Check out the New York Sun this week? That’s okay, neither did anyone else. But you missed the shocking and exclusive (exclusive!) tale of Vietnam scholar and author Mark Moyar, who — get this — found it very difficult to land a job in academia. (Take a moment if you need.) What seems to be the problem?

Yet over five years, this conservative military and diplomatic historian applied for more than 150 tenure-track academic jobs, and most declined him a preliminary interview. During a search at University of Texas at El Paso in 2005, Mr. Moyar did not receive an interview for a job in American diplomatic history, but one scholar who did wrote her dissertation on “The American Film Industry and the Spanish-Speaking Market During the Transition to Sound, 1929-1936.” At Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004, Mr. Moyar lost out to a candidate who had given a presentation on “promiscuous bathing” and “attire, hygiene and discourses of civilization in Early American-Japanese Relations.” … It’s an example, some say, of the difficulties faced by academics who are seen as bucking the liberal ethos on campus and perhaps the reason that history departments at places like Duke had 32 Democrats and zero Republicans, according to statistics published by the Duke Conservative Union around the time Mr. Moyar tried to get an interview there.

Good job getting buzzwords like “promiscuous” and “Duke” high up in the article, actually. Points deducted, though, for being, um, wrong.


The article goes on to detail that various university history departments found Moyar not to their liking. He is currently suing the state of Iowa after the Hawkeyes turned him down for a job interview. Moyar found a job, as it happened, as a professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University in Quantico.

Dave Noon of the University of Alaska and the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money, was not impressed.

Seriously now. The job market for historians is a humiliating, soul-spindling meat grinder, a fact to which I would happily attest more specifically off the record and over multiple strong drinks with anyone who feels like looking at the clock every five minutes and wondering when this guy is going to shut the fuck up. … But I’ve served on five search committees in five years, and I’ve seen highly intelligent, qualified applicants who were not moved along for all kinds of reasons. The fact that he received letters from “top scholars” tells us nothing — most credible applicants to these schools would also enjoy such endorsements. The fact that he’s published two books is also not necessarily meaningful. I know a well-regarded lit scholar — a radical environmentalist, no less — who teaches in a highly undemocratic nation because his two books (published by two very good university presses) weren’t enough to land him a decent job in the US.

It’s worth noting that the article isn’t claiming, as David does, that military and diplomatic historians are discriminated against as a group. The Sun says it’s all about politics.

In early March, Williams’ Leadership Studies conference on Vietnam, “The New Vietnam War Revisionism: Implications and Lessons Learned,” included a panel discussion on Moyar’s new book, “Triumph Forsaken.” Visiting Wiliams prof David Kaiser and former Williams prof (and blogging superstar) K.C. Johnson were among the panel’s members. There doesn’t appear to be any record of the conference, so I’m not sure how it went. Maybe they addressed stuff like this:

And sure, maybe at the end of the day, it didn’t help that Moyar’s scholarship argues that Ngo Dinh Diem was a capable South Vietnamese leader who could have prevailed in an anti-communist counterinsurgency if only American journalists like Neil Sheehan, Stanley Karnow and David Halberstam — communist dupes to a man — hadn’t persuaded Americans that Diem was a font of corruption and brutality. Maybe scholars are a bit suspicious of someone willing to argue that the Kennedy administration was justified in asking the New York Times to fire Halberstam in 1963 because his reporting paid insufficient tribute to US “national interests.”

It’s revisionist journalism history, just my thing! Too bad one of the principals isn’t around to respond in person.

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