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April 21, 2007

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Nice writeup... "Hit piece" is too kind. Another point to ponder - I thought conservatives believed that human nature is immutable. People do evil things because they are evil. They cannot be reformed. Hence the disinterest in prisoner rehabilitation or progressive policies.

Now we are to believe conservatives blame college professors, certainly a hated species, for being unable to engender "civilized behavior" in a mentally ill student? Also, try and explain this to parents who home-school their kid because public schools don't teach Christian values.

Sounds like Lewis is a grade F hack.

A cursory glance at the body of work of James Lewis, courtesy of Google, confirms that he is without doubt lower than dirt.

Somehow, what really gets me about this is the combination of a total lack of concern for accuracy, using people as political props, and hitting them when they're down. You'd think that a grade F hack might choose this particular week to go after some other completely undeserving department. Not this one. (This, I think, was what made me write the longer version: I thought: he must be counting on the fact that no one will be insane enough to slog through the entire web site. Well, I'll show him!)

the American Thinker (sic)

best line on the blogosphere in ages...sweet!

I'm actually amazed at how "disagreeing" or "questioning one's authority" is for far too many people on the right and left translated as "hate." This suggests that they feel that "to side with me is to love me; to oppose me (in any way) is to hate me." I know we've heard 6 years of such logic from our "you're either with us or against us" resident of the White House, but it actually seems a bit more chronic than that influence alone can explain.

Hilzoy,

I wonder if such garbage is only legitimated by responses to it. Rather like an internet troll, the best thing to do to such people is ignore them.

No, I thought. No, no, no. So I clicked the link.

That right there is as concise a description as I've ever seen of what makes political bloggers different from other people.

...However, I don't think that "the best response is to ignore it". It will get legitimated no matter what we do, if not in whole then in part. I'd imagine that the response of a somewhat conservative and relatively sane person reading that article would be something like "well, it's way over the top to suggest that Cho was actually motivated by the English department to shoot people, but you have to admit that all that Marxist radical chic stuff they're doing over there is pretty nutty"--never realizing that the article is not just hyperbolic in its inferences but grossly factually incorrect.

First:

No, I thought. No, no, no. So I clicked the link.

See here.

Second: Today was absolutely gorgeous so I headed outside to work. As I approached my favorite place, I noticed a small enclave of students and townies with placards and billboards, the most prominent of which read:

* [check] Fire Don Rumsfeld
* [check] Fire John Ashcroft
* [check] Fire [someone else who I forget]
* [filled-in box] End the occupation of Iraq
* [empty box] Overthrow capitalism

So maybe what's-his-f*** had a point...

...for me to poop on.

Hmm. Now, I graduated from that department in 1996. The English department I remember was pretty much practical. I think Edward is right; acknowledging fault or disagreeing with the right-wing is just simply called hatred.

It does seem to me, however, that the Bush administration is operating under a much more liberal interpretation of language and reality than many of my colleagues at VT would have been comfortable with. I mean, weren't Bush's crowd the ones sneering at the "reality-based community" and trying to shape reality through positive thinking?

What popped into my head was that such people are jackals - see also D'Souza, who decided that < ahref = "http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/04/why_what_a_vile_little_man.php#more">exploiting this tragedy in order to take random and dishonest potshots at atheists/ism was a really good idea - except that that both dehumanizes these people and de-animalizes a very interesting group of species. I will note, however, that according to the wikipedia entry on 'em, "jackal language" is the "Nonviolent Communication" label for "communication that labels, judges and criticizes." Now, if they only added - in an idiotic and dishonest manner . . .

Thud: "The English department I remember was pretty much practical."

That was one of the things that struck me. It seemed to have a large professional writing program, which any reader of technical manuals has to think is a good thing. But it means that the department is certain to have (and does have) a number of people who specialize in things like the rhetoric involved in EPA reports, and also a lot of people whose background is in the study of science as a cultural phenomenon. I can sort of see, if I squint, how people with those areas of specialization might strike someone as (respectively) too interested in "low culture", as opposed to Shakespeare and Milton, and somehow into debunking science. But only if that person had precisely no familiarity with English departments.

In this case, however, I don't see enough evidence that Lewis looked at the department hard enough to form any such complicated view. I suspect he just searched the website for "Marx", "transgender", etc.

The most amazing bit is that Lewis complains that Cho didn't learn to "respect others". Where did Lewis's teachers fail on that score?

The real problem here is that Rush Limbaugh reads the rantings of some obscure white supremacist crackpot on the air, and it becomes the conventional wisdom of millions of nominal conservatives in the heartland.

Why can't he be sued for libel?

I am always fascinated to hear about the rank leftism, etc., that is claimed to exist on campus. While it has been some time since I left college, I was reasonably well know as a conservative during my time there, and while I knew for a fact that two of my professors held liberal political leanings (I managed to throw one of them off his track for a good five minutes by wearing a 'Nixon in 92: Now More Than Ever' button), they always treated me respectfully and I felt quite comfortable talking and working with them; indeed, I took a large number of classes with both of them and enjoyed them greatly. I am therefore greatly skeptical of the idea that professors' political ideologies has any great effect on their students' learning experience save in extreme cases. This kind of thing does not serve to draw any valuable lessons from the VT tragedy; it's just a particularly crass attempt to push a personal political agenda using current events as a springboard. It deserves all the disdain that can be heaped upon it.

It seems telling that this excellent post is preceded by one on MoDo, as it seems to me that the two, even though they may have never read word one of the other's work, seek to emulate each other.

G'Kar: Heh. I used to wear buttons of all sorts of political persuasions, to keep my professors guessing. My favorite was and is: 'Majority for a Silent Agnew'.

I have always assumed that any effect I might have on my students' political views might as well be random, and it will certainly not be sought by me. In general, I find the idea that hectoring students with one's political views will cause them to adopt those views bizarre -- I would have thought it would have just the opposite effect.

How did our culture get into ths state? Has dishonesty and bullying always been a signifacnt factor in political discourse and I just didn't notice until 3 or 4 years ago?

The English department should be seen as heroes for the effort they put into trying to prevent this tragedy. Just as the FBI agents that identified moussauoi but were ignored before 911, I think it is clear they surpassed any expectations in trying to intervene.

