The almost impossibly dumb “Bruin Alumni Association” naming of the “Dirty Thirty” UCLA profs (accusing them of bring tools of trendy academic leftism) brings into sharp relief one of the more interesting divisions in modern conservatism, between what we can call the “Dartmouth Review” and the “Federalist Society” conservatives. To be a DR conservative, one does not have to actually have served on DR (although, as in the case of Laura Ingraham, it helps): it is enough to adopt its techniques. At the core of those techniques is a combination of harsh ridicule and high-profile events or actions designed to encourage liberal institutions to impose discipline, so as to make visible those institutions’ bias and prove that they are hypocritical (the similarities to the Yippy left of the 60s is no accident). The “Dirty 30” list is a classic example of this sort of strategy, designed not to encourage reform in the institutions they are attacking, but to weaken them and cut away at their public legitimacy.
On the other side of the conservative divide are what I’ll call “Federalist Society” conservatives. In an interview for the book I’m now finishing, one of the organization’s founders noted that, when it was created in the early 80s, the small group of Chicago, Yale and Harvard law students consciously sought NOT to create an organization like DR, which they saw as a group that encouraged conservatives to act like caricatures of themselves. Instead, their strategic judgment was that, while criticizing liberal institutions was important, the more effective strategy for institutional change involved building up a cadre of lawyers steeped in conservative and libertarian ideas, combined with sponsoring debates in which the best conservative legal scholars faced off directly with those on their left. This strategy was based on a very different strategic judgment than that of the DR activists: the Federalist Society founders assumed that there was a group of moderate liberals out there who could be convinced by their ideas, if they were presented in a rigorous, scholarly, and civil way. Rather than mimicking the excesses of the left, the Society’s founders guessed that, if they scrupulously attended to balance and debate, they could force the legal academy to take their ideas seriously. Guess what–for good or for ill, they succeeded.
It strikes me that there’s a similar conservative strategy available where arts and sciences are concerned. This would require, contra the BAA, that conservatives pick out the small number of those on the left who genuinely abuse their responsibility by using their position as teachers to vent their non-relevant political views to their students, or who fail to maintain any reasonable balance in their assignments. The truth is that the probably larger number of moderately liberal faculty would love to have someone do something about the often thuggish behavior of the academic hard left. But by going beyond supporting principles that can get wide assent across the political spectrum, to “exposing” faculty simply for their extra-classroom attitudes (including faculty who are not all that lefty), they succeed only in creating a community of interest among everyone but the hard-core of DR-type conservatives.
In short, not only is this obnoxious, it’s strategically stupid. The guy who thought this up should be fired for incompetence.