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Another New Book Available: States of the Union, The History of the United States through Presidential Addresses, 1789-2023

Mount Greylock Books LLC has published States of the Union: The History of the United States through Presidential Addresses, 1789-2023.   St...

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

1969 and 2024--more thoughts

 More parallels are emerging between the campus protests of 1964-70 and today's.  (The great Berkeley protest began in the fall of 1964; not until 1968 was there a second comparable one, at Columbia; Harvard followed in 1969, and all hell broke loose in the spring of 1970.)    Rather than edit the weekend post I decided to put them into this new, short one.

To begin with, these protests, like those, are increasingly focusing on a specific demand.  In 1968-70 those demands included the elimination of ROTC from campus, the creation of black studies departments, and an end to university expansion at the expense of surrounding communities.  The Harvard protesters secured the end of ROTC, tragically, and the creation of black studies in some form in 1969.  Today the popular specific demand is divestment from any Israeli enterprises.  I will be very surprised if any university gives into it.

Meanwhile, a second familiar demand is coming into play: that students receive no punishment for demonstrations and encampments.  That was called "amnesty" back in the 1960s, and the demand marked a significant break with the idea of civil disobedience as articulated by Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Civil disobedience recognized that civilization depended on laws and punishments, and its practitioners willingly accepted punishment for breaking laws that they thought were unjust.  The student radicals on the other hand demanded that they go free because their causes were just.  That demand has resurfaced on campuses today, and Columbia's administration is now offering to meet it, provided that protesters pledge not to violate university rules for another year.  I suspect that the protesters will refuse.  

And last but not least, administrations that call in law enforcement to break up demonstrations or encampments, now as then, risk alienating much larger numbers of students and faculty.  A Harvard Crimson editorial has already demanded that punishments play no role in the settlement of current disputes, but college presidents are bowing to pressure from the House committee, in particular, and suspending students for defying them.  And having put up this post, I have just learned that Columbia protesters in Palestinian garb have occupied Hamilton Hall, the administration building their elders occupied back in 1968--and thereby forcing the administration to escalate again.

All this reflects two of the enduring achievements of the radicals of the late 1960s.  The first was the idea of the moral superiority of the young, the idea of the nation's youth as the sole repository of goodness in a corrupt society.  Their second closely related idea was a complete disregard for established procedures, or indeed for the need of any regular procedures, to make decisions and settle disputes.  Colleges are now very unlikely to try to undo these ideas because they need their own students so desperately, and have given up the idea that they are offering a vitally important product--education--which students may accept or decline as they wish.  I could easily be wrong, but I am not aware that there has ever been a serious protest at one of the St. John's colleges--perhaps because students know they are there to learn.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Campus Revolt and its Enemies

 I have blogged many times over the years about the changes in our intellectual life in the last half century and their impact.  They actually began, at least embryonically, in the early 1960s, when the United States was in the midst of an era of unprecedented economic and social progress that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Medicare in 1964-5.  None of that was enough to satisfy a small cadre of undergraduate activists who formed the Students for a Democratic Society, whose 1962 manifesto painted a grim picture of an oppressive, stagnant American society and, fatefully, identified universities as the best place to begin the work of overthrowing it.  The Vietnam War--undertaken by Lyndon Johnson when his power was at its height--seemed to many young Americans to validate their critique of American society, and it turned colleges and universities into the leftist hotbeds of which the Port Huron statement had dreamed.  Meanwhile, women, liberated sexually by the pill and entering college in unprecedented numbers, began their own rebellion against traditional roles.  Eventually, in the 1970s, the gay rights movement followed.  Very recently, no less a figure than historian Drew Faust, a former president of Harvard, approvingly quoted those key paragraphs of the Port Huron manifesto in her own autobiography.

Something else, I am convinced, was at work--something much bigger.  The mid-twentieth century was the climax of Enlightenment civilization, based on the idea that reason, not emotion or blind allegiance, could become the organizing principle of society.  Impartial rules might govern our behavior, our institutions, and our education.  France, as I learned in college, was the country where these ideas had gone the furthest the fastest, and beginning in the 19th century and through most of the twentieth, they had provoked major intellectual revolts on both the left and the right by those who found these ideas too sterile and confining.   Something similar happened among the millions of Boomer university students in the late 1960s who suddenly rejected their parents' dress, much of their personal moral code, and many of the symbols--such as the American flag--that they revered.  The rebellion quieted down when the Vietnam War did, but within academia, it entered a new phase thanks to the ideas of intellectuals like Michel Foucault and Edward Said.  Foucault argued that the whole structure of Enlightenment ideas was just an oppressive mechanism designed by by a particular elite, and championed rebellion against it.  Said in effect extended a similar analysis to the whole of western civilization, which treated him very well--making him a Columbia professor--but which he saw merely as an oppressive mechanism directed against the Third World.   From the 1980s through the 2000s these ideas took over the humanities in American academia, leaving no place there for academics like myself who never accepted them.  (For new readers, that is a theme of my autobiography, A Life in History.)  

