Back Up: I’ve Been Holding It In for Two Years

Sometime before Christmas ’04, a bunch of leftist academics got together and started a blog for the purpose of addressing people on the right. I think “lecture and harangue” was what they had in mind. The blog was called Left2Right.

Somehow, very early in its existence, Ramesh Ponnuru picked up on it and published a link on The Corner and, to the surprise of the owners, it exploded overnight. If the old comments are archived, I can’t find them — which is a relief, since I won’t have to back up anything I’m going to say with, like, facts and stuff. But a pity, because all the interesting things happened in the comments. That’s where the righties showed up to spar.

Many of the academics on the masthead never posted at all. Some who did disallowed comments. I think of the blog as belonging to David Velleman, a philosophy professor at NYU, because he handled the housekeeping and lion’s share of the posts. If I incorrectly attribute anything to him here, I apologize. As I said, I can’t find the comments and I’m working from old braincells here.

Anyway, when the two sides were sizing each other up early on, Velleman (I think) remarked that he knew righties feared academics and he would try to tone it down for us a bit. That floored me. His meaning clearly was that Neanderthal conservatives were famously frightened and intimidated by the giant, throbbing brains and stonking huge titles of college professors and he promised not to use big words. He wasn’t trying to insult us. Not only did it not occur to him there could be any other reason conservatives didn’t like the academy, he assumed we believed this about ourselves. Like, what other explanation could there be?

Actually, he ran an excellent group blog (despite the occasional unconscious ‘tude wafting off of him). His writing style in the main posts was light and readable. He chose good topics. He allowed comments and didn’t censor any unless they were clearly trolls or frankly obscene. He managed to keep it moving, and keep the tone of the whole effort relatively open and breezy — no small accomplishment for a site built around competing political ideas. And considering he never expected it to be what it was.

I was so proud of “my” side of the argument (not my own words; I was a relative lightweight). Several excellent proponents of conservative and libertarian (and genuinely liberal) ideas came out to play. No matter the topic, there were righties in the comments who were interesting, articulate and thoroughly in command of the subject. Some confessed they were themselves academics incognito. I learned so much; it was one of the best blog reads ever.

So I was shocked when, after several months, Velleman (I think it was Velleman; I’m going to be embarrassed if it wasn’t) again made reference to the obvious fact that conservatives are intimidated by intellectuals. It’s one thing to start with a misconception, it’s another to be caught holding onto it after hundreds of pages of evidence to the contrary. I know he read the comments; he appeared in them. He was simply impervious to learning from them.

Which perfectly illustrates the REAL reason righties hate academics (the modern liberal arts kind, anyway): we think you’re stupid. We think you earned your many titles memorizing the “correct” ideas by rote, the way jihadis learn the Koran in the madrassa, and are just as inflexible about them. We think you choose to spend your careers in the company of the young because you aren’t up to the company of grownups. We think you walled yourselves up in the academy because you’re afraid of what’s outside. We think you’d rather die than be judged uncool. We think you are drawn to large words because you have small ideas, and they would look it if spoken plainly. We think you absorb information and regurgitate it again, but do not process it in between. We think you don’t think.

Ohhhh…that feels better. I’ve wanted to say that for two years. Left2Right lasted about six months, and sputtered out when the academics drifted off for the Summer. The occasional post appeared after that, but it never caught again.

I wonder if they had any idea what a gift that was; a high-traffic blog with many and excellent commenters was handed to them overnight. Or if they knew exactly what they had, and didn’t consider it a gift.


  1. geoff
    Posted November 14, 2006 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I think I blipped in when it first started, but it didn’t look very promising so I never when back. Looks like I gave up too soon. But I absolutely agree about academics – their undeserved self-love is nauseating and counterproductive.

    Since Larry the U’s outing as a troll and scumbag at Ace’s I’ve pretty much given up on thinking that liberals are truly interested in a meeting of the minds. Now I just hammer them or ignore them, regardless of how reasonable they may seem at first. Thus far I don’t think that’s ever been the wrong approach.

  2. Posted November 14, 2006 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    From what I have noticed, leftists believe they are right. If reality proves them wrong, something is wrong with reality, not with their theories. They are too afraid to see the truth. They are like vampires hiding in dark castles, afraid to look out the window lest the sun burn them to ashes.

    On the other hand, I have seen rightists (conservatives, libertarians, and liberals) debate issues based on facts and ideals. Although everyone goes in with preconceived notions, the effort is in trying to formulate what is best based on what is known. Consider, for example, the debates regarding Rummy’s tactics. The Left said he was wrong, period. They were unwilling to discuss the issue. The Right was divided. Some said he was right, some said he was wrong, some said he’s neither, some said the issue is blown out of proportion, some said we’ll never know.

    You hit the nail right on the head, S. Weasel. It really, really annoys me when leftists claim conservatives are stupid.

    I remember taking classes in a community college. The students were by far liberal/leftist (as is common in most colleges). They too assumed conservatives were dumb. But they didn’t know that the best student in their class was, indeed, a conservative.

    In a way, I think this is a good thing. Conservatives can’t afford to become sloppy and slothful – we always have to think and reexamine the issues, as challenged as we are by the Left’s propoganda. But I never take on anyone from the Left. They’re not interested in discussing or debating issues: they just want to convert others. There’s no use debating them. Especially since they don’t like seeing reality.

    S. Weasel and/or geoff: can you fill me in as to what happened to Larry the U? I missed out.

    (Thank you exceedingly for this post, S. Weasel. I really appreciate it.)

  3. Posted November 14, 2006 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Geoff may know more than I do. I just dimly heard that his posts from other forums showed him to be far more of a turd than his behavior at AoS would indicate, and he got banned.

    He’s an excellent case in point. Until he got tired of typing it, he was Larry the Urbanite. You know, a guy from a city, as opposed to us AoL mouthbreathers, who all probably live in the same trailer park in rural Mississippi.

  4. Posted November 14, 2006 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, S. Weasel.

  5. geoff
    Posted November 14, 2006 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Larry got banned for this comment at another blog:

    Hey, I was just over at Ace of Spades HQ (trolling, anyone?) and he deleted a post because he thought it would give the liberals “ideas”. So I’ll repeat it here.

    In your phone conversations, say: “Have you read Omar SHariff’s book on bridge? Your game will explode.”

    See it has an arab sounding name, “bridge” and “explode” in it, but is really innocuous. That will give the NSA fits.

    Spread widely to all liberal blogs. I have no idea if it’ll work, but it’ll sure piss Ace off, fascist censorer that he is.

    Comment by Larry the Urbanite— 1/10/06@ 4:00 pm

  6. Posted November 14, 2006 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, geoff.

    Oh gosh. That comment by him was awful. I’m sure it’s not illegal but that’s downright horrid! Good thing he got banned.

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