The Hebrew University of Jerusalem decided to make itself into an even bigger laughingstock than it already has been thanks to its legions of Far Leftist and Anti-Zionist professors. This past week it decided to grant an honorary PhD to Jacques Derrida, the godfather of the pseudo-philosophy of “Deconstructionism.”
Deconstructionism is a shallow form of Non-Thinking that has gained popularity among some of the more simpleminded disciplines of the academic world. Essentially the same as “post-modernism” (how is that for a true nonsense word, something no woodchuck could chuck?), Deconstructionism argues that there do not exist any such things as facts, truth, logic, rationality, nor science. Nothing in the world exists beyond subjective “narratives,” each as legitimate as the next. Language is the ultimate form of tyranny and source of control of us oppressed folks by those evil elites. There are no false narratives, just different subjectivities. And the only thing we can be truly certain about in this meaningless world is that the United States and Israel must be destroyed.
Deconstructionism was defined nicely by Robert Locke: “It is also known as poststructuralism, but don’t ask what structuralism was, as it was no better. It is based on the proposition that the apparently real world is in fact a vast social construct and that the way to knowledge lies in taking apart in one’s mind this thing society has built. Taken to its logical conclusion, it supposes that there is at the end of the day no actual reality, just a series of appearances stitched together by social constructs into what we all agree to call reality. But not agree voluntarily, for society has (this is the leftist bit) an oppressive structure, so we are pressured to agree to that version of reality which pleases the people in charge.” Left-wing pseudo-intellectuals love substituting polysyllable-invention for thinking and analysis.
Among the “founders” of the “School” of Deconstructionism was Yale professor Paul de Man, a close friend of Jacques Derrida's, who had published pro-Nazi collaborationist and anti-Semitic articles in two Belgian newspapers in the early Forties. The other Deconstructionists have always tried to deconstruct the Nazism of de Man so that it would not look too bad.
Deconstructionism has long been linked with Marxism, a rather strange combination - given the insistence by deconstructionists that they should never claim to “know” anything. Marxists claim to know everything, based on ridiculous “theories” by Marx disproved 150 years ago, making the Marxist-Deconstructionist axis rather queer. It also sometimes calls itself post-colonialism, apparently because some of its Frenchie inventors came from Algeria, although I have never understood how it can be certain that anything or anyone was ever colonized or colonizer.
For deconstructionists, proof and disproof are unimportant. They accept as axiomatic the claim that social power structures control everything in the world, I guess including all “narratives,” and that literature and art are nothing more than reflections of or protests against such power and oppression. Never mind that the Decon conmen have no way of measuring nor assessing power, control, class, nor privilege; they are SURE that these things are out there and control the world like the Council on Foreign Relations in a Barry Chamish conspiracy “theory.”
Robert Locke has said that Deconstructionism is the opiate of an obsolete intellectual class. It is little more than sophistry and absolute moral relativism. Deconstructionists insist that even words themselves have no meaning. Hence we all live in a meaningless universal in which we are all no better than noisy mutts, making silly barking sounds, which of course is already obvious to any of you out there who have listened in to comparative literature courses from lefty profs. As one critic pointed out, all of Deconstructionism is founded on the paradox of using language to claim that language cannot make unambiguous claims (John Searle, "The World Turned Upside Down," The New York Review, October 27, 1983).
Deconstructionists oppose being “judgmental” about anything except the absolute evil of capitalism and America, which is why it is popular these days mainly among American tenured leftists (the French berets have by and large moved on to other amusements). They believe in an absolute justice, although cannot tell you what and where it is, nor how to achieve it. They think it is something we all simply need to sit back and await, like a Messiah on a deconstructed donkey, although we can hurry it along by joining the Far Left. Deconstructionism attracts a certain sort of adolescent mind (regardless of the age of the accompanying body) because of its cynicism and dismissal of rational thought and science. In Locke’s wonderful words, “It raises to the level of a philosophical system the intuition that everything grownups do is a fraud. It is the metaphysics of Holden Caulfield. It enables the practitioner to tell himself that he is among the privileged group of insiders who know that the Wizard of Oz is behind the curtain.”