In the last seven months, we have seen a replay of the late 1960s on elite college campuses, with a twist.  Most of today's students are not radicals--just as most of them weren't radicals in the late 1960s.  Yet some of them have imbibed the idea that western civilization is inherently oppressive and that the job of students and universities as a whole is to alter it.  "Settler colonialism," a popular phrase nowadays, refers to the whole spread of European people and western ideas around the globe from the late 15th century onward, and treats it as one huge oppressive mistake.  That is the message of "land acknowledgements" that audiences routinely sit through nowadays at concerts and plays, of the renaming of public buildings and the removal of certain statues, and of movies and New York Times supplements that shamelessly rewrite history to eliminate any positive role for white people. And since the Six Day War in 1967, this ideology has treated Zionism and Israel as settler colonialist enterprises.  Ironically, this has become, at best, a half truth.   The elite that founded Israel in 1948 was indeed very heavily influenced by the Enlightenment.  It was largely irreligious and justified Zionism as simply one more application of nationalism, which had already rewritten the map of Europe and was about to do the same in Asia and Africa.  Now, however, a new Israeli elite draws much more heavily on the ancient ideas of the Jewish people as expressed in the old testament, where it finds its justification for an Israel that will indeed include the entire West Bank and Gaza, and, to some of its extreme elements, the East Bank of the Jordan River as well.  Israel and the United States are now two of the more religious nations in the world, and in both of them the Enlightenment has also faced determined long-term attacks from the religious right in recent decades as well.

And now, as in 1966-72, the left wing campus revolt has unleashed a right wing political backlash.  Ronald Reagan in 1966 won a landslide victory in California partly by attacking the Berkeley administration for not cracking down on the protests that had begun in the fall of 1964, and taking advantage of older Americans' feeling that their kids were out-of-control, spoiled brats.  The same belief contributed to the Republican victories in 1968 and 1972, when the share of the Democratic vote fell from 60 percent in 1964 to the low 40s.  Today, some Republican elements and Republican intellectuals have been complaining--rightly, in this Democrat's view--about the intellectual tenor of our campuses for a very long time, but they are complaining more loudly and with much greater effect now because they have powerful allies among very wealthy conservative Jewish Americans who are putting great pressure on college administrations to crack down on what they regard as anti-Semitic protests on campus.  I know some people would regard that last sentence as an anti-Semitic trope, but it happens to be a fact. (For the record, as I have tried to make clear, I do not regard opposition to the policies of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic.  I have explained my attitude towards the current conflict in two earlier posts.)  Pressure from that contingent played a critical role in the resignation of two university presidents.  And that, to me, is another tragic irony.  Society at large, and particularly our educated elite, did not try to do anything about the intellectual attack on the Enlightenment and the founding principles of the United States on campuses, until those changes seemed to threaten the tribal interests of one important element within society.  And to paraphrase Al Smith, the cure for the ills of tribalism is not more tribalism.  The bulk of American Jews, meanwhile, remain Democrats, at least half of them probably oppose the Netanyahu government, and a good number of younger Jews are taking part in pro-Palestinian protests, as is their constitutional right.  Nearly everyone, meanwhile, seems to share the fantasy that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that the US government can and should resolve.  And no one is focusing on the broader failures of today's universities, especially in the humanities, which are threatened with extinction because they now offer products that almost no one wants to buy.

