J.R.Donohue/Commentary/Joseph Ellis Must Go
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Joseph Ellis Must Go
6/21/01

    To The Los Angeles Times,

    I applaud the Los Angeles Times for calling for the
resignation of Joseph Ellis ("American Sphinx" June 20, 2001.)
Contrary to the editorial, however, Ellis is not a sphinx; his
behavior is not an unfathomable mystery. 

    Ellis accepts the fundamental axiom of most academic
intellectuals: reality is socially constructed. Stated
colloquially: there is no absolute truth; objective reality is a
term with no meaning; we can be certain of nothing; the person
with unquestioned authority (Power) gets to construct his version
of events (Knowledge) and have it taken as gospel.

    Ellis simply acted accordingly, making up (constructing) his
version of history, believing that his power (stature, fame,
respect, honors, credibility) was all that was needed for his
truth to prevail. Not only does this type of thinking eradicate
one's qualms about sticking with facts, it actually obliterates
from the mind the very concept "fact". One can imagine the effect
of this on a historian, supposedly a scientist who clarifies
facts: disassociation with reality, narcissism, irrational
behavior.

    The arrogance of Ellis's considerable power and prestige
prevents him from exercising caution in promulgating the "truth
is socially constructed" axiom and therefore he is radical in it,
rendering it verbatim: "the truth is how I socially construct it." He acts
according to his beliefs; there is no mystery. It is the utter
bankruptcy and evil of the axiom itself that makes his actions
unacceptable to people of common sense.

    To those who say, yes but this did not affect his
professional life: you are grossly mistaken. There is strong
evidence of intentional dishonesty in Ellis, for instance in his
despicable comments in Ken Burn's documentary on Thomas
Jefferson. 

    Ellis has betrayed the actual (as opposed to post modernist)
purpose of an intellectual and the sacred duty of a teacher:
ruthless devotion to fact, intolerance for "junk-history" and
profound inspiration to students and readers as a warrior for
objectivity. 

    I concur with the Times. Ellis must go.

J.R.Donohue
Pasadena, CA 91101
jrdonohue.com

My contention of dishonesty on the part of Ellis in the Burns
documentary may be found at my website in the commentary
"Jefferson's Glory," a Vindication of "Created Equal"




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All essays Copyright 2001 J.R.Donohue
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