Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Pretty serious charges, especially given that the Spectator cites not even one factual error from the Sun's voluminous coverage of the controversy. It seems as if the Spectator is suffering from journalistic envy, given that it has been scooped by the Sun from the start on this story. The Sun was first, for instance, to report the existence of the David Project film; to look into Hamid Dabashi's astonishing claim that university guidelines allowed last-minute cancellation of classes for political purposes; to bring us inside one of Prof. Joseph Massad's classes by obtaining notes from several students that revealed Massad's anti-Israel lecture rants; or, most recently, to discover that a member of the Law School's board of overseers had written President Bollinger to compare a Massad public address to a"neo-Nazi" rally.
The most ominous assertion from the Spectator, however, comes in its claim that on MEALAC, the opinions of the press or"even of the public at large should not play a role in what is fundamentally a University-based issue.”
Brooklyn College took exactly the same stance during my tenure controversy. The only hostile member of the department willing to speak on the record fumed that “it is outrageous that reputable scholars would go on at such length” about a case not from their campus. (After these words appeared in print, he ceased public comment.) This perspective is equally inappropriate to the MEALAC situation.
The Spectator’s assertion envisions a campus environment divorced from reality. It assumes, first of all, that a system of checks and balances exists within the university, making illegitimate the mere act of an outside appeal (to other scholars, to the media, to trustees, to interested parties). Yet on curricular and personnel issues featuring those willing to subvert established academic norms in pursuit of an ideological or personal agenda, too often no checks and balances are present—and not solely, or even primarily, for ideological reasons. Faculty from other departments don’t want to publicly criticize activities from outside their turf, lest this be used as a precedent against them at a later stage. Administrators, eager to avoid ruffling the feathers of the faculty, often perceive the path of least resistance as not challenging rogue departments like MEALAC. Students have little or no say in internal university mechanisms. Under such circumstances, the choice then becomes—as I discovered in my tenure case, as the Columbia students who have stood up to MEALAC intimidation have learned now—going beyond the campus walls or conceding an unfair defeat.
The Spectator also errs in claiming that as the MEALAC affair is “fundamentally a [Columbia] University-based issue,” it is inappropriate for others to comment on it. Public opinion provides a deterrent effect. Perhaps professors in other Middle Eastern Studies departments will now be less inclined to imitate the behavior of their MEALAC colleagues. And, more important, all of us now have a better sense of the distorted sense of “instruction” that occurs in classes taught by ideologues such as Joseph Massad.
If the Spectator doesn’t like the Sun’s response to the MEALAC crisis, exactly how does it think the story should be handled? A good clue comes from the newspaper’s fawning coverage of an event organized by the New York Civil Liberties Union claiming that the students’ protests about MEALAC foreshadow arrival of a"new McCarthyism" on campus.
As the NYCLU was last heard from when commenting that students can challenge professors' opinions only if the faculty member supplies written approval to do so, in advance, few would have predicted a diverse presentation. But I would have thought the NYCLU at least would have attempted to provide the veneer of balance. Instead, the speakers were Anthropology professor Mahmood Mamdani, signatory of what President Lee Bollinger termed the “grotesque and offensive” petition demanding that Columbia divest from firms doing business in Israel, and recent author of an article detailing what he termed the"key parallels between neoconservatives and jihadists"; Victor Navasky, editor and publisher of The Nation; and Yeshiva University professor Ellen Schrecker, whose rather intriguing view of the past I’ve previously analyzed. Having assembled such a panel, Kate Meng-Brassel, president of the Columbia ACLU, remarked,"I’m glad we had opposing viewpoints in the debate." I can only assume that her comment was made tongue-in-cheek.
The positions of the NYCLU or the Spectator, lamentably, are not surprising; but their misuse of an enormously serious allegation (McCarthyism) raises more concerns. As the president of Columbians for Academic Freedom, Ariel Beery, observed the day before the NYCLU event,"the perversion of a term like McCarthyism by some residents of the Ivory Tower to make it mean any criticism of any idea whatsoever threatens the right to dissent." In a compelling essay, Beery urged the Columbia “administration to recall lessons from McCarthyism—the real period, and not the imagined purge supposedly carried out by students at Columbia. It was during that time that intellectuals learned the real value of unfettered discourse and the importance of academic freedom.”
Indeed, the only instances of suppression of opinions thus far in this controversy have come from MEALAC professors such as Joseph Massad, who ordered a student who refused to acknowledge Israeli atrocities to leave his class. The NYCLU’s conception of free speech, like Schrecker’s interpretation of “McCarthyism,” seems to turn logic on its head. As Beery concludes, “The whole point of free speech is to disagree with the orthodoxy of the time—to ensure that those with dissenting voices are able to make their claims without fear of reprisal. At Columbia, however, it seems that free speech is only for those people with whom one agrees.”
(This is an intentional use of the third-person plural pronoun as the third-person indefinite singular. Sooner or later, our grammarians will concede this common usage as potentially correct. I'll declare myself a part-time amateur grammarian, and take my stand.)
Most often I notice this in politics, when someone or the other gets accused of communism or fascism.
