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“Gary North Can’t Think Straight!” Says Libertarian Ph.D. in English

Written by Gary North on October 31, 2014

If there were a 15-round fight between Mike Tyson and Hilary Swank, my money would be on Tyson. I realize that he is older now, but I still think he would be the go-to guy under those conditions.

Why would he accept the challenge? It would not build his reputation. Not only is Hilary Swank not a very good fighter, she is actually an actress who was in a movie where she played a fighter. It seems to me that the world would not stand up and applaud him for having put her out of the fight after three rounds. Probably, one half of one round would do it, and even so, he would not be heralded as the master of the ring.

I don’t think he would take up the challenge. But what if Hilary had kept going to the press and insisting that she could beat him to a pulp? What if the press began taking her seriously? How would Mike handle this problem? Poorly, in all likelihood.

I know exactly how he would feel. This is my problem in responding to the academic equivalent of Hilary Swank. I have been publicly attacked by a lady who has a Ph.D. in English. She has said that I really don’t know what I am talking about in the field of literary analysis. She said I have misrepresented one of the greatest literary con men in American history: Henry David Thoreau.


She has a reputation for being a writer. She occasionally writes in a libertarian magazine. She also has a book with her name on it, which is generously called a textbook by her New York City publisher. Actually, it is not a textbook. It is a collection of other people’s writings. She then makes brief comments on these writings.

This genre has been around for about half a century. Somebody with a Ph.D. collects extracts snippets out of journal articles, or snippets of primary source documents (preferably not copyrighted), and tries to find a publisher that sells textbooks to colleges: books with extremely high markups. The publisher targets the book, so-called, at captive college students. It costs the company about three dollars to print the book in paperback, and the book is sold for about $125 to the hapless students, who cannot escape. Robert Nisbet described this academic genre a generation ago: great snippets. He regarded this as one of the marks of the decline of higher education in America.

In the 1960-61 academic year, I wrote a satire piece for the campus newspaper on snippets books. I remember only my proposed title for one such collection: Readings in the Fetal Pig. The target of my satire knew exactly what I was referring to. He was hauling in royalties from two of these collections: Oliver Johnson of the famous Beatty and Johnson collection of snippets of Western civilization, which is still generating royalties at $90 each for two paperbacks. He mentioned this to me, somewhat defensive. I remained politely silent. Neither of them could teach worth a hoot, but they surely could snip.

Yet she did not write the book. Her father wrote it. That is to say, he collected it. It has been around for over 40 years. She re-edited it, and added comments. The book is on rhetoric. Maybe she will include this article in the next edition. I am pretty good at rhetoric.

The key to understanding her book, according to the publisher, is that it is not meant to be understood. The publisher’s blurb says this: “Best of all, the text’s short, easy-to-read essays ensure that your class time will focus not on what the readings mean, but on what they mean for your students’ writing.”

With this as background, I begin my response. She thinks I do not know how to read critically. She wrote an article on my inability to read critically. She found a publisher. That was her first punch in round one.

Someone sent me a link to her article on October 30. I shall now complete the round.


The debate is over Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden (1854). I regard it as a classic example of how the academic Left resurrects a book that almost nobody read when it was published. College professors then force generations of students to read the book. They substitute Cliff’s Notes. Nobody else reads it. They may buy it — “It’s a classic” — but they don’t finish reading it. It’s one of those books to which this rule applies: “Don’t read it while smoking in bed.”

Outside of English departments, the book is rarely assigned. Thoreau was a poseur. His neighbors knew this, which is why they were not impressed by Walden.

I wrote an article in mid-April on the nature of Thoreau’s pose, and how his legion of promoters fail to mention this. They praise him to the stars. I went through the Wikipedia article on him, line by line, exposing the nature of his con game, and the academic community’s continuation of his con game, especially English departments.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

Continue Reading on www.garynorth.com

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18 thoughts on ““Gary North Can’t Think Straight!” Says Libertarian Ph.D. in English

  1. I'm one of those people who never could finish Walden's Pond. I know at least one guy who never finished any book but Walden, read it several times, and can quote from it, when he couldn't tell you who Hemingway or Shakespeare were. With that said, having read your article, with your quotes from the book and then the qualifier 'Fool' attached, I think the quotes you print prove Thoreau wrote real purty. You, and for that matter, I, might disagree with his conclusions, he none-the-less delivered his argument persuasively. That he was a hypocrite and didn't live out his life as described in the book is something of a relief, and should be mentioned whenever Walden is presented, but I can't discount his rhetoric on that. Have you ever read Marshal South and his series of articles in Desert Magazine on his Experiment in Primitive Living? Another poet who spent ten years on top of a desert mountain. His life ended badly, perhaps proving the point you make, but I give him kudos for actually walking the walk. There is a place for the Thoreau's and Marshal South's in the heart of poets and dreamers, just not running the economy.

