Noam Chomsky Obfuscates the Leftist Domination of Academia
Noam Chomsky has claimed that Jordan Peterson’s diagnosis of academia as being dominated by the political left is false. It is actually the right, Professor Chomsky claims, which dominates universities.
The absurdity of Professor Chomsky’s assertion can be easily witnessed by anyone who cares to spend any even somewhat prolonged period of time reading recent publications in social-scientific journals.
One example which I have just experienced — and can still not quite bring myself to believe is real — is the paper “ ‘White Genocide’ and the Ethics of Public Policy Analysis”, published in the Journal of Genocide Research. This one has to be seen to be believed. The bizarre treatment of “White Genocide” delusions, despite their being referenced in the title, is not the main problem here (although I find their investigation not nearly rigorous and thorough enough for an academic paper, either).
The main problem is how the author, A. Dirk Moses, discusses mainstream conservative concerns that immigration and the erosion of certain values and customs endangers the survival of Western Civilisation. Dr. Moses expends not one word on refuting this idea, choosing instead to suggest that such concerns should not be expressed because, as white supremacist terrorism shows, they are dangerous. Dr. Moses tells us:
Those advancing an alarmist “decline of the West” narrative need to think carefully about how they are intellectually equipping those with catastrophized subjectivities to take their proclaimed state of emergency as a green light for desperate measures. If you postulate a cultural and/or demographic “war,” we now know all too well that some will take your words literally and arrogate to themselves the role of your words’ executor: it only takes one or two (p.212).
This is obviously nothing more than a political smear designed to guilt people into clamming up about their concerns. I can think of few tactics more liable to corrupt public discourse than to suggest that a certain problem (even if one does not agree that it is a real problem, but again, the author, does not refute the notion that it is) should not be mentioned merely because some version of them may inspire someone to violence. If Dr. Moses applied the same standard of reasoning to Muslim terror attacks, female genital mutilation, etc., surely he would be forced to conclude that there was something inherently reprehensible about being a Muslim, by the same logic of guilt by association. Is this seriously what academia has become?
Furthermore, the Christchurch massacre, which Dr. Moses evokes, and other like it are dreadful atrocities — but are they really compareble to the possible consequences of a failure to address a looming “Clash of Civilisations”? This is anything but a trivial concept: it has implications for a vast gamut of issues of international politics, including the likelihood of war.
Without leaving the realm of identity politics and assessments of far-right extremism which are obviously ideologically blinkered, here is another example which I latterly encountered. The essay is titled “ ‘Back to a Past that Was Futuristic’: The Alt-Right and the Uncanny Form of Racism”. Its author, Robert Topinka, “is Lecturer in Transnational Media and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck, University of London”, and the “essay has been peer-reviewed by ‘The New Extremism’ special issue editors”, though one would hardly know it. Let me show you what I mean with the quote which got me to stop reading this paper:
[T]he New York Times explainer (an op-ed by Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard) emphasizes that alt-right racism is partly a result of the undue expansion of what it means to be “racist” (Caldwell 2016), an expansion Caldwell redresses by carefully distinguishing malignant white supremacists from the purportedly more benign white nationalists. In the face of such prevarication, the Daily Stormer’s “Normies’ guide to the alt-right” makes for bracing reading (Anglin 2016).
For anyone unacquainted with the verb “prevaricate”, let me add Merriam-Webster’s definition: “to deviate from the truth: EQUIVOCATE”. That is, Topinka is here accusing Caldwell either of dishonesty or, at best, of “avoiding commit[ment]”. This accusation comes entirely unsubstantiated, unless the reason is supposed to be subtly implied in the sentences that follow, but I certainly could not beginnt to discern anything like it. This paints an ugly picture of current social-scientific scholarship, does it not? Simply for trying to define the excesses which have led to (misguided, in my opinion) backlash in the form of the Alt-Right, a journalist can be baselessly accused of dishonesty in an academic paper and the accusation can pass the peer-review process.
For what it is worth, I found Mr. Caldwell’s article an insightful read, and recommend it to anyone who may be reading this. It can be viewed here. Incidentally, Curtis Yarvin, the founder of the “Dark Enlightenment”, which Topinka treats as a precursor to the Alt-Right, also believes that White Nationalists are reacting to the politically correct race ideology which they find imposed on them nowadays — and he does not appear to claim this in order to support his own positions, since he states it in the context of explaining why he is not a White Supremacist (see this video, starting ca. 8:40).
To conclude, Professor Chomsky appears, in this instance, to be engaged it the same brand of outrageous fact-twisting which has been a constant throughout his career in political commentary — as Paul Bogdanor has demonstrated by his compilation of “The Top 250 Chomsky Lies” (available to download here).