The latest number of Salmagundi, the venerable liberal quarterly of the arts, features a transcript from a symposium it sponsored at Swarthmore College called “Jihad. McWorld. Modernity: Public Intellectuals Debate ‘The Clash of Civilizations.'” As befits a left-wing journal run by those with a deep respect for “diversity,” the conference features as many conservative thinkers as you can count on no fingers.
In itself, this is somewhat remarkable. After all, the title of the symposium refers to The Clash of Civilizations, an influential work by the conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington. Yet no one at Salmagundi saw fit to ask Mr. Huntington to appear. Gee: You would have thought he would be some sort of an expert on his own book.
Not that Mr. Huntington’s conspicuous absence was without benefit to the scheduled participants. In fact, it allowed Benjamin Barber, author of the work Jihad vs. McWorld to offer the following assessment of The Clash of Civilizations:
I would just remind those of you who are enamored of Sam Huntington’s phraseology that, in the book that gave us this expression, he argues not only that there is a clash of civilizations, but that this clash is aided by a fifth column in the United States made up of African Americans, who are undermining the West and its ideals.
Can anyone say “tendentious,” boys and girls? We knew that you could.
But this was not the Benjamin Barber remark from the symposium that struck us as particularly obnoxious. At the conclusion of the first session, after a rousing discussion focused on promoting hardcore redistribution of wealth in the world, Mr. Barber opined:
The last point I want to make for now has to do with the nature of the discussion we’ve been having and what might be the political viability of the debates that we so-called “public intellectuals”engage in. When I try to imagine an African-American, unemployed guy from Detroit or Arkansas, an out of work (what did Howard Dean call him?) confederate guy with a shotgun in his pick-up truck, sitting here and listening to us talk, I realize that a number of the things we say in good faith and with impressive intellectual clarity and historical perspective are nevertheless politically unviable as ways of talking about the world. We haven’t yet found a language that takes the vitally important, moral, philosophical and historical points we’re making here and translates them into a language that ordinary Americans will understand.
As a service to our benighted non-intellectuals, we’ll supply a translation: Those proles just don’t understand how brilliant and informed we are. For some reason, they don’t take much of a shine to our socialistic schemes and capitulation to terrorism.
Boy, we average Joes sure are dumb. Why don’t we trust a bunch of deep thinkers who spent the 20th century lauding Communism and thus see Osama bin Laden as an opportunity to redistribute wealth? We can’t think of a reason either.
(Note: The crack young staff usually “weblog” over at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” where they are currently yakking in response to Martha Nussbaum’s incessant moral preening.)