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Intellectuals and Society


“lntellect is not wisdom. There can be ‘unwise intellect.”‘ Thomas Sowell

“lntelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.” Alfred Notth Whitehead

“One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harminq their reputation. The intellectuals who idolized Stalin while he was purging millions and stifling the least stirring of freedom have not been discredited. They are still holding forth on every topic under the sun and are listened to with deference.” Eric Hoffer

Editor’s Note: For readers interested in John lM. Ellis’ article below make sure you follow up with Thomas Sowell’s masterpiece-lntellectuals and Society. The quotes above are from this work. Keep in mind that only intellectuals can overlook biology’s two sexes of male and female and pontificate dozens of genders upon which laws are formulated. Hence men are now women with access to female lockers and showers. As someone once noted, “What a Country.”

Campus Culture Seizes the Streets

Taxpayers, parents and donors need to save higher education from activists who claim to be scholars.

By John M. Ellis, The Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2020, p. A17

How did radical ideas like abolishing or defunding the police move from the fringes to official policy seemingly overnight in cities like Minneapolis, Los Angeles and New York? And after George Floyd’s killing by police touched off protests, why did so many prominent journalists and intellectuals rationalize looting and violence? For an answer, look to the nation’s politicized college campuses.

A well-known professional standard for college professors warns against “taking unfair advantage of the student’s immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher’s own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters in question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness of judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own.” That statement, from the American Association of University Professors, dates from 1915 but is still in force. 

Most campuses have similar rules of their own. Yet across the country, these categorical prohibitions are now ignored. Academia has become politicized from top to bottom. 

A typical example: California’s constitution spells out that the University of California “shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom.” Yet politicization is now routine. UC Santa Barbara’s History Department offers a minor in “poverty, inequality, and social justice”—that is, radical-left politics. UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare says it’s committed to “developing leaders for social justice.” Professors indoctrinate students, seemingly unconcerned with the vast gulf between what their rules forbid them to do and what they are openly doing.

Bitter experience has now shown us that those rules were there for good reason. Educators used to understand that politics would destroy academia’s public credibility and internal ability to function. Political ends would stifle free inquiry, tribalism would erode analytical thought, and emotion would replace reason. Those forebodings match exactly the distortions of higher education we are now seeing—and their results.

Universities used to be places where the major political and social issues of the day could be researched and debated. The results of this careful thought and analysis were used to make political debates in the wider world more realistic and better informed. All that has now been turned on its head. The campus offers not a reasoned corrective to partisan passions, but fierce, one-sided advocacy of dangerous and destructive ideas.

Real education is accordingly neglected. In their 2011 book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found “an astounding proportion of students”—at least 45% of the 2,300 undergraduates surveyed at 24 universities—“are progressing through higher education today without measurable gains in general skills” like critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing.

How can it be that scholars once so aware that political advocacy would corrupt and discredit their profession allowed ruin to set in? Campus radicals, once a very small minority, had some astonishing luck. As the baby boomers reached college age in 1965-75, public higher education needed to more than double its enrollment. Suddenly the number of professors had to increase drastically too—and they were recruited as the Vietnam War roiled campuses. 

Political radicalism was rampant among the graduate students who became junior professors, instantly shifting the faculty sharply leftward. Then political pressure for female and minority faculty appointments led more young radicals to join the faculty. A 1969 Carnegie Commission on Higher Education study found that Democrats then outnumbered Republicans among the faculty by about 3 to 2. A 2018 study found that among professors at civilian liberal arts colleges, the same ratio is now nearly 13 to 1—and it stands to rise as younger professors skew further leftward. Without the clash of contrasting views, nothing slows the slide from academic rigor to folly and fantasy. 

Through taxes, tuition and philanthropy, Americans devote enormous sums of money to a bait-and-switch scam: Spending that is supposed to support higher education goes to political advocacy. What can be done about it? Some have suggested new codes of conduct for faculty, but it’s doubtful that mere promises of better behavior can depoliticize the professoriate, which is now, especially in the humanities and social sciences, a solid phalanx of closed-minded political activists—not merely unscholarly, but antischolarly.

