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A Fantasia on Tenure Denial

I've been closely following the Norman Finkelstein tenure denial. I agree with the numerous commentators who find this worrisome, to say the least.

Though not about Finkelstein per se, I find the following as good a summary as I've encountered about what this is about:

A sledgehammer is being taken to academia in the U.S. Its critical thinkers and dissenters are in grave danger of being mowed down and silenced. Labels like "sedition," "treason," "collaboration," and "support for terrorists" are bandied about by a man who strategizes with Karl Rove. In the current political climate, these spurious charges are designed to destroy the richness of academic life, to ruin careers, and to incite violence and government persecution against those who have been targeted.

There is far too little critical thinking and dissent in society as a whole. That is the criminal situation. And critical thinking and dissent must not only be defended in the colleges and universities but spread in society. This is what the reactionaries want to prevent. And it is why a major assault on academia is emanating from and connected to the highest office in the land.

The one ray of light in this is the surprising media spotlight illuminating such an important scandal from the usually enshaded halls of academe. This story resonates because it so clearly reveals the bad-faith and tawdry McCarthyist tactics pursued by malignant interests to silence those who dare to challenge them. The outcry has been surprisingly vociferous, and Father Holtschneider, the President of DePaul, has been roundly castigated for cowardly choosing the politically expedient over the principled.

The inordinate attention paid to this scandal may yet serve as another mote removed from the public's eyesight. (Sheehan's celebrated renunciation of the Dems is another one. As is Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence. As is Cheney's refusal to hand over classified docs. As are the Supreme Court's recent decisions. Etc etc etc) Unsurprisingly, as the public's eyesight improves so has its disgust at institutional authority reached historic levels. The people "running" the country (running it into the ground) are seen increasingly for what they are: a coterie of amoral unprincipled small-minded Mammon-whores, zealots, and vorocrats barricaded behind their own self(ish)-interests, finding ways to profit from jiggling the toilet handle that's flushing America (and the world with it) down the crapper.

[Make no mistake. These people are mass murderers, whether or not they possess the cognitive capacity to even see their role in it: they think nothing of sacrificing countless innocent lives in the furtherance of their political and financial fortunes. Millions die and suffer horribly because of these puny unimaginative dregs of humanity, and for no greater reason than how, in the calculus of their decision-making, it will affect their chance of re-election or career advancement, their status amongst their peers, their 'face', their portfolios: "We think the price is worth it."]

So, what's going to change? Tragically, it's a historical truth that when authority loses its justification it resorts increasingly to repression and catastrophe to maintain their hold on power. When "fighting the enemy within" (ie: overt repression) doesn't work — and, no matter how docile and ignorant the American public is, it's not a strategy that's going to work given the culture's deeply held convictions about democracy and individual rights — then the focus must be on some external threat to keep the folks in line. (In fact some argue that this is the very reason why World War II occurred.) Whether the engineered external catastrophe involves bioterrorism (including the apocalyptic avian flu we've been hearing so much about), or the fallout from nuking Iran (for whatever fabricated reason), or a big boom in some American city, one thing is clear: the lunatics running the ship of state are not the sort to relinquish the helm as they plow the ship towards the iceberg.

Note: the following added 2 hours after posting this.

As if on cue:

Officials worry of summer terror attack

By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer
51 minutes ago [07/10/07 ~8:41pm]

WASHINGTON - U.S. counterterror officials are warning of an increased risk of an attack this summer, given al-Qaida's apparent interest in summertime strikes and increased al-Qaida training in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune that he had a "gut feeling" about a new period of increased risk.

He based his assessment on earlier patterns of terrorists in Europe and intelligence he would not disclose.

"Summertime seems to be appealing to them," Chertoff said in his discussion with the newspaper about terrorists. "We worry that they are rebuilding their activities."

Other U.S. counterterrorism officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, shared Chertoff's concern and said that al-Qaida and like-minded groups have been able to plot and train more freely in the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border in recent months. Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in the rugged region.

"The threat coming out of there is very real, even if there aren't a lot of specifics attached to it," one of the officials said.

Chertoff's department has not made any move to increase the nation's color-coded terror alert system. Now, airlines are under orange — or high — alert, which is the second most serious level on a five-point scale. The rest of the country remains a step below at yellow, or elevated.

Chertoff said he is convinced that terrorists are regrouping. "Our edge is technology and the vigilance of the ordinary citizen," he said.

The secretary also urged Americans to be watchful for suspicious activities in the wake of recent terror incidents in England and Scotland. On June 29, two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered in London's entertainment district. The next day, two extremists smashed their flaming Jeep Cherokee into security barriers at Glasgow Airport's main terminal.

Al-Qaida and its sympathizers have shown an interest in summertime attacks. Some examples from recent years:

• In 2005, London faced two separate sets of transit attacks. The July 7 attacks on three trains and a bus killed 52. A second attack on July 21 was bungled when the detonators failed to light the explosives.

• Last summer, international counterterror authorities said they foiled a plot to use liquid explosives to take down roughly 10 U.S.-bound airliners leaving Britain.