Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Joseph Yeager, the author of the new book, Intellectual Assault: Academic Anti-Americanism and the Distortion of 9/11. He holds a Ph.D. in medieval Russian history from the University of Missouri. He is a member of the National Association of Scholars’ Argus Project, a watchdog group which keeps an eye on excesses and abuses in academia.
FP: Joseph Yeager, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
What inspired you to write your book?
Yeager: I was inspired by curiosity, Jamie, and a certain knowing suspicion.
Soon after 9/11 the professors and academic administrators began making their presence felt among the commentariat. Their sudden ubiquity was due partially to the media which understandably solicited opinions from experts about the tragedy, but it was also due to the egomania of a people who believe they are smarter than everybody else and thus deserve to be heard.
And what I heard was frankly quite disgusting. I’m sure your remember it well: America was to blame for 9/11; the terrorists and the society from which they sprang were actually righteous victims of American aggression; America is actually a terrorist state, so by what right may we punish the Taliban and al-Qaeda, ad nauseum.
These outrageous statements from the academics filled me with a desire to see if such views were outliers which received an airing precisely because they were so odious, or if they were the coin of the academic realm. As I suspected, and as my book makes clear, the academic anti-Americanism we witnessed after 9/11 is closer to being the rule than the exception on America’s campuses.
FP: So what is the prevalence of anti-Americanism in academia?
Yeager: For my book I did in-depth research on every single college and university website in American academia. I printed literally thousands of documents containing opinions about 9/11 from the faculty and administration. And while I did encounter a handful of academics who expressed sensible views about 9/11, and a fair share of others whose views might be characterized as cautiously critical of the terrorists and the Islamo-Arab world, the undoubted preponderance of opinion was that the United States was at fault and that the people of the Islamo-Arab world were victims meriting sympathy. The contours of this anti-Americanism are far more multifaceted than that statement suggests, but it does get to the heart of the matter. And based upon my research I suspect that perhaps two thirds of the academics, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, are basically anti-American.
FP: Does academic anti-Americanism vary significantly from state to state, region to region?
Yeager: Very little, Jamie. As I point out in my book, academia should be thought of as an anti-American archipelago. College and university campuses are essentially islands of Leftist radicalism in a great ocean of moderation and common sense. Moreover, these islands are closely linked to one another by a shared culture that is transmitted to future professors and administrators during their undergraduate and especially graduate years. Newly minted Ph.D.s go thither to California and Maine, Florida and Washington, Missouri and Wyoming, and they reinforce and replicate the anti-Americanism and Leftism they’ve swallowed throughout their years as students. Consequently, a tenured professor at Princeton will have far more in common with an instructor at Northern Arizona than he will with a pizza maker in Trenton; the Vice Provost at South Alabama will share more with the President of Stanford than he will with a physician in Birmingham. The surrounding political culture really has very little effect on the mental world of the university.
FP: How is 9/11 a lens through which we can understand academic anti-Americanism?
Yeager: The 9/11 attacks are so important for understanding academia precisely because they put the professors on the defensive for a change. Hence, the terrorists were constituents of academia. They were non-white, they were not Christians or Jews, they were from Third World nations and they were from parts of the globe that are comparatively impoverished, even if the actual terrorists themselves were anything but poor.
And these constituents of academia managed to unite American citizens, at least temporarily, in a conviction that the terrorists were evil and that they and their supporters had to be destroyed by military force. The academics were of course, aghast. How could Americans be so filled with hate? How could they rebel against pet academic nostrums such as “conflict resolution” and out-and-out pacifism? Did they not learn anything from the Vietnam War?
But most interestingly I believe the academics felt that the very notion of “diversity” was under siege. The terrorists were in no uncertain terms exemplars of diversity. And suddenly Americans were turning a gimlet eye on Islam and the Islamo-Arab world. They were also questioning the wisdom of easily acquired student visas, and open-door immigration policies.
This was too much for academia to stand. Believing their diversity ox was being gored, the professors and administrators sallied forth to defend the bearers of diversity and to attack Americans as rubes and racists. They even constructed a totally fallacious backlash by common Americans against Muslims and Arab-Americans where none existed. Rather than mass pogroms against these minorities, there were very isolated hate crimes which quickly petered out. My book deals with these issues in some depth.
FP: What is the biggest problem in US higher education?
Yeager: Believe it or not, Leftist propagandizing in the classroom, and even overt discrimination against conservatives on campus are not the biggest problems. Far more significant is the relatively subtle but ceaseless skewing of virtually every field in the social sciences and humanities to the left.
Because these fields are so ideologically unbalanced, so lacking in views emanating from anywhere on the political spectrum other than the far left, there is an inevitable drift of scholarship leftward. Liberal and Leftist assumptions about scholarly issues and problems, liberal and Leftist points of departure and ways of looking at the world are never even questioned. Indeed, the research questions which serve as the basis of scholarly projects almost inevitably stem from a liberal/Left foundation.
And how could they not? There are simply not enough centrists and conservatives in academia to even illuminate the liberal/Left bias, let alone to raise a din that would inspire greater self awareness among the majority scholars.
What results is a lifeless intellectual universe where poor scholarship is produced and indeed, the distinction between scholarship and propaganda is blurred. American students are thus getting a pathetic excuse for an education, and are paying ever more for this woeful product.
FP: So what can be done about all of this?
Yeager: As long as Americans are essentially apathetic about what goes on in academia the problem will only worsen. American citizens must recognize the seriousness of this situation and they must do something about it. And make no mistake, they have the power to make a difference.
Money, as always and everywhere, is the lifeblood of academia. Cut off the money supply and the academic power brokers will take notice and make changes. Concerned citizens should write their state representatives demanding accountability in academia on pain of voting for challengers should the incumbents not apply the heat. Alumni should cease donating money to their alma maters and make clear why they are no longer giving. Small businesses and corporations could help the cause as well by no longer requiring college degrees for work that can be done by high school graduates. The use of bachelor’s degrees as a winnowing device simply funnels a steady supply of students (and money) to the very people who would like to see this country crash and burn. The professors and administrators don’t much care for Americans; why should we continue to provision their sumptuous gravy train, with no strings attached?
FP: Joseph Yeager, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.