But there is one exception: his name is Stanley Fish, and he writes a regular blog on the NYT website. You can find out more about Fish and his po-mo take on subjects such as free speech here. (I love Camille Paglia's characterisation of him as a 'totalitarian Tinkerbell'.) Last year, he wrote a piece arguing that Random House's decision not to publish Sherry Jones' novel about Muhammed's child bride was not censorship, at the same time sneering at Salman Rushdie as a 'self-appointed poster boy for the First Amendment'. (Incidentally, don't these anti-liberal leftists just hate it when non-whites refuse to follow their script and instead stand up for 'western' values? Remember Seumas Milne excoriating Ed Husain as a 'neocon pin-up boy', and Jonathan Pilger dismissing Barack Obama as a 'glossy Uncle Tom'. Gosh, if you didn't know better, you might be inclined to detect a note of neo-colonial elitism, or even - whisper it if you dare - racism in these remarks.)
The other day Fish devoted his column to a spirited defence of that other master of rhetorical evasion, Terry Eagleton. Ironic, given that the latter once described Fish's 'discreditable epistemology' as 'sinister'. But in the new war against Enlightenment liberalism, pro-faith universalists and post-modern cultural relativists find themselves on the same side: a fact that Fish acknowledges, without noting the irony, in this article.
Fish's piece is virtually a precis, laced with generous quotes, of the first chapter of Eagleton's latest book. Both Eagleton's original argument, and Fish's uncritical commentary on it, repeat many of the points made in the former's Guardian article last week. There's the same defence of religion, not because it might be true, but because of its social value, and the same sneering at 'liberal dogmatists, doctrinaire flag-wavers for Progress, and Islamophobic intellectuals', while once again declining to engage with their criticisms.
Have you noticed that the new breed of anti-secularists always have to add a damning qualifier to the characterisation of their opponents? In their looking-glass world, atheists are always 'militant', secularists 'aggressive', liberals 'dogmatic' or 'muscular', and believers in progress 'doctrinaire' or 'fundamentalist'. I find this strategy, like the habit of condemning any criticism of a certain religion as 'Islamophobic', profoundly anti-intellectual and unworthy of those, like Eagleton and Fish, who claim to be scholars and academics.
Reading the article, you can understand why Martha Nussbaum described Fish's writing as 'sophistry' and 'rhetorical manipulation'. He and his former antagonist Eagleton have much in common.
Via B&W: Read P Z Myers' hilariously insightful account of being stuck on a plane for 8 hours with nothing to read but the Eagleton book fawningly reviewed by Fish. Plus Crooked Timber and Jason Rosenhouse on Fish. (And thanks to B&W for linking to this post.)
Russell Blackford (just added to my blogroll) has an epiphany and conjures up an Eaglefish at war with 'Ditchkins'.