Did the Victorians execute dozens of men for sodomy? Yes, according to Naomi Wolf, who has a PhD from Oxford and a vivid imagination. Are Mizrachi Jews an 'identity category' of 'Palestinians'? Yes, according to Marc Lamont Hill, possessor of an intellect so powerful that he professes at Temple University in two specious fields, Media Studies and Urban Education.
The correct answers are no, and no, so see me after class. Last night, old people across Britain choked on their cocoa as Wolf plugged her book Outrages on BBC Radio. Wolf, having visited the archives of the Old Bailey, London's chief court, claims to have discovered 'several dozen executions' of gay men in Victorian Britain, and has written a book about how awful the Victorians were.
The truth, host and historian Matthew Sweet explained to Wolf in an excruciating interview, is the opposite. The verdict 'Death recorded', which Wolf takes as proof of execution, was created in 1823 to allow judges to abstain pronouncing a death sentence. Worse, one of the men that Wolf describes as an 'executed' victim of Victorian homophobia was prosecuted, and not executed, for raping a child.
'Well, that's a really interesting thing to investigate,' Wolf understated.
Earlier this week, it was Farrakhan chum Marc Lamont Hill's turn to demonstrate his magisterial ignorance. Mizrachi Jews are 'eastern' Jews: mizrach means 'east'. Since the medieval era, the term has denoted Jewish communities in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Iran, and also from as far afield as India, parts of Central Asia, and China. As of 2005, 61 percent of Israeli Jews were of Mizrachi extraction. That's right: the state demonized by the left and the academy as a 'white settler' state is the state of brown-skinned people who never left the Middle East. Marc Lamont Hill inverts fact and logic when he describes the term 'Mizrachi', which has meant the same thing for nearly a thousand years, as a sub-category of the recently invented 'Palestinian' identity.
Neither of these intellectual frauds were exposed by academics, even though academics insist on the probity of their 'interrogations' and 'interventions'. It was a writer, Matthew Sweet, who demolished Wolf's false history on the radio, by the simple expedient of looking up the meaning of 'Death recorded'. Marc Lamont Hill's false history was exposed on Twitter by Israeli activist Hen Mazzig, whose family immigrated from Iraq and Morocco, and by the similarly simple look at the historical record.
The reason that academics don't expose these kinds of false history is that they are paid to promote them. The academic humanities have long since turned into a witch hunt against the West. The verdict is in before the evidence is read, and the verdict is delivered as impenetrable drivel. Apart from breeding ignorance and laziness of the kind displayed by Dr Wolf and Professor Hill, this is driving college students away from the humanities.
Earlier this month, recovering academic Andrew Kay suggested in the Chronicle of Higher Education that turning the humanities into a post-colonial struggle session had created an 'extinction event' for student enrollment today, and the profession tomorrow. The Chronicle responded with a ritual denunciation by four English professors, all of them exemplary in the recondite mediocrity of their research, all of them sounding like French aristocrats as the peasants revved up the tumbrils.
The jury called Kay's accurate description of the humanities' once-high enrollments 'a certain kind of white male fantasy'. They dismissed his factually accurate account of the collapse in academic standards as 'worryingly anti-intellectual'. Anyway, his opinion, and those of the disappearing students, were irrelevant anyway, because they were 'damningly uninterested in women and scholars of color'.
Which is to say, if you dare to mention the failing of the liberal university's business model and intellectual principles, you're a sexist, a racist, a 'white supremacist', or some other species of heinous conservative. Similarly, the defenders of Naomi Wolf and Marc Lamont Hill dismiss intrusions of historical fact into their fantasies as sexist and racist. But this, like most of Wolf and Hill's academic work, is mere propaganda. Both of these impostors were exposed by non-academics, working in public media. A radio host and a Twitter activist had a better grasp of the facts than a PhD and a professor. The truth will out, and the truth is still out there.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts Editor of Spectator USA.