Power corrupts, academia version

On The Reference Frame: Leonard Susskind vs Donald Trump.

A co-father of string theory and lots of other creative ideas in physics and my once co-author Lenny Susskind (he’s been surely more important for me than the very modest paper indicates) is the current director of physics at Stanford and he wrote a “letter on the lunatic” which he agreed to turn into an open letter.

It’s often being said that left-wing ideologies are unavoidably totalitarian in character and every leftist is a Stalin to the extent to which he is allowed to act as one. One’s firm fist – either literally or metaphorically – is the only thing that protects tens of millions of lives from a leftist. It’s hard to disagree when you read this Susskind’s rant.

For some reason, this director’s assault on a leading presidential candidate – and, equally explicitly, on about 50% of the U.S. citizens who support him – is considered OK and faces no backlash. Susskind claims that “all of them agree” that Trump is a lunatic. Just try to imagine what message this is sending to regular students, postdocs, or faculty at Stanford who naturally support Donald Trump.

Now, when the director of physics writes that the politician enjoying the support of some 50% of his nation is a “lunatic” and that these supporters are “exceedingly dangerous”, everything seems to be fine. The political atmosphere at the U.S. universities is broken beyond repair.

But when I heard the phrase “my right-wing friend” for the fifth time, it started to sound sick. Why did he feel the urge to expose my politics whenever we appeared at the same place?

At some moment, I decided that he had a psychological problem with my being right-wing, exactly the same – if not greater – problem that the communists in Czechoslovakia used to have with the right-wingers.

You know, I’ve fought against a left-wing totalitarian regime for some years and I can sense such things instantly. This is the same thing. Boy oh boy, all of us agree that Lenny Susskind is clearly a part of this extremely serious problem. Shame on you, Lenny.

A distinguished physicist in a prestigious university shows that his intellectual integrity is quite restricted in scope. That is what bothers another such physicist who lives in a part of the world that has ‘been there, done that’ with such nonsense – and suffered what results when folks like Susskind forget or ignore reality.

Lubos notes the important points: a proper issue to pursue would be to try to understand why Trump has garnered such significant voter support. Resorting to childish name calling (e.g. “lunatic”) to decry childish name calling and resorting to logical fallacies (all agree) invalidate the rant. Then there is is acceptance in Susskind’s academic circles of his rant and the worries that should bring to the surface. Academia is painting itself into a corner with an identity that destroys its credibility and reputation.

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