28 March 2011

Republicans as Anti-Intellectual Thugs

Historian William Cronon who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, has been vocal in criticizing the anti-union Republican Governor of Wisconsin. He has begun to blog on the issues surrounding Scott Walker's politics. And he published this Op-Ed in The New York Times. (You can find some reader replies to the essay here.)

In reaction (yes, that is the proper verb) Republicans are demanding a search of Cronon's UW email account - trawling for some phrase or comment that putatively betrays unlawful partisanship. There - quite rightly - has been a chorus of criticism against this move - here, here, here, here, here, and here, for instance.

Just an observation: I regularly hear right-wingers complain that college faculty are disengaged and irrelevant. Now, an accomplished scholar enters the public domain and what do said conservatives do? They don't actually reply to his arguments or contest the historical perspective he brings to bear on current politics. Instead they seek to shut him up. There are words for that - hypocrisy, intimidation immediately come to mind. You may think of others.

There is little surprise left in the Republican reaction. In reply to criticisms of the sort I've linked to above the Wisconsin GOP reportedly are seeking to portray themselves as the real victims. It seems necessary to state the obvious: there is a difference between the tactics of the Wisconsin Republicans and those who are criticizing them. The latter are taking to the public sphere and arguing, offering reasons, and replying to their opponents. Those on the Right, as is their wont, instead are looking to silence opponents - in this instance by using legal instruments, thereby criminalizing those with whom they disagree. Given a clear choice in strategy - either engage in open debate, defending one's views on the merits or seeking to question or subvert the credibility of one's opponent - the right nearly always chooses the latter. Conservatives proclaim themselves supporters of the "party of ideas" when in fact they are more likely to be party hacks.
P.S.: At Slate Jack Shafer once again proves himself tone-deaf to important distinctions. He writes that there is no such thing as a "bad" open records request. What Shafer misses is that there is a considerable difference between a college professor and an elected official or a bureaucrat with decision-making power. The right is busy (think of the truly dim David Horowitz and his ilk) trying to undermine that distinction by portraying faculty - despite lack of systematic evidence - as domineering liberals picking on poor defenseless conservative students. Faculty have words at their disposal whereas politicians like Scott Walker have tools like the State Police. See a difference Jack?

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Blogger Stan B. said...

Yes, hypocritical, pernicious, fascist, all that and more, but exactly what law has he allegedly broken- and what law gives them the right to demand this? Even I didn't think it has actually come this far...

29 March, 2011 14:29  
Blogger Cyranos DeMet said...

I'd say the Republicans, well, the Bushite Republicans to be specific, are aghast that even their first successful point of attack is coming around against them. Education was their first target some thirty, forty years ago, the dumbing down of America to allow the remainder of their lies to have traction in the minds of the ignorant. Any and every point of valid academic thought is now a risk for them, what if some old professor puts two and two together, realizes the full nature of their plot and comes out in some major public venue to expose the roll education played in their rise to power? If that ever fully happened it would be a heavy, heavy blow to them. Perhaps even a fatal blow.

30 March, 2011 00:50  

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