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"Credentials"

"lack of credentials..."
-- from Carl Ernst's list of charges made against Robert Spencer

Ah yes, "credentials." The "credentials" you will find -- the doctorates all in place, the thesis written that neither the writer nor anyone else will ever wish to read -- at, for example, the MEALAC Program of Columbia. "Credentials" whether of the kind awarded to Rashid Khalidi (the quick, no coursework required D. Phil. that for decades taught at St. Antony's, of course -- in its Middle Eastern section not to be confused with its legitimate Russian section, nor with real Oxford colleges with real dons, demanding real work), or Hamid Dabashi (every single one of whose books that are simply compilations of endless details about the vilayet-e-faqih and all its fascinating promoters, with not the slightest sign of a mind at work -- but if you must have a sign of Hamid Dabashi's mind at work, read "The Moment of Myth" for his ex-unque-leone treacly tribute to Edward Said), and Joseph Massad the full-time propagandist, and so many others, all with their "credentials" and "credentials" and "credentials."

Too many people have gone through what passes for higher education in the Western world, in the United States, too many of them have gone on to graduate school and taken the full measure of many of the offerings in history and literature (hard sciences are a different thing), and the fashions (try, for example, in a French department in a thoroughly modern American university, to find among all the fashionable offerings -- "Blacks and Arabs in Contemporary France" or "Francophone Literature" or "North African Literature" or "Postcolonial Discourse: the Case of France" and "Women, the Arabs, and 'the Other' in Contemporary French Literature" -- something, anything, that might give French literature by the French, in France, since the lais of Marie de France and Charles d'Orleans right up to Proust and Perec. Just try. Oh, one or two courses still given on the 19th century novel, and possibly one semester devoted to that trivial thing, "the Culture of France." But that's it. That's bloody it.

You don't have to wait until you have retired from your 40 years of teaching in some once-tweedy English department, all Theodore Baird and Reuben Brower, to write a book deploring what is happening. You don't have to subscribe to The New Criterion. You don't have to belong to the National Association of Scholars. You just have to have a brain, and some education, to realize what is happening -- and to realize it is much more than a matter of the odd Ward Churchill or vacuous Cornel West, and certainly not merely a matter of a certain kind of politics. Who hires these churchills? Who is ecstatic about being able to offer a university professorship to these cornel wests? Who decides that diane ecks are the best one can do if one is Boston's MFA, for example, and wants a series of lectures on Indian Art, when there are so many learned historians of Indian art to choose from. Who? Why?

"Credentials."

"Credentials."