Friday, July 13, 2007

A Sharp Divide

An online Zogby poll suggests to David French that The American People (i.e., a small group of wingnut rubes who worship David Horowitz as a demigod) are fed up with the liberal bias of American academics.

To no one's surprise, the poll reveals a sharp divide between liberals and conservatives, with only 3% of liberals stating that the problem is "serious" compared to 91% of those who described themselves as "very conservative."
In other news, only three percent of Jews see Judeo-Bolshevism as a serious problem, compared to 91 percent of those describing themselves as antisemitic.

Zogby helpfully points out that "whether political bias is a problem depends greatly on the philosophy of the respondents." However, given that some people view teaching evolution in a biology class - or describing the My Lai massacre in a history class, or reading Foucault in a philosophy class - as instances of quasi-Stalinist indoctrination, one would like a very clear definition of what constitutes "political bias." Unfortunately, the text of the question doesn't appear on Zogby's site.

Just for the sake of perspective, let's see how "the philosophy of the respondents" affects the results of other surveys.
  • 38 percent of conservatives agree that plants and animals have evolved from earlier species, compared to 65 percent of liberals.
  • 21 percent of conservatives believe that homosexuality has a genetic basis, compared to 57 percent of liberals.
  • 48 percent of Republicans believe the United States is doing more than any other country to reduce global warming, compared to 25 percent of Democrats.
I assume that the conservatives who believe these things would be affronted if they were contradicted, even (or especially) by an expert. But the fact remains that if you tell me plants haven't evolved, and I tell you they have, it doesn't make me "biased." It makes me right.

Thanks to his own biases, French is strongly inclined to view this molehill as a mountain.
If these poll results are real (Zogby surveyed a large sample — 9,464 adults — and claims a margin of error of only 1%, but the poll was also "online," which raises a host of questions), then this could be a leading indicator that campus bias may soon emerge as a serious political issue, on par with the media bias debate that has raged for decades.
I'm not so sure. For one thing, almost everyone is intimately familiar with media, whereas college attendance is comparatively rare. The question of "bias" in higher education remains a somewhat abstract problem for many Americans. And as ideological fantasies go, being forced into compliance with the thought of √Čtienne Balibar is not nearly as titillating as falling into the clutches of lesbian gangs armed with pink pistols.

Still, you have to hand it to PBC for reminding us, again, how an "obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood" enables the creation of "compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity."

(Illustration: "Literacy is the Path to Communism," Gosizdat, Moscow, 1920.)

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