Monday, August 11, 2003

Whatever happened to assent? 

(Via Arts and Letters Daily.) Jean Bethke Elshtain describes academics as negators. Contrary to their role in affirming WW2, the Vietnam War cut the legs out from anyone suggesting that Communism needed to be thwarted. The meaning of dissent has been "obscured", with horrendous effect.
Hence in the wake of 9/11, those who disagreed with claims that America somehow brought the attacks on herself were said to be "stifling dissent." But the true measure of dissent isn't whether the vast majority of one's countrymen and women agree with what one is saying but, rather, that one has the freedom to say it. The widely repeated notion that no space exists within American society to make contrarian arguments is risible. Less frequently heard, in fact, is intellectual assent from academic and intellectual circles to something the government is doing or that America is undertaking.
Elshtain, a signer of the What We're Fighting For letter in 2002 that drew harsh criticism from German lefties and apathy in the US, goes on to point out how academics are failing to understand the post-9/11 world:
What we hear far too little of is serious reflection on religion. Religion is epiphenomenal to Marxism and its various offshoots still powerfully influential in the academy. Religion is "false consciousness" par excellence. Osama bin Laden's talk of infidels is thus a quaint rhetorical turn; the "real" reasons for his murderous ideology must lie elsewhere.

With many others, I am convinced that Islamism owes at least as much to the totalitarian movements and ideologies of the 20th century as it does to any version of Islam. But the religious claims are not just a cover for some deeper materialistic imperative. As a result of the suppression of serious discourse about religion in many activist circles, we grow less able to appreciate what is going on in the war on terrorism.

RTWT. If the Commissioner is reading this, may I suggest Elshtain as a guest to your show?

UPDATE: Forgot to put the link in to the article itself. Now fixed.