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Duke's Dangerous Duo By: DukeChronicle.com
DukeChronicle.com | Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Professors miriam cooke and Fredric Jameson have taught at Duke for almost 50 years combined. They are also two of the most dangerous professors in the United States, according to a book by David Horowitz, conservative columnist and president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

In the book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Horowitz lists and discusses who he considers are the most radical professors in the nation.

The list includes cooke, who does not capitalize her name and is a professor in the Department of Asian and African Languages and Literature, and Jameson, William A. Lane professor of comparative literature and romance studies and former chair of the Program in Literature.

"Instead of educating students, these professors are trying to indoctrinate them," said Horowitz, who is also the founder of Students for Academic Freedom and will speak at Duke March 7.

SAF is a national organization that aims to fight what it believes is a liberal bias on college campuses.

Horowitz's book particularly criticizes Jameson's lack of sympathy for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and for dismissing the resulting media coverage as "cheap pathos."

In the book, Horowitz also claims that Jameson believes "Americans created [Osama] bin Laden during the Cold War"-referring to the al Qaeda leader who is believed to be connected with the Sept. 11 attacks and is among the world's most wanted terrorists.

Horowitz also criticized Jameson's role in developing Duke's Marxism and Society program, of which Jameson is a former director. Horowitz said the program was used to spread leftist influences on campus.

"Jameson is a literature professor but his teaching is based on an uninformed opinion," Horowitz said. "All he's done is wield ideologies out of a 19th-century theory."

He likened the Marxism and Society program, which offers an undergraduate certificate, to "a geography department having a flat-earth program."

Jameson was not available for comment.

Michael Hardt, professor in the literature program, defended the Marxism and Society program's goals.

"The focus is not on Marxism as a political or ideological system, but rather on Marxism as a scholarly methodology that has been influential on a number of disciplines," Hardt said. "What [Horowitz] writes is inaccurate in many details. For over three decades, students and scholars alike have found Jameson's books stimulating and useful."

Horowitz's book also criticized cooke, co-director of the University's Center for the Study of Muslim Networks. Horowitz wrote that cooke blames the Sept. 11 attacks on Israel and supports oppressive regimes in the Middle East.

Although cooke has not read Horowitz's book, she said it is an attempt to unfairly silence liberal view points.

"I was surprised to find myself on the list. I have not yet decided how to react," cooke said. "It feels like intimidation and an attempt at character assassination in order to silence us."

Junior Stephen Miller, president of the Duke chapter of SAF and a Chronicle columnist, said Horowitz's book accurately depicts the problems of bias in the nation and on Duke's campus.

"[Jameson and cooke] are exemplars representing Duke's overall problem-the abandonment of education," Miller said. "Professors who are communists should be allowed to teach, but in their class students should be able to dissent without penalty and there should be classes that provide alternatives."

Miller said there is an abundance of academic programs at Duke that he thinks are ideological in nature rather than educational.

"Some programs such as women's studies, literature and cultural anthropology do not have a single Republican in them," Miller said. "Some of these departments would fit in better in Cuba," he added, referring to what he perceives as their leftist leanings.

Miller also questioned why there is a certificate program on Marx but not a program on libertarianism or free markets.

John Burness, senior vice president for public and government relations, said he disagrees with many of Horowitz's statements.

"Fred Jameson is one of the most brilliant people at Duke, and the fact that he has controversial positions is what college is all about," Burness said. "[Jameson and cooke] are distinguished scholars that are world-renowned."

He also said Horowitz and Miller's claims that certain departments were politically biased were not significant.

"Sure, some of the humanities departments might be on the left," Burness said. "That's the nature of the field. However, I'm sure some fields are probably more conservative. It's very easy to over-exaggerate."

He added that the issue of liberal bias has been addressed by Duke before, and that Horowitz's accusations in his book should be taken with caution.

"You should be careful when folks with a political agenda come out making bold accusations," Burness said.

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