Ideas or reality?

In a courtroom, there are droves of rules regarding evidence that constitutes conspiracy. Outside of the judicial system, however, such laws do not exist. So when one reads outrageous stories about how the United States never landed on the moon, Sept. 11 was a plot hatched by the U.S. government or how prominent diseases were engineered by the CIA in a secret underground laboratory, one might be inclined to laugh. Such theories are laughable, after all. However, there are some conspiracies that are believed by people who have never purchased the vastly entertaining Weekly World News.

Take, as example, the capo di tutti capi – boss of all bosses – of the perception of a left-wing conspiracy in academia, David Horowitz. He cites examples in his books and articles of professors being denied their rightful positions because of the liberal Ivory Tower and asserts that academia has systematically filled its ranks with leftist professors. In true neocon style, he defies the established conservative ideal by demanding intellectual diversity – one might call it ideological affirmative action – in the classrooms of higher education.

When Cherie Krigsman was making her closing arguments against Sami Al-Arian, she said, “Conspiring doesn’t operate by pantomime or telepathy – it’s plain old crime.” Unlike the case that Krigsman made, or perhaps exactly akin, the academic conspiracy perceived by Horowitz operates by pantomime and telepathy. The pantomime is to be found in his “Academic Bill of Rights,” which is full of solid ethical resolutions for educators – their restatement manipulatively implying that they have been lost in a jungle of leftist dogma.

His telepathy takes the form of asserting that colleges everywhere are teeming with dark-hearted socialists just waiting to fill the soft, Christian minds of college students with authoritarian, atheist ideals.

Truly an affecting thought.

Unfortunately, people believe him. His Center for the Study of Popular Culture’s annual budget is approximately $3 million, with a few big contributors and about 30,000 smaller contributors, according to Horowitz’s own numbers. He has a column in the popular online magazine Salon, and numerous books and articles by him have been put into print.

Similar to all conspiracy theorists, Horowitz uses specious evidence. It’s true that there are a lot of leftists on campus. Nationwide, universities have been perceived as havens for civil disobedience and discontent with the status quo since at least the ’60s. The assertion that college campuses are subject to a left-wing conspiracy is satisfying to anyone who has been forced into a liberal arts class with a vocally liberal professor who uses the classroom as a stage for politics. Just because there are liberals on campus, however, does not mean there is a conspiracy to keep the entirety of academia leftist.

Would business professors as a whole systematically reject capitalism? Would psychologists assume the victimized society of the radical left and assert the psychologically paralyzing notion that everyone is constantly subject to the injustices of racism, patriarchy, materialism, globalization and class injustice? Would engineers and natural science professors adopt the relativism of the radical left? The answer to these questions is clearly “no,” yet all of these groups are members of the “leftist” academia that Horowitz derides.

Liberal arts programs may be an exception, but it is likely that the reason why is because different careers appeal to different sorts of people. Doctorate and graduate students of the liberal arts sort are widely thought to be more concerned with ideas than reality. Socialism looks great on paper, after all. It is only real-world experience that dissolves the perceived feasibility of such ideas.

It is not purposeful, ambitious conspiracy on the part of the radical left, but the tenuous, unfounded nature of their ideals that leads them to be isolated as a rogue few in a limited number of the many hallways of academia.

The fact about leftists on campus is that they are a minority with minimal impact on the overwhelmingly capitalist and politically moderate American society. It is not lost on the American public that attempting to dismantle Western society within one of Western society’s oldest and proudest institutions is ironic, hypocritical or both. The continued failure of such an endeavor is therefore probable. Accusing universities of a left-wing conspiracy grants significantly more credit to radical leftists than they have ever earned.