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Unfairly excluded!

December 6th, 2008

My Crooked Timber co-blogger, Michael Bérubé made it to David Horowitz’ list of America’s 100 most dangerous professors. But when the Australian Liberal Students Federation outdid Horowitz by managing a Senate Inquiry into academic bias, I didn’t make the list of 30 or so. Here’s my post at CT – I’ve kept the explanations for non-Oz readers

The great David Horowitz campaign against evul academics has reached Australia, and has even occasioned a Senate inquiry. It was a load of fun. The report is good reading, as is the minority report by the Liberal (= conservative down under) Party Senators who called the inquiry in the first place, but lost control following their election defeat last year. A snippet suggests that those involved knew how to handle Horowitzism

From the committee’s perspective it appeared as
though it was to be called on to play its part in a university revue. The submissions,
the performance and the style – to say nothing of the rhetoric – presented by some
Liberal Students suggested a strong undergraduate tone. The ‘outing’ of Left and
purportedly Left academics and commentators (masquerading as academics as we
were told at one hearing) was in keeping with this tone. None of those outed objected.
Some appeared flattered to be named in the company of others more famous

The list of leftist academics is, I must admit, a sore point. I never located the full list (the links on the inquiry website were skew-whiff) but clearly I wasn’t on it. What does a leftist have to do to get noticed in this country?

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  1. Spiros
    December 6th, 2008 at 15:08 | #1

    “What does a leftist have to do to get noticed in this country?”

    Getting left off the list must be the low point of your career. Perhaps they did it deliberately, as a kind of reverse psychology. Or maybe our late flowering McCarthyists can’t even run a competent smear campaign. Who knows?

    In any case, if I were on the list, I would put it at the top of my CV, in bolded, italicised, 16 point font.

  2. Ikonoclast
    December 6th, 2008 at 15:42 | #2

    The rabid anti-intellectualism of the modern right and the neo-cons continues to astonish me. They love power. Don’t they realise that modern economic and military power (which they love obscenely) are based on the pursuits of intellectualism especially the various sciences?

    LOL. Too stupid to even value what gave them their evil power in the first place!

  3. December 6th, 2008 at 17:22 | #3

    Clearly John Quiggin = Mostly Harmless.

  4. johng
    December 6th, 2008 at 17:46 | #4

    It was those nice things you said about Freidman’s economics that did you in!

  5. Tony G
    December 6th, 2008 at 17:47 | #5

    “What does a leftist have to do to get noticed in this country”

    Come out of the closet and admit that you and your kind are really communists.

  6. December 7th, 2008 at 02:47 | #6

    We are all communists at heart actually, Tony G, except we have forgotten the etymology, as so often happens with smears of all kinds – even tongue in cheek ones.

    The creation of “the other” is the precondition for violence, as is evidence to often from the accounts and the experience of the domestic variety.

    Fortunately, democracy, which in the true sense is a community activity, is something else.

  7. charles
    December 7th, 2008 at 07:05 | #7

    The sad thing is the big boys in the Liberal party let them play in the senate. University politics, or what is left of it really should stay on campus.

    Don’t feel too bad, the Brisbane lot had enough sense to have nothing to do with it.

  8. December 7th, 2008 at 07:53 | #8

    Pr Q says:

    What does a leftist have to do to get noticed in this country?

    Pr Q should be pleased that someone cares what Left-liberals think and teach. At least the Australian Liberal Students Association are paying attention.

    Unfortunately the market for “ideologically relevant” Humanities and Social Sciences training (economics excluded) appears to be in long term secular decline. Sad to say but no one much cares what H & SS academics say, apart from those like Liberal Students who already ideologically committed (again a declining fraction of society).

    ONe feels the Australian Liberal Students are fighting a battle that has been more or less won. The degree of ideological bias expressed by Australian academics is an order of magnitude less than it was a generation ago, when I commenced my (undistinguished) Commerce degree.

    I entered uni as a libertarian and enthusiastic supporter of the ALP. But a few semesters exposure to Maoist and Soviet bloc sympathizers in elective Arts subjects turned me into the foaming at the mouth unrepentant Cultural Right-winger that stands before you today. (Call it my rebellion against cultural authority.)