But every year, even every few months -- and this has been going on for years -- it seems like I'm reading some warning that the next flu pandemic, like the Spanish flu, is just around the corner. All that's missing, reads the story, is that the current bird flu mutate into one capable of spreading person-to-person, not just bird-to-bird and bird-to-person.
O.K., I acknowledge that's a scary thought. But after several years of this, I'm starting to let my guard down. (O.K., I'm actually getting flu shots for the first years in my life, but that's because I've got little kids.) Better put, I more expect to read this story for another 5-50 years than to witness such a flu pandemic in my lifetime. I'm glad someone's watching for it, and I'll even line-item endorse some spending on that. But the warnings are wearing thin.
Just one example of how imbalanced historical analogies can debase the currency of historical analogies in general. CDC, WHO, I hope you're listening....
The radicalization that the civil rights movement worked on the ideas of political thinkers, and the calling into question of the practicality or desirability of integration, was not restricted to those inside the movement. A notable example was the historian and liberal spokesperson Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Schlesinger was not closely identified with struggles for racial equality during the first two postwar decades. Although he spoke in general terms of the importance of racial justice, he considered it as a subject of liberal reform like others, and his identification with the question was largely intellectual. He also demonstrated a certain naiveté about the issue. In the brief passage on civil rights in his 1949 liberal manifesto THE VITAL CENTER, Schlesinger stated that the South accepted in principle President Truman’s civil rights program, as could be proven by Truman’s victory over Dixiecrat Candidate Strom Thurmond in most of the Southern states. Conversely, in the face of massive resistance by the South to the Supreme Court’s BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION decision and desegregation of schools, Schlesinger expressed support for gradualism and commented that it might have been better if the Supreme Court had continued the “Fabian” policy of the Vinson Court in BROWN rather than directly overruling Jim Crow. As late as 1965, Schlesinger insisted that the chief historical cause of racial inequality, beyond widespread sentiments of white supremacy, were overly narrow views of federal authority.
However, by the mid 1960s, Schlesinger was catalyzed by the Black movement, which he called the “moral core” of a new liberal coalition. He compared the heroism of Blacks fighting for equality with the cowardice and complacency of white America. Under the influence of the movement (as well as Robert Kennedy’s thought, and also his frustration over American intervention in Vietnam) Schlesinger moved away significantly from his emphasis on rational governmental reform towards advocacy of a radical (if democratic) restructuring of American society. For instance, while he supported the Great Society’s antipoverty programs, he expressed concern that top-down reform could exacerbate dependency. In a conference in 1968, he asserted, ”Only as the poor take over the leadership of the war against poverty, as the Negroes have taken over the leadership of the war against racism, will the war against poverty achieve its full momentum.”
Meanwhile, while he remained philosophically in favor of integration, Schlesinger took a more positive view of Black Nationalism than many of his colleagues. Nationalism, he pointed out in an article for the Journal of Negro History, was the strongest force in Twentieth Century History, and a dynamic engine of progress. It was therefore understandable and even praiseworthy that Blacks were moved by nationalist notions. The important element was to ensure that this nationalism so that it became a strengthening force, a “transitional nationalism which seeks to strengthen Black purpose as a prelude to integration” and not a permanent or “mystical separatism.” In an interview with John Garraty for Columbia University’s Oral History program that was conducted during the controversy in 1968 over “local control” of schools by community representatives in New York’s Ocean Hill-Brownsville, and published shortly afterwards, Schlesinger expressed approval for the experiment as part of this enlightened trend:
“A strong and rather persuasive case can be made that the present rhetoric of integration implies total acceptance of white values, and therefore is demoralizing to the Negro; and that genuine integration will be impossible unless it’s preceded by separatism, because integration will be meaningless unless it takes place from a base of racial equality…Indeed, there is a strong argument for giving blacks their own communities, their own schools, their own police forces. In effect, that’s what happened with white immigrants around the year 1900 in Boston. The Yankees decided they would let the Irish run the city.”
At first glance, it is difficult to reconcile Schlesinger’s position on Black Nationalism with his later attack on multiculturalism, most famously expressed in THE DISUNITING OF AMERICA (1991). It may be that he ultimately decided that racial politics were not a transition to integration but a danger to it, even as he disparaged identity politics. Nevertheless, Schlesinger remained a consistent advocate of Affirmative Action, and was acerbic in his critique of “color-blind” conservatives as opponents of actual equality. His contact with the Movement and the struggle for the dispossessed may have made it possible for him to retain a concern for racial justice and a faith in liberalism long after many of his neo-conservative contemporaries had abandoned both.
By and large, most of them had to deal with a clash between their early sense of mission and idealism and the often gritty and heavily politicized reality of how development and peacekeeping projects actually work. Many were unable to make the transition, and many others survived -- but at the cost of having their idealism replaced with cynicism. Perhaps the best work I've seen on the political complexities of the system writ large is Ferguson's The Anti-Politics Machine.
