As progressives are starting to understand, the funding, planning, and coordination of the conservative movement has led to tremendous success in elections and government policy. But another arena of ideological competition has gone largely beneath the radar. An asymmetric political war is raging at universities across the country, and once again conservatives are running circles around progressives.In the United States much of this movement is being orchestrated by Morton Blackwell and the Leadership Institute. In Canada, it is the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, which was started with a ten million dollar anonymous contribution. What Manning is operating is anything but democratic, as he is stirring things up in a very negative way, at university campuses across the country.
The campus Left, which is still organized for the most part by students and community activists, increasingly finds itself facing off against seasoned conservative strategists. And while progressive student groups are mostly self-funded, by the mid-1990s roughly $20 million dollars were being pumped into the campus Right annually, according to People for the American Way.
That money and expertise are directed at four distinct goals: training conservative campus activists; supporting right-wing student publications; indoctrinating the next generation of culture warriors; and demonstrating the liberal academic "bias" that justifies many conservatives' reflexive anti-intellectualism. (1)
The U.S. movement has had a thirty year head start, but in Canada they didn't need a head start, because most of the funding and expertise for the Canadian anti-Democratic movement is being shipped over.
I've been following the Canadian Constitution Foundation, that gets a great deal of funding from places like the Donner Foundation, Atlas Foundation, Aurea Foundation, etc., as well as from anonymous donors, who could be just about anybody.
The founder, John Weston is a Harper MP, and the current director, John Carpay; not only ran for the Reform Party but also worked on Stockwell Day's leadership campaign. They claim to take on "free speech" issues, but they have little to do with actual free speech, but more to do with an attack on common decency.
In a kind of upside down world, that they strive to create; Christian "values" now mean hatred for anyone not white, male and praying to some vengeful god at least 18 hours a day, and groups like CCF are paving the way.
But there is another group also turning Canadian Academia on it's head: The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. Their founding president is Doreen Kimura, a professor at Simon Fraser University. Kimura is a critic of affirmative action, and believes that males are biologically superior to females.
When I first found their site I was encouraged, because I noticed that they had taken up the cause for York University students. But alas, they are just another right-wing "non-partisan" group promoting nuclear holocaust in the middle east. They suggest that York has taken sides in the conflict against Israel. These so-called scholarly minds feel that by objecting to Apartheid in Gaza, you are somehow against all Jews.
Tom Flanagan is one of their directors, Stephen Harper's former right-hand man. You can also link to all of their campaigns here.
They are quite clever though, because they use an opinion piece written by David Frum to validate their claim that York is bias. Frum is a former speech writer of George W. Bush, his sister Linda was a Harper patronage senate appointment and he is one of the founding members of the Civitas Society. The Civitas Society where the current president of the Society for Academic Freedom, Clive Seligman, was invited to help answer the question "Can the universities be saved?"
I'd like to know if they can be saved from people like Clive, but I don't think that's what they meant.
Jason Kenney is also a founding member of Civitas. For those who don't know, Kenney and David Frum were Siamese twins, separated at birth, but they still speak with just one voice. It's uncanny really. You barely see Frum's lips move.
We've got to start exposing these groups, that all have ties to the Harper government. Peter Kent tried to interfere in York University elections. Steven Fletcher attacked the student newspaper in Manitoba, Peter Braid tried to teach students at Carleton how to cheat the University out of money.
As Joshua Holland says, these right-wing student activist groups are being handled by seasoned conservative strategists. But they are also being funded by corporate sponsored think tanks and foundations, and are linked to current members of government. Progressive students are on their own, and ill prepared to handle this assault.
Their best defense is to ignore them, but they are aggressive. When students at the University of Manitoba were engaged in a day of protest against poverty, campus conservatives, under the direction of provincial conservative MLA, Hugh McFadyen; formed a human chain to prevent their progress toward the legislature, hoping for a physical confrontation.
These guys are not fooling around.
1. Why Conservatives are Winning the Campus Wars, by Joshua Holland, Campus Watch, August 7, 2005