Good essay. Shame it was necessary.

"Has dishonesty and bullying always been a signifacnt factor in political discourse and I just didn't notice until 3 or 4 years ago?"

There are wide differences of degree among individual politicians, many of whom have a variety of admirable characteristics, as well, but generally speaking, yes.

If you think now is bad, take a good look at, say, the 1850s. Or the policies of A. Mitchell Palmer circa WWI. Or the disputes of Jefferson and his enemies.

Basically, every decade since the United States has been in existence, and then backwards in British history.

There may be other times and places where dishonesty and bullying haven't been a signifacnt factor, but none are immediately leaping to my mind. Anyone?

Posted by: hilzoy | April 21, 2007 at 08:04 PM
Posted by: hilzoy | April 21, 2007 at 09:32 PM

Nice analysis. Yeah, it's pretty clear he cherry-picked, quoted out of context, all the usual tricks. He also has a great deal of anxiety about gender, sexuality, and sex, doesn't he?

Bad teachers certainly exist (and some of those bad teachers would describe themselves as liberals), but as a general rule teachers do a far better job than their critics and scolds would ever do. It always bugs or amuses me when conservatives make charges of indoctrination in schools. An essential part of a good education is helping students develop the critical thinking skills to decide on issues for themselves. In my experience, that's pretty intrinsic to a liberal arts education, if not "liberalism" as well. Libertarians and moderate conservatives certainly value that sort of education too, but apparently not the Regent University crowd. Authoritarian conservatives typically view truth as coming from prized authority figures versus objective sources, and at their most extreme are opposed to empiricism and the "reality-based community." They're instead part of the counter-Enlightenment movement, and very much in favor of indoctrination, they just don't have the positions of power they want. I doubt most of Lewis' intended readers will follow the links or criticize him. He seems to be the sort of person, as is Limbaugh, who speaks to confirm prejudices, and offers the intellectual equivalent of comfort food (with nasty artificial fillers). ;-)

I think the most egregious part of his piece is his selective quoting and misrepresentation of Nikki Giovanni's poem, a move all the more pathetic because the footage of her performing it has been so ubiquitous. If John Lewis' "scholarship" in this article is any indication of the rigor and honesty he wants in higher education, it's a good thing he's not in charge, isn't it?

I always thought the classic comment on indoctrination of students by teachers was by the British comedian Mark Steel. (This was in the context of school teachers possibly encouraging homosexuality among their pupils). I can't remember the exact quote, but as he pointed out: My maths teacher spent five years trying to promote the belief that algebra was important and it had absolutely no effect on me. Why should I be affected by some passing comments a teacher makes about gay rights?

It always bugs or amuses me when conservatives make charges of indoctrination in schools.

Projection. See Regent University.

It's not entirely projection. Some of it is simply differences of perception/POV.

Science, which is to say, empiricism, in many forms, inevitably involves dealing with evolution, and other both worldviews and facts that a large segment of the Christian fundamentalist world denies.

From our point of view, it's just observation and logic and empiricism, and testing, and the scientific method of deriving truth, and to them, it's some sort of anti-religious indoctrination in False Ways.

But I wouldn't argue that "indoctrination" in logic and critical thinking couldn't be fairly called "indoctrination." I'd just note the crucial distinction between being indocrtinated in logic, and how to find truth, via the scientific method, and being indoctrinated in something irrational.

On the other hand, I shouldn't write after taking my sleeping pills, since I may no longer be making sense.

The great hatred of American conservatives for tertiary education was a mystery to me until someone on Slacktivist pointed out (and a bunch of others chimed in to agree that had been their experience, too) that she'd just assumed everything her parents told her was 100% true until she went to college. It wasn't anything to do with the teachers: it was simply the impact of living away from home for the first time surrounded by perfectly decent people who didn't share any of her parents beliefs. But repeat that story x-ty thousand times over, and I can see where the American conservative belief that colleges are eeeeeeeeeeeevil comes from: their well-brought-up children go there and return MONSTERS.

Still, James Lewis is lower than dirt, and the American Thinker is no better.

magistra: I always thought the classic comment on indoctrination of students by teachers was by the British comedian Mark Steel. (This was in the context of school teachers possibly encouraging homosexuality among their pupils). I can't remember the exact quote, but as he pointed out: My maths teacher spent five years trying to promote the belief that algebra was important and it had absolutely no effect on me. Why should I be affected by some passing comments a teacher makes about gay rights?

Mark Steel (being straight) missed the point quite largely. The British conservative objection to teachers being allowed to tell children that it's okay to be gay was not that it would have any affect on any of the straight kids, but that the LGBT kids would be less likely to spend miserable years in the closet making their parents happy by lying to them and to everyone else. A teacher's passing comments on gay rights might well leave straight kids unaffected, but mean the world to the lesbian (or gay or bisexual) kid sitting quietly at the back.

Speaking from considerable experience, while coming out is the best thing any LGBT person can ever do for themselves or their parents long-term, parents seldom if ever react with cheer to the news that their daughter or son is LGBT, and generally want to believe that it was someone else's fault. Blaming the teachers for telling their kid that it's okay to be gay is a popular way out.

Just a note: The muscular, sledgehammer-wielding man was indeed a common symbol for Labor in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In this case, it appears, Labor breaking the chains that bind it.

Jesurgiac: Flip that thought on its head. I remember a lot of budding conservatives in college who really chafed at the culture of the school and the administration and so forth precisely because, ultimately, their parents had a stronger hold on them.

Has anyone taken a look at the musty old Man and God at Yale recently? The sentiment is the same. The conservatives were angry long before PoMo and Marxism and Gender Studies took root in English departments.

Ara: I remember a lot of budding conservatives in college who really chafed at the culture of the school and the administration and so forth precisely because, ultimately, their parents had a stronger hold on them.

Sure. There are people who, told by their parents, their church, and their friends' parents that everyone who is a Diskynew is a howling evil traitor, will meet Diskynew and just wait for their howling evil treachery to manifest itself, find examples of it in ordinary behavior, and conclude that a Diskynew they like is an exception who proves the rule.

