"Universities have a serious problem.
November 23, 2001 4:26 PM   Subscribe

"Universities have a serious problem. The type of liberalism so heavily favored by the intellectual elite has crossed the line. Professors throughout the educational world are supporting murderers and terrorists; they are justifying despicable actions because of the political philosophies of the actors. Murder, slaughter, and terrorism are OK, they say, as long as they are directed at law-enforcement officials or civilian Westerners. It's fine as long as the murderer is anti-capitalist, anti-establishment or anti-conservative." -- Written by a UCLA student
posted by Steven Den Beste (50 comments total)
He makes some good points about Mumia, but this guy still evokes the icky "damn liberals" that good old Uncle Rush sweats. Sigh. Maybe he needs to go to These meetings.
posted by manero at 4:46 PM on November 23, 2001

That guy is loopy.
posted by fleener at 4:49 PM on November 23, 2001

We all have a serious problem. The type of half-baked opinions presented as fact by a faction of the political right is really starting to cross the line.

This article is a joke. A total gloss written by one UCLA student presented a seriously slanted perspective on a very few UCLA professors. The hubris this kid puts forth is really somthing: a short-view issue with a small academic community becomes liberalism == evil. Give me a break. I'd really like ot know why Steven thought this was worth linking in the first place.

Voicing dissent to anything is a core component of the American equation. Silencing these opinions in the academy or anywhere else is something to consider for what it really is. I've leave that definition up to the reader.
posted by n9 at 4:53 PM on November 23, 2001

an interesting op/ed; unconvincing, predictably. shapiro claims that "the intellectual elite" (according to his terminology, that would be all academics in a broad sense) "[support] murderers and terrorists," and yet how many professors does he name? four. pathetic, if only because his intended goal (to argue that all intellectuals are evil) is unattainable, if not laughable for its paranoia.

shapiro assumes certain truths that he cannot. he, firstly, assumes with mumia al-jabar that he is undeniably guilty because of "a strong case against Mumia, including eyewitnesses, people who heard Abu-Jamal scream, 'I shot the motherfucker and I hope he dies,' and powerful scientific and ballistic evidence." His evidence is not cited besides the eyewitnesses (sources?), and i think that evidence by itself is not very substantial at all.

Wehrli, supposedly, is bad because she feels that "[Sara] Jane Olson has been denied the right to a fair trial"; Chermerinsky is implicated by association (his name appears on Olson's fund website). in evidence of his argument, he writes:

Would these passionate defenders of public justice support an anti-abortion radical suspected of murdering an abortion doctor? Highly doubtful.

Pure conjecture. One of the crown jewels of Shapiro's essay is this excerpt:

Support for Olson is not based on an underlying fear of the criminal justice system. It is based on nothing less than support for Olson's anti-government, anti-establishment, radical ideals. These ideals can, according to the educational establishment, justify even murder.

How did shapiro arrive at this conclusion? Why, Professor Wehrli said that "Olson has been denied a right to a fair trial." if that seems like a crazy leap in logic, congratulations: you may not be insane.
posted by moz at 4:58 PM on November 23, 2001

something tells me this article is really about two, maybe three, professors that this particular student had a disagreement with.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:06 PM on November 23, 2001

Old habits die hard. I judged his paper as a piece of writing and e-mailed him with my remarks. Basically, I told him that the conclusion was tepid, wishy washy and was not much better than "you ought to think more about what you are doing"--hardly a strong ending.
I gave him a B as a grade and told him the writing was good but the conclusion weak and that this is what the reaer takes away with him when through with reading.
I do not agree with most of what he says, but commented on the limp and very tepid conclusion
posted by Postroad at 5:06 PM on November 23, 2001

A UCLA Student? Who cares?

Personally, I'm perfectly happy with murder and terrorism providing it's American funded - after all, isn't God on Your side?
posted by chrimble at 5:17 PM on November 23, 2001

I find him scary -- how glibly he dismisses what is in fact a solid case for Mumia's retrial (if not necessarily his innocence) in three dirty paragraphs, and then extrapolates that all liberal professors are "evil" and deserve to be "eradicated." This kind of wholesale damnation, combined with what can be read as a call for violence, is nothing short of fascist.

