Whitewashing Communism for eco students

Bryan Caplan

A professor at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and blogger for EconLog, Bryan Caplan knows his stuff – his stuff being economics. And so last February, when we ran across a statement by him that his first encounter with eco textbooks proved many of them to be alarmingly “pro-communist,” we kept reading. Those books, he maintained, were “very positive relative to communism’s historical record” and their authors “seemed deeply ignorant of actual communism.” They were, in fact, “communist dupes,” spreading “a radically overoptimistic image of communism.”

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok

Is this still the case? Now, a generation later, Caplan is helping his son, a high-school student, prep for an advanced-placement eco exam. The main text in the subject, Modern Principles of Economics by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, gets good grades from Caplan: it “includes accurately horrifying details about life under communism.” But the test prep books are something else again. The Princeton Review’s Cracking the AP Economics is “mostly a normal econ text,” but its account of Communism, Caplan says, is nothing less than “awful.” He takes it apart sentence by sentence: “Communism,” it states, “is a system designed to minimize imbalance in wealth via the collective ownership of property.” In fact, Caplan points out, collective ownership “was never primarily a means of ‘minimizing wealth imbalance’”; for Communist leaders, it was “an end in itself,” kept in place despite the fact that it “caused horrifying famines in the short-run, and low agricultural productivity in the long-run.”

Cowen and Tabarrok’s textbook: good on Communism

The Princeton Review prep book goes on: “Legislators from a single political party – the communist party – divide the available wealth for equal advantage among citizens.” Caplan’s comeback is blunt:

What actually happened under communism was rather different. Communist regimes began with the mass murder of their political enemies, businessmen, and their families. Next, they seized the peasants’ land, leading to hellish famines. In time, they launched major “industrialization” campaigns but obsessively focused on building up their militaries, not mass consumption. And no communist regime has ever tried to “divide wealth for equal advantage.” Bloodbaths aside, communist regimes always put Party members’ comfort above the very lives of ordinary citizens.

The Princeton Review’s book: not so good on Communism

The prep book goes on: “The problems with communism include a lack of incentives for extra effort, risk taking, and innovation.” Caplan’s reply: “Communist regimes did provide poor incentives to produce consumer goods for ordinary citizens. But they provided solid to excellent incentives in the sectors they really cared about: the military, secret police, border guarding, athletics, space programs, and so on.” Finally, Princeton had this to say: “The critical role of the central government in allocating resources and setting production levels makes this system particularly vulnerable to corruption.” Caplan: “Talk about praising with faint damnation. Never mind mass murder, famine, pathological militarism, and state-mandated favoritism for Party members. What’s really telling is that communism was ‘particularly vulnerable to corruption.’” What kind of a book “leaves students with the impression that corruption was communism’s chief defect”?

Finally, a prof gets punished for anti-white racism

Tucker Carlson

On June 4, Tucker Carlson of Fox News reported on a Memorial Day party, held in New York by Black Lives Matter, from which non-blacks were explicitly banned. He quoted from a statement by the organizers: “Being intentional about being around Black People is an act of resistance. This is an exclusively Black Space. So if you do not identify as Black and want to come because you love Black People, please respect the space and do not come.”

He then brought on a guest named Lisa Durden, whom he identified as a political commentator and Black Lives Matter supporter. Carlson expressed surprise at the decision of a group supposedly devoted to racial equality to enforce a policy of segregation, and asked Durden how she could reconcile this seeming contradiction. Durden, instead of responding seriously to a serious question, reacted with cartoonish condescension: “What I say to that is, boo-hoo-hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited to Black Lives Matter’s Memorial Day celebration.” She went on to say that Memorial Day had been founded by former slaves in 1865 after the Civil War to honor Union soldiers who had died for their freedom, and that “in that same vein” BLM had held this party to commemorate the murder of “black folks…by racist terrorists.”

Durden’s comment was bizarre on several levels. First, there is no evidence that Memorial Day was founded by former slaves. Second, if it was founded by former slaves to honor Union soldiers (the overwhelming number of whom were white) who had died for their freedoms, banning white people from such an event seems rather odd. Third, Durdan’s whole tone was that not of a serious commentator but of – well, watch the video yourself and figure out how best to describe it.

