Campus Watch in the Media
Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?
by Dave Johnson
In a recent article on HNN Professors Eric Foner and Glenda Gilmore worry that academic freedom is being eroded. While they address the McCarthyite tactics of the right, I think there may also be another interesting story here.
I work with the Commonweal Institute, a moderate/progressive think tank. My work with Commonweal involves research into right-wing organizations. This research entails checking the affiliations of conservatives cited in news stories, articles, op-ed pieces, books and articles. The people and organizations Foner and Gilmore mention share interesting connections.
The piece mentions Campus Watch, which is part of the Middle East Forum. If you visit the website of Cursor's Media Transparency, an organization that investigates right-wing foundations, you will discover that the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation fund the Middle East Forum.
Next the piece mentions William J. Bennett. Many of Bennett's activities are funded by the far-right Heritage Foundation, which in turn is funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Richard Mellon Scaife, Joseph Coors's Castle Rock Foundation and the Olin Foundation, among others.
Next mentioned is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Turns out this group is funded by ... wait for it ... the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Scaife, Coors, Olin and a few others.
Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, mentioned next, is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which is funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Olin, Coors and the Smith Richardson Foundation. Mrs. Cheney was also chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which received funds at the time by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and Olin....
Foner and Gilmore cite several apparently unconnected people and organizations as being part of "a broader trend among conservative commentators, who since September 11 have increasingly equated criticism of the Bush administration with lack of patriotism." Readers of the article might come away with the impression of a number of independent conservative "voices" concerned with what is being said on campus.
But is this true? All the voices cited originate from organizations funded and coordinated by a core group of wealthy individuals and organizations. Any scholar finding what appears to be a broad trend should be aware that the deliberate creation of an illusion of broad trends is a tactic used to influence the public by the conservative movement that is funded by this core group....
The Right's Attack on Academia
So how does all this relate to the attack on academic freedom which Foner and Gilmore complained about?
It turns out that many of the most important attacks are part of a campaign organized by conservative foundations, as a study by report by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) found. In a section entitled, "Targeting the Academy" the report discusses right-wing attacks on academia, including "political correctness" campaigns, efforts to use alumni contributions to advance a conservative agenda, efforts to take over or de-fund the National Endowment for the Humanities and to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts. These attacks follow the pattern outlined in the Powell memo -- attack the patriotism of liberals and attempt to convince trustees of colleges and universities to remove them, replacing them with ideological "conservatives."(4)
The FSFG supports organizations like Accuracy in Academia, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Association of Scholars, the Madison Center for Educational Affairs (their "Collegiate Network" links over 70 student newspapers), the Institute for Educational Affairs and others. These organizations work to transform academia toward the right's ideological agenda.
Why Do They Hate America?
Daniel Pipes has accused scholars like Foner and Gilmore of hating America. His attacks follow the plan laid out in the Powell memo and in William Simons's book, A Time For Truth. Like Powell and Simon, Pipes accuses liberal faculty of anti-American bias and wants trustees to remove or silence them. "Why do they hate America"? Because, the phrase implies, they are like the terrorists, who also hate America. A search on Google for the term "they hate America" turns up over a million uses. So what Foner and Gilmore encountered is a well-funded campaign to pursue an ideological agenda.
By looking at the backgrounds of the conservative sources cited in Foner and Gilmore's article on freedom of speech on campus, we have discovered another story. What Foner and Gillmore took to be a number of voices signifying, in their words, "a broader trend among conservative commentators, who since September 11 have increasingly equated criticism of the Bush administration with lack of patriotism," is really only the tip of an iceberg of organizations, funded by a core group coordinating a right-wing agenda to put a chill on more than just academic speech. Academics should be on guard because the activities of these organizations follow a pattern designed to mislead the casual reviewer.
Heritage Foundation, May 8, 2001 http://www.heritage.org/Research/PoliticalPhilosophy/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=4327
4. See: People for the American Way's report, Buying a Movement, including a case study of the Yale Endowment and a case study of the right-wing movement's efforts to influence university undergraduates.
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Comments about Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?
Subject: RE: "removing" and "silencing" liberal faculty
...Thank you for your response.
Thank you for the link. Unfortunately, in reading the Powell Memorandum, I was unable to find an occurrence of any variation of the word "remove," or of the word "silence." So, I wonder if you would also please take a moment to direct me to the actual passage that you feel demonstrates Powell's advocacy of removing or silencing faculty at America's universities?
One passage I did find in the Memorandum that seemed to discuss a possible approach to be taken with university trustees is the following:
"The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups."
On the assumption that this passage is in fact germane, am I to understand that the advocacy, "by writing and speaking," of "the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth" is somehow equivalent in your mind to calling for the removal or silencing of faculty?
Subject: "removing" and "silencing" liberal faculty
This article includes the assertion that, "Like [Lewis F.] Powell and [William] Simon, Pipes accuses liberal faculty of anti-American bias and wants trustees to remove or silence them." The article provides no evidence whatsoever of calls from any of these individuals for trustees to "remove or silence" anyone. Does Mr. Johnson see no need to substantiate his arguments/accusations? If he can provide evidence for his claims, why does he not do so?
Bernadiner writes: "American academy needs to be restructured to make it more responsible and accountable for its activity."
Subject: BOO! McCarthy! Right wing! Scaife! Scared ya
This kind of argument has very narrow limits. Its purpose, I suppose, is to signal to the author's fellow liberals that they need not concern themselves with the substance of the "attacks" on liberal professors, since their ultimate source is the network of conservative foundations and donors. But this sort of evidence is step two, not step one, in refuting and discrediting an intellectual opponent. The first step is to expose errors of logic and fact in the opponent's argument, and once that has been accomplished, then one may turn to accusations of bad faith, in light of which the previously demonstrated errors can be recast as lies or intentional distortions.
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