Against Suicidalism from Down Under

Keith Windschuttle gets it. In The Adversary
Culture
he identifies the same suicidalist pathology that
Mark Brittingham and Jeff Goldstein and I have been writing about
recently.

Windschuttle, an Australian historian, identifies historians and
cultural-studies types on the academic left as vectors of the
disease. I wonder if he’s read Koch on Willi Munzenberg or Haynes
& Klehr’s Denial and gets how thoroughly these
people were piping to a tune that Stalin’s espionage apparat wrote?

For anyone still tempted to believe blaming the Soviets for the
flakiness of academia is just conspiratorial raving, get a load of this
and this:
it seems that during the Korean War the Soviets and North Koreans
thought anti-U.S. dezinformatsiya so important that they gassed their
own people in order to fabricate evidence for a legend that
U.S. troops had used chemical weapons in Korea. They did this with
the clear intention of damaging U.S. prestige, of breaking our will to
oppose Soviet expansionism by making us doubt and loathe ourselves.
We have statements from the people who planned and executed the
operation.

They got the result they were after. Left-wing historians like
Gabriel Kolko dutifully repeated legends of U.S. chemical warfare,
terrorism and atrocities in Korea for forty years afterwards. In fact,
Kolko continued to repeat the chemical-warfare legend even after the
Soviets themselves repudiated it in a published 1953 letter to Mao
Tse-Tung!

Whether Kolko himself (or any other individual leftie) was taking
orders from Moscow or was an ‘honest’ dupe fed the legend by Soviet
propaganda organs is not really very significant. What matters is
that Kolko, and all the the rest of the Marxist intelligentsia who
became cogs in Stalin’s memetic war machine, willingly did their part
to injure ‘the main enemy’. They retailed the lies of a tyrant who
murdered more people than Hitler, and they have not yet been called to
account for it.

Say what you will about conservative historians and conservatives
in general (I can find plenty of nasty things to say of them, and
frequently have); at least they never sunk quite so low as to repeat
totalitarian propaganda after the totalitarians themselves had
disowned it.

39 thoughts on “Against Suicidalism from Down Under

  1. Why do you care so much about fringe groups of the academic left? Yes, there are crazy professors out there, but they are no more important to liberal politics than white supremacists are to conservative politics. Significantly less so, one might reasonably complain.

  2. Read Windschuttle’s essay for an eloquent description of why this is worth caring about.

  3. I read the article. The author has a point, that there are stupid people out there saying stupid things and that it’s important to stand up and say “No, that is wrong.” Where he — and you, occasionally — cross the line is in asserting too much influence for the people saying those stupid things. They are not “leading opinion makers”. Noam Chomsky is not “influential”, outside of a very small circle of stupid people. Academic feminists — I read a number of blogs by female academics who consider themselves feminist; do you? — still resoundingly condemn female genital mutilation and suttee. Liberals do not believe that the victims of 9/11 deserved what they got. Ward Churchill, for the love of god, is not a poster child for liberal thought.

    American politics are divided to an extremely unhealthy extent, and this kind of straw man thinking is part of what got us here. It would do all of us a great deal of good to remember that the vast majority of the people on the other side of the aisle are not idiots and not insane, they just have different priorities than we do.

  4. covalthe, I wish I could agree with you. Unfortunately, the extremes define the middle. Liberals may not believe the 9/11 victims deserved what they got, but they’re all too often influenced by hard leftists in more subtle ways.

    Try pointing out to a dozen liberals that Stalin had killed more people than Hitler before World War II even began. Watch the reactions you get. I think you’ll find it instructive.

  5. Extremes may influence the mean, but they don’t influence the median. For you to hear me say that I self-identify as a liberal and conclude that I have sympathies for communist propaganda is as silly as for me to think that you believe God is punishing America for gays because you self-identify as conservative. (Yes, I’m aware that you call yourself libertarian instead of conservative; I’m speaking hypothetically.). And if I were to go around pointing out to the liberals I know that Stalin killed more people than Hitler, they would wonder why I was belaboring the obvious.

    Do you discuss politics regularly with actual flesh-and-blood liberals? It really sounds sometimes like your ideas about what liberals think come from, I don’t know, Rush Limbaugh going through withdrawal or Fox News or something.

