The Ivory Tower gets further sullied; and by the way, Sarah Palin was the victim of a blood libel

Ivory Tower used to be a compliment.  Now, just as ivory has degraded in social standing (the whole death of elephants thing), so too has the Ivory Tower’s star fallen (the whole death of logic, common sense, morality and actual education thing).  This morning, I posted about UC Berkeley’s buffoonish Chancellor (paid by taxpayers, both state and federal), who waded in on behalf of lunatics everywhere by opining that the insane, vaguely Leftist Loughner was a manifestation of the conservative movement.  Oh, yeah!

My friend Zombie now alerts me to the fact that — and this is true — since 2009, Berkeley has played host to a “scholarly,” taxpayer-funded, “academic” center that focuses on right wing movements.  No, really.  It’s true.  Really.

As Zombie says, “Students can now get a Bachelor’s degree in TEAPARTY=NAZI with a minor in OMGREDNECKS!”

What Zombie further discovered was that — no surprise here — one of the center’s scholars in residence has given his scholarly opinion (Did you get that?  This whole thing is scholarly, so you have to take it seriously) that the Tucson shooting is all the fault of American conservatives.  Zombie comments amusingly (as always) on the fact that this academic freely admits that there is no connection between Loughner and the right wing but, res ipsa loquitur, he still concludes that right wingery must be Loughner’s motivating force — because, after all, what else could be?  (Hint:  Loughner hears voices in his head.)

Aside from the rank intellectual dishonesty behind that scholarly conclusion (and that’s the nicest thing I can think to say), what really impressed me was the way in which it was written.  Since these opinings are the product of a modern academic, the writing is turgid, polemical, cant-filled, and barely intelligible:

Unlike in the case of Oklahoma City, where the perpetrator was explicit in his insurrectionary aim and managed to pull off his catastrophe, in Tucson there is enough ambiguity about the perpetrator that radicalism on the right is unlikely to feel the need to abate. In the absence of, as it were, a smoking gun—the perpetrator himself assuming responsibility in the name of the movement—the impact of Tucson is likely to be an amplification rather than any amelioration of the fierceness of our political climate.

This unintelligibility is, of course, the product of Leftist education. When I was at Berkeley 30 years ago, I drove my professors bonkers when I kept asking them to explain their Marxist claptrap. I was sufficient naive that, at the time, I didn’t know it was Marxist claptrap.  As a grammarian and lover of the English language, I simply knew that it was impossible to understand the arcane words, bizarre sentence structure and illogical ideas I routinely heard and read in my classes. You couldn’t parse those sentences for love or money.

So, respectfully, I kept asking them — teachers and fellow students — to explain. And they couldn’t. They couldn’t because (a) they had no idea what the phrases they were parroting meant and/or (b) they understand that there was no meaning behind those phrases.  (As for choice “a,” I will forever lovingly recall the desperate student who wrote, regarding The Picture of Dorian Gray, the Oscar Wilde’s descriptions of flowers throughout the text were “meant to represent the phallic symbolism of the female sexual organs.”  Ooo-rah!)

Just to show that I’m not making this up (or that I wasn’t too stupid to understand my teachers and their texts), here is an actual prize-winning example of bad writing from UC Professor Judith Butler:

“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relationships in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”

Take that, oh ignorant Sarah Palin, who has the temerity to communicate using familiar words, organized in logical fashion, adding up to understandable ideas. How dare she?

And speaking of “how dare she?,” somehow all this ties into Palin’s newest (alleged) rhetorical crime, which consists of using the phrase “blood libel” to describe what the chattering classes aimed at her in the wake of the Tucson shooting. Many (well, make that the New York Times) are upset about this. The paper of anti-Israel record is horrified that one of the most philosemitic politicians in America would dare to use a phrase associated with Jews.

Color me limited (and Jewish), but it seems to me that she used the perfect phrase.  You see, a blood libel, such as the one aimed for centuries at Jews (still aimed, by the way) is a statement that, without any proof whatsoever, accuses someone of having  . . . yes, innocent blood on his or her hands.

In today’s news context, to savage Palin for accurately describing what was being done to her as a “blood libel” is the equivalent of a high tech lynching.  Whoops!  Did I use another metaphor that is only allowed for certain races?  Silly me.  I thought language in America was a vehicle for communicating ideas, not for isolating (or slicing and dicing) races, classes, and victims.

Our universities have a lot to answer for.  In the 1960s, craven administrators, embarrassed by their possible  complicity in racism, collapsed before the student revolts.  Worse, in the coming years, they took those students into the fold as academics themselves, nursing the viper to their collective breasts.  The result is a generation of Marxist, antisemitic, statist, incoherent people who use their academic credentials and bombastic, unintelligible writing to flim-flam the masses and, worse, to try to control the intellectual tone in this country.

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  • TommyC

    In grad school – Operations Research (Applied Math) – I decided to write my Master’s paper on ‘Geometric Solutions to Mini-Max Location Problems’ so that anyone with high school math could understand it.  It was easy enough to do.  Two on my committee like it, but one was actually quite upset saying that I was making it look too simple.
    Alas, there are too many people out there, whether they claim to be ‘scholars’ or not, who go to a lot of effort to make simple concepts obscure – presumably to make themselves look smart.  Every time I see such writing / commentary, I’m immediately inclined to toss it it the circular file.  Why should I listen to such a person?
    Alas, academia is full of such people.  It isn’t good enough just to be smart – you have to beat people over the head with it.  Of course, if you can’t explain a simple concept in simple terms I have to question whether you are smart at all.

