Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stanley Fish-ing for Rebuttals to "Indoctrinate U"

Power Line has a good piece on a showing of Evan Coyne Maloney's new flick "Indoctrinate U," which Scott Johnson managed to catch in Minneapolis. Johnson was lucky. The film is basically shown wherever its makers can set up a showing. Its subject: the almost impossibly politicized and Stalinized environment of the average college campus today.

The utter corruption of academia is something that's insufficiently appreciated, we think, by todays parents who take out second mortgages hoping to give their kids a boost in life by helping them earn a college degree. What the kids get instead is nonstop propaganda from a professorial collective that has essentially blackballed even moderately conservative would-be academics from the tenure track, claiming they don't really want to teach college anyway since all they're interested in is filthy lucre.

This is a flat-out falsehood. I know. I was one of the conservative guys who was shut out from academic life in the late 1970s. So don't let any of these unsupervised, lying juvenile delinquents tell you any differently. The result of this nearly unabated hi-jacking of higher education by the Stalinist left is a near-total lack of perspective in pretty near all subject areas, to put it charitably. And filmmaker Maloney is well of this, documenting it in painful detail in his film.

Given its effective denunciation of the left-wing professoriat, the equally leftist entertainment establishment is not about to help Maloney's film gain any traction in the hinterlands. I.e., if you want to see it, you'll have to travel to the film's website and add your name to a petition to get it shown in your area. Unfortunately, we missed the showing in DC, but we're confident it will be back. Scott Johnson gives the film a hearty endorsement as well.

But predictably, renowned wackademic Stanley Fish has a different point of view in the predictably left New York Times. Johnson politely credits him with acknowledging Maloney's "genius," while "pooh-poohing" the filmmaker's pillorying of the university system. Scott is giving Fish too much credit by half. If you read Fish's so-called critique, you'll easily and almost instantly detect the usual cheap tricks employed by lifetime leftists to shift the argument, evade discussing an opponent's valid points, and ultimately attack the opponent's morals or character.

The current hit job is entitled "Yet Once More: Political Correctness On Campus." Even the hed, which may or may not have been penned by Fish, drips of the sneer-fest that's to come.

Before he gets to his topic, Fish leads with a smear, attempting to discredit his opponent before Maloney can even get off a punch:
According to the New York Post of Oct. 7, Maloney, unhappy with the performance of his dry cleaner, began plastering his neighborhood with flyers proclaiming that the offending establishment “sucks and is overpriced.” Now he is being sued for defamation, and he has responded to the suit by declaring that what he did is “clearly protected speech.”
Fish uses this as a segueway into Maloney's film, and it works in a glib sort of way, setting Maloney up as an individual to be reckoned with. But that's just the surface. The smear has already done its job. Even more interesting, Maloney is being smeared with the implication that he's guilty and therefore "sue-able" for doing something American hard leftists routinely get a pass for nearly every day: plastering flyers all over town denouncing anyone, politician or no, that they don't like.

With his commie-symp table set, Fish goes on to describe, more or less accurately, what the film is about by cobbling together a laundry list of Maloney's points, lining them up all the better to denounce them without providing any evidence at all. Maloney's points, as projected by Fish (and edited by me, since this is a Germanic paragraph) go pretty much as follows:
You may think that universities are places where ideas are explored and evaluated in a spirit of objective inquiry. But in fact, Maloney tells us, they are places of indoctrination where a left-leaning faculty teaches every subject, including chemistry and horticulture, through the prism of race, class and gender...where course reading lists are heavy on radical texts and light on texts celebrating the Western tradition; where the American flag is held in suspicion; where military recruiting personnel are either treated rudely or barred from campus; where the default assumption is that anything the United States and Israel do is evil.
Hey, that's pretty accurate. But Fish needs to stand up for his fellow leftists, and now proceeds to play whack-a-mole with very little evidence but quite a lot of condescension. For example, Maloney, and by extension, conservatives, complain (to no avail) how radical leftists are routinely recruited to speak at campuses while conservatives are either ignored on invitation lists, invited and then prevented from speaking, or invited, allowed to speak a little, and then hooted from the stage by the usual complement of brown-shirted leftist hooligans. What silliness, sniffs Fish:
Students who want to hear different speakers should get themselves elected to the committee. Faculty members who feel that speakers of interest to them never get invited should go get a grant or pony up their own research funds (if they have any) or think about going to another department.
Of course, Fish never mentions that the organizations that control the invitation of speakers generally blackball anyone not agreeing with the leftist agenda. So "getting elected" to such a committee is a moot point and Fish knows it. He just isn't going to tell you. By not providing this little snippet of evidence, which any college student will corroborate by the way, he wins a point from any reader not aware of this dirty little secret. Furthermore, he cynically invites faculty members to "pony up their own research funds" knowing that such funds are usually provided via the Feds and are restricted to, well, research. Or, barring that, they should "go get a grant," an equally impossible task as Fish well knows, since the left has taken over very nearly all major grant giving agencies. Fish also knows that even if a right-wing speaker somehow manages to get invited anyway, some university minion will find a way to close and lock the small classroom where the speaker is scheduled to appear anyway.

