The Talking Dog

November 27, 2006, TD Blog Interview with Michael Berube

Michael Berube writes the very popular eponymous blog of that name, teaches English (holding a chair as Paterno Family Professor of Literature at the Pennsylvania State University), is the author of "What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?" , a discussion of so-called liberal academic bias that effectively dismembers the charges of the right-wing of a bias reflected in America's classrooms, and a plethora of other books and other works appearing in publications such as The Nation and The New Yorker. On September 27, 2006, I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Berube by telephone; Professor Berube also significantly expounded upon on his answers by e-mail. What follows are my interview notes as extensively supplemented by Professor Berube's e-mail answers (or perhaps, vice versa).

The Talking Dog: You know, of course, that the first question is invariably "Where were you on 9-11"?

Michael Berube: Merely sitting at home here in central Pennsylvania-- and because I was reading, not listening to radio or watching TV or anything, I actually didn't hear anything about the attacks until it was nearly 10 am. The odd thing, though, was that I had just visited lower Manhattan and the Battery a week earlier with my younger son, Jamie, who has Down syndrome and was about to turn 10 at the time. During the long Labor Day weekend, we stayed with a friend who lived not far from the WTC; we took the ferry to Staten Island, walked around the Wall Street area, and debated for a long time whether we wanted to wait in line to go to the top of the WTC (as I had done with my older son nine years earlier). We decided we'd do it . . . next time. So even though I was 250 miles away when the planes struck, the buildings-- and the city, and my friends-- felt especially close to me that morning.

The Talking Dog: Let me jump right in to where your book jumps in, that being the so-called charge of "liberal bias" in American universities, which, as you point out, is supported principally by a tiny group of very mediocre students complaining about bad grades for objectively poor academic work. Isn't the very speciousness of David Horowitz's "evidence" of liberal bias actually part of its power-- that the mere accusation seems to be enough to get some resonance, even if the "supporting" facts are complete nonsense (or worse)? Indeed, given that this has extra political leverage at public universities, where craven state legislators might and have taken up Horowitz's cause, isn't this sort of thing not only inevitable, but not even all that unprecedented, particularly given the sterotype of professorial liberal bias?

Michael Berube: Well, I think the power of Horowitz's charges depends a great deal on the echo chamber created over the years by the great right-wing noise machine. If you understand that, then you can understand why Horowitz is so very, very furious at being met with what he calls "nit-picking" complaints-- the kind in which people try to verify his claim that a Penn State biology professor showed Fahrenheit 9/11 to his students just before the 2004 election, and then fail to verify that any such thing happened (because it didn't). As Horowitz has often said, it doesn't really matter whether any one specific allegation about liberal bias on campus is true, because we know that something like it is true somewhere or other. And that's what the hard-core culture warriors of the right believe about universities; there's nothing you can do, no study you can cite, no reality-based demonstration you can perform to persuade them otherwise. Accordingly, the accusations of liberal bias and persecution have such resonance, as you say, that even an undergraduate who's a serial plagiarist (and whose serial plagiarism was uncovered by a blogger in the course of a few hours on the Internet) can be featured on Fox News as a victim of pervasive liberal bias. The truth, in that case, was that the student didn't complete an independent study tutorial-- a tutorial on journalism ethics, of all things, to which she'd been assigned precisely as a result of her plagiarism. You'd think the right would be ashamed to rely on students like that as standard-bearers. But you'd think wrong.

The Talking Dog: On the subject of Mr. Horowitz, in an NRO online interview with Kathryn Lopez, Horowitz made the following statement:

"The "dangerous" idea is a marketing strategy which my publisher attached to the book after it was written. The only appearance of the word "dangerous" in the text is in the coupling of the words "dangerous sophistry" to describe some writing by Professor Juan Cole. Nonetheless, I think "dangerous" can fairly be applied to the collectivity, not least in terms of what they have done to the academic enterprise. Readers of the book will see that the profiles are both accurate and fair. There are several professors ” Michael Berube, Todd Gitlin, and Victor Navasky to name four” who are there because they have been collusive in the efforts of political activists to purge the university of conservatives and subvert its academic mission in the service of radical agendas. I point out that Berube and Gitlin supported the war against the Taliban; and that they have been critical of the pro-Saddam left in the anti-Iraq war movement. But if they have been critical of the terrorists, Communists, and leftwing racists on university faculties, I missed it."