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  • Charles Martel

    I have always wanted “to pull off a catatstrophe.” Now, thanks to a scholar at UC Berkeley, I know I can.

  • Bookworm

    Inspiration comes in strange forms, Charles.

  • stanley

    A well known liberal, ivory tower professor and jewish defense of Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel”:

  • Bookworm

    Dershowitz is a rare bird.

  • stanley

    I wonder what Representative Giffords will think about her democratic colleagues, president and news media when she is cognizant? Any guesses? Will she be appalled at their behavior at their using her as a political opportunity or will she “understand”?
    For me, Dershowitz’s comments were at least honest. This is the rare part. His past history in progressive activities puts his sentiments here ins perspective

  • Ymarsakar

    I guess intellectuals, whether Leftist or not, always lacked a spine. Thus it was natural they would fold in the 60s. Nothing else to do, besides pot and crack that is.

  • garyp

    It is beginning to seem that our elites in government, media and academia see themselves as the “nobility” of our society.  The self absorption, sense of privilege and entitlement, and obvious disdain for the rest of us reminds me of nothing so much as the “Ancien Regime” French aristocracy.
    Convinced of their own infallibility while so obviously incapable of governing, demanding that we, the people, honor them in return for their abuse, and robbing the nation they are destroying to support their lavish lifestyles because as our betters, they must enjoy the fruits of our labors in return for the pleasure of their condescension are all signs that the Marquises and Dukes are back.  Only today we call them pundits, professors, or experts.
    It is as if they are incapable of seeing that incessant insults directed at our traditions, our aspirations, and our intelligence are creating divisions in our society that cannot but lead to a mass revulsion against them all.
    This has never been so obvious as in the last few days as they blatantly distort the motives of a large portion, perhaps the majority, of this country’s citizens.  Accusing people that desire a more responsive, more sensible approach of governance of encouraging, and suborning the murder of a child to eliminate a congresswomen whose ideals seem to much closer to ours than theirs.
    Do they believe that we are just “mules to be driven” as their predecessors held?  Are they so arrogant that they think their lies cannot be seen through by the simpletons they rule?  Do they really feel that there are no limits to the tolerance of their fellow citizens for their excesses?
    A great man once said, in circumstances that seem more and more similar to the present day: “A house divided cannot stand.”  Can they not see the danger that they are pushing reasonable people toward the conviction that we cannot continue to live in a social system that despises, distrusts and belittles the people whose toil supports the entire edifice?
    A famous cartoon of the French Revolution shows the king, the clergy and nobility carried on the back of a starving, crawling peasant.  Must the American people continue to carry our “nobility,” the same people that have lead us into personal and national bankruptcy, on our back even as they fill our ears with their scorn for us?
    I wish for nothing more than a national revival where we are lead by men like King, Truman, Kennedy or Reagan.  Men that encouraged, and prodded us to become better men, to change and improve our society.  Our current leaders seem to feel that we are too stupid, too degraded and too far beneath them to engage us is in discussion as fellow men and their only recourse is to whip the pathetic beasts they rule to a better future with lashes of disgust.
    Perhaps we are not worthy of them.  Let them then seek better people for their subjects.  Perhaps these wiser subjects will feel that their arrogance is justified and cherish their hatred as a purer sort of love.  I for one am done with listening to their bombast.  I do not care what happens to them as long as they plague my country no more.

  • David Foster

    Book, have you heard of The Sokal Hoax?
    A classic mockery of pseudo-academic gobblygook, by an actual physicist.

  • Bookworm

    I had heard of the hoax, David, but couldn’t remember the name. Thanks so much for bringing it back to the forefront of my brain.

  • Charles

    “I wonder what Representative Giffords will think about her democratic colleagues, president and news media when she is cognizant? Any guesses? Will she be appalled at their behavior at their using her as a political opportunity or will she “understand”?”

    Stanley;  I am thinking the same thing about her and was thinging the same thing about James Brady when Reagan was shot.  How much of the gun control issues did he really support (and not meaning to be crude) how much did he really understand?  Was he being used without realizing it?

    Someone mentioned in a comment several weeks ago how Andy Griffin looked in the TV ads for the health care laws.  He looked like he was being used too – how truly sad for someone who had a great career.  I also felt angry that his “handlers,”  those who should be looking out for his best interest, were the real “tools.”

    It just goes to show, some people have NO shame, none whatsoever.

    Book;  When I heard Palin use the term “blood libel” I knew that she would be criticized for it; just as Bush was criticized for using the word “crusade” when he first was talking about going after terrorists.

    Both “crusade” and “blood libel” have, as so many others have said, historical roots; but are now used in broader meanings.  Only jacka**es and folks who have no better argument get so nitpicky (Hmm, do they have a head lice problem?)

    I also knew that you would have a common-sense blog posting about Palin’s use of the term!

  • Gringo

    Since these opinings are the product of a modern academic, the writing is turgid, polemical, cant-filled, and barely intelligible.
    When I first took the GRE, nearly ten years away from a liberal arts course, I was confounded by some of the passages in the verbal section. My form of multiple guess was to choose the answer that had the most unintelligible writing. Though at the time, I phrased my approach as choosing the answer that most sounded as if it were written in sociologese.
    That must have proved to be a successful strategy, as my verbal GRE that time was a tad higher than my high school verbal SAT.

  • MacG

    These people get paid by the syllable and speak as about as directly as a labrynth is straight.  Just because they can say antidisestablishmentarinism does not mean they know what it means although they probably think they’re part of it – which is pretty funny and supercalifragilisticexpealidocious if you ask me.  If you can’t dazzle em with brilliance, baffle em with BS – too bad they think theirs smells like roses. 

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