By sidetracking this issue thusly, Fish evades the question Maloney and the right pose: Why do student activity fees (so-called) always go to Marxist speakers, never, or very nearly never, to anyone else?

Once having finessed this issue, Fish preens by kicking his victim while he's down.
Of course, once a speaker is invited, he or she should be protected from harassment, but heckling and picketing aren’t harassment. They are what you buy when you decide to appear before the public.
What Fish does not mention is that the brown-shirts only show up to trash conservative speakers. Leftists are always listened to with respect and, indeed, rapture. This has happily begun to change just a bit, but Fish is being ingenuous on this point, attempting to portray the small cadre of conservative speakers as a bunch of whiners who can't take criticism. That implication is, quite simply, bogus.

Fish next goes on to challenge Maloney's observations on academia's encouragement of racial segregation on campus due to any number of things springing forth from the quota systems that are still quaintly known as admissions policies. He cites Maloney's juxtaposition of this with old films of 1950s and 1960s integration battles, calling such positioning "dishonest." But what Fish fails to mention is the nasty enclaves of radicals who've managed to enclose themselves in "ethnic studies" departments that are essentially propaganda mills for racists who have used their sanctuaries to re-create Marxian class-struggle along ethnic and even religious lines. Their operation, existence, and structure encourages minorities to bond with their fellows while regarding others as "the enemy." In other words, it's academia itself that encourages this open hostility.

It is perhaps the great irony of our time that these hotbeds of radicalism have effectively been the spur for a "separate but equal" educational system on most college campuses that must have integratonist Martin Luther King spinning in his grave. But Fish chooses instead to aim all this back on Maloney who never had a part in this kind of blasphemy.

Speaking of dishonest, Fish himself is clearly guilty of dishonesty in his next argument, which he purports to handle by, effectively, laughing at it:
Then there’s the matter of speech codes. This is a fake issue. Every speech code that has been tested in the courts has been struck down, often on the very grounds — you can’t criminalize offensiveness — invoked by Maloney. Even though there are such codes on the books of some universities, enforcing them will never hold up. Students don’t have to worry about speech codes.
A "fake issue??" The hell it is. Speech codes have ruined the lives, not to mention the career hopes, of a surprising number of hapless students who've run afoul of them. How is this, for such students, a "fake issue?" (Ask Duke's current athletes what they think of that concept.)

You "can't criminalize offensiveness?" That's exactly what's done all the time to students who somehow manage to transgress university speech codes. They're tried, convicted, and ruined by kangaroo courts without having recourse to attorneys or indeed any kind of defense at all. Students running afoul of speech codes must endure what can only be called "show trials." This has a chilling and intimidating effect on free speech. For any student who might transgress the Party Line. Any parallel speech code violation on the left is okay.

Fish also mentions that speech codes "never hold up." Oh, really? Then why are the show trials still going on? Like the Democrat's legislative maneuvering to legalize illegal immigration, if you thwart speech codes, they'll just show up in new language. Fish's rebuttal is specious and he knows it. But he keeps moving before the average reader knows what he's getting away with.
Another red herring is the accusation that there is too little patriotism on campus. Maloney interviews a bus driver who was forced by a university to remove an American flag because it might make foreign students uncomfortable... Universities by definition are neither patriotic nor unpatriotic; striking political stances in either direction is not the business they are properly in.
Oh, please. There IS too little patriotism on campus. (How many elite schools allow ROTC or military recruiting, for example?) Genuine patriotism and love of the U.S. is actively discouraged by the professoriat as racist, colonialist, and just plain hateful. Any student embracing in public what we used to call patriotism is likely to find himself smack in the middle of a show trial before he knows what hit him, probably for violating a "speech code" that Fish would swear will never hold up in court.

The final statement here is a fitting conclusion to Fish's non-argument, almost shocking in its contempt for readers of this piece. Anyone who is not a card-carrying leftist knows full well that "striking political stances" is PRECISELY the business that modern universities are in. By cleverly inserting the weasel word "properly," however, Fish tries to insulate himself against what we've just accused him of here. Sorry, it doesn't work. Any sentient being knows what Fish really means.

Fish is now so full of himself that he actually attempts to tackle the most telling argument against modern academia today, supported by mountains of irrefutable statistics: the blatant tilt by a huge majority of today's faculties toward the left, generally acknowledged to be in the neighborhood of 92%-95% left and/or Democrat in most objective polls. Fish trots right by the stats, refuting Maloney by making a flat-out statement he simply can't defend:
[Maloney] quotes a student who declares, “The university totally ignores that diversity of thought means political diversity.”

No it doesn’t. Political diversity (a more honest label for what Maloney, following David Horowitz, calls “intellectual diversity”) means that in terms of its partisan affiliations, a university faculty should look like America and display the same balance of Democrats and Republicans as can be found in the country’s voting rolls. But this requirement of proportional political representation makes sense only if you can predict what and how a professor teaches from his or her partisan identification: absent such a correlation, the political makeup of the faculty is not a legitimate pedagogical concern.
Says who? You don't know whether to laugh at a statement like this or put in a call to Tony Soprano to suggest ways to remedy idiocy like this once and for all. Fish says "political diversity" is a more honest label for what his enemies would call "intellectual diversity."

Fish wants to use his own term because he wants to retain control of this non-discussion. Maloney and Horowitz have chosen "intellectual diversity" PRECISELY because it's what they mean. Horowitz in particular is on record all over the web as NOT being interested so much in a professor's politics as he is in the professor's intellectual curiosity and objectivity. Fish is certainly aware of this but insists on using "political diversity" so he can promote yet another flavor of the moral equivalence argument.

Further, you CAN predict what a professor is going to teach if you know he's a leftist. He is going to teach the world according to Karl Marx. He is not going to encourage his students to explore the benefits of capitalism. Thus, the political makeup of a faculty IS a legitimate pedagogical concern. Too monolithic a viewpoint robs a student of any chance of a balanced presentation, encouraging the student to pick up and pass on the received wisdom of Marxism rather than explore alternatives that might contradict academic orthodoxy. Fish knows this as well. Are we sniffing out some real hypocrisy here?

We are. And Fish is happy to prove our point in his grand finale:
In 1915, the American Association of University Professors warned that if we didn’t clean up our own shop, external constituencies, with motives more political than educational, would step in and do it for us. Now they’re doing it in the movies and it’s our own fault.
This is wilfully ingenuous on Fish's part and once again, he knows it. He's a highly-skilled propagandist, adept at effectively committing little sins of omission at every turn, the better to unload on the opposition before they can reload. We strongly suspect that in 1915, the AAUP could never have conceived of the kind of politicization that has nearly ruined higher education in America today. Fish would have his readers believe that his antagonists on the right are the only ones guilty of "motives more political than educational." But, again as he well knows, it is precisely the fascistic, hate-filled leftist mob that rules most college campuses that is "more political and educational."

Having made his declaration of academic disinterestedness preposterous by flat-out ignoring how today's faculties act, confess, and proclaim, it's hilarious to see one of their own openly fearing that things are about to be set, well, aright by the equal but opposite political reaction. A reaction that might never have occurred if the academic idiotocracy had not soiled its own nest by politicizing academia in the first place.

It's typical of the left to falsely accuse the right of crimes the left has already committed. But I think it's too late for them now. They can probably hold out for another generation, but their number is up. People are sick of this, they're going to do something about it, and academia is going to have to learn that they are indeed responsible for their actions. They will soon, as a result, be responsible to their employers as well. Just like the rest of us in the real world. The era of the academic-as-arrested-adolescent is slowly drawing to a close. (But they'll hold out as long as they can.)

Fish is well aware of what's going on here. What he doesn't seem to know is that he's now fighting a rearguard action. And that's how he came to write such a preposterous piece. In the end, preaching his faulty gospel to the same audience over the years has left him in the same pickle as the rest of his fellow Marxist sympathizers and recruiters. He can no longer muster a defensible argument. He has forgotten how to do it if indeed he ever knew how to begin with.

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