Taxpayers, lawmakers and donors need to wake from the spell cast by American universities’ past glory. Only then can they summon the courage to withdraw funding and force the necessary change: replacing faux-academic political activists with real academic thinkers—people who care about original thought, not peddling an ideology.

What’s happening in the streets should be a wake-up call. As Andrew Sullivan has written, “we all live on campus now.” If you don’t like it, the answer is to reform academia. Otherwise, radical ideas will gain more ground. 

John M. Ellis is a professor emeritus of German literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of “The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done.”

Count Your Days

“129 per day [die] from suicide.” lbid

“For all causes, 7,708 Americans die each day.” Martin Marcus “WebMD says22 to 55 Americans die each day from the flu.” lbid

“As more people get infected with COVID-19, recover, and later die of something else, more people will be listed as dying of COVID-19.’ lbid

Are we stuck with worrying about the coronavirus forever?

By Martin Marcus, American Thinker, July 3,2020

As we don our masks and venture forth into the world, we wonder if the dreaded coronavirus is going to get us.  We look at the latest statistics and see that about 600 poor souls in the U.S. lose their lives to this virus every day.  We should realize that 600 lives out of 330 million people is not that much, so we should get more information about the subject.

Please forgive me for listing death statistics like a cold-hearted actuary.  I will stick to the concepts and minimize the numbers.

The CDC lists the probability of death from various causes.  For all causes, 7,708 Americans die each day.  Some of the individual causes in descending order are heart disease, diabetes, and suicide.  To avoid the first two, please do not overeat.  For those who are suicidal, I give best wishes.  Keep reading.  There is a silver lining in the data.

Influenza was not singled out, but WebMD says 22 to 55 Americans die each day from the flu.  This is far below the 129 per day from suicide.  I suspect that we will eventually learn that COVID-19 causes about as many deaths as does the flu.  Meanwhile, what can we say about COVID-19 now?

Tests for COVID-19 antibodies are now available.  Based on a Stanford University study, perhaps 10% of us have been exposed to the virus and recovered.  As mentioned before, 7,708 of us die every day.  The hospital will check these people for the virus.  Presumably, 771 of them will test positive.  The hospital will put them down as COVID-19 cases, regardless of their cause of death.  Hospitals are incentivized to do this.  Hospitals get $13,000 per Medicare patient with COVID-19.  The 771 people who just happened to have had antibodies to COVID-19 at the time of death is close to the previously mentioned 600 lives estimate.  If nobody died of COVID-19, we would still have about this many people listed as dying of it.

Should we doubt the official numbers?  Please take another look at the latest statistics.  Under “Reported coronavirus deaths, per day, in the U.S.,” there is a curve with oscillations.  These oscillations are not random.  They have a seven-day cycle.  There is a low every Monday, and it peaks around Tuesday through Thursday.  Why?

As more people get infected with COVID-19, recover, and later die of something else, more people will be listed as dying of COVID-19.  Eventually, all people will have antibodies and, upon their demise, be listed as COVID-19 deaths.  Ironically, if we get a vaccine, the statistics will become worse much faster.

What is the silver lining?  As with the virus itself, sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Now that we realize that the hospitals are listing the cause of death inaccurately, we should have them correct the listing — something like “The patient was hit by a garbage truck and he had COVID-19 antibodies, too.”

Canceling Western Civilization

“Today’s Jacobins… goal is to’cancel’ Western Civilization.” Bruce Thornton

“Today, mayors, governors, and police chiefs in blue states have stood down in the face of violence, and even issued public declaration of support and sympathy for the rioters and their goals.” lbid

Sowing the Sixties Winds, Reaping Today’s Whirlwind

Today’s disorder reflects just how successful the leftist “long march through the institutions” has been.

