Re: images of professors

Jane W. Gibson (jwgc@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU)
Tue, 9 Apr 1996 13:58:20 -0500

Robert Lawless wrote:

>Does anyone find it strange that journalists always identify the unabomber as
>"an ex-professor," "a former University of California professor," "the holder
>of a Ph.D.," and variations on this theme? --Despite the fact that he did
>this only for a few years some 30 years ago. Does this say something about
>the media's image of the mad scientist, the eccentric academic, etc.?

I remember a movie (called "V"?) in which alien fascists coopted a few
dullard elites in strategic industries and turned the general populace
against a common human enemy, "the scientists." These intellectuals were
driven underground where they formed a guerrilla army determined to restore
the earth to human control.

I think Ron Kephart is right about the ambivalence Americans feel about
college profs (absent-minded; sinister; saviour), but I am reminded that in
Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and other Latin American revolutionary
movements, the intellectual elite--often student leaders-- were among the
first to be disappeared. I don't think we're in imminent danger, but we
ought to take note of such trends in the media, especially right now when
higher education is already under siege by legislative and administrative
downsizers. Can we see the una-bomber characterization as an extension of
this anti-intellectual tendency? Or do I hear the cracking of this fragile
limb behind me?

Jane Gibson

Jane W. Gibson A democratic civilization will save
Department of Anthropology itself only if it makes the language
University of Kansas of the image into a stimulus for
Lawrence, Kansas 66045 critical reflection--not an invitation
913-864-4103 for hypnosis.
--Umberto Eco