  6. covaithe,
    >American politics are divided to an extremely unhealthy extent, and this kind of straw man thinking is part of what got us here.
    I can’t sell you a bad idea out of whole cloth, but the techniques for achieving the sale are not new:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie

  7. >they would wonder why I was belaboring the obvious.

    You’re lucky, then. Your local liberals are more historically aware than the ones I run into.

  8. Eric: Non-US context I know, but I’ve just tried that experiment, by posting your statement on a mostly-liberal web board and asking for reactions. I’m expecting an even mix of “well, duh”s and “before WW2 started? Are you sure?”s.

  9. covaithe – “Noam Chomsky is not “influential”, outside of a very small circle of stupid people.”

    Don’t I wish. I have some very (otherwise) intelligent friends who quote Chomsky the way a Southern Baptist quotes the Bible.

    I agree that we need to recognize our own faults; the error is in focusing on them to the exclusion of other considerations.

    To quote my EE115 prof – “Life is one big trade-off”.

  10. Covaithe,

    I think wherever there is a question that allows only two answers, black or white, right or wrong, either this or that, then usually the question is wrong. We often fall into the trap of 1) choosing the one that seems the lesser evil 2) and then identifing with it to verify our choice to ourselves. Therefore the question “left or right, conservative or liberal” is wrong. Therefore I think you are not liberal, you are rather an anti-conservative who choosed liberalism to be a lesser evil, and then you identified with it to verify your choice to yourself. My guess is than in every country in the world, in every time of the history, dedicated conservatives and liberals, rightists and leftist were complete morons, simply because they believed that black-or-white questions can have right answers (they cannot), and the mistaked ideology for reality. You are a clever guy, and therefore just cannot be liberal. I think you just identified with what you consider lesser evil.

  11. “Don’t I wish. I have some very (otherwise) intelligent friends who quote Chomsky the way a Southern Baptist quotes the Bible.”

    Actually the deep emotional background of most modern ideologies from Liberalism to Fascism is to fill the vacuum of Christianity – to provide some new holy books, new prophets, new salvation methods etc.

    *shrug*

    Old habits die out too slowly.

  12. The issue with the “dezinformatsiya” propaganda is that it has so thoroughly infiltrated our public consciousness. We have all been affected by the “victim mentality” culture. Even very conservative people will fall under the spell of “XYZ made me do it.” (Just look at some of the bizarre court cases recently, where criminals were found not guilty due to some bogus reason, or somebody making millions from a trip-and-fall civil case. And a lot of those court cases were decided by very conservative juries.)

    As long as we “tolerate” those who still cling to the hard-left propaganda (the “Suicidalists”, I guess), then that influence will continue to destroy lives. And it’s worse than just “influence”: Universities and the MSM are strongly influenced by hard-left ideals. Public schools are getting worse by the day (grade inflation AND 6 year olds suspended for “sexual harassment” – need I say more?)

    I guess I am trying to formulate my thoughts, and defend Eric’s assessment that the hard-left “fringe” is more dangerous than it seems. I know liberals who will all but excoriate Michael Moore “in general”, but when you try to nail them down to what points they disagree with Moore, you will find that it is not in the ideas and concepts, but in the degrees to which the ideas are promoted. As an example, Moore likes to blame America for the world’s ills. To Moore, America is the greatest evil this planet has ever faced. To a lot of “moderate” liberals, his bloviating is unacceptable. But when pressed, they will say things like, “Well, we didn’t DESERVE 9/11, but if you look into it, we were really at FAULT.”

  13. The US (and Soviet Union, China, Japan, Korea, England, Germany, …) have done a lot of wrong over the centuries. These countries (and others) have all killed or maimed a lot of people without any clear moral justification other than the rhetoric and political ideology of the time. Using the actions of one to somehow ‘prove’ the other as superior is fuzzy thinking, at best.

    ESR’s “my country, right or wrong” stance is as unsupportable in the mind of a thinking man as the positions of “the left” that he rails against. His use of labels (“Suicidalists”) clouds the real issues just as well as anything that Ward Churchill said about the victims of 9/11 “deserving” their fate.