    My Alma Mater has changed beyond recognition these heady post-Whitlam days. The Uni of Melb Arts department – once the centre of Australian Left-liberalism – is feeling the pinch of declining enrollments and funding. A Leftist agitator recounts the sorry tale:

    By 2008, it is estimated that undergraduate subjects available in the Arts Faculty at Melbourne University will be reduced by 19 per cent. After mergers and cuts, the number of postgraduate courses will also drop by approximately 86 per cent. The ability to choose from a smorgasbord of courses—from creative writing to media studies—may no longer be an option.

    Australia’s best and brightest academics are also suffering. In a recent leaked report from Melbourne University, it was revealed that 120 full-time jobs may be cut from the Arts Faculty. These drastic measures are part of the university’s solution to the faculty’s growing deficit, which is estimated to reach $12 million by 2010 if no action is taken.

    Ideological biases in the liberal arts academy, such as they are, have to be constrained in order to attract students. HECS or full-fee paying students wont be forking out hard-cash to be hectored by some tenured ageing hippy hawking clapped out ideologies.

    Students are interested in getting a good enough degree to pay mortgage and HECS debts. Dawkins introduction of fee-paying unis in the late eighties has reduced some of the worst excesses of post-1968 academic Left-liberal “corruption of youth”:

    The demise of arts and humanities departments is a sign of the times. A ‘career culture’ now exists in Australian universities. Degrees have become centred on a student’s end occupation—the piece of paper that pronounces you an accountant, lawyer or doctor.

    As I have said all along, the Decline of the (Left-liberal) Wets is being driven by massive underlying cultural and class forces (rising costs of residential and educational capital and diminishing returns from diversity and perversity). These changes have little to do with feeble attempts at controlling political destiny through “long marches through institutions”, in one direction or another.

    The Liberal Students should let sleeping dogs lie.

  9. Tony G
    December 7th, 2008 at 13:43 | #9

    “Fortunately, democracy, which in the true sense is a community activity, is something else.”

    As Churchill said, “It is the second worst form of government”.

    “I entered uni as a libertarian and enthusiastic supporter of the ALP”.

    How can someone do that? Seems like at total contradiction? (no slur on your post Jack as it is on the money about the commercialisation of Unis).

  10. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    December 7th, 2008 at 13:59 | #10

    The issue Liberal students care most about in the world is compulsory student unionism. Nothing else matters.

  11. December 7th, 2008 at 14:03 | #11

    It would be interesting to know the political allegiances of Humanities & Social Science academics and teachers. My guess is around 2/3 vote Green or solid ALP. Does anyone have access to the Aus Electoral Survey data or some abstract of such?

    THat does not imply that Left-liberal academic political bias influences their professional work. Most Lefty academics would probably be relieved to hear and mark a well-argued non-Lefty essay or exercise. At last something to get their teeth into!

    Most likely the academy’s pinkish hue just reflects the fact that “cultural industries” tend to attract and select for Left-liberal personnel. Academics, artists and journalists will tend to “play to their market” ie will be selected to adapt to a Left-liberal environment.

    The kind of students who enrol in liberal arts courses are more likely to be Left-liberal. So academics in order to survive will tend to express political biases towards the mean of their market.

    Also Arts faculties tend to rely on government funding for institutional support. So there is an obvious “class interest” in supporting some kinds of Leftish statism there.

    The biggest academic bias is towards liberalism. Liberalism is organic to the post-modern academy. Usually justified by some reference to the need for freedom to avoid the awful fate of Galileo or to achieve progress like Colombus.

    Most financial academics tend to be Right-liberal, ala John Hewson. Their industry demands freedom to do its own thing. Most cultural academics tend to be Left-liberal, Raymond Gaita et al. Their industry demands freedom for all people who resent authority. (Especially now that the majority is emasculated and minorities are emancipated).

    So non-liberal academics are vanishingly rare.

  12. nanks
    December 7th, 2008 at 14:18 | #12

    @jack strocchi – What do you think a non-liberal academic would be like? What and how would they teach and research? Would they teach a received canon as laid down by their bosses and research topics set down by their bosses as well?

  13. December 7th, 2008 at 14:22 | #13

    # 9 Tony G Says: December 7th, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    “I entered uni as a libertarian and enthusiastic supporter of the ALP”.

    How can someone do that? Seems like at total contradiction? (no slur on your post Jack as it is on the money about the commercialisation of Unis).

    During most of the eighties I was under the spellbinding influence of Paul Keating. He managed the tricky feat of being boss of the ALP and the most effective promoter of liberalism in both cultural and financial policy.

    Then he got mugged by reality. A fate awaiting all liberals in the post-modern age. (Although he doesnt appear to realise it, hence the zombie like quality of many of his pronouncements.)

