The Wolfe Tells Larry He Should’ve Barked

Another great Wolfe interview–does he have a new publicist?–this time for the National Association of Scholars. Wolfe recounts the Larry Summers gaffe.  He raises a point that speaks to the weakness of Jonathan Haidt’s theory of political psychology.  The intuitions fueling the rage against Larry arose as they did because he had so flagrantly violated the egalitarian taboo:

They weren’t attacking him on intellectual grounds but on religious grounds. They were treating him as a heretic, a transgressor. They were assaulting his character. We learned how to deal with that one in our sophomore year at St. Christopher’s. If someone impugns your character, you can’t waste time trying to defend it. You’ll just end up sitting there wringing your hands and bleating something lame like, “I am, too,a good person.”
 
Iannone: So you should do what instead?
 
Wolfe: Attack the attacker. Attack his—in this case, their—character. All he had to say was, “I cannot…believe…what I am now witnessing…members of the Harvard faculty taking a grossly anti-intellectual stance, violating their implicit vow to cherish the free exchange of ideas, going mad because a hypothesis that has been openly discussed for almost half a century offends some ideological passion of the moment, acting like the most benighted of Puritans from three centuries ago ransacking all that is decent and rational in search of witches, causing this great university to become the laughingstock of the academic world here and abroad, sacrificing your very integrity in the name of some smelly little orthodoxy, as Orwell called beliefs like the ones you profess. I’m more than disappointed in you. I’m ashamed of you. Is that really how you see your mission here? If so, you should resign…now!…forthwith!…and take to the streets under your own names, not Harvard’s, and forbear being so small-minded and egotistical as to try to drag Harvard down to your level. Ladies, gentlemen…kindly do not display your ignorance…on these hallowed premises…while holding aloft the flags, the standards, of this university. Be honest with yourselves, even if you can’t be honest with Harvard. Look…think…and see…what you have become.” That would have taken care of the whole thing.
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