Brainless actor fond of penniless country

danny-glover_harry-belafonte
Glover and Harry Belafonte at a 2009 cultural event in Havana

As we saw the other day, movie star Danny Glover had a soft spot for late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. If anything, however, Glover loves the Castros even more than he ever loved el caudillo. While routinely savaging Israel as an apartheid state and supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement against the Jewish state, Glover fiercely opposed the U.S. embargo of Cuba. As the editors of the New York Post noted last December, there was, at least, no ideological contradiction here: Glover supports BDS because he hates the only democracy in the Middle East; he opposed the Cuba embargo, quite simply, “because he admires Havana’s Communist regime.”

danypremio
Glover accepting a prize in Havana

By all accounts, Glover has spent a remarkable amount of time in Cuba. According to the Washington Post, he “goes there all the time with little fuss.” He’s attended an annual Havana film festival several times.   In 2011 he accepted a “cinema award” in Havana;  in the same year he took part in a Havana event entitled “Cuba and the Afro-Descendant Peoples of the Americas.”

lethal[1]He’s made it clear that he sees Cuba as some kind of utopian society that’s free of, among other things, racism. In a 2012 interview with the Cuban state media, he gushed that the Cuban Revolution is infused with “an extraordinary will to find truth and to reveal the new human being, the new man and a new woman.” The official Cuban daily Granma has called the relationship between Glover and Havana “intense….It was love at first sight, and not only has it stood the test of his frequent visits, but it is growing deeper and deeper, through discoveries and affinities.”

paquito_de_rivera1
Paquito D’Rivera

Quoting this statement in his memoirs, the distinguished jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera – who fled Cuba after his musical style was condemned by the Castro regime as “imperialist” – wryly observes that “Castro’s black victims from Havana…haven’t been among [Glover’s] discoveries and affinities.” Listing the names of several black Cuban human-rights activists who’ve been imprisoned by the Castro regime, D’Rivera asks: “Has Danny Glover denounced the sentences perpetrated against these heroic black Cubans?…On the contrary, Glover’s solidarity is for the man who subjugates black Cubans.” Indeed, we’ve searched the Internet unsuccessfully for any indication that Glover has ever spoken up for any of the Cuban natives who’ve been incarcerated for criticizing their own government.

hernandezglover
Glover visiting Gerardo Hernández in prison

Glover was especially active in seeking the release of the so-called “Cuban Five” – a group of Cuban spies who were imprisoned in the U.S. for many years. (They’re now free.) The Cuban government itself admitted that they were spies, but this didn’t keep Glover from calling them “heroic men.” He became especially close to one of them, Gerardo Hernández, who’d also been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder (this for his involvement in the “shoot-down of unarmed civilian planes piloted by members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue”). Glover visited Hernández frequently in prison, and described him as his “spiritual brother” and “one of the greatest people I ever met.”

This, then, is the real Danny Glover. And however many times you may see his name online preceded by the word “humanitarian,” just remember: it’s not exactly the mot juste.  

Danny Glover: lethally stupid

glover_chavez
Danny Glover, Hugo Chávez

We’ve devoted a certain amount of attention on this site to top-drawer Hollywood stooges like Sean PennRobert Redford, and Steven Seagal, but so far we’ve neglected to cover one of the most assiduous ones: Danny Glover, star of such films as The Color Purple and Lethal Weapon, and, um, Lethal Weapon 2, and – let’s see, what else? – oh, yes, Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4. To read the most prominent sources, you’d think Glover is a prince of a guy. “He is an active supporter of various humanitarian and political causes,” reads his Wikipedia page. On IMDB, he’s identified as an “[a]ctor, producer and humanitarian.” On his own Facebook page he calls himself an “actor, producer, activist, and humanitarian”; the h-word is also front and center on his official website

Yet look beyond the PR and you’ll find that Glover’s outsized enthusiasm for despots makes some of his fellow Tinseltown tyrant-fans look almost irresolute by comparison.

gloverchavez2
Danny Glover, Hugo Chávez

Let’s start with Venezuela. Glover was chummy with the late strongman Hugo Chávez for years: along with Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, and others, he met with the caudillo back in 2006. So close was he to Chávez that El Presidente actually set up financing for a couple of movies Glover planned to produce – one of them about Simón Bolívar, the other about Haitian rebel leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. (Neither of these films has yet materialized, although the latter is listed as forthcoming on Glover’s IMBD page.)

