9/11 Academically

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The latest Chronicle Review features reflections on the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the United States from no fewer than 15 academics. It turns out that Accuracy in Academia has already covered the past utterances and activities of six of these, nearly half of the Chronicle of Higher Education sampling.

As you might expect, with the exception of Victor Davis Hanson’s essay, these pedagogical testimonies indicate that academia remained immune from the wave of patriotism that swept across the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks upon America.

“It is wicked to destroy innocent people for one’s political ends, as Al Qaeda did that day in New York and the United States has done in Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan and countless other places around the world,” Terry Eagleton wrote in The Chronicle Review.  Eagleton is a visiting professor at Notre Dame.  He is also the author of Why Marx Was Right. Like many critical of American military involvement in Vietnam, he does not acknowledge the boat people who fled that country when the communists took over in the wake of the U. S. troops’ exit.

“Too soon, imagination failed and we hustled past what might have been a thoughtful pause,” disillusioned 1960s radical Todd Gitlin, now berthed at Columbia, writes in The Chronicle Review.  “We might, for example, have contemplated the fates of others who had been devastated not so long ago, like those in Chile, which on its own September 11—1973—saw the dictator Pinochet, with American connivance, turn the country into a prison camp.”  It is interesting that critics of Pinochet never want to discuss the human rights record of the leader who he replaced.

“The very language of the decade expresses our anxiety about the outside world,” Marjorie Perloff writes of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “Talk of ‘the third world’ and ‘emergent nations,’ expressing as it does a first-world confidence and sense of control, has given way to the ubiquitous ‘our planet,’ as in ‘saving our planet.’” When we last left Marjorie,  a professor emerita at Stanford, she was telling an audience at the 2008 Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention that reading was a worthwhile activity because it allows you to read President Obama’s memoirs.

“The call for a ‘tolerant Islam’ is tentative, morally weak, and ultimately confused,” Omid Safi writes in The Chronicle Review. “What most people mean is simply Muslims who do not kill, preferably don’t oppress women (much), and do not object to the hegemony of American (and possibly Israeli) policies.”  Colgate Philosophy and Religion Professor Omid Safi started a group called the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, AIA reported in 2004. Mid-East scholar Daniel Pipes noted that a class assignment given by Dr. Safi required students “to turn in a report on a significant person who contributed to a negative presentation of Islam and/or Muslims.” “This group is a broad coalition that includes folks from diverse backgrounds, as unrepentant Orientalists, outright Islamophobes, Neo-Conservatives, Western Triumphalists, Christian Pentecostals, etc.,” Dr. Safi explained. Pipes made the list, as did Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington, William Bennett and Jerry Falwell. “Call me old-fashioned, but I think a professor is supposed to inform and inspire his students, not tell them what to think,” Pipes wrote.

The most intriguing reflection of the sextet of AIA subjects who weighed in on the 9/11 anniversary is offered by the University of Chicago’s Martha C. Nussbaum. “Moreover, the intense compassion that was generated by the disaster never got translated into a keen interest in the mundane and boring problems that actually kill so many more people in the world than terrorism, or even war: hunger, malnutrition, chronic diseases, lack of sanitation and clean water, sex-selective abortion, and infanticide.” That is the closest that we have seen a scholar with Nussbaum’s otherwise impeccable left-wing pedigree come to denouncing the practice of abortion.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org