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.