    Sadly, the whole “you fucked us, so we’re going to fuck you back”, stance continues unabated.

    Several people posting here need to get laid.

  14. BubbaB,

    Yes, but I’d also suggest to look at the causes why the seeds of desinformatsiya fell found fertile ground. I think this is the so-called “anti-fascism”. I mean Nazism and Fascism were both completely mad attempts to define human quality. After WW2, Leftists were so afraid of these ideologies that they thought ALL attempts two define human quality are somwhat Fascist, and therefore they adopted this “blame the society, not the criminal way” of thinking, which directly maps to “there is no personal responsibility for our actions, there ain’t any good guys vs. bad guys” way of thinking. Whic eventually led to our current situation where in mainstream thinking we just cannot say “your way of thinking is healthy” to one guy and “wow, man, you’re just sick!” to other guy, because they everything is considered subjective, and lacking a generally accepted value. (Popular forms of modern science such as quantum physics seemed to verify this point as they pointed out that there is no objective reality, which is OK, but in their popularized and socialized forms they missed the point that the theory of subjective reality ITSELF proves that all actions have consequences and there fore one CAN judge which deed is useful and which one is harmful, although on a changing and relative level.)

  15. Jim,

    I think it’s not about fucking back, it’s about protecting civilization. Civilization means that there are Mosques in America, Europe, Israel,India, and (were) in Tibet (before the Commie occupation), but there ain’t any Churches, Synagogues, Hindu temples and Buddhist meditaton centers in Iran. No, I am not only meaning religious freedom, but the general concept of the way of living and relating to others, feel free to expand it to other parts of life. Such stuff marks the difference between civilization and barbarism. This is so damn easy I think. (And please don’t even try to convince me that McDonalds culture is also a subtle kind of oppression or imperialism, because I’d consider that to be mountain of moronism.) Perhaps one needs to have first-hand experiene of dictatorship to *really* appreciate freedom and tolerance, I dunno…

  16. Anybody who thinks my position is “my country, right or wrong” is so far off the mark it’s laughable.

    My loyalty doesn’t belong to a flag. It doesn’t even belong to a species. It belongs to whatever group of sentients, anywhere, is doing the best job of moving us towards a future in which nobody will be coerced for the ‘good’ of others, or even for their own ‘good’.

    In 2006, for all its flaws, the U.S. is still freedom’s best hope. If that ever changes, so will I.

  17. > Why do you care so much about fringe groups of the academic left? Yes, there are crazy professors out there, but they are no more important to liberal politics than white supremacists are to conservative politics. Significantly less so, one might reasonably complain.

    ROFL! Four words: Senator Robert “Sheets” Byrd. Of all the negative things I could say about conservatives, the accusation of racism would most certainly not be among them; most of the “liberals” I’ve met, on the other hand, have been racist. Conservatives generally don’t even think about race, because they don’t care about it, while it’s a dominant factor in the thinking of most liberals. Oh, and white supremacism is not any position which doesn’t require the public flogging and castration of every white male on the planet.

  18. >Perhaps one needs to have first-hand experiene of dictatorship to *really* appreciate freedom and tolerance, I dunno…

    Some of the ignorami posting on this thread may not know that Shenpen grew up in Communist Hungary. I have noticed that this gives him a much better grasp on the meme war and its corrosive effects than most Americans (especially most American liberals) have.

  19. > My loyalty doesn’t belong to a flag. It doesn’t even belong to a species. It belongs to whatever group of sentients, anywhere, is doing the best job of moving us towards a future in which nobody will be coerced for the ‘good’ of others, or even for their own ‘good’.

    Or, as Ben Franklin put it, “where liberty dwells, there is my country”.

    By the way, “sentience” simply means the ability to feel; I’m guessing you picked up the term from sci-fi, as I did originally, but sci-fi writers usually misuse the term “sentient”, when “sapient” is the correct term for what they mean. A cat or a dog is sentient, just as humans are, but only humans (and maybe aliens) are sapient.

  20. > Why do you care so much about fringe groups of the academic left? Yes, there are crazy professors out there, but they are no more important to liberal politics than white supremacists are to conservative politics. Significantly less so, one might reasonably complain.