Great historians, I often say, do not argue with  history.  Like the rise of the Enlightenment in earlier centuries, the rebellion against it must reflect fundamental aspects of human nature.  Thanks largely to generational change, I think, history is inevitably cyclical, which means that gains made my some generations will be lost by others.  That is what has been happening, intellectually, politically, and socially, in the United States for the last half century or so.  As the fascinating book, The Closing of the Western Mind, pointed out, something similar happened when Christianity tried to wipe out the intellectual heritage of the ancient world, and that time, it took nearly a millennium before a renaissance came along to revive it.  We don't know how far current intellectual trends will go and when they might be reversed.  I take comfort in having spent my youth in the last years of Enlightenment supremacy, and in the historical record that suggests that it will indeed make a comeback, sooner or later, to the delight of generations yet unborn.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Ask and ye shall be given

 Nearly two weeks ago, when I concluded a post that referred to George Orwell and Animal Farm by wondering whether a parallel satire might be written about the present day, my old friend and college classmate the critic George Scialabba pointed me towards Lionel Shriver's new novel, Mania.  The library quickly coughed it up, and I read it pretty quickly.   It was the first of Shriver's many books that I had read.  This post will inevitably contain some spoilers but I will leave plenty of suspense for future reasons.  Mania isn't going to sell like Animal Farm did, but it is in my opinion a very telling satire--and so far the msm's reaction to the book is rather revealing as well.

I must say that while I liked the book, I was not bowled over by Shriver's writing.  She can be very funny, but she takes her time about everything.  The book runs to nearly 300 pages and I think 200 might have done the job just as well. Animal Farm has only 144 pages.  The book is an alternative history of the first quarter of the 21st century, written in the first person by a non-tenured literature professor at a mythical Pennsylvania university named Pearson Converse.  (I'd love to believe that "Pearson" is an homage to the great muckraker Drew Pearson, but I'd be surprised as well as delighted to find that Shriver knows anything about him.)   She has a partner, three children, and a lifelong "best friend" who figure very prominently in the narrative.  Raised as a Jehovah's witness, she became a hopeless contrarian, and therefore could not surrender to the ideological fad that swept the country (in the novel) in the early years of the century:  the Mental Parity movement, closely associated with the idea of Cognitive Equality.   Described by its mythical founder as "the last frontier of civil rights," the movement holds that no one is really more intelligent than anyone else, and that the illusion that some people are smarter is just a pretext for the oppression of the many by the elite few.  This has led to very significant changes in language, education, politics, and even in medical care, and has had severe consequences for the protagonist and her entire family, including her two brightest children.  Meanwhiles, her best friend, a television reporter, achieves new fame and fortune by climbing on the bandwagon.

Mania has already received mostly unfavorable reviews from Maureen Corrigan in the Washington Post, Anthony Cummins in The Guardian, Laura Miller New York Times.  While they recognized "cognitive equality" as a new form of wokeness, none of them seemed to share my view that it is an obvious stand-in for anti-racism, extreme feminism, and agitation for transgender rights.  More importantly, they did not acknowledge that those very real movements--along with a general decline in our educational system--have had exactly the same consequences in real life as cognitive equality does in the book.  That will be my topic today.

To begin with, the idea of cognitive equality, seasoned with the moral absolutism with which we have become so familiar, has in the world of Mania led to major changes in the English language.  Words like "stupid," "intelligent," "sharp," "profound," "idiot," "genius," and so on now represent thoughtcrime, and cannot be used in any context, as for instance to describe a sharp knife.  This has happened in our time.  Because slave owners described themselves as masters, the faculty heads of Harvard residential houses are no longer called masters--even though that title has a long academic history here and in Britain that had nothing whatever to do with slavery.  "People who can become pregnant" is now preferred in many quarters to "women" in deference to transgender ideology.  "Slave" has been replaced by "enslaved person," and "slave owner" by "enslaver," even though very few American slaveowners ever turned a free person into a slave.  Here, obviously, I could go on and on, but I don't really think I need to.

In other many other instances, however, I don't need to resort to parallelisms, because developments in the fantasy world of Mania and the one I've been living in for decades are identical.  "I'm supposed to stop focusing on traditionally towering figures of history. John Locke, Adam Smith, Rousseau. . .The point is, in my courses, I'm now meant to celebrate all the historical figures we've customarily overlooked."  That has been the watchword of the American historical profession for 40 or 50 years, and explains why, as Fareed Zakaria recently remarked, a white male who wrote about presidents would have no chance of getting tenure at most universities today.  And Locke, Smith and Rousseau are completely unfashionable, not because they were very smart, but simply because they were straight white males.  On another page, Pearson (the narrator) complains that the AP courses that her son would normally be taking have now been abolished.  School districts in California and in Cambridge, Massachusetts have dropped Algebra I for eighth graders, which allows students to take calculus as high school seniors, because so few black and Hispanic students found their way into it.  (Cambridge has recently reversed that decision.)  When Pearson insists to her friend Emory that "it's a fact," "not an idea," that some people are smarter than others, Emory replies, "According to you."  Postmodernism abandoned the concept of objective fact decades ago.  

And sadly, the thought police we encounter in Mania have real-world equivalents as well.  Pearson has to undergo some re-education on her job after she tries to assign The Idiot to her literature class, because the word is, of course, forbidden, and a few orthodox students turn her in to the dean.  Something very similar has happened to a tenured professor whom I know, who had to give up a very popular course in which he had stepped over linguistic boundaries (in a quotation) for a year.  She also gets visits from Child Protective Services who worry that she is steeping her own kids in false ideology.  In real life, parents in several states have lost custody of children after they refused to accept the child's desire to transition to a different gender.  

And last but  hardly least, the nomination, election, and now very possible re-election of Donald Trump proves that an obvious lack of intellectual distinction is no bar to highest office, and may even appeal to a significant number of voters.  That reflects the anti-intellectualism of the right, but the changes in the humanities that have favored ideology over creativity and judgment reflect an at least equally powerful anti-intellectualism on the left.  At one point in the book, Converse also notes that MacArthur genius grants are now being given to people of no intellectual distinction.  That too as happened with respect to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Ibram X. Kendi, none of whose writings, in my opinion, display exceptional intellectual ability.  It is even more interesting to compare the list of the first crop of MacArthur Fellows, selected in 1981, to the group selected in 2023.  

There is another critical aspect to our own crisis today that Shriver's work leaves out.  We still have very smart people who get very good educations--but what do they do with their lives?  A very large number of them reach the top positions in finance and industry--and there, because of another set of intellectual and legal changes, they focus all their brains and their energy on short-term economic gain.  That is why Boeing, for instance, can evidently no longer be trusted to build safe airplanes, and why our health care system is more and more corrupted by the profit motive.  That, however, is clearly a matter for another book.

I have been fascinated by greatness in a number of different fields all my life.  In 2017 I published Baseball Greatness, which used statistical analysis to identify the greatest baseball players of all time.  About 19,000 men had played major league baseball at that time--and many times that number had tried and failed to make the majors.  But out of those, my methods identified about 100 of them--less than one-half of one percent--who were demonstrably far superior to all the rest.  I see no reason to doubt that a similar percentage of individuals in any complex field of endeavor are capable of extraordinary achievements, but our whole society has indeed rebelled against that idea. This vast social change has happened much more slowly than the revolution in Animal Farm, but it may have equally fateful consequences. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Podcast discussion of the JFK assassination

 A new generation is hard at work muddying the JFK waters, and I managed to get on to this podcast discussion of the case earlier this month.  The host, Lorien Fenton, began with a 23 minute rant on her favorite subject, UFOs, but if you start at 23 minutes, the discussion is not bad, and I had no trouble trying to inject a good dose of reality into the situation.  While my interlocutors didn't agree with a lot of what I said, we were all unfailingly polite.  Paul Bleau, the other guy, has distributed several surveys to JFK researchers.  I'll have another important post, a book review, up by this weekend at the latest.

NOTE:  Getting to the audio may be a little more complicated than I thought.  Here are the instructions.  The date of the video was April 8.  Note:  read carefully as you go along, the instructions provide the username and password you need to log in.  You don't create one.

Finally, if you like the interview it is yours to share! A few days after the interview log onto https://Revolution.Radio, click on the "Archives" button. Follow the instructions to log in. Then scroll to "The Fenton Perspective" and click on the folder, then scroll to the date of our show. (Should be the latest/last entry). Download the file.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

More on States of the Union

     I have recorded and posted this seven-minute video about my new book, States of the Union, on youtube.  If you like it please pass it on to anyone you know who might be interested--and feel free to post comments! Thanks.  

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Our intellectual elite

 In 1937, the left wing publisher Victor Gollancz brought out George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier--an account of life in a British mining town and a political manifesto--as a selection of the Left Book Club.  My father, then in the mist of his Oxford Rhodes Scholarship, evidently belonged to the club, and I still have the orange paper-covered copy that he received.  The book included so many attacks on left wing orthodoxy and upper-class intellectual fads that Gollancz and his two colleagues on the club selection committee decided that Gollancz himself would add an introduction definitely disassociating the club from some of what Orwell said.  He commented, quite rightly, that while Orwell on the one hand professed is own belief in "Socialism,"  he held very traditional views on diet, family life, and other issues.  Gollancz blamed these views on his class background--just as a contemporary critic would blame such views on race and gender.  "Mr. Orwell calls himself a 'half-intellectual'," he wrote, "but the is that he is at one and the same time an extreme intellectual and a violent anti-intellectual."  Orwell was my first serious intellectual interest and I wrote my undergraduate thesis about him, and I see now, 55 years later, that the same could be said of me.  