    I should have known better, given the savviness of my parents and grand-parents. War and Depression vets tend to be a bit more worldly than undergraduate brats. Probably I was just being “on the side that was winning” or trying to be cool at the time.

    My revulsion from liberalism pre-dates the fall of Keating. It stems from my time (early nineties) spent living and working in the US.

    Anyone who puzzles over US political behaviour should try that for a season or so. They might learn something.

  14. Donald Oats
    December 7th, 2008 at 14:23 | #14

    Left off a leftist list? It’s just not Right!

  15. December 7th, 2008 at 15:00 | #15

    # 12 nanks Says: December 7th, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    @jack strocchi – What do you think a non-liberal academic would be like? What and how would they teach and research? Would they teach a received canon as laid down by their bosses and research topics set down by their bosses as well?

    Non-liberal* academics would behave much like the monks in the medieval Church. They more or less fitted the research agenda laid out in your comment.

    Before spluttering with rage or snorting with derision its only fair to note that the medieval period is intellectually under-rated by most liberal academics.
    Liberals have a vested interest in black-armbanding that period of history.

    I do not suggest that all academics be frog-marched back to the Monastery. Or take their orders from political or ecclesiastic authority.

    Merely that liberal academics should acknowledge that the full civil libertarian monty is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for dramatic intellectual progress. (Not necessary = Bismark’s Germany or Deng’s China. Not sufficient = Any post-modern liberal academy.)

    In fact a certain amount of external authority is necessary for accountability, which is notoriously difficult to maintain in some liberal circles. Cultural output in post-modern Arts faculties have improved since fee-paying was introduced. Liberal students, if they take accountability seriously, should turn the blow-torch onto financial markets next.

    *I suggest the term “corporal” rather than “non-liberal”, or the even more tendentious “illiberal”, to denote a person who supports a philosophy of institutionalist “team-players” rather than individualist “doing ones own thing”. The era of elitist celebrities in cultural and financial affairs has spun wildly out of control since we let these people off the leash.

    Liberal intellectuals have tellingly refused to even dignify the notion of team-player with its own ideological concept. (Unless you think the term “fascist” is intellectual fair-dealing.) No name therefore it does not exist. Now thats what I call academic bias!

  16. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 7th, 2008 at 15:11 | #16

    John, some of the best literary works have come from feminists ie Beatrice Webb.

  17. nanks
    December 7th, 2008 at 15:18 | #17

    thanks Jack – from my few years in academia I think you overstate the dominance of liberal academics. I found myself heavily pressured to undertake research funded by the public purse but designed to lead to private profits. This typically took the form of a joint grant with the private sector. The private sector provided ‘in-kind support’ that never actually materialised or was overestimated anyway. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any of the new academics getting a continuing appointment who didn’t first get the holy grail of ‘industry funding’.
    I left academia after about 7 years – a hopeless, underpaid and overburdened job as far as I’m concerned.

  18. December 7th, 2008 at 18:56 | #18

    # nanks Says: December 7th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    thanks Jack – from my few years in academia I think you overstate the dominance of liberal academics. I found myself heavily pressured to undertake research funded by the public purse but designed to lead to private profits.

    Off the top of my head I can’t think of any of the new academics getting a continuing appointment who didn’t first get the holy grail of ‘industry funding’. I left academia after about 7 years – a hopeless, underpaid and overburdened job as far as I’m concerned.

    Commercial research would be an example of what I call “corporalism” alright. With the Market replacing the Church in the roll of surpervising authority.

    I am ambivalent about rationalisation, commercialisation and privatisation of intellectual life. There is overseas evidence that it does work. But overdoing it is philistine and probably counter-productive. Howard took it way too far.

    I am guessing that your academic specialisation would have been in science, technology or medicine. These professions have internal (self-regulating) structures of accountability which means that there is less need for extra-institutional oversight.

    I am suggesting that greater political and or commercial control over the liberal academy could not hurt. During the eighties and nineties things could hardly have been worse in the liberal commerce and arts faculties. Standards collapsed and charlatans (“entrepreneurs” or “gurus”) were openly lauded.

    The sad fact is that the output of most liberal academies is not all that valuable. Most people have better things to spend their money on than politically correct lectures.

    The social sciences have not made much theoretical progress since WWII. Name a sociologist that has made a theoretical breakthrough since then? The only ones I can think of are the socio-biologists and we all know how that went down in the liberal academy.