Now... our beloved alma mater (Columbia) has a journalism school that counts Navasky as a prof, and he was a major figure at the Nation; Gitlin is also employed by our alma mater, and is a former SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) president who has been very crticial of that organization in his older life in retrospect; Juan Cole, like you, has been around the Big 10 (BA Northwestern, prof at Michigan)... Now... Two questions emerge from this. let's take the first one:

Mr. Horowitz's targets of opportunity tend to be not merely publicly outspoken, but publicly visible (both in old media and new media alike), which might explain why what concerns Mr. Horowitz (that and your failure to appropriately denounce terrorists, Communists and leftwing faculty racists, Comrade). In fact, the criticism, of course, is not about what goes on in your classroom (which, while you discuss it extensively, Mr. Horowitz... doesn't say much, other than to insist that you try to work in economic determinism into literature, which, I guess if you include that as part of "cultural context" might be true!")... but Horowitz, for example, objects to civil public protests of government policy, for example...(i.e. in his view, we are no longer a free country if the President says we are at war... or if the President even thinks he is going to say it.) In short, is it fair to say that at least when we get down to specifics, notwithstanding the polemic about academic leftwing bias (which, as you ably note, is based on a factual foundation of virtually nothing and nothing), but is simply using this as an overlay to attack his more media-savvy political opponents using the frame and cover of "bias in the academy"?

Michael Berube: Hey! This is a leading question. Let me back up a moment.

It's important to attend to how the shell game is played, first. The fact that liberals outnumber conservatives on campus-- by a ratio of roughly 2.6 to 1-- is indisputable. What the culture-war right derives from this fact, however, are two highly disputable conclusions: one, that the ratio can be explained only by active collusion among liberals (note that Horowitz makes this suggestion in the NRO interview)-- a belief that, in my opinion not only expresses a good deal of right-wing projection but also provides convenient cover for the fact in the arts and humanities as well as in some of the sciences, there simply aren't very many smart young conservatives in the academic-market pipeline to begin with. (In other words, it allows them to say, "well, we would be more numerous on campus-- we're simply told that we're not wanted.") Two, that this preponderance of campus liberals actively discriminates against conservative students as well as potential conservative colleagues. As I note in the book, this second charge-- the most incendiary one, for most parents, alumni, trustees, legislators, and bystanders-- is supported by exceptionally weak and anecdotal evidence, much of it provided by students themselves in an almost comically self-undermining manner. The first charge is something I take more seriously, because, as I argue in the book, domination of certain academic fields-- like mine-- by liberals is good neither for those fields nor for liberals. (I can't believe that conservatives are complaining about a dispensation in which they run the country and we teach the American Novel survey.)

So because Horowitz has almost no evidence about anyone's actual classroom behavior, he goes after the public statements of professors instead. (Which also means, by the way, that when he says he doesn't do this, he is lying.) And he does so partly because he has nothing to bring to the table when it comes to serious discussions about classroom matters, and partly because it's a convenient way for him to attack people like me and Gitlin-- and Navasky, and Eric Foner, as liberal-leftists at large. I might add, under this heading, that Horowitz has exceptionally thin skin and takes perceived slights very personally, so some of the entries in his book-- like his attacks on a handful of notable black scholars-- stem from nothing more than an unhealthy obsession or two.