Glover’s love for the Caracas regime didn’t end with Chávez’s death. Last year, when a gang of the usual suspects, among them Oliver Stone and Tom Hayden, wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress expressing support for Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, Glover’s name led the list of signatories.

But Chávez isn’t the only dictator, alive or dead, with whom Glover’s been chummy. Guess who his other fave is? We’ll take a look at that friendship on Monday.  

 

Cubans vs. Obama

Since President Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations with the Communist government of Cuba, many conservative critics of the administration have attacked him severely.

Official Portrait
Marco Rubio

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, wondered “what, if anything, has been achieved…in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner agreed: “The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship…As I’ve said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner.”

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

Now their voices have been joined by those of pro-democracy activists in Cuba itself, at leat 90 of whom were arrested at an August 9 protest against the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. (One estimate puts the number at 118.) Several of the activists who took part in the protest were wearing masks of Obama – not because they support the American president, but, on the contrary, because they feel that Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba has led to an intensified crackdown on domestic critics of the Castro regime.

moya
Angel Moya Acosta

“It’s his [Obama’s] fault, what is happening,” charged Angel Moya Acosta, a prominent activist and former political prisoner who is the husband of Berta Soler, head of the anti-Castro group Ladies in White. Thanks to Obama’s action, claimed Moya, the Castro government “has grown even bolder….That’s why we have this mask on. Because it’s his fault.”

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Iran Deal on August 11, 2015 in New York City. The U.S. Congress has until September 17 to approve a bill either supporting or rejecting the deal. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
John Kerry

A spokesman for Secretary of State John Kerry, who is scheduled to open the embassy in Havana tomorrow (Friday the 14th), deplored the arrests but, when asked if Kerry planned to meet with dissidents during his visit to Cuba, fumfered unimpressively: “I don’t have anything specific with his — on his schedule Friday when he goes down to Havana. We’ll — we’ll — as we get closer to Friday, we’ll be able to give you more details about — about does it.” On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported – surprise! – that Cuban dissidents would not be invited to “Secretary of State John Kerry’s historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday, vividly illustrating how U.S. policy is shifting focus from the island’s opposition to its single-party government.” Kerry, added the AP, “intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day.” Key word: quietly. Arrange a meeting (in hopes, presumably, of muting their anti-Obama rhetoric), but don’t do anything that might win them Western media attention or help their cause.

Mind you, we’re not calling President Obama a useful stooge. But those pro-democracy activists in Cuba were certainly calling him precisely that.

Fortune cookies: U.S. colleges in China

ci2We’ve been looking at NYU, Yale, and other major U.S. universities that have sold their souls for Arab petrodollars. Another top source of dirty money for these schools’ ambitious, ethically challenged administrators is the People’s Republic of China, which sponsors so-called “Confucius Institutes” – centers for the study of Chinese language and culture – at around campuses in the U.S. The American host universities for these centers, as Shaun Tan has noted, “must sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ endorsing the ‘one-China policy’ that precludes recognition of Taiwan as a state.” As Jim Sleeper wrote earlier this year, the Confucius Institutes

ci1sometimes muscle out American host universities’ own independent scholars on China, not only by offering them free Chinese language instruction but also by pressuring them to disinvite uncongenial speakers and cancel public discussions of “forbidden” topics, including Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen. CI directors monitor the work and pronouncements not only of their own teaching staff but also of their nominal American colleagues, who, if they criticize China, may suddenly find it difficult to obtain visas to continue research there. The effect is to “intimidate and punish” scholars, Chinese and Western, who challenge Beijing’s agendas.

Tan recalls that when Chinese Premier Hu Jintao spoke at Yale, audience members weren’t allowed to ask questions and protesters were kept away from the site of his speech, lest he be inclined to “rethink his recent decision to allow Yale to be the first foreign university to trade on China’s heavily regulated stock market.”