    Simple: Because the thinking of this “radical fringe” permeates nearly the entire social, cultural and political discourse in the West across the entire political spectrum. The notion, for example, that all cultures are equal and none are superior to another is not just the harmless musings of a radical few who for the most part are ridiculed like white supremacists. Cultural equality or multiculturalism is an intellectual mainstay: it is one of the reasons why the world focuses on Abu Ghirab but ignores Burka-clad women, and it’s one of the reasons why instead of telling rioting muslims to sit down and shut the fuck up such “radical liberals” as President George W. Bush and Condi Rice proclaim the cartoons as needlessly offensive to Muslim cultural sensitivity.

    As ESR pointed out in an excellent earlier essay on Suicidalism, there are several ideas that originated with the fringe left (who themselves were strongly influenced by a Soviet apparatus bent on the West’s destruction) that are now mainstays of modern thinking. These ideas are literally killing the West: things like “criminals are victims of an oppresive society” not only undermine the notion of individual responsibility that was so important to the West, but they also allow us to excuse Muslims murdering filmmakers and burning embassies to the ground. The notion of individual responsibility for these crimes are lost–as well as the responsibility of the national governments and NGOs who orchestrated these acts as part of a greater war against the West.

    To know if you are infected by these memes (and that these ideas are not just the fringe rantings of a lunatic few), let me try a quick experiment. When I write “the American Way of Life”, do you read that phrase and feel proud of what America has accomplished, or do you read that phrase as either a sarcastic commentary on the plight of the poor, or as an ignorant rant of the radical right-wing fringe? When I state that the western values of individuality and competitive (classical) egalitarianism are morally and ethically superior to all cultures who do not recognize these values, do you have an immediate kneejerk response as to how wrong I am? When I write that I’m proud to be an American, do you immediately visualize me as a country hick, a bumpkin from the south with the intelligence of a kumquat–because clearly as anyone knows, Europe is better than America, and respect for Indiginous values is better than demanding every culture conform to Western ideals of individuality?

  21. The phrase “The American Way of Life” has been politicized by both wings (one as a near-fetish, one as an object of ridicule) to such an extent that it parses as ideology rather than information. The capitals don’t help. I suggest trying a logically similar phrase that hasn’t been made into a buzzword; “American culture” ought to serve.

  22. Eric,

    it’s simply because memetic warfare – agit-prop – was also performed domestically, and in this case it was easy to see the difference between bullshit and reality. Actually it was my father who discovered it – when he was conscripted into the army, he had ample free time and have read a lot of Marxist books in the library and it was quite a shock for him at the age of 19 that he found out what the state were preaching was a complete lie – because the “socialist” reality didn’t even vaguely fit with the Marxist books. I mean Marx was writing about socialism and the withering of the state, while in reality it was a state capitalism, with all the disadvantages of capitalism and without the advantages of it, and the state didn’t seem to wither, to the contrary, it seemed to control everything. Actually my father discovered two important things in that army library and he later taught me :

    1) state socialism is a contradiction in itself, it cannot exist, it always turns into a state monopoly capitalism, only anarchist socialism is worthy of even thinking a bit about but even this is but an utopian dream of the very, very far sci-fi future .

    2) Communism actually worked like a religion, with holy books (The Capital, Empiriocritism), prophets (Marx, Engels), saviours (Lenin), holy symbols (sickle and hammer, red star), a promise of heaven on earth and other prophecies, Inquisition against heretics, etc. etc. and with that, this was a pre-Enlightenment, Middle Ages way of thinking.

    But he important thing is that what I see here is that Communism somehow managed to destroy values like ethics, morality, pride, integrity, tradition, and even civilized manners. It’s like despite all the heroic stuff they preached somehow they managed to infuse people with a completely nihilistic way of thinking. This is strange, as it was surely to the goal, but nevertheless it happened. Actually one can see this thing most clearly in Germany, because Commies somehow managed to make most Ossies a lot more different to Wessies in just 2-3 generations. My guess is that any kind of oppression combined with lies manages to get to this result, because if people are coerced to live in a way they do not believe, they will soon believe in nothing.

