Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The premiere last month at the Tribeca Film Center of Indoctrinate U, a movie underwritten by a handful of wealthy conservatives to expose higher education’s lack of “intellectual diversity,” drew a small group of fans–so small, in fact, that the start time was pushed back as organizers wondered aloud what happened to their audience. While they waited, a cadre of young men with their collars popped meandered through a predictable litany of right-wing hot topics, from gun control (“Guns are illegal in the city? We have one–whoops!”) to race relations (“The thing about Imus? No one’s actually investigating the possibility that they were hos!”).
But when the film began, the crowd fell silent, reverent as scenes unfolded from the trenches of what director Evan Coyne Maloney calls “the all-out political war” unfolding on college campuses. The war over campus culture has a long history, but Indoctrinate U is part of the right’s recent battle for the misnamed “Academic Bill of Rights“– a host of policies intended to squelch the free expression of ideas by making faculty members accountable for the political content of their speech and privileging conservative thought. Indoctrinate U–with a title nearly identical to that of notorious gadfly David Horowitz’s most recent screed (the stodgier-titled Indoctrination U)– is an audiovisual component of the movement’s propaganda.
Currently without commercial distribution, Indoctrinate U grew out of Maloney’s 2005 short documentary subtly titled “Brainwashing 101″ Maloney, a graduate of Bucknell and several failed Republican campaigns in New York, has been called “a conservative answer to Michael Moore,” a mantle he appears to wear proudly, if not quite as adeptly in the director’s chair. (The film suffers from some amateurish direction, including overlong shots and intrusive voiceovers.) Producers include a millionaire crusader against single-payer health care and the founding director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The film is a product of On the Fence Films and the Moving Picture Institute, two companies that have recently birthed a handful of right-wing productions.
With such a pedigree, it’s not surprising that the film illustrates the fallacies of conservative nostalgia from its very first sequence, when Maloney extols “the good old days” of American universities over black-and-white footage of young men marching around a quadrangle in military uniforms.