Saturday, June 17, 2006

Connecting the dots... into a smear

Yesterday, published an article titled, Connecting the Dots, by Alan Jones, dean of the faculty and professor of psychology and neuroscience at Pitzer College. Jones's thesis: there is a concerted assault on higher education under the guise of rooting out "left-wing bias," spearheaded by David Horowitz and his ilk and funded by right-wing foundations (Olin, Bradley, Scaife). Supposedly independent scholars, analysts, and journalists who promote the critique of left-wing bias in the academy are actually a part of the same "large and integrated network" (vast right-wing conspiracy, anyone?) because their funding comes from the same sources.

Imagine my surprise at finding out that I, too, am a part of this network. Well, actually I'm making up the surprise part, since a friend tipped me off. Here's what Jones says:

Another example illustrative of the quietly incestuous nature of this network is presented by an article by the Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young. The article is entitled “Liberal bias in the ivory tower” and by all appearances is an independent opinion piece written by a regular Globe columnist. At the end of the article Young identifies herself as “a contributing editor at Reason Magazine.” What is undisclosed in the article is that Reason Magazine is the publication of the Reason Foundation, whose funding sources are virtually the same as those funding Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights” project and Neal’s ACTA.

Young’s premise for the article is stated in her opening sentence: “Yet another study has come out documenting what most conservatives consider to be blindingly obvious: the leftwing tilt of the American professoriate.” The study that she references was conducted by Stanley Rothman, now emeritus professor at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, emeritus professor at George Mason University; and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto, and was published in the online journal Forum. This study was also cited by Neal in her testimony in Pennsylvania. Young does not inform her readers that Rothman is director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, a center with funding sources that are remarkably redundant with Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Lichter is also president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which again has funding sources that are redundant with those referenced earlier.

Needless to say, I am always careful to study Reason magazine's funding sources and to make sure I follow their agenda. *sarcasm off* And, needless to say, Reason itself never goes against anything endorsed by some of its funders. Right?

Actually, as a commenter at InsideHigherEd points out:

The article mentions a piece by Cathy Young in the Boston Globe on liberal bias in academe. It then questions that judgment by noting Young’s connection with Reason Magazine, which is funded by the Reason Foundation, whose funders also support Horowitz and ACTA.

Here’s the problem with this dot-connecting. Reason Magazine has come out squarely against Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights.See and for the articles. Guilt by association is an easy way to avoid the substance of what people say.

To this, I might add that in this post on my blog last January, I was scathingly critical of Horowitz, his habitual distortions and unsupported claims, and generally his approach to fighting "political correctness" on campus.

Jones replies:

Sorry — the more telling comment about Cathy Young was edited out. Ms. Young is also vice president of the Women’s Freedom Network which, if you check Media Transparency, is funded by the same sources as we’ve been discussing.

Since Jones brings up the Women's Freedom Network, I should explain that while I did in fact co-found that organization in 1994, I never received a penny from it, except, a few times, reimbursement for travel expenses for trips to Washington, DC. I should also add that my active association with the WFN ended in 1998 or 1999, except for speaking at its 10th anniversary event in 2004 and allowing the WFN newsletter to reprint some of my articles (all for free). My position with it today is purely an honorary one.

Incidentally, here are a few biggies Jones's fishing expedition missed. I also have an unpaid position as a fellow with the Cato Institute, another institution on his right-wing conspiracy roster. They once paid me the grand sum of $500 for co-writing a paper on feminist jurisprudence. I have spoken, for a fee, at a number of Federalist Society events and panels. I have written a paper on domestic violence for the Independent Women's Forum. Oh, and I have eaten free lunches at American Enterprise Institute events. I think that's it.

None of that, of course, has stopped me from criticizing organizations whose funding comes from the same sources, including the IWF. Anyone familiar with my work knows that I have little compunction about criticizing both the left and the right. (I invite Jones to look around my website if he wants evidence.)

I should also add that Jones signficantly distorts the content of my article, which does not rely solely on the Lichter/Nevitte study and acknowledges its conservative funding sources:

A typical reaction to such studies from the left has been to shoot the messenger without denying the basic facts of the message. Thus, on his website, Michael Bérubé, a professor of literature and cultural studies at Penn State who has often locked horns with conservative critics of the academy, challenges the study's sample size and points out that it was financed by a conservative foundation. Then he cites a 2001 survey by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute which yielded fairly similar results: 5.3 percent of faculty members were classified as ''far left," 42.3 percent as ''liberal," 34.3 percent as ''middle of the road," 17.7 percent as ''conservative," and 0.3 percent as ''far right." ''Yep," concedes Bérubé, ''we're a pretty liberal bunch."