The Talking Dog: Let me go to the second question that emerges from Horowitz's NRO interview. Given the condensed enemies list presented to National Review Online (you, Cole, Navasky, Gitlin), it sure seems obvious that in terms of allegiance to the Central Committee, our alma mater (Moscow on Morningside Heights), boasting two of the Gang of Four on its faculty and a third as an alum is clearly the center of the subversive universe. I must confess that other than a very irritating "radical chic" streak among the student body, in my own political science major (featuring international politics and political theory, and among the pedagogues was Carter's national security advisor), I really didn't, with perhaps one or two exceptions, encounter a particular discernible left wing bias. For those who don't know, I should point out that I consider myself a centrist, or perhaps center-left or even center-right, though there, of course, is no longer such a thing as a centrist as these days "you're either with us or against us" (btw, my bizarre voting record for President includes Gore and Kerry, of course, but it also includes Dole and, to my perpetual chagrin, Poppy Bush; as I didn't vote for Dubya, of course, you may consider me a fellow member of "the hard left".) My question is, aside from your obvious liberal bias (Horowitz says it so it must be true), do you recall the refreshing waft of liberal bias during your undergrad experience (which coincided for at least two years at the same time and place as my own)? Because I gotta tell you... my recollection is that if there was a "liberal bias", it didn't seem to be in the faculty of early '80s Columbia. What's your view?

Michael Berube: Much of Columbia's aura of radical dangeralness derives not from the students or the faculty but from the frieze of Trotskyite groups that ring the campus. For those groups-- whose newspapers I used to read regularly in the late 70s, especially before the fall of the Shah-- 1968 was the year that Giants Walked the Earth. Whereas in 1978, when I entered the place, only three percent of the freshman class recognized the name of [former SDS leader] Mark Rudd. And when I took a course in Jacksonian Democracy with Chilton Williamson at Barnard, and Professor Williamson announced (in January of 1981) that we were in for a major moral revival now that Reagan was president, I wondered whether he would look kindly on a young democratic socialist like myself. As it happened, I wrote my term paper on Jackson's settlement of the spoliation claims against France, and I can't see how my political convictions-- or my professor's-- had anything to do with the material of that paper or the way it was graded.

So no, I didn't experience Columbia as a hotbed of leftist anything, though I knew plenty of people who looked upon Columbia (usually longingly) as a former hotbed of student radicalism. These days, by contrast, most of Horowitz's ire-- when it's not directed at personal targets like Gitlin and Navasky-- is devoted to Columbia's Middle Eastern studies program, which is a live target for obvious reasons. But then, the Middle East has a way of deranging all the usual left/right alignments (as evidenced by the fact that Sami al-Arian of the U of South Florida, one of Horowitz's Dangerous 100, was an organizer for Bush in 2000). You've got a lot of people on the left who are uncritically supportive of Israel, and a lot of people on the right who don't believe in the right of Israel to exist (or who support it chiefly as a launching platform for the Rapture). So here too, I think Horowitz is engaged in something of a shell game.

The Talking Dog: You have an extensive discussion on post-modernism in your aptly named "Post-Modernism" chapter, which I suppose is easy enough to understand in art and music as "after modernism", and as you readily tell us, "not so easy" in literature, and mere surrealism wrapped in unlimited irony (Buffy the Vampire Slayer?) isn't somehow enough of a description either (though you start your post-modernism seminar course with a showing of Blade Runner, director's cut of course.) Still, the premise of your discussing Habermas, Lyotard and Rorty is, I suppose part of a broader exercise in grounding your students in the techniques of evaluating works of literature, as much for the hermeneutic exercise of being able to "reverse engineer" how these things should be studied as much as for the assistance these methods will provide with respect to the actual works of literature. How would you respond to that?

Michael Berube: I'd respond by saying I think you've got all that exactly right.

The Talking Dog: Continuing on in my endless question... You count yourself as an "anti-foundationalist", by which, you mean, that you are willing to actually question whether or not there is or are "fundamental truths that we do or should hold self-evident", and say "those seem like a good idea, let's talk about them" without necessarily conceding the existence of such fundamental truths (and by this you mean "goodness, truth and beauty" as opposed to "gravity, electrical attraction and thermodynamics", i.e. "human truths" as opposed to truths or rules of nature). Is it not fair to say that once one can understand and unravel arguments at this level of depth, don't you have a very, VERY powerful tool at hand by which to question authority on its own terms, and as such, is this not something that certain elements of the right wing might find extremely dangerous, again on its own terms (and worse, you do it at a land-grant college) when put in the hands of young, impressionable, intelligent minds? In other words, you're helping to provide the tools that will ultimately be used to challenge authority, are you not? Indeed, is it not necessary that authority be challenged (i.e. following the boss uncritically to the letter might bankrupt the company, lose the case, kill the patient, etc.) to function as a society, despite the resentment of right wingers?

