Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » June 2005 » The myths of left-wing influence in academia and the media....

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06/23/2005: The myths of left-wing influence in academia and the media....

Brian Leiter gives us an interesting perspective on the myth that the academic world and the media in this country are unduly influenced by the left wing. The good professor quotes from correspondence (an email, I presume) that he has received:

I am from Ireland and had the good fortune to spend a year in [a top law school in the Southeast, name omitted] this year. It came as somewhat of a shock to me that the student body were so conservative (although, to be fair it is [name of Southern state omitted]). In particular, I remember one class in Law and Economics (know your enemy) where a student advocated a position which the professor (correctly) identified as a socialist one. The student then backed down. I am far from claiming that socialism is "right" but it was also interesting that this signalled the end of discussion, i.e. socialism is "wrong".

I do not mean to suggest that the Prof would not have entertained a discussion about the matter-the student pre-empted him by self-censoring. This, to me, is a perfect example of what you are talking about in both posts. You create a fictitous "left", i.e. Harvard etc., which is actually right-of-centre and then self-censor all viewpoints which fall outside this "left" and the true right. Needless to say, this has a very powerful legitimising force by constricting the debate sphere which leads, although this might be a leap, to a situation where most academics, influenced by their surroundings, not to pursue issues with the same intellectual vigour.

I will say, however, that I had a great time in [school name omitted] and met many wonderful people. The education was also fantastic.

I have enjoyed reading your weblog since I found it. Keep up the good work.

P.S. I first noticed this trend when I arrived in the states to find CNN and the New York Times pilloried as left-wing where they would not be considered so in Ireland. Ireland is not an overly-liberal country by any means.

[Emphasis added. --LRC]

Len on 06.23.05 @ 08:46 AM CST

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