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Sunday, March 13, 2005

 

Are Debunkers Bunk?

Glenn Reynolds recently linked to Cliopatria which claims that David Horowitz is perpetrating an urban myth about a case of academic repression of a conservative student by a liberal professor.

As an admirer of Horowitz, I wanted to track down the evidence for this accusation. Keeping in mind that everyone is fallible, it is certainly possible that Horowitz, in his desire to make his point that Universities are hotbeds of liberalism – of a fairly totalitarian type – has used examples that, on closer examination, turn out not to be true.

Since blogs use links to original sources, I went to the links provided in the. The first is to Media Matters. There is no dispute that Media Matters (David Brock’s website) is pretty much a website devoted to criticizing conservatives. Nevertheless, it is true that we are rarely the subject of opposition research by our friends; it takes our enemies to expose our failures. Reading the article, we can state unequivocally that Media Matters has failed to find proof of the veracity of Horowitz’ statement. However, that is scarcely proof that Horowitz is repeating – or creating – an urban legend.

A second link in the Cliopatria story was to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which is a virtual verbatim repeat of the Media Matters story. In fact the Plain Dealer story by Mano Singham makes up a large part of the Media Matters story.

Yet a third link brings us to Butterfliesandwheels. The authors of this blog also have an ax to grind with Horowitz. In fact, the following explanation of their position regarding the selection of professors is revealing:

There are two motivations for setting up the web site. The first is the common one having to do with the thought that truth is important, and that to tell the truth about the world it is necessary to put aside whatever preconceptions (ideological, political, moral, etc.) one brings to the endeavour. The second has to do with the tendency of the political Left (which both editors of this site consider themselves to be part of) to subjugate the rational assessment of truth-claims to the demands of a variety of pre-existing political and moral frameworks.

Here we have it: since they (the professors) have determined the good and the right we must subjugate our search for truth to those truths that fit within our moral framework. And that means that conservatives are out of luck when it comes to being hired.

They cite a statement by Horowitz regarding vetting of his proposal for an academic bill of rights that appears to be contradicted by the people who mentioned. I would like to see the quotation by Horowitz in context since it seems improbable that Horowitz would ask people who he should have known would be opposed to his proposal to vet it and expect them to approve it.

Glenn Reynolds is a university professor with a vested interest in this issue. Prior to the Churchill fiasco, this argument would be contained within the academic community. Thanks to the faux Indian, it has spilled out of the gown and into the town.


UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. Unfortunately Glenn Reynolds misinterpreted my comments regarding him and Ward Churchill. I would certainly not classify him as a Churchill shill and am puzzled by his interpretation of what I said. I am a big fan of his and his web site.

Glenn is a university professor and all members of the academy have a vested interest in how that community is perceived. The “issue” in question is that of academic intolerance and general Left wing bias best exemplified by Churchill. Thanks to Churchill (the faux Indian) the general public is becoming more vocal and angry. The arguments are spilling out into the streets and are no longer contained within the halls of academe.

I’m sorry that Glenn misunderstood my comment as either an attack on him or as any way to equate him to Churchill.

UPDATE 2: Some commentators have accused me of both misidentifying and misinterpreting Butterfliesandwheels. I am embarrassed to say that both accusations are true. The bloggers are not professors and I misinterpreted their position on the superimposition of ideology over truth. However, despite their protestations, they have little respect for either truth or dissenting opinions. They are vociferous about their hatred of Horowitz’ Academic Bill of Rights, in effect calling him a liar. They then refer to respected pollster Frank Luntz as “notoriously mendacious,” using as proof of their claim a 1997 AAPOR rebuke of an ethics code. It is only in the last line of the AAPOR press release that we find that Luntz is not a member of this organization.

Toward the end of their screed they posit this possible outcome of the creation of an Academic Bill of Rights:

"The real difficulty, of course, is that if you create rights, you also have to have remedies. And at some point even the genuinely dumb conservatives will notice that the Horowitz proposal will create causes of action for Marxist economists who can't be hired by economics departments, for postmodernists who can't get hired by philosophy departments, and on and on."

