27.2.07

DRIVEN TO THE RIGHT? A Chicago Sports Review interview of Durham-in-Wonderland's K. C. Johnson.

You've stated that you're a Democrat. When you began the blogging, were you surprised by critics calling you a right-wing nut? Did that make you re-examine some "right-wing nuts?"

Oh, absolutely. You have to. It's odd. You see groups that you saw before as unabashedly positive, like the NAACP, act the way they have, and your thinking has to change. You say to yourself, if I'm a supposed right wing nut, then 90 percent of the people in this country are too. This didn't surprise me in some ways though. One of the issues I've really pushed is more attention to the history of the American state. Looking at that, you know there's a tendency among activist-left in the academy to just brand anyone who disagrees with them as a right wing-nut. It works, and it's hard for them to give up that stance. … Put it this way: before this case started I had never seen defending civil liberties as a right wing position.

One would think that people in the civil rights community, particularly the older ones who became Communists or fellow travelers after being accused of being a Communist one time too many would be a little more careful with their accusations. But perhaps that is too much to ask, even of highly educated people. Professor Johnson is right to describe the lesson he learned as "depressing."
What have you learned about academia and higher education during this process?

I'm a professor, and for me this has been the most depressing aspect of the entire affair. One of the things that I assumed across the board is that as professors we have strong opinions, but the assumption is that most people enter the profession because they like students, and they enjoy working with students. And with this, you can see the behavior of the Duke Arts and Sciences Department, where close to 100 professors were eager to forward their personal agendas on the backs of their own students. I can't think of another case in the history of American higher education where that can be said. Here you have a students own professor cited in the case for a change of venue. Really, the absolute refusal of the Group of 88 or other players in this affair to apologize or tone down their behavior in any way, as if all of the facts are the same now as they were on March 29th, and to show no indication they've comprehended anything … it's depressing.
I believe the expression "mugged by reality" exists for such situations.

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