Monday, August 20, 2012

Seduced by the Dark Side

I owned a book by Ferguson once. His Colossus volume about American power I picked up after a recommendation from very likable but a right leaning prof. Interesting read at the time. I ended up leaving it on a bookcase somewhere.
The Oxford and Harvard historian Niall Ferguson's spectacular thundering in is making the rounds. See LFR for a good summary with links. Bascially, the professor wrote an anti-Obama hack piece a cover for Newsweek filled with highly questionable analyses and quote butchering.

I always find it sad to watch any professional or artisan sellout and sacrifice their ethics and morals to a particular cause. Such a waste of potential. Academics by virtue of their employment must not be an exception, but it seems to be the case with the conservative leaning variety.

In Canada, Barry Cooper and Tom Flanagan come to mind. Both are trained scholars who presumably understand rigour and the need for sound reasoning or evidence when making claims. Maybe they once had elegance. Yet both write and speak in uncritical inflamatory drivel. A couple of years ago I watched two full professor economists reduce themselves to shouting at the panel audience about Hitler and Stalin when they were challenged with idea that economic growth is unsustaintable. Funny how there's an economic element to it as well: Free markets are go and privilege rests with those who preach it.

Anyway, maybe something will happen to this Harvard Brit in love with the GOP. Likely not. Massive public humiliation has little impact on behind ivory walls.


Ryan Painter said...

I remember first reading Tom Flanagan when I was an undergrad. I was studying Louis Riel and I stumbled across his book Louis "David" Riel. I reviewed the book and given the extensive primary sources I agreed that there was certainly reason to support Tom's assertion that Riel could be viewed as a millennial prophet.

His historical writing are quite good and he is a fine researcher. As a historian he's quite apt. I was shocked to find though the party he was associated with and began to examine how his political affiliations could have coloured his perception of Louis Riel. Clearly, it is of consequence if you can make out the leader of the North West Rebellion to be a rambling mad-man and distract away from his true nature as a fighter for metis rights.

He certainly isn't a Desmond Morton, Leo Panitch or Greg Albo.

Carmichael said...

Did you ever notice that since the academic credentialists have won the war and gained precedence that the world has become more and more fractured and dysfunctional?

Holly Stick said...

Sorry, I don't agree that Flanagan can be described as a fine researcher. I've read one of his supposed "expert" historical reports for a First Nation lawsuit, and he clearly did not even know how to find the most basic sources.

He may have done real research for the Riel book, but does not appear to have done real research since then.

And he's not a historian and has no historical training; he is a political scientist.

Boris said...

Holly, that's exactly my point. Whatever they once were, they are no more. Tim Ball might be the same. They sell-out and become lazy and ignorant.

Also, there are increasingly multidiscinplinary academics who hold a PhD in one thing, but do work in many other areas. The basic logical reasoning and evidence based practice should underpin their work across the board.

It is in someways a shame we do not licence scholars least they be seduced by truthiness and journamilism.

Ryan Painter said...

Yes Holly, I should have clarified that he was doing the work of a historian but is NOT one. Forgive the slight indiscretion.As Boris says though it's typical these days to see academics branch out into more interdisciplinary studies and clearly that is what Mr. Flanagan did.

It might not mean much that he did win awards for his academic work, but the fact remains that AS an academic his work was well done. As a public figure and campaign manager (given the recent results of the Wildrose in Alberta and his being turfed as a persona non-Grata by the Harper administration) he's not so successful.

Holly Stick said...

Sorry Ryan, I have to repeat that as an academic his work has NOT always been well done. His Donner Award winning book First Nations Second Thoughts includes instances of what I consider to be academic dishonesty, plus some racist assumptions and arguments based on dogma, not evidence. I think his writings on history are not to be trusted.