And there are people - and my impression is that they're more common - who will realise, fairly quickly, that given that none of the Diskynews they meet are howling evil traitors, and that no one seems to think this is odd, that their parents words of wisdom about Diskynew were just wrong. For Diskynew, read any group that a kid has had no personal encounters with to their knowledge when living at home, and whom their parents don't think highly of.

I'd just note the crucial distinction between being indocrtinated in logic, and how to find truth, via the scientific method, and being indoctrinated in something irrational.

I think it's more important to note the crucial distinction between "indoctrination" and "instruction." The two, I think, use somewhat different tools and methods and have different ends in mind.

As to hilzoy's post, I think Roy Edroso summed it up James Lewis et al. pretty well in an unrelated post:

When you read anything by these awful people that has to do with what should and should not be covered, please recognize that they are not trying to inform you. For them everything -- news, art, science -- is propaganda. There is no aspect of human life which they do not see an opportunity for partisan advantage.

Rush's official explanation, on the other hand, did not blame his professors but more *liberal democrat influence* that made him do it.

The Left's Hatred, Demonization of "Evil Rich" Comes Home to Roost

So, yeah, he ranted against women, too, and he ranted against a lot of things, but when he ranted against the rich, guess what? "Ooh, template! Template!" The Drive-By Media hears one thing, "Ooh, rich? Bam! We hate the rich, too!" That's part of liberal Democrat politics, is stirring up resentment against the rich. Demonization! It's a specialty of the left. They demonize entire groups of people. They demonize the rich. They demonize majorities of any kind. They demonize business. They demonize Big Oil. They demonize Wal-Mart. They demonize! You look at their enemies list, and you would have to conclude that they are anti-success and anti-capitalist, which I believe they are.

I believe they are threatened by anybody who makes it without some government involvement in their lives, or some movement involvement in their lives like the civil rights movement or what have you. These are the people that are full of hate, folks. These are the people that continually demonize the rich, and let me tell you how it manifests itself, not just in this case with this shooter. Whenever there is talk of tax cuts -- and how often do we get stories about "the wealth gap is widening! The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The middle class is being wiped out." How do you think that affects people? Well, when Democrats come along like Clinton or now the current crop of Democrats talking about raising taxes, well, guess what? Everybody's taxes are going to end up being raised, but the people who have been victimized by this demonization, the middle class and the poor, you raise somebody else's taxes it isn't going to make one iota's difference in their lives! If somebody's taxes get raised, yippee! It doesn't improve their lives at all. But there's this thing -- I coined the term in the early nineties -- get-even-with-'em-ism......

Now, if this Virginia Tech shooter had an ideology, what do you think it was? This guy had to be a liberal. You start railing against the rich, and all these other things? This guy is a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act. Now, the Drive-Bys will read on the website that I'm attacking liberalism by comparing this guy to them. That's exactly what they do every day, ladies and gentlemen! I'm just pointing out a fact. I am making no extrapolation. I'm just pointing it out.


I don't know what kind of pudding for brains you have to have to take this guy seriously, but apparently a lot of people do.

People like Limbaugh and Lewis don't argue with the actual Left™ - but with their own made up characterization of it. Thus, any inconvenient facts are waived away through creation of their own separate fantasy (or, if I may, Bizarro) world where Limbaugh can take the rantings of a madman, declare him to be a "Liberal" and then call it a fact.

Sadly, as noted above, there are millions of people that take whatever Limbaugh says as God's honest truth and will be talking about the liberal madman with a gun (I thought liberals hated guns, huh) on Monday.

In re the Marxist page by "Prof. Brizee," if you click on the homepage link to the left, you'll see that this was a student who put up the site for a class by prof. hausmann, and his introduction -- after the long quote from Marx -- immediately puts some distance between himself and the material.

Lewis is, as noted by Roy, a propagandist with no interest in being truthful or fair (cf. Dick Cheney every time he visits Limbaugh). A number of aspects about the post, beyond the obvious rebuttal via English Department research interests..and it is important to note that research interests may have nothing to do with the faculty's handling of a course in Romantic English poetry, are of interest. Cho, who by reports was teased about his command of English in middle and high school, chose, and the word chose is so very important, English as a major. He could have chosen business, where perhaps Lewis would find sedition, but by most accounts busimess schools spend little time debunking capitalism and decrying Republican values, where advisedly the word values is used in its widest sense, devoid of any implicit attachment to anything virtuous.

In academic circles, Virginia Tech is not reputed to be a bastion of liberal thought. It is the yang to the Univerity of Virginia's yin. Parents who don't want their children to go to the effete UVa would choose Tech. The memorial was held on the ROTC drill field. VT is to Virginia as Texas A&M is to Texas, and I have heard no one on the right complain about the credentials of our new secretary of defense, Mr. Gates. In any balanced evaluation, Virginia Tech is one of the last places a right wing commentator would want to attack. Does Tech have its left wing ideologists, probably. Is Tech, institutionally, a legitimate target due to its effete left wing philosophy? It's way down the list.

Thus Lewis is not only a propagandist, he is a completely irrational propagandist. He chose, however, the right pulpit from which to spew his lies. The base now has its talking points. That is the overriding purpose of Limbaugh's show.

Hilzoy,

Again, I'm speaking strictly from my own limited perspective, but the impression I got from just about all of my professors (and it may have been all; I simply can't remember that far back) was that they were interested in teaching us how to think, not what to think. And while I may have blown my Prof's mind with that button, he got over it before class was over (and was not in any way upset at me, just disturbed at the prospect of another Nixon presidency and doubtless the shortcomings of my historical knowledge) and we continued to have a close relationship until I graduated. I'm sure there are some Profs who do try to point their students in a particular direction, and I suspect that it is true that the academy does trend to the left, but I think people tend to forget that for most people, doing their jobs well is a lot more important than pushing their political agenda, whatever that may be.

Plus (he said, tongue firmly in cheek), since the professors all doubtless believe that they're right, logically if they teach the students to think, the students will inevitably come to the correct conclusions. ;)

I guess I should rephrase my question: has dishonesty and bullying always been had so much acceptance in public discourse, when compared to the general assumptions people had. at various points in our history, about how other people should be treated?