Rachel Lindsay, black Bachelorette

“White folks,” Durden went on to say, “crack me up. All of a sudden when we want to have one day to focus on ourselves….You’ve had an all-white Oscars, all these movies with all-white actors…all-white TV shows….The Bachelorette, it took eleven seasons to have a black bachelorette. Are you serious?” When Carlson repeated the point that the BLM event seemed “hostile” and “separatist” and “crazy,” Durden, by way of defending BLM’s racial separatism, said: “People hold weddings where they exclude children,” because they can’t be sure kids wouldn’t disrupt the event. By the same logic, she maintained, BLM had imposed a ban on whites in order to avoid having its party ruined by “white folks who are gonna be off the rails.” Durden summed up BLM’s message to whites as follows: “Stay your asses out!”

As it happens, Lisa Durden isn’t just a political commentator. She’s also an adjunct professor at Essex County College in Newark, teaching speech, mass communication, and popular culture.

Essex County College

Or, at least, was an adjunct professor at Essex County College. Two days after her appearance on Carlson’s show, she showed up for work only to discover that she had been suspended “until further notice.” She quickly went out into the media to declare that she had been “lynched.” The college, for its part, issued a statement indicating that it “promotes a community of unity that is inclusive of all.” Durden’s attorney professed to be mystified by her suspension. What could possibly be the college’s “agenda?” Had Durden been “too outspoken?” White-bashing has become so normalized on American campuses that for a college to actually punish a faculty member for engaging in it left both her and her lawyer scratching their heads in wonderment. Later in June came news of Durden’s permanent dismissal from her job. Essex County College deserves congratulations for bucking the nefarious academic trends of the day and actually punishing black-on-white racism.

Celebrating Africa, demonizing Israel: Chika Okeke-Aguru

Chika Okeke-Agulu

We’ve been looking at a recent New York Times article by Chika Okeke-Aguru, a professor of African Art at Princeton who fretted over the fact that rich Sotheby’s customers were snapping up artworks from the Dark Continent that should, in his view, remain publicly owned parts of Africa’s own cultural heritage.

Noting that most Africans have little access to the work of artists from their own continent – and that Lagos, for example, doesn’t have a single museum that exhibits a famous Nigerian artist – Okeke-Aguru whined: “This is no small problem.”

To which we asked yesterday, and will ask again now: compared to what?

GDP per capita, 2015

Compared to the fact that most of the 55 countries in Africa are considered “Not Free” by Freedom House, that most of the others are considered “Partly Free,” and that only ten – Senegal, Ghana, Benin, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia, Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritius, and Cape Verde – are considered “Free”? Compared to the fact that in a world map of countries that have been colored according to gross domestic product, on which GDPs below $5000 are bright yellow and richer countries are marked in ever-darkening shades of olive, almost the entirety of Africa shines out like the sun?

A neighborhood in Lagos

Nigeria, the country in which the aforementioned city, Lagos, Africa’s largest, is located, is actually one of the continent’s richest nations, with a per capita GDP of $2,640. Africa also jumps out on a map showing worldwide life expectancies, with most countries having an average age at death between forty or and sixty, while the corresponding ages in virtually the whole rest of the world range between seventy and ninety.

The University of Cape Town, considered the best university in Africa by the London Times, comes in at #148 in the world on the Times’s 2017 list

Want more? Look at the corruption statistics. The rape statistics. Gay rights? Forget about it. And how about the prevalence of primitive practices unheard of elsewhere on the planet – such as the murder of women suspected of witchcraft and the amputation of limbs from albino children by superstitious illiterates who think they bring good luck? How about the lack of a single decent university anywhere on the continent, with the exception of a few institutions in the Republic of South Africa?

This 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare also raked in the big bucks at Sothebys

Honestly, compared to all this, how important is it that a sculpture made of old bottle caps won’t be readily available for in-person scrutiny by the artist’s fellow Ghanaians? Yes, yes, as Okeke-Agulu puts it, “art is an important resource with which societies imagine their world.” And so on – blah, blah, blah. Any longtime reader of the New Your Times could quickly develop that point into a paragraph not so very different from the one in Okeke-Agulu’s actual article.

One wonders: if it’s so important that Africans be intimately familiar with their own continent’s artworks, why is Okeke-Agulu wasting his vast knowledge of the subject on the student body of Princeton University? Why isn’t he on the faculty of the University of Ghana, or the University of Ibadan, or the University of Nairobi?

