Gaming the refs

I’m sick and tired of hearing right-wing idiots blather on about how colleges are too liberal, either full of Marxists eager to convert our innocent young, or professors who “despise their own country while finding excuses for repressive and dangerous regimes”.

Look, no half-way intelligent person believes these smears. Why do conservatives continue funding people like Daniel Pipes?

Pipes is a rather unpleasant man whose strategy to retain scholarly credibility must be the mustache/beard growth on his face. That’s right. My guess is that he banks on people’s thought processes going something like this: “Why does this man have such unfortunate taste in grooming? It must be because he’s so focused on intellectual things that he doesn’t have time for such trivialities. He’s spouting a load of bull, but he does have a PhD, and that impressively grotesque sense of facial style. I guess he’s too deep for me.”

Seriously. The conservative movement kept treating Pipes like an intellectual, giving him titles at think tanks and so forth. Bush appointed him to some government positions, like being the Vice Chair of Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships. The traditional media, paranoid about appearing insufficiently respectful of conservatives, then has to give him a platform to spread his bigotry, McCarthy-like statements, and anti-Israel views.*

*That’s right. Pipes may be classified as a right-wing zionist, but, as an Israeli, believe me when I say that he’s an enemy, not ally, to my country. His goals, which boil down to “the Jews (except for me and my buddies here in the US) must slaughter as many Ragheads as possible,” if carried out, would destroy Israel. His proposals, which are to the right of Ariel Sharon, promote violence and further deaths (both Arab and Israeli) when a negotiated solution is within reach. Even Christopher Hitchens can’t stand him.

So we’ve established that Pipes is an eyesore who chooses to deal with his insecurities by trying to convince large armies to beat up on Arabs. So why does the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy put so much effort into trying to establish him as a credible figure? Simple. They’re gaming the refs.

For the last ~50 years, the conservative movement has consciously mounted a two pronged attack on our civic institutions: creating a conservative counter-establishment of think tanks, radio, magazines, television, and newspapers as well as infiltrating and intimidating the existing think tanks and media into submission. The traditionally media has internalized the right-wing critique of the “liberal media” to such an extent that it subconsciously tacks to the right to avoid the angry letters and so forth.

I’m working in D.C. this summer, and I’m learning things. Brookings Institution is so invested in being viewed as “independent” and “centrist” that it has an affirmative action program for conservatives. The media, regardless of reality, continues to describe Brookings as “center-left”, so Brookings hires more right-wingers to compensate, the media still calls Brookings “center-left”, and the cycle continues.

This, of course, has the effect of helping to move “center-left” to a more rightward direction, and, by extension, moving the Overton Window of policy possibilities to the right as well. Gaming the refs. Only recently has the left countered this by creating their own infrastructure to critique the media from the left. Suddenly, you see institutions like Media Matters, TPMHorses Mouth, and sundry bloggers dedicated to critiquing the media (and institutions like Brookings and The New Republic) from the left.

Where does Daniel Pipes come into this? By attacking universities for being insufficiently bloodthirsty, he creates pressure from the right so that these universities hire more conservative professors, moderate their stances, quiet outspoken voices, etc. Why do you think the University bungled the Carter visit the way they did? Pressure from the right. Jehuda was the ref this time, the Right gamed him, and the left was quiet.

That’s why people like Daniel Pipes exist. Regardless of how correct a professor might be, if Pipes starts attacking him, his artificially high stature creates controversy. No business likes controversy. Brandeis is, in some respects, a non-profit business. To squelch this controversy, they might be inclined to, for example, delicately hint to said professor that their career would be best served if they don’t publish that paper, teach that class, or assign that book.

And the Assault on Reason continues.


4 thoughts on “Gaming the refs”

  1. Nelson – think what Daniel means is that gay marriage is going to happen. Give it a few generations, and cohort replacement will ensure that gay marriage will be accepted by society. We young’uns get it. We can just wait until we, and the generation after, comes of age.

  2. So, my message was just lost after I typed up a page or so, but…

    Pipes comes to Brandeis every year because his daughter graduated in ’07. He has spoken extremely moderately when he has come to Brandeis. I would equate it to the way that Carter spoke like he wasn’t a complete fucking wacko who supported terrorism when he came to Brandeis, whereas in reality his book said the opposite. So, too, does Daniel Pipes speak moderately when he is at Brandeis but his other writing suggests the opposite.

    He was not _boring_ when he came to Brandeis, he spoke about the islamization of Europe because it was the singlemost hot-button issue of the week due to the French muslim riots.

    Anyways, there are only 5 U.S. Senators who support gay marriage. Not sure how far to the left our move on gay rights has been.

    Even the senator I am working for this entire summer (Kerry) is against gay marriage. Our resident ultra-liberal! Obama, against it. Edwards, the hero of the bloggers – against it. Heh.

  3. When Daniel Pipes came to speak last year, he was utterly dull and insipid. Unlike Alan Dershowitz or Norman Finklestein who lived up to their reputations as firebrands, Pipes spoke disinterestedly about the islamization of Europe.

    The move to the right of our country has been prolonged but in some ways unsuccessful. We have moved to the left on many issues with Gay Rights being a very prominent one. The right is much better at shaping the political narrative and the media takes their line hook line and sinker each and every time.

    Daniel Ortner

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