Saturday, December 17, 2005

Henry A. Giroux - Against the New Authoritarianism

This book crossed my desk the other day at the library and caught my eye. Here is a top-notch educator, a PhD who not only summarizes what BushCo is doing to this lovely country we inhabit, but has also left for Canada.

Since Bush has been around, particularly since the (cheated) election of 2004, I've heard many, many folks talk about leaving. I've seen this feeling of defeat all over the place. I have threatened to go to France, for that matter- "If Lance Armstrong can learn French, then so can I." Lots of argument on this issue, I might add, is taking place. Most of it to the tune of, "well hell, how you gonna help change things back if you just run off?"

One of the key NeoCon strategies, I believe, is to produce exactly that feeling of defeat, like whatever you do to help restore sanity to the U.S. leadership and sociopolitical climate, civil liberties, etc, will have no effect and will lead to social rejection and possible jail time, or at the very least being sneered at by a clean cut family in a Chevy Suburban on their way to a revival meeting at the local fundamentalist church.

The point being, regarding Giroux, is he ran off, and his statements bespeak a sense of defeat, and are somewhat scary. But he has some fascinating things to say- he seems to shed light on the darkness infecting the U.S. right now. He seems to add a sense of structure to the whole process we've seen happen following the election of Bush II the Moron Son.

Chapter 4 of Dr. Grioux's book (he's written something like 30 books) above includes an interview with Giroux, from which I'll quote below:

Henry Giroux: I think that many universities in the United States are being undermined by both their increasing alliance with corporate values and interests, on the one hand, and the equally dangerous attack on academic freedom by the political and religious Right, on the other hand. We have witnessed four years in the United States marked by a growing culture of fear, insecurity, and repression. This is a culture largely controlled by religious, political, and freemarket fundamentalists; this combination, and the power it has exercised on American life, has been profoundly dangerous. The current government is involved in a war at home and a war abroad, both of which are mediated by a messianic view of the world that does not leave much room for dissent, nor for social movements that want to make authority accountable or forms of public and higher education that act as if they are democratic public spheres. And, of course, with Bush’s re-election
this will all get worse. The Bush administration views higher education as a left-wing bastion that needs to be destroyed, and I am convinced that in his second administration, the universities will continue to come under a harsh political attack. At the same time, the right-wing attack on critical intellectuals offers the Bush administration the kinds of diversions that sidetrack people from thinking about the Iraq war, the resources it is draining, the lives being lost, and the suffering it is producing. We have seen remnants
of the attack on higher education already with many academics after the events of September 11th being called “unpatriotic” because they undertook a serious examination of American foreign policy or called “anti-Semitic” because they dared criticize the Israeli government’s policies in the Middle East. A senator from Pennsylvania even tried to pass a law withdrawing
federal funds from those public universities that harboured professors who criticized Israeli policy in their classes. These are very disturbing trends and
do not bode well as to what will happen in higher education in the next four years. So, we are seeing a new war, a war at home, and that war will basically be against the universities. We already see the indications of how that war is going to be organized. We see it in the unjust association made between dissent and treason. We see it in legislation in which Republicans, through an appeal to academic freedom, attempt to place more conservatives on faculties. We see it in the increasing corporatization of the university and the marginalization of those disciplines that don’t translate immediately into profits. Penn State is one of the largest procurers of military contractors. Susan Searls Giroux and I had written a book called Take Back Higher Education on the corporatization of higher education. Essentially, it is an attack on the corporate university, of which Penn State is a poster boy.
There was no question in my mind that there would be retribution, though I never anticipated the shape it actually took. What became clear was that Penn State had become inhospitable to any kind of dissent. To be an academic and to constantly find yourself under pressure and isolated, by virtue of an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism and conformity, was completely
unacceptable for me. It was a pleasure for me to leave.

Here's a link to the whole interview (PDF). This guy's a heavy-hitter of a scholar, and just about each topic he brings up is food for thought on a major issue. These subjects will be covered in an upcoming post.

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