Normally I’m able to keep my equanimity in the face of the relentless stupidity of the media and even academia, but once in a while something sets me to full boil. Such as this headline and story in the Washington Post, which is beyond a disgrace even for the worst of the comPosters:
By Sarah Kaplan
Now let’s pause and note that reporters are not responsible for headlines, so for the moment we should only say that the Post headline writer should be fired first thing tomorrow morning. After all, do you really want to employ a headline writer so clueless that he/she would write that a person who lost an eye to a terrorist bombing is being “eyed” for a White House job?
Anyway, to continue with the copy:
Computer scientist David Gelernter, a Yale University professor who has decried the influence of liberal intellectuals on college campuses, is being considered for the role of the Donald Trump’s science adviser. Gelernter met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday, according to press secretary Sean Spicer.
Again, let us stop here and note that Kaplan’s story so far does not say that Gelernter decries “intellectuals,” but rather, liberal intellectuals. But “fiercely”! So how does “anti-intellectual” get in the headline? As I say, this headline writer should be fired. To continue:
Gelernter is a pioneer in the field of parallel computation, a type of computing in which many calculations are carried out simultaneously. The programming language he developed in the 1980s, Linda, made it possible to link together several small computers into a supercomputer, significantly increasing the amount and complexity of data that computers can process. Since then he has written extensively about artificial intelligence, critiquing the field’s slow progress and warning of AI’s potential dangers.
In 1993, Gelernter was seriously injured by a letter bomb sent by Ted Kaczynski, the anti-technology terrorist known as the Unabomber.
Some other time, perhaps, we can talk a bit more about where and how the Unabomber learned his leftist anti-technology ideology. Hint: it involved leftist “intellectuals” at Harvard. It has long been rumored that the Unabomber had a heavily marked-up copy of Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance in his cabin in Montana. Gore was at Harvard around the same time as Kaczynski, learning the same early post-modern nihilism. The FBI has never confirmed whether Kaczynski had Gore’s book. I asked a senior FBI agent I once knew about it. He professed not to know. But see also Alston Chase, Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist. If anyone has moral standing to critique leftist intellectuals, it’s David Gelernter. To continue:
Beyond computer science circles, Gelernter has made a name for himself as a vehement critic of modern academia. In his 2013 book, “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats),” he condemned “belligerent leftists” and blamed intellectualism for the disintegration of patriotism and traditional family values. He attributed the decline in American culture to “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges.” (Gelernter himself is Jewish.)
Let’s just stop right here, as Kaplan’s story doesn’t get any better from here on. The invocation of “intellectualism” here is obviously an ideological caricature. “Vehement” critic? It’s pretty clear that if you dissent from the liberal orthodoxy of the universities, for Kaplan it makes you a “vehement” critic.
I’ve only met Gelernter once, but I’ve read many of his fine books and articles. This can be stated as categorical, objective truth: Intellectually, Sarah Kaplan isn’t fit to carry David Gelernter’s jockstrap. She should be fired, too, for such a shoddy piece of “journalism.”
And people in the media wonder why Trump, and much of the population, think the media is the enemy.
UPDATE: A Facebook friend points me to a Time magazine profile of Gelernter:
“Inside the house, evidence of the mind of Gelernter is everywhere. The towering walls of books–including his own works on computer science, religion, popular culture, history and psychology. His works of art–some abstract, some powerfully figurative, like the life-size evocations of the great kings of Israel inspired by Christian tomb art at the Basilica of St. Denis outside Paris. Musical instruments fill the floor space. Flamboyantly colored birds survey the scene–a purple parrot in a cage near the kitchen and a multihued macaw named Ike that presides over the family room. Gelernter’s conversation runs in torrents from the prophesies of Isaiah to the subtleties of Gothic engineering to the proper design of graphical user interfaces.
Indeed, the breadth of his interests and the range of his thoughts can be overwhelming. Gelernter expresses sympathy for the graduate students in his new seminar on software design at Yale, which has been his academic home for most of his life. The students are flummoxed, he reports, by their professor’s extensive discussion of medieval architecture, specifically the so-called strainer arches at Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England. Wrought from massive stone blocks and installed nearly 700 years ago to prevent the church from collapsing, these arches are as strong as steel–and as lovely as butterfly wings. His reason for dwelling on the subject, he explains, is that all truly great designs are beautiful as well as functional. “I try to tell them, if you’re going to do anything good in software, it will be beautiful.”
Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy has called Gelernter, who pioneered breakthroughs in parallel processing, “one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time.”
But because he disagrees with liberals, he’s a Spiro Agnew level “anti-intellectual” to the Washington Post.
We’ll do more updates if the Washington Post does the right thing and takes down this risible article.