' Marianne M. Jennings
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Jewish World Review Nov. 11, 1999/ 2 Kislev, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SENATOR JOSEPH MCCARTHY once said that he didn't care how many "crackpots" and "screwballs" taught on college campuses; he supported their academic freedom so long as they didn't infiltrate the government. Senator McCarthy didn't anticipate infiltration by their disciples. Mrs. Clinton used her Yale and Wellesley education to attempt a hijack of health care and hold seances with Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. Mr. Clinton is surely the nation's alpha crackpot.

His vice president, our own father of the Internet and Tipper's self-proclaimed stud, Al Gore, has succumbed to his inner intellectual child. He has been relying, for $15,000 per month, on the advice of Naomi Wolfe, a feminist whose major contribution to social science is requiring sex education to include masturbation techniques for young girls. Touted in Promiscuities, her theories urge women to allow their "shadow slut" to emerge. We may now understand how Mr. Gore roped in the Teamsters.

In The Beauty Myth, Ms. Wolfe put Vince Foster conspiracy theorists to shame with her notion that the diet, cosmetic, and cosmetic surgery businesses are "capital made out of unconscious anxieties" in response to feminism and that "the beauty myth was perfected to checkmate power at every level in individual women's lives." Apparently the 1800's draw-string corset and eyebrow plucking dating back to Egypt were anomalies for Ms. Wolf sees beauty standards as a backlash to feminism. In Fire with Fire, she explored "dyke-baiting" and the need to hire male strippers so that women can "objectify" men.

There's something about the draw of these elite crackpots that suckers the desperate into their folds despite the common man's clear understanding that these intellects, consultants and purveyors of quick-fixes are not the sharpest tools in the shed. There is the lure of sophistication that makes the ungrounded grasp. Nancy Reagan's astrologer was mocked as a shawl-wearing psychic with gold bangles. Add a PhD in parapsychology and Mrs. Reagan would have had a consultant. Credentials dupe, regardless of the snake oil being peddled.

Princeton University hired Australian philosopher Peter Singer to occupy an endowed chair, believing it had captured the Einstein of ethics. Professor Singer has an interesting sale-on- approval program for parents. If, within the first 30 days after their child is born, the parents decide, due to disabilities, deformities or other imperfections not found generally in models' frozen embryos, that they really don't want the child, they can kill it. The whoopla, including protests from trustee Steve Forbes, has been loud, but Mr. Singer's nutso ideas don't stop with baby take-or-kill programs.

We in the field always walk away facing Mr. Singer. He has long touted equality for animals, though he has not yet proposed infanticide programs for them, "For instance, if for some reason a choice has to be made between saving the life of a normal human being and that of a dog, we might well decide to save the human because he with his awareness of what is going to happen, will suffer more before he dies . . . This decision would be in accordance with the principle of equal consideration of interests, for the interests of the dog get the same consideration as those of the human, and the loss to the dog is not discounted because the dog is not a member of our species."

Crackpot intellectualism surfaces in the arts and its critics. The movie of acclaim this season is American Beauty, touted as Annette Bening's Oscar vehicle and Kevin Spacey's coup role. Some intricacies and delicacies in the plot: Annette has an affair, Mr. Spacey masturbates, Mr. Spacey is enamored of his teenage daughter's nymphomaniac friend and his mid-life crisis finds him in a new job at a take-out window.

The art of this season has been the elephant dung on the Virgin Mary at the Brooklyn Museum. Television's darlings include Sex in the City, a show featuring four women who sleep with different men each episode and, having allowed their "shadow sluts" to emerge realize no one wants them as a beloved betrothed. Sarah Jessica Parker serves as the show's "executive consultant." Executive consultant on sex sounds like a Gore campaign position.

Christopher Hampton theorized that "sophistication is a rather feeble substitute for decadence." And therein lies the secret to crackpots' popularity and their embrace. If you would find employment as a $15,000 per month consultant, come up with thoughts and theories that fly in the face of common sense and religion while promoting promiscuity with a focus on the quick fix.

Al Gore thinks he can win the presidency because Naomi Wolf advises him to wear earth tones and quit being the Beta male. There is a tragic commentary on the electorate and the quality of leadership that a presidential candidate hires a crackpot.

More tragic is that Mr. Gore has sold his soul for he surrendered himself to the nonsense and then hid behind the skirts of the screwball who gave it when confronted with the cold harsh reality of the nonsense.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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©1999, Marianne M. Jennings