A problem faced by both Accuracy in Academia and its big sister organization Accuracy in Media: Our goal—an accurate elite—seems ever more elusive by the year. Both groups were founded by the same remarkable man—Reed Irvine. “Since I started Accuracy in Media in 1969, I had become painfully aware of the fact that many reporters, editors and broadcasters in this country held views that were very much at odds with those of mainstream Americans,” he wrote in 1985 when launching AIA. “This became obvious when surveys disclosed that journalists overwhelmingly supported George McGovern for president in 1972 (by 81% according to the Lichter-Rothman survey), while three fifths of the voters cast their ballots for his opponent, Richard Nixon.”
In succeeding elections, the vote total for Republican presidential candidates in general elections varied a bit but the percentages supporting Democratic presidential candidates in newsrooms did not vary much from those proportions. “Why are journalists, who like to think of themselves as ‘the voice of the people,’ so out of line with the thinking of the majority of Americans?” Irvine asked three decades ago. “I concluded that the explanation was probably related to the fact that most journalists today are the products of our liberal arts colleges, where our youth are being indoctrinated with views and values radically different from those of mainstream America.”
“I launched Accuracy in Academia to see if we could get at the root of the problem, applying on the campus the kind of careful, responsible criticism AIM had directed against the media.” In one sense, he may have been overly optimistic. “AIA will try to discuss the matter with the teacher to determine whether or not the complaint is valid and to see if the teacher would be willing to make a correction,” he wrote.
Irvine initially thought that this would work with the media too, only to find that they may not be holier than the Church but do frequently think of themselves as more infallible than the Pope. Academics have, if anything, even thinner skin and a more heightened sense of self-worth. For example, your servant recently received a blistering e-mail from a professor we covered, about whom we thought we had written a generally favorable story.
Nevertheless, we can, and try to, live up to the original promise of AIA. “Parents, students, taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on,” economist Thomas Sowell wrote at the time. “Accuracy in Academia has no power to do anything more than tell them.” This “power” apparently is what our academic critics mind most about us. “Could that be what the complainers are really afraid of?” author and commentator M. Stanton Evans asked at the time.
One has to wonder. “This touched a sensitive nerve,” Irvine noted. “The denunciations have resounded from Berkeley to Moscow.”
“AIA must be on target.” Thirty years later, we try to stay true to that aim.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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