NYUS
NYU-Shanghai

We’ve already seen how John Sexton, the simpering fool who runs NYU, has kowtowed to UAE sheiks in order to establish NYU-Abu Dhabi. But that’s only one chapter in the shameful history of Sexton’s selling out. In 2013, he also presided over the founding of an NYU branch campus in Shanghai. Sexton was plainly not troubled by China’s severe limitations on academic freedom. Indeed, he seems quite happy to help enforce them not only in China but in New York: in June 2013, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng said Sexton’s administration had yanked his NYU fellowship and his Manhattan apartment in order to placate his former torturers in Beijing.

Earlier this year, notes Sleeper, China’s Education Minister forbade the country’s universities from using “textbooks promoting Western values…in our classes” or permitting classroom “remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” or “smear socialism.” How can any university worthy of the name operate under such restrictions?

xia
Xia Yeliang

Then there’s the Xia Yeliang incident. In October 2013, Xia, an economics professor at Peking University (PKU), was fired, apparently in retaliation for his “outspoken” opinions. Members of the faculty at Wellesley College, which had just signed a deal with PKU, wrote a letter of protest to that university’s president, calling the dismissal “such a fundamental violation of academic freedom” that they “would find it very difficult to engage in scholarly exchanges with Peking University.” Impressive. But Wellesley, alas, was the exception that proved the rule. As Peter Ford reported in the Christian Science Monitor, almost fifty American institutions of higher education had deals with PKU at the time of Xia’s firing, but only two (the other was the University of Virginia) spoke up about it.

dra-reverby1
Susan Reverby

What does it mean for us to rent our reputation abroad?” asked Wellesley history prof Susan Reverby. “At what point does one side go over a line that the partner organization does not think should be crossed?” Sleeper, noting that Stanford University “has a $7 million center at Peking University,” quoted Stanford dean Richard Saller‘s less-than-stirring statement on Xia’s dismissal: “We went into our relationship with Peking University with the knowledge that American standards of academic freedom are the product of 100 years of evolution. We think engagement is a better strategy than taking such moral high ground that we can’t engage with some of these universities.” (Translation: ka-ching!)

And Xia himself? He told Ford that fifteen years earlier the administrators of PKU “thought they should listen to the West….But today so many famous universities want to cooperate with PKU…[that] they think they can set the rules.” On that point, the folks at PKU would seem to be entirely correct.

No gays, no Jews, no worries: NYU in Abu Dhabi

john-sexton
John Sexton

In a revealing 2008 New York magazine piece about NYU’s sellout to Abu Dhabi, Zvika Krieger quoted dopey NYU president John Sexton‘s blithe admission that students and faculty at NYU-Abu Dhabi would be subject to “the normal laws of that society” – for example, the UAE’s criminization of homosexuality and its ban on Israelis. As one NYU math professor, Sylvain Cappell, noted, “Israelis are gigantic figures in academic life, and if we held conferences in certain disciplines, it would be an embarrassment not to be able to have Israeli participation.” Krieger wondered “how the Jewish members of NYU’s board of trustees engaged the mental gymnastics necessary to process the U.A.E.’s disconcerting tolerance of anti-Semitism.”

nyuad
NYU-Abu Dhabi

Sexton, however, refused to see any problems here: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” Never mind that the police and courts and prison authorities in the UAE do think in those categories. Mubarak Al Shamesi, Abu Dhabi’s education honcho, told Krieger that “NYU was aware of our local culture and rules and guidelines, and our policies on Israelis or homosexuality were clearly not a concern for them.”

This, as Krieger underscored, from a university that had been named the most gay-friendly in the United States.

Recently, Jim Sleeper, who teaches poli sci at Yale, wrote an article in which he expanded on Shaun Tan’s and Zvika Krieger’s criticism of Sexton. Noting that the campus of NYU-Abu Dhabi “is the product of a kleptocracy,” Sleeper pointed out that the compromises entered into by Sexton & co. “involve not just academic life but the virtual indentured servitude of thousands of laborers from Southeast Asia who have been imported to construct the campus.”

