I experienced a galloping sense of the amusingly familiar when reading Chait's piece today, which touches tangentially on "the touchiness surrounding race and gender in the political microclimate of Ann Arbor (and other left-leaning academic environs) when I attended college in the earlier nineties." Continues Jonathan:
My first professional article was an account of a sociology professor who was suspended from teaching his course because he outraged his students by showing them statistics that, while true, offended them — for instance, he noted that male/female earning differential could be partially explained by certain factors.... The general prevailing sentiment was that racism and sexism were such pervasive forces that any level of insensitivity on the subjects was impermissible. The slightest deviation from the approved pieties had to be couched in apologetics.
I can relate. Which is precisely what I'll do.
When I was pursuing my terminal degree in the cosmos's most unmarketable subject--American political history--I happened to mention one afternoon in a graduate seminar, which was in part populated by two of Earth's fieriest feminists ever, that the women's vote changed virtually nothing in its first U.S. presidential election (1920), since wives tended to vote however their husbands voted. This wasn't my opinion; it was an objective observation based on objective voting analyses conducted by objective historians of politics, whom I had in passing read.
Simple as that, or so I thought, for only the most fleeting of moments. Before I realized what an immense, "typically male" offense I had committed, the unspoken wrath of the aforementioned ladies was fireballing through the room and singeing my hair: "Look, you clown, women do not now, nor have they ever, obeyed the dictates of their brutish husbands, because women are, and always been been, independent of such masculine foolishness." And any politico-historical studies to the contrary were soon to be trashed and "re-envisioned," sans any historical evidence.
We were, without my fully appreciating it, already deep into the academic era of historical interpretation via pure ideology (in this cited case, feminist ideology, but it was accompanied in academic circles by a cultural-studies rack of associated others). The peculiar thing was that I was in wholehearted political agreement with my lefty associates when it came to analyses of present conditions, but I was way behind the curve (where I remain) when it came to feeling compelled to change the history itself of those conditions.
At any rate, Chait's larger point is that the right now treats "Even mild, measured rebuttals" of "market absolutism" with "squeals of outrage"--squeals closely related in character to the left's once-tyrannical demands for academic conformism. Good luck with that, guys. It just about killed the discipline of history; perhaps it can do the same for pseudoconservatism.