    Also the post-graduation job market for such students is not looking all that bright. THe usual employment sinks – journalism, advertising, literature – are all in secular decline. As are the Arts faculties themselves.

    There are just too many Arts faculties pumping out too many not-very employable graduates. Bishop is probably right that there is great scope for rationalising the academy further. There are 37 Australian universities each with its own Arts faculty. All of them look the same – mediocre. Look to more unis following the example set by QUT, which disbanded its Arts faculty recently.

  19. charles
    December 8th, 2008 at 07:02 | #19

    “Anyone who puzzles over US political behaviour should try that for a season or so.”

    I have, and the thing that struck me the most is how little of the diversity is reported in Australia. Yes if you wish you can read and listen to the right wing nutters rant, or the bible bashers bash, but they have two congress channels supported by the public purse that are of a very high standard, and you get a range of views from other media.

    Now the right wing nutters are in decline how the US is reported may change, but I suspect the death of Murdock will be the turning point. The USA is a lot more than FOX news.

  20. Trent
    December 8th, 2008 at 11:16 | #20

    I have no idea who from UQ made it on the list, but I know that the position of the UQ Liberal Club (UQLC) with regards to this inquiry was that it was a waste of time (as is its position on most issues presented by the Australian Liberal Students Federation). Generally speaking, the UQLC was in agreement that most lecturers presented both sides of the story to students, regardless of their political position. Maybe the lack of interest from UQ students can explain Quiggin’s exclusion from the group?

  21. rabee
    December 8th, 2008 at 12:25 | #21

    John,

    There is a list of academics in the supplementary section of the Young Liberal’s submission to the senate


    http://issuu.com/makeeducationfair/docs/supplementary_evidence_for_senate_inquiry_into_aca?mode=embed&documentId=081020103738-e9d2a10e98764497918830cb005423a8&layout=grey

    It was the young liberals who successfully brought the matter to the attention of the senate and not, as far as I can tell, Australian Liberal Students Federation.

    Here is the relevant website LINK

  22. Trent
    December 8th, 2008 at 12:35 | #22

    rabee,

    It may have been the Young Liberals that brought the matter to the attention of the senate, but I know that the ALSF played a fairly large role in promoting the issue amongst the members of it’s affiliated clubs. From what I can tell, the whole exercise was a joint effort.

  23. Stephen L
    December 8th, 2008 at 14:05 | #23

    Do you have to wade through the whole 322 pages to get the names, or are they summarized somewhere?

  24. rabee
    December 8th, 2008 at 19:05 | #24

    Stephen,

    The server is down (probably because this site links to it and it can’t handle high volume traffic, it’s like the ARC server on grant announcement day:-):-) )

    From memory,

    go to makeeducationfair.org.au

    go to research :-) :-)

    go to AcademicWatch

    You’ll find a list that includes Peter Singer my favorite modern philosopher, and various other lucky people.

    This kind of thing reflects badly on the Young liberals who really should clean their act. Australian conservatism is traditionally saner than the loony right in the US.

  25. Alanna
    December 9th, 2008 at 10:50 | #25

    Well pardon me but these young liberal horrors and thats exactly what they are – they are out of control (and known for their ugly little branch stacking habits) have just lost me completely. They have attempted to pan every single feminist academic, writer and journal in the country.

    Someone should find them an island where they can be shipped to set up their own private colonial Raj. Dont send them any women though.

  26. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 9th, 2008 at 17:21 | #26

    John, if I may reply to jack strocchi by saying critical thinking as a syllabus has never gone out of fashion at the major universities in Australia.

  27. Alanna
    December 9th, 2008 at 20:28 | #27

    I suggest Christmas Island.

  28. Alanna
    December 9th, 2008 at 20:45 | #28

    Let these so called young liberals (organised by a core element of extemists) state their case using the best liberal traditions and arguments and they might do well in assignments rather than devoting their time to attempting to create a wishlist of people in universities and schools who may not agree with them.

    The reality is, if they spent as much time and effort on their studies as they obviously did on this shabby little inquisition list of “names” they might actually get through uni regardless of their views (and we welcome freedom of opinion as long they can discuss of a range of alternative views or hadnt the young liberals noticed?) instead of clogging up the uni appeals process or the legal process on trivial political machinations.

    One star for a lot of effort – shame it has absolutely no use at all and no one will take any notice of it and its extremely badly timed (know when to call, know when to fall, know when to walk away and know when to run).

    Its not worth the paper its written on. Its already out of date.

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