Postroad, I agree that the writing is servicable, but the intellectual laziness suggests that Ben is having a problem with being challenged by his professors. The viciousness of the attack leaves me very worried indeed. An email to this effect is on the way to him.
posted by muckster at 5:22 PM on November 23, 2001

I think it's three or four profs on each campus across the US, each with their own band of followers. I know that there's been the 'liberal freak' contingent at each of the 4 universities I've gone to... the most recent is an ecological ethics professor who sees nothing wrong with spiking trees. (For those who don't know, if a logger cuts a tree with a chainsaw, and the tree's been spiked, the logger will almost definately end up maimed, becuase the chain just comes apart. It's gruesome, and it happens in areas that are not easy to medevac a person out of.)

I'd like to see what kind of moral philosophy these instructors have, and what effect they think their 'expert opinion' can have on the world.
posted by SpecialK at 5:24 PM on November 23, 2001

The college campus environment is, by and large, a liberal one. This is most certainly the case at UCLA.

Thus, one can attract quite a bit of attention and notoriety to oneself by writing an extremely conservative (and narrow minded) article for the school paper. I recall a few similar columns from my days at the University of Iowa.

What's troubling is that these unfocused ramblings are snapped up by conservative media outlets, and branded as being indicative of the will of young people.

All that aside, I feel it necessary to mention that I can't stand cranks - be they right wing or left.
posted by aladfar at 5:52 PM on November 23, 2001

A conclusion in search of validation. And there's that odd sense of personal resentment that others have noted. Dogma veneered with just enough academic jargon to jingle the trailer park wind chimes. A nascent Jay Sekulow?
posted by Opus Dark at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2001

I'm surprised that he describes UCLA student as vulnerable. Isn't that a little patronising?
posted by RobertLoch at 6:33 PM on November 23, 2001

posted by mmarcos at 6:56 PM on November 23, 2001

And this evil must be eradicated before it spreads and engulfs the aspiring youth of our nation in its dark and shadowy tentacles.

Hey, this kid could grow up to be President.
posted by Optamystic at 7:14 PM on November 23, 2001

Someone better sign this guy up for the Junior Anti-Sex League stat.
posted by solistrato at 7:16 PM on November 23, 2001

Have you seen his picture, solistrato? The guy's a walking "Junior Anti-Sex League".
posted by Optamystic at 7:42 PM on November 23, 2001

Ah, to be young and stupid again...
posted by Poagao at 7:52 PM on November 23, 2001

Perhaps this test ought to be used as a trial balloon in any given forum, if for no other purpose than to judge exactly how "open-minded" the forum's participants are... criticism of the essay is only attempted in a point-by-point form in one comment, whereas the rest (but one) are more or less of the opinion that the guy is a madman, an extreme right winger, and generally unfit to write. Looks like there might not be much ideological wiggle room for acceptance with the MeFi set.

Those who insist on closing their eyes and affirming that no ne of what Mr. Shapiro describes is going on under the auscpices of higher learning should take a look at a certain pamphlet put out by the Concordia University student government right around the time of the 9/11 events. It openly advocates the very things which the aforementioned students complains about, such as violence against westerners and "tools of capitalism", and one of its pages chillingly features a cartoon of men in suits scrambling around a conference table while, through the window, a large airliner is seen closing in (I am not even kidding about that).

The pamphlet is printed by the students' association on behalf of a students' association in the university. I'm a little surprised that a big deal is being made about it, as it's certainly been the case for a long time at Concordia, where I studied a while ago. Whereas few faculty members tend to espouse this sort of rather disgusting politics -- that was the case back then in Canada, though Mr. Shapiro mentions it is different in the USA -- the ideas themselves are given a rather large amount of publicity usually by so-called "students' associations", which are for the most part entirely funded by "student contributions" (mandatory per-credit fees collected by the university and transferred to internal organizations).