The lesson here is that development is far more complex than offering a helping hand to those in need. More significantly, the nature of development work (handling large sums of other people's money for the benefit of yet another group of people) is itself a potentially corrupting influence -- leading at the very least to"institutional creep" and at the worst to rampant graft and corruption. There should be a warning here for folks who think the US mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is somehow going to avoid exactly the sort of mayhem currently rife in NGOs and the United Nations. US administrators and military officials may have a degree of professionalism that render them resistant to such temptations... but they are certainly not immune. And the longer the process goes on, the more that resistance will probably wear down.
Believe it or not, this makes me think about Lindsay's Against the Dead Hand. Lindsay's basic argument is that an"industrial counter-revolution" of socialism, collectivism, and"statism" derailed capitalism and globalization in much of the world. As somebody who has spent rather a lot of time examining colonialism, however, I think that Lindsay far underestimates the impact of colonialism in creating"statism." Lindsay does mention imperialism as anti-globalist, but this is a different point. I think the creation of a large colonial bureaucracy may well have played a role in spreading a"statist" mindset in European governments. Let's face it, it is way easier to run things when you aren't bothered by the presence of citizens, and administrators familiar with the relative ease of telling people what to do in the colonies may well have developed a desire to wield similar influence back home. Mind you, I don't have the specific research to back it up, but call it a hunch that colonial administration styles could easily have"feedback" into home administrations in Europe. For example, much of what we think of as Nazism was fairly pedestrian German colonial policy -- and didn't raise many hackles until it was applied to other Europeans. Anyway, I think there is a dandy dissertation or monograph to be written on the subject.
Thus, the second warning here is that in addition to needing to fear"mission creep" and corruption in the course of the"rebuilding" of Iraq and Afghanistan, US citizens should also keep a very careful eye on leaders (or administrations) who have grown accustomed to the relative freedom of administering non-citizens. Many say that the reason to fight the war on terrorism abroad is to protect civil liberties at home. There is a logic to that argument, but I for one fear that the more entrenched our presence in overseas administration becomes, the more our political system risks being infected a quasi-colonial statism.
In"Revenge of the Blog People!" the president-elect of the American Library Association, Michael Gorman of Cal State, Fresno, casts an amused, jaundiced eye at the e-world. He scorns Google's lack of selectivity, the hope that digitized books can put primary and secondary sources at our finger-tips, and the thoughtless and badly written criticism of him by the"Blog People." I haven't the faintest idea who they would be.
Publius Pundit has a roundup of news on massive protests in Lebanon.
In"Ward & Newt & Tenure," Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik catches Newt Gingrich's mistaken claim that academic speech was protected prior to the establishment of tenure early in the twentieth century.
Color photography was invented by the Lumiere brothers in 1903 and the French were the only ones who did color photographs during World War I. Have a look. It is a remarkable collection. Thanks to Maroonblog for the tip.
"Imaging the French Revolution" is a project sponsored by the Center for History & New Media at George Mason University and the History Department at UCLA for the American Historical Association. George Mason's Jack Censer and UCLA's Lynn Hunt discuss the project in an article for the American Historical Review, February 2005. They had previously collaborated on Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," which explored the French Revolution in images, text documents, songs, maps, essays, and a time-line. Censer and Hunt's more recent project focuses on graphic depictions of the crowd in the French Revolution. Its 42 images are supplemented by essays about and discussion of them."Image Tool" allows site visitors to examine the images in a variety of ways – zoom in for detail, overlay the images, change the opacity of the image, and so forth. The essays accompanying the images make clear that their authors learned from each other electronically as they revised their own interpretations of the images. Thanks to Clioweb for the tip.
Finally, browse through Clioweb's recommendations at the Library of Congress's American Memory": America at Work; America at Leisure, Motion Pictures from 1894-1915; Ansel Adams' Photographs of Japanese Internment at Manzanar, Baseball and Jackie Robinson, Civil War Maps, Panoramic Maps, Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943, and Slaves and the Courts.
Noting my earlier link to the review of Philip Short's new bio of Pol Pot in the New York Times, reader Haydon Cherry of Yale kindly pointed me to this review [registration or subscription required] in the London Times Higher Education Supplement by Yale historian Ben Kiernan. Kiernan is a serious scholar, a specialist in Cambodia's traumas and founder of the Yale Center of Genocide Studies.
I normally don't sign up for trial subscriptions just to read something, and debates about"is it or isn't it genocide" aren't my thing (if you're really not sure, it is a world-class atrocity either way), but Cherry promised me that"Kiernan who speaks and reads Khmer (unlike Short) has written a great deal about Cambodia ... systematically dismantles Short's book in this very fine review." I could just agree and leave it at that, but it's such a thorough dismantling, and the topic is worth some thought.
