Yesterday (June 8, 2007), Hugh Fitzgerald on Dhimmi Watch published an essay that yet again calls our attention to what he has termed the problem of “MESA Nostra”—a play on words combining the quasi-fascistic and cliquish thuggery characteristic of the famous crime organization Cosa Nostra with the academic organization called the Middle East Studies Association (or MESA for short).
Now, Hugh is quite right in regularly insinuating that MESA is corrupted by a pro-Islamic (and therefore anti-Western) agenda, pursues that agenda in a cliquish and clannish sort of manner, and has a role in infecting the wider world of Academe with various unscholarly methods of propaganda (not the least of which is the active cultivation and recruitment of unscholarly propagandists to function and thrive as professors—tenured all the better, and aureolized under various august-sounding “Chairs”).
“Oh, it's a closed circle of apologists,” writes Hugh, “hiring and promoting each other and keeping out with care and cunning all those who might upset that MESA Nostra applecart.”
Where Hugh goes wrong (and this is the nodus at which he consistently errs) is in delimiting the problem. Hugh sees with crystalline sagacity the problem of Academe as exemplified by MESA Nostra, but for some strange reason his otherwise clear vision is clouded by his myopia: a myopia to not only the wider PC disease throughout Academe, but also, and even more importantly, to the wider PC disease throughout Western societies of which the Academic disease is largely just a symptom.
It is all too easy for the readership of Hugh—to the extent that they respect his thoughts and are persuaded by his arguments—to make a couple of logical extrapolations:
1) there is no problem, with respect to our War of Ideas on Islam, in Academe at large comparable to (let alone worse than) the problem of MESA Nostra: the problem is delimited in certain areas like MESA Nostra, indicative of an infiltration and sabotage of an otherwise relatively unproblematic Academe;
2) the problem of Academe as reflected by MESA Nostra is not a problem caused by a comparable (if not worse) problem in the Western societies surrounding Western colleges and universities, but represents a disease engineered by “Elites” who, in turn, have been trying to affect and infect Western societies at large (though they have not succeeded, apparently, in brainwashing the minds of hundreds of millions of ordinary folks throughout the West who forever and stalwartly resist the Elitist conspiracy of PC Multiculturalism).
Hugh writes that:
“In such cases, it is up to the Dean and the President to keep careful watch...”
He is here presuming that Deans and Presidents in colleges and universities throughout the West are not similarly infected by the PC Multiculturalist virus.
And when Hugh similarly writes—
“...and for other departments, such as that of History, to be careful to mind the who’s-teaching-about-Islam store.”
—Hugh is again presuming that other faculty in departments—such as History, or Philosophy, Comparative Religions, Comparative Literature or Political Science—peripherally or perpendicularly related to Middle Eastern Studies are not also profoundly saturated with PC Multiculturalist axioms. I think Hugh is grievously mistaken. For the most part—with only rare exceptions of maverick scholars in Academe that prove the rule—there is no “there” there to mind the store. Agents of MESA Nostra are not, for the most part (except wheresoever they might feel it necessary—oftentimes reflecting excessive caution, given the naive and PC-deformed gullibility rampant throughout Academe—to employ more cunningly clever tactics) stealthily infiltrating and sabotaging Academe: they are for the most part welcomed with open arms as beneficent examples of the “open-mindedness” and “tolerance” of an academic culture ever-anxious to show it is not “bigoted” (let alone, God forbid, “racist”).
“We can't let this MESA Nostra business continue too much longer...”
Hugh ignores the massive fact that, for the most part (and the “most” part of the “most part” is the part that would make it a “we”), there is no “We” to put the kibosh on MESA Nostra—because our “We” is also infected by the PC Multiculturalist virus. As I have said time and time again, such phenomena as MESA Nostra’s agenda to become comfortably ensconced in Western Academe would enjoy little or no traction in the West, were the West not already broadly and deeply oriented toward the PC Multiculturalist paradigm.
What Hugh calls “the scandalous vehicle for misrepresentations of Islam all over academic America”—i.e., the MESA Nostra organization—is indeed that: but it would not survive a New York minute, were there not PC Multiculturalism dominant and mainstream all around it, not only throughout Academe, but throughout Western societies.
Hugh does seem to acknowledge that wider reality when he writes:
“For these misrepresentations prevail all over, not only where Saudi and other Arab money has set up ‘centers’ and endowed well-upholstered chairs—King Abdul Aziz This, Two Noble Sanctuaries That—in order to keep young, ignorant, easily impressionable American students still ignorant...”
But after that one solitary phrase that indicates Hugh’s apprehension of the nature and scope of the problem, he does not return to it to amplify it, but instead, to the very end of his essay, beats the dead camel of his overarching point about the apparently smaller area that is not “all over”. This leads the reader to reasonably conclude that his evanescent reference to an “all over” pertains not to Academe as a whole—let alone to Western societies as a whole—but rather to Islamic and Middle Eastern studies areas of Academe not formally under the MESA Nostral umbrella. If Hugh does in fact refer to a wider “all over”, he demonstrates an utter lack of interest in fleshing it out one iota; though his readership sorely deserves and needs such amplification which remains missing from all his essays and comments.
