Below is the email I sent to the trustees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in response to the firing of professor Steven Salaita over his controversial tweets. Corey Robin has done some heroic work combing through the latest documents that show intense outside pressure on the administration to […]
A few weeks ago I posted a strongly-worded critique of American intellectual magazines for what I see as their tendency to publish simplistic, moralistic reviews of European philosophy. I complained that these reviewers tend naively to take liberal politics as grounded in some sort of empirical secular understanding of human […]
A couple of weeks ago, evangelical professors Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens wrote in the New York Times that evangelical rejection of science demonstrates “unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious.” They believe in Jesus, too, but “find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation.”
That didn’t sit […]
A matter of hours after President Obama announced his proposal to reduce the federal deficit, which includes $2 in spending cuts to every $1 of new government revenue, his opponents were on television hailing the plan as the return of “class warfare.” Conservative evangelicals dutifully picked up the line, but gave it a slight twist: […]
I’ve recently criticized people I felt were too hard on the mainstream media’s coverage of conservative evangelical politicians. But now that Rick Perry has joined Michele Bachmann in the race, the fear in my circles of someone perceived to be an actual theocrat becoming president is palpable.
But a word of caution. It […]
Sarah Pulliam Bailey has a list of complaints with Ryan Lizza’s buzz-gathering profile of Michele Bachmann in this week’s New Yorker. Overall, the long report is a pretty impressive piece of work that blends colorful campaign diary with a deeper exploration of Bachmann’s political formation and intellectual influences. As usual, […]
A few months ago, English literary critic Terry Eagleton was kind enough to speak with me for a few moments about his latest book, Why Marx Was Right, published in April by Yale University Press. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and hopefully this will give you a taste. It’s an […]
First Things editor Joseph Bottum has an editorial in the new issue of the magazine that repeats the consensus of a lot of conservatives who can’t quite cave to the worst impulses of the right’s burgeoning anti-Muslim fervor, but also can’t pass up the chance to use the “Ground Zero mosque” as an opportunity to score against their ideological opponents. It’s too beautiful a chance to portray Obama as out of touch with the majority of Americans and, worse, on the side of Islam. Bottum calls the proposed construction of the Islamic community center “wildly offensive” but “wildly constitutional.” Later on, he throws in a couple of barbs about unborn babies and the Greek Orthodox church at Ground Zero that is mired in a bureaucratic struggle with the Port Authority—basically, irrelevant grievances presented as vague justifications conservative excess.
The only reason I mention this piece at all is because of how well it demonstrates the faux-reasonableness of the “constitutional but offensive” position, which is fully betrayed by the end of Bottum’s piece. It wants to be a middle-of-the-road compromise betwen elite multiculturalists and passionate Americans, an admittance of constitutional reality without the cultural snobbery of the Islamic center’s champions. But as Bottum complains about the way Obama and Bloomberg assume “there is nothing left to discuss,” his true feelings are clear: He is deeply suspicious of and hostile to Islam, and resents liberal American leaders for failing to empathize with the anti-Muslim sentiment sweeping the electorate and, apparently, his own person. So he takes comfort in the fact that the messy nature of democracy will probably halt construction of the Islamic center—a project “so offensive, so bizarre, and so deliberate that it should be stopped.”
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