Notes & Comments February 2004
Voting at the MLA
On the anti-war, anti-Bush position of the MLA.
Last month we reported on various proposals scheduled to be presented at the Delegate Assembly meeting at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association for 2003. As we noted, four of the five proposals were submitted on behalf of the Radical Caucus in English and Modern Languages. It was a pretty predictable menu. One called for the repeal of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Another called upon the MLA to denounce “government war-making projects.” Etc., etc. The pièce de résistance was the proposal that called on the MLA to support its members “in conducting critical analysis of war talk, in public forums and, as appropriate, in classrooms.” In other words, as we pointed out, this proposal demanded that the MLA condone turning the classroom into a forum for ideological indoctrination. Our deadline was a couple of weeks before the MLA convention took place, so we were unable to share the results of the vote with our readers. Not that the outcome was in any doubt. Of course the MLA would adopt the anti-Bush, anti-war, programmatically pro-Leftist line. The only question was by what margin.
Our policy of never setting foot inside another MLA conference (See “Farewell to the MLA” in our issue for February 1995) precluded witnessing the results first hand. But other reports were soon available. The Boston Globe, for example, began its piece by noting “a surprising number of sessions dealing with the war in Iraq, terrorism, patriotism, and American foreign policy.” “Surprising”? The poor chap reporting the story obviously went in thinking that an annual conference of the Modern Language Association would be devoted primarily to —well, to language and literature. Fat chance. There wasn’t, the Globe reported, “much actual debate.”
In more than a dozen sessions on war-related topics, not a single speaker or audience member expressed support for the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The sneering air quotes were flying as speaker after speaker talked of “so-called terrorism,” “the so-called homeland,” “the so-called election of George Bush,” and so forth.
Yes, and remember the “so-called” World Trade Center?
When it came time for the Delegate Assembly to vote, the resolution supporting “critical analysis of war talk” in the classroom won by a margin of 122 to 8, or a little better than 15 to 1. It is, we think, worth bearing that in mind the next time you hear an academic declaring his allegiance to “diversity,” “pluralism,” and “openness” to alternative points of view.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 22 Number 6, on page 4
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