Friday, August 27, 2010

The UC Loyalty Oath

I just finished reading Bob Blauner's Resisting McCarthyism: To Sign or Not to Sign California's Loyalty Oath. It's a solid and insightful addition to the literature on that divisive time.

The characters include two of my former professors, Joseph Tussman (philosophy) and Charles Muscatine (English) as well as Earl Warren, Robert Sproul, Clark Kerr, and regent John Francis Neylan, the Hearst adviser and university regent who plays the role of villain. Neylan, a wealthy investor, had been a leading Progressive in the 1920s; indeed, Blauner considers him "the single most powerful politician in California" by the end of that decade.

Here's a sample of Neylan's style during the loyalty oath crisis. After one faculty member raised the issue in his class, Neylan wrote an editorial for Hearst's San Francisco Examiner: "We wonder who, if anyone, gave [him] permission to use his class room as a forum to present a one-sided argument and a vicious attack on the Regents?" Consider the diction. Evidently, professors needed permission to discuss the trauma that Neylan, perhaps more than anyone else, was inflicting on the university and its faculty. And of course, Neylan had no compunctions about launching one-sided arguments and attacks on professors and administrators--in the mass media, to which he had privileged access.

By coincidence, I'm also reading Dave Zirin's Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love, and yesterday, I heard Jane Mayer on Fresh Air discussing the Koch brothers' lavish support for right-wing causes. So I'm feeling more fed up than usual with the disproportionate influence right-wing rich folks exercise in public life.

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