The Right Coast

February 13, 2004
Straight Talk about Crooked Timber
By Mike Rappaport

Of all the blogs that I have visited, the one that appears most representative of academia these days is Crooked Timber. (For other sites that may feel slighted by this comment, don’t be: it is not necessarily a compliment.) As with academia, the site is filled with liberals or leftists. The other day I was reading through the site and came across these posts:

Kieran: A discussion growing out of the comments by Duke Philosophy Professor Robert Brandon, who claimed the lack of intelligence of conservatives explains their underepresentation in the academy. The post starts: “I’ve never found the argument that conservatives are discriminated against in academia terribly compelling.” (That’s a shock.) He then criticizes conservatives for only recognizing institutional bias when it affects them. So a prejudicial remark is made about conservatives and this writer sees it as an opportunity to attack conservatives. Just precious.

Chris: A discussion of whether one is better off in a European Welfare States or the US. Chris responds to a quick line at Volokh rather than to the more substantive criticism of the statistics he relies on by our own Tom Smith. For example, the statistics purport to measure poverty but actually measure distribution. As a result, even if the poor in the US are richer than the middle class of country X, there may be more poverty in the US. A common tactic in the academy. Hopefully, Chris just didn’t see Tom’s criticism.

John: A discussion of Donald Rumseld’s masterful rhetoric on “known knowns” and “known unknowns.” Although he criticizes Rumseld’s rhetoric, John actually defends Rumsfeld’s substantive point. John is reacting to what he terms a “general derision” of Rumsfeld’s claim. I hadn’t noticed any general derision, only admiration for its cleverness, but perhaps Fox News chose not to report the criticism of Rumsfeld's remarks.

Harry: Harry writes that a “student wants to know what books an educated person should have read, that have been published since 1970. I am just about the worst person for him to come to, since unlike all my CT colleagues I am narrowly read and utterly lacking in erudition in subjects other than cricket, children’s TV, the history of the far left, and my professional interests.” Another surprise.

I could go on, but you get the idea. If you are not an academic, this is the place to go to see what most of it is like.

Update: More on Crooked Timber above.