Kiernan's list of flaws is presented cleanly and clearly, starting with some glaring inconsistencies (definition of genocide v. what Short admits happened; simultaneous use and rejection of Nazi analogies, etc.) which, when combined with a hamhanded approach to ethnicity (including a passage in which cultural traits are passed genetically!), produces a hash:"Taking exotic essentialism as analysis, this approach implicates broad social groups in secret Khmer Rouge decisions of which they became victims." Short's reliance on French and English sources means that this is largely a reinterpretation rather than new work and biased against the testimony and experience of most Cambodians; worse, as Kiernan points out, Short ignores available evidence in English and French when it conflicts with the first-person accounts which he finds so compelling. Taking an example of the Viet-Khmer mix in early revolutionary forces Kiernan points out that"There is no reason now to take at face value a contrary assertion by Pol Pot, even to indicate his view at the time. Without testing it against prior evidence, Short presents it as fact. He then fails to ask why, if Pol Pot's nationalism rather than racism was at work, Khmer command of Vietnamese troops would have provoked his 'disgust.'"
The William Vollmann review in the New York Times does cover some of the same ground, particularly Short's tendency to cultural stereotyping, but considers Short's arguments to be generally successful. I've never heard of Vollmann, but apparently he has a serious following and seems more Hunter Thompson-like than the usual run of NYT reviewers. One interviewer described him as a"swashbuckling whoredog, war correspondent, quixotic freedom fighter, gun aficionado and fiction prodigy." His magnum opus is over 3300 pages [nothing that's not alphabetical and indexed needs to be that long!].... though there's a 600 page abridgement. What I initially called"a fine exercise in the difficulty of speaking about the unspeakable" appears on second look to be more a case of a writer who is too well-armed to take editorial direction. Vollmann finds Short's work quite useful, generally, with interesting details and asides in his coverage of Cambodia's late 20th century, and is convinced by Short's technical rejection of"genocide" to describe the killing fields.
Granted, Kiernan made up his mind years ago where he falls on that question, but I find his position more convincing, particularly when you consider the way communist movements like the Khmer Rouge reified classes into something like ethnicities, with hereditable cultures and unredeemable differences and, in their case, targeted religious groups and ethnic minorities (Southeast Asia suffers from some of the same post-colonial border-vs-ethnicity problems that plagues Africa). Vollmann tries to cast Short as a sort of politically incorrect freethinker ("Short is no apologist for the Khmer Rouge, but an honest researcher who tries, if occasionally too zealously, to keep everything in perspective."), but that would be more convincing if Short weren't so obviously sloppy with concepts and peoples.
Meanwhile, 200 faculty members at the University of Colorado have signed an ad that will appear in tomorrow's Boulder Daily Camera. It calls for an immediate end to the internal investigation into Churchill's work and relationship with the University. The investigation is expected to be complete by mid-March.
More fun than watching the Oscar Awards this evening will be watching Mr. Sun live mock them. Dwight Meredith at Wampum has some predictions. In the meantime, George Bush, Halle Berry and"Fahrenheit 911" swept the Golden Raspberry Awards last night for"Worst Actor,""Worst Actress,""Worst Picture,""Worst Directing," and"Worst Screenplay."
"What else can history teach us? Only the vanity of believing we can impose our theories on history. Any philosophy which asserts that human experience repeats itself is ineffectual." -- Jacques EllulDavid Brooks is talking about Kuhnian paradigm shifts; Thomas Friedman is talking about tipping points; things are changing quickly, so of course something recent must be responsible and the most recent large-scale event in the Middle East was the US invasion of Iraq, so it must all stem from that, right? Well, let's start with the fact that the NY Times headlined its most recent story about Egypt"Mubarak Pushes Egypt to Allow Freer Elections" when he's really being dragged, kicking and screaming away from plans to create a modern dynasty. But Derek Catsam is talking about Ariel Sharon as Nixon in China, so it's not just the Times.
[I love the Times, don't get me wrong, but it's journalism and needs to be taken with a grain of salt; commentary needs to be taken in small doses. Today, they've got stories about Jewish GIs who were captured by Nazis, a review of a new bio of Pol Pot which is a fine exercise in the difficulty of speaking about the unspeakable, and a bio of some joker I never heard of but who illustrates the difficulty of understanding people who really don't want to be known for themselves. So it's a pretty interesting day for a historically-minded reader with a strong constitution.]
I'm not saying events can't move quickly from a specific trigger (I'm a Meiji specialist, after all), but that sudden fundamental change is most often the result of long-term processes with a trigger, than the result of short-term stimuli, however powerful. The challenge-response model of Westernization had its heyday in Asian historiography in the 60s and 70s, along with the modernization theorists (who haven't breathed their last yet) whose teleological conceits and self-referential stages of development still haunt our textbooks and seminars. But good scholarship of the last twenty years has shown many of the assumptions of these theory-driven studies to be false, or at best true only at a very shallow level. Societies are not physical systems.
In the case of the Middle East there are dynastic issues (Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian succession, at least, the death of Arafat has to factor in, as well, and nobody is claiming responsibility for that), long-suffering democracy activists and movements, long-standing information campaigns (for example, Voice of America's been operating for decades now, though only relatively recently in Arabic, I believe) and the general seepage of information through news (even heavily censored and slanted news can convey a great deal of real information to a recipient who is used to the form), personal exchanges and contacts, etc. There is also the fact that we are in a (soon to be looked back at as) brief interval of unipolarity, with the US standing as the sole superpower in the interim between the fall of the USSR and the rise of the Chinese beyond regional importance (possibly the Indians, as well).