I'm pretty sure that if I time travelled back to any point before the sixties I would be lconstantly upset by attitudes that people held, but not surprised if the attitudes were refleted in the editorials and articles of the day's media. In the period around WW1, for instance, young women were incarcerated for having bad reputations and for supposedly polluting soldiers with veneral disese. This is horrible but fits right in with the propensity of the time to do all sorts of clumsy catagorizing of people. Racism was commonplace, most people, including women, had narrow assumptions abut the capacities of women, the eugenics movement provided a psuedo-scientific rationale for demonizing the poor, so why not blame girls for giving VD to soldiers? Against this background a yellow journalism to promote war or the jingoistic demoniztion of everyone not in power doesn't seem incongruous.

The hysterical rage-filled mouth frothings of the right and the cowardly suckings-up of people like Dowd seem anarchonistic to me. I thought we were a more grown-up country than that. It's as if they think that shouting (or simpering like Dowd) will bring back an earlier nastier era.

Of course this could just be a matter of perspective and expections. I first tuned into the mass media for Watergate and tuned out in the early nineties. My memory of the MSM is mostly of solemn, serious people speaking about sober issues. Not speaking particularly deeply or well, but at least trying for honestly. I have no tolerance at all for the jabbering, pandering, ignorant airheads on the air now, and the writers who, like Broder, try for the sober and serious but are just stale.

I post at bipartisan discussion boards and American Thinker is often cited as a nonpartisan source by administration apologists. This is the kind of stupid partisanship that I can point to and puncture that claim. Thanks.

I think the most egregious part of his piece is his selective quoting and misrepresentation of Nikki Giovanni's poem, a move all the more pathetic because the footage of her performing it has been so ubiquitous. If John Lewis' "scholarship" in this article is any indication of the rigor and honesty he wants in higher education, it's a good thing he's not in charge, isn't it?

Posted by: Batocchio | April 22, 2007 at 02:52 AM

Here is the Nikki Giovanni speech that this asshole (James Lewis, not Batocchio) so carelessly dismisses. As reported on Bill Simmons' blog*:

Dave from Blacksburg: "I am a student at Virginia Tech and this woman basically singlehandedly led our campus from utter despair to a feeling of hope. I was just hoping you could pass this clip along so that maybe some other people out there could feel the same thing. I appreciate it."

Great job taking this turd to task. Thank you.

I got kind of sick of listening to music in my car. So now, in the morning I listen to Morning Edition, and at rush hour All Things Considered. In the afternoon, I listen to Rush, and Hannity, and Dennis Prager, and sometimes Hugh Hewitt or Mike Gallgher. If I am feeling particularly masochistic I will sometimes turn on Michael Savage.

The level of violence idealogues ("idiot-logues"?) commit to the political discourse in this country is incalculable.

*I am not linking to this because the link would break pretty quickly as Bill's articles are archived. Go to ESPN and check "The Sports Guy's Blog" from April 19, 2007. I think it is somewhat noteworthy that Bill, and other non-political commentators, who have made mention of this, have managed, in keeping their mouths shut about their personal projective opinions, to communicate more humanity than an infuriating moron like Rush ("This guy had to be a liberal") ever will.

This is a very polite post and accompanying thread.

For myself, I suspect when we one day learn what motivated the crazy psychopath Cho, whether it is a spiritual emptiness or the malfunction of his psychology caused by funky brain chemistry, we will also learn what motivates the psychopath Limbaugh and his brothers and sisters in kind, like Lewis.

I dismiss the theme of brainwashing fairly readily, until I listen to dittoheads insist that teachers and college professors brainwash their students, and I see that, in fact, that Limbaugh's dittoheads have been brainwashed.

For example, when I listen to Limbaugh, I feel an irristable urge to slash welfare and aid to dependent mothers so that black babies and mothers begin to suffer and die across the Southeastern United States.

I start dropping the term "Femi-Nazis" into polite conversation.

I get a mysterious jones on to invade other countries and lie about why I'm invading them, even as I wreck them and cause the inhabitants to butcher each other.

Like a zombie, I stand and stretch my arms in front of me and my eyes glaze over and I walk to the nearest gun store and I buy beautiful weaponry and I take it home and disassemble and clean it at the kitchen table as I fantasize about blowing away black people and Arabs and pushy, uppity women who might be coming in through the front window to steal my Confederate artifacts.

When I open my mind's neural pathways to Limbaugh's fascist cadences, I want to start a website and interview him in a fawning manner and kiss his hem for all he has done for the righteous cause of bohunkedness, which has been ignored and submerged and ridiculed for so many centuries under the weight of light and intelligence.

It's not like any English classes I 've ever been in, where if the teacher introduced me to, say, Melville, I might go off on a fine Spring afternoon and read a little more Melville, or maybe, had the brainwashing really taken effect, delve into some Hawthorne.

No, Limbaugh's blight across the land is purer. It is the simple truth, and in its simplicity, it enraptures the millions who share the single brain cell of American psychopathy.

JT- You sir are a friggin genius.

I wonder, sometimes, when reading the crap coming out of the right, is there anything similar on the left? Sites like this and dKos occasionally have some rather extreme comments, but the basic material from the bloggers is all impressively rational and clear-headed. But I wonder, are there left-wing sites that are just as crazy as Limbaugh's? Are there sites that give the right-wingers fodder for denouncing the pathetic illogic of the left? I know that there are plenty of weird sites of all kinds on the web, but are there any prominent, reputable, respected sites that are as insane as Limbaugh's rantings?

Not since Legal Fiction closed its shutters.

Erasmussimo: I think that they find some material in the dimmer recesses of DU, but that there's nothing like the whole big machinery of nuttiness that exists on the right. (No left-wing Limbaugh, for instance.)

That said, I am more than willing to be convinced that the fact that I think this reflects my own biasses.

Frank: Agreed. I'd ask Thullen to marry me, but I think he's taken.

No, Hil. If there was a left-wing populist who had a daily radio show, a following of millions, and a similar regard for the proper balance of truth and propaganda, you'd have heard of him/her.

"I'd ask Thullen to marry me, but I think he's taken."

Well, I am taken, but I'm a liberal and thus susceptible to brainwashing, depending on what sort of detergent you use.

My wife is washing my brain as we speak. ;)

Incidentally, I don't know why Limbaugh refuses to give Cho credit for individual initiative.

