"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Columbia's pet terrorist
By John Podhoretz
New York Post
April 3, 2013
A century ago, the prevailing negative image of the university was that it was a place for humorless, thick-witted, passionless pedants who were living parasitically off the greatness of the past. William Butler Yeats captured it in “The Scholars,” the satirical poem he wrote in 1915: “Old, learned, respectable bald heads edit and annotate the lines that young men, tossing on their beds, rhymed out in love’s despair.”
What a difference a century makes. While tedious scholarship still flourishes on campus — one glimpse at the book catalogues issued by university presses indicates you still get ahead in the academy by focusing on pointless minutiae — universities are destroying their reputations these days not due to an excess of pedantry but because of their acceptance of or advancement of genuinely noxious ideas and people.
Take the news yesterday that Columbia University’s School of Social Work had made the terrorist cop-killer Kathy Boudin an adjunct professor.
Boudin served 22 years in prison (after being a fugitive for more than a decade before that) for her role as the getaway driver in a botched Brinks truck robbery in 1981 in which a Brinks guard and two police officers were gunned down in cold blood.
She was paroled a decade ago — though as Eric Fettmann wrote in these pages in 2003, a book about Boudin published soon after the parole revealed how she had lied consistently about the extent of her role in the Weather Underground terror group: “Boudin was personally involved in at least a dozen bombings across the country — including at the Pentagon, the US Capitol and NYPD headquarters — before the Brinks job. She also rented cars both for bank robberies and for the prison escape of cop-killer Joanne Chesimard.”
If your goal at a school of social work is to show how to lie to a parole board to get out of prison, Boudin has exactly the right credentials. Whatever other credentials she might possess surely match those of hundreds of other PhDs in this city who also could have used a Columbia adjunct post.
But those other candidates didn’t have the glamor — there’s no other word for it — that attaches in some quarters to Boudin’s red-diaper-baby-to-radical-revolutionary, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is psychopathology.
In those quarters — quarters that inevitably feature quads and dorms and annual tuition larger than the nation’s median income — the blood on her hands is a feature, not a bug. It’s a selling point, not something from which to recoil in disgust and horror.
Columbia is a private institution, of course, and it can do what it likes. What it likes, apparently, is giving an official imprimatur to someone who actually planned to plant bombs in Butler Library in 1970 that would have killed hundreds of Columbia students and faculty and staff.
Fortunately, those bombs blew up in a Greenwich village townhouse and killed a few of Boudin’s comrades-in-arms, rather than the innocents at Columbia.
These words of complaint are sure to be greeted with arch protestations about Boudin’s having paid her debt to society and about the wondrous value of academic freedom — a freedom that was developed to protect the dissemination of controversial or unpopular opinion.
That’s wonderful. The only problem is, among those who hired her at Columbia, Boudin’s opinions are almost certainly neither controversial nor unpopular.
For, as Yeats put it in his poem condemning the lockstep uniformity of the university’s intellectual elite: “All think what other people think.” And what they think is that it’s fine to hire a terrorist complicit in murder who lied to get herself out of prison.