Monday, December 26, 2016

The Evil University

Quoting The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch, Steve M. notes Anthea Butler is

A religious studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a black woman who teaches a class about the religious right in America and has a fiery liberal persona on social media, Butler’s been ridiculed in recent years on primetime TV by the right’s Sean Hannity and called out on AM radio by Rush Limbaugh....

But when a fellow professor contacted her a few weeks ago and told her she’d been placed on a brand new nationwide “professor watch list” intended to help conservatives identify faculty liberals, Butler felt like rising McCarthyism on America’s campuses just surged to a new high water mark.

The watch list [was] created and promulgated by a nationwide youth-oriented conservative group called Turning Point USA....

Steve perceptively recognizes that with the Democrats controlling neither the White House, the House of Representatives, nor the Senate, conservatives will have to look outside government to play the blame game. And

The right never wants the public to believe that Republicans are responsible for what's going on in government, even when they are responsible. So conservatives look for scapegoats in and out of politics, and they talk about them as if they have tremendous power. Recall the amount of effort the right invested in denouncing Ward Churchill, a professor who wrote an inflammatory essay in the wake of 9/11. If you paid attention to the right back then, you might have thought Churchill was the most important academic in America. 

But what was the right supposed to do? There was no Democratic president. Democrats didn't run the House or Senate. So Churchill had to be portrayed as a national menace. The same with liberal-leaning celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and the Dixie Chicks.

But there are at least two other reasons the organization has targeted institutions of higher learning.

After the 2002 election, Bill Clinton famously commented "When people are insecure, they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right." The nation now has elected a big guy who admires  Sadaam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Bashar al Assad, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said "I alone can fix it," and is wrong constantly and consistently.

"Hate crimes" appear to have increased dramatically since the election, and it's no surprise that supporters have been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. He has not been gracious in victory, and neither will they.

This tendency to pile on is refected in an irony Bunch recognizes when he notes

Yet one other troubling aspect of the list is that the majority of the supposed heresies didn’t even take place in a classroom, where critics on the right have long insisted that students are indoctrinated with liberal ideas.  Many happened on Twitter, during televised appearances, in published op-eds or at political rallies.

Twitter is responsible for most  (choose one) a) extremist, b) obnoxious, c) offensive, or) all the above remarks. Yet, the list promulgated by Turning Point USA includes, Bunch explains, "several well-known professors with ties to Penn, Temple, and other local schools among its roster of roughly 200 faculty."

Twitter is not directly attacked.  Colleges (especially of the elite), though, are easy targets because the right perceives them as a hotbed of liberalism. One anti-abortion rights Catholic ethicist, Charles Camosy, argues

campus cultures have strictly (if not formally) enforced dogmatic views aboutt he nature of gender, sexual orientation, a woman's right to choose abortion, guns and the role of the state as primary agent of social change.

Further, he contends, they encourage "the reduction of all disagreement to racism, bigotry and ignorance- in addition to being wrong about its primary source."

Traveling in the world of academe, Camosy is much too polite (or naive) to sugest conservatives are more prone than liberals toward racism, sexism, or class bias.  It is out of necessity that the right sends its children off to university, generally the key to professional success. But to most conservatives, it represents much of what is wrong with society, helps explain Anthea Butler's unwanted attention, and why someone must "make America great again."

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