The Marginalized and Excluded in Society
Red Academics Carry On
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While people’s attention necessarily remains focused on the 2012 election and the domestic issues that animate it, leftist academics are moving at break neck speed in their efforts to poison young minds the world over against the United States. I had a chance to see and confront that head on during a recent trip to India when I was invited to address a seminar at Gautam Buddha University (GBU). The title, “The Marginalized and Excluded in Society,” suggested the same leftist tinge that most academic exercises have, but I had reason to hope that this one would be different.
By inviting me, the university signaled that the seminar would not shrink from identifying victims of Islamic hegemony, as I have done that time and again at universities and elsewhere in India, and the organizers knew it. And my topic, the ethnic cleansing of Bangladesh’s Hindus, took no prisoners in calling out Muslims as the perpetrators.
The seminar began with a grand plenary session and announced Professor Gopal Guru of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as the keynote speaker. His introduction was glowing. Evidently in India, as in the US, the academic left showers its own with self-congratulatory awards and honors in order to dismiss anyone who might dare take a contrary position as lacking credentials. Seated in the front as an honored guest from a foreign country, I nevertheless determined to listen politely. It was not long, however, before his hard-left bias put that to the test. Much of his speech was a rambling attack on capitalism as the source of all marginalization and big government as its solution. He coupled this with an unremarkable treatise about margins and centers so arcane and divorced from reality that it was the sort of thing that could keep audience members in their seats only in academia. Still, I sat quietly in deference to my hosts—until he started in on the United States.
He said that America marginalizes “Blacks,” and no litany of individual success stories can change that conclusion. His individual example: Michael Jordan. Academics tend to be several decades behind the times anyway, and we might expect most people looking for a successful individual of color in the US today to chose, oh, let’s see, maybe President Barack Obama. Choosing the sports superstar, however, better fit the left’s narrative of limited opportunity for African-Americans than selecting the President, current or past cabinet members and Supreme Court justices, or captains of industry would. Then he asked how Michael Jordan “could accept all of that when 90 percent of his brothers are languishing in prison.”
Perhaps I have too much of a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. He had to notice my eyes open wide and my mouth form the words, “that’s bulls@@t,” because he stumbled around for a moment and finished his address in rather short order; though it was not the end of it as far as I was concerned. American hating academics regularly throw out misinformation about the US without much fear of being challenged about it. So, I did challenge him during the tea break that immediately followed his speech by saying, “While I can’t say with certainty how applicable your comments are with respect to India, I can tell you that they are entirely inapplicable to the United States.” He smiled, then after a moment responded with surprise, “Did you say inapplicable.” I told him I did, and the debate was joined. Without exact figures at hand, I pointed out that there are about 30 million black people in the US, and that it was physically and economically impossible for us to have 27 million of our citizens incarcerated. “The very statement is ridiculous on its face,” I said.
And that was the key to winning over the academic crowd. Had I tried to make an ideological argument, the few people who might agree with me likely would be too intimidated to speak up about it. If I came across as someone “defending” the US, the academic crowd would at the very least pigeonhole me if not dismiss me entirely. Gopal Guru’s reputation and ability to continue spewing his lies would have been left intact, and the stakes are too high to let that happen. And so I asked him:
“Where did you get your figures?”
“Where did you get yours?”
“No, no. I’m not the one who stood up in front of a room full of students and represented what I said as objective truth. You did. So, I ask again: where did you get your figures?”
“I’ve seen the records.”
He uttered the last statement dismissively with a wave of his hand, and no matter how much I pressed him, he refused to cite a single reference in his defense. “Have you spent much time in black communities in the US?” I asked him; because, I added, I spent years in places like the West and South sides of Chicago, North and West Philadelphia “and I can tell you that 90 percent of their population was not in prison.” When he insisted that blacks in the US are marginalized and cannot find success, I offered him to accompany me into the offices and even boardrooms of major US companies where he will see black people in positions of leadership. But when he responded to that with a wink and a nod to the crowd and a “now we know what you are” to me, a funny thing happened. His lame recourse to ideology helped sway the crowd in my direction. I said that there were quite a few people there who spent a lot of time and hard work to research their topics and justify their positions; and whether or not we like or dislike their conclusions, none would have Guru’s temerity to disrespect this university and its students with misinformation so simplistic that a first year student paper would not pass with it.
With faculty and staff focused on academic integrity instead of ideology, they looked at Guru for a response, but none was forthcoming. As one colleague noted to me, “you spoiled his party.”
I followed up with a formal complaint that provided hard figures on US incarceration, as well as their sources, and noted that “came from the US Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Justice Statistics [and] are easily accessible to anyone with online access. If Professor Guru cared a fig about being intellectually honest with his students, he would have at least done that minimal amount of research before dropping his misinformation bomb on GBU’s unsuspecting students; but he did not. I do not mind ideological differences; variety of thought is a key element to the maintenance of a free society. I do, however, find intellectual dishonesty reprehensible…. Whatever standing Professor Gopal Guru has, it certainly does not give him leave to play fast and loose with the facts, providing students with authoritatively sounding but blatantly erroneous statements, and evidently put ideology over intellectual truth.”
The complaint is working its way through channels, but I frankly have no illusions about its ultimate disposition. JNU is known as a hotbed of leftist activity, and when I speak there I am the one who is “marginalized.” But my actions will be ineffective only if they are isolated and we continue to give those who hate the US, free markets, and free people free reign to direct the minds of young people at home and abroad.