Nasser bin Ghaith, one of the five political activists pardoned by the United Arab Emirates, speaks to Reuters at his home in Dubai November 30, 2011. REUTERS/Nikhil Monteiro
Nasser bin Ghaith

Although NYU-Abu Dhabi is still a relatively new institution, it’s already been the locus of several major compromises. In 2011, Nasser bin Ghaith, who taught at the Sorbonne’s Abu Dhabi branch, was arrested and tried “for supporting democratic elections.” Human Rights Watch urged NYU and other UAE-based Western colleges to come to Bin Ghaith’s defense; but, as Jackson Diehl reported in the Washington Post,

NYU joined with the Sorbonne in throwing Bin Ghaith overboard. A Sorbonne statement said the university had “no authorized means to express an opinion” because the charges against the professor were “external to his academic activities.” NYU also declined to make a statement; a spokesman said it fell outside NYU’s “core mission.”

In 2012, Ursula Lindsey, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, paid a visit to the NYU-Abu Dhabi campus. Among her observations: faculty members “use caution in broaching topics such as AIDS and prostitution; the status of migrant laborers; Israel and the Holocaust; and domestic politics and corruption. Any critical discussion of the Emirates’ ruling families is an obvious no-go zone.” In 2014, Matt J. Duffy, who had taught in the UAE, called NYU-Abu Dhabi’s “pledge of ‘academic freedom’ …essentially worthless because powerful figures [in the Emirates] can make arbitrary employment decisions with absolutely no recourse.”

andrew_ross
Andrew Ross

Sleeper has cited the case of NYU American Studies professor Andrew Ross, who publicly “called attention to the labor abuses” in the UAE and who consequently was banned from Abu Dhabi in March of this year. That’s not all: “In the United States, Ross was followed by a private investigator; and a reporter who had worked with the New York Times on a story about the Abu Dhabi campus said that a representative of the United Arab Emirates had offered him payments to write more positively about the government.” Worst of all, “President Sexton’s handling of reports about those abuses and of NYU’s complicity in them are troubling.” Quelle surprise!

sorbonne
Sorbonne-Abu Dhabi

No, NYU isn’t the only university to engage in this kind of whoring. But at least some other whores are honest about what they’re doing. “Sexton,” wrote Krieger,

is unwilling to concede that he is in thrall to petrodollars. But the Sorbonne, which opened a campus in Abu Dhabi in 2006, is quite open about having sold itself to the highest bidder. “It is a pity, but I must say that we are only in Abu Dhabi because Abu Dhabi proposed to pay for all of our expenses,” says Daniel Balland, director-general of the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi. “If we got the same offer from Doha or Cairo, we probably would have said yes, too.”

John Sexton’s Abu Dhabi “courtship”

johnnysexton
John Sexton

We’ve been looking at the sordid story of NYU president John Sexton‘s acceptance of Abu Dhabi dough in exchange for his university’s ethical reputation. In both Shaun Tan’s and Zvika Krieger’s retellings, Sexton comes off as an utter fool – and, needless to say, a useful stooge of the first water. Here’s Krieger on Sexton’s first rendezvous with his desert prince, otherwise known as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan:

sheikh
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan

The way Sexton describes his Abu Dhabi courtship is oddly rapturous. Meeting with the crown prince in his opulent majlis social hall was, Sexton says, “electric.” He believes he connected to the prince metaphysically: “The crown prince told me that he felt it in my handshake, in my eyes, in my aura at that first meeting.” And perhaps most significant to Sexton, when they prepared to part ways, the prince said, “What, no hug?” (Sexton is famous for hugging most everyone in sight.) “I knew right then and there,” Sexton remembers fondly, “that we had found our partner.”

Imagine: this idiot is the head of a leading American university. Tan picks up the story:

Having decided on his plan, Sexton pushed it through with autocratic fervor. “It was negotiated secretly and announced to the rest of us with only a veneer of serious faculty consultation, but we knew it was a fait accompli,” said a senior NYU professor who declined to be named because of “a sense that people who get on Sexton’s wrong side get punished.” Indeed, reservations about the project seemed to batter uselessly against Sexton’s bewildering naïveté. “The Crown Prince chose us,” Sexton said, “and he wants us to be the best.”