On reading that I nearly fell out of my chair with laughter. Can one get hired as an economics professor today unless one is a Marxist, or a philosopher unless postmodernist? Can one get to be the chair of the UC Department of Ethnic Studies unless one is a fake Indian with a penchant for fake art, plagiarism and a tendency to compare the victims of 9/11 to Adolf Eichmann? I suppose it's possible, it just hasn't been tried.

Comments:
Your attack on Instapundit is pretty stupid, as it contains no evidence to support your contention.

Instaeconomist
 
I agree. You're merely making an assumption on the ax you're grinding regarding academics. Did you even read the posts made by Reynolds about Churchill and the political atmosphere on college campuses?
 
Catch up to the discussion sometime.

Oh, and trashing Glenn ... it puts you in not-so-rare company but not high company.
 
Well, dude, seems like you got what you wanted by your lame smear of Reynolds: an instalanche of new blog readers adding hundreds of insightful comments and becoming regular visitors to your blog - oh, wait, I'm just comment no. 4 and I won't be visiting your blog ever again. Way to go.
 
You would have better luck calling out Professer Reynolds on his pleadings on behalf of deadbeats and Bankruptcy Shysters.Or perhaps his delusion that Senator Rodham is somehow a "hawk".
 
You would have better luck calling out Professer Reynolds on his pleadings on behalf of deadbeats and Bankruptcy Shysters.Or perhaps his delusion that Senator Rodham is somehow a "hawk".
 
Hey! Everybody back off a second.

The Virginian said Prof Reynolds is an academic, and therefore has an interest in the tenure issue. I don't believe The Prof thinks that way, but I can see how someone might come to that conclusion, contorted though the path may be.

Let's sort this out like gentlemen.

Charlie
 
Damn, man, you should know better than to question the integrity of Mr. WishyWashy, Glenn Reynolds. He's a hero to all these jerks because they kiss his ass in hopes he will bring them into his circle jerk. There are a handful of those dudes who sit in a circle and grab the one on the right. Reynolds is point man.
 
hell i seen 'at reynols feller comin outta the barn with a 5 gallon can. at ol boy is in luv with a cow!
 
Never mind the content or the political ideology. Aren't these professors supposed to be teaching?
Where does Professor Reynolds find the time to blog as prodigiously as he does, and Professor Churchill to spout his hate of America? Who is paying them both while they do this?
 
Butterflies&Wheels is primarly the work of two individuals, neither of whom are teaching faculty or professors in any capacity that I'm aware of. Whatever you think of them, or we academics, you should separate your criticisms of them from the academy and not inflict your criticisms of the academy on them.

For what it's worth Mr. Horowitz has provided what he and SFA admit were previously unreleased information (with more to come) permitting us to substantiate his claims. I, for one, am reasonably satisfied.
 
I had no intention of defaming or disparaging Glenn Reynolds. He is one of my favorite bloggers and I am in awe of his ability. To state that he is a professor is to state the obvious. To imply that he is affected by what goes on in the academy is also obvious. If everyone will read my comments carefully it is obvious that I mean no disrespect of Glenn. I also do not believe that he linked to the criticisms of Horowitz with any malice. I am obviously pleased by his vindication. I am also rather surprised that my remarks were read as an attack on Reynolds.
 
Thanks for the reasoned response Charlie. "By the way, "This issue" I was referring top was not tenure, but the issue of academic balance.
 
Look, everybody, cut him some slack. Clearly anyone who is punishing Churchill is under control of Karl Rove and his mind control beams. At least, that seems to be the level to which this issue seems to have sunk in some quarters.
 
Well, it's pretty disingenuous to claim that you are "surprised" your remarks were read as a swipe at Reynolds... "Reynolds is an Academic with a vested interest..." Are you tone deaf to the general implications of that sentence? For one, vested interest is often read as "ulterior reason" or "ideological or economic stake," implying that Reynolds's comment was not honest but motivated by an agenda, most likely hidden. I don't really care if you swipe him or not... But at least be honest about it.
 
My apologies Moneyrunner, I misunderstood the tone.

