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Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2001 / 14 Tishrei, 5761

Robert W. Tracinski

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Why they hate us -- THEY condemn us for the "arrogant imperialism" of our foreign policy. They claim America is motivated by a predatory greed to plunder the world's natural resources. They say that we are the real terrorists and that we deserved Black Tuesday's attacks.

Why do these people hate us?

No, I am not referring to militant Islamic terrorists. The America-haters I am concerned about are professors on America's own university campuses.

In the weeks after the slaughter in New York and Washington, the nation's academics have rushed to suppress any calls for America's self-defense. Lehigh University -- along with many others -- tried to ban even such simple expressions of patriotism as displaying the American flag. University administrators explained that the Stars and Stripes might be "offensive" and "intimidating" to foreign students -- though one suspects that it is the administrators who were offended.

The most shocking examples of anti-Americanism are the attempts to suppress the few academics brave enough to publicly support the war. Professor Gary Hull, who heads a business ethics program at Duke University, had his Web site shut down by the university because he linked to an article advocating war in America's self-defense. Stephen Simpson, a math professor at Penn State, received a reprimanding e-mail from the head of his department for a similar offense.

These and many other schools have made their stand clear. It is against university policy to be a patriot.

To justify themselves, leftist academics echo all of the invective we hear from Tehran and Kabul. The United States government, says Columbia University professor Edward Said, is "synonymous with arrogant power" because it has supported Israel and "numerous repressive Arab regimes." Ironically, University of Texas professor Robert Jensen accuses the United States of committing atrocities by fighting a war against Saddam Hussein's repressive regime. MIT professor Noam Chomsky snarls that the only freedom America stands for is "the freedom to rob, to exploit and dominate."

But if these academics are so concerned about repressive regimes -- why would they seek to protect the Middle East's worst dictatorships: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq? If they revere "equality," why aren't they demanding an end to the Taliban regime, which regards women as less than slaves? And do leftist academics really recoil from any act of violence? On the morning of Black Tuesday, The New York Times carried a profile of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, members of a 1970s campus group that set off bombs in police stations and the Pentagon. These terrorists are now safely ensconced -- without an ounce of controversy -- as professors of education and law at the University of Illinois and Northwestern. "I don't regret setting bombs," says Ayers, "I feel we didn't do enough."

No pretense at "progressive" motives can justify these academics' hatred of America.

The motivation of the Islamic fundamentalists has been described as the rebellion of Medieval theocracy against the unbridled freedom and secularism of the modern world. Ditto for academia. The currently fashionable academic dogma -- taking over from Marxism -- is something called "Postmodernism." In the specialized jargon of academic philosophers, "Postmodern" translates to: anti-Enlightenment.

The 18th-century Enlightenment was the triumph, in the West, of unfettered rational inquiry, the scientific method, and respect for the sovereignty of the individual. The Enlightenment established a respect for the human mind and codified, in the Declaration of Independence, the individual's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Today's academics follow a different tradition, an anti-Enlightenment backlash that began nearly 300 years ago with the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who lauded the "noble savage" uncorrupted by civilization. It continued with Immanuel Kant, who declared his intention to "deny reason in order to make room for faith." By the 20th century, Kant's heirs had dropped the second half of that motto. They no longer cared to save religion; they merely wanted to destroy reason. This outlook has reached rock bottom with today's Postmodernists, who condemn science and reason as oppressive agents of the "dominant power structure" and scream that it is "racist" to regard a free society like America as superior to Third World dictatorships.

This anti-Enlightenment trend is the reason we now see the spectacle of academic intellectuals allying themselves with the Taliban, arguably the most unenlightened regime on earth.

It is the job of university intellectuals to understand, to transmit and to defend the intellectual achievements of 2,500 years of Western civilization. We can now see clearly that today's academics have betrayed that sacred trust. We must seek out better guardians of reason and progress.

Comment on JWR contributor Robert W. Tracinski's column by clicking here.

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