CHATTER: The Politics of Classicists
Okay ... I've read this opinion piece three or four times and I'm still trying to figure out what point it is trying to make (we ran out of coffee last night, so that might be a contributing factor). From the Daily Bruin:
A certain classicist in the Central Valley has ignited quite a hullabaloo in some academic circles, and he's been paid half a million dollars for his efforts.
The California State University, Fresno professor, who's committed to calling out the lefty slant he sees in university instruction, might otherwise be seen as another conservative curmudgeon exasperated with the politics of his more liberal counterparts.
But that $500,000 gets in the way. So does his connection straight to the White House.
Victor Davis Hanson landed an advance to write a book about the Peloponnesian War, likely the largest amount of money anyone has ever received to write about the subject.
And in February, he released a compilation of previously published columns applying his classical training to lessons about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here, the story gets sticky – because his analogies are actually being taken seriously.
He has the ear of war architects Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and even President Bush himself.
He's a frequent contributor to the conservative National Review. He's become the point man for the "anti-critical backlash," as one UCLA classics professor calls it.
This guy isn't just an armchair academic. Hanson has made himself famous for political posturing.
A few years ago, he wrote a book titled "Who Killed Homer?" that accused universities of abandoning classics in their classrooms.
More recently, he's been occupied with using his background in classics and military history to justify Bush's agenda.
David Blank, the aforementioned UCLA professor, is more than skeptical – and so are his colleagues.
Blank suspects the movement Hanson represents began during the Reagan years.
It makes sense; Hanson's ideological line is drawn unapologetically between the West and militant Islam.
Yet, it's too easy to chalk this up to the "culture wars." This isn't a fringe movement, and it's been going on for a while.
Hanson's friend Donald Kagan, a classics professor at Yale, signed on to the Project for the New American Century – Wolfowitz's pet think tank, which advances the neo-conservative idea of a unipolar world.
Yikes. And you thought Wolfowitz came up with that himself.
When academics get tied up in political allegiances, the conflict of interest reeks something suspicious. Since when are scholars in the business of extrapolating their scholarship to military strategy?
His invitations to White House Christmas parties notwithstanding, I actually don't think Hanson's just in it for the fame. He actually believes it. [more]
So, we get suspicious when someone has core beliefs and sticks to them?