The Dartmouth Observer
Monday, September 02, 2002
1. I would like to thank Tim for enlightening us to the Nation's writing and research methodology and for informing us about Mr. Barksdale. I would encourage Chien to read The Nation more often, if not just for laughs. I look forward to scavenging a copy of The Nation from some dusty corner and reading the latest pontifications from the self-possessed left. It is very similar to the kicks that I get from reading the Dartmouth Review or the National Review, though from the other end of the spectrum. (I actually find the Weekly Standard a rather enjoyable, more pleasant read.) My favorite parts is when the various writers opine about the state of the minorities, the poor, Israel, or on fundamentalist Christian theology: always wrong, all the time. When I read it however, it convinces me that we (the poor, minorities, Zionists, fundamentalists) need to do a much better PR job if otherwise intellectual people are so utterly clueless. (And Tim mentioned that he disagreed also with Richard Goldstein's article; I would be very interested in finding out why.)
2. Which leads me to my next point, stereotypes make thinking so much easier. The stereotypes that the Nation has and promotes about the largely non-existent, but ubiquitous neoconservative conspiracy (very similar to the non-existent leftist conspiracy theories of Rush Limbaugh) make great substitutes for actual arguments about actual modes of thought. When a rightist strawman, which always seems to engage in the usual bigotries, is proffered, and the One Minute of Hate occurs, I wonder if these writers applaud themselves. However, as Jon points out, this lazy thinking has crept into the Dartmouth Observer.
My partner in crime, Chien Wen, has been accused of the "Fox New's fallacy", which is the second symptom of the foxification of discourse: assuming that one's political beliefs necessarily poison the curriculum. Jon brings up an excellent point when he says that the critical mass of Democrats on campus does not mean that somehow conservatives are choked out of the dialogue. We cannot assume that the voting record of any professor necessarily entails some unseen agenda. However, what the preponderance of one type of thinking does mean is that dogmas from their side of the political spectrum are more likely to taken as a given.
Consider how we talk about what we talk about. It is full of the assumptions of the left because those assumptions are more likely to coincide with our philosophical inclinations. For instance, say that on this blog we were all anti-Greek. When an accusation was made, "Greeks houses drain the number of sophomores and juniors available for outside activism; because of the system the only reliable participants are seniors and freshman." (This is loosely based on a sentence I read in the 2006 Freshman Edition of the Free Press.) If we were all anti-Greek, this statement would be met with nodding and ran off with as a fact. However, the presence of those whom are not so critical of the system would cause the question to be raised "How much of the D-plan is a factor in the Great Disappearance?" Moreover, we know, from other readings about the academy, that professors are not merely left leaning but are entrenched leftists, mainly of the radical variety in comparison to the rest of the population. (There is a book about this from a self-described radical leftist who was writing about the Black Athena debate and the intellectual climate surrounding Martin Bernal's Black Athena.
When one group dominates any context, that group should apply the most exacting scrutiny to its own ideological preferences to prevent preferences and sympathies from becoming silent, unchallenged truths.