The Conservative Allure of the Pseudo-Intellectual

The Conservative Allure of the Pseudo-Intellectual October 25, 2012
Dinesh D’Souza: From saint to pariah

Until now, I haven’t blogged about the Dinesh D’Souza kerfluffle at King’s College because it seemed a little internecine, even for this blog. But I’ve been following it closely because I’ve known of D’Souza since 1986.

That Fall I arrived at Dartmouth College, and I was randomly assigned to a dorm room in South Massachusetts Hall. South Mass was the last all-male dorm on campus — that lasted only another year — and, as such, it was a haven for the ultra-conservative males at Dartmouth. These were the upperclassmen who’d torn down the shanties on the campus green — shanties built in protest of Apartheid — the previous Spring. They refused to acknowledge that the “Dartmouth Indian” mascot had been retired years earlier — they plied freshmen with free Indian tee-shirts and led Indian war chants at athletic events. And they wrote for the Dartmouth Review, where D’Souza got his start.

D’Souza graduated in the Spring of 1983, but when I arrived in the Fall of 1986, his shadow loomed large, and in South Mass, his name was spoken with reverence.

So I’ve been interested in watching his rise and, over the last month, his fall. No one has covered this story better than David Sessions (who is one of my favorite writers). You can find David’s reporting on the matter at The Daily Beast/Newsweek. But you can read his opinions on the matter at Patrol Magazine (along with another of my favorite writers, Jonathan Fitzgerald).

At Patrol, David goes beyond recounting what happened to King’s College and how they were duped into hiring D’Souza. He offers some advice to conservative institutions who are enamored more of FOX News appearances than they are of curriculum vitae. And I think he’s spot on:

This is free advice, conservatives: conservative schools, magazines, think-tanks, whatever, are never going to compete until you stop hiring these people. Until you make somebody do the work, your institutions will never have anything worthwhile to offer, and will always be relegated to some kind of parallel universe where no one takes them seriously. The absolute worst thing you can do for your twenty-somethings is give them promotions that outstrip their work, just because they are superficially useful to your ultimate political/financial goals. The lesson is that rewards come automatically, and that money and fame accompany…just being relatively smart and able to spout some Republican talking points. In the real world, that mostly doesn’t happen, and setting up a fake universe where 22-year-olds get cable news contracts and political book deals is not preparing anybody to exist anywhere except in conservative fantasyland. This is mostly the fault of right-wing rich people who aren’t really interested in ideas, they just want to subsidize a return to the past by whatever hackish means necessary. And then they wonder why the liberal media is so critical.

Read the rest: An Opportunity for The King’s College | Patrol – A review of religion and the modern world.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • How does a guy with a bachelor’s degree get a job as a president of a college?

  • Patrick

    Sounds like they are talking about Obama.

    • Tony, feel free to delete this potentially un-Christlike response…

      But, seriously? DOOFUS.

    • Frank

      It does sound like Obama right?

      • Umm…actually graduating from law school and teaching law at a legitimate university?

        Willful ignorance.

        • Frank

          Ok that’s makes Obamas utter failure even worse. Vote him out!

          • Frank: I appreciate your willingness to construct this nigh-dadaist persona to prove the points being made here by Tony and other commenters. Thumbs up, big dog!

          • Evelyn

            Frank’s comments come from his deep love of humanity. He really cares about your soul, Andy, and he can’t stand seeing you treat yourself this way.

  • Thanks for the links Tony. I missed this story. D’Souza’s book, “What’s so Great About Christianity” was at least presented well and appeared to have some scholarly basis to its arguments, but on further review, I found it wanting. Most of what I have heard from him since has been trash. He seemed to be a meteor burning up on descent.

    At least academia is drawing a line for cases like this. There may be hope for the world yet.

  • Tim

    Interesting how you describe him from your Dartmouth experience. Reminds me of certain people in similar contexts.
    I liked the Sessions post – appreciated the words of kindness he directed towards King’s toward the end of his post.
    I have half a blog post sitting in drafts about Dinesh and this whole mess. Among what I am bothered by are those who have blindly defended him and his work. I even received an email from a small conservative publisher that more or less said, “Yeah, he hasn’t been completely truthful but let’s not forget his important work … (and pretty much) “continue to fight the culture war!” Again, this is only the paraphrase that I am constructing but I was a bit surprised by the tone. Thankfully, according to the CT posts and others, this does not represent everyone. And though this is an embarrassing mess, the reoccurring lesson that we in the Church can see is the need for integrity, accountability, and in due time, the need to forgive/restore Dinesh, not “resurrect his career” but bring him in community.

  • Craig

    When I hear of someone’s affiliation with the Hoover Institute, I’ll be thinking of this huckster.

    • Bob

      Overgeneralize much?