Sunday Levity: The sexist speed of light

The wonderful world of the post-modern intellectual Left

In What’s Left: How Liberals Lost Their Way, Nick Cohen lays bare the hypocrisy of individuals like Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, Tariq Ali and Vanessa Redgrave. He reminds us how the British government, then led by John Major permitted genocide in Bosnia. And he tears into ‘the obfuscations and murkiness of post-modern specialists in “theory”—feminist theory, postcolonial theory, ‘other theory’, critical race theory, queer theory, communicative action theory, structuration theory, neo-Marxian theory…any kind of theory, every kind of theory’.

Alan Sokal, a New York University physics professor, showed that the experts in the field of ‘theory’ beat them all: they believed unnecessarily convoluted writing that was also rubbish. He strung together bizarre claims from Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray and many other star of the humanities departments into a gibbering argument that reality was a bourgeois illusion. (Irigaray was my favourite. She denounced Einstein’s E=mc2 as a sexist equation which ‘privileges the speed of light’ over more feminine speeds ‘which are vitally necessary to us’. Presumably light may have appeased her if it had shown its feminine side by slowing down to 30 m.p.h in built-up areas.)

Sokal stacked up the idiocies and then concluded that the laws of mathematics were instruments of capitalist repression. He sent his spoof to the editors of Social Text, a leading post-modernist journal, which published it in a special edition that promised to ‘uncover the gender-laden and racist assumptions built into the Euro-American scientific method’.[Nick Cohen/What’s Left: How Liberals Lost Their Way]

One little bit from the book concerns Arundhati Roy. She, along with Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Harold Pinter, wrote an open letter to the editor of Ordfront, a Swedish magazine, in support of Diana Johnstone. Johnstone had defended Slobodan Milosevic and argued that there had been no genocide at Srebrenica.

10 thoughts on “Sunday Levity: The sexist speed of light”

  1. Nitin,

    Nick Cohen is a personal favourite.

    Why does this extract remind me of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged? Remember the scene about a scientist/professor dishing out crap about science?

  2. It is absolutely ridiculous to bring the stupidity of humanities into science.On the other hand i was wondering whether it is time to bring the rigour of the scientific process and peer review into the humanities too.For example Would Marx’s theories have survived if they had been subject to the rigours of the scientific method/peer review process or have been laughed out of the room? How many hundreds of millions of lives would have been saved if this had been done? If this very faulty and illogical theory had been tackled at the start itself.

  3. Irigaray has more nonsense to her credit. The study of deformations of a solid body is more tractable than the the study of turbulent fluids, why is that so? Irigaray has an answer, it is linked to the fact that the male sexual organ becomes rigid and the female sexual organ oozes blood, a fluid, the sexist nature of science is revealed Q.E.D.

  4. If this were not a reputable forum, I would have suggested that Irigaray needs some toys, however since it is a reputable forum I will desist from making any suggestion 😐

  5. Does this have anything to do with the “communitarian” piffle in the other thread?

  6. Nitin, as usual, great post. The truth of the matter, if we really get down to it, these leftists love dictators and strongmen as long their rhetoric and their actions are laced with toxic doses of socialism. This is why they support dictators like Milosevic, Mugabe, Castro, Chavez, to name a few. Their definition of freedom is relative.

  7. Nitin,

    A minor disagreement. It is incorrect to categorise Chomsky as a post-modernist, though he has often sided with some truly abhorrent and illogical stands taken by various post-modernists. From the wikipedia article on Chomsky –

    ” Chomsky strongly disagrees with post-structuralist and postmodern criticisms of science:

    I have spent a lot of my life working on questions such as these, using the only methods I know of; those condemned here as “science”, “rationality”, “logic” and so on. I therefore read the papers with some hope that they would help me “transcend” these limitations, or perhaps suggest an entirely different course. I’m afraid I was disappointed. Admittedly, that may be my own limitation. Quite regularly, “my eyes glaze over” when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count. True, there are lots of other things I don’t understand: the articles in the current issues of math and physics journals, for example. But there is a difference. In the latter case, I know how to get to understand them, and have done so, in cases of particular interest to me; and I also know that people in these fields can explain the contents to me at my level, so that I can gain what (partial) understanding I may want. In contrast, no one seems to be able to explain to me why the latest post-this-and-that is (for the most part) other than truism, error, or gibberish, and I do not know how to proceed. “

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