At the same time, Sexton warned students and faculty at the new campus that they couldn’t criticize Abu Dhabi’s leaders and policies without repercussions. However, he denied that such restrictions would betray the spirit of a liberal arts college. “I have no trouble distinguishing between rights of academic freedom and rights of political expression,” he said.

Before you continue reading, chew over that one for a few seconds.

Mary_Nolan_300x265
Mary Nolan

Krieger attended an NYU faculty meeting at which news of the Abu Dhabi deal caused “outrage.” “To many faculty,” he wrote, “the Abu Dhabi project embodies the worst of John Sexton’s indulgences and the short-sightedness of his glory-seeking ambitions.” Mary Nolan, a longtime NYU history professor, described NYU-Abu Dhabi as “a quintessentially Sexton operation. He thinks he has some sort of a missionary calling, but he operates in a very autocratic manner. Deans are kept on a very short leash, and faculty governance has been absolutely gutted.” 

nyu (2)Some NYU professors wondered if Sexton’s own course on “Supreme Court and Religion,” or other courses on “Theories of Gender and Sexuality” and “The Constitution in the Age of Terror,” would “be welcome in a country that lacks an independent media and judiciary or a separation of church and state.” (Krieger noted that two years earlier, “a foreign lecturer at a university [in the Emirates] was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”)

As we’ll see, those professors’ concerns were more than justified.

NYU: The Big Apple of academic sleaze

sexton2
John Sexton

In his devastating 2012 article “Dangerous Liaisons,” about the moral and intellectual compromises that major American universities have made in order to squeeze money out of rich foreign autocrats, Shaun Tan devoted a few paragraphs to NYU president John Sexton. If virtually all of America’s major universities have been known to sell out their principles as long as there’s enough cash on the table, NYU is arguably the most notorious offender in this regard. Often it seems to be a money-making enterprise first, a real-estate operation second, and a university (at best) third. And when it comes to licking the boots of creeps with deep pockets, the suits at NYU are especially quick to drop to their knees.

bobst1
NYU’s Bobst Library

But even for those familiar with NYU’s history of sleaze, the story of Sexton’s sellout to Arab fat cats is a head-turner. First, get a load of this, from a 2008 New York magazine article by Zvika Krieger entitled “The Emir of NYU”:

John Sexton’s office, which sits on the top floor of NYU’s Bobst Library and boasts an impressive view north to Washington Square Park, has recently begun to resemble a shrine to Abu Dhabi. The university president has installed a massive Oriental rug, a gift from the crown prince, on one entire wall. On another hangs a framed portrait of the sunglasses-clad founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In the center of the room is a large framed photograph of an Emirati woman, hand covered in a henna tattoo, gazing provocatively from behind a sequined veil.

Sheikh_Mohammed_bin_Zayed_Al_Nahyan
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

The reason for this nauseating display? Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, had plunked down $50 million to establish NYU-Abu Dhabi, which, on its opening in 2010, became “the first liberal arts college outside America.” Bankrolled completely by the Abu Dhabi government, NYU-Abu Dhabi was, in Tan’s words, “Sexton’s brainchild, conceived through his mad obsession with dethroning what he calls ‘the holy trinity’ – Harvard, Yale, and Princeton – from their perch at the pinnacle of American education.”

Back to Krieger’s 2008 piece: Sexton “has taken the thirteen-hour flight to the desert emirate four times over the past two years to personally broker the deal with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. He refers to his trips there as a ‘spiritual experience’ and sees the project as honoring his late wife.” Sexton even planned to teach a course of his own in Abu Dhabi, flying back and forth every other weekend:

“I can’t wait to teach my class over there,” he exclaims, his face flushed with excitement as he throws his feet up in the air and falls back in his chair.

Don’t worry. There’s more.

Yale’s road to Singapore

Yale
Yale New Haven

A couple of days ago we began exploring the rampant stoogery at American and British universities that have eagerly compromised their professed values in exchange for piles of cash from various unsavory governments around the world. Yesterday we noted that administrators at Yale University censored a book about the Danish cartoons, apparently to placate their paymasters in the Muslim world.

