Michael Barone touches on the higher educational wasteland in trenchant irony.
I am old enough to remember when America's colleges and universities seemed to be the most open-minded and intellectually rigorous institutions in our society. Today, something very much like the opposite is true: America's colleges and universities have become, and have been for some decades, the most closed-minded and intellectually dishonest institutions in our society.
Colleges and universities today almost universally have speech codes, which prohibit speech deemed hurtful by others, particularly those who are deemed to be minorities (including women, who are a majority on most campuses these days).
They are enforced unequally, so that no one gets punished when students take copies of conservative alternative campus newspapers left for free distribution and dump them in the trash. But should a conservative student call some female students "water buffaloes," he is sentenced to take sensitivity training -- the campus version of communist re-education camps. The message comes through loud and clear. Some kinds of speech are protected, while others are punished.
Where did speech codes come from? There certainly weren't many when I was in college or law school. So far as I can tell, they originated after college and university administrators began using racial quotas and preferences to admit students -- starting with blacks, now including Hispanics and perhaps others -- who did not meet ordinary standards. They were instituted, it seems, to prevent those students from feeling insulted and to free administrators from criticism for preferential treatment -- treatment that arguably violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (although Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote in the 2003 Supreme Court case on the subject, said they could continue another 25 years).
Racial quotas and preferences continue to be employed, as a recent article on UCLA makes clear, in spite of state laws forbidding them, and university administrators seem to derive much of their psychic income from their supposed generosity in employing them. This, even though evidence compiled by UCLA Professor Richard Sander suggests they produce worse educational outcomes for their intended beneficiaries and even though Justice Clarence Thomas makes a persuasive case in his book "My Grandfather's Son" that they cast a stigma of inferiority on them.
Of course, college and university administrators insist they aren't actually using quotas when in fact they are, as O'Connor's decisive opinion in 2003 invited them to do. The result is that one indispensable requirement for being a college or university administrator is intellectual dishonesty. You have to be willing to lie about what you consider one of your most important duties. So much for open inquiry and intellectual rigor.
This is not the only way the colleges and universities fall far short of what were once their standards. Sometime in the 1960s, they abandoned their role as advocates of American values -- critical advocates who tried to advance freedom and equality further than Americans had yet succeeded in doing -- and took on the role of adversaries of society.
The students who were exempted from serving their country during the Vietnam War condemned not themselves but their country, and many sought tenured positions in academe to undermine what they considered a militaristic, imperialist, racist, exploitative, sexist, homophobic -- the list of complaints grew as the years went on -- country.
English departments have been packed by deconstructionists who insist that Shakespeare is no better than rap music, and history departments with multiculturalists who insist that all societies are morally equal except our own, which is morally inferior.
Economics departments and the hard sciences have mostly resisted such deterioration. But when Lawrence Summers, first-class economist and president of Harvard, suggested that more men than women may have the capacity to be first-rate scientists -- which is what the hard data showed -- then, off with his head.
This regnant campus culture helps to explain why Columbia University, which bars ROTC from campus on the ground that the military bars open homosexuals from service, welcomed Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government publicly executes homosexuals. It explains why Hofstra's law school invites to speak on legal ethics Lynn Stewart, a lawyer convicted of aiding and abetting a terrorist client and sentenced to 28 months in jail.
What it doesn't explain is why the rest of society is willing to support such institutions by paying huge tuitions, providing tax exemptions and making generous gifts. Suppression of campus speech has been admirably documented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The promotion of bogus scholarship and idea-free propagandizing has been admirably documented by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. It's too bad the rest of America is not paying more attention.
Then Richard Fernandez [AKA Wretchard] tackles fake patriotism:
Patriots of the first kind owe their loyalty to the nation they hope the current one may some day become. The second sort is prepared to accept and defend the nation that is. Both elements are normally present in the patriotism of an intelligent, well-educated person. Every nation is compounded of aspiration and reality; and that consequently we owe our duty to something that is partly here and partly to come. No country is so perfect that it can be liked entirely for what it is. But no man is so abstract that he can limit his loyalty only to what might become.
We exist in the present; so do our friends, neighbors, home, the family pet, etc. They all occupy the time we call Today. Actual love and loyalty have no field except Today. Without a minimum regard for what surrounds him Today it's hard for any person to claim a full role in his society. That minimum must include a commitment to keep the ordinary population safe and to "do no harm"....
