The Complicit Culture

The University of Iowa is home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, one of the leading, or the leading, graduate creative writing centers in the US, nationally and internationally renowned. But let’s consider all the creative writing programs across the US and the faculty and grad students, and let’s think of all the literary journals, and let’s consider in addition all the novelists in the US, and the publishers. How many explicit investigative novels about the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, for example, have been written? And published? How many have been taught? Virtually none. The novel is a popular vehicle. The US conquest of Iraq, of greater Oila, is one of the great crimes and calamities of the time for which the US is responsible. Academics, intellectuals have an obligation to solicit, foster, produce, publish, teach, and otherwise disseminate such work. Essentially, they don’t. That’s a culture that is complicit.

Historian Paul Street recounts in “Cowardice Pays: Reflections on Academic Abdication and a Paul Krugman Lecture in Iowa City“:

“Academic co-optation” is not just a “cynical” radicals’ fantasy. It really exists across the middle and upper reaches of “higher-education,” where engaged radical sentiments and activism are commonly seen as naïve and un-professional and where cowardice can pay quite handsomely. And if it can explain the conservatism and indifference of state university professors deep in the heartland, imagine how far it can go with a heralded, Nobel Prize-winning Princeton academic who also holds down cherished column space at the nation’s leading newspaper of record?

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