Richard Landes on Winfield Myers: Professors Who Don’t Like Negative Feedback

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Prof. Landes is a member of the SPME Board of Directors

http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2007/08/18/professors-who-dont-like-negative-feedback/

In a follow-up to my last post about Walt and Mearsheimer’s unhappiness about having to defend their work, I post the following reflections by Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch, on the broader unhappiness of the professoriate getting monitored by people who are not worried about getting a good grade.

Sissy Willis at Sisu remarked a while ago that the “left” has been talking to itself for so long that they don’t do well in responding to real objections. This certainly seems to be a sign of such weakness.

Winfield Myers: Shedding light on the professoriate
Winfield Myers, The Examiner
2007-08-16 07:00:00.0
Current rank: # 70 of 9,123

WASHINGTON –
Lisa Anderson, the former dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs best remembered for her failed attempt to bring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to campus, had a complaint yesterday for the Web publication Inside Higher Ed.

“Young scholars of Middle Eastern literature or history are finding themselves ‘grilled’ about their political views in job interviews, and in some cases losing job offers as a result of their answers,” Anderson said. She carefully stressed that she wasn’t talking about those who study policy or the current political climate.

This situation has arisen, Anderson said, because “outside groups that are critical of those in Middle Eastern studies … are shifting the way scholarship is evaluated.”

Anderson’s lamentations are part of a rising chorus from professors who consider themselves besieged by external organizations whose mission is to critique the performance of scholars. These include the one I head, Campus Watch, to which Anderson clearly alluded in her remarks.

Academic radicals have for years controlled campus debate by blackballing internal opponents, intimidating students and crying censorship whenever their views or actions were challenged.

They got away with such behavior for two principal reasons: A sympathetic media assured the nation that universities were in the front lines of the fight for liberty and justice, and there were few external organizations or individuals offering sustained critiques of politicized scholarship and teaching. These helped ensure that the public’s reservoir of good will toward universities remained full.

But times are changing.

Scholars no longer operate in an information vacuum. Their words carry great weight not only with their students, who pay for and deserve far better than they receive, but with the media, which funnel their often politicized, tendentious views to a broader public. Given such influence, it should shock no one that the professoriate is scrutinized and, when found wanting, challenged.

Anderson and company’s frequently alleged claims that outsiders threaten their freedom of speech is, on the one hand, risible. Campus Watch and other organizations or individuals who critique academe don’t possess the authority of the state; we have no subpoena power, no ability to force their acquiescence, nor do we seek it.

What we’ve challenged isn’t the academics’ right to speak as they wish. Rather, we’ve challenged their ability to practice their trade in hermetically sealed conditions free from the need to answer to anyone but themselves. We’ve held them accountable much as countless organizations and journalists have critiqued the behavior of other professions, from doctors and lawyers to clergy and businessmen.

Given this new reality on campus, it’s almost understandable that outside critics could make the doyens of Middle East studies long for the days when they could operate behind closed doors. They had much to hide:

In May at Stanford, Arzoo Osanloo of the University of Washington decried “Western, paternalistic attitudes towards Muslim women,” and asserted that Iranian women had made great strides since the 1979 revolution that brought the mullahs to power and implemented Sharia law.

She failed to mention the regime’s ongoing crackdown on women who wear Western clothing or makeup, the brutal punishments (including death by stoning) of women accused of adultery, or the continuing illegal detention of American scholar Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

In a failed attempt to silence critics and elicit media sympathy, some Middle East studies scholars claimed to have received death threats. Most recently, Nadia Abu El-Haj, an archaeologist at Barnard College whose spurious denial of an ancient Hebrew connection to Jerusalem is designed to delegitimize the Jewish state, made such an unsubstantiated claim. Preceding her in making questionable charges were Khaled Abou el Fadl of UCLA and Joel Beinin of the American University of Cairo, whose charges against a journalist were dismissed.

Last November, Michigan professor Kathryn Babayan aided efforts to disrupt the public lecture of her former colleague Raymond Tanter, who was invited to campus to speak about Iran.