Ironic isn't it... college can run 40-50G per year, and how much of that goes to the printing of such garbage as was recently put out by the Concordia "students' association"... perhaps Mr. Shapiro should take another look at what his students association is doing in his name.
posted by clevershark at 8:06 PM on November 23, 2001

Meet Ben Shapiro, the next "big thing" in Ann Coulter's life. With that elfin charm he exudes in that photo, I'd say it will only be just a matter of time before he charms the knickers right off of her.

But really muckster, while you're assailing the young lad for being less than totally objective, didn't you feel a special twinge on your irony nerve when you provided the link to that totally objective web site about Mumia?
posted by MAYORBOB at 8:10 PM on November 23, 2001

Perhaps this test ought to be used as a trial balloon in any given forum, if for no other purpose than to judge exactly how "open-minded" the forum's participants are...

It seems to me that, rather than picking a dull, entirely unoriginal essay that regurgitates highly politicized biases on a handful of contentious issues, a better test of a community's open-mindedness would be its response to a well-thought-out, informative essay that offered some new perspective. You know, like some of the other articles linked to on this site previously.

I'm just saying.
posted by mattpfeff at 8:43 PM on November 23, 2001

Yeah, this guy pretty much takes himself out of the realm of serious consideration with any number of statements in the article. I mean, I disagree with most of his assertions, but am I supposed to waste valuable rhetorical energy rebutting some sophomore's little rant column in the school paper? I'll reply seriously when the issue is discussed seriously. In the meantime, I reserve the right to laugh heartily at this goober.
posted by Optamystic at 8:52 PM on November 23, 2001

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

posted by Mack Twain at 8:54 PM on November 23, 2001

Clevershark: I would agree that there were many radicals in student associations – I went to McGill, and that was the case, surprising since the student body was apathetic at best. However, fees for the entire student association were under $10 a semester – that covered the Gilbert & Sullivan freaks as well. To say that the "radicals" were somehow riding the backs of the students is a gross exaggeration. There are definitely more important wastes of money going on at your average university.

Oh, and if you paid $50,000 for a year at Concordia, I have some beachfront property you might like to buy. But if you did, I can guess the answer to your last question: approximately 0.005%.
posted by D at 9:00 PM on November 23, 2001

Mayor Bob, point taken. Shouldn't be ragging even the most deserving of fools for intellectual laziness when I shore up my own points with the top pick on Google.

So here is penance.

There's a wide variety of activists' sites about the Abu-Jamal case, here and abroad and elsewhere and in Norway, too. You can read his own essays from death row, and you can hear him speak. There's also the folks who think he's guilty, and the black list by the fraternal order of police. The ever-enlightening FAIR has a Mumia section. And that's still just scratching the surface.

The best bet, though, is probably the conclusion of the Amnesty International report on Mumia, which says:

Amnesty International therefore believes that the interests of justice would best be served by the granting of a new trial to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Sounds to me like the bunch of raving evildoers over at AI are asking to be stomped out before they corrupt impressionable sophomores.
posted by muckster at 9:31 PM on November 23, 2001

My final thought: I like the kid. Why not draft him for the next big war?
posted by Postroad at 4:40 AM on November 24, 2001

clevershark, maybe you had better tell everyone which student group it was at Concordia that put out the booklet and who it was that complained about it. It might provide a bit of context.
posted by tranquileye at 4:45 AM on November 24, 2001

Ah, to be young and stupid again...

And from my viewpoint:

Easy for you to say, pally!
posted by y2karl at 7:49 AM on November 24, 2001

Steven Den Beste? Are ya gonna tell us why you linked this in? No defending? No argument? How dissapointing.
posted by n9 at 8:14 AM on November 24, 2001

If it weren't Steven I would say that this a whiff of troll to it--no, that's overstated, more like poking an anthill with a stick and watching the ants scurry around. Seems kind of pointless, but maybe Steven had a notion.
posted by rodii at 9:29 AM on November 24, 2001

Granted that Mr. Shapiro writes in a style that would not stand up in a court of law (and since when did newspaper articles have this requirement), if you read some of his other articles, it becomes somewhat obvious that he's the token conservative on staff and that the overall quality of writing over at the Daily Bruin isn't exactly up to NYT or WSJ standards. Two points he makes in other articles is the merit of a story in the Daily Bruin profiling oral sex techniques and the front page story of a squirrel poisoned by rat pellets. So let's not jump down the kid's throat because instead of writing a thesis, he wrote an op/ed piece. I'm sure if you held the rest of the paper up to the same journalistic standards, this thread could continue well into the next century.

