their own: the two students should not have been suspended or disciplined in any significant way. They were at most guilty of a nearly meaningless procedural infraction. Suspension is far too harsh for that, and doesn't seem to have been imposed for procedural reasons anyway.
Now look at the"Muslim student" reaction.
In Champaign on the morning of Feb. 9, angry phone calls began within hours of The Daily Illini's hitting the stands. The cartoons were printed on the opinions page beside a column by Mr. Gorton explaining why he was publishing them. Shaz Kaiseruddin, a third-year law student and president of the Muslim Student Association, said she awoke to a phone call from an angry colleague.Ignorance? Disrespect? Try looking in the mirror. And try growing up while you're at it. Ms. Kaiseruddin is in"disbelief" at the publication of a few cartoons. Maybe she needs to come to grips with the fact that lots of other people are in"disbelief" at the idea that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is his prophet, and that the Qur'an is a book"whereof there can be no doubt." A piece of advice: try getting in touch with reality for a second; belief will follow straightaway.
"I was in disbelief that they would do this," Ms. Kaiseruddin, 24, said."That our own student-based newspaper would be so ignorant and disrespectful."
Producing any image of Muhammad is considered blasphemous by many Muslims, and reproducing such anti-Muslim images, she said, revealed no understanding of the pain that would carry. Students met to plan a response.
Notice that no part of Kaiseruddin's comment or reaction bears any relation to the Gorton's explanation for why he published the cartoons. But there is no suggestion (just the opposite) that Gorton was publishing the cartoons in order to endorse them. He published them in order that students would have a sense of what they looked like. If Muslim students oppose this, they're not opposing stereotypes, but embracing ignorance and insisting that others wallow in the same ignorance as their own.
I find it interesting, incidentally, that almost none of the Muslims protesting the cartoons have identified what I take to be the only legitimate reason for regarding them as offensive—their use of racial stereotypes. If that is not what they're protesting, I think it's worth asking: what are they protesting? Would they mind trying to articulate it?
I can guess the answer: it's the offense caused to their religion. I wonder, though: have any of these"Muslim students" actually read the Qur'an? Has it ever occurred to them that there are passages in that book that are"offensive" to the rest of mankind—the part of it, according to the book, that is destined for an eternity in Hell for not believing in the supremacy of God and his prophet on command? How about the stuff about the Jews of Khaybar? Or the pointlessness of this life, and its subordination to the next?
A piece of advice whispered in the ears of our little Muslim students: go and study the Prophet Muhammad's re-conquest of Mecca. Look at what he did to the cartoonists (i.e., satirical poets) of his day. Explain to the rest of us why that isn't as offensive as the Danish cartoons. It might be a more salutary exercise than making fools of yourself in the mainstream media.