Well, part of the reason is that Okeke-Agule doesn’t spend all his time teaching courses in African art. He also puts a lot of effort into an activity for which an Ivy League campus is the perfect setting: anti-Israeli activism. He calls Israel an apartheid state and a practitioner of ethnic cleansing. He supports academic boycotts of Israel. He has agitated on behalf of Palestinian terrorists who are currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons.

Benjamin Netanyahu

According to the Canary Mission website, he “tweets articles from Mint Press News, a ‘super anti-Israel’ website that frequently compares Israel to ISIS.” In a 2014 article, he “minimized the terrorist actions of Hamas” and criticized Israel for responding to those actions by destroying the terrorists’ “attack tunnels.” He has smeared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a racist and participated in a campaign to get Princeton to divest from companies with Israeli ties.

Okeke-Aguru (second right) at a Princeton ceremony where he won an award

It is interesting – though hardly surprising, in these twisted times – that a professor who teaches about African art at Princeton would appear to have little or nothing to say about the drastic poverty, severe lack of freedom, abominable human-rights records, primitive quality of education, rudimentary sanitation, massive corruption, and savage cultural practices that still reign in most of Africa, but is able to sheds crocodile tears over the purchase by rich white Americans of a few Ghanaian art works made of bottle caps. Add to that the fact that this Africa-centric fool, while blithely ignoring the multitudinous ways in which Africa is a holy mess, finds it useful to contribute to the demonization of the State of Israel – a world-class model of individual liberty, cutting-edge scientific and technological progress, and so on – in short, a land that’s far more advanced, in any way you can think of, than any of the 55 nations on the African continent.

Africa’s biggest problem? Art auctions!

Chika Okeke-Agulu

Let’s start with an article by Chika Okeke-Agulu, a professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University, that appeared in May in the New York Times. In his piece, Okeke-Agulu reported that Sothebys, “the granddaddy of auctioneers,” had recently raked in almost $4 million at its first-ever auction of modern and contemporary African art. “The star of the sale,” Okeke-Agulu wrote, “was the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s sculpture made from discarded aluminum bottle caps and copper wire that went for about $950,000.”

“Drifting Continents,” artwork by El Anatsui

Of course one might expect that an Ivy League expert on African art would consider this news a cause for celebration. How wonderful that Americans are willing to pay such big bucks for African artworks! Surely if the auction had turned out to be a big bust, Okeke-Agulu, or somebody else in a similar position, would have written a piece for the Times, or some equally important mainstream publication, complaining about the West’s lack of appreciation for African art. Perhaps the word “racism” would even have popped up.

But since all this stuff sold so well, what to say? Well, to begin with, Okeke-Agulu did acknowledge an upside. The $4 million take, he surmised, “most likely signals the beginning of a more serious interest” in African art “from Western museums, which may finally start to consider such work worthy of inclusion in their permanent collections.” Which, he admitted, is a good thing.

El Anatsui

And yet…

Well, it goes without saying that Okele-Aguru had a “yet.” And this was it: “In this inexorable march to the mainstream, I am tempted to think of contemporary African art as akin to an urban neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Now that it is seen as high culture, the art and artists are gaining value, investors are jostling to get a piece of the action, and private collections are growing in Africa and around the world.” While this development may yield tidy profits for some of the “African modernists…who set out to create new art for independent Africa during the mid-20th century,” it will amount to a terrible loss for others.

Sotheby’s New York

Who? Why, “the continent’s masses,” naturally. “They will be denied access to artworks that define the age of independence and symbolize the slow process of postcolonial recovery.” Alas, lamented Okeke-Agulu, “whole countries in Africa cannot boast of a single art museum of any renown.” For example, consider Lagos, which despite being “one of the world’s largest cities” has no museums containing “the work of a big-name Nigerian artist.” Okeke-Aguru’s verdict: “This is no small problem.”

Compared to what? We’ll pick this up tomorrow.

America’s most dangerous professor?

No sooner had we spent a week covering some of the more appalling useful idiots on California university faculties – much of our information being taken from the invaluable Canary Mission website – than that site trumped itself with a new report on a man whom it calls “the most dangerous professor in America.”

