Phi Beta Cons

The Cost of Extremism

I read with interest the item linked in Jonah’s post on Morgan Reynolds, former Bush administration official and now 9/11 conspiracy theorist. It’s hardly surprising that he has received warm welcomes on campus. Schools like the University of Wisconsin-Madison have become such havens for extremism that no one bats an eye when fringe lunatics can draw approving crowds of hundreds. 
It is always hilarious to hear mainstream academics launch into tirades against conservative efforts to open up faculty hiring and end ideological discrimination. ”If you make us consider everyone,” they say, “then we have to hire crazies like flat earthers or Holocaust deniers.” Or, in the more sedate language of the American Association of University Professors’ response to the Academic Bill of Rights: 

So, for example, no department of political theory ought to be obligated to establish “a plurality of methodologies and perspectives” by appointing a professor of Nazi     political philosophy, if that philosophy is not deemed a reasonable scholarly option within the discipline of political theory. No department of chemistry ought to be obligated to pursue “a plurality of methodologies and perspectives” by appointing a professor who teaches the phlogiston theory of heat, if that theory is not deemed a reasonable perspective within the discipline of chemistry.

In other words, to hold back the hypothetical wave of unemployed Nazi philosophers and phlogistonians (is that a word?), we need to preserve an academic structure that allows real people like Norman Finkelstein and these characters to flourish and bask in the adulation of radical masses.
P.S.  Jonah, after your impressive response to the human regurgitator, I will slink back to my corner. For now. But I have my “Absurd Internet Video Guy” prowling the nether regions of the web to bring further challenges to the reigning NRO champ. Stay tuned. 

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