Incidentally, I don't know why Limbaugh refuses to give Cho credit for individual initiative.

Because immersion in the hopelessly America-hating, anti-capitalist, fever-swamp of self-loathing left-wing PC collectivism that is the current sorry state of American Academe just ground it right out of him?

[/Limbaugh]


"Sites like this and dKos"?!

I can see where the American conservative belief that colleges are eeeeeeeeeeeevil comes from: their well-brought-up children go there and return MONSTERS.

A modern update to the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, eh?

Newt Gingrich gives his patented spin on the 'lib'rulism made this happen!!!1' talking point (small wonder, since he's made a career out of blaming liberals for pretty much everything.) Gotta love how he works in a dig against McCain-Feingold.

Demonization! It's a specialty of the left. They demonize entire groups of people. They demonize the rich. They demonize majorities of any kind. They demonize business. They demonize Big Oil. They demonize Wal-Mart. They demonize! You look at their enemies list, and you would have to conclude that they are anti-success and anti-capitalist, which I believe they are.

Demonization! It's a specialty of the right. They demonize entire groups of people. They demonize the poor. They demonize minorites of any kind. They demonize educators. They demonize Hollywood. They demonize musicians. They demonize! You look at their enemies list, and you would have to conclude that they are anti-human and anti-intellectual, which I believe they are.

Erasmussimo--

I no longer look at the comments on any of the stories I look at on alternet.org, as so many of the comments show the mixture of self-righteousness and selectivity of attention to facts that I find so irritating from the right. The articles themselves, however, aren't the same subhuman bile-spewings we find from creatures like Limbaugh, although they can be slanted leftwise.

Posted by: Gary Farber | April 22, 2007 at 03:28 AM

I take what I think is your larger point, and you said you're tired, but I have to disagree strongly with: But I wouldn't argue that "indoctrination" in logic and critical thinking couldn't be fairly called "indoctrination." I'd just note the crucial distinction between being indocrtinated in logic, and how to find truth, via the scientific method, and being indoctrinated in something irrational.

Critical thinking is a process, not the same as a specific position on an issue, for instance. There's an essential, qualitative difference between helping students develop a process whereby they examine, research and decide on a matter for themselves and saying "this is the way you should think about this." There's a difference between truth being derived from authority and truth being an objective matter which all people can investigate without a privileged position (using "privilege" loosely, of course, since some people will be more informed or hell, smarter — but that's also the meritocracy versus artificial social hierarchy divide). The contrast that springs to mind is a priest delivering god's truth to a congregation versus a scientist conducting experiments and publishing peer-reviewed studies. Both may convey an idea, or "truth," and both may have value, but the process is completely different. Some educators will talk about teacher-centered versus student-centered learning, which can oversimplify matters, but you get the idea.

Phil at April 22, 2007 at 07:38 AM and G'Kar at April 22, 2007 at 10:49 AM have nice takes on this as well — but John Thullen at April 22, 2007 at 12:00 PM probably sums it up the best!

On that note, I know I imitate everything I see on TV. Every time they show The Sound of Music I burst into song on an Austrian mountaintop. ;-)

Posted by: nick | April 22, 2007 at 11:31 AM

Nick, thanks for passing on that note from the VT student. Yeah, what's really annoying about that attack on Giovanni is that she had an amazing, positive effect on the crowd and the community. A great deal of the news coverage mentioned it, and "Dave from Blacksburg" really puts it in perspective.

Ah, so it's all the feminists' fault - Sarah Baxter of the Murdoch Times sez an emasculated American culture has bred a generation of psychopatic Breck Girls.

Have yet to confirm how much Cho paid for his haircut.

Thanks for this note.

I imagine that the people who take this sort of ranting seriously are people who either don't invest in college for their children (and want to feel confirmed that their decision was correct) or else send them to colleges---you know which ones I mean---where they will never be exposed to any teaching that conflicts with what they already know or "know."

I doubt that the person who published the article in "The American "Thinker"" was even deliberately distorting the facts. I would assume that he has never seen a picture of Karl Marx and doesn't know any history. I suspect he doesn't know how to evaluate this website.

Which, when you think about it, is MUCH sadder.

Why is it, I wonder, that people feel a need to assign blame for this type of event? Beyond the obvious of blaming Cho (and even that may be inappropriate as he certainly doesn't appear to have been particularly stable), what point does it serve to try and pin blame on some other agency, particularly when the wounds are this fresh.

It is my humble opinion, to borrow from someone I can't recall at the moment, that people use incidents like this much the same way as a drunk uses a lamppost: for support and not illumination. Somehow they find a way to connect everything to their favored cause, whatever that may be, and then they ride that for all it's worth. It is unpleasant to observe and wholly inappropriate as far as I am concerned. Let those who have suffered deal with their grief and don't use their suffering to further your personal agenda.

But that's just my opinion.

But that's just my opinion.

Posted by: G'Kar | April 22, 2007 at 04:16 PM

Not yours alone, G'Kar: I also have been marvelling (though not, of course, with hizoy's eloquence) at the alacrity with which various commentators have seized on the tragedy of the Virginia Tech shootings as a vehicle for making a political/ideological point - and predictably, if sadly, mostly looking to pin the "blame" on their pet political/ideological betes noires; consideration for the victims or their families be damned.

Part of it, I suppose is a "normal" human reaction: when a mass tragedy strikes (especially a seemingly senseless and random one like VT) - it seems a "natural" reaction to try to "make sense" of it: as a way of dealing with the awful randomness of it by either fixing responsibility/blame on outside agencies("it's the [insert bogeyman here]'s fault") - or, more rarely, on ourselves ("we should have done [X] to prevent this").

But the rush to hang glib sociopolitical analyses on the VT tragedy is, IMHO, as hilzoy put it, truly "lower than dirt". I don't know why it has been mostly the Right who have jumped onto this train so swiftly; but it is disgraceful (note: even Newt Gingrich has jumped in as well) - when the victims of a tragedy have just been buried, it ought to be considered way beyond the pale to start (figuratively) holding a political rally on their graves.

I just gotta say that big "Marxist" website made by Allen Brizee was hilarious. How can you not love the black and white and red color scheme and the exclamation pointed sloganeering?

Good grief, people. It. Was. A. Joke.

