13 January 2011


Still somewhat under the weather, but that affects only the quantity of sarcasm and snark on offer... not the amplitude.

  • Are historians AWOL from contemporary political debates because academic standards require disengagement from the present or because the marked lack of civility in current public discourse is anathema to the academic mindset?1 There's probably some truth to both points of view... but there's also a third factor that is probably even more important: Decisionmakers do not, themselves, have the basic historical understanding to evaluate the arguments made by historians in any fashion other than ideologically. Far too many business and marketing and advertising majors (who pretty universally do not have anything resembling a liberal education) are populating our law schools and our political staffs, and the backlash against "intellectuals" begun following the failure of the "best and brightest" (who weren't, but that argument is for another time) to manage the Vietnam conflict successfully has just made things worse.

    To put it another way, marketing/advertising wants black and white, and so do politicians in a two-party "us and them" system. Historians specialize in grey. It should not surprise anyone that the two populations don't communicate too well.

  • The only trustworthy feline on the 'net begins a report on the Global Forum on IP. Authors and those who care about literature should read the discussion about "The Internet and Copyright – Problem Solved?" (about two screens down).

  1. Aside from faculty meetings, that is, where incivil discourse is not just encouraged, but required. Remember: Academic feuds are so vicious because the stakes are so low. What that says, by implication, about the stakes in our current political "debate," given how vicious it has become...