Thursday, September 27, 2007

[sneer quote]Foreign Bad Guy On Campus[/sneerquote]

Professor Richard W. Bulliet's article drawing parallels between Fidel Castro's visit to Harvard University in 1959 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia U. this week is depressing. The watchword throughout seems to be ├ępater les bourgeois. Where has the man been these past fifty years? Castro's long, bloody rule is almost entirely in the books by now. Yet such is the totalitarian temptation among academics, and such is the pull of youthful nostalgia, that the only image Prof. Bulliet can summon is the excitement-charged crowd being harangued by El Jefe from the balcony of the Field House. With great difficulty, academics can be gotten to admit that yes, Castro eliminated thousands of people. And yes, many were innocent, even through the political lenses of progressives. And no, all those refugees who've been fleeing to Miami for the last half-century can't all be evil kulak oppressors. But, but, but....

But the dream of a better world, coupled with a superior dissatisfaction with the humdrum here-and-now, minus a developed sense of compassion for real people (as opposed to The People), just seems to dissolve progressives' sense of perspective. An example from not too long ago:

The advantages of the "left" regimes and movements in the eyes of the world media have...not disappeared. They do not have to pursue "left" policies so much as to adopt "left" stances. Anthony Howard, then editor of the left-wing _New Statesman_, once pointed out that if Huey Long had only used left-wing phraseology he would have enjoyed wide support from the New York and London intelligentsia.
-- Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, 2000

Being flattered is like being drunk: we never think we are least so, as when we are most so. Castro has a long record of playing norteamericano sophisticates like a pawnshop Gibson in a Pete Townshend impersonation contest. Count Professor Bulliet among the duped, and pray for the sake of the next generation of students, if Ahmadinejad's charm is as seductive to progressives as Castro's was.

Also: HA!

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