Then, of course, is the question of whether the changes we seem to be seeing now are really fundamental and irreversible. Friedman has the good sense to hedge on that question. There's the question of whether the changes will move in the direction we want them to move: systemic change is notoriously complex and unpredictable (though a little long-term perspective often helps). The question of whether we really know what we're in for when we push for democracy is still open, too: our recent record of dealing with real democracies is quite mixed, as they are often instrasigient where oligarchal systems can be bought off.
I'm not saying that our national agenda in the Middle East has not played a role, and in the long run credit will go where credit is due. But we're still at the post hoc ergo propter hoc stage here and we need to calm down a bit and deal with reality instead of theorizing ourselves into a tizzy (and bad policy).
In Praise of Progress: John Warren,"Whig History" @ history-ontheweb.co.uk. Seventy-five years ago, Herbert Butterfield's The Whig Interpretation of History criticized the work of Thomas Macaulay and Lord Acton. Warren suggests that Butterfield's critique did not resolve all the issues and that they are as germane as yesterday's discussion at Cliopatria. Thanks to Ancarett's Abode for the tip.
Perlstein Redivivus: Four years after its publication, Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm, about Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful campaign for president in 1964, is getting renewed attention in bloggerdom. See: Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum at Political Animal, Mark Schmidt at The Decembrist, MattYglesias, and John Holbo at Examined Life.
Revising the Canon: Holly Jackson,"Mistaken Identity," Boston Globe, 20 Feb., revises the body of literature by 19th century African-American women by showing that Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins was white. The interesting issue that remains: how did a female novelist who was known to be white in her lifetime subsequently come to be thought an African American?
Teasing the Soldier: Herbert A. Friedman's"Sex and Psychological Operations" is a study of the use of sex as propaganda in 20th century warfare. Friedman has gathered an extra-ordinary range of and illustrates his article with such material. (Warning: explicit sexual stuff) Thanks to Boing Boing for the tip.
Trashing a Book Quite Thoroughly: In the Telegraph, Sam Leith kicks Joe Queenan's Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country from the north of Scotland to the south of England.
The Denver Post reports that University of Colorado officials are considering the possibility of offering a buyout of Ward Churchill's tenured faculty position.
In a interview with the Telegraph, former Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken publicly of tensions within the Bush administration over plans for the invasion of Iraq. Troop levels were sufficient to win the war, he said, but insufficient to secure the peace."Mr Powell said he had warned President George W Bush over dinner in August 2002 that the problem with Iraq was not going to be the invasion but what followed," according to the news account."He told him: ‘This place will crack like a goblet and it will be a problem to pick up the bits. It was on this basis that he decided to let me see if we could find a United Nations solution to this.'"
If you missed it, the 3rd History Carnival is up over at Detrimental Postulation. Thanks to Rob Priest for putting it together. Another Damned Medievalist at Blogenspiel will host the 4th History Carnival in mid-March.
The deadline for the Bad History Carnival, on the other hand, is this Tuesday. archy puts it this way:
If you want to correct a bad historical parallel that some talking head pulls out to support their position, send it in. If you have a pet peeve about historical movies, send it in. If you've been doing battle with holocaust deniers, internment apologists, or slavery romanticizers, definitely send it in. If you want to debunk a favorite conspiracy theory, send it in. If you just want to bash on The DaVinci Code, send that in too.Send your nominations to archymarquis AT aol DOT com. Oh, and by the way, if you don't know about archy and mehitabel, you should. archy was the cockroach with the soul of a poet; and mehitabel was the alley cat who claimed to have been Cleopatra in a prior life. Any resemblance between mehitabel and Cliopatria is purrly her imagination, but as she famously said:"There's a dance in the old dame yet."
Finally, farewell to Nathan Wright, Jr., Episcopal priest, scholar, and spokesman for black power. Wright was one of 16 men who took the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 to challenge racial segregation in inter-state transportation. Yet, he thought integrationism was"an insult on its face." As chairman of the National Conference on Black Power in Newark in 1967, he was one of black autonomy's leading spokesmen. He was also in many ways a conservative – a life-long Republican and advocate of black capitalism. He was there, in the struggle, early and always.
Farewell, also, to Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International. As a teenager at Eton, he aided Republican refugees of the Spanish Civil War and Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany. In 1961, he founded Amnesty International, which has subsequently become the world's largest human rights organization.
And Newt Gingrich is urging state legislators to amend tenure at state colleges and universities."The question here," says the Newt,
is ‘What obligation does society have to fund its own sickness?'We also had lots of professors fired for exercising their free speech. I'm prepared to argue that exploiting and pandering to provincial, nativist bigotry is anti-American. Oh, and Eugene Volokh thinks that what Gingrich proposes is unconstitutional. See also: Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.
We ought to say to campuses, it's over…We should say to state legislatures, why are you making us pay for this? Boards of regents are artificial constructs of state law. Tenure is an artificial social construct. Tenure did not exist before the twentieth century, and we had free speech before then. You could introduce a bill that says, proof that you're anti-American is grounds for dismissal.
