Oct 15, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 05 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In noting the death last week in London of Eric Hobsbawm, The Scrapbook observed its usual doctrine of de mortuis nil nisi bonum. But then our attention was drawn to his New York Times obituary, which blandly explained that Hobsbawm’s “three-volume economic history of the rise of industrial capitalism established him as Britain’s pre-eminent Marxist historian.” That made us sit up straight—and confirmed, once again, that when it comes to the reputation of certain (inevitably left-wing) public figures, all is forgiven if you live long enough. Eric Hobsbawm was 95 when he gave up the ghost.
Now, if Hobsbawm had been nothing but “Britain’s pre-eminent Marxist historian,” The Scrapbook’s attitude would be simple: “God rest his soul, the poor misguided fellow.” For Marxism, while egregiously wrong and an inspiration for the 20th century’s most durable and bloodthirsty tyrannies, is a legitimate (if misguided and discredited) point of view. As Ronald Radosh notes elsewhere in this issue, Eugene Genovese—the great historian of the South who also died last week—began his long, fruitful intellectual career as a Marxist.
Yet Hobsbawm was more than a “Marxist historian.” He was a Communist (he only let his party membership lapse when the Soviet Union disappeared) and, worse, was a lifelong apologist for the despotism, violence, oppression, mass murder, and genocidal impulses of Communist regimes which, had he lived in one of them, would undoubtedly have killed him.
But Hobsbawm, who was born in Egypt, was fortunate: His Jewish family sent him to live in England, where he thrived unmolested for his ethnic identity, religion, or beliefs. And toward the end of his life, he was showered with honors. In this country, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; in England, he was elected to the British Academy, awarded a degree by Cambridge, and made a Companion of Honour.
The prime minister who conferred that distinction on Hobsbawm, Tony Blair, had this to say on his death:
He wrote history that was intellectually of the highest order but combined with a profound sense of compassion and justice. And he was a tireless agitator for a better world.
The Scrapbook is willing to wager that Blair never waded through all of Hobsbawm’s economic history of Eur-ope, or his various excoriations of the United States and all that it stands for. But we would like to think that even Blair might have hesitated to embrace this “tireless agitator for a better world” had he pondered this exchange on the BBC in the early 1990s:
Interviewer: What your view comes down to is saying that had the “radiant tomorrow” actually been created, the loss [in Soviet Russia] of fifteen or twenty million people might have been justified?
Suppose Eric Hobsbawm had been a lifelong fascist, a member of the Nazi party long after the death of Hitler and the collapse of the Third Reich, sentimentally attached to the “dream of the . . . revolution,” and happy to justify—decades after the end of World War II—the killing of fifteen or twenty million people for National Socialism. Would Cambridge have awarded him an honorary degree? Would the New York Times have set aside four columns for his obituary? Would Tony Blair overlook -Auschwitz to celebrate Eric Hobsbawm’s sense of compassion and justice and intellectual history of the highest order?
The question answers itself.
It’s good to be published, and better to be understood.Sep 3, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 47 • By BARTON SWAIM
Modern academics are not celebrated for the clarity and felicity of their writing. One of the most important lessons a postgraduate student can learn—and if he doesn’t learn it soon, he’s doomed—is that academics generally do not write books and articles for the purpose of expressing their ideas as clearly as possible for the benefit of people who don’t already understand and agree with them. Academics don’t write to be read; they write to be published.
The view from the front row of the academic follies.Jan 24, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 18 • By DAWN EDEN
Sexual "misconduct" rules are rejiggered to deny due process and presume the guilt of white men. 4:27 PM, Jan 7, 2010 • By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH
A few years ago—as you probably remember—Duke University received a lot of bad publicity when a group of lacrosse players were (falsely, as it turned out) accused of brutally gang-raping a black stripper in Durham, North Carolina. Today, with the recent changes in the school's sexual misconduct policy, that spirit lives on.
