Yesterday, InsideHigherEd.com published an article titled, Connecting the Dots, by Alan Jones, dean of the faculty and professor of psychology and neuroscience at Pitzer College. Jones’s thesis: there is a concerted assault on higher education under the guise of rooting out “left-wing bias,” spearheaded by David Horowitz and his ilk and funded by right-wing foundations (Olin, Bradley, Scaife). Supposedly independent scholars, analysts, and journalists who promote the critique of left-wing bias in the academy are actually a part of the same “large and integrated network” (vast right-wing conspiracy, anyone?) because their funding comes from the same sources.
Imagine my surprise at finding out that I, too, am a part of this network. Well, actually I’m making up the surprise part, since a friend tipped me off. Here’s what Jones says:
Another example illustrative of the quietly incestuous nature of this network is presented by an article by the Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young. The article is entitled “Liberal bias in the ivory tower” and by all appearances is an independent opinion piece written by a regular Globe columnist. At the end of the article Young identifies herself as “a contributing editor at Reason Magazine.” What is undisclosed in the article is that Reason Magazine is the publication of the Reason Foundation, whose funding sources are virtually the same as those funding Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights” project and Neal’s ACTA.
Young’s premise for the article is stated in her opening sentence: “Yet another study has come out documenting what most conservatives consider to be blindingly obvious: the leftwing tilt of the American professoriate.” The study that she references was conducted by Stanley Rothman, now emeritus professor at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, emeritus professor at George Mason University; and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto, and was published in the online journal Forum. This study was also cited by Neal in her testimony in Pennsylvania. Young does not inform her readers that Rothman is director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, a center with funding sources that are remarkably redundant with Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Lichter is also president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which again has funding sources that are redundant with those referenced earlier.
Needless to say, I am always careful to study Reason magazine’s funding sources and to make sure I follow their agenda. *sarcasm off* And, needless to say, Reason itself never goes against anything endorsed by some of its funders. Right?
Actually, as a commenter at InsideHigherEd points out:
The article mentions a piece by Cathy Young in the Boston Globe on liberal bias in academe. It then questions that judgment by noting Young’s connection with Reason Magazine, which is funded by the Reason Foundation, whose funders also support Horowitz and ACTA.
Here’s the problem with this dot-connecting. Reason Magazine has come out squarely against Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights.See http://www.reason.com/links/links021705.shtml and http://www.reason.com/links/links091703.shtml for the articles. Guilt by association is an easy way to avoid the substance of what people say.
To this, I might add that in this post on my blog last January, I was scathingly critical of Horowitz, his habitual distortions and unsupported claims, and generally his approach to fighting “political correctness” on campus.
Sorry — the more telling comment about Cathy Young was edited out. Ms. Young is also vice president of the Women’s Freedom Network which, if you check Media Transparency, is funded by the same sources as we’ve been discussing.
Since Jones brings up the Women’s Freedom Network, I should explain that while I did in fact co-found that organization in 1994, I never received a penny from it, except, a few times, reimbursement for travel expenses for trips to Washington, DC. I should also add that my active association with the WFN ended in 1998 or 1999, except for speaking at its 10th anniversary event in 2004 and allowing the WFN newsletter to reprint some of my articles (all for free). My position with it today is purely an honorary one.
Incidentally, here are a few biggies Jones’s fishing expedition missed. I also have an unpaid position as a fellow with the Cato Institute, another institution on his right-wing conspiracy roster. They once paid me the grand sum of $500 for co-writing a paper on feminist jurisprudence. I have spoken, for a fee, at a number of Federalist Society events and panels. I have written a paper on domestic violence for the Independent Women’s Forum. Oh, and I have eaten free lunches at American Enterprise Institute events. I think that’s it.
None of that, of course, has stopped me from criticizing organizations whose funding comes from the same sources, including the IWF. Anyone familiar with my work knows that I have little compunction about criticizing both the left and the right. (I invite Jones to look around my website if he wants evidence.)
I should also add that Jones signficantly distorts the content of my article, which does not rely solely on the Lichter/Nevitte study and acknowledges its conservative funding sources:
A typical reaction to such studies from the left has been to shoot the messenger without denying the basic facts of the message. Thus, on his website, Michael Bérubé, a professor of literature and cultural studies at Penn State who has often locked horns with conservative critics of the academy, challenges the study’s sample size and points out that it was financed by a conservative foundation. Then he cites a 2001 survey by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute which yielded fairly similar results: 5.3 percent of faculty members were classified as ”far left,” 42.3 percent as ”liberal,” 34.3 percent as ”middle of the road,” 17.7 percent as ”conservative,” and 0.3 percent as ”far right.” ”Yep,” concedes Bérubé, ”we’re a pretty liberal bunch.”
Jones’s allegation that I am a shill for my right-wing masters is as ridiculous as a right-wing blogger’s charge some months ago that a blogpost I wrote disputing a specific allegation (by the same blogger) of pro-liberal bias in the New York Times’ news coverage was done at the bidding of the New York Times, since I am a columnist for the Boston Globe and the Globe is owned by the Times corporation. It is also a disgusting smear, and I expect a retraction and an apology.
As for Jones’s larger point: Yes, right-of-center critics of the academy tend to drift to institutions that are congenial to their views. That does not invalidate their arguments — any more than Jones’s defense of the academy is compromised by the fact that he himself holds an academic post. Of course, we could also talk about the lavish funding for left-leaning academic projects from the Ford, Rockefeller and Macarthur foundations, to name only three. Ironically, Jones’s diatribe resembles nothing so much as David Horowitz’s attempt to sniff out George Soros’s money behind every left-wing venture. It is pure left-wing McCarthyism.