Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Is This the Best the Right Can Do?

Hyman’s attack on the American Association of University Professors is a lazy repetition of several Hymanesque motifs (anti-intellectualism, empty appeals to patriotism, claims that political adversaries hate the military and hate religion). The question I can’t help asking myself is this: don’t those who are on Hyman’s side of the political spectrum feel embarrassed or insulted by having their views argued in such a clumsy, unpersuasive, and lackadaisical way?

Hyman cites the AAUP’s support of Yale Law School in its ban of army recruiters on its campus as evidence that "AAUP's acceptance of differing viewpoints do not include acceptance of those held by America's sons and daughters serving in uniform.”

This is a rehash of an argument Hyman made in an edition of “The Point” last month regarding the Solomon Act.
As we pointed out, nearly every accredited law school in the country abides by a nondiscrimination policy that ensures equal treatment of all students based on race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Given the stated policy of the military to discriminate based on sexual orientation, schools of law have little choice but to oppose the recruitment of their students. And the courts have backed up this decision.

Pulling out the “they hate the troops” canard yet again, Hyman knowingly misleads his audience by glossing over the particulars, suggesting that these high-fallutin’ law profs are against the military in general and are discriminating against recruiters because of their pinko-Marxist-peacenik tendencies (after all, isn’t everyone in higher education a pinko-Marxist-peacenik?). But in fact, the policy of the Yale Law School is simply the only possible response to the recruitment of their students by an organization that practices a form of discrimination (rightly or wrongly) that violates the basic principles upon which the school is based.

If Hyman glosses over and distorts the facts when it comes to the Yale matter, he simply does away with them altogether in the rest of his commentary. Hyman accuses the AAUP of not approving of certain religious beliefs, and offers as “evidence” of this the fact that the organization has censured many schools that are affiliated with churches, including Philander Smith College. In an apparent attempt to paint the AAUP as so out of touch that it even violates the tenets of Political Correctness, Hyman points out that Philander Smith College is the oldest historically Black college in Arkansas.

That’s all well and good, but do you notice that there’s nothing in all of this about the AAUP actually objecting to anything having to do with religion and Philander Smith (or any other school)? That’s because the censure of Philander Smith had nothing to do with its affiliation with a church. It was based on an
administrative decision to punish a faculty member who wrote an email to a local paper about the college’s decision about salaries and organization in a particular department. In fact, most of the AAUP’s censures are based on issues of administrative due process in the hiring and firing of faculty, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the acceptability of certain ideas or beliefs. That’s not the purview of the AAUP.

Hyman’s commentary then ends with a resounding thud:

And the group is vitriolic in its opposition to the rights of
students to express and not be punished for views that do not conform to the
narrow set of viewpoints dictated by college faculty and staff.

I’d love to comment on the validity of the evidence Hyman uses to back up this bit of biliousness, but there isn’t any. He just makes this statement and leaves it at that. No examples. No quotations. No citations. Nothing.

For those of us who recognize Hyman’s ideology for what it is and reject it, this is all par for the course. What interests me, though, is how those who are sympathetic to Hyman’s political views react to being consistently lied to by him. If it doesn’t give them pause to reflect on the opinions expressed, doesn’t it at least make them feel they’re getting mistreated and taken advantage of by someone who seems to think that his audience is so blockheaded that they don’t care if their beliefs are articulated in a reasonable way? For myself, I find those who think they can win me over by simply mouthing empty platitudes to beliefs that I happen to share to be more annoying than those who make coherent arguments that I disagree with. It’s insulting to be taken for granted by someone who thinks I’m so Pavlovian in my political responses that I don’t need or deserve to be approached with intellectual integrity.

Perhaps those on the wacky right have thicker skins than I do, but one would think that simply for pragmatic reasons, even they would want those who speak on their behalf to do so with some level of skill. If Hyman is the best they can do, they’re in deep doo-doo.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a sign of a larger problem that is endemic to all sides of the political debate—namely, that critical thinking skills are either not being taught or not being used. Many people are content to have their own beliefs reinforced by repetition rather than evidence or logic.


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