  2. Anthony ALexander says:

    I never had any respect for a PhD in some useless area of study such as Philosophy, English, tsetse fly cultures, etc….I mean why waste your money on something you possibly can't use to pay bills, etc….No these people are typical liberals because they are spiteful , lazy or both. They take up these useless majors in college because they are easy or they don’t like engineering, business or some other form of capitalist structure…..Then deep down they struggle when they get out of college with the huge loans, living with their parents or in some cold water flat, meanwhile their colleagues in engineering, business or some other productive major is making good money.
    Then the resentment sets in and they attack anyone and anybody who in their own right is successful. Then the liberalism disease sets in and they embrace liberal views and make friends who are JUST LIKE THEM who are also doing and going through the same things due to the above. In the end you have a group of people who are deep down mad and angry at the world and attack anyone who represents what they know they should have pursued early on to have a decent lifestyle….Yea there are probably one or two PhD liberals who are successfully rich that’s because they are making money by selling books to the other PhD liberals I speak about above so in the end they are used to line the pockets of someone else who gets rich on these people……It is laughable……So any time these people attack and foam at the mouth with their neurotic liberal views, remember they need mental help and they are their own worst enemy because they have created the situation they don’t like, but will NEVER admit

  3. that's what liberal literature industry is about. It's not about the unerlying substance of the argument or god forbid, fact, it's the eloquence.

  4. LOL, comparing yourself to Mike Tyson. I needed a laugh.

  5. I read many years ago that we all know what BS is. An MS is More of the Same. A PHD is Piled Higher and Deeper. Whenever I hear academics argue, I know it is the truth. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com

  6. It's exhilarating to read this consummate take-down of the arrogant presumption that abounds in the hypocritical world of Academia. It does not surprise me that Ms. Skwires is now a Libertarian. That indistinct label is lately becoming associated with disaffected greens and assorted radicals, not those who actually espouse freedom, but a kind of rival statist party to the left of the Democrats.

  7. Ron Sutton says:

    This is why Academic Fights are so vicious; the Stakes are so Low.

  8. My grandaughter is having to go through her English class with writers like Thoreau and she flat rejects their thoughts. I am glad she has enough sense to see through his garbage and the other writers of his time.

  9. johnnycake says:

    Thank you for the best description of what the liberal arts colleges provide. I am sending your comments to all my PH D fiends who are whining about how bad their situations are, but still say how great the economy has recovered under Obama and the dems. Priceless!

  10. After writing a post critical of snippets books – about which I agree with you, BTW – you link us to a critique of Thoreau which, valid as it seems to be, is in itself mostly snippets. I thought that a bit odd.

  11. Chris Rankin says:

    All required college educational materials should be available for free on the internet. College debt will plummet, untold thousands of trees will be saved and material will be accessible anywhere.__Another simple solution to be adopted along with mandatory school uniforms in grades 1 thru 12._Chris

  12. I remember the Libertarians as starting out that way, with greens and drug users that wanted it legalized. Its only lately the Libertarians have floated to the 'Pubs side of things.

  13. I remember the Libertarians as starting out that way, with greens and drug users that wanted it legalized. Its only lately the Libertarians have floated to the 'Pubs side of things.

  14. It was a metaphorical comparison Shane, not meant to be literally applicable.

    People of greater intelligence than yourself sometimes communicate in metaphors. Just an FYI for you.

  15. Why are you using my name? Seriously – I still remember how I struggled as a "fish" more than 50 years ago in Eng Lit. Only 2 of the assigned books have stayed with me. One is on "Self Reliance" (On Self Reliance ?) and the other was "the Story Telling Stone"Well, one other "The Red Badge of Courage" Even the movie version – starring Henry Fonda and his traitorous daughter – "On Walden's Pond" was so boring that even my wife found it unbearable.

  16. "She speaks for a guild of mostly tax-funded, self-certified, tenured professors of English."

    If I could go back, I would pay a visit to most of my college professors and tell them, "Since I graduated and went out into the real world, I just felt the need to tell you you were so full of sh*t!"

  17. Is her name Mary Burke, Democrat running for Wisconsin Governor?

  18. Phillip the Bruce says:

    But then how will tenured profs pad their salaries by requiring students to buy THEIR books?