For conservatives, it is necessary to believe that liberals, lefties and communists dominate academia, since academia is one of the four pillars of the Great Backlash narrative
that postulates an undemocratic "liberal elite." According to conservatives, by dominating four institutions, the news media, the entertainment industry, the courts (judges and lawyers) and academia, the "liberal elite" dominates culture and oppresses the American, the common, the humble and the conservative in so doing. This narrative forms the core of both contemporary conservative ideology, and contemporary conservative self-image. Were conservatives to come to a realization that liberals do not dominate academia, they would face a crisis in worldview akin to what they experienced on September 11th, 2001 (and no, I am not exaggerating). Thus, it is necessary for conservatives to believe that liberals dominate academia, whether or not liberals actually do so.
The reality, of course, is quite different. At least among student political groups, conservatives are crushing their liberal counterparts:
The campus Left, which is still organized for the most part by students and community activists, increasingly finds itself facing off against seasoned conservative strategists. And while progressive student groups are mostly self-funded, by the mid-1990s roughly $20 million dollars were being pumped into the campus Right annually, according to People for the American Way.
That money and expertise is directed at four distinct goals: training conservative campus activists; supporting right-wing student publications; indoctrinating the next generation of culture warriors; and demonstrating the liberal academic "bias" that justifies many conservatives' reflexive anti-intellectualism.
Morton Blackwell, the treasurer of Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, understands the value of those efforts. The long-time GOP activist and one-time Reagan advisor has been fighting the campus wars for four decades. Currently, he's president of the Leadership Institute, which trains, supports and does public relations for 213 conservative student groups nationwide. If you want to fight the Left on your campus, the Leadership Institute is one-stop shopping - they'll provide you with conservative guest speakers, help starting a conservative newspaper, and training in how to win campus elections.(...)
These organizations, along with others like the National Association of Scholars and Students for Academic Freedom, serve as ready sources of materials, skills and support for young conservative activists. What it adds up to is that while progressive students organize around a multitude of specific issues like sweatshop labor or affirmative action, conservatives have launched a coordinated, nationwide movement with a single goal: defeating campus liberalism itself.
Reality has little do with the Great Backlash narrative, however. Even though big business in pumping tens of millions of dollars annually into conservative student groups and grooming young conservatives in ways that the campus left cannot even really hope to match anytime soon, conservatives have a now accepted, anti-scientific means of "proving" their Great Backlash claims: the plent-E-plaint. The plent-E-plaint is a series of anecdotes, always told from the conservative perspective that, when compiled into as large a list as possible, purport to demonstrate a Great Backlash proposition. This is a perfect example
: When Christian students at Indian River Community College asked to host a screening of "The Passion of the Christ," administrators at first rejected the idea because of the film's R rating.
At the campus theater weeks later, however, another student performed a monologue in which she described performing sexual acts before the image of Jesus.
"That hurt, that shocked and I did take that kinda offensive," said Christina Koshi, a member of Indian River's Christian student fellowship.
Demarr Bell, another member of the group, said he thinks it is a case of discrimination against Christians.
College administrators say there was no discrimination; they simply didn't know about the monologue, which they will now investigate.
David French, whose nonpartisan group, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, monitors free speech on campuses, says conservatives are systematically suppressed and censored.
"The universities have been so captured by the left point of view, that you're going to get more political and intellectual diversity at your average suburban mega-church than you are at an elite university," said French.
Students are speaking out at institutions ranging from Columbia University -- where Jewish students complain about harassment from pro-Palestinian professors -- to Foothill College in California -- where Ahmad al-Qloushi says he was told by his American government professor to get psychotherapy after refusing to write an essay criticizing the Constitution.
"I was attacked and intimidated because I love America," al-Qloushi said.
Conservatives have responded with Web sites where students can name and shame professors, and they also spearheaded an effort to pass an academic bill of rights, outlawing what they call "in-class indoctrination."
This article, which ran last night on ABC World News, the same network that recently banned a liberal group from running an advertisement critical of Bush's tort reform plan
, is remarkable. It is a perfect, paradigmatic example of contemporary conservatism in action. No studies are cited--only a series of anecdotes that supposedly show a pattern. For every anecdote, no liberals are quoted--we only hear the conservative point of view for every incident in the plent-E-plaint. No liberals are given direct quotes in the article--it is entirely dominated by conservatives. For that matter, no college professors are given direct quotes in the article (although one administrator is, and he sides with the thrust of the piece). Conservative claims are backed by a supposedly "non-partisan" organization that mysteriously sounds as though it was simply reading from a conservative press release. No mention of the irony of ABC running a piece about conservatives being "suppressed" when, on the same day they ran the article, they refused to run a television ad by a progressive group. No mention of the millions of dollars that support the conservative groups who are supposedly being suppressed, and how that money is intentionally used as a means of pushing stories such as this one onto outlets such as ABC News.
If you ever needed a perfect example of how contemporary conservatism works, this is it. This is a perfect example of how the Republican Noise Machine, which has a significant campus operation, is able to push the Great Backlash narrative onto the national stage without a shred of scientific evidence, opposing points of view, or acknowledgment of the existence of the Republican Noise Machine appearing anywhere in the article. The only thing that could make this piece even better is if conservatives everywhere began decrying its liberal bias. I bet they have already started doing so.