Thursday, June 25, 2009

Professors Detained in Iran


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(the photo is of a mosque in Tehran)
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CBS News (online) and other outlets are reporting that about 70 Iranian professors who met with Mr. Mousavi were detained--not arrested, apparently, but detained.

How professors go from being relatively obscure and ignored to being a threat is a phenomenon that's always intrigued me. Somehow, those seen mostly as impractical eggheads suddenly become hyper-effectual--capable (suggest those in power) of getting big and dangerous things done.

True, in some activist movements in some nations, professors have participated vigorously, and professors do have an obvious connection to younger, thoughtful persons who may express skepticism toward established institutions. Still, it's hard to view professors as being as dangerous as counter-activist forces often depict them.

David Horowitz, among others, likes constantly to depict American professors as Leftists who are "politically correct." It's probably true that a majority of professors don't identify themselves as Republican, but at the same time, I don't think a majority is Leftist, either (depending upon one's definition). Many professors I've taught with have expressed firm ideas against such developments as feminism, feminist scholarship, multi-cultural interests, affirmative action, and so on. Most professors I know own homes, raise families, do volunteer-work, and so on: not exactly radical stuff. (An earlier post concerns allegedly "Liberal Professors".) Also, no one really knows what "politically correct" means anymore, if it every meant anything; it's an empty signifier, the card that's not on the three-card-monte table.

It could be that Horowitz and others have simply discovered that professors are easy to caricature, so they keep the caricature alive. If it works, keep doing it: I guess that's the cynical attitude. Also, I think people outside of academia get suspicious of professors--of new ideas, research, intellectualism, and so on. And Lord knows professors sometimes behave arrogantly and otherwise seem out of touch.

Mostly, I think, professors symbolize potential change or potential anti-establishment attitudes. They may help to create the illusion of an avant garde. But I think significant social shifts usually get going on their own and then attract the participation of some professors, who then get detained. Or arrested. Or used in propaganda skirmishes.

By the way, Mr. Mousavi now has a page on facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/mousavi1388
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