Via The Tablet:
Gelernter told me that he’d been asked to write an op-ed about whether the internet should be censored. (The answer is yes: “We have a concept of public nuisance,” he said. “Throw them off the air. Not permanently.”) (…)
In the 1990s, Gelernter predicted that the internet would be a perfect environment for thinking, both serene and lively. “My idea in Mirror Worlds was that the computer screen should be like the still surface of a moving pond,” he explained. That didn’t happen. The internet gives us the news and assists our research, but it is mostly used for low purposes, a glorified fidget spinner, trolling device, and masturbation aid. (…)
The hopefulness on the cusp of the ’60s, so apparent in the 1964 World’s Fair, was wiped out, Gelernter argues, by a shock wave of intellectuals who invaded the government and the universities and spread the gospel of moral relativism. In his book Drawing Life, a memoir of “surviving the Unabomber,” Gelernter writes that the only religion left in place by the cataclysmic ’60s was the religion of civil rights: tolerance above all. He agrees that America became a more just and fair place as a result of the civil-rights movement. But when tolerance becomes the sole value, something crucial gets lost: the sense of what holds us together as Americans, our way of life. We’ve become afraid to make moral judgments, Gelernter insists. And so, 50 years later, we have students who prize money above anything else. “There’s only one sacred word in their lives: career,” he said of his Yale students. There are no smarter students anywhere in the world, Gelernter told me, but they take “stupid” courses in econometrics, wanting to make a bundle working for hedge funds or consulting firms.
Then came time for the inevitable Trump conversation. Some time ago the press reported that Gelernter is a candidate for national science adviser, and he is still willing to take the job. “There are some brilliant people” in the Trump administration, he said. “The best of them are absolutely tops.” Trump himself, he admitted, is “not my kind of guy”—he has met the president—but “I’m able to respect what he does.” Gelernter added that he did not vote for Trump and that he would have preferred Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, or Scott Walker as president. It’s hard for me to see how Gelernter, with his attachment to the old-fashioned norms of civility that once ruled America, could find anything respectable about Trump. But Gelernter is a born iconoclast, and there’s hardly a better way of being a black sheep in today’s academy than announcing that the president is really not so bad after all.