Moreover, the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association, the umbrella group for scholars of the field, has yet to utter a word in protest of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz’s successful settlement against Cambridge University Press, which saw the American-authored book “Alms for Jihad” pulped and pulled from bookstores.

During a follow-up interview for a teaching position in a large state university, Middle East studies professor Timothy Furnish was told that he “appeared to be more conservative than others in [his] field” and that he “sounded like Daniel Pipes.”

No, he didn’t get the job.

Winfield Myers is a member of The Examiner’s Board of Bloggers and blogs at campuswatch.org.

Richard Landes on Winfield Myers: Professors Who Don’t Like Negative Feedback

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AUTHOR

Richard Landes

Richard Allen Landes is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism. He retired from teaching history at Boston University in the Spring of 2015. He currently serves as the Chair of the Council of Scholars at SPME.

His work focuses on the role of religion in shaping and transforming the relationships between elites and commoners in various cultures. He has coined the expression "demotic religiosity," an orientation that prizes 1) equality before the law, 2) dignity of manual labor, 3) access to sacred texts and divinity for all believers, and 4) a prizing of moral integrity over social honor. Trained as a medievalist, his early work focused on the period around 1000 CE, a moment, in his opinion, of both cultural mutation (origins of the modern West), and intense apocalyptic and millennial expectations.

From 1995-2004, he directed the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University which held annual conferences and published an online journal, Journal of Millennial Studies. This involvement refocused his work on millennialism the world over and in different time periods, and has resulted in the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge, NY, 2000); Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (Oxford U. Press, 2011), and The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (NYU Press, 2011).

His work on the apocalyptic currents that built up during the approach to 2000 has led him to focus on Global Jihad as an apocalyptic millennial movement, whose relationship to the internet may parallel that of Protestantism to printing, and whose active cataclysmic apocalyptic scenario (Destroy the world to save it), makes it potentially one of the most dangerous apocalyptic movements on record.

In addition to his courses on medieval history, he offered courses on

Europe and the Millennium,

Communications Revolutions from Language to Cyberspace

Honor-shame culture Middle Ages, Middle East

The Biblical origins of the Democracy.

In 2011, he is a fellow at the International Consortium on Research in the Humanities at Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany. There he is working on the study with which his medieval work first began, the history of the “sabbatical millennium” with its expectation of the messianic kingdom in the year 6000 from the creation of the world: While God Tarried: Demotic Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God, 33-1033.

In 2005 he launched a media-oversight project called The Second Draft in order to look at what the news media calls their “first draft of history.” Since January 2005 he has been blogging at The Augean Stables, a name chosen to describe the current condition of the Mainstream News Media (MSNM) in the West.

As a result of this work on the MSNM, he has come to understand the role of cognitive warfare in the campaign of apocalyptic Jihad against the West in the 21st century, and the abysmal record of the West in defending itself in this critical theater of War. He plans a book addressing these issues tentatively entitled They’re so Smart cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. 

Books

  • Landes, Richard A.; Head, Thomas J. (eds.) (1987). Essays on the Peace of God : the church and the people in eleventh-century France. Waterloo, Ontario: Waterloo University. OCLC18039359.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Paupert, Catherine (trans.) (1991). Naissance d'Apôtre: Les origines de la Vita prolixior de Saint Martial de Limoges au XIe siècle. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. 9782503500454.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Head, Thomas J. (eds.) (1992). The Peace of God: social violence and religious response in France around the year 1000. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press. ISBN 080142741X.
  • Landes, Richard A. (1995). Relics, apocalypse, and the deceits of history: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674755308.
  • Landes, Richard A. (ed.) (2000). Encyclopedia of millennialism and millennial movements. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415922461.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Van Meter, David C.; Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar (2003). The apocalyptic year 1000: religious expectation and social change, 950-1050. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195111915.
  • Landes, Richard A. (2011). Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Katz, Stephen (eds.). The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred Year Retrospective on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: New York University Press.


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