Now that being said, it is quite funny that I was just today reading from Teddy Roosevelt's autobiography and old Teddy makes a very similar point. When Teddy attacked both labor and capitalists in a speech he was swarmed with letters from each side claiming he supported the other. In one letter he responds:

In the letter you, on behalf of the Cook County Mayer-Haywood conference, protest against certain language I used in a recent letter which you assert to be designed to influence the course of justince in the case of the trial for murder of Messrs. Moyer and Haywood. I entirely agree with you that it is improper to endeavor to influence the course of justice, whether by threats or in any similar manner. For this reason I have regretted most deeply the actions of such organizations as your own in undertaking to accomplish this very result in the very case of which you speak. For instance, your letter is headed "Cook County Moyer-Haywood-Pettibone Conference," with headlines: "Death -- cannot -- will not -- and shall not claim our brothers!" This shows that you are your associates are not demanding a fair trial, or working for a fair trial, but are announcing in advance that the verdict shall only be one way and that you will not tolerate any other verdict. Such action is flagrant in its impropriety, and I join heartily in condemning it."

Perhaps this is more what Mr. Shapiro is speaking to. The hypocracy of those at the extremes. In the case of educational institutions, the far left is most certainly in control and makes every effort to indoctornate young students with leftist thinking. To argue that this is not true, is well . . . again hypocracy, as one would only have to point to cases such as that of Mr. Horowitz and his attempt to run a paid advertisement in college newspapers explaining the reasons why he thinks reparations are a bad idea. Many refused to run it outright. Other ran it and then apologized for running it. While in the most extreme case, students captured the office of the newspaper and destroyed all copies of that edition.

So at least from my read of Mr. Shapiro's comments, he is saying that he finds it biased to claim to seek justice when what one really desires in a predetermined outcome. No matter how much evidence is submitted, many on the left will offer undying support because the acts were committed for a cause for which the professors believe in. While I can't comment on either of the two specific cases he raises, I do believe he makes a good point regarding the impropritety of teachers using the classroom to preach their political beliefs. In one of Mr. Shaprio's other articles he relates his experiences with a geography professor who spent a class session strumming the guitar and playing a "rebel against authority" tribute to Mick Jagger. Since when did that have anything to do with geography? When did we get out of the business of teaching kids how to think and instead are telling them what to think? I've been in classes that I did poorly in when I offered views counter to the instructor's. As soon as I figured out that the only way to pass the class was to mimic back his leftist rhetoric on my exams. My grades went from C's to A's and I studied far less because instead of learning all sides to the issue, I only had to figure out what a leftist would think and parrot that back.
posted by billman at 11:41 AM on November 24, 2001

I apoloogize for semi-trolling. I have taken some serious flack from the linker in the past and was surprised at this lightweight article's posting. I was "trolling" for Steven to give us (the most likely better reasoned) interest points that brought this article to his attention.
posted by n9 at 12:43 PM on November 24, 2001

I agree fully with Billman. I don't understand what's so 'mad' about what the UCLA author is saying in his paper - there *is* a large college faculty percentage who believe that violence is horrible...unless it's against the right, or the 'capitalists', or the West. My spanish reading yesterday was "el costo del progreso social", and discussed how the West, through the IMF, "impone", or imposes, their "false development" programs on the latin American world, causing their problems. Give me a break. The countries whose governments have been corrupt have had more domestic problems, period. For crimey's sake, South Korea was at the same place as most of Latin America after World War II, and I don't hear any arguments there about the "western conspiracy". Nor in Costa Rica.

I don't think the author is saying that every teacher on campus is a radical leftist (or radically to the right, which is just as bad). I think what he's saying is that it's ridiculous that there's such little balance on campuses, that there's so much emphasis on political correctness and so little emphasis on rational plans for improvement.