My colleague, KC Johnson, has a piece on the tiff over Harvard's Larry Summers,"Summers Beyond Harvard," at Inside Higher Ed. The response of another of our colleagues at Cliopatria, Tim Burke, to the Summers affair is"The Trouble with Larry" at Easily Distracted.
I'm still reading Hunter Thompson stories. The family tipped their glasses of Chevas Regal with his dead body sitting nearby in the room. Presidential historian, Doug Brinkley, has flown to Colorado to be a spokesman for the family and, apparently, Thompson's ashes will be shot from a cannon across his ranch, as he wished.
The basic argument was vintage Massad: that Israel is a racist state and Jews are racist. In the question session after the speech, Schreiber challenged Massad's (demonstrably false) claim that the PLO was offered only 65% of the West Bank during the 2000 Camp David peace negotiations. Schreiber mentioned that he had personally discussed this issue with the chief negotiator at the 2000 conference, Dennis Ross, and that Ross had expressed his concern that"such contentions were regrettably becoming part of a false mythology increasingly prevalent in the Region."
"At that point,," recalled Schreiber,"someone in the audience shouted out, 'Dennis Ross is a JEW!' the purpose of which obviously was to undermine a flat contradiction of the speaker. Neither the moderator nor anyone in authority in the room said anything. I sat there stunned." In Schreiber's words,"It was apparent to me that Massad was using his position as a Columbia professor, entitled to the respect of students, to promote vile and insidious anti-Semitic hatred in the language of anti-Zionism. He was ostensibly using his scholarship in doing so, but what in fact it entailed was transparently flimsy and more importantly factually and demonstrably untrue."
There is some good news from all of this: Schreiber recently had a personal meeting with Bollinger; and the president, according to Schreiber,"understands the need to recruit to Columbia top scholars and subject the scholars to rigorous academic criteria that may not have been applied in the past."
The Schreiber letter offers two points of insight into the MEALAC controversy. First, a line exists between scholarly debate and outright factual inaccuracy; at least Massad (and, as this editorial in today's Sun argues, perhaps other MEALAC professors as well) seems to be so consumed by hatred of Israel that he makes basic factual errors when talking about Israel. Second, a professor, whether in class or in a public lecture, has a considerable ability to shape the atmosphere of the gathering, and Massad regularly seems intent on not creating a climate in which all legitimate points of view about his topic are welcomed.
I disagree with Allen at many points. The Founding Fathers were not quite so secular in their orientation as he argues and adoption of the"wall of separation between church and state" depended on an alliance of their deism with a fervent body of evangelical dissenters from Episcopalian establishments in the South and Congregational establishments in New England.
Yet, it seems to me that Allen does strike real pay dirt with this passage:
In 1797 our government concluded a"Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:The passage in the Treaty of Tripoli is a remarkable one and its adoption without dissent in the Senate even more so. It's unthinkable that such a passage would be written into a treaty the United States entered into today and inconceivable that it would be adopted by the Senate without objection. But, given the crusade-like rhetoric with which we have been summoned to war, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, you'd have thought that the Treaty of Tripoli had somehow been revoked.As the Government of the United States...is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.
While I pray for the success of a more democratic political and social order in Afghanistant and Iraq, I shudder every time the national scope turns on another Muslim country: Iran, Syria, Sudan. Actually, our national scope doesn't much fall on Sudan. It is too marginal to our national interests. And that really is the point. If our national interests are our highest majesty, then we are, indeed, a Godless people.
No, it isn't another Ward Churchill story -- I wasn't going to make the flight over to Oahu on my own nickel just for a rehash of stuff I've already read without a chance for engagement -- but I have to give Churchill credit because if it wasn't for that brouhaha I probably wouldn't have recognized the name of the person at the center of the story in my morning paper. There are some similar elements, too: abuse of Native tribes by the US government, ongoing oppression, cultural stereotyping, liberal v. conservative, attacking cherished myths, harsh language....
Suzan Shown Harjo, whose devastating review of Churchill's ancestry claims is now a centerpiece in the Churchill debate, is actually at the center of another controversy herself: she has attacked the popularity of frybread, sometimes called Navajo frybread, a classic fried dough snack that is wildly popular at Native gatherings (and non-Native celebrations of Native culture):
If frybread were a movie, it would be hard-core porn. No redeeming qualities. Zero nutrition.The problem with frybread, as Harjo sees it, is twofold. First, it's unhealthy:
Frybread has replaced"firewater" as the stereotypical Indian staple in movie land. Well-meaning non-Indians take their cues from these portrayals of Indians as simple-minded people who salute the little grease bread and get misty-eyed about it.
"Where's the frybread" is today's social ice-breaker, replacing the decade-long frontrunner,"What did you think of 'Dances with Wolves'?"
But, frybread is so, so Indian. Yes, some people have built their Indian identity around the deadly frybread and will blanch at the very notion of removing it from their menu and conversation.
It's made with white flour, salt, sugar and lard. The bonus ingredient is dried cow's milk for the large population of Native people who are both glucose and lactose intolerant.No argument there. Eaten in moderation, excess like frybread can be great fun without endangering your life. But it has become not just a cultural touchstone -- like the sufganyot jelly donuts which are a Hannukah icon in Israel -- but a staple food, and as such Harjo calls it"the connecting dot between healthy children and obesity, hypertension, diabetes, dialysis, blindness, amputations and slow death." She's not alone in this campaign:
Usually the size of a tortilla, frybread is an inch thick with a weight approaching a lead Frisbee. It's fried in grease that collects in the dimples of the bread, adding that extra five teaspoons of fat to the lining of the diner's arteries.
One Native artist, Steven Deo, is on a campaign to increase awareness about the danger of frybread and other so-called Indian foods. Deo, who is Euchee and Muscogee (Creek) and dances at the Duck Creek Grounds in Oklahoma, has made a poster with the image of the grease bread and the words"Frybread Kills."
More to the point, and this is why I'm interested, is Harjo's historical critique:
Frybread was a gift of Western civilization from the days when Native people were removed from buffalo, elk, deer, salmon, turkey, corn, beans, squash, acorns, fruit, wild rice and other real food.To be specific, frybread was the result of the creativity of Native cooks in dire straits:
Frybread is emblematic of the long trails from home and freedom to confinement and rations.
Fry bread began its life as a cobbled-together food from U.S. government rations, a way to keep from starving when government occupation kept tribal members from pursing their native foods - elk, buffalo, corn, beans and squash.That story reminds me very much of the matzo story, except that this was the food of a people going into oppression, rather than being liberated from it (and after eight days, nobody wants to eat more matzo for a while, either). I really think that Harjo has a much stronger argument here, that frybread is an artifact of the tragedy of Native history, but she runs the risk of cementing it's place in Native celebrations by turning it into a symbol of resistance and perseverance.
In New Mexico, Harjo points out, it was born on the banks of the Pecos River in Fort Sumner at what was essentially a concentration camp for Navajos and Apaches forced from their homelands by U.S. raids.
The imprisoned Indians were given rations they had never seen before: sacks of white flour, salt and iron pots.
The women did their best with the alien flour and formed dough balls they patted flat and cooked in boiling animal fat over fires.
What is now called Navajo fry bread had been born. When Navajos returned to the reservation that had been carved out for them, fry bread came, too.
Frybread's popularity has been sustained by the public assistance provided by the US government over the years, which emphasizes" commodity foods" like flour, lard, sugar and salt, staples of the Western diet but relatively rare in pre-contact Native diets.
[Stephen] Deo's second poster depicts lard and other commodity foods. An equals sign follows the image, so that the message essentially reads:"Commodities = public assistance = welfare."There's a whole discussion to be had here of the relationship between poverty, charity/welfare and nutrition, but I'll leave that to the public health folks for now.
Harjo acknowledges the battle against fry bread will be an uphill one"simply because so many young people think it really is Indian and people have said it's a symbol of your people."I'm reminded of my lectures on the Opium problem in China, leading to the Opium war. I ask my students why opium was so popular, and they usually give me back the textbook answers -- social disruption and economic turmoil, rising culture of leisure, cultural disconnects, increasing availability and lower price, addictive quality -- but they very rarely get at the heart of the matter by themselves: opium makes you feel good.
And, Harjo said,"It tastes good. That's hard to campaign against."
Harjo's campaign is not just a negative one: she also wants to reclaim a healthier and more authentic food culture:
In great cultures, traditional bread stands for health, wellbeing and wealth, literally and figuratively. Traditional Native breads and foods stack up against any of the world's greatest.Nor is her campaign a purely culinary one: she sees food as one element in an economic environment, cultural practice and political discourse which has served Native interests poorly. Though she's not in favor of saltier food, she's clearly in favor of saltier discourse:
Hopi piki, Muscogee sofkee and everyone's cornbread and tamales remind us why most Native people consider corn one of the highest gifts of creation.
The great Native cooks need only a few ingredients to make bread fit for a feast that is easy enough for daily fare:
Start with any fresh or dried base of pumpkin, wild onions, sage, sunflower seeds, walnuts, beans, green chiles, blueberries, huckleberries, sweet potato, pinon, camas, yucca or anything the cook likes to cook.
Add water and arrowroot, cornmeal, maple sap or any indigenous thickener and stir to the desired consistency. Make into any pleasing shape you want.
Sun dry or boil, smoke, grill or steam over juniper ash, seaweed, mesquite, shucks, peanut or pecan shells, driftwood or anything that's handy and tasty.
Prepare to see some smiles.
Here's another resolution I urge you to adopt - to consume the"news" with a larger grain of salt than you have in the past. Conservative pundit Armstrong Williams was exposed recently as having been paid by the Bush Administration to promote its"No Child Left Behind" program. And this at a time when education is under funded and the Bushies are loathe to promote history or the arts with federal money.I think this is someone I'd like to see speaking at more colleges.
The Williams' $100,000 understanding should lead us all to investigate who is trying to feed us a line and palm it off as"news." Native people need to resolve to discover the origins of"fair share" and other current anti-Indian propaganda, and find out who gets what money from what source to spread the stories.
The next time you find yourself swallowing some leftover news du jour or get that suicidal urge for frybread, just slather lard all over the magazine or television listing and apply it directly to your midriff and backside. That way, you can have the consequence of the rotten stuff, without having to actually digest it.
I'll have to be slower to praise my colleagues' posts at Cliopatria. It seems to make them go all humble on me -- in an aw' shucks sort of way. But over at Little Professor, Miriam Burstein is pruning the lit crit vocabulary. Begone with:"subversive,""anxious,""interrogate,""police,""map," and"inventing"/"imagining." She's struck a responsive chord, as witness the comments there. At Early Modern Notes, Simon tosses"deconstruct" onto the heap; and John Holbo"interrogates" Shakespeare in"It is the wittiest partition that I ever heard discourse, my lord." There, the discussion also casts a suspicious eye on"hermeneutic." A perfectly decent word in the theological circles I move in, it seemed to deteriorate when the folks in literature picked it up. Anyway, if you've got any sense of humor left, or need to recover one, try Tom Tomorrow's"Further Ways to Argue Like a Conservative" and/or Iowahawk's"The Truth is Out There."
Update: Professor Burstein finds additional fame and fortune at MattYglesias and Unfogged.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has reviewed the tape of Ward Churchill's remarks and published a retraction of the claim that he admitted to not being a native American. (scroll down) See also the Denver Post.
Virtually all of the panels confirm the perceptive observation of Emory’s Mark Bauerlein that an academy lacking in intellectual diversity contains too many members who seem “to have no idea how extreme [their] vision sounds to many ears.” So the conference features presentations with titles such as “American Fascism?” or “The Politics of Fear & Compulsory Patriotism” or “Globalization, the Permanent War Economy & the War on Terror” or “Countering Campus Right-Wing Attacks: ABOR, the David Project, HR 3077.” I hadn’t realized that being pro-Israel or opposing professors’ intimidating their students represented a “campus right-wing attack.”
Other panels seek to end the PSC’s isolation among even the left-wing world of New York unionism (“Antiwar Organizing in Locals That Have Not Yet Come out against the War”); or seem frozen in the antiwar protests of 1982 (“Organizing against Nuclear Weapons”); or posit tenuous connections between Iraq and the presenter’s actual specialty (“Imperial Connections: Iraq & Colombia”; Imperial Connections: Iraq & African Wars”) ; or are just bizarre (“Hip Hop to Stop the War”).
Most alarming, however, are the conference’s many sessions that explicitly demand curricular reform to promote the attendees’ foreign policy agenda, with sessions devoted to promoting anti-war curricula in elementary school, high school, and at the college level. Conference-goers also will learn about “Stopping Military Research & Homeland Security Programs on Campus,” even though at CUNY community colleges, establishing homeland security programs could provide students with necessary skills for jobs.
The junior high/high school session is called “Blood for Oil? Teaching about Economics-Based War.” Why classroom time should not be used to present a one-sided viewpoint on foreign policy was made perfectly clear in a story this week from New York, in which a junior high school class sent letters of “support” to a local soldier stationed in Korea and likely to be shipped out to Iraq. As the New York Postreported, “One girl wrote, ‘I strongly feel this war is pointless,’ while a classmate predicted that because Bush was re-elected, ‘only 50 or 100 [soldiers] will survive.’ A boy accused soldiers of ‘destroying holy places like mosques.’” This either is an unusually aware junior high class, or the students are reflecting the fruits of a curriculum oriented around “Blood for Oil? Teaching about Economics-Based War.” Perhaps the PSC can add a call for protecting teachers’ rights to have their students send anti-war letters to soldiers as among the demands for its illegal strike.
Update: Instapundit reports that Churchill's acknowledgement is in dispute and that some journalists are trying to confirm it. Undoubtedly, this story will continue.
Cliopatria congratulates Tom Bruscino, whose"Cultures of War" for the Claremont Review of Books considers Victor Davis Hanson's Ripples of Battle and John A. Lynn's Battle. Hanson must have liked the review because he features it on his website.
I imagine that they'll be featured in the 3rd History Carnival this weekend, but you are missing some of the best of Cliopatria if you haven't read:
Caleb McDaniel,"An Elvis Movie for All of Us," 18 Feb.
Greg Robinson,"Just for Fun – Harry Truman and the Vulcans," 21 Feb.
Miriam Burstein,"Narrative," 22 Feb. and
Jonathan Dresner,"Pipes' Privateers," 23 Feb.
The next time you set a mousetrap, consider the role played by the vermin in historical preservation. Thanks to Maroonblog for the tip.
And, Kelly, that same logic can work this way: In 2003, Ward Churchill's On the Justice of Roosting Chickens won honorable mention from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. But if you go back only a decade, Ralph Luker's The Social Gospel in Black and White won the Gustavus Meyers Center's Prize; and we know that Kelly in Kansas was seen having dinner in January, 2005, with Ralph Luker in Seattle. By my count, that's only four degrees of separation between Ward Churchill and Kelly in Kansas. If word of that gets out, Kelly, the Wingers will be demanding to know if your signed loyalty oath is on file in the personnel office at Such'n'such U.