This is the reading comprehension equivalent of color blindness. Lewis and Limbaugh can't tell the difference between polemic and irony. Explains a lot.

VT English -- Dangerous subversives, all. I'm jealous*.

*That's irony again, James.

when a mass tragedy strikes (especially a seemingly senseless and random one like VT)

But it's not senseless and random. That's part of the problem with all the ridiculous commentary.

Here was a guy who was mentally ill, it seems, and who was identified by a number of people - not even mental health professionals - as being seriously troubled. Yet despite being in a fairly structured environment he got no real help, and was not identified as being any sort of danger to others. Despite his problems he was able to buy guns.

It seems to me that anyone who wants to think seriously about whether this could have been prevented needs to think about the real series of events. What, if anything, can be done to reduce the likelihood of a repeat. What practical policies might have prevented this, etc.

Instead we get nonsense and fantasies about the problem being that he was an English major. Note that it is not just this Lewis character. NRO">http://phibetacons.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YTU2NmNiYTM0ZjVlNjcxYWYxY2ZkOGU2NGEwNWY5OWI=">NRO ran something similar.

As a member of the group involved in the last mass murder in the states, I can say that it's pointless to ask why.

Statistics. A certain number of people are going to be irrational, period. They will kill people to "send a message".

The only mitigation strategy is nerfing. Redirect murderous intent into a legal labrynth likely to ensnare those who don't read, understand, and give the right response indicating intelligence at work.

Granted this won't stop the twisted and gifted, but then again, nothing really can. The best you can hope for is to snare the stupider of the species.

The whole article was ludicrous, and handled well by hilzoy, but I'd like to underline that students at universities are not adolescents needing their first introduction to "essential boundaries for civilized behavior"(boundaries Lewis violates), nor is it the job of university English professors to teach a 23-year old man "to respect others, to admire the good things about his host country, and to discipline himself."

$24 Million dollars/year. Just remember, El Rushbo is making $24MM/year. Now, it's my experience that you really can't sell the truth- but a good, well delivered lie...now that is a valuable commodity.

I'm tired of trying to reason with the no facts Right as they try to make every tragedy a partisan political sermon. Lewis and the rest of the braintrust at 'The American Stinker' are just doing what comes naturally....deflect the blame and when that's impossible, play the victim card.

I suspect that more and more Americans are waking up to this reality and their power of persuasion is starting to fall on a shrinking audience of increasingly deaf ears. Their schtick was always better when they were on the fringes trying to grab the reins of power. They've failed spectacularly at running government, because they don't believe in it. Big Surprise.

"It always bugs or amuses me when conservatives make charges of indoctrination in schools. An essential part of a good education is helping students develop the critical thinking skills to decide on issues for themselves. In my experience, that's pretty intrinsic to a liberal arts education, if not "liberalism" as well. Libertarians and moderate conservatives certainly value that sort of education too, but apparently not the Regent University crowd. Authoritarian conservatives typically view truth as coming from prized authority figures versus objective sources, and at their most extreme are opposed to empiricism and the "reality-based community." They're instead part of the counter-Enlightenment movement, and very much in favor of indoctrination, they just don't have the positions of power they want. "

Indoctrination programs do (or did I can't attest for it currently) exist at UCSD's Third College. The Dimensions of Culture class was three quarters and required of all incoming freshman. It was most certainly not about critical thinking if the thinking went against the liberal political line. (And really almost an extreme cartoon of the liberal line. We were taught silly things like hardcore moral relativism and that the death penalty was clearly wrong--that was two different quarters so maybe the teachers weren't trying for consistency.)

But to be clear, the Limbaugh thing is really stupid!

Maybe we should be asking: why is Rush Limbaugh trying to turn academics into social workers? All that stuff about the parental role of university teachers: do right-wingers want the 'Nanny State' to extend yet further? I can imagine generations of right-wing academics (they do exist, particularly in the UK) curling their lip at the mere thought that they should care anything about their students beyond what they have written about Herodotus (apologies to the liberal classicists). And speaking as a liberal I didn't get my PhD so I could solve the personal problems of adolescents. I'm not terribly good at that and I don't really want that kind of role. There are people in colleges who can provide that kind of support - although I'm sure that it's those kind of public sector jobs that right-wingers want cut.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | April 23, 2007 at 01:52 AM

Thanks for weighing in, Sebastian. Was this recent? As I said, I don't doubt that there are bad teachers out there, and what you describe sounds like some awfully bad, indoctrination-style teaching (and probably pretty boring as well!). Why not give the students several good articles on the death penalty or another subject and have them debate it, for example? A student should be able to disagree with a teacher, obviously, it's just that a student (or teacher!) should be able to support his or her argument. There was a little PC excess at my college, but not much, and most if not all came from students versus teachers. I've always chalked it up more to earnestness than malice (as I'm inclined to do with sincere political activists of opposing viewpoints as well). It's more an issue if that dynamic comes from a teacher, because they have more power, set the tone and frame the debate. I'm not a fan of authoritarian Democrats any more than I am of authoritarian Republicans, and I'm certainly not a fan of bad teaching!

An exercise I'd use (back when I was teaching) was to have students identify their position on an issue and then argue for the other side. Most of them hated it at first but found it quite valuable. There's a saying that you don't know really know your own position until your understand your opponent's.

I do think it's important for teachers to try to be aware of their own biases, and create a space that allows/encourages honest disagreements. Personally, I found the best check was trying to be approachable, since teachers are human, after all, and the first year or two can be tough. If students feel comfortable raising a sincere concern of bias with a teacher, and the teacher will sincerely consider it, that's liable to be a good classroom. (Sorry, another long comment. ;-) )

Sebastian: It was most certainly not about critical thinking if the thinking went against the liberal political line.

Are you saying that if you handed in a paper that justified the death penalty you were automatically failed, without reference to how good the paper was intrinsically? Because if so, that would be clear cause for a complaint against the college. If your complaint is that none of the people who taught the course shared your political views, I can't quite see why you should object to that: surely you don't feel that teachers should be selected on the basis of politics?

And really almost an extreme cartoon of the liberal line. We were taught silly things like hardcore moral relativism and that the death penalty was clearly wrong--that was two different quarters so maybe the teachers weren't trying for consistency.