Among the forms of knowledge dismissed by them, especially in the case of the Deconstructionist “philosopher” Michel Foucault, is medicine, because medical science is merely an elite knowledge system that confers power on doctors. I have long believed that one of the funniest things in life must be a Deconstructionist professor of comparative literature in need of an emergency root canal, being treated by a deconstructionist dentist. (“Your pain is not real, it is subjective, let me narrate about it to you, there is no pain in reality, Novocain will interfere with your narrative,….”)
Jacques Derrida is one of the fathers of this “school” of Deconstructionism. (Do not confuse it with Reconstructionism, which differs from Deconstructionism mainly in the fact that it is spelled with an ‘R’.) He is best known for his attack on “logocentrism;” that is, on the cruel oppression by rational thinking. What a poster boy for the Hebrew University! He even dismisses Stalin as a logocentrist, which explains the Gulags and Red Terror that ruined what otherwise would be the great blessings of Marxism. We should all seek salvation through resistance to logic.
As Deconstructionism has become regarded more and more as a laughingstock even among French leftwing intellectuals, it has gained popularity in some of the darker corners of American and Israeli campuses. Israeli leftists and media columnists (pretty much the same people) like to toss around the Newspeak of Deconstructionism, and long ago decided that the whole war is because those insensitive Jews refuse to accept the Palestinian “Other.” Palestinians blowing up dozens of young “Others” on buses do not seem to bother them much.
The weaker the level of intellectual analysis and formal standards of scientific evidence and proof, the more popular Deconstructionism is. This is why professors of comparative literature have trouble controlling their sexual excitement stimulated by it, professors of education adore it, sociologists sometimes applaud it, and members of all real scientific fields tend to place Deconstructionism in the same category as the Ra-El cultists.
To Derrida’s credit, he never bought in to the Stalinism so popular among most French “intellectuals.” And Derrida is only one of the better-known clowns in the three-ring Deconstructionist Big Top. Michel Foucault is perhaps even better known than Derrida. He was a great celebrator of psychedelic drug use, sado-masochistic anonymous gay sex, cruelty and violence as expressions of liberation and deepness. He , however, could not be honored this week by the Hebrew University - because he died from AIDS in 1984. There have been allegations that after discovering that he had picked up AIDS, he intentionally continued “cruising” the San Francisco gay scene to infect as many gay men as possible with the virus. In the autumn of 1983, after Foucault's health had collapsed and less than a year before his death, he continued to frequent gay bathhouses and bars. He is best remembered for his motto: “Sex is worth dying for.” According to Mark Lilla (The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics), Foucault laughed at the idea of 'safe sex' and apparently said, 'To die for the love of boys: what could be more beautiful?'
Derrida is only the latest example of Israeli universities honoring fatuous trendy leftist know-nothing Eurotwit pseudo-thinkers. A few years back Tel Aviv University gave a similar honorary doctorate to German “philosopher” Jurgen Habermas. Habermas’ theory is watered down Peres-ism, where there are no actual conflicts of interests on earth, where all conflicts in the world are the result of poor communications, and where all conflict may be resolved through “communicative actions” (psychobabble for talking it out). I would like to see Herr Habermas get himself out of a mugging situation in gang turf in some of my old Philadelphian stomping grounds using communicative action. But Habermas had at least been a vocal critic of German skinheads and neonazis, creating some sort of figleaf for Tel Aviv University honoring him. Derrida has no such track record. He has not even renounced de Man.
While technically born Jewish, Derrida has a long record of endorsing the Left’s sets of liberation solutions to the “problem” of Israel’s existence. Far-Left Haaretz defines him as a Zaddik, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about his position on Israel.
Hebrew University was once the leading academic institution in Israel. It has long since been surpassed in most fields by Tel Aviv University, the Weitzmann Institute, and other institutions. Its campus is increasingly dominated by Tenured Radicals and leftist extremists among the faculty. So - on second thought, and I mean this in the most anti-logocentric sense of the word - perhaps the honoring of Derrida by the Hebrew University makes a great deal of sense after all, or at least it is a telling “narrative”….
Steven Plaut teaches at the University of Haifa