I can’t help being intrigued by David Aaronovitch’s report of last Sunday that the AUT’s Sue Blackwell– the chief proponent of the Israeli academic boycott– is a “former Christian fundamentalist turned revolutionary socialist.”
Of course Christian fundamentalists and revolutionary socialists of the Blackwell variety have more in common than either group would care to admit. So I don’t imagine this was a huge intellectual leap for her. It’s just as easy to imagine a former revolutionary socialist becoming a Christian, Jewish or Muslim fundamentalist, as in fact a number have done.
Steven Kelman, a Harvard student in the late 1960s, wrote about a fellow student who entered the university as an extreme-right John Bircher and turned into a Maoist two years later, explaining, “I’ve always seen through liberalism.” (As likely as not, he’s a fundamentalist Christian now.)
That’s the key, I think, to people like Blackwell: their uncanny ability (wherever they happen to be on the political spectrum) to “see through” and reject liberalism.
Update: Some commenters have questioned whether Sue Blackwell was ever a fundamentalist Christian. David Aaronovitch has provided the relevant quote from her website:
There is a notable strand of fundamentalist Christianity – I confess I used to belong to it in my teens – which believes that before the Second Coming of Jesus can take place, the Jews will have to recognise him as their Messiah, and the Temple of David will have to be rebuilt on its original site in Jerusalem….
Further update: Of course none of my observations in this post are original. Eric the Unread has some pertinent quotes from Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer.”