January 24, 2005

Jon’s a Wiener A few

Jon’s a Wiener

A few days ago, dear reader, the home offices of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” received a hefty package via our friends at UPS. As brown had not done much for us lately, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” were quite excited to lay eyes upon our bundle.

So, you ask, what was in the box? Well, dear reader, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” received numerous review copies of various books. It’s one of the perquisites of running a “website” that receives well nigh three hits per day.

Anyway, dear reader, among the tomes was a title called Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud, and Politics in the Ivory Tower, by the humorously named Jon Wiener.

Mr. Wiener—or, should we say, Dr. Wiener?—is an historian at UC Irvine and a contributing editor to that most shrill of left-wing rags, The Nation. As such, one of the junior editors here at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly”—let’s just call him “Chip”—was delighted to get his hands on this volume. After all, Historians in Trouble seemed like an awfully sexy title: We can just picture Doris Kearns Goodwin with an evil look on her face, clad only in a risqué negligee. Whilst she plagiarizes another book.

We wish we could report that Prof. Wiener’s book was a winner. We wish we could report that it isn’t a slip-shod work of a ridiculous hack. We wish we could say something more clever than the book’s a real wiener. But, alas, we can’t.

In short, dear reader, Historians in Trouble must surely be one of the most feculent pieces of “scholarship” we have read in some time. In fact, it’s so bad that Eric Alterman wouldn’t even use it for toilet paper. Alex Cockburn probably gave up after a few pages.

And what, you may be asking yourself, makes this little book such a loser? Why, we’re collectively glad you asked. The Good Doctor Wiener presents an assortment of stories of academic historians’ professional misconduct, and then forces them into fitting his patently pre-ordained conclusion.

In essence, Herr Doktor Wiener concludes that the evil American Right makes sure that niggling lapses on the part of leftist historians receive draconian punishments, whereas tremendous examples of scholarly malfeasance on the part of rightist historians obtain nothing but praise.

In order to come to this assessment, Mr. Wiener offers the most unfair potted summaries of the historians’ malfeasances in question. His accounts are more tilted than the deck of the Titanic. Although he always allows the “good guy” (i.e., left-winger) ample room to demonstrate his innocence, he never seems to get around to offering such an earnest defense of those who do not share his political proclivities. In addition, Jon “Oscar Meyer” Wiener repeatedly refers to all right-leaning magazines and journals as conservative and rightist, whilst never mentioning that The Nation and The Progressive aren’t exactly middle-of-the-road rags.

In the end, dear reader, Prof. Wiener comes to the conclusion that the political Right has an hold on the profession of academic history, and that this causes major problems for its practitioners.

It’s a conclusion so counterfactual that it leaves the reader baffled. History departments nationwide are riddled with professors intent on pontificating about “the hermaphroditic Other in the work of Elvis Costello,” and Mr. Wiener concludes that the Right has too much control over American departments of history.

May we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” humbly suggest that the good Mr. Wiener is appropriately named?

Perhaps eager gift-givers can present their loved-ones with a twofer: Jon Wiener’s Historians in Trouble and Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? They could call it the “Out-of-Touch Nation Correspondent Gift-Pack.”

Posted at January 24, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack