Vital Signs

Forbes-Funded Marxism

Steve Forbes may not have won the Republican presidential nomination, but the Forbes millions are helping to shape the political culture of Brown University. The Forbes Foundation donated $2 million to Brown's most Marxist department, Modern Culture and Media.

When Tim Forbes announced the donation in 1991, just as I was graduating from Brown, the irony of the notoriously capitalist family giving money to the department was obvious to everyone at Brown. Even at this very liberal Ivy League school, MCM was often considered a leftist joke. That's something, since it took a lot of effort to stand out as politically absurd at Brown. Relativism was a basic assumption of most humanities classes and many students dressed as hippies over 20 years after Woodstock. The Brown student mentioned in The Bonfire of the Vanities who never heard of hippies is an impossibility—going to Brown in the 1980's, he would have met hundreds.

Even in that milieu, MCM was special. Valued by most students mainly for its film production courses, MCM was also one of American academia's great strongholds of deconstructionism, the French-spawned brand of film/literary theory that uses relativism—and just plain intellectual inconsistency—to weave together radical feminism, Freudianism, and hardcore Marxism. MCM was notorious for black-clad, pseudo-intellectual students, jargon-filled texts (hermeneutic patriarchal...

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