A few months ago, following a respected friend's recommendation, I started listening to Cafe Insider, the podcast of the former New York US attorney Preet Bharara.  Bharara has a calm, very engaging delivery and does interviews very well, and he brings his legal expertise to various issues of the day, particularly the pending cases against Donald Trump.  Last week he interviewed the journalist Evan Osnos, who has written a recent biography of Joe Biden that apparently includes a lengthy analysis of the coming election.  (I haven't read it.)  That interview, available here, strikes me as a perfect example of what is wrong with our current intellectual elite, whose flaws may return Donald Trump to the White House in nine months.  I'm not attacking Bhrara and Osnos personally here.  I'm citing them as prime examples of the chattering class, center-left version.

Early in the interview, Bharara posed the question that dominated the discussion.

"Logic and common sense would dictate that if three or four years ago, we were in the throes of the pandemic in a very serious way, lots and lots of people were dying, there were lots of lockdowns, people were unhappy, the economy was uncertain, now, fast-forward three years, the pandemic still persists, but it is not what it used to be, the economy is thriving, and the pandemic and all of its associated harms, and ills, and catastrophes are a thing of the past, why wouldn’t the mood of the country be ebullient, and why wouldn’t the guy who was at the helm during that transformation, whether he was deserving of it or not, why wouldn’t he be lifted up and hoisted up on the shoulders of Americans who would be praising him to the heavens? If I had told you three years ago that this is what America would look like three years later, wouldn’t the logical conclusion be that he was going to roll into re-election?"

"Yes, is the answer," Osnos replied.

I would suggest, to begin with, that things are not really that simple.  Yes, the pandemic as a serious medical threat is over, but our authorities bungled certain aspects of it in ways that are having long-term effects.  The decision to shut down the nation's schools has created a new achievement gap and increased chronic school absenteeism greatly.  As for the economy, as Bharara and Osnos acknowledge later, while unemployment has fallen to remarkably low levels, inflation has been a big problem during most of Biden's term.  And a broader question looms.  When we say in 2024 that the economy is booming, what does that really mean?  Yes, the stock market has hit new highs, but that doesn't make much difference to the bulk of the population.  Young people in our major metropolitan areas are facing the worst housing crisis since the late 1940s, and the government is doing very little about it.  Inflation has at least neutralized many wage gains.  Things are fine for the upper quarter (approximately) of the population, and those are the people whom our intellectual elite knows  And they assume, as we shall see, that the rest of the country has some obligation to share their views.  Osnos, to be fair, does acknowledge that the economic picture is mixed.

A little later, Bharara argues at length that Biden should be able to take more credit for preventing a recession--because Larry Summers and virtually every economist was certain in 2022 that one was coming.  "Clearly," he says, "it’s the case that a determination as to whose fault something is or who gets some credit for something is within the province of the voter, and they can decide logically or illogically to lay blame at someone’s feet or give credit to someone. On the other hand, it is up to the candidate, in this case, Joe Biden, to seize the microphone and take credit, whether it’s deserved or not, for things that, traditionally speaking, any politician worth his salt would’ve taken credit for."  As it happens, however, I don't think that Biden deserves any particular credit for avoiding the recession any more than he deserves any blame for the inflation that occurred.  I also doubt that our leading economists really understand exactly what has increased unemployment or raised prices over the last few years.  Our economy has been out of the control of our political leadership for a very long time, and I think that the average American knows that.  And given that the American people no longer trust either party to make that much of a difference in their lives, it is natural for them to express their dissatisfaction by voting against the party in power.  The is what they have done in every election but one since 2006, in which either the White House or at least one house of Congress changed hands.

 Neither Bharara nor Osnos, meanwhile, ever mentions the immigration issue at all.  Illegal immigration has again surged under Biden, and applying Bharara's maxim, it would appear that he is the logical person to blame for this.  And indeed, many voters are blaming him, including nonwhite voters assumed to be part of the Democratic coalition, but who are now trending in the other direction.

