Saturday, September 02, 2006

Leupp the Dupe!

Professor Gary Leupp of Tufts University characterizes Americans who support President Bush as "the benighted masses." Leupp writes:

One of the faults of academics (I speak as one of them) is that we tend to imagine that having demonstrated some fact to our own satisfaction, and to that of those we respect, we can move on, job done, to the next illumination of fact without tarrying to convince those we consider ignorant. If this pertains to our colleagues who seem unable to grasp our wisdom, it applies much more to the benighted masses who, so long as they remain outside the campus gates and are unable to affect tenure and promotion decisions, don’t bother us much. Why waste time popularizing what we ourselves already know so well, challenging ignorance in the spirit of altruistic compassion, when we can be devoting our time to career-advancing research?

But our Ivory Tower contempt for the street-level may be a dangerous error. The regime in power is being steered, after all, by a neocon cabal that has expressed its distain for the “reality-based community.” It is principally concerned with constructing an alternative version of facts that justifies ongoing war against the Islamic world, but it also draws political support from groups whose larger concerns include the substitution of religious myth and dogma for science. The scientific community seems to have grasped this, and alarmed by high officials’ asinine statements on such issues as evolution and global warming has mounted something of a resistance movement. Humanities scholars in contrast, often influenced by “postmodernist” relativism, and the anti-history notion that “we can never know what really happened” but should equally validate all narratives have been all too passive. It makes me recall Joseph Goebbels’ words: “There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted [to fascism], [but] would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be ‘the man in the street.’” The orgy of mindless flag-waving after 9-11, and the treatment meted out to Ward Churchill inclined a lot of intellectuals to keep their mouths shut. ..

It is not enough to ask if the president is an idiot. We must ask why the Congress and mainstream media have cheered the idiocy on so long, and actively contributed to it. They’re like the townspeople in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, praising the new clothes of the butt-naked king. But in the story, once the little boy calls out, “The emperor has no clothes!” the individuals in the crowd, having been frightened into thinking only idiots couldn’t see the monarch’s elegant new attire, come to their senses and realize they’ve been hoodwinked. The word’s been out on the street for a long time that this president is an idiot -- surrounded by shysters as cunning as the tailors in the Anderson tale. MSNBC could have told us that some years ago. Instead the political class and the media have maintained a united front in support of the idiotic proposition that 9-11 justifies U.S.-forced regime change in any country that Washington decides to call "terrorist."

In fact, Professor Leupp is a credulous fellow who fell for the pranks of a college boy and didn't try to get the other side of the story.

A college boy at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth claimed that he had been visited by Homeland Security because he ordered Mao's Little Red Book on the interlibrary loan.

Professor Leupp didn't research this apocryphal tale before he dashed off an indignant and unresearched article which claimed:

"Just when you think it can’t get crazier, it gets crazier. Aaron Nicodemus, a journalist with the southern Massachusetts newspaper The Standard-Times, reports that in October of this year a senior at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was visited by federal agents and questioned about a book he had ordered through inter-library loan. Apparently U Mass librarians are cooperating with the USA-PATRIOT Act. You know, the one that’s all about Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The book was for a research paper he was doing for a course on fascism and totalitarianism taught by Professor Robert Pontbriand, a specialist in European intellectual and cultural history. The agents visited the student after he ordered a book that is, they informed him, on a “watch list.”

The book being watched? No, not some Islamist tome, al-Qaeda training manual or technical work on explosives, but a well-known book the whole text of which you can find online or order from Amazon.com. It’s Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, also known as the Little Red Book, a book once rivaling the Bible in circulation. To really monitor its readership would involve watching all internet access to the text, purchases of the book, and library loans of it. A formidable task and insane waste of FBI time, surely. But these are mad times."


A few days later, other people checked the boy's story and discovered that the student was lying when he claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for Mao's book. The whole thing was a hoax!

Why should anyone believe the long list of tinfoil conspiracy theories (see list at bottom of article) about the "criminal" Bush Administration that Professor Leupp rushes into print when he isn't even skeptical about some college kid's tale?

I wonder where Professor Leupp gets his political notions if he is so credulous that he believed this boy's story, which didn't pass the smell test with me. I knew this kid's story didn't sound quite right. I would never have written about it without expressing some skepticism and contacting the government for its side of the story.

I suppose I am one of the "benighted masses" who supports the President, but at least I am not a benighted idiot like the arrogant Professor Leupp.

Had he called a government agency, this scholar might have learned what a local newspaper discovered:

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said the story seemed unlikely.

"We're aware of the claims," said Kirk Whitworth, a DHS spokesman in Washington, D.C. "However, the scenario sounds unlikely because investigations are based on violation of law, not on the books an individual might check out from the library."

Mr. Whitworth pointed out that while the original story stated the student was visited by agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the DHS does not actually have its own agents. Under the umbrella of the DHS are Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Inspector General, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Coast Guard, among others.

Mr. Whitworth could not comment on the record whether the agency monitors inter-library loans, or whether there is a watch list of books that the agency maintains.

An FBI spokeswoman was similarly skeptical.

"I have never heard that we would go after someone because of a book," said Gail Marcinkiewicz, who works in the FBI's Boston office. "That event in itself is not a criminal activity. I can't imagine how we would follow up something like that. Everyone is protected under the First Amendment, which would include what you would read."

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