Timothy Shortell is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College. He earned a B.S. degree in Psychology from Washington State University in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Boston College in 1993.
Despite having published only one peer-reviewed article (and no books) since joining the Brooklyn College faculty in 1998, the school’s Sociology Department elected Shortell in May 2005 to a three-year term as its new Chairman. His election became a news item when it was discovered that he had written an article referring to religious people as “moral retards” and was on record describing senior members of the Bush Administration as “Nazis.” When apprised through press reports of Shortell’s views, the administrative leaders of the City University of New York system (CUNY), of which Brooklyn College is a part, sprang into action. The President of Brooklyn College rescinded Shortell’s chairmanship.
Shortell has publicly characterized organized religion as a portal to dangerous and contemptible extremism. “[R]eligion without fanaticism is a logical impossibility,” he writes. “Anyone whose mind is trapped inside such a mental prison will be susceptible to extreme forms of hatred and violence. Faith is, by its very nature, obsessive-compulsive. All religions foment their own kind of holy war. (Those whose devotion is