Hugh writes of the MESA Nostra agents that they “keep out the real version [of Islam] as best they can. And they are well-practiced at this, and have so many willing collaborators.”
In describing it this way, Hugh is implying far too much need for nefarious subterfuge amongst those agents. In such a nourishing environment as PC Multiculturalism provides for the propaganda of these agents, they usually barely have to lift a finger to purvey their disinformation.
Hugh writes about the Muslim apologist propagandist posing as a professor in Colgate University in New York, one Omid Safi (Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Director of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Civilizations Studies) thusly:
“And, he devoutly hopes, once programmed they [his students] will go out into the world to pooh-pooh all those who have dared to criticize Islam.”
Omid Safi may hope this, but he would be just as deluded as Hugh were he to think most of his students do not already come to his classroom richly and deeply pre-programmed to swallow his propaganda as an education in a knowledge about Islam that helps them to avoid the “bigotry”, “intolerance” and “racism” they have already been deeply and broadly trained to avoid, and to counter when they can, most of their lives (as opposed to avoiding genuine bigotry, intolerance and racism without the Orwellian sneer quotes that effectively screen out and protect Islam from any critical analysis that would reveal it to be guilty—culturally, systemically, traditionally and institutionally—of precisely those anti-modern and anti-liberal sins). If Omid Safi has any significant degree of cleverness and intelligence, he will be aware of this massive fact about his students, and will see his role as largely a masseur of their already existing and healthy prejudices that predispose them to swallowing his propaganda—not as an activist who has to break a sweat of anxiety or labor overmuch to try to brainwash otherwise undeformed students.
Hugh continues out on his limb:
“And students will fear to take issue with the sinisterly amiable lecturer, master of all he surveys, with the all-important power of the grade over his cowed students, and especially over any who dare to dissent.”
What Hugh is describing here is the tiny minority of students who (likely because they are “right wing” and probably actively participate in their Republican Student Association) are already predisposed to be suspicious of most things PC. Most of the students will not be afraid at all, but will warm up to Omid Safi from the get-go, and will only feel warmer and fuzzier as the semester goes on.
Meanwhile, Robert Spencer’s remarks about Omid Safi (from a Jihad Watch article also on June 8, 2007) demonstrates, characteristically, a slightly wider peripheral vision than Hugh’s, but one that is undermined by his equal characteristic vagueness about the phenomenon of PC:
“...[Omid Safi, in his “Islamophobia” class] cheerfully flouted any pretense of training his students to think for themselves, and instead filled their heads with propaganda and hit-and-run smears of (among other people) scholars and writers that Safi himself can never hope to equal, including Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington, Fouad Ajami, Leo Strauss, Daniel Pipes, Alan Bloom, David Pryce-Jones, Bat Ye'or, Niall Ferguson, Robert Kagan, Dore Gold and Ibn Warraq.”
Spencer implies he filled otherwise empty vessels and blank slates. Spencer ignores the fact that most of these students are already, by simply being Westerners of the 21st century, richly predisposed to be receptive to the propaganda of an Omid Safi.
Spencer goes on:
“But since propaganda rules this day in the academy, this didn't earn Safi the scorn and ridicule it so earnestly invited, but instead, apparently, sprung him from the academic wilderness of Colgate University and gained him a plumb spot in Carl-Ernstville, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill...”
I’m glad Spencer accords a wider amplitude to the problem with his phrase “propaganda rules this day in the academy”; however, it is an unacceptably vague phrase which, when coupled with Spencer’s routine avoidance of the pressing need to describe and analyze the PC Multiculturalist paradigm in its actual nature and scope, does little to shed light on this story, whose predominant theme—of the academic danger posed by the Omid Safis and the MESA Nostras of academe (as well as by Islamic organizations such as MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council) which are active in influencing academe)—overshadows the more important problem that is far broader and deeper than that academic problem, and which in fact nourishes the delimited problem Spencer is tightening his lens upon. Let me repeat: it’s good to tighten the lens on this or that problem; but when such focussing is done by means of a context that programmatically delimits the problem, such delimitation can either be fruitless or actually, ironically, bolster the roadblocks that already exist. So by all means, Spencer and Hugh: tighten that focus all you want—you are doing a stellar job at it; just don’t obstinately persist in ignoring the wider problem that keeps feeding the very same smaller problem you otherwise so excellently analyze.
To return to Hugh: he concludes:
“This is a travesty of learning. This is lecture-hall thought-control. Grades are a way to reward the submissive regurgitators—verily, Islam means ‘submission’—and to punish those guilty of the ‘thought-crime’ of, well, thought. Can the students, the faculty, the administration, the Trustees in Chapel Hill really have welcomed this?”
Yes they can, Hugh—for reasons which you apparently have not given much thought to, nor which you seem interested in pursuing. If you did, you could play an important role in the pedagogy of your students: the readership that respects and, over time, sometimes becomes persuaded by your otherwise fine and entertainingly erudite essays at Jihad Watch.