Jones's allegation that I am a shill for my right-wing masters is as ridiculous as a right-wing blogger's charge some months ago that a blogpost I wrote disputing a specific allegation (by the same blogger) of pro-liberal bias in the New York Times' news coverage was done at the bidding of the New York Times, since I am a columnist for the Boston Globe and the Globe is owned by the Times corporation. It is also a disgusting smear, and I expect a retraction and an apology.

As for Jones's larger point: Yes, right-of-center critics of the academy tend to drift to institutions that are congenial to their views. That does not invalidate their arguments -- any more than Jones's defense of the academy is compromised by the fact that he himself holds an academic post. Of course, we could also talk about the lavish funding for left-leaning academic projects from the Ford, Rockefeller and Macarthur foundations, to name only three. Ironically, Jones's diatribe resembles nothing so much as David Horowitz's attempt to sniff out George Soros's money behind every left-wing venture. It is pure left-wing McCarthyism.


Robert said...

I've never understood the propensity of some left-leaning individuals for making these kind of "connect the dots" gotchas. First, its largely ineffective; most smart people understand the possibility that an analyst can have and expression an opinion at variance with that of their Funding Masters.

Second, the people making such attacks are usually hugely vulnerable to them. Dean Jones gets his paycheck from Pitzer College...which is funded by donors A, B, C who can be tied to some discreditably leftist thinktank or other, which can be shown to be connected to someone out in California with horrific opinions and a criminal record. Dean Jones is just doing the bidding of his crime-lord syndicate boss out on the left coast! And so forth.

People who live in junkyards shouldn't throw garbage, in other words.

Robert said...

That should be "can have and express". Apparently my Corporate Overlords can't be bothered to proof the texts they order me to disseminate around teh internets. Lazy buggers.

Revenant said...

If "receives funding from right-wingers" equates to "part of the VRWC", what are we to make of the fact that American academia is largely funded by the US government, which oscillates between "controlled by left-wingers" and "controlled by right-wingers"? Did Harvard become part of the VRWC in 2001, when Bush took office? Will it rejoin the VLWC in 2009 when Hillary Clinton takes office?

Anonymous said...

Love the way Prof Jones dances around the actual question of left-wing bias in US universities - everything is submerged in a wave of "academic freedom/right-wing conspiracy" treacle. It's not surprising that he's in a psychology department, given that discipline's propensity for dishing out self-serving glop.

If I had my way, 90% of public subsidization of US colleges and universities would come to an abrupt halt, the tenure system would be abolished, and academic departments would have to justify their existence on an annual basis. I'm heartily tired of the mass of bilge masquerading as "research" pumped out by US universities every year, and I see no reason to fund such work with my tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me you are admitting Jones's premise, which is that you are affiliated with and supported by right wing institutions funded by a small group of people representing an ideology furthered by your articles. You don't deny it. Instead you quibble about whether or not you have attacked Horowitz in the past. Jones didn't accuse you of supporting Horowitz. He accused you of being supported by the same people as Horowitz is. How is that a smear, especially when you admit it is true? He also accused you of failing to divulge your ties. You claim you did that, but in your rebuttal, it is Berube's quote that makes that disclosure. Jones is trying to make people aware that several voices are being funded by the same small cadre, you included among them, without disclosure of your affiliations. Come clean, then people like Dr. Jones would be unable to "out" you.

Revenant said...

Seems to me you are admitting Jones's premise, which is that you are affiliated with and supported by right wing institutions funded by a small group of people representing an ideology furthered by your articles. You don't deny it.

You should try paying closer attention, then, because you're completely missed the point.

Cathy has written articles for a magazine (Reason, which only a remarkably ignorant person would call "right-wing") which is supported by a foundation which has accepted money from people and organizations who have also given money to David Horowitz. Jones's claim is not merely that this tenuous game of connect-the-dots can be played, but that it proves that Cathy belongs to a wide-ranging incestuous network of right-wingers. Of course Cathy didn't deny who paid the people who paid the people who paid her. What she denied was Jones's claim that this proves she's in league with a secret cabal of rich ideologues.

Come clean, then people like Dr. Jones would be unable to "out" you.

I find it strange that you consider naming your employer to NOT be "coming clean" -- that you must name your employer's employer's employers' employees, too.