To put my comments in perspective, I think that both Ann Coulter and Ralph Nader are both off their rocker.
posted by Kevs at 12:56 PM on November 24, 2001

I think what I find most hard to grasp about the article is that the author calls his professors an "intellectual elite." If he really thinks the faculty are an "elite" to be knocked down, what's he doing in college? What does a BA in political science get you, if you despise intellectuals?
posted by rschram at 1:16 PM on November 24, 2001

posted by semmi at 2:15 PM on November 24, 2001

rschram, the "intellectual elite" is not a term coined by the author. It is generally meant to refer to those in academia and other similar professions that have put forth many of the extreme left's platforms. I believe Dr. Thomas Sowell refers to them as "the anointed" again giving clue that the "elite" portion of the term is meant to be sarcastic.

I believe the sarcasim stems from the fact that much of what is put forth does not stand up to real world scrutiny but if enough PhD's repeat it, people begin to accept it as fact -- which, btw, I believe is one of the points of the author.
posted by billman at 2:20 PM on November 24, 2001

semmi, thank you for posting that. It is an example of the other extreme on the political spectrum. While I don't approve of either extreme, I do find it funny that many of the very same left wing extremists professors/students who have for the last several decades either overtly or covertly worked to stop conservative speakers from speaking on college campuses either via staging protests or in some isolated cases suggested that possible physical harm might come to the speaker are now wide-eyed in shock when they are subjected to the same form of hatred. In fact, it would not surprise me one bit if some of the same people who participated in the Berkeley raid of the newspaper's office to stop Mr. Horowitz advertisement are not now crying out that this "jingoism" is a threat to their free-speech. Again, I point everyone back to Teddy Roosevelt's words in my previous post concerning hypocrites. To be for free speech, one cannot attempt to stop others from exercising the same right.
posted by billman at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2001

tranquileye -- It was the CSU itself. Click here for the offending image, and then you can click here for the non-edited version of the Bnai Brith press release.

D -- Of course people don't pay $50K/year to go to Concordia specifically. However this is what they pay to get into many US universities. Duh! English is only my second language but I thought that was clear enough from the context of my comment.
posted by clevershark at 5:04 PM on November 24, 2001


so, your argument that a "large percentage" of faculty at educational instutitutions is based on your spanish professor giving out one reading assignment criticizing the IMF?

when will people stop claiming these absurdly broad notions, supporting them with small, anecdotal pieces of evidence? i want to see actual surveys of professors at many universities. until then, all you can truly refer to is your wacky leftist spanish professor.
posted by moz at 5:41 PM on November 24, 2001

I think I can tell you all where the so-called "odd personal resentment" is coming from. Post September 11th most American's(myself included) first response was the insensitive(maybe) but certainly understandable rage of "the somebody's got to pay for this variety." Remember, America is the victim in those attacks, ok.
However, from certain academic quarters the first responses were variants on the "we brought this on ourselves" and "golly, i hope this won't affect civil liberties".(to pre-empt the knee jerkers out there, I am a strict civil libertarian, and believe all dissent should be allowed to be heard, I'm just explaining the source of a lot of peoples resentment of the academic left.)
Now the above responses are a bit like telling a mugging victim "Hey, you shouldn't have been carrying all that money in the first place" or "The guy who mugged you had a horrible childhood, let's make sure he has a comfy pillow in his cell." Starting to see why most people might think a lot of academics are clueless twits?
Adding to the absurdity of it all is the fact that this all comes from the cloistered groves of academe, where people resent the beleagured(sp?) middle class that pays their salaries and champion struggling masses that they have never met. Amusingly enough, most professors who salivate over Mumia would last about 3 seconds in an average American ghetto.
To paraphrase Bono on Osama, there's a certain class of people who hold ideas to be more important than human life. To those people, the world, right, left or in between can do without you.
posted by jonmc at 6:13 PM on November 24, 2001

the ironic thing is that the pay for the professors at my university made them the beleaguered middle class.
posted by moz at 7:18 PM on November 24, 2001

I think that the ironic thing is that I could be considered Anti-American for saying that US foreign policy has been really deplorable for a very long time, that we are the bully of the modern world and that our leaders have committed many criminal acts in the name of US citizens. I love this country and want nothing more than these actions to stop.

