Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, September 28, 2007

It Takes An Academic To Understand This Crap

It's a good thing we have academia to guide us through the complexities of our daily lives. Otherwise, we'd simply be guided by common sense, which is for mere commoners like me.

I read someplace that an academic is the sort of person who will publish book after book on how to make love to a beautiful woman, without ever having had a girlfriend himself. I learned earlier this week that an academic is somebody who is so convinced of his intellectual superiority that he can lord it over the rest of us on credentials alone.

As I lifted up my Moscow-Pullman Daily News from my porch last Tuesday, I noticed that it was far heavier than usual. When I turned to the opinion page, I learned why. There was the former president of the Washington State University faculty senate proclaiming that his academic experience endowed him with a superior talent for understanding big words and thus conferred upon him the authority to call the man who stands between us and Islamo-fascism a fool and a liar.

The superior insight of the academic certainly explains Columbia University’s invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at that university’s world leaders forum. It also helps me understand why, after all the venom Ahmadinejad has spewed over the years, it was his insistence that Iran was somehow vaccinated against homosexuality that provoked academic opprobrium.

Hofstra University’s law school invited the convicted terrorist enabler and disbarred attorney Lynne Stewart to speak at a conference on legal ethics. Simpletons such as I have no hope of comprehending this. Such comprehension is only within the grasp of the academic mind.

Larry Summers was driven from the presidency of Harvard University and was recently disinvited from giving a speech at the University of California, Davis because he once raised the possibility that relatively few women enter fields like physics and engineering because of inherent differences between men and women. Even supplicating before the howls and bleats of offended feminists, whose behavior verified many clich├ęs regarding women and feminists, earned him no credit. As I recall, he even attended a re-education camp – excuse me, I meant sensitivity training. But even though that would have earned him a second chance in a communist dictatorship, it did him no good at Harvard.

Summers’ theory certainly has more supporting evidence than the Islamist thesis that Jews are not really humans, but are instead descendents of pigs and dogs. But the academic mind just knows when to rise above evidence and grasp a truth that is obscured from lesser minds by facts.

Academics are above irony. Even as feminist scholars were celebrating their latest Larry Summers’ snub, Columbia University invoked “freedom of speech” to defend itself against criticism that it had provided a microphone and a spotlight to a belligerent bigot.

At some point Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger, appeared to have caught a glimpse of how the non-academic world viewed his university and attempted damage control.

Bollinger accused Ahmadinejad of being a “petty and cruel dictator,” and of being either “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.”

“I feel the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for,” he concluded.

It might have been coincidence, but his epiphany synchronized nicely with fiduciary threats from alumni, as well as the state and local governments that provide Columbia University with significant financial support. Academics are not above accounting.

I know not whether Bollinger’s words were enough to make donors forget that Columbia lent its prestige and legitimacy to this century’s Hitler. It was especially troublesome that the dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, John Coatsworth, said that Columbia would have welcomed last century’s Hitler as well: “If Adolph Hitler were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion, to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”

Columbia also did a little preemptive airbrushing for history’s sake by covering the podium with a shroud that concealed the university’s name and seal, so that photographs of the event would show no evidence of the venue.

If academics wished to demonstrate a courageous commitment to free speech, they would exhibit the dreaded cartoons of blasphemy that American newspapers and broadcast television have refused to show. The most recent such cartoon in a Swedish newspaper resulted in a death sentence against the artist and Iranian demands that Sweden change its laws.

That would be just the sort of courage that even a dolt like me could appreciate.

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