Yale-NUS
Yale Singapore

Jim Sleeper, in an article published earlier this year, wrote about Yale’s branch campus in Singapore, known as Yale-NUS. Noting that Human Rights Watch calls Singapore “a textbook example of a repressive state,” Sleeper pointed out that Yale’s administration and corporation had told the Yale faculty about the joint venture with Singapore “only when that undertaking had already been signed and sealed.” At the time of Sleeper’s piece, “the full terms of the contract [had] never been shared with the faculty.”

Levin
Richard Levin

Shaun Tan, in a 2012 article, wrote that the establishment of Yale-NUS appeared to have resulted in “increasing authoritarianism on the part of the Yale administration,” with professors saying they were didn’t dare express their concerns about Yale-NUS to Yale’s then president, Richard Levin, for fear of retaliation. Levin’s administration, reported Tan, had “displayed an eerie moral relativism on Singapore.”

bailyn
Charles Bailyn

Tan also quoted a staggeringly nonchalant remark made by Charles Bailyn, who had been named dean of Yale-NUS, about Singapore’s restrictions on speech and assembly: “They take demonstrations in a kind of different way. What we think of as freedom, they think of as an affront to public order, and I think the two societies differ in that respect.” As Sleeper put it, Bailyn appeared to be “trying to relativize if not justify Singapore’s prohibitions of public assembly.” The American Association of University Professors sent Yale an open letter asking sixteen questions about Yale-NUS, but Yale didn’t deign to reply.

Levin, for his part, refused to answer queries about “the Singapore government’s close surveillance of political blogs.” When some members of the Yale faculty passed a resolution deploring Singapore’s “lack of respect for civil and political rights,” Levin objected, calling the resolution “unseemly” and accusing the signatories of “moral superiority.” Just a few months later, as Jackson Diehl reported in the Washington Post, Yale-NUS’s governing board “adopted a policy of preventing students from creating campus branches of Singaporean political parties, engaging in partisan political campaigning, or ‘promoting religious strife.’ It also said students will be bound by Singapore’s laws, which restrict speech and ban sodomy.”

Diehl quoted from a Yale Daily News article by Seyla Benhabib and Christopher Miller, who summed up the problem succinctly: “an institution bearing Yale’s name – headed by professors and staff taken from Yale-New Haven – is in the business of restricting the rights of students.”

Selling out the universities

Yesterday we started looking at the phenomenon of American universities taking money from tyrannical foreign governments. What’s striking about these stories is that so many of the universities involved don’t need the dough – they’re among the richest educational institutions on the planet. But they can’t resist the temptation to solicit cash even from the vilest of regimes.

John L. Esposito
John L. Esposito

Take Harvard. It’s the richest college around. As of 2013, its endowment was $32.7 billion. This didn’t keep it, however, from taking money from the House of Saud to endow a Department of Islamic Studies. Georgetown and Berkeley both did the same.

prince-al-waleed
Esposito’s paymaster, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

These deals, needless to say, always come with strings attached. At Georgetown, the Saudis paid to establish the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding. One of the conditions of this deal was that the Center be run by John L. Esposito, a longtime apologist for Islam who, in one critic’s words, is notorious for constantly making the argument “that Islamic radicals’ depredations stem from societal ills, not Islamic doctrine.” The agreements these universities have made with the Saudis ensure that their Islamic Studies departments aren’t offering their students an objective education in Islam but, rather, a double dose of pro-Islamic propaganda.

6213981428_9d50ea629e_z (1)
The Sheikh Zayed Theatre at the London School of Economics

As Shaun Tan noted in a 2012 article, “Dangerous Liaisons,” it’s not just American universities that have morally compromised themselves by taking money from autocratic Islamic governments to fund Islamic Studies programs. As of 2012, Oxford’s Centre for Islamic Studies had taken $119 million from “a dozen Middle Eastern rulers,” the London School of Economics’ Centre for Middle Eastern Studies had received “$14 million from the UAE.” The UAE also paid $4 million to endow LSE’s Sheikh Zayed Theatre, “named after the UAE dictator whose foundation funds lectures and publications blaming Zionists for the Holocaust and the U.S. military for masterminding 9/11.” Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh both also accepted millions from the House of Saud, which in turn was allowed “to appoint members to the management committees of their Islamic Studies centers.”

jytte
The cover of the book that Yale censored to placate its Muslim paymasters

In 2009, Yale provided an excellent example of the kind of compromises universities invite when they cash checks from unsavory governments. In that year, Yale University Press a book about the Danish cartoon controversy entitled The Cartoons that Shook the World. But not a single one of the cartoons was reproduced in the book.