People who suck off Glenn's good will and then stab him in the back are a pet peeve of mine.
 
to kee lane: "vested interest" means you have a dog in that fight. I thought that it would be obvious that every university professor has a stake in how the university is perceived. If universities are viewed as the home of left wing moonbats, that's not good for ANY professor. It is in the best interest of every profession to hold its members to the highest ethical standards. One of the reasons that the press is held in low esteem is that they have failed miserably to hold its members to standards of fairness and accuracy.
 
Like most, I came along with the Instalanche. I'm also a university professor, so I also have a "Vested interest".

However, instead of commenting on the post, I'll comment on the commenters. It's easy to vent and make ad hominem (sp?) attacks. It feeds red meat to those sharing the commenter's world view, but doesn't do much to change those not already in the choir.

If you want to see a classic example of how to persuade, I've a post in mmy blog that links to Andrew Samwick's site. HE responds to some comments that were (to be kind) a bit less than fully thought out. He pretty much dissects the commenter's arguments, but does it with class. It's worth a look - www.financialrounds.com

ww
 
You've only scratched the surface of Glenn's manifest evil. Courageous investigator Frank J. has more on the puppy-blending, hobo-smiting bloglord.
 
Responding to the Virginian's comment on Butterfliesandwheels:

The Virginian distorts what Butterfliesandwheels ("B") meant when B wrote that "the second has to do with the tendency of the political Left (which both editors of this site consider themselves to be part of) to subjugate the rational assessment of truth-claims to the demands of a variety of pre-existing political and moral frameworks." B is/are not suggesting, praising, promoting or defending that tendency - B is/are attacking it and attempting to distinguish themselves and their approach to analysis from others who, B feels, follow that tendency.
:
The authors of this blog also have an ax to grind with Horowitz. In fact, the following explanation of their position regarding the selection of professors is revealing:

There are two motivations for setting up the web site. The first is the common one having to do with the thought that truth is important, and that to tell the truth about the world it is necessary to put aside whatever preconceptions (ideological, political, moral, etc.) one brings to the endeavour. The second has to do with the tendency of the political Left (which both editors of this site consider themselves to be part of) to subjugate the rational assessment of truth-claims to the demands of a variety of pre-existing political and moral frameworks.

Here we have it: since they (the professors) have determined the good and the right we must subjugate our search for truth to those truths that fit within our moral framework. And that means that conservatives are out of luck when it comes to being hired.
 
I'm the one who posted at 6:03 a.m. I neglected to delete everything after the first paragraph when I cut and pasted. I think the comment makes more -at least some - sense then.
 
Bill Clinton was right about one thing: we need to make up our minds. Are Colleges just meant to instruct students to understand how things work technically. Or are Colleges meant to open the students' brains? The more I think about Ward situation, the more I think it's about shutting people up. That's in my opinion not wwhat a college is about.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
I remember when I was growing up, my bed was bunk.
 
Well, to continue the debate about "vested interest" -- I think it's almost proof in itself that virtually all your readers, or commenters, apparently took your statement as a swipe at Reynolds, and it's plain at least to me that it's because you used the phrase "vested interes," which is generally employed to mean "nefarious reason for hiding the truth or thinking illogically." Reynolds himself took your comment as a swipe. Change "vested interest" to merely "interest" and see how the sentence reads... suddenly it becomes quite mundane. There are a few cases where I can imagine the phrase "vested interest" is not used prejoratively (ie., with negative connotation) but in general it is used as a sword of attack and it's no surprise it was taken that way. I think on some level you did mean to take a swipe, not liking that he called something you support into question. By the way, search Google news for "vested interest" almost every usage has a negative connotation, implying the holder of the "vested interest" is not trustworthy or has an ulterior motive.
 
By the way, Ward Churchill is going down because there are the following credible accusations against him 1.) he is a liar 2.) he is posing as an Indian when he is not 3.) he is probably a plaigariser 4.) He is also an art thief, or at least so it appears by a recent news article. I think he hasn't been tossed out on his butt yet -- because of his beliefs. It so happens that his beliefs coincide with those of the academic power structure, which is then inclined to be tolerant of his foibles (to put it mildly) or possible illegal activities (to put it plainly), where it would otherwise not be. In other words, far from being persecuted and "shut up" for his speach, Churchill is being protected because he is speaking the language the power structure wants to hear.
 
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