Michael Berube: Yes, yes, and yes. And this is why I think that many postmodernists should have rethought their attacks on the Enlightenment, particularly those whose attacks on the Enlightenment consisted (as I point out in chapter 6) of arguments that the Enlightenment was principally a stalking-horse for imperialism. (Indeed, shortly after the Kitzmiller v. Dover case last year, I suggested that the Enlightenment and post-Modernism should call a truce.) I agree with Habermas that the universalizing project of modernity is unfinished-- except that, on my reading, it is unfinishable in principle, because anyone can appear under the heading of universalism and say, "your so-called universalism is not truly universal, insofar as it has failed to account for the exclusion of X." For this reason I think of universalism as endlessly self-revising; it can always be hoisted on its own petard.

When you combine this belief in an always-unfolding universalism with the belief that we ourselves are doing the unfolding-- that, in other words, we are inventing moral law as we go along rather than "discovering" moral laws that have the status of laws in physics-- then yes, you've got a very powerful tool for challenging received authorities of all kinds, and I can see why a certain kind of conservative would be opposed to (or just skeptical of) the project. But I think it's true that the antifoundationalist philosophy of Richard Rorty (and, in a different register, John Rawls) consists of attempts to extend the premises of the Enlightenment to the history of philosophy itself, and to secularize what remains of the enterprise. Is this a liberal bias in my teaching? Yep, it sure is.

But I don't penalize anyone who disagrees with me about this, precisely because I think that antifoundationalism provides a more useful way to think about human disagreement than do its foundationalist competitors in the world of thought. The problem with thinking that you're discovering transhistorical, extra-human moral laws-- or at least one problem with this-- is that when you tend to think you're latching onto the truths of the moral universe, you sometimes have the temptation of failing to understand why anyone would disagree with you-- except to think them mistaken or defective or perverse or evil. These, I think, are not good ways of understanding disagreement in moral affairs.

On the other hand, I am sometimes surprised at the self-representations of people who consider themselves antifoundationalists. In Rhetorical Occasions, I tell the story of appearing, ten years ago, on a panel discussing the fallout from the Sokal Affair, which so many people believe proved once and for all that postmodernism is just jargon-ridden bullshit. One of them, (Andy Pickering) a distinguished historian of science, asked angrily why we were supposed to defend the history of science all over again, after it had been established that all knowledge, even scientific knowledge, was social in character (whatever that might mean-- since historians of science differ on the question). My response was that it was strange to hear antifoundationalists say that they have demonstrated once and for all the social character of knowledge. One would think– or, at least, I would submit– that the recognition of the social character of knowledge would prevent one from believing that any proposition about the social character of knowledge could achieve such a permanent status.

The Talking Dog: Following up on that, the university is, in essence, trying to teach students what I will call "competence," the ability to critically assess a given set of facts and then integrate those facts into a set of actions leading to a desired outcome, whether this be in the use of language (or the analysis of others' use of language) in the liberal arts, or social data in the social sciences, or scientific data in the "hard" sciences, or of course, the professions. In fact, this explains why (to the chagrin of Mr. Horowitz and his allies), "the elites" continue to send their children to places like Moscow on Morningside Heights, Kremlin on the Charles, Oberlin and so forth... (and NOT to Hillsdale College or Liberty University) the elite institutions (i.e. Harvard, Columbia, Oberlin, et al.) are consistently able to graduate "competent" people. Worse for the right, the universities appear to by and large (spurious, or at least thus far unsupported, charges of ideological bias in grading notwithstanding) appear to be genuine meritocracies as far as their students go, at least insofar as our business and other institutions continue to respect the university's grading system. Is there something to the fact that this is, indeed, the very essence of the complaint of Horowitz (and those like him): that we are, in fact, seeing objections to an area of our culture and society NOT dominated by crony capitalism, where, in essence "merit" still matters regardless of partisan and personal loyalty... in fact THIS is the fundamental objection of the Horowitz crew (notwithstanding the irony that it was lockstep ideology not grounded in actual reality that helped kill off Soviet communism)?