While we are talking about such things, perhaps a dialogue on who stands to profit from our military actions is due. Which is more Anti-American -- seeking to have your dissenting voice heard as a citizen of the country or war profiteering?
posted by n9 at 7:58 PM on November 24, 2001

[I]f enough PhD's repeat it, people begin to accept it as fact...

You seem to be suggesting that the author at UCLA is not merely accepting ideas repeated by Thomas Sowell and Lynne Cheney as facts. Those "facts" repeated in this article "don't stand up to real-world scrutiny."

I see the situation in academe as the reverse. The anti-intellectual right-wing branch of scholars are infatuated with authority and power--of the Bible, of science, and of moralist philosophy. They are the ones repeated received truths. How ironic is that?
posted by rschram at 8:42 AM on November 25, 2001

rschram, well to be honest here, I'm not sure I follow your argument because based on my read it would seem that instead of addressing any of the issues I brought up, you're attempting to redefine the issue. If I'm wrong, please clarify but if I'm correct, then I'm not sure how to address that since it looks like you're simply trying to turn the tables without any supportive evidence.
posted by billman at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2001

"if enough PhD's repeat it, people begin to accept it as fact"

billman, I've been looking for the source of the original version of this quote, approx.: if repeated often enough, people begin to accept it as truth. I looked at Goebbels' stuff on propaganda (curiously connected to some present methods), but only found a reference to the saying in a Falun gong material as a Chineese saying. Would you, or anyone, happen to know the source of this saying?
posted by semmi at 1:09 PM on November 25, 2001

semmi, sorry, I don't know the original source of the saying. Anybody else?
posted by billman at 1:13 PM on November 25, 2001

Billman, I think I imputed a view to you that you may not actually have. That is, you presented an origin of the term "intellectual elite" and the sarcasm surrounding it. I assumed you yourself held this idea about intellectuals to be true.

I am, once again, trying to turn the tables. Your comment prompted me to see the situation anew, so that's really what I wanted to say. It's ironic to me, infuriatingly so, that I live in a world in which demagogues score their biggest points in arguments by painting the other side as being puppets of received truths.

This article is a minor example of the "Culture Wars," which is largely seen as a left vs. right debate in the US. To me there is no left and right in American culture. Those are not the sides in the culture war. There are the dittoheads and the freethinkers. The dittoheads, left or right, wait for some Big Important Recognized Authority (e.g. God, Jerry Falwell, Thomas Sowell, etc.) to say something and they merely repeat it (e.g. Moses, an actual human being, wrote the Bible, which contains factual history; Capitalism is a higher form of evolution; In Papua New Guinea, people are cannibals, which is bad.) and there are people who, usually in the context of the university who make it their goal to counter these strains of thought. One does this by challenging common sense ideas. It's a common sense idea that people are poor because they can't "compete." Without assuming an answer one can easily ask what assumptions about society lurk behind this idea. But to most students it's so obvious that this is the case. Some students get so bent out of shape by the incessant nagging of professors to reexamine their own beliefs, they develop the notion that faculty members in the social sciences are communists sent by the USSR to terrorize them for being middle-class Americans. Whenever they hear the question "why do you think that?" they automatically assume they are being accused of racism, sexism, or some other crime.

So I'm saying its ironic that the people who hold thing as true just because it is comforting to them call the other side (their professors) the anti-intellectuals. Think of it this way... The above article says "Universities have a serious problem" The only problem universities have right now is their students!
posted by rschram at 2:55 PM on November 25, 2001

rschram, I don't think I agree with you on this because I think the reverse holds true as well. There are many figures on the left (ala Chomskey) who have every word taken as if it were a universal truth. It is not just the extreme right wing (and BTW, I think Sowell, though a conservative, is probably closer to what we think of as moderate today than he is to the dittoheads out there) rather both sides cling to extremist views. As I pointed out earlier, liberal students at Berkely siezed the offices of the newspaper to prevent it from being published. How liberal is it to prevent free speech simply because you disagree with what is being said? Would you not be on MeFi howling mad if a conservative group took similar actions? One cannot defend the right of one side to restrict free speech while rallying against another doing the same thing without being a hypocrite (not trying to imply this about you, simply drawing a line in the sand by which to explain where I see the differences in our opinions).