If they were trying for consistency, that would indeed be disturbing, wouldn't it? Looking at Dimensions of Culture in the USCD catalog, it sounds as if the "hardcore moral relativism" would have been DOC 1: "the study of social differences and commonalities among individuals and groups. Students review contemporary theories of diversity and identity in the United States" - which would naturally avoid, as a study, making moral judgements about which cultures are "better" than others. "The death penalty is clearly wrong" would have been DOC 2: "presents justice as its core theme, with special focus on the political and constitutional implications of publicly significant social differences such as race, class, gender, and ethnicity"...? (Hard to tell, because your memory of "hardcore moral relativism" could also have been DOC 3. It's a conservative bingo phrase that can mean almost anything.)

I think (having done a certain amount of research into the death penalty in the US for personal reasons) that anyone who studies the implementation of the death penalty in the US cannot fail to come to the conclusion that it's wrong as implemented. And the evidence is long in, from all over the world, that the death penalty has no deterrent effect. But, again, if you are claiming that any student who wrote a properly constructed paper on (for example) why they believed the death penalty is right, would automatically be failed for expressing that opinion, that is a very serious charge against UCSD.

anyone who studies the implementation of the death penalty in the US cannot fail to come to the conclusion that it's wrong as implemented.

This sounds terribly drastic. But I mean: there is strong evidence that the death penalty has been imposed many times where there was good reason to believe that the person executed was innocent of the crime for which they were executed. There is also statistical evidence which shows that the death penalty in the US tends to be imposed along racial lines - a black person is more likely to be executed for killing a white person than for killing a black person: white people are less likely to be executed than black people, and least likely of all to be executed for killing a black person. And of course we know for a fact that people who were mentally incompetent have been executed, and that people have been executed for crimes committed when they were under 18. But I didn't mean this to turn into an argument about the death penalty, since I agree with Sebastian that regardless of the point of view of the person teaching the course, papers handed in ought to be assessed on their merits and not on the opinion expressed, and if Sebastian is charging that this was not so, then that's a serious academic indictment.

I agree with SebH that there are such teachers around* but I would consider them a species in (hopefully not just temporary) decline. In my (German) experience they are by now almost completely restricted to certain habitats and practically extinct in the "hard" sciences.
The tactics applied by students are usually "keep you head down for the term" and the "conversion rate" is quite low. Of course this is for young adults. I would not like to have that kind of teacher (of either political leaning) around for children.

*including those that let everyone fail that gives the "wrong" answer on hot/loaded topics.

"Hardcore moral relativism?" What a Mobius strip of a phrase.

Third College is Thurgood Marshall College now, Sebastian. In my opinion, the best way to ensure that classes like Dimensions of Culture are taught in a respectful, fairminded way is 1) to fund more 2-3 year teaching positions, 2) to pay teachers of these intro classes more, and 3) to encourage grad students with a couple of years of teaching experience under their belts to continue doing the work.

From my experience, most of the people teaching this sort of required, intro-level critical thinking course are grad students---those who haven't yet managed to qualify to teach a subject-specific course. As soon as they get a little experience, they jump to a more intellectually rewarding course. Or the department no longer offers them work because they have to give jobs to the incoming grad students. Inexperienced grad student teachers tend to be defensive and caustic. I really do think that's much more likely to be what you experienced, Sebastian.

Interestingly, the math department here dumps inexperienced grad students into calculus, AFAICT because it's the one thing we can be counted to teach well -- and because the students involved are good enough that our occasional screw-ups don't significantly harm their education.

If they were trying for consistency, that would indeed be disturbing, wouldn't it? Looking at Dimensions of Culture in the USCD catalog, it sounds as if the "hardcore moral relativism" would have been DOC 1: "the study of social differences and commonalities among individuals and groups. Students review contemporary theories of diversity and identity in the United States" - which would naturally avoid, as a study, making moral judgements about which cultures are "better" than others. "The death penalty is clearly wrong" would have been DOC 2: "presents justice as its core theme, with special focus on the political and constitutional implications of publicly significant social differences such as race, class, gender, and ethnicity"...? (Hard to tell, because your memory of "hardcore moral relativism" could also have been DOC 3. It's a conservative bingo phrase that can mean almost anything.)

I'm sure I've gone over the specifics before, but I'll try to briefly do it again.

By hardcore moral relativism I mean that no moral value whatsoever was considered to be operative across culture. It was taught that it was impossible to judge a culture outside of its own moral values.

That was DOC1. It was jointly taught by a professor Fitz John Porter Poole and Professor Steven Parish. Toward the end of that quarter I was castigated as a racist for asking how it possible to condemn South African apartheid in a framework where a culture was to be judged only in reference to itself. (I didn't raise the issue idependently, it was being used as an example of one culture opressing another--why opression of another culture was bad was not made clear in the moral relativst framework--I asked for clarification on that point and was tarred as a racist).

In DOC 2 we were required to attend an outside meeting by a NOW activist on the topic of abortion. She was incredibly rude to even the most circumspect pro-lifers, immediately asking them why they wanted to put religion into law even though she had been asked a question which did not invoke religion at all. We asked for a counter-balance speaker to that and were offered the super-hokey "Silent Scream".

DOC2 also involved an a study of death penalty 'jurisprudence' with the Marshall opinions forming the key basis for the obviously correct view. The fact that the Supreme Court ultimately rejected his view was offered as an example of the corrupt state of American politics.

From the TA in DOC2 I received my only low grade on a paper throughout my college career--it was to be on a 'controversial political topic' and since we had just listened to the NOW speaker I foolishly chose abortion. This TA in my section twice admonished young men for looking at her breasts--which was to be pointed, rather unlikely. If they were staring vacantly it was certainly because of boredom from her droning voice and her lack of mastery of the readings such that she could offer nothing of value to the discussion she was supposed to be leading. This TA actually suggested the Politically Correct Dictionary as a serious guide to proper usage of terms, despite the fact that it is clearly a tongue-in-cheek parody of political correctness.

Jackmormon, the TAs were awful but the course itself was taught by actual professors.

This was the early 1990s, I'm assured by people on this blog that that was the high water mark for such things. I obviously can't attest to the current state of the DOC program.

