Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy - 2016-11-30
More than any particular obfuscation or omission, the most misleading aspect of these books was the way they claimed that only their adversaries were "political". Bloom, Kimball, and D'Souza claimed that they wanted to "preserve the humanistic tradition", as if their academic foes were vandalising a canon that had been enshrined since time immemorial. But canons and curriculums have always been in flux; even in white Anglo-America there has never been any one stable tradition. Moby Dick was dismissed as Herman Melville's worst book until the mid-1920s. Many universities had only begun offering literature courses in "living" languages a decade or so before that.
In truth, these crusaders against political correctness were every bit as political as their opponents. As Jane Mayer documents in her book, Dark Money: the Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Bloom and D'Souza were funded by networks of conservative donors – particularly the Koch, Olin and Scaife families – who had spent the 1980s building programmes that they hoped would create a new "counter-intelligentsia". (The New Criterion, where Kimball worked, was also funded by the Olin and Scaife Foundations.) In his 1978 book A Time for Truth, William Simon, the president of the Olin Foundation, had called on conservatives to fund intellectuals who shared their views: "They must be given grants, grants, and more grants in exchange for books, books, and more books."
These skirmishes over syllabuses were part of a broader political programme – and they became instrumental to forging a new alliance for conservative politics in America, between white working-class voters and small business owners, and politicians with corporate agendas that held very little benefit for those people.