    I think that to of course a lot lesser extent, but this happended in America too: Soviets couldn’t convince people to believe in a world proletarian revolution, but could convince some people to believe in nothing. Maybe this is a quite simple psychological equation: you believe in X, but someone preaches you to believe in Y, and if you don’t fully accept it, then maybe the result will be that you will become cynical and believe in nothing. Dunno, maybe I should learn more about psychology.

  23. The Late Stephen Ambrose wrote that the University of New Orleans where he taught (New Orleans cable used to run his lecture series on local access, fascinating teacher with great command, I can still hear his voice) that the Department, and really all History Departments at Colleges and Universities wanted not oral histories of ordinary men in WWII, but lesbians of color in Colonial America.

    I think it’s more a function of “Folk Marxism” with favored caste groups (the oppressed) and unfavored groups (the “oppressors” aka ordinary people particularly white men). The Academy is basically Berkeley writ large.

    This is why the non-reaction to Cartoon Jihad. In the elaborate caste system, non-Western people of color who hold to a non-Western religion of COURSE trump all other values. You can’t find a liberal who’d defend freedom of speech, because caste trumps everything.

    Coviathe —
    Noam Chomsky? Ever see the WB series “Gilmore Girls?” He’s on a poster of one of the lead character’s (the younger one) apartment wall. When Rory Gilmore of the WB (played by teen idol Alexis Bledel) makes approving references to Chomsky or Betty Friedan, you underestimate the influence of the hard left. In the media or entertainment it’s pervasive. See the moral relativism, deconstruction of heroism, PC, Multi-culti stuff in a film like say, Capote. In that movie, amazingly, CAPOTE is the main villain because he “betrays” a brutal murderer by falling in love with the guy and getting him to talk about his life and the murders (of a family) for Capote’s book. The murderer is presented “sympathetically” as the “real victim.”

    If Capote is not the true mark of the influence of the hard left in America’s culture I don’t know what is. I disagree with ESR that this is some stalinist plot; it seems to me the natural outgrowth of the intelligentsia’s attempt to construct an elaborate caste system based on a debased version of Marxism, like the “cool kids” in a Giant High School from Hell.

  24. esr Says:

    My loyalty doesn’t belong to a flag. It doesn’t even belong to a species. It belongs to whatever group of sentients, anywhere, is doing the best job of moving us towards a future in which nobody will be coerced for the ‘good’ of others, or even for their own ‘good’…

    News from the future:

    Fetchmail version 8.2.5 (Skynet release) downloads have passed the 183 million mark, and accelerating. This software is, in the words of it’s author: “The best anti-coercion solution that will ever be available, now or in the future”.

    When asked to elaborate, Speaker of the House Raymond (Pennsylvania-Lib) would only say “Skynet has my loyalty”

    In other news, three independant audits of the Federally mandated Diebold electronic voting system found no signs of tampering in any state or national elections. President Long and Vice President Beebelbrox jointly re-affirmed their confidence in the voting system’s integrity in another videotaped message from Camp David…

  25. > My loyalty doesn’t belong to a flag. It doesn’t even belong to a species. It belongs to whatever group of > sentients, anywhere, is doing the best job of moving us towards a future in which nobody will be coerced > for the ‘good’ of others, or even for their own ‘good’.

    Thats just so… Thelemic. (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”)

  26. William Woody,

    The comparisons you make are unfortunate. Do you really hold that torture is morally equivalent to forcing women to wear veils? (And although I shouldn’t have to disclaim, let it be clear that I don’t agree with forcing women to wear veils either.)

    You contradict yourself when you claim that the left holds that:
    all cultures are equal and,
    Europe is better than America.

    Unless it’s not the same left, of course. I myself have little patience with the idea that all cultures are equal. I shed no tears for the aztecs, for example. As a character from Cryptonomicon says, the aztecs can go fuck themselves. That said, I strongly believe in the superiority of European culture to the mass produced regression to the mean stuff that comes from the US, so according to you I should be infected by those viral memes and hold that savages are always noble. I get the feeling that radical leftism got somehow corrupted into meaninglessness in the US. No Marxist in Europe is going to say that all cultures are equal, Marx himself sets a hierarchy of development in such entry-level texts as the manifesto.

  27. Shenpen to Covaithe: You are a clever guy, and therefore just cannot be liberal.
    *snort*. That’s so funny I’m not even going to be insulted by implication.

