Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Balancing Acts

[Crossposted from Free Exchange on Campus]

Writing today for David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine in an article on the Campus Watch organization, Daniel Pipes says:
Campus Watch's highest priority is to help stimulate a diversity of opinion, so that pro-American scholars… reach parity with the anti-Americans. This goal has two implications.
• That professors today can no longer be expected to engage in disinterested scholarship and instruction, but must be balanced by those who will promote an alternative viewpoint. It is sad to see the ideal of objectivity crumble, but this is a reality one must adapt to.
• That the anti-Americans do not have a monopoly on intelligence or skills, just a near-monopoly on power.

This came, of course, on the heels of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia University, where he said:
Given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?


In backing down from his Holocaust “myth” stance, Ahmadinejad put himself squarely in Pipes’ (and Horowitz’s) corner. (During the same session, Columbia President Lee Bollinger made it clear that the power in the universities is not anti-American).

The irony of Pipes’ article appearing the day after the Ahmadinejad talk is delicious.

The shibboleth of the Horowitzians, “balance,” had its mask stripped away by its echo in Ahmadinejad’s words, words of a man who, also today, Front Page Magazine calls a ”maniac.” In each case, Pipes’ and Ahmadinejad’s, these promoters of “balance” claim that, because knowledge is not absolute, “alternate views” should be presented and explored. But they do so not for balance, but for its opposite.

That there is no real belief in “balance” in either case is demonstrated by the selective topics needing “different perspectives”: the Holocaust, evolution, and other topics of political and not historical or scientific debate. Ahmadinejad’s Iran doesn’t even allow debate on certain topics—there are no gays in Iran, he said yesterday (for example). And Horowitz would prohibit criticism of American war efforts (only traitors, in his eyes, would criticize).

Like Horowitz, Ahmadinejad simply throws in “balance” to confuse his enemies. Similar in both style and substance, both take advantage of a tenet of effective “liberal” university systems of thought and exploration and twist them to promote their “illiberal” agendas.

1 comment:

JP Stormcrow said...

Pro-American scholars

Words fail that this is the framing they choose. And I also like this sentence at the end: That event led to a surge in enrollments and attracted a new sort of student to the field, one less marginal politically and more publicly ambitious - because of course "publicly ambitious" academics are the key enablers of free academic inquiry.

christian h. has a nice little rant on Bollinger/Ahmadinejad up at waagnfnp.