Steven Mosher was the first Western anthropologist ever permitted to live for a year in a Chinese village to study rural life. After leaving China, he published a series of articles and two books (Broken Earth and Journey to the Forbidden China) exposing the government’s policy of forced abortion, infanticide and sterilization, euphemistically known as “voluntary family planning.”
At the time he went to China, Mr. Mosher was on a sabbatical from a doctoral programme at Stanford University in California. He had completed the requirements for his PhD but after his public criticism of the Chinese population programme, the Chinese government put pressure on the Stanford administration and Stanford, eager to protect its access to China, denied Mr. Mosher his degree. (Incidentally, Mr. Mosher’s Chinese research was not part of his graduate work: his dissertation was a comparison of fertility rates and religious beliefs of the fishing and farming communities in Taiwan).
Mr. Mosher frankly acknowledges that his views on abortion were definitely changed by his experiences in China. He told The Interim that he had not really thought about the subject before, certainly, he would not have described himself as holding a pro-life position. When living in China, however, he was forced to examine his position because of the abuses he observed at first hand.
One incident in particular shocked him. Up early one morning, he came across a villager pushing a cart loaded with second and third trimester aborted babies. The villager was paid to go to the village abortion clinic early each day and take away for burial the children aborted the day before. This incident had a tremendous impact on him, so much so that he did not recount it in his book Broken Earth because, he told us, he could not find a way to approach it in a “temperate fashion.” Later on, he had the opportunity to observe at first hand the pressures brought to bear on women with “illegal pregnancies” and to see exactly how Chinese women are coerced into aborting their children.
The Interim had the opportunity to hear and meet Steve Mosher in Montreal in April. His speech, to participants in the second International Symposium on Human Sexuality, sponsored by Human Life International, is printed elsewhere in this issue. The following is an edited version of an interview with Steve Mosher. It focuses on the ideological biases in academia in the United States which is not confined to that country as a similar situation exists in Canada.
Interim: What are you doing now?
Mosher: The last three years I’ve been supporting myself by publishing articles and books and lecturing. I feel under a moral obligation to report my findings in China because whereas the Chinese people can’t have much impact on government policy we in the West can.
Interim: You’ve been taken up by the pro-life movement, how has that affected your views?
Mosher: Well, I was initially not reluctant at all to publish my material. My material appeared in articles both in scholarly journals and popular magazines and I must say that when I received my first invitation to speak before a pro-life group, I hesitated but I found you all to be extremely good people, still able to distinguish between right and wrong and good and evil.
There are a great many people in academic institutions, who either because of their moral relativism are not able to tell the difference between good and evil any more, or they have come down on the side of evil. They’re supportive of oppressive, totalitarian states.
The last republican member of the political science faculty at Stanford University, for example, is going to retire next year. When he goes they will all be liberal democrats or worse. And by worse I mean Marxist. There are at least two on the political science faculty at Stanford.
These are people who have totally lost the traditional values that we have in Canada and the United States. They no longer value our conceptions of liberty and the family and community and I’ve come to believe that the positions they’ve taken up are wrong.
The Interim: Would you say that Stanford is an isolated case or are most U.S. universities suffering from the same king of ideological views in their faculties?
Mosher: What happened in the United States, of course, was that during the Vietnam War many of us served in the military but many didn’t. They participated in the anti-war movement and stayed in school. They got their PhD’s, they became assistant professors, associate professors and full professors. These people are totally alienated from Western society, from ideas of democracy and freedom.
They’re people whose personal, intellectual and character developments ceased in 1969 with no understanding of the social and economic realities of life in North America and yet they are in positions of authority in universities in North America. The elite institutions, like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and others, are dominated by people who belong to the left and the strongest school of thought within the social sciences today is the Marxist school.
The difference between Marxists and the people who dominated those same departments thirty years ago is that conservatives and moderates are very respectful of divergent views. They believe that we can agree to disagree – I don’t agree with you, I’ll make sure you don’t have a forum from which to speak, I’m going to make sure that you’re not heard because your reactionary views are against the flow of history. That includes not giving people with divergent viewpoints a ob at the university level or not inviting them to speak or not giving them any outlet for their publications. We really shouldn’t call them liberals at all because they’re quite narrow minded, trying to impose their views on other people.
Certainly that’s what happened to me. My views differed from that of the majority in the anthropology department at Stanford and so I was decreed to be persona non grata. They don’t have a convincing excuse for doing that. They tried to find one but couldn’t and the final excuse they used was lack of candour. But what’s really going on is that they’re trying to redefine academic freedom. Academic freedom is no longer the freedom to freely exchange divergent views on different subject, it’s only the freedom to agree with left-leaning academics.
Interim: Do you have any experience with Canada’s academic community?
Mosher: Not rally, but I would suspect that the larger institutions in Canada probably face the same problems. It’s really undermining the entire scholarly enterprise because they’re very unreceptive to people with divergent views. That means that students who sit at their feet and listen to their lectures are not getting a fair picture of our history in North America, of our culture or society. They’re getting a very one-sided view of our society and economics and that means they’re not going to be very well educated.
Interim: Do you see that that’s going to change at all?
Mosher: Well, most of the leading leftists in the United States are now in their thirties or early forties, so they’re going to dominate academics for at least another generation. They’re all tenured people, with no real life experience whatsoever. They’re forty years old and they’ve been in school their entire life.
Of course they don’t understand what free enterprise is because they’ve never started a business. And they don’t understand what democracy is because they work within very tiny bureaucracies. How you advance within the academic bureaucracy is my making friends and influencing people, by supporting people who agree with your views and attacking people who disagree.
Interim: You’re very frank about your experiences at Stanford, very critical…
Mosher: I don’t think I lack candour, if I have a character fault it’s being too candid.
Interim: Do you think you’ll ever get your degree?
Mosher: yes I do. But it will have to come about in one of two ways. First of all, the Steven Mosher Defence Committee has been organized and we’re contacting Stanford alumnae and other people urging them to write letters of protest to the university. Stanford is a private university and it’s very susceptible to pressure because it depends on donations to pay its bills.
Secondly, we’re getting ready to file suit against the university. That’s obviously a longer-term solution. It’s more expensive, but I think it will in the end result in my being granted a PhD. Stanford simply has no justification for denying me a degree which I have earned. They’ve libeled me and they breached the implicit contract we had which said that if I met all the requirements that I would receive the degree.
I think they’ll lose in court but it may take several years. So I hope that people will write letters of protest to the university and that sort of pressure will produce a spirit of compromise and flexibility at Stanford.