  28. David. You didn’t even understand what he wrote. Missed it completely.

  29. Funny thing about hanzie’s post is, discrepant voting machine results were recently found in Florida in 2004.

    Soviet agitprop and bogus multi-culti self-loathing is one thing, but it seems like George W. Bush gained power by way of a broken election process — twice. And we’re supposed to believe the left is more threatening?

  30. >Soviet agitprop and bogus multi-culti self-loathing is one thing, but it seems like George W. Bush gained power by way of a broken election process — twice. And we’re supposed to believe the left is more threatening?

    Hate to burst your bubble, but most of the Florida cheating is likely to have been by Democrats. The ‘discrepant results’ took place in a Democratic-controlled ward. In general, Democratic vote-stealing is far more common than Republican, as the Democratic vote tends to be concentrated in high-density areas where tampering with relatively few wards can swing a lot of votes; conversely, for Republicans with a more spread-out base the risk-reward tradeoff disfavors tampering. (Which isn’t to say they don’t do it, just that it’s less common and we should expect it to be so.)

  31. In Wisconsin the vote difference was about 11,000. Vote fraud in Milwaukee (heavily Democrat) was significantly higher than that margin. That is without even taking Madison in account. Milwaukee here (from their local newspaper):
    http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=324933

    After Ohio’s vote put Bush over the necessary vote count they lost interest in really getting to the bottom of Wisconsin’s vote totals. Bush probably took Wisconsin (absent fraud).

    But vote fraud was mainly GOP based right Jeff? That would be why the Governor (Democrat) used his veto on a photo-id voting bill?
    http://badgerherald.com/news/2005/09/21/senate_fails_to_over.php

  32. William noted:
    “not only undermine the notion of individual responsibility that was so important to the West”
    and
    “The notion of individual responsibility for these crimes are lost”

    Yet you came back with:
    “Do you really hold that torture is morally equivalent to forcing women to wear veils?”

  33. Jim–

    I’m unimpressed with the quality of your commentary to Eric’s postings. Have you tried blowing spitballs? I think that would be a step up. Do you purposefully misunderstand or is understanding beyond you?
    -russ

  34. *sigh*

    Every time I read essays like this, and articles like this, I get one step closer to selling tee shirts, that say (in Arabic):

    “If the United States were truly the great Satan, Mecca would be knee deep in pig shit.”

    And then sell them to liberals.

    (I so absolutely do not want to get into that line of merchandise; I want to publish games.)

  35. Ken, I am a liberal, though what you would probably identify as ‘soft left’ rather than ‘hard left’ or ‘left for Berkeley, back next week’. And I would buy one of those shirts, because I think they are funny and true. However, I would prefer that it also ran the slogan in English, and that it use a word other than ‘shit’ (which strikes me as unnecessarily crude). Other than that, I approve.

    Of course, if America were _really_ the Great Satan, then the War on Terror would have ended with one salvo of missiles from the Trident submarines of the US Navy in the Indian Ocean on September 12, 2001. Now _that_ would be Satanic of us.

  36. I find it fascinating to read what people on this forum think the academy is teaching. I am studying for a PhD in Latin American history at a US institution. Many of my professors come from leftist traditions (2 were in the SDS, another was trained under a famous marxist historian), but they are far from the kind of dogmatic left that you are describing. After 4 years in my PhD program, I have never heard anyone in the academy try and justify Communism, although they may use terminology with intellectual roots in Marxist thinking. (Feminism has roots in Marxist theories of labor, but that doesn’t mean that you should accuse every feminist of being a Marxist.) Frankly, much of the work of my professors dismantles Marxist preconceptions of the past, just as it dismantles nationalist preconceptions, Liberal preconceptions, and many other preconceptions of the past.

    People who criticize cultural studies based upon postmodern theory generally have never read the major theorists. Most people read Gramsci and Said, and assume that they know enough to dismiss the whole school. After you read Spivak, Bhabha, Chatterjee, Foucault, and Derrida, you realize that these people are deconstructing the theories of the left as much as the theories of the right. They are hardly brainwashing a bunch of students to follow a leftist agenda or any agenda for that matter. Telling people that they have to question the categories they have constructed and the slippage in the meaning of words or question how power operates at a theoretical level is hardly a call to a leftist agenda.