And I think you are really downplaying the amount of liberal indoctornation going on in universities. I never, ever, had a problem with a professor asking me why I thought this or that. In fact, in examining my views in order to defend them, in many cases I came to what I felt a more reasoned view. It is when the instructors either overtly or covertly let it be known that opposing opinions, no matter how well supported, will not be tolerated in their class is where I have a problem (and that happens A LOT).

And, one last point which is about "challenging common sense ideas". Well, I would have to say that I can challenge some "common sense" liberal ideas just as easily as your straw man "poor people can't compete" example. For instance, liberal common sense says that we need to spend more money on education while I would counter that we spend too much on education. Gasp! How can I say that? I say that because according to GAO studies, only .13 of every dollar spent on education makes it to the classroom level with the rest being "absorbed" at the school board and district levels. Of course, who are the people who do the studies showing we need to spend more money on education . . . those at the board and district levels. Hmmmmmmm . . . that's odd isn't it? If we simply streamlined the educational system, it would free up billions of dollars that would go directly towards education. Of course, that would mean thousands of administrators, school board members, etc. would be out of jobs so what is the likelyhood of that happening? What educator is going to support that? No, better to keep telling the public that the problem is not enough money and paint anybody who tries to make the system more efficient as being against education. So if you're a liberal, is it better to support the status quo or is it better to get the money where it is most needed? According the the "intellectual elite" it's common sense that more money is the answer. Disagree with that conclusion and you're a right wing, anti-education, Republican who only wishes to save money at the expense of children's education.
posted by billman at 4:44 PM on November 25, 2001

There are many figures on the left (ala Chomskey) who have every word taken as if it were a universal truth.

I am continually coming across this claim, and it boggles my mind. Who treats Chomsky this way? They might welcome what he says as a corrective to what they see as a media landscape that's saturated with echoes of one position*, but does anyone really treat Chomsky's every word as the truth? No one I know**, any more than the right treats, say, Thomas Sowell's every word as the truth.

Your education rant seems spectacularly off topic. Is it just an example of a "liberal common sense" claim that can be disputed? Who would deny that such things exist? Has someone claimed to be infallible here?
*Block that metaphor!
**Bear in mind that I have a Ph.D. in linguistics, and in linguistics one is early on asked, implicitly, to choose whether one is for or against Chomsky. The "Chomsky = truth" position is a common caricature by the antis, but I have never seen it confirmed close up.
posted by rodii at 4:58 PM on November 25, 2001

rodii, I was responding to these specific comments:

Those are not the sides in the culture war. There are the dittoheads and the freethinkers. The dittoheads, left or right, wait for some Big Important Recognized Authority (e.g. God, Jerry Falwell, Thomas Sowell, etc.) to say something and they merely repeat it (e.g. Moses, an actual human being, wrote the Bible, which contains factual history; Capitalism is a higher form of evolution; In Papua New Guinea, people are cannibals, which is bad.) . . .

It's a common sense idea that people are poor because they can't "compete."

So, it appears that at least rschram is under the impression that there are some. While we can all agree that even the most religious person might not follow every single aspect of the Bible, one can assume that people do follow those like Chomsky closely enough so that my original statement holds true for the purposes of this discussion.

And it would again seem that srchram was trying to indicate that only conservative ideas were common sense and thus should be questioned. I was simply trying to show that many of the ideals cherished by the left are not exactly without question either.

Lastly, the whole point I've tried to make from post #1 is that both extremes are hypocrites.
posted by billman at 8:33 PM on November 25, 2001

Ben Shapiro is my new hero. Not because he's right (which he may or may not be; I don't know), but because he's right.
posted by verdezza at 11:39 PM on November 25, 2001

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