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Beat the devil.

Now that four more conservative years have been officially inaugurated by Ronald Reagan, acting for President Dole, we may as well remember that much of the damage associated with the rightward swerve of the Zeitgeist is not being inflicted by Birchers or kooks from the Moral Majority but by upstanding members of the supposedly respectable intellectual community. Anyone who doubts this should look at the "Thanksgiving Statement" issued by twenty-seven academics toward the end of last year, urging schools to instill good character in students and warning that "schools in general are not doing enough to counter the symptoms of serious decline in youth character."

This is reminiscent of the muscle-and-blood national authoritarianism preached by Thomas Arnold and by subsequent, more explicitly fascist educators. "Character," said the report, "is often revealed in the concern and affection we display toward other members of our group or country. These traits are fostered through the learning of what Sidney Hook called 'the history of our free society, its martyrology, and its national traditions.' Such learning encourages students to be patriotic; to be loyal to our society, and to care about the welfare of their fellow Americans." The report recommended frequent and high-quality ceremonial activities, stressing "contribution."

An article by Charles Claffey in The Boston Globe for November 25 quoted local notables enthusing about this horrible document. Nathan Glazer--one of the report's signatories and professor at the Harvard School of Education--attributed part of the problems of the young to, in Claffey's evocation of his views, "an overperimissiveness arising from the fear of being considered intolerant." David Riesman, professor emeritus of social sciences at Harvard, said that he was heartened by the report and that "critical concerns of character and quality" had to be addressed. "The problem is how--in our delirium of due process and the ACLU--to carry this out."

These barbaric views were capably matched by another "liberal," Dr. Robert Coles, child shrink on the Harvard Medical School staff and recently self-appointed flagellator of "elitist" freezeniks, on behalf of his good blue-collar buddies on the faculty. Coles told Claffey he liked the report, adding, in reference to a 17-year-old girl's refusal to salute the flag at a school in the Boston area: "There's something wrong when you can't salute the flag in a school classroom without creating a constitutional issue. Things like reciting a school prayer and saluting the flag are part of belonging to society . . . . we are creating a state of anarchy when what kids need are control and discipline."

By an illuminating coincidence, the Times Literary Supplement for November 30 contained a review by Gordon Craig of Christa Kamenetsky's Children's Literature in Hitler's Germany. Craig cited the Nazi]s plan to emphasize "the duties of the individual to the state and the imperatives of racial awareness and upon character-building and physical training." The proto-Nazi critics of modernist Weimar thought its educational system was "sadly deficient in recognizing its responsibility for promoting a sense of national identification and loyalty among students." Nazi educational theorist Ernst Krieck argued, apropos folklore, that, in Craig's words, "the comparative dimension ... must give way to an emphasis upon the specifically German folk community, and folklore and saga must be made to serve as a kind of political science for contemporary Germans." Sounds like ABC's approach to the Olympics to me. Sidney Hook could not have put it better. There's no Nazi like a liberal in search of the nation's soul. Vigilantism: New Turn

Public acclaim continues for the "Death Wish III" bomber who attempted to blow up the New York Post building on South Street, along with all its contents. The bomber, released on his own recognizance, says that on a previous visit to New York City he had been assailed over several days by numerous editions of the Post, uttering racist slurs, sexual innuendos and blatant appeals to man's lowest instincts of envy, greed and fear.

He had left the city physically unharmed but unable to dispel feelings of spiritual disgust and intellectual despair. He had returned expressly to plant an infernal machine on the premises of the Post and "blow the place to kingdom come," but was arrested before realizing his purpose.

Switchboards of local television and radio stations were jammed with callers endorsing the bomber's intention. An editorial in The Washington Post stated:

New York has a new folk hero. . . . It's easy to understand why New Yorkers are responding in this spirit. . . . When people feel they are not adequately protected, the force of the argument that they should not take their defense in their own hands diminishes. . . . An episode of do-it-yourself law enforcement has undeniable implications of spreading violence and chaos, but it reflects directly on those in official positions, like the mayor and the governor, who have failed to provide the protection that the citizenry has every right to demand.

As you may have guessed, those were the exact words of a Washington Post editorial on December 28 about Bernhard Goetz, the white whose plan to murder four blacks has aroused such public exuberance. When vigilantes start stalking editorial corridors I think we will see a diminution in these sympathetic expressions for Goetz -- who, according to a news report by the local NBC affiliate, is a sometime employee of the National Security Agency. The Life of Brian

Brian Mulroney, Canada's Conservative Prime Minister, seems a second-rate fellow, but I sympathize with the man, given the conversation-stopper dumped on him by the publisher of The New York Times during a lunch at the paper's offices recently. Arthur O. (Punch) Sulzberger turned to him, intoning solemnly, "And how did you leave Canada, Prime Minister?"
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Title Annotation:Nazi like liberals, Brian Mulroney, vigilantes and other topics
Author:Cockburn, Alexander
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 26, 1985
Words:938
Previous Article:Transition time.
Next Article:Sovieticus.
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