Hatem Bazian

As a graduate student, Hatem Bazian ran the Palestinian students’ group at San Francisco State University and the Muslim Students Association at Berkeley. Now a lecturer in UC Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies, he also serves as provost and as a faculty member at Zaytuna College for Muslim Studies, which he co-founded. He also founded Students for Justice in Palestine as well as Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Documentation of Islamophobia.

Canary Mission cites a 2004 event at which Bazian asked an audience at Berkeley: “How come we don’t have an intifada in this country?” Though he later claimed he was not calling for violence, he said at another event: “The only language that the slave master understands is the language of violence.” In addition, he refused to condemn terrorist actions by Hamas and Hezbollah. In 1999, Bazian was reported by the Detroit News to have cited with approval a line from the Hadith: “The Day of Judgment will not happen until the trees and stones will say, ‘Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’” In a 2017 lecture, Bazian identified Middle East scholars Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, and Steven Emerson as “Islamophobes.”

After 9/11, he published a largely incoherent, semi-literate, and altogether strange series of statements about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PLO leader Yasir Arafat: “Sharon has been working earnestly to create or fomenting [sic] internal tension within the Palestinian Authority in such a way that can bring about a decision from an inside group, which no longer views Arafat [sic] actions to be in their best interests, and undertake his assassination.” He went on: “Sharon have [sic] decided that it would be better for Israel to have the Islamic forces in charge of Palestinian affairs because he would have more sympathy in the West fighting ‘Islamic Fundamentalist’ terrorism….We most certainly will hear some Israelis with the distinct N. Y. English accent remained [sic] all of us of the often used cruel statement that the ‘Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’”

As one commentator wondered years ago, apropos of these odd reflections: “How can university deans and chancellors, in good conscience, hire professors who cannot speak or write grammatically? How do those same professors maintain credibility, let alone win Ph.D.s, when they cannot pass a standard written English test?”

The Canary Mission website describes Bazian as a “chameleon”: “In the academic world, he is slick and intellectual. In his writings he has a sophisticated anti-Zionist narrative that delegitimizes the Jewish people’s history, identity and connection to Israel…[A]t rallies the veneer falls away and we see his crude racist rhetoric — a rhetoric that is aggressive and pro-violence.” The website added that Bazian was unusually menacing because of his “mesmerizing influence over many students.” Canary Mission further noted the importance of his role as founder of the SJP, chapters of which have held events at which members chanted “Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada” – which, Canary Mission pointed out, is “exactly what Bazian preaches.”

Lying about Israel: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

Today we’re continuing our look at Saree Makdisi, a nephew of slimy academic fake Edward Said and a vicious UCLA anti-Semite in his own right. Yesterday we glanced at a Los Angeles Times op-ed in which he served up a stunning defense of the unvarnished Jew-hatred of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. But Makdisi has actually been a fount of mischievous L.A. Times contributions. In another one of these propaganda tidbits, he complained about “attacks on academic freedom” and “the intimidation of students” on U.S. campuses.

Edward Said

Was he referring to the widespread harassment of Jewish students (and faculty!) by Muslims and their ideological allies? As the Honest Reporting website noted, “it is Jewish and pro-Israel (or even just neutral) students who are intimidated, delegitimized, harassed, excluded, discriminated against, held responsible for Israel’s actions, targeted with anti-Semitism, have had to hide from a violent anti-Israel mob and be extracted by the police, and been disrupted and shouted down and silenced to stop them speaking the truth to defend Israel against BDS lies.” But no, Makdisi wasn’t referring to any of this. He was referring to the fact that the torrents of anti-Semitic rhetoric churned out by himself and other academics in American universities were now being monitored and reported on by their critics. Never mind that Makdisi’s writings about Israel and the Palestinians are often riddled with lies, and that his critics quote him with meticulous accuracy.

Milan Chatterjee

The specific concern of Makdisi’s op-ed was a course at Berkeley that, as Honest Reporting put it, “distorts the history of the Jewish connection to Israel, denies Israel’s right to exist, and explores how Israel might be destroyed, no doubt making things feel even more uncomfortable and unsafe for Jewish and pro-Israel students.” Honest Reporting also quoted a student leader, Milan Chatterjee, who actually left UCLA because of the intense level of harassment he endured at the hands of Makdisi’s BDS thugs. But Makdisi expresses no concern for such kids – on the contrary, if they’re feeling discomfort it’s because they’ve been exposed to a truth. The real victims, those who are really being intimidated, according to Makdisi, are him and his fellow pro-Palestinian heroes. The Honest Reporting site had a cogent reply to this nonsense: “Tell that to the Jewish students at the UC Irvine who had to barricade themselves to escape a BDS mob trying to violently disrupt an event.”

