The Priesthood of Academia

By: September 19, 2011

Nothing illustrates the low station to which academia in America has descended better than the recent rash of “studies” of the Tea Party movement. These studies are all of a certain type–pre-determined conclusions desperately in search of any kind of data that can be claimed as supportive. Academics, who once were honest seekers of the truth, now behave more like priests defending the orthodox theologies of the left.

In June of last year, I pointed out the fallacies of one such study, conducted by Professor Christopher Parker of the University of Washington. Last October, the University of California at Berkeley held a laughable conference of academics, none of whom apparently either knew or had ever spoken with a tea party leader. That gathering came to predictable echo chamber conclusions. Also last October, Professor Jill Lepore, who teaches at my alma mater, Harvard,  advanced a loopy theory in her book, The Whites of Their Eyes, that the modern Tea Party movement arose as a consequence of issues surrounding our nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. No one but Professor Lepore saw one bit of evidence to support that theory.

Now comes an article in Logos Journal  from Joseph Lowndes, an Associate Professor at the University of Oregon, with a predictably “progressive” pedigree (a B.A from Antioch and a Phd. from the New School of Social Research) whose primary source of information about the Tea Party movement is a widely discredited screed from a rabidly left wing think tank in Kansas City. There’s not enough space in this article to document the litany of factual errors found in Professor Lowndes’ essay, but I’ll document some of the most easily dismissed to give you a flavor of the intellectual laziness that characterizes today’s left-wing academics.

Lowndes begins by making this assertion:

“The Tea Party movement is the latest reincarnation of antigovernment populist rage, triggered by Obama’s election and given shape and content by Seattle blogger Keli Carender’s “porkulus package” demonstration, NBC business news editor Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and other protests against anti-recessionary spending, most of which were organized by  FreedomWorks…

Had Professor Lowndes bothered to do even the most preliminary research, he would have quickly discerned that the first protests of the Tea Party movement on February 27, 2009 and April 15, 2009  were organized by an informal group known as the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, of which I was a member. Folks at FreedomWorks may have shown up on a few of the organizing calls, but the protests themselves at the local level were organized and managed by independent groups that sprang up organically across the country.

Next, Lowndes trots out the old and thoroughly discredited charges of Tea Party racism. He cites this statement from my June, 2010 article that skewered Professor Parker’s study:

“ The Tea Party movement has rejected the discussion of social issues as an unwanted distraction that will hurt the movement’s ability to accomplish its constitutional and fiscal objectives. I know this because I helped start the movement, and I have participated in hundreds of conferences calls where this position has been deliberated and confirmed – both publicly and privately – innumerable times.”

He then follows my quote with this fantastic and disconnected assertion:

“The quote is revealing for the emphasis Tea Party leaders have placed on avoiding racial issues, but also for the essential admission that racial identification run so deep that the effort required deliberation over hundreds of conference calls.”

Ignore for a moment the grammatical errors in the sentence (“racial identification run so deep” as opposed to the proper “racial identification runs so deep”), and focus for a minute on its meaning. Conflation of “social” with “racial” is a wide stretch, even for an academic eager to provide even the most spurious evidentiary claims to support his theological convictions.

Professor Lowndes then relies upon a thin article to make a comparison between today’s Tea Party movement and the Liberty League of the 1930s:

“Looking back, the widely discredited Liberty League of the New Deal era looks nearly identical to the very influential Tea Party today.”

I read the same article by David Woopner upon which Professor Lowndes bases this assertion. I also investigated the claim and easily identified the dramatic structural differences between the top down Liberty League and the bottom up Tea Party movement. Only someone who knows little of either the Liberty League or the Tea Party movement would make the claim that the two are “nearly identical.”

Lowndes concludes:

“[T]he Tea Party is merely the most visible manifestation of the assault on equality, freedom, and democratic rule.”

Clearly, Professor Lowndes is so steeped in his biases he has to actively work to ignore the facts that the Tea Party movement is the most vivid example of democrat rule in modern American history. Professor Lowndes is not alone. Indeed, to my mind, he and his academic colleagues show the same narrow mindedness towards the Tea Party movement that priests of all religions have exhibited throughout history to attack and condemn “heretics” possessed of the ability to think independently. Now, that’s a worthy topic to consider for a Voices of the Tea Party e-book.

Michael Patrick Leahy is the editor of the Voices of the Tea Party e-book series and co-founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter and the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. His new  e-book, I, Light Bulb: A Death Row Testimonial, was published earlier this week. His new book, Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement, will be published by Broadside Books in spring, 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelpleahy .

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