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Monday, February 07, 2005

A Good Weekend for Blog Ranting

But then, isn't every day a holiday for those who worship at the altar of Blog Intemperance?

Anyways, via Mark Cooper's blog I found Swarthmore history professor Timothy Burke's superb smackdown of Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill is the professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado who has been the subject of much, much, much debate recently after his invitation to speak at Hamilton College was rescinded in relation to an essay he wrote after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

A choice cut:

Hamilton College’s first instinct, the first instinct of all institutions (including conservative ones) that get caught up in this well-rehearsed minuet, is to cite free speech as a defense. I think that’s perfectly proper in a highly limited way. Once an invitation has gone out, I think you generally have to stick by your guns. Everyone does have a right to speak and say what they want, whatever it might be.

But academic institutions also insist in many ways and at many moments that they are highly selective, that all their peculiar rituals—the peer review, the tenure dossier, the hiring committee, the faculty seminar—are designed to produce the best, most thoughtful community of minds possible. In response to criticism from conservatives who complain at the lack of conservatives in the academic humanities and social sciences, a few scholars even had the cheek publically (and more privately) to suggest that conservatism is one of those things that academic quality control quite legitimately selects against, that if the academy is liberal, that’s because it’s selective. Anybody has the right to speak, but nobody has the obligation to provide all possible speakers a platform, an honorarium, an invitation.

In that context, it becomes awfully hard to defend the comfortably ensconsed position of someone like Churchill within academic discourse, and equally hard to explain an invitation to him to speak anywhere. There’s nothing in his work to suggest a thoughtful regard for evidence, an appreciation of complexity, a taste for dialogue with unlike minds, a proportionality, a meaningful working out of his own contradictions, a civil ability to engage in dialogue with his colleagues and peers in his own fields of specialization. He stands for the reduction of scholarship to nothing more than mouth-frothing polemic.

Elsewhere Juan Cole had a spectacularly splenetic response to a Jonah Goldberg column that called Cole, among other things, "the dashboard saint of lefty Middle East experts". More from Cole can be seen here and here. A collection of links to Goldberg's comments can be seen here or you can go directly here and start scrolling up.

My favorite bit, from Cole on Goldberg:

"Jonah Goldberg is a fearmonger, a warmonger, and a demagogue. And besides, he was just plain wrong about one of the more important foreign policy issues to face the United States in the past half-century. It is shameful that he dares show his face in public, much less continuing to pontificate about his profound knowledge of just what Iraq is like and what needs to be done about Iraq and the significance of events in Iraq."

I love a good argument.

|| RPH || 2:45 PM || |