Michael Berube: On this front, what's going on with Horowitz and the others on the right is an attack on certain forms of expertise, if not on expertise per se. The opinions of researchers are not mere "opinions." They may be, instead, well-founded and rigorously researched conclusions. Treating them as "bias"-- or, even worse, as beliefs no more meritorious than the beliefs of undergraduates-- is one of the ways the right has attempted to delegitimate the work of queer theorists and climatologists alike.

Now, while I can be wrong (and have been!) in my opinions about tax policy, or immigration, or nationalism, in certain subjects, such as the analysis of literature and culture, I have acquired a certain expertise by reading extensively in the area. My colleagues and I have more instruments at hand for the analysis of literature and culture simply because we have undertaken more extensive and serious study of these matters than the average 20-year old student sitting in a class.

On topics such as climate change or evolution, professors walk a fine line when we try to demonstrate our "accountability to the public" Because it's one thing to make scientific knowledge available to the broader public; it's quite another to submit it to the public for approval. What I find in some conservative critiques of academe is a deliberate confusion of these two things. And that's why, in my public lectures on the subject, I try to distinguish among different kinds of accountability, and to argue that the content of a university education should not depend on whether 40 percent of the population of a state believes homosexuality is a sin or whether 60 percent believe Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church or whether 80 percent believe in angels. Because the fact is that some "opinions" are better researched and defended than others. Ultimately, we cannot put knowledge itself to a plebiscite; there must be some deference to expertise. Scientists' work on the theory of evolution or on global warming-- and humanists' work on gender and sexuality!-- should not be understood as "opinions" or "preferences" or "biases."

Chris Mooney [ed. note: "!"] has covered a good deal of this terrain in the Republican "war on science". When we're dealing with the Christian right, we're not just dealing with people who have strong convictions about the study of sexuality or evolution; we are looking at a group of people who are literally at war with modernity.

The Talking Dog: Let me jump back to post-modernism for a second, and ask you if you would agree that at least one example of where Habermasian "consensus" is, in fact, applicable is my business, "the law"? In fact, we have a genuine consensus that "the law" applies to everyone (except certain rich powerful White males, of course), and that it is enacted by the consensus of politically selected legislators, executives and judges, and should govern social interaction... Do you see a relationship between that proposition and post-modernism, and is it of any relevance to your academic work?

Michael Berube: Yes, it is relevant. Look at the fact that there is an entire branch of law that is all about the law as procedure. The most important meta-critical issue has to do with how law can be self-adjudicating, and the determination of self-adjudicatory power in a democracy is provisional. We go back to Marbury v. Madison where the Supreme Court endowed itself with the power of self-adjudication as well as adjudicative authority over the other two branches. And the question is, by what authority does the Court determine that it has this kind of authority? The same question animates one strand of postmodernist thought, as when Lyotard notes that the Martinican can appeal to the French court for the redress of injustices-- save, of course, for the injustice of being subject to the French court in the first place.

That's why in my discussion of postmodernism, we go through the discussion of Pulp Fiction, because no serious discussion of justice and self-adjudicating authority would be complete without Pulp Fiction and the debate over whether a foot rub is equivalent to oral sex. Seriously, when Jules and Vincent debate the point, and when Vincent finally convinces Jules that a foot rub might, indeed, "mean something," there's a much larger interpretive question at stake. The question is this: even if I cannot change your mind about X, what resources does your language game have that would enable you to change your mind? Is there an evidentiary standard, a procedure, an appeals court, a desire to avoid self-contradiction, a Council of Elders, what? I don't think it requires too much imagination to see that the question of how institutions can be self-adjudicating, and how individuals or institutions can be induced to (so to speak) change their minds (say, from Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board, or from Bowers v. Hardwick to Lawrence v. Texas), is central to the problem of democracy itself.