 Here I will digress for a somewhat unrelated point:  it drives me crazy to hear pundits claim, as they often do, that the 2022 congressional elections were a victory for the Democrats because there was no "red wave."  In fact, they lost the House of Representatives, making any further progress on domestic issues nearly impossible, and having terrible consequences for foreign policy.  More importantly, the Republicans actually won the popular vote for the House by three percentage points--a margin which would have been expected to give them a much larger majority than they actually got.

Late in the interview, Bharara finally brings up the question of Biden's age--and Osnos,. who talks throughout like a Biden campaign manager, not a journalist, gives another typical center-left response. 

"I think you see that certainly showing up in poll numbers, that people just look at Biden and that is their question, the Biden world bet[sic]. And it’s a big bet, but it is a substantive one is, that it’s not just about age, yes or no, it’s age versus crazy. To tie it back into that point we were talking about before, Preet, that’s what it is. It’s age versus crazy. Okay. Sure, there’s no question that Joe Biden is older than he was, and you see it, you feel it, this gets to the innumeracy of our politics. You just read it, like one animal to another, Joe Biden is older, yes. But that is a different thing than, is his mind intact? Is his decision-making record defensible? And compare it to the alternative.

"The oldest Joe Biden line in the world happens to be truer now than it’s ever been in his career, which is, 'Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.' And we now know who that alternative is. So that’s where the age question becomes more complicated than just, is he too old to do this job?"

Biden, Osnos says, is running for re-election because he thinks he deserves it based upon his record--but the bottom line, in which so many Democrats believe, is that the electorate has no option but to vote for him because he is running against Trump, whom they have defined as un-American and impossible. And what if it turns out the country does once again elect Trump?  Osnos has his answer ready.

"I think some of this has to do with a basic orientation of the politics of the right as it is today, which is that it is fundamentally nostalgic in nature, it is about seeking to reclaim, or rebuild, or recover things that have been lost. And those things are basically forms of power, and they’re cultural power. Let’s be blunt about this, Preet, it’s about a certain white male dominated conception of the United States, and it is one that was largely intact for a very, very long time, and now feels to a lot of people on the right as if it is going away, and Joe Biden is the head of a party in a movement that represents that. And so that’s what they’re talking about. And they can lump into that bucket all kinds of things, they’ll say that it’s about getting rid of the right to bear arms, or the right to raise your children with the curriculum that you want.

"In some ways, it’s a kind of endlessly adaptable thesis, but that’s really what it’s about. And I really come to the belief that when we talk about freedoms being taken away on the left, that’s not abstract to people. I was having conversation with friends just in the last couple of days, if you’re a woman who’s looking at the state of abortion rights in this country, and you see them being taken away one by one in state after state, that’s a really specific thing that you can identify. On the right, it is a more atmospheric declaration."

Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" comment might have lost her the election, but it lives on in the words of Osnos.  People are voting for Trump not because of high housing costs or uncontrolled immigration or the impact of free trade on jobs, but because they believe white males no longer dominate the culture--something that most white males never did.  Among the Democratic elite, blaming opposition on racism and sexism and homophobia is a way of saying, those people don't deserve to be listened to anyway.   And there is plenty to worry about in blue state K-12 school curriculums, too, even among those of us who believe that all Americans deserve equal rights.

To repeat: I have enjoyed Preet Bharara's podcasts and will continue subscribing, but I think that the tone of this whole conversation was a big part of the problem we face.

Victor Gollancz's devotion to the left wing orthodoxy of the late 1930s and early 1940s eventually cost him very dearly indeed.  He forgave Orwell for The Road to Wigan Pier and published it with his own disclaimer, but he was not so forgiving later, with fateful consequences.  On March 3, 1944, Orwell wrote Gollancz--with whom he was under contract giving Gollancz the right of first refusal on his next three books--about a new manuscript.  "It is a little fairy story," he wrote, "about 30,000 words, with a political meaning.  But I must tell you that it is--I think--completely unacceptable politically from your point of view (it is anti-Stalin.)"  Gollancz replied heatedly that he had in fact disagreed with Stalin and Soviet policy many times, and asked to see the ms.  Twelve days later, Gollancz wrote Orwell again: "You were right and I was wrong.  I am so sorry. I have returned the manuscript to Moore [Orwell's agent.]"  No major publisher would take the book, but it made the career of a minor one, Fred Warburg.  

The book was Animal Farm, one of the best sellers of the twentieth century. I wonder if there is a parallel attack on contemporary intellectual orthodoxy waiting to be written today.