Monday, December 27, 2004

Michael Crichton's university 

If you are a center-right libertarian and want to have a lot of fun, run out and buy Michael Crichton's new novel, State of Fear. Narrowly defined, it is about a group of environmentalist activists who try to stage ecological disasters to build the case for drastic action against global warming, and various people trying to stop them or caught in the middle. More broadly, the novel is an anguished call to resist the fear-mongering that has become pervasive in politics, law and the media -- what Crichton calls the "politico-legal-media (PLM) complex," which he argues has replaced the "military-industrial complex" as the enemy of our freedom. Crichton argues that the American university is the backbone of the PLM complex. One of his minor characters rants thusly:
"[T]he universities transformed themselves in the 1980s. Formerly bastions of intellectual freedom in a world of Babbittry, formerly the locus of sexual freedom and experimentation, they now became the most restrictive environments in modern society. Because they had a new role to play. They became the creators of new fears for the PLM. Universities today are factories of fear. They invent all the new terrors and all the new social anxieties. All the new restrictive codes. Words you can't say. Thought you can't think. They produce a steady stream of new anxieties, dangers, and social terrors to be used by politicians, lawyers and reporters. Foods that are bad for you. Behaviors that are unacceptable. Can't smoke, can't swear, can't screw, can't think. These institutions have been stood on their heads in a generation. It is really quite extrardinary.

"The modern State of Fear could never exist without universities feeding it. There is a peculiar neo-Stalinist mode of thought that is required to support all this, and it can thrive only in a restrictive setting, behind closed doors, without due process. In our society, only universities have created that -- so far. The notion that these institutions are liberal is a cruel joke. They are fascist to the core, I'm telling you."

Indeed. And it is even more extraordinary that the generation that brought us the "free speech movement" has been the moving force behind this depressing transformation of the American campus.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 27, 08:31:00 PM:

Natan Sharansky's "fear societies" come to mind, as blogged here:

"You, Mr. President, are a dissident among the leaders of the free world"And yes. I had ordered Michael Crichton's book for pre-Christmas delivery, but with Amazon's recent blowout, State of Fear arrived only today. Looking forward to reading it big time. :)  

Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?