The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Professors of Politics

Posted on | August 21, 2022 | Comments Off on Professors of Politics

Say hello to David Austin Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia whose specialty is “the far right and conservative politics in the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries and the relationship between those forms of politics in America with broader global movements.” This academic totalitarian makes an appearance in a controversy involving the American Historical Association:

A bizarre string of events is unfolding at the American Historical Association (AHA). Last week, AHA president James H. Sweet published a column in the organization’s magazine on the problem of “presentism” in academic historical writing. According to Sweet, an unsettling number of academic historians have allowed their political views in the present to shape and distort their interpretations of the past.
Sweet offered a gentle criticism of the New York Times’s 1619 Project as evidence of this pattern. Many historians embraced the 1619 Project for its political messages despite substantive flaws of fact and interpretation in its content. Sweet thus asked: “As journalism, the project is powerful and effective, but is it history?”
Within moments of his column appearing online, all hell broke loose on Twitter.
Incensed at even the mildest suggestion that politicization is undermining the integrity of historical scholarship, the activist wing of the history profession showed up on the AHA’s thread and began demanding Sweet’s cancellation. Cate Denial, a professor of history at Knox College, led the charge with a widely-retweeted thread calling on colleagues to bombard the AHA’s Executive Board with emails protesting Sweet’s column. “We cannot let this fizzle,” she declared before posting a list of about 20 email addresses. . . .
The frenzy further exposed the very same problems in the profession that Sweet’s essay cautioned against. David Austin Walsh, a historian at the University of Virginia, took issue with historians offering any public criticism of the 1619 Project’s flaws – no matter their validity – because those criticisms are “going to be weaponized by the right.” In Walsh’s hyperpoliticized worldview, historical accuracy is wholly subordinate to the political objectives of the project. Sweet’s sin in telling the truth about the 1619 Project’s defects was being “willfully blind to the predictable political consequences of [his] public interventions.” Any argument that does not advance a narrow band of far-left political activism is not only unfit for sharing – it must be suppressed.

In other words, politics is all that matters, according to Walsh, implying that no one should be employed as a historian who does not share his beliefs. Not only are Republicans to be declared persona non grata in academia, but anyone in academia who might accidentally “lend aid and comfort” to the Republican enemy by publicly saying things that could be “weaponized by the right” is to be purged. And the truly shocking thing is, Walsh doesn’t see what’s wrong with his totalitarian mentality.



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