Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Article excerpt

Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, the alt-right organization Turning Point USA introduced its notorious Professor Watchlist (http://professorwatchlist. org), listing some 200 radical academics in the universities as dangerous professors. Stories regarding this list were soon being carried in major papers throughout the country. In contrast to David Horowitz's list of "the 101 most dangerous academics in America" a decade ago, the current Professor Watchlist has behind it the new sense of power on the extreme right provided by Trump's electoral victory. Turning Point immediately announced the creation of Watchlist Chapters at universities across the country. These local Watchlist Chapters are top-down creations. All crucial decisions are made by Turning Point at the national level.

There can be no doubt that this is part of an attempted new McCarthyism. In terms of its overall orientation, the alt-right strategy here resembles the Gleichschaltung ("bringing into line") in 1933-35 in Hitler's Germany, where intimidation was directed at all the major cultural institutions, including universities, with the object of getting them to align with the new dominant views. Among those on Turning Point's Professor Watchlist is MR editor John Bellamy Foster, a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. Foster was on the earlier Horowitz list as well, and the comments with regard to him by the Professor Watchlist are lifted from Horowitz's book The Professors. A number of other MR writers are also included on the Professor Watchlist, such as William Ayers, Zillah Eisenstein, and Richard Wolff.

The alt-right's Professor Watchlist raises challenging issues about how this should be countered. In early December, Noělle McAffee, a professor of philosophy at Emory University, set up a satirical professor watchlist as a liberal response to Turning Point. The satirical list was posted on a new blog called Watchlist Redux (http://professorwatchlist.blog). Inside Higher Ed carried a story by Coleen Flaherty on Watchlist Redux on December 6, entitled "Reclaiming the Watchlist." In a widely distributed email statement on December 3, 2016, McAffee had explained the principles governing Watchlist Redux. The satirical list included past figures like Socrates and Jesus, as well as present-day figures, most of whom were not on Turning Point's Professor Watchlist. McAffee declared in her December 3 statement: "If we were to list Marx, we'd need to tame him"-so Marx was not included among Watchlist Redux's "radical" figures of the past. With respect to the listing of present-day figures, McAffee indicated that it was important to make those "who have been deemed dangerous," like those that the alt-right had placed on its Professor Watchlist, "sound perfectly reasonable." She went on to say: "The goal is to both reclaim the word 'radical' and to tame it."

The McAffee statement was shared among the faculty in Foster's department for purposes of discussion. The following is Foster's response to his colleagues, which we present here, given the importance of the issues involved:

Dear ... (and everyone),

Thank you for sending this [McAffee's December 3, 2016, statement] to the department and raising the issue for discussion. I hope I will not offend anyone if I say I personally and politically find the approach being adopted here to be extremely objectionable and something of a betrayal, though I perfectly realize this is not the intention of any of the people involved.

What does it mean to say, as McAffee does?: "If we were to list Marx we'd need to tame him somehow.... And for the list of those present, I think it works best to make those who have been deemed dangerous sound perfectly reasonable.. The goal is to reclaim the word 'radical' and to tame it."

Reasonable by whose standards? Are we so timid that already we are talking about "taming" thinkers in the universities? Are we then abandoning our academic colleagues, trying to make them fit some acceptable line-some kind of tamed radicalism? …

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