"I remain flaggergasted [sic] that a professor at a major university could advocate absolutism as you did recently. . . . If there is anything that marks an uneducated and narrow minded person, thinking in absolutes is that mark."
So began an e-mail from an erudite fan. Fourteen years of op-ed writing have taught me that insults have their origins in the pricked conscience. This particular insult has become near universal. Soros Inc., the new financial and philosophical liberal epicenter, must have issued a talking point: "Just call them stupid." Given their antiwar stance, the more creative "Your mother wears Army boots," could have been reincarnated. Perhaps liberal mothers with their pervasive Army boots were conflicted by it.
This particular insult is loaded with presumptuousness: all professors should be leftists. Ensconcing their own in our institutions of higher learning has given the left's "Conservative are stupid" theory a self-created syllogism. Professors are smart. Professors are leftists. Ergo, leftists are smart. If the logic seems contrived, you must be conservative, and, ergo, stupid. Still, one of the givens is true: professors are predominantly leftists.
Only Hollywood has more socialists. Leftists own higher ed. At the University of Colorado, 94% of the liberal arts faculty are registered Democrats. Of the 85 English profs, 0 are registered Republicans. Among the faculty in Duke University's history department, there are 32 registered Democrats and no registered Republicans. Literature was 11 to 0, sociology, 9 to 0, and English 18 to 1. The one in English must be the resident grammarian, another absolutist.
Prof. Robert Brandon, chairman of Duke's philosophy department, explained the lack of political diversity, "We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican Party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia." Mill's "illogical" work has been called nothing more than "intricate sophistry." But, I trust my fellow Cretins caught that Republicans are in power because so many Americans' knuckles drag.
Let's apply some liberal logic, employing their company-they- have-keep approach as a proxy for political views or intelligence or whatever they want. Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Mussolini, Norman Mailer, Noam Chomsky, Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman have all found their greatest support at universities. During his rise to power, Hitler found strong support on campuses and managed to induct PhDs into his service. Ah, the stuff of intellectualism. William Buckley, Clarence Thomas, George Will, Milton Friedman, and Margaret Thatcher find it tough to set a foot on a campus without a protest. Ergo, I'm "flaggergasted!"
The left has long nurtured the antithetical nature of intellectualism and conservative thought, with or without facts. Last month, lefties embraced and circulated a phony chart via the Internet that showed the so-called red states (where Bush won in 2000) had lower IQ averages than the blue states (where Gore won). Their gullibility on this hoax demonstrates 2 things: (1) they have a void in statistical talent because those kinds of absolute correlations with these types of data would be tough to get; and (2) they now embrace IQ as a measure of intellectualism and ability. Remember when "The Bell Curve" suggested IQ fell along cultural lines? We had to get Judy Woodruff the smelling salts. If they could just carry IQ correlations into the affirmative action debate we might meet minds, or as much mind as we dolts and oafs on the right can offer.
Like frustrated children unwilling to accept the factual assaults on their mythical beliefs, liberals respond with insults. Ridicule is not unique to our era. In A History of the American People, historian Paul Johnson, another dunderhead of the right, notes that Lincoln was referred to in Democratic newspapers as "a third rate lawyer," "a nullity," "a gorilla," and "one who could not speak good grammar."
Mr. Lincoln wrote during the Civil War, "If it were not for my firm belief in an overriding providence it would be difficult for me, in the midst of such complications of affairs, to keep my reason in its seat." Slavery was wrong, a simple absolute Mr. Lincoln embraced. Others rationalized slavery using cotton, states' rights and all manner of relativism.
Liberals and intellectuals, pseudo and otherwise, confuse the simplicity of resolve and moral absolutes with vacuity. Even Condi Rice, a former Stanford academic, confesses she had to come around to the absolutes and steadfastness of Mr. Bush. She noted Mr. Bush's singular focus on right and wrong and "on this issue of universal values and freedom. I found myself seeing the value of that." Glory be! An academic acknowledges absolutes. What a moron!
Absolutes are not the result of intellectual laxity, a lack of education, or stupidity. Absolutists acknowledge human nature. They also study nonrevisionist history, determined not to repeat its errors and debacles. We predict its victories can repeat, with fairly good statistical accuracy. If that's stupidity, hand me the dunce cap. I confess my intellectual flaws and wear the badge of an imbecilic absolutist with pride.
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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State
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