Orwellian Brooklyn College Seminar Calls Conservatives Reactionary

Mitchell Langbert

Professor Robert Viscusi had sent an offensive e-mail concerning Professor Samir Chopra's faculty study group. The group will discuss a Brooklyn College professor's book--Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.  In the e-mail Viscusi wrote that conservatism is a reaction against democracy and that conservatives through history have defended power and privilege against freedom and equality.

Professor Viscusi insists that his words were friendly to conservatives.  That's because Brooklyn College has excluded them.  During the 2008 presidential election, I scanned Brooklyn College's $250 presidential campaign contributors and found that 25 were Democratic while 0 were Republican.  At Brooklyn College offensive remarks about conservatives are everyday occurrences because conservatives have been banished, for instance through the firing of an English professor who insisted that his students write grammatically.

Professor Chopra wasted no time to blog a response meant to silence me.  He boasts that he will lead the discussion, that last semester he had led another discussion, and that he serves as a faculty associate of the Wolfe Institute, which sponsors the discussion.   He then claims, without evidence,  that Professor Viscusi's e-mail went to a "diverse group" of faculty "that includes orientations of all political stripes."  Since there are 0 $250 Republican contributors at Brooklyn, it is difficult to see how that is possible.

He proceeds with a series of attempts to discredit me.  He points out that I had incorrectly copied one of the cc'd e-mail addresses on the e-mail I had sent to him and Professor Viscusi.  In making this point, he refers to the National Academy of Scholars (sic).  Referring to my e-mail, he adds this important point: "I remain puzzled as to how a 'faculty study group' could be confused with a talk."  Yet, he had just boasted about his leading the discussion.

Chopra then offers his coup d 'grace.  I had copied my friend, CUNY trustee Jeff Wiesenfeld, on the e-mail. Wiesenfeld had been the victim of a CUNY-faculty-union-led witch hunt. The reason was that Wiesenfeld had questioned the granting of an honorary degree to a second-rate television writer and playwright, Tony Kushner.  Kushner has been awarded more honorary degrees than Robert Frost despite, in contrast to Frost,  Kushner's eminently forgettable work.  In attacking Wiesenfeld, The New York Times, Ed Koch, and the left wing CUNY faculty union demanded Wiesenfeld's sacking.  Wiesenfeld has been associated with CUNY for years, whereas Kushner has no academic affiliation.  Yet, Chopra and his friends claim that they favor academic freedom--Kushner's, that is, not Wiesenfeld's.

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