The reason I find this strange is that the Dr. Alan Jones you have such respect for admits only to being a professor at Pitzer College -- he doesn't say where the people and organizations who fund Pitzer get their money from and who else those people have given to. Why has Jones not even begun to come clean himself? The answer is simple -- because he knows that such tenuous and thrice-removed financial relationships demonstrate nothing interesting at all. Which is what makes his attempt to use them to prove the existance of a vast right-wing conspiracy so pathetic.

Cathy Young said...

To "Anonymous":

I have "admitted" what, exactly? Holding unpaid honorary positions with organizations that receive funding from some of the same sources as David Horowitz, even though in many cases they hold vastly different political positions? (The Cato Institute, for instance, is strongly opposed to the war in Iraq.) How exactly is that being "funded" by the same sources? The bulk of my income comes from The Boston Globe, a much smaller portion from Reason.

Jones didn't accuse you of supporting Horowitz. He accused you of being supported by the same people as Horowitz is. How is that a smear, especially when you admit it is true?

Oh please. Jones implied -- as you know perfectly well -- that I was carrying water for Horowitz because I am supposedly "funded" by the same sources. Therefore, I think the fact that both I and Reason magazine have attacked Horowitz is pretty relevant.

He also accused you of failing to divulge your ties. You claim you did that, but in your rebuttal, it is Berube's quote that makes that disclosure.

Perhaps you should read more carefully before posting comments. Jones accused me of failing to divulge the fact that the study I cited was supported by conservative sources. And what difference does it make if I divulged it in my column by quoting Berube?

I fully support disclosure requirements when it comes to organizations from which a journalist has directly received money (which is why, on a couple of occasions when I have mentioned the Federalist Society, I have mentioned that I have been a paid speaker at some of its events). To extend these requirements to any organizations to which a journalist's employer may have indirect financial ties is, frankly, absurd.

ada47 said...

At the risk of sounding like an a** kisser, I'd like to say that I've found Cathy's writings on this subject, along with the gender-and-science issue, both near and dear to my heart, refreshingly balanced. I say this as a left-of-center woman academic scientist. I'd put my progressive credentials up against anyone's, however I think that Cathy strikes just the right balance between the almost-paranoid obsession of David Horowitz and the denial and counter-accusations of the academic left.

As for the vast right wing conspiracy, regardless of whether or not one exists (I, unlike probably most posters here, think Hilary got that one right-but that's another story), the guilt by association accusation originates from a position of weakness. Honestly, I'd jump at an opportunity to write something for a publication sponsored by a libertarian or a slightly right-of-center publication. I would take it as an opportunity to defend liberalism, as opposed to so-called “liberal” multiculturalism, to a group that has a reasonably high likelihood of being receptive. I find the old-guard academic left way too truculent and recalcitrant to listen to any legitimate criticisms from within the ranks of left-of-center academics. Truth be told, I think those old b*stards are a huge obstacle to the advancement of progressive and liberal ideas, and they need to step aside. I love being in an intellectually vibrant environment, where my assumptions are constantly put to the test, where I need to think about how I will defend whatever words come out of my mouth (the scientist in me, I suppose). I'm extremely frustrated by the academic monoculture, though I am heartened by the fact that dogmatic radicalism seems to be a characteristic of the aging set, far less so among the 40-and-under cohort. I fear, however, that as the next generation of Ph.D. students enter academia, the fact that they have studied extensively under these old campus radicals and wanna-be's will show. But again, another topic for another time.

In any case, Cathy, keep up the excellent, truly balanced work. And, hey, if you can score me a gig at one of those so-called right wing co-conspirators, let me know. After tenure, of course.

Cathy Young said...

Ada47, thanks very much for the kind words, and welcome to The Y Files.

G said...

Oh well, if one can't attack the facts then attack the funding. I guess it could be called an "argument ad fundus".

Or not.

Anonymous said...

Jones should not be going around, extrapolating things from background connections.

Jones is closely affiliated with TheWorldCantWait.
TheWorldCantWait is a front group for the Revolutionary Communist Carty (RevCom). This is no secret -- research it yourselves and find out.

There's nothing wrong with being a communist per se, but RevCom **explicitly calls for armed atacks against the US government**.
Furthermore, RevCom, Jones' affiliate, is recognized as a personality cult centered around the fugitive Bob Avakian. Group websites refer to Bob as "Our Leader", reminiscent of North Korea. It sounds pretty crazy, but, well, it is. It is also true.
--Scott Funkhouser

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a RevCom website openly illustrating its connection to WorldCan'tWait:
--Scott Funkhouser
Charleston, SC

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