Day By Day

Friday, April 11, 2008

Truther at the UN

Years ago the late Carl Sagan labeled modern culture a "Demon Haunted" world in which the most absurd, irrational ideas held sway in the popular mind. Sagan's argument was that there was danger in allowing weird conspiracy theories and theories based on supernatural agency to spread unchallenged in the general public.

Sagan's unspoken assumption was that a credentialed, scientifically trained, academic elite possessed sufficient integrity and intellectual authority to counter the demons of the popular mind. Well..., not any more.

The New York Sun reports:

On March 26, Richard Falk, Milbank professor of international law emeritus at Princeton University, was named by unanimous vote to a newly created position to report on human rights in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. While Mr. Falk’s specialty is human rights and international law, since the attacks in 2001, he has devoted some of his time to challenging what he calls the “9-11 official version.”

On March 24 in an interview with a radio host and former University of Wisconsin instructor, Kevin Barrett, Mr. Falk said, “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don’t think we can answer definitively at this point. All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess.”

Read it here.

Here is a guy with impeccable credentials -- an endowed chair at Princeton, former U. S. Ambassador to the UN, appointment to the UN Human Rights Council, and such not -- and he's a "truther."

Sagan's distinction between a competent, authoritative elite and the audience for morning TV talk shows has collapsed entirely. Insanity runs amok at all levels of our society. The old progressive era assumption that an intellectual elite could be trusted because it comprised a "community of competence" no longer applies. Anyone who, like me, has had long and intimate experience with academic institutions is well aware of the foolishness that runs rampant there. Now, thanks to people like Professor Falk, the general public is becoming increasingly informed on the matter, and as it does respect for academically credentialed authority declines, as well it should.