So yes, this is of direct relevance to my academic work, which is one of the reasons I see interpretive theorists and legal scholars as people working different sides of the same street. How societies go about settling interpretive disputes-- substantively and procedurally-- is at the very heart of my argument about postmodernism and incommensurability in chapter six. And the question of how to conceive and negotiate fundamental disagreement -- without relying on the Habermasian goal of "consensus"-- forms the basis of my hopes for liberal democracy, and the basis of my pluralist pragmatism in human affairs. Which is to say that the forms of consensus enshrined in law (since your field has to come to decisions more readily and more emphatically than mine does) should, if they are truly liberal forms, attempt to accommodate and account for the inevitable dissensus that constitutes human political life. How best to do this, when it's a question of keeping Intelligent Design out of the biology classroom, or debating whether Muslim schoolgirls in France should be allowed to wear head scarves in public schools? Well, the devil is in the details, is he not. But it really wouldn't hurt to start from the premise that there will be dissensus about such matters, and that civil societies should devise ways of reaching provisional consensus about such matters without resorting to brute force -- or a Council of Clerics.

The Talking Dog: My favorite part of the book is your chapter called "Race, Class, Gender" which I'm guessing is your favorite chapter as well, though you don't have to tell me if you don't want to...

Michael Berube: My fave is chapter six, though I'm fond of five as well...

The Talking Dog: In chapter 5... you break down your in class discussions in an American literary survey class of works by William Dean Howells and James Weldon Johnson, with whom I am not so familliar, and by Willa Cather (just about my favorite American writer, though my favorite Cather work is My Mortal Enemy) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gatsby being one of my favorite American books, notwithstanding that it is a critique of capitalism and bourgeous individualism, along with perhaps Moby Dick, nothwithstanding that it too, is a critique of capitalism and bourgeous individualism), wherein you integrate (as it were) social commentary and historic reality with the literature, evidently to provide the appropriate context in which these works can be understood on their own terms, and of course, to start to show what all literature (or at least Chekhov and Japanese anime) tries to do, show what it is to be human in an inhuman world. Have you any notion on why it is that this is a controversial thing to do, i.e., other than the Colbert-type joke of "reality has a liberal bias", why should the right wing object to discussions of literature with the context in which they were created as at least one of the tools to better understand the literature?

Michael Berube: You know, on some level I just don't get it, and at the end of that chapter I almost throw my hands up in befuddlement, because I think Lionel Trilling was entirely right to say, "To perceive a work not only in its isolation, as an object of aesthetic contemplation, but also as implicated in the life of a people at a certain time, as expressing that life, and as being in part shaped by it, does not, in most people's experience, diminish the power or charm of the work but, on the contrary, enhances it." As I suggest a few times in the book, I'm getting nostalgic for good old-school conservatives who loved literature and thought the great books were worth a lifetime of study and effort. I read Allan Bloom's translation of, and extended interpretive essay on, Plato's Republic and thought it was the stuff of genius. Then I read Bloom's "no context, never" argument against historicist interpretation in "The Closing of the American Mind" and wondered why in the world anyone would argue such a thing-- unless, of course, they had a firm convinction that they and they alone had one of those patented Straussian exclusive claims on the truth.

So I think I may be the wrong person to ask about this. I'm beginning to suspect that some forms of conservatism simply involve excessive deference to authority, and I'm beginning to wonder whether some conservatives don't see the purpose of education as a matter of getting the kids to defer properly to the right authorities. If this keeps up I'm going to wind up quoting Paolo Freire and Ivan Illich. And then who knows what will happen?

The Talking Dog: I join all of my readers in thanking Professor Berube for that thorough and enlightening interview, and I commend our readers to take a look at "What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?"


That's Chris Mooney, not Moody.