Why? Because, as Michael Rubin explained in Commentary, “a top administrator intervened with the nominally autonomous Yale University Press to censor” the book. This intervention, Rubin noted, “coincided with Yale President Richard Levin’s outreach to Persian Gulf funders.”

What became of Levin’s “outreach”? Stay tuned.

R.I.P. Robert Conquest: #1 scourge of useful stooges everywhere

Robert Conquest, the Anglo-American historian whose works on the Soviet Union, most importantly The Great Terror (1968), confronted useful stooges on both sides of the Atlantic with facts that severely hobbled their efforts to whitewash Stalin, is dead at 98. From his London Times obituary“The leftwingers who denied the crimes of Stalin did so, Robert Conquest always maintained, because the truth of his terrible purges was “beyond the capacity of their provincial imaginations.”

conques06
Robert Conquest in 2006

The Spectator today reprints a 1961 essay in which Conquest, responding to a letter to the London Times from many bien pensant British cultural types who were exercised about the recent Bay of Pigs invasion, wrote, in his powerfully understated way, “There is something particularly unpleasant about those who, living in a political democracy, comfortably condone terror elsewhere.” And the New York Times quotes Stanford University historian Norman M. Naimark: “His historical intuition was astonishing….He saw things clearly without having access to archives or internal information from the Soviet government. We had a whole industry of Soviet historians who were exposed to a lot of the same material but did not come up with the same conclusions. This was groundbreaking, pioneering work.”

The New York Times also cites a limerick that Conquest wrote in reply to those critics who, accepting his verdict on Stalin, still sought to salvage the heroic image of Lenin and to paint Uncle Joe as a deviation from Leninism:

There was a great Marxist called Lenin

Who did two or three million men in.

That’s a lot to have done in,

But where he did one in

That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.

conquestbush
Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush

Here, from his 1999 book Reflections on a Ravaged Century, is a passage that exemplifies the effectiveness of his cool, analytical approach to the mentality of the useful stooge:

For a useful, almost classical demonstration of the revolutionary mind-warp, the motivation behind acceptance of a totalitarian Idea, we turn to an interview given by the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm on “The Late Show,” 24 October 1994….When Michael Ignatieff asked him to justify his long membership of the Communist Party, he replied: “You didn’t have the option. You see, either there was going to be a future or there wasn’t going to be a future and this was the only thing that offered an acceptable future.”

Ignatieff then asked: “In 1934, millions of people are dying in the Soviet experiment. If you had known that, would it have made a difference to you at that time? To your commitment? To being a Communist?”

Hobsbawm answered: “This is a sort of academic question to which an answer is simply not possible. Erm … I don’t actually know that it has any bearing on the history that I have written. If I were to give you a retrospective answer which is not the answer of a historian, I would have said, `Probably not.'”

conquest
In 2010

Ignatieff asked: “Why?”

Hobsbawm explained: “Because in a period in which, as you might say, mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing. Now the point is, looking back as an historian, I would say that the sacrifices made by the Russian people were probably only marginally worthwhile. The sacrifices were enormous, they were excessive by almost any standard and excessively great. But I’m looking back at it now and I’m saying that because it turns out that the Soviet Union was not the beginning of the world revolution. Had it been, I’m not sure.”

Ignatieff then said: “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?”

conquestmoscow
In Moscow

Hobsbawm immediately said: “Yes.”

It will be seen that, first, Hobsbawm accepted the Soviet project not merely on the emotional ground of “hope” but on the transcendental one of its being the “only” hope. Then, that he was justified because, although it turned out wrong, it might have turned out right (and it was not only a matter of deaths, but also of mass torture, falsification, slave labor). Finally, that he believes this style of chiliastic, absolutist approach to reality is valid in principle.

R.I.P. Robert Conquest: scourge of useful stooges everywhere.