April 3, 2011

"Conservative pundits and operators do their best to silence any professor who ventures into the public realm with the kind of unwelcome facts that scholarly and scientific expertise can produce."

Writes Anthony Grafton in The New Yorker, applauding the University of Wisconsin's defense of Professor William Cronon, who was the target of an "open records" request from the Wisconsin Republican Party.

I too applaud the UW's treatment of the Cronon case, but I don't know why Grafton thinks its so politically one-sided. Don't liberal pundits and operators do just as much to try to silence any professor who ventures into the public realm with the kind of unwelcome facts that scholarly and scientific expertise can produce?

There are far fewer professors who disappoint liberals, because that's the political structure of academia. But correct for that. I don't see any reason to think that conservatives are more aggressive than liberals in their efforts to intimidate university professors.


Rick Caird said...

Counter argument for Grafton:

James Enstrom

RuyDiaz said...

The one I don't forget is the way Science for the People treated Edward O. Wilson in the 1970's.

Professor Wilson wrote a landmark book, Sociobiology, whose last chapter treated with humans. Science for the People attacked him in the political realm, and almost derailed his career. The main accussation? Racism, of course.

That is far worse than anything conservative critics can do, in this case, or any other case I can think of.

Michael K said...

Charles Murray found out what a charge of racism can do to a book. I was at Dartmouth when it came out and had all sorts of people asking to borrow it when I was through. They didn't want to be seen buying it at the Dartmouth Bookstore.

I am not intimate with the details of the Cronin case but I think there was some suspicion that he was involved in coordinating protests with his university e-mail account. What UCI is doing with their Muslim students makes that look like small change.

Leo Ladenson said...

Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, anyone?

Leo Ladenson said...

Or Daniel Patrick Moynihan's The Negro Family?

James said...

And how about the example of James Enstrom who was fired from UCLA for daring to stray from liberal orthodoxy on air pollution?

University of California at Los Angeles: Non-Reappointment of Controversial Professor

Irene said...

I don't see any reason to think that conservatives are more aggressive liberals in their efforts to intimidate university professors."

True. But aggressive liberals who intimidate university professors draw less public scorn.

Example: the story about William Cronon is everywhere. By contrast, few balked when One Wisconsin Now last year obtained a faculty member's emails through the open records law.

YoungHegelian said...

What I find totally bogus here is the pretension that what's causing the problem are "unwelcome facts".

In any sort of complex problem, the problems aren't with the "facts". The problems come from what comes between the facts. The joining hypotheses. the conjections, the assertions of casual connections that tell a good story, but maybe could be explained by another set of causal connections.

However stupid conservatives may be, they are not denying that force equals mass times acceleration or gravity decreases as the inverse square of the distance. They are applying a different set of assumptions to a very complex world than the left, and coming up with a different set of explanations.

Welcome to the human condition.

F4GIB said...


Big Mike said...

I was going to mention James Enstrom, but I see that a bunch of other folks beat me to it.

At any rate we understand the liberal attitude towards silencing unwelcome facts from their collective shoulder shrug at the exposure -- through "Climategate" -- of the lengths that cabals of politically-attuned scientists can and do go to silence critics.

Hagar said...

And your employer's computer still is not for your private use.

And if your employer is a public entity, such as a University, you are wide open for a FOIA.

Joe said...

How is asking for something to be OPEN silencing someone?

Quayle said...

Always remember what these type say:

leftist conclusions are facts and conservative facts are lies.

F4GIB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"And if your employer is a public entity, such as a University, you are wide open for a FOIA."

Have you read the linked article?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

So this lot never heard CARB and the firing of a UCLA professor....

Hagar said...

I have now and still do not understand your point.

I think FOIA legislation is overdone, but the liberals should have thought of that before they enacted all these statutes.

Now Prof. Cronon is suspected of having used his at work computer for his own political ends, and some enterprising reporter wants to know if that is true. That is what FOIA's is for.

As for the University examining his e-files and pronouncing them innocuous, I consider that comparable to the USDoJ "clearing" the USDoJ of any misconduct in voting discrimination cases, anywhere, anytime. In Other words - bullshit!

Real American said...

Leftists try to silence EVERYBODY who dares to disagree with them.

Phil 3:14 said...

The next Journolist?

edutcher said...

I'll go Rick Caird one better:

Larry Summers.

And he's no Conservative.

Anyone straying from the fold of Leftist orthodoxy must be destroyed.

johnlilly said...

You're probably right about this. Whatever the case, Cronon's book Nature's Metropolis is magnificent.

James said...

But...but...Cronon is a well regarded scholar. If we push too hard he'll just leave for some East Coast school.

Henry said...

Krugman already wrote this column. I wonder how pissed off Grafton is about being late to the table.

I did click through to the article. I wanted to see if there was an example #2 to justify the plural in the indictment.

Well, uh, no.

Grafton offers a vaporish attack on a few villains who dare criticize higher education, but there is no example #2. Not of a professor. Not of silencing.

That's not to say there isn't at least one more example out there. I'm sure there is. But one would think, given the imperious reach and infinite evil of conservative pundits and operators that examples of silencing would bubble up from Google like methane from pig shit.

Or maybe Grafton is just lazy and this cobbler of paranoia comes from his Twitter feed reading.

Note to Mr. Grafton: "Higher education is being criticized!" is not the same as "professors are being silenced!"

To suggest that it is, is to miss the whole point of freedom of inquiry.

And thus we arrive at climate change. Think of which scientists were being silenced. They were exactly the opposite as the ones being criticized.

AJ Lynch said...

In his OPED, did Professor Cronon present "unwelcome facts that scholarly and scientific expertise can produce"? Can anyone offer even one example of when Cronon has done that in his career?

rhhardin said...

Facts and scholarship don't have much to do with each other.

Scholarship is about framing and understanding.

Beware scholars bearing facts.

Analogy, R.W. Hamming: The purpose of computation is understanding, not numbers.

Hagar said...

If the University does not comply, serve an East-Anglia University FOIA on them!

AJ Lynch said...

I had to look it up and learned Cronon studies "American environmental history and the history of the American West. "

That is from his website.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

You "don't see any reason to think that conservatives are more aggressive than liberals in their efforts to intimidate university professors."

Which, I suppose, must be so much better than having any ACTUAL EVIDENCE to believe so.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Charles Murray... LOL.

What's to complain about next? A charge of censorship against the academic work of eugenicists?

You guys are a frickin' riot.

Sigivald said...

I view it like the armed forces.

People on the left and the right both say "Listen to the Generals!" when the Generals are on the same side, and "Civilian rule!" when the Generals are on the other side.

The Conservatives might be slightly more likely to be on the agree than disagree side, but both sides have a policy of convenience rather than principle, for the most part.

(That said, likewise, the institutional Left can go copulate with itself if it's going to posture as "pro-science unlike those mean Conservatives who hate science" - they're just as bad.

Indeed, they might be worse, since more of the Conservatives at least don't claim to be wholly and completely devoted to Science as a decision-maker.)