Bruce Thornton, Frontpagemag. com, June 25, 2020

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

From one perspective, the surreal absurdity of the current protests, vandalism, and riots is not even close to the disruption and mayhem of the political violence in the Sixties and Seventies. We have not yet seen the kidnappings, murders of judges, and scores of bombings that roiled that era. In 1967 alone there were 159 riots, and in the Seventies 14 people were killed and 600 wounded by politically motivated bombings.

But what’s going on today is more dangerous, for the ideologies driving the disorder reflect just how successful the leftist “long march through the institutions” has been at corrupting American education and culture over the last half a century. As a result, ideas and behaviors that by consensus were out of bounds then, have now been normalized and abetted by civic leaders and politicians, as well as popular culture, schools, and even sports.

I spent the Seventies in college and graduate school, so I had a front-row seat for the “long march.” In the early years there were, of course, radical professors who opposed the war in Vietnam and hated free-market capitalism. They preached abandoning the bourgeoisie virtues like self-restraint of desires and appetites, especially of sex. Those virtues were redefined as tools of political oppression. As cultural Marxist Herbert Marcuse put it, “The civilized morality is reversed by harmonizing instinctual freedom and order: liberated from the tyranny of repressive reason, the instincts tend toward free and lasting existential relations––they generate a new reality principle.”

Such opinions were a minority among an otherwise liberal faculty. But as the decade progressed, they steadily became more mainstream. One reason is that a consumer-driven economy had long found sex to be a great marketing tool, and impulsive behavior to be good for business. And so this corrosive politicizing of promiscuity was promoted by many big businesses. The powerful sex-drive, recognized as a potential force of destruction by our Greco-Roman and Hebraic traditions alike, was legitimized and idealized as fashionable “liberation.” Leftist ideology now had a potent ally in subverting all authority, and in masquerading its illiberal politics in the rhetoric of liberation and freedom. “If it feels good, do it” became the foundational mantra of politics and consumerism alike, one we see taken to excess in the wanton and gleeful destruction and vandalism of the current disorder. More important, political freedom as ordered liberty founded on law was transformed into what the Founders called “license,” the freedom to do what one wants, no matter how destructive to one’s self and others.

The rejection of traditional sexual morality and mores thus extended to all authority, particularly that of tradition and religion. This rejection of the past is ideal for utopianism, the notion that there can be a perfect politico-social order with perfect equality and justice; as the Elvis Costello lyric has it, “Let’s talk about tomorrow now we’ve put the past away.” History now becomes the systematic demonization of our ancestors for their flawed humanity and failure to create an impossible utopia. The West now is notable only for its crimes against that idealism, while its unique transcendence of those crimes, its recognition that certain behaviors and institutions are crimes, is forgotten.

For example, slavery, the historical evil that so exercises the “woke” protestors and rioters, is an historically unexceptional, universal institution. In the past it was no more problematic than the domestication of animals. But the rejection of slavery happened only in the West, from the 4th century BC Greek rhetorician Alcidamas, who said “The god gave freedom to all men, and nature made no man a slave”; to the Christian American and British abolitionists of the early 19th century, who finally brought about the end of slavery in the West.

But because the left sees only the West’s flaws, today we are watching the violent assault on public monuments to people from the past, even statues of Lincoln, who ended slavery in the U.S. In the Sixties and Seventies left-wing terrorists bombed military recruiting offices and university labs that allegedly served the “military-industrial complex.” Apart from a few police precincts, today’s Jacobins are focusing their rage on private businesses and public statues, the latter the tangible and communal celebrations of our past and the all too human people who now don’t measure up to the exalted expectations of callow, entitled, badly educated young people. The goal is to “cancel” Western Civilization.

This vandalism of the past, moreover, is a visible sign of what has happened to the profession of history beginning in the Sixties: It has been turned into a Leninist “who, whom” melodrama, with crude, moustache-twirling Western villains endlessly tying to the railroad tracks of history an equally crude roster of innocent victims “of color.” Human complexity, mixed motives, failed good intentions, and unforeseen consequences­­––the tragic heart of good history ever since Thucydides––are all cast aside for therapeutic bedtime stories comprising the creepy, sadomasochistic theater of guilty whites and their victims “of color.” This vandalizing of history has now triumphed, for today it dominates the curricula of schools from kindergarten to university.

