I'm a big fan of Roger Scruton, the conservative British philosopher, and his brilliance is often matched by his wit. As we learn from Human Events, at a recent presentation in London:
"Sir Roger...was told of physical violence being leveled at students who express conservative views at Birkbeck University, where Sir Roger once taught."
"'There are two solutions to this, though,' explained Scruton... 'One is to start new universities, outside the nexus of state control...That's a possibility, though of course it is a small gesture.'"
"'But there's the other way forward, which is to get rid of universities altogether.'"
The audience loved it. Scruton was kidding, but his point (that our colleges and universities are not educating our leaders and voters) is well taken. The ignorance of the ruling class is a very serious matter. The news is jampacked with errors of historical and contemporary claims, and it's going to get worse.
My alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, once boasted the finest history department in the country. We sneered at Harvard. Today, though, there's a chair in the "history of trees," whatever that may mean. Meanwhile, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., invents Palestinian history in the Holy Land, conjuring up a Palestinian-run safe haven for Jewish refugees after World War II.
Ignorant of history, more and more politicians and pundits just make it up as it suits them. We're stuck with ignorant leaders who invent our past, and their own. Perhaps the most dramatic example came when then-President Barack Obama gave his celebrated speech in Cairo, which was chock-a-block with factual errors. He was so eager to embrace Islam (and later Iran), that he gave credit to the Muslims for bringing printing to the Middle East, when in fact it was a Chinese invention brought to the region by Portuguese Jews.
Today, Tlaib gets an endorsement from Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, who mysteriously claims that European refugees during the Holocaust found sanctuary in Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon. It's hard to find another historian who agrees — Robert Satloff has never heard of such a thing, and he's the ranking expert — and, unless previously unknown facts surface, this seems another fanciful claim.
Such creative "history" abounds, and if such nonsense is fed to our kids at top universities then Lord Scruton should be taken seriously. We can't possibly cope with our policy dilemmas when pundits are free to invent their own facts. Yet here we are.
Mark Levin well describes our plight in his fine new book The Unfreedom of the Press when he says, "the abandonment of objective truth ... long predates the Trump presidency. ... It has led [us] to a very bleak and dark place."
Michael Ledeen is freedom scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He has written 38 books.