Posted by Vance Maverick at November 27, 2006 12:01 PM

Vance is right, it's Mooney. So much for my proofreading of the telephone part of this interview!

Posted by Michael Bérubé at November 27, 2006 5:23 PM

I'm not sure what you said, Professor Berube, but it's clear you said it well, because you used a lot of big words that made my dictionary whimper.

I also think I detect a trace of bias towards agreement with canines who've mastered human speech, even though it's clear the dog asks questions that not only lead, but bury the question-bone deep within posits that made me itch so bad that I yearned for a flea collar.

Still, I had a glimmer of hope when you said: Treating them as "bias"-- or, even worse, as beliefs no more meritorious than the beliefs of undergraduates-- is one of the ways the right has attempted to delegitimate the work of queer theorists and climatologists alike.

But then I realized you didn't really say "queer theorists and climaxologists alike". Which is, too bad, because I sat up and barked at my first misread.

All in all, I just don't get why proof is necessary in refuting the likes of Horowitz. Even a subliterate like myself can sense inherently, that the man's a pontificating crank driven by the receipt of too many wedgies delivered in youth and again in subsequent pre-menopausal steambaths hosted by Robin Leach.

In summation, good show. But next time, try more alliteration. For example, paraphrasing Agnew, you could easily have levelled Horowitz by calling him a 'chattering corncob of conservativism'.

As for Mr. Dog, as Johnny Cochrane noted, if the multiple clauses were obscurer, then I must refrain from being a juror.

Posted by Kevin Hayden at November 27, 2006 6:16 PM

Well, that was invigorating. Always a pleasure to read both of you.

I sympathize with Professor Berube's instinct to throw up his hands, and Kevin's actually doing so, however eloquently. Horowitz and his like are not even talking the same language as you guys, and the central irony is that your defense of "dissensus" has a lot more to do with what they're pretending to advocate (a true marketplace of ideas) than what they're actually pushing.

I have a question for Michael if he's still reading. I find Horowitz recently claiming this:

"But the fact is that thanks to the efforts we made in Pennsylvania two of the three major universities in the state -- Temple and Penn State -- have now adopted 'student-specific' bills of rights (the words 'student-specific' were excised from the report by commissar Lynn Herman in a cya operation for the Penn State administration. This is a major victory.and no amount of lying by the AFT and its journalistic shills is going to change that."

What's he talking about? Is there a difference between HR64 now and the HR64 previously in effect?

Posted by roy edroso at November 27, 2006 8:24 PM

Roy, Horowitz's Guide Book tells him to declare victory every night when the sun sets. The actual sequence of events is this: he trumpeted it as a "victory" that the "summary" written by Rep. Gibson Armstrong (R. - Wingnuttia) was included in the report -- until it was excised, at which point Horowitz claimed that Commissar Herman stabbed him in the back.

And then Horowitz claimed victory.

I looked at HR 64 last year. I don't see any difference in the HR 64 that's up now.

Posted by Michael Bérubé at November 27, 2006 11:01 PM

A liberal thanks to both of you.

Posted by The Heretik at November 28, 2006 2:28 AM

"Michael Berube writes the very popular eponymous blog of that name".

I believe that's false. If you look it up, I believe you'll find that "eponymous" refers to the thing that had the name originally, not the later thing that was named after it.

So, Michael Berube is the eponymous author of a popular blog of that name.

But don't take my word for it--look it up.

Posted by kid bitzer at December 4, 2006 12:33 AM

kid bitzer:"Michael Berube writes the very popular eponymous blog of that name".

I believe that's false. If you look it up, I believe you'll find that "eponymous" refers to the thing that had the name originally, not the later thing that was named after it.

No, that is actually correct. Michael Berube was named after the blog, not the other way around.
You see, he is not the real Dangerous Professor Berube at all. His name is Stohlmeyer. He inherited the blog from the previous Dangerous Professor Berube, whose name was Royck.
The name's the important thing, you see - no one would be intimidated by a Dangerous Professor Stohlmeyer.

Posted by ajay at December 5, 2006 12:09 PM