In addition to vandalizing monuments, we have the spectacle of mayors, governors, and Congressmen abasing themselves before the “woke” dominitrices “of color,” and shedding crocodile tears for offences they never perpetrated and their punishers never suffered. Worse yet, such empty moral preening changes nothing for the people they’re supposed to help. The dysfunctional conditions of the black underclass––a product of the Sixties’ abandonment of traditional morality and virtue, denigration of fatherhood, and destruction of character through failed antipoverty programs––continue to destroy thousands of black lives a year that don’t “matter” to the “woke” shock-troops. Meanwhile, a president who has done more for “black lives” than Barack Obama and the Black Congressional Caucus put together, is slandered as a “racist” and “white supremacist.”

Next, we are witnessing the most blatant examples of the leftist principles that flourished in the Sixties: “any means necessary” and “never let a crisis go to waste.” The former explains what seems to be the pointless protests and violence. Even the so-called “peaceful protests” have no legitimate purpose other than hysterical virtue-signaling. The protestors say, and even some conservatives agree, that the protests and accompanying violence are legitimate since they express the “grief and anger” of the people, and they force the nation to confront a serious crisis. But does anyone really believe that the issue of police encounters with blacks males is unknown to anyone, especially since Rodney King nearly 30 years ago? Or that public displays of alleged “grief and anger” on the part of strangers have any practical utility? The culprit in Minneapolis was fired and charged with second degree murder in a week. What other practical actions are supposed to follow? And how does killing and beating people, or vandalizing and looting small businesses, advance the “conversation” we allegedly refuse to have?

As for the crisis, it is not just being taking advantage of, as was the Vietnam war in the Sixties, in order to promote a leftist political agenda.  Today the crisis is being manufactured. All the available data show that police shootings of unarmed black men are rare––9 in 2019–– and usually happen when a suspect resists arrest. In fact, police shootings in general are down almost by half over the last few decades. Yet videos of police arrests that are atypical of the millions of police contacts with citizens every year saturate the internet, social media, and cable news, creating the illusion that such lethal abuses of force are common.

The purpose, then, of the protests and violence has little to do with correcting a widespread abuse, or the mythic “systemic racism” responsible. It’s about leveraging the rare dramatic instances of police misbehavior into political power––not letting the crisis go to waste. Black Lives Matter, which has been at the forefront of this “crisis,” has been raking in millions of dollars from corporations eager to pay the danegeld. As well as enriching the movement’s leaders, this lucre will be spent on fomenting even more protests and disturbances, and on promoting an explicitly Marxist agenda that the movement cannot as of now persuade enough voters to accept at the ballot box.

Finally, the response of civic authority these days is very different from how disorder was handled in the Sixties. Back then, despite some sympathy from progressive politicians, most state and federal government officials understood that keeping order and protecting citizens was their primary responsibility. Today, mayors, governors, and police chiefs in blue states have stood down in the face of violence, and even issued public declarations of support and sympathy for the rioters and their goals, including the preposterous proposals like “defunding the police” or redirecting resources to non-lethal responses to dangerous spousal abuse emergencies. And most of the few criminals who are arrested are not charged or held, but instead put back on the street.

This mostly blue-state dereliction of civic duty is unprecedented, and illustrates just how thorough the multigenerational corruption of education has been. We are now entering the third generation of those who have been indoctrinated rather than educated, which means that the political ideologies of a minority in the Sixties, today are more widespread and embedded in the halls of government, as well as in popular culture and entertainment.

We sowed that wind in the Sixties, and now we are witnessing the whirlwind. The longer we appease public violence and disorder, the bolder the rioters become, and the more death and destruction will follow. At some point there will have to be a reckoning to restore the prestige and deterrent power of civil authority. For now, that possibility has to wait on the choices we the people make on November 3.

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Photo credit: Rosa Pineda at Wikimedia Commons