This TA in my section twice admonished young men for looking at her breasts--which was to be pointed, rather unlikely.

Sebastian, you might want consider an edit....

"A young culture-shocked adolescent can expect no firm guidance here"

and probably shouldn't be in college.

"Sebastian, you might want consider an edit...."

Nah, that is too amusing of an accidental wordplay to mess with.

ON SUNDAY MORNING TV:

During the Imus controversy, Rush Limbaugh's name was never mentioned. ever.

Never in the VT tragedy has the NRA been mentioned. ever.

1984, 23 years late.

"admonished young men for looking at her breasts ..... rather unlikely."

Hmmm, I don't know ..... my wife once came home from a scientific conference to tell me that a male scientist, fairly well-known in their esoteric field, made a prolonged visual study of her breasts while she explained the technical drawbacks of planting whatever it was in wetlands.

Then again, if you (not me, certainly not you, an anonymous some other you) maintain steady eye contact with the girl undressing in front of you at the strip club during the bachelor party, she finds it unnerving.

The central question, however, raised by Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich and others, is did the young men you speak of go off half-cocked, or fully-cocked, as the case may be, on a shooting spree because the politically correct feminization of the culture had taken its deadly toll?

If we can't get to the bottom (avert thy eyes) of that conundrum, we'll never be able to understand why al Qaeda suicide bombers don't target Hooters.

"The True Import of Present Dialog, Black vs. Negro"

by Nikki Giovanni:

Ni**er
Can you kill
Can you kill
Can a ni**er kill
Can a ni**er kill a honkie
Can a ni**er kill the Man
Can you kill ni**er
Huh? Ni**er can you
kill
Do you know how to draw blood
Can you poison
Can you stab-a-Jew
Can you kill huh? Ni**er
Can you kill
Can you run a protestant down with your
‘68 El Dorado
(that’s all they’re good for anyway)
Can you kill
Can you piss on a blond head
Can you cut it off
Can you kill
A ni**er can die
We ain’t got to prove we can die
We got to prove we can kill...

Etc.

But yeah. It's James Lewis who's "lower than dirt."

Dehumanize your enemies much, hilzoy?

But yeah. It's James Lewis who's "lower than dirt."

Yup.

Not very familiar with poetry, are you, sir?

Wow, Steve! So Ms. Giovanni actually read that at the memorial service for the students?! That's truly shocking!

Dehumanize your enemies much, hilzoy?

wait, hilzoy is also Nikki Giovanni ?

what a scoop!

admonished young men for looking at her breasts ..... rather unlikely.

He may have just been deaf. It happens.

gwangung: "not very familiar with poetry?"

Depends what you mean by "poetry."

Homer, yes. Vergil, yes. Shakespeare, yes. Yeats, yes. Eliot, yes.

Nikki Giovanni? Not until now.

JakeB: No, she didn't. Could you set the bar lower?

cleek: it was hilzoy, and not Nikki Giovanni, who wrote this post, and who headlined it:

Lower Than Dirt

...something that *I* would never even consider saying about another blogger.

Homer, yes. Vergil, yes. Shakespeare, yes. Yeats, yes. Eliot, yes.

And yet somehow you never picked up the notion of "rhetorical stance," or "unreliable narrator," or "dramatic monologue." Shame on that high school.

it was hilzoy, and not Nikki Giovanni, who wrote this post, and who headlined it:Lower Than Dirt

and yet, you put your statement at the end of a poem by Nikki Giovanni. careful with that context, Eugene.

and, you're playing with a pretty flexible definition of "demonizing", if calling a person "lower than dirt" qualifies - especially given what that person actually wrote. if you want a good example of "demonization", well, that piece by Lewis is a good place to start.

Depends what you mean by "poetry."

Homer, yes. Vergil, yes. Shakespeare, yes. Yeats, yes. Eliot, yes.

Nikki Giovanni? Not until now.

'Nuff said.

...something that *I* would never even consider saying about another blogger.

Yet, you have no compunction about commenting about a poet about you know nothing about and have done little research on, as opposed to someone who compared what one blogger wrote to what actually was there.

I leave space for an appropriate intellectual insult here, as an exercise for the student.

Hogan: Oh, OK, so she didn't really *mean* any of that stuff.

Are you sure? Can you provide evidence?

Were you around in the '60's, like I was?

I think she meant it.

But if you disagree, I'd be interested to find out what you think she *did* mean.

gwangung: It doesn't take more than a line or two to discover that Nikki Giovanni hasn't the least talent as a poet, and owes her current position to...well...other things.

I was around in the '60s.

If age is a qualification for comment, therefore, here's mine:

You don't know what you're talking about.

But if you disagree, I'd be interested to find out what you think she *did* mean.

Did all that stuff about "rhetorical" and "dramatic monologue" go over your head? Because that sure seem that way to me.

owes her current position to...well...other things.

oh, do tell.

gwangung: It doesn't take more than a line or two to discover that Nikki Giovanni hasn't the least talent as a poet, and owes her current position to...well...other things.

I don't think you know what you're talking about.

And I don't think you care to take a step to remedy that.

And...yes..it DOES take more than a line...particularly someone who's quote mining. ANY idiot can quote mine. Creationists have been doing it for decades. Can you prove to us that you're more than an idiot?

cleek: If we're going to get all "careful" here, please note that the word "demonizing" is yours - not mine.

My word was *dehumanizing*.

In my opinion, the phrase "lower than dirt" is about as *dehumanizing* as it gets.

In my opinion, the phrase "lower than dirt" is about as *dehumanizing* as it gets.

What do you say about someoe who's defending an out and out liar?

Well played, Mr Burton. Let me guess - you served on a swift boat in 'Nam, too. (Please, enough with the pearl clutching. You'll give yourself the vapors.)

And we are supposed to care about your opinion because of all of the sensitivity - to persons and poetry - you've displayed here?

Jack Burton: You know what ol' Jack Burton says at a time like this?
Thunder: Who?
Jack Burton: Jack Burton... ME!

dr ngo: disagreement noted.

plausible exculpating explication of Ms. Giovanni's "poem" awaited.

In my opinion, the phrase "lower than dirt" is about as *dehumanizing* as it gets.

You really don't get out much, do you?

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