Eve Fairbanks of The New Republic in LA Times on silence at Harvard about the “Jewish lobby” paper by its drive-by Professor Walt and U Chi’s Professor Mearsheimer:
Call it the academic Cold War: distrustful factions rendered timid by the prospect of mutually assured career destruction.
No problem here, teachers et al. told her when she asked around about shots heard ‘round the world in furious dispute over the Walt-M 3/23 London Review of Books essay nailing Jews for lobbying vs. Arabs and turning the U.S. govt. around for their own purposes. Her New Repub had run three articles. She wondered what’s up in Cambridge, where dons get heated fairly easily. Not this time.
One anecdote illuminated the puzzle. At a faculty meeting, the paper came up, and the department head remarked that she was sure everyone had the same reaction when they read it — approval. One professor piped up: "No, this article is rubbish!" The room became very quiet. Finally, someone changed the subject. Through moments like these, a de facto consensus developed not to discuss the paper at all.
It’s too serious for them to talk about it, apparently.
Professors I spoke to offered various reasons they must tiptoe around the paper: That its style was too provocative. That they're skittish after witnessing Harvard President Larry Summers' ouster for making fractious comments. That the long-running PC wars have made them tired of controversy. That it's too "personal."
Anyhow, the Middle East is too hot a subject — “too strewn with ideological landmines for them because academics are supposed to be above dogma.” Hence the Cold War doomsday scenario:
One observer close to the debate [explained ] that he had opinions concerning the paper but feared professional retaliation no matter what he might say.
"People might debate it if you gave everyone a get-out-of-jail-free card," he said, "and promised that afterward everyone would be friends."
Yes. And we should bow to their superior wisdom?