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Why the Culture War is Ruining Journalism, Academia, and Charity

“He who tells the truth is driven from nine villages.” – Turkish Proverb

Barry Rubin


December 5, 2013 - 9:00 am


A couple of decades ago, I was invited to a conference on the anniversary of the birth of Isaiah Berlin. One of the speakers was the George Orwell professor of a British university.

But his ideas were the opposite of Orwell. Orwell was a great patriot. On the contrary, this guy’s definition of a nation was any random lines drawn on a map–no preconditions. He was no patriot. I guess a nation having values is invalid now.

Also, Orwell was an anti-radical socialist, author of the amazing anti-radical Animal-Farm, and a milder, anti-totalitarian socialist who admired the United States. In contrast, the endowed professor had the opposite ideas and real politics of Orwell.  After I challenged him on these modern “Progressive” (leftist) points, nobody spoke to me for the rest of the conference, because they just assumed what he said was true.

If you want to know a contemporary story about this, I can refer to an experience at a conference where a professor (George Orwell professor in fact, was a great patriot, though a socialist) made jokes.

But then I thought about Berlin himself. He championed values of pluralism and individual liberty, against political correctness and enforced orthodoxy.

There are two issues at stake. First, the moderate liberal-conservative democratic consensus–Orwell and Berlin–staked out these margins. This was the mainstream of democracy and democratic opinion: The “vital center.” Today, this has been rejected in place of bitter, triumphalist partisanship, a transformation of the system.

Second, scholarship and honest journalism: Go where truth ordains, even if it is not your preference. This is in place of the indoctrination and partisanship, which have turned large tracts of entertainment, journalism, and scholarship into lies.

In other words, people want teaching, journalism, and charity to be credible. But these are caught-up in the partisan culture war- which is in control of the left. The coinage of these matters is debased.


Cross-posted from Rubin Reports

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition, Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at

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In Obama's America the truth as a concept is just soooo old school.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The partisanship you speak of on the Left is today a narcissism of politicized identities conveyed by those who are emotionally invested in those identities and those they've been able to sell that narcissism to as "justice" and "oppression" victim narratives. It is a politically and financially profitable industry.

For all that men like Norman Finkelstein speak of a "Holocaust industry," I have never had the sense of intense self-obsession and puffed up victimhood stories from Jews, though they are the closest historical recipients of mass oppression to be eligible for such a role.

What you see on the Left are people born in Indiana with a Somalian father who claim to be the voice of colonialism. You see people who don't see enough people who look like themselves at a literary convention claiming it is an industry that hasn't reconciled its racism. You see women claiming male dominated hobbies as evidence of a patriarchy. All claim their enemies wish to return them to the days of Ozzie and Harriet, if not the antebellum South.

The Left is no longer centered around politics but around fringe lunatics they've mainstreamed (and who are more than happy to be mainstreamed) in order to exploit their weird obsession and delight with themselves to win elections.

There is not a single important Democratic Party platform that is not centered around the idea of one identity being targeted by another. Of course since that's not true in any formal, legal or institutionalized sense, Frankenstein's monsters have to be created wholesale and substituted for an actual philosophical and intellectual space of political thought. It's a lot easier to do that than actually think and notions of right and wrong are already prepackaged in a photo.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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