Leftwing causes converge with the 9/11 denial movement.Sep 24, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 02 • By SONNY BUNCH
New York City
Certain events can be expected each time the 9/11 anniversary rolls around. Opinion writers will opine about how the attacks did or didn't change America. Moments of silence will take place in any number of locales. Think tanks will host panels discussing everything from the war on terror to the impact on immigration reform. And the loosely affiliated conspiracy theorists that comprise the 9/11 Truth Movement will hold rallies and conferences around the country to bring themselves attention.
Fed up with the PC domination of the academic linguistics, one professor fights back against the establishment.12:00 AM, Sep 12, 2003 • By DAVID SKINNER
THE PERSECUTION OF SCHOLARS for gender bias, on even the flimsiest evidence, has long been a fact of life in academe. Should one professor write, "Mary entered the kitchen," another boils over with feminist indignation, convenes a panel to investigate, and soon the whole campus is sucked into a tedious speakathon on the evils of sexism. But more than just the hobbyhorse of a few discontented radicals, heightened scrutiny for potential offense to preferred political groups has become policy within most disciplines.
From the August 25, 2003 Dallas Morning News: The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights tries to bring an end to campus speech codes created in its name.12:00 AM, Sep 2, 2003 • By TERRY EASTLAND
IN A JULY LETTER to colleges and universities across the country, Gerald Reynolds, head of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, addressed "a subject," as he put it, "of central importance to our government, our heritage of freedom and our way of life: the First Amendment." Reynolds' office doesn't have the authority to bring lawsuits to enforce the First Amendment. What, you might wonder, possessed him to write a letter about it?
The answer begins with the fact that hundreds of colleges and universities have policies restricting speech that the First Amendment protects.
An Update on Sami Al-Arian and "academic freedom" from the American Association of University Professors.3:00 PM, Jun 17, 2003 • By DAVID TELL
THE QUESTION raised by our editorial in last week's issue--whether the American Association of University Professors would "censure" the University of South Florida for having fired indicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad chieftain Sami Al-Arian--has been resolved. Sort of.
Jun 9, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 38 • By TERRY EASTLAND, FOR THE EDITORS
WHILE THE NATION AWAITS the Supreme Court's rulings in the Michigan affirmative action cases, the Bush administration has launched an effort designed to stimulate interest in race-neutral means of enhancing educational opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities. The project has proceeded quietly, with the Education Department taking the lead.
Amitai Etzioni on his life and times.Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By ARNOLD BEICHMAN
My Brother's Keeper
A Memoir and a Message
by Amitai Etzioni
The historians are already wrong about the war in Iraq. Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By RONALD RADOSH
THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 5, the Organization of American Historians (OAH)--the leading association of professors of American history--held its annual meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. The best-attended event, televised live by C-SPAN, was a panel discussion entitled "Historians Reflect on the War in Iraq." Before a packed audience of OAH members, five historians presented five takes on why it was necessary to oppose the war. Not one audience member begged to differ--at a time when polls showed 70 percent of the American people backing the war.
The panel began on a fairly reasonable note.
The Bush administration shouldn't be afraid to file a brief defending race-neutral admissions in the Michigan affirmative action cases.Dec 30, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 16 • By TERRY EASTLAND
"Senator Trent Lott's lament that Strom Thurmond lost his segregationist campaign for the White House in 1948 . . . is already influencing an internal Bush administration debate on what approach to take on a major affirmative action case.
"Perhaps most striking, a senior administration official said today that Mr. Lott's statement of support for affirmative action . . . has complicated a developing debate within the administration over a coming Supreme Court case. . .
Love and success at America's finest universities.Dec 23, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 15 • By DAVID BROOKS
I'VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME on elite college campuses recently--at Yale, where I taught a course, as well as at Princeton, Dartmouth, Kenyon, and a few less rarefied schools--and while I've temporarily given up on the game of trying to diagnose the ills of America's youth, I have found that things really are different than they were when I graduated about 20 years ago.
For one thing, the students in the competitive colleges are products of an almost crystalline meritocracy.