Therein lies the problem in claiming that "real patriotism" consists exclusively in a commitment to dissent; in an obsession with rebellion and in a total rejection of the present. Those who go to that extreme forgo all love for the present for the exhilaration of allegiance to the country of their fantasy.
Then the good Doctor herself goes on to describe this fantasy:
What Barone and Fernandez are both writing about is the triumph of narcissism in our academic institutions and in our culture at large. The academics Barone writes about and Fernandez' "patriots" both live in a make-believe country of the mind where transient fame and cheap glory are easily purchased by self-righteously bashing of America and displaying a casual contempt for the values that this country and Western civilization stand for.
Such behavior is everywhere in our society. We see it in entertainment; we see it in politics. We even see it, as Thomas Sowell points out in another piece at Real Clear Politics, in the cheap shots taken by former presidents and presidential candidates; (and in military generals and lesser personnel that are trotted out by the political left to shore up their patriotic bona fides) that are self-serving and completely focused on temporary self-aggrandizement.
Those who engage in the behavior, spend a lot of time rationalizing it, too. That is why the most blatant examples are so sensitive to any comments about their patriotism.
Patriotism, for them, is always 100% compatible with their narcissistic sense of entitlement.
They bash America because they love America--or, rather, they love their own personal and private image of what America should be.
In their child-like minds, America should behave as they imagine "The Perfect Parent" does. Completely and without exception totally responsive to their childrens' needs at all times and in all circumstances. A parent who never allows anything bad ever to happen to anyone anywhere; who can control the weather; who can control the behavior of everyone threatening or dangerous; who is completely selfless and willing to endure any degree of abuse; and willing to suffer the daily temper tantrums of their narcissistically preoccupied children.
God help America if it doesn't live up to the demands of those children 24/7. That unleashes their destructive narcissistic rage. It also provokes the rabid sense of victimization and dramatic feelings of ill-usage that are always just below the surface.
neo-neocon in a recent post stated it this way:
To the child, the parent is omnipotent, and perfection is demanded and easily achievable. Everything that goes wrong must be the parent's fault, that much is clear; otherwise, the world would become a much more frightening place.
Because the truth is that if the parent is not omnipotent, or can't ever become perfect, then the child is exposed to truly frightening dangers that he/she is unequipped to handle. So it's far better to preserve the myth of parental omnipotence and perfection, and to get angry at a parent who, after all, (at least ordinarily, in the absence of major pathology) loves the child and is not about to retaliate harshly against that child.
The child knows the parent is strong enough to absorb the blow, so it's safe to direct the blame and the anger where it won't be dangerous to do so (if the US were really as bad as extreme leftists say, they'd all be in jail or worse). It's a win-win situation for the child, who gets to "vent," and to feel that the world isn't such a dangerous place, knowing the parent will not strike back and harm the child.
I'm not saying leftists--or those liberals who join the "blame America first, often, loudly, and last" chorus--are children. They are not. But in their relationship to their own government they seem to be acting out a similar dynamic.
The pursuit of these infantile fantasies provides a constant stream of psychic income needed to sustain their dysfunctional and narcissistic behavior.
You regularly see Hollywood elites, for example, patting themselves on the back for the brave, valiant behavior of standing up against BushHitler, even as they snuggle up to real despots and tyrants, engaged in real oppression and consolidation of power (e.g., Hugo Chavez for instance).
You can also see the pursuit of this cheap psychic income in the sneering contempt they display toward those who are willing to defend freedom in the real world--instead of the fantasyland that exists only in the windmills of the leftist mind.
Meanwhile, in that real world, real evil exists, as well as real threats to freedom and human dignity. People are being killed every day pursuing the freedom of speech that the likes of Lee Bollinger bravely extends to their murderers. People are being slaughtered and oppressed for even desiring freedom and democracy and the right to pursue their own individual happiness.
Standing up against those real world villians, though, is far too frightening for the narcissistically preoccupied academics and utopian patriots (why, they might get hurt! And they want to make sure they stand on the correct side of history, after all).
It is much much easier to bask in the cheap glory; and to keep on raking in all that feel-good psychic income from their fantasy world; all the while ignoring, denigrating, or mocking anyone who possesses the real courage to stand up and defend the values of America with their lives and their honor.
As Wretchards notes, "A person who loves only his vision of the future can only love himself."
But that is exactly the point of all these utopian and patriotic fantasies, isn't it? To have a never-ending source of psychic income with which to buy self-esteem futures.