Tamar Sternthal

In yet another oped, published in January 2016, Makdidi called for an academic boycott of Israel. Replying to it, Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA complained that the lies in his L.A. Times op-eds “would earn a failing mark on a high school paper.” As an example of his falsehoods, Sternthal cited Makdisi’s claim that “there is not a single high school in the Palestinian communities in the Negev desert in southern Israel.” Sternthal replied: “In fact, there are more than 40 high schools for Bedouin students in the Negev.” Another Makdisi lie: “Israeli universities systematically fail their Palestinian students.” On the contrary, wrote Sternthal, Israel’s Council for Higher Education runs an undergraduate scholarship program for 650 Arab students: “Why would Israel allocate millions of shekels just for Arab students simply to systematically flunk them out?” Lies, lies, lies. Somewhere up there, Makdisi’s deceit-ridden uncle Edward is smiling.

 

Chip off the old block: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

This week we’ve been hopping from one West Coast college campus to another, taking brief meetings with some of the Golden State’s more unsavory academic anti-Semites. Today and tomorrow we’ll be spending a bit more time with a particularly prominent member of that breed, namely Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor of English and Comparative Literature.

Edward Said

Makdisi just so happens to be a nephew of Edward Said – the late Columbia University superstar who came up with the idea of delegitimizing Western scholars of Arabic, Middle Eastern, or Asian culture by accusing them of “Orientalism.” Makdisi is a chip off the old block. As he explains on his own page at the UCLA website, he writes about “the crossroad of several different fields, including British Romanticism, imperial culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and criticism, and the cultures of urban modernity particularly the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces, including London, Beirut and Jerusalem.”

A “changed urban space”: a car bomb in Beirut

That last part is particularly interesting. Talk about euphemism: “the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces.” Such as the Muslim takeover of the East End, the violent expulsion of Jews and Christians from Beirut, and the concerted effort by Palestinian Muslims and their activist academic allies to deny that Jerusalem was, indeed, the ancient capital and holy city of the Jewish people.

Makdisi is himself one of those mendacious souls who deny flat-out that Jews have any historical connection whatsoever to Judea and Samaria. A leader of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, he calls Israel an “apartheid state,” accuses it of deliberately trying to stunt the grown of children in Gaza, and has promoted as authentic those staged “Pallywood” videos in which Palestinians pretend to be abused or killed by Israelis. On his Twitter feed, he alternates between defending Muslims – terrorists included – and demonizing Jews, Israel, and America.

Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester bombing

After the terrorist attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, he banged out several tweets implying that the murders of those girls were motivated by – and presumably even justified by – American and British actions in the Middle East. Two examples:

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

They” hate “our” values, eh? (a) what values? (b) connect the dots between violent foreign policy & domestic blowback.

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

Car bombs in Baghdad and Kabul and yet more US indiscriminate murder of civilians in Yemen, Syria, Iraq. Connect the dots to Manchester.

He also writes regularly for several anti-Semitic websites, and has also had a number of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, all of them about Israel and the Palestinians. In them, he’s called on Americans to boycott Israeli schools, accused Israel of a “policy of erasure,” and denied that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

Helen Thomas

Some of his L.A. Times op-eds deserve special attention. In one of them, published in 2010, he defended notorious remarks that had recently been made in an interview by the Lebanese-American White House reporter Helen Thomas. The Israeli Jews, Thomas said, should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas added: “Remember these people [Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land. It’s not Poland, it’s not Germany.” When asked by her interviewer what the Jews in Israel should do, she said: “They should go home. Poland. Germany….. And America. And everywhere else.” Makdisi, being as slick a customer as his uncle, defended Thomas in a cagey way, with sentences like this: “One does not have to agree with Thomas to note that her remark spoke to the ugly history of colonialism, racism, usurpation and denial that are at the heart of the question of Palestine.” No, her remarks spoke to the bigotry of a nasty old woman who refuses to accept that there have always been Jews in the Levant, and that Israel, not Poland or Germany, is indeed their ancestral home.

More tomorrow.