    In many ways the right ought to be grateful for postmodern theory, because it has broken the certainty of many leftists. They no longer have a universalist conceit to counter the universalist understanding of the right. As for Chomsky and ilk, few people takes his political ideas very seriously in the academy because he is so simplistic and doesn’t pay attention to the specifics. Even his theories of language aren’t considered very sophisticated today although there are still some people who believe in the ideas of universal grammar which he pioneered. In any case, Chomsky is rooted in Cartesian philosophy and very opposed to Foucauldian postmodern notions of power. Very few of the people who write in the Nation, In the Times, or Mother Jones adhere to postmodernism or academic cultural studies.

    My point is to not mistake Chomsky for most people in the academy and don’t mistake the use of postmodern theory as a leftist agenda.

    People often imagine that revisionist history is serving some nefarious leftist purpose or talking about transculturation is the attempt to undermine their cultural values. Academics are looking at the complexity of the situation and grappling to find theories to explain what they are finding. Dogmatic marxists who simplified everything to fit their theories of history hate the modern academy as much as traditional conservatives who have equally simplified everything.

    In the early 90s, historians finally got a chance to go into the Russian archives an look at the records of the great purges. After Stalin died, people in his own party sought to discredit him by claiming that he killed 20 million of his own citizens in the gulags. When historians examined the records, they only found evidence of only 2.4 million having died in the gulags. Conservatives took these historians as apologists for Communism, but they were simply searching for accuracy. When an academic questions Truth with a capital T, they are simply recognizing the complexities and not trying to shoehorn everything into simplistic answers. Some academics are leftists but the majority aren’t and shouldn’t be accused of some leftist agenda. I personally am a leftist, but I am an outlier in my program. Of the roughly 50 students getting history PhDs in my program, the majority do vote democrat, but only 4 or 5 are what I would consider leftists. My friends in the US consider me a radical, but when I go to Latin America, people there tell me I am a moderate social democrat. The US academy is hardly a hotbed of leftist thinking compared to universities in Latin America.

  37. Of course, if America were _really_ the Great Satan, then the War on Terror would have ended with one salvo of missiles from the Trident submarines of the US Navy in the Indian Ocean on September 12, 2001. Now _that_ would be Satanic of us.

    Not every emotionally satisfying use of the US nuclear deterrent that can be imagined by rubes is practical, alas. I’ve tried to get scenarios for getting oil from countries you’ve nuked out of people here, but it always results in a lot of mumbling and handwaving.

  38. > The Late Stephen Ambrose wrote that the University of New Orleans where he taught (New Orleans cable used to run his lecture
    > series on local access, fascinating teacher with great command, I can still hear his voice) that the Department, and really all
    > History Departments at Colleges and Universities wanted not oral histories of ordinary men in WWII, but lesbians of color in
    > Colonial America.

    Most historians aren’t interested in another oral history of W W II, because there are already so many oral histories of W W II and their history is already well recorded. There are already many books about W W II, and it is very difficult to add anything significant to the field. Writing about people whose voices have been obscured is a more valuable contribution to the field. It is also a more fascinating to study people’s whose history hasn’t been studied, because it often challenges traditional understandings of the past. If you are just reading history to re-enforce your preconceived ideas about the past, then read people like Ambrose. He won’t challenge you with troubling analysis or make you think in any ways that make you uncomfortable or make you question anything

    Ambrose was a great popularizer, but he was a poor historian. Near the end of his life, his work was really shoddy, which hardly makes it surprising that he was plagiarizing lines from other people’s work. The fact that he was unapologetic about plagiarizing made it even worse.

    Early in his career before he was churning out poorly researched books, his work was decent, but certainly not brilliant. His biography of Eisenhower was considered good, but not very original or insightful. I read his Band of Brothers and was very disappointed. Ambrose had no analysis of the soldiers’ socio-economic background and their wider relationship to society, no examination of the wider context, and no analysis of the discourse. It was very poor historiography. Most historians can ignore the jingoism and unexamined hero worship in Ambrose’s work, but they simply can’t abide by the fact that his work was such pap without any real analysis.

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