Friday, October 07, 2005


More on Yesterday's CFP

The "Secret Lives of Republicans" CFP generated a lot of discussion at some of the other blogs whose owners also posted it, and I feel the need to make some follow-up commentary, particularly as the MLA Conference program will soon be coming out, and it will provide a lot more of the same in terms of politically motivated and politically biased panels, if the last few MLA Conferences are any indication.

One thing that disturbs me about the academic/leftist reaction to a panel like this is the immediate counter-argument that this is just one panel, and that it's not in any way indicative of academia as a whole. But how many times do we have to point out "just one panel" before the number of such panels finally makes it clear that while such blatant bias and shameful lack of scholarly aspirations as we saw in yesterday's CFP are not the norm, academic conferences--literary academic conferences, mind you--are filled with panels that exhibit their biases hidden only by the obfuscating language of theory, and with panels that do not seek to ask questions, but to propagate "truths."

Two years ago, I spent a lot of time on this blog looking through college catalogs, examining the offerings of English departments, and finding that much of what was on offer was not really focused on literature at all, but on politics and on a very leftist brand of sociology. I also went through the MLA Conference program, with the help of a few people who were emailing me suggestions (Blogger had no comments function back then), and found numerous panels and papers that could only be said to be on a topic of relevancy to the MLA through the most contorted theoretical reasoning. Last year, I didn't bother to go to MLA, and I let my membership lapse whenever I'm not on the market, so I didn't receive the program, but emails I received from colleagues and from others who are interested in what academia has become emailed me with some of the details, and the only difference I could find was that the level of political bias had increased, and there was more of the type of nonsense than ever before. This year, knowing that panels and papers were proposed after the end of the 2004 election, I expect the conference to be even more politically charged. I guess we'll see in a couple of weeks whether or not I'm right.

But the point is that there is a pattern here. This is not just one isolated incident, but a laying bare of what has been going on all along. This particular professor was either not clever enough to make his intentions for this panel ambiguous, or, more frighteningly, he just didn't care, because he felt no need to hide his blatant bias on the CFP listserv, where he assumed that all readers would share his biases and that they would cause no stir.

And this assumption is common. My own colleagues speak around me as if I were a committed leftist, and I regularly listen to them trying to figure out how they can convert their students to a left way of thinking--"enlighten" them, to their way of thinking, but there is no effort to hide the fact that their brand of enlightenment is firmly entrenched in leftist ideology, and that one of their major goals as professors is to reveal to students the errors in their thinking, which they assume to be red state Republican, handed down from their parents, who are also assumed to be red state Republican.

And the other academic listservs I'm on are the same. Discussion regularly veers off into politics, and the content differs little from the sorts of things you hear on Air America. In fact, I have even seen professors recommending Air America broadcasts as unbiased sources of information for their students on these lists, making the argument that the mainstream media is far too conservative to be trusted to deliver the truth.

So yesterday's CFP wasn't really that much of an aberration. Yes, it was more blatant that a lot of things I've seen in print, but as I think about it, it's no less blatant than what I hear or read my colleagues talking about when they think they are safely ensconced in their cocoon of leftism. Indeed, yesterday's CFP is a pretty accurate indicator of the thinking of about 80% of academics I've come into contact with, and it's the kind of thinking that is steering course offerings, conference offerings, and publications.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Check Out this Call for Papers

If you're in academia, you know what a CFP is--a call for papers, generally for a conference.

Well, here's something that came over the English CFP list out of UPenn. I cannot believe the audacity of this individual, and I hope that if you're reading this blog and you're a blogger, that you'll report this atrocity on your blog and get the word out. This is quite possibly the most blatant admission of academic bias I've come across in a decade and a half in academia, and certainly the most pathetic excuse for an academic panel I can possibly imagine.

Citizens of Kansas--your tax dollars are paying this guy's salary, and have been since the 1970s.

Date: 5-Oct-2005 16:40:47 -0500
Subject: CFP: The Secret Lives of the Conservatives (10/24/05; KSU CSC, 3/9/06-3/11/06)

I invite papers for a panel to be held at the fifteenth annual Cultural
Studies Conference at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, March
9-11. Papers can be on a wide variety of topics related to the conference
theme of privacy and secrecy and the public sphere.

Papers on specific instances are welcomed, and papers considering a
variety of issues and concerns: tabloidization and the neutralization of
the political; the personal as political; hypocritical Puritanism; the
defense by offense; vast right wing conspiracies; "outing" as a political
tactic; scandal amnesia; "spin" and tactical framing; true evil beneath
the compassionate, Christian front; why nothing makes a difference; left
tactics and despair; the politics of denial and shame; business secrecy
vs. personal secrecy; liberal vs. conservative secret lives; sexual dysfunction in conservatives; Laura Bush's private life; scholarly muckraking and shockjocking.

Send brief, 200 word abstracts by email, not attachment, to Don Hedrick,
along with a very brief bio, to Don Hedrick, Department of English, Kansas State University, at, by October 24. Inquiries welcome.

Don Hedrick

From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List
Full Information at
or write Jennifer Higginbotham:

UPDATE: A comment over at Critical Mass points out the propensity among the Democrats to "out" their political opponents--such as outing Mary Cheney's daughter, but the comment didn't go where I thought it was going to go, something I wish I'd thought to point out last night. Doesn't this bozo appreciate the irony of asking for people to come and whine about outing as a political tactic and in the next breath to come and talk about Laura Bush's private life? The comment skirts around this fact, but I was waiting for the skewer, so I went ahead and provided it here.

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