Mary Grabar

Dissident Prof is getting whiplash every time she visits the website for the Center for American Progress.

Eric Alterman, Senior Fellow and “distinguished professor of English” at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, asks in his most recent article, “Why Do the Mainstream Media Like the Tea Party More than Occupy Wall Street?”

The professor cites that highly esteemed academic journal, The New Yorker, where “Ben McGrath described the Tea Party as a motley collection of ‘goldbugs, evangelicals, Atlas Shruggers, militia-men, strict Constitutionalists, swine-flu skeptics, scattered 9/11 “truthers,” neo-“Birchers,” and, of course, “birthers”—those who remained convinced that [President Barack Obama] was a Muslim double agent born in Kenya,’ intent on turning the United States into an Islamic Republic.”

While Dissident Prof appreciates the display of creative writing skills in the quoted passage, she hardly thinks it fits in well with the high seriousness of the article as attempted by the passage that follows:

Four academics confirmed this telling portrait. They recently presented a study of the views and attitudes of 2,000 voters sympathetic to the Tea Party at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. The study said that these voters ‘reflect four primary cultural and political beliefs more than other voters do: authoritarianism, libertarianism, fear of change, and negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration.’”

(Funny, these “four academics” never called on Dissident Prof, herself an immigrant, and a tea party supporter, for her opinion.)

But it must be true because it’s from the esteemed American Sociological Association. (Sometimes those of us consigned to perpetual adjunct-hood get an inferiority complex.)

This thought, however, was interrupted by a little birdie chirping on Dissident’s Prof’s shoulder, “Authoritarian Personality, Authoritarian Personality” (or was it the Aflac duck?)

Finally all the chirping and quacking in her head reminded her of the latest, groundbreaking theory from Theodore Adorno, of the Marxist Frankfurt School. This must be the newest, most cutting-edge theory, inspiration to the barefoot, bomb-throwing, monogamy-smashing, lice-and-flea infested long-hairs of the very recent 1960s. These intellectuals too had serious thoughts about the Constitution, which they displayed through their interpretive dances.

The duck quacked, “But it’s fifty years later, it’s fifty years later!”

So why is “distinguished professor” Alterman using the theories of the 1960s? Is such research really au courant?

This requires some deconstruction, a practice to which Dissident Prof was subjected to in graduate school. Dissident Prof suspects some fear of “change” in professor Alterman. She suspects he does not want to do any research after the 1960s. She wonders if his contention that the “Tea Party was simply the old far right dressed up in funny new clothing” is not a projection.

For example, look at his colleague on the opposite coast at the campus that has become most known for “police brutality,” UC-Davis. In sartorial tribute to his intellectual progenitors, English professor Nathan Brown stands on a stage in front of thousands of adoring, cheering students who in the grand tradition of the Occupy Wall Street “human mic” repeat his words, phrase for phrase. (Watch the video here.) But notice something different? This rock star professor enjoys all the accoutrements of our Wall Street-supported high-tech society. There is a sound system, and a microphone, which Professor Brown brandishes with loving familiarity.

Of course, there is nothing authoritarian in having thousands of young people repeating your every word, right?

After all, these students are independent thinkers, having been schooled in critical thought by their facilitators, who have also guided them in collaborative learning. They have had music lessons in singing Obama praise songs. (Sorry, video disappeared by YouTube.)

Still, the media coverage of OWS was “sheer mockery,” maintains professor/think tank fellow Alterman. They presented none of the “substantive arguments,” he complains.

The professor might be a little too harsh on the less-well-educated folk for not being able to grasp the complexity of the original Adbusters manifesto that outlines the theory and practice of Occupy Wall Street, and from which I quote:

“The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.

“The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.”

And this little nugget of profundity:

“The most exciting candidate that we've heard so far is one that gets at the core of why the American political establishment is currently unworthy of being called a democracy: we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we're doomed without it.”

Professor Alterman’s support for the claim of unfair media treatment, evidenced in the lack of their attention to “substantive arguments,” comes from Russia Today, the media arm of Putin’s government. (Mic check! There are no more communists, there are no more communists, there are no more communists. Repeat. Very good. You get an A, and a student loan balance of $80,000.)


Mary Grabar

Mary Grabar earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and teaches in Atlanta. She is organizing the Resistance to the Re-Education of America at www.DissidentProf.com. Her writing can be found at www.marygrabar.com.