Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Liberals Under Fire From The Left

In the course of reviewing a couple of Culture War books, Columbia U. Professor Todd Gitlin makes wail over the misguided academic Left's attack on liberals. Far be it from me to get involved with the upstairs neighbors' quarrels, but here's one reaction:

Gitlin expresses incredulity and disgust at the current state of affairs:
In this perverse climate, dissenting intellectuals might gain some traction by standing for reason. [...] Among the topics they might explore: the academic left's ignorance of main currents of American life, their positive tropism for foreign saviors, their reliance on intricate jargon, their commitment to keeping up with post-everything hotshots of "theory" from more advanced continents. Instead, in a time-honored ritual of the left, a number of academic polemicists choose this moment to pump up rites of purification. At a time when liberals hold next to no sway in any leading institution of national government, when the prime liberal institution of the last centuryorganized labor wobbles helplessly, when most national media tilt so far to the right as to parody themselves, the guardians of purity rise to a high pitch of sanctimoniousness aimed at ... heretics. Liberals, that is.

Well, that's an old Leninist precept. Split, split, and split again, with the goal above all being for you to remain the Central Committee, and all the others to classed as deviationists. And academics are no more immune from herd instinct than anyone else is.
There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob.
G. K. Chesterton, "Heretics", 1905

That includes intellectual aristocracies.

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