David’s post about progress in academic pluralism is acute. Recent efforts at Hamilton and the University of Chicago suggest a wider current of diversification, which is truly to be appreciated. These centers have attracted many wary glances, who see a future AEI on every campus. Here’s a comment about the Hamilton Center on Inside Higher Education:
This is an example of what Nation writer Eric Alterman refers to as the organized right-wing’s common tactic of ‘working the ref.’ Not satisfied with their dominance of several of the major institutions in the United States (the military, religion, business), the right wants a playing field totally slanted to its views (that way they can make the case for some real nonsense, watch Fox news one day for a primer). This means that institutions which lean left, like academe and journalism, must be constantly attacked. Never mind that while these institutions do certainly lean to the left of most Americans that they also have professional safeguards that the right would never submit its think tanks or “journals” to (peer review, objectivity as a goal, etc). The goal of many on the right is to have institutions that serve their apologetics (or at least do not challenge it). One need only watch what the rights academic watchdogs do, and more importantly what they do NOT do. They DO call for obvious right wing think tanks disguised as ‘centers’ (such as Robert George’s Princeton James Madison Program, for their right wing slant simply visit their web site) and they do so usually after ‘working the refs’ by creating outrage over some liberal academic’s writings or such (such as the outrage over Princeton hiring Singer).
Oh, and as always (since 1865, I guess) The Nation was far out ahead on this issue. Writing about the Madison Center in February:
[The Center] functions in many ways as a vehicle for conservative interests, using funding from a shadowy, cultlike Catholic group and right-wing foundations to support gatherings of movement activists, fellowships for ideologically correct visiting professors and a cadre of conservative students.
The suggestions that these centers are right-wing sleeper cells is predictable. There’s nothing other than associative guilt to prove that these are anything more than academic centers. Whenever the Hamilton Center requires a “commitment to unfettered capitalism and strict constuctionism” comparable to Columbia Teachers College requirement of a “commitment to social justice,” I’m sure the din and cry will escalate. Right-wing fiefdoms and bishoprics at every school! Robert George, Witchfinder General.