Part I, The Problem
How is the university, specifically the humanities and social sciences, with its rampant anti-Americanism, anti-intellectualism, muddle-brained identity politics, hostility to the unvarnished truth and all the rest to be re-conquered and restored to sanity? As one who has spent four decades in the belly of the beast, half of which was resisting this pernicious stupidity, let me offer some observations and suggestions. They are especially directed to non-academics who badly want to help, willingly put their money where their mouth is, but, alas, are clueless. To cut to the chase, universities are the faculty, and without bringing in fresh blood or helping sympathizers already there, all else is ephemeral. To paraphrase the familiar real estate adage, its people, people, people. Warning: some readers sharing my views may find my remarks a bit upsetting.
Reform currently has three main elements, two of which thrive but, unfortunately, are unlikely to succeed; a third might be victorious but remains largely untried. I’ll call them (1) guerilla warfare; (2) monastery construction; and (3) CIA-style covert funding.
Guerilla warfare is waged by groups outside the university. Some like FIRE and Center for Individual Rights combat legal abuses and rescue victims of egregious PC. Others like David Horowitz’s Front Page, Campus Watch and Minding the Campus are of the sunlight-is-the-best-disinfectant school: expose the rascals in the hope that the chastised will repent. These hit-and-run tactics are absolutely vital, can be great though depressing fun, but will not restore reason since they leave faculty composition untouched, and without refurbishment, the abuses will grow only slightly less obvious. Nefarious deans will just become more media savvy and advise the local Ward Churchills not to put it in writing lest the dreaded Horowitz-the-Horrible (not to be confused with Leo-the-Impaler) discover it. And, sadly, many miscreants are often immune to the disinfectant, and not even being linked to Islamic terrorism embarrasses them.
The monastery approach creates campus sanctuaries promoting solid, traditional education, e.g., Princeton’s Madison Center. This is what the Veritas Center is all about. Hopefully, a few hundred students a year now escape mumbo-jumbo PC and learn that Western Civilization had a virtue or two. As an “alternative university” (to use the left’s 60s vocabulary) it is a wonderful (though frightfully expensive) enterprise but, here too, it will not alter faculty composition. These Centers cannot hire new faculty or award tenure to assistant professors. Today’s PC universities would never allow such back-door conversion regardless of financial enticements. Radical faculty would be outraged at not having a finger in the pie and, rest assured, if they were consulted, the Monastery would be forcefully diversified and made multicultural. At most, university administrators will graciously permit wealthy benefactors “the opportunity” to donate a few million for an endowed chair for an already distinguished conservative tenured faculty member, so nothing new intellectually is added. At the margins newly created sanctuaries permit a few tenured professors to burnish resumes or gain some release time. But, at day’s end, the PC fortress barely notices and if things got tough financially, radicals would shamelessly just confiscate everything. Sanctuaries may help survive the Dark Ages but they will not restore the Enlightenment.
The covert CIA approach takes its inspiration from the agency’s work to undermine post-WW II European communism. In a nutshell, the CIA very, very quietly funneled millions to anti-communist groups, many of which were actually left-wing. Funds went to labor unions, writer and artist associations, tiny “intellectual” magazines, conferences, and anything else counter-balancing the metastasizing Bolshevik menace. It was top secret since not only would Congress object to paying Socialist intellectuals, but the last thing the anti-Soviet Socialist needed was exposure as a CIA agent (and many had no idea). It succeeded though even today, the enterprise remains largely unspeakable. The model requires revival, and is, in my opinion, the only viable solution.
The Facts and Some Digressions
Here are the facts. First, America has about 4,000 institutions of higher learning but only a tiny faction—maybe a 100—turn out the Ph.D.s that staffs the rest. The problems originate here—sensible graduate students learn (or are bluntly told) that without drinking the PC Kool-Aid, they have no future. A promising historian fascinated by, say, James Madison’s vision of ancient Rome will be told that it is wiser to delve into Dolly Madison’s anti-slavery views, and if nothing is known about this, it is just “constructed.” Needless to say, this environment drives out levelheaded people, regardless of ideology, leaving the field to either PC zealots or, more likely, mediocre, cowardly careerists. The Exodus is justified—it is unconscionable to counsel kamikaze-like vocational choices or lifetime intellectual dishonesty.
Far more is involved than young would-be academics fleeing. The departure is uneven across specialties, and this has grave implications far beyond the academy. In political science this means that sub-disciplines like urban politics, political development (especially Africa and South America), race and ethnicity plus chunks of political theory (among others) are de facto surrendered either to PC types or those just mouthing the dogma. In either case, truth suffers. Even within generally safe specialties, countless topics and approaches remain absolutely taboo. Woe to the researcher who just hypothesizes that politicized black churches may hurt African Americans. Just ask Larry Summers about the wages of heresies, no matter how qualified. If a beginning graduate student sought my advice about, say, studying Africa I would first ask about his or her politics. If they were even slightly “conservative,” I’d suggest switching fields, perhaps taking up mathematical modeling since PC faculty hate that stuff and can’t read it anyhow. But, the intellectual desolation in political science may be minor compared to the “no go” zones in sociology, psychology, anthropology and English. No wonder today’s academics are seldom consulted in these fields—the party line is all too predictable and inevitably wrong. Only pre-purge old-timers might offer contrary views, and these are easily brushed aside as “reactionary,” out of touch with the latest theories.
How, then, do you help heretics who still crave the life of the mind? Which, in turn, will permit helping others move up the ladder and, ultimately, replace the current lunatic collection? How does one gain control of the all-important Ph.D. “factories”?
Digression #1. Gaining tenure at Ph.D. granting institutions officially requires ample publications, decent teaching and what is called “service.” Here’s the insider’s truth: service is irrelevant, teaching is unimportant unless exceptionally catastrophic but a solid publication record is decisive. So, if Professor X wants to tell his or her graduate students, “If I’ve made it by not drinking the PC Kool-Aid, you can, too, so don’t flee and if a few years you, like me, can seek the truth, not mouth PC rubbish” Professor X first must survive, and this means publishing. Publication is the currency of elite schools, and correctly so.
Digression #2. Good thinking Professor X suffers a huge disadvantage since the PC true believers easily build stellar publication records by churning out the most loathsome nonsense. It is actually quite simple. Regardless of specialty, they have dozens of ideologically flavored journals, PC-obsessed book publishers and even entire prestige university press series. To be blunt, nearly all academic outlets in the social sciences and humanities, in varying degrees, are about as tolerant of contrary views as Pravda would be of Milton Friedman. The best only practice tokenism. Moreover, since professional librarians are uber PC, ideological bias is economically rational—publish idiotic anti-American trash and the libraries will eat it up, and editors know this when awarding book contracts. Better yet, create an entire book series—“Studies in Intellectually Fashionable Treason”—and hundreds of standing library orders will arrive for each new release.
In addition, perhaps to “give voice” to those previously silenced, publishers are preoccupied with creating journals catering to the tiniest (left-wing) slivers within the academic disciplines. Those specializing in American politics seeking journal publications must compete with thousands of others in the same sub-field for space in relatively few journals. These typically decline most submissions, and the top ones boast of 90% or higher rejection rates. Getting into print is an ordeal, may consume years, require endless “revise and re-submits” and many academics simply choose not to compete and migrate down the academic food chain or decide to sell cars. Meanwhile, those few African American professors in political science can submit his or her work to every mainstream journal plus outlets explicitly designed to express a “black academic viewpoint,” for example, African American Review, African American Research Perspectives, Journal of Black Studies, Race and Class, Race and Society, DuBois Review among many others. Such “parallel academic universes” also exist for women, Hispanic scholars, those researching gays, not to mention various Marxist and others with extreme radical perspectives. Want to gain tenure by demanding more gay history in high schools? Just publish this admonition in Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education (Haworth Press). Though in principle these outlets are open to everyone, the only permitted “outsiders” are those who embrace the prevailing orthodoxy.
Ironically given these abundant publication opportunities, calls for “tougher standards” to weed out radical nut cases only spawn new ideologically tinged submission friendly publication outlets. (And burgeoning on-line publications reduce costs to near zero.)The unanticipated upshot is that conventional researchers, those without an ideological ax to grind or those expressing “controversial” ideas, are now even less competitive in the eyes of bean-counting administrators reviewing tenure cases. Raising the bar by demanding yet more publications is the equivalent of trying to kill starfish by slicing them up and throwing them back in—it just creates more starfish. Perhaps the only counter-measure would be an alternative scholarly universe for “our side,” for example, The American Journal of Patriotic Studies or White Male Perspectives on American Politics. And, with the courts increasingly becoming involved in academic sex/race/sexual preference discrimination cases, what politically sensitive administrator will insist that a heavily footnoted but intellectually convoluted essay in The National Journal of Sexual Orientation Law (not making it up) fails to meet the highest academic standards? Or that “Identities in reconstruction: from rights of recognition to reflection in post-disaster reconstruction processes.” Feminist Legal Studies 15:2, 137-165 is unintelligence gibberish? Better to agree that everything, no matter how mindless, poorly written or slogan-filled is a “scholarly contribution” than risk a huge financial judgment. Surrender by administrators is relatively cheap and brings kudos, if not promotions.
Even in the most respectable professional journals that rely on anonymous reviewers, the PC orthodoxy dominates. After all, the accept/reject verdict is anonymous and with submissions far exceeding available space, any “serious” objection, e.g., “the author’s Constitutional analysis fails to mention that it was written by white heterosexual males,” kills it. The PC gods must be honored and this perhaps explains why un-PC survival is far easier in mathematically obtuse subfields or where other hard-to-master skills are required. In short, while radicals happily counterfeit or inflate the academic currency, even suing to get it certified as legal tender, professors spurning the orthodoxy labor according to the most draconian gold standard. No wonder decent thinkers flee the academy—why struggle to get solid stuff published when a radical feminist colleague publishes dozens of “scholarly contributions” a year, all of which are nonsense, all saying the same things, and all will count for tenure. It is a “game” that our side cannot win, and so taking over the humanities and social sciences is hardly tough work for those blessed with bountiful publishing outlets. This is Gresham’s Law on Steroids.
Digression #3. Publications in “right wing” outlets, including think tank papers, rarely count, no matter how scholarly, insightful and well received. Actually, this tactic is a liability when seeking academic employment so better use a pseudonym. A CATO book, let alone a scintillating City Journal essay that helped rescue New York City from crime will be dismissed as “mere journalism”, “ideological propaganda” and the tenure-killing, “not academic.” To re-tell an infamous example, a journal article insisting that Beethoven’s 9th celebrates rape is, in this wacky world, bona fide scholarship; linking broken windows and crime is fluff. In other words, academic counterfeiters themselves print up the stuff and simultaneously enforce the anti-counterfeit law. All of this is, of course, grossly unfair, an intellectual travesty and results in ruined careers, but among today’s academic radicals, all is fair in love and war, and moving up the academy’s greasy career pole to banish homophobia, racism, sexist etc. etc. etc. is war. Tenure-seeking academics who try to circumvent this ideological star chamber by writing for, say, New Criterion are wasting their time if aiming for respectable academic employment. Just ask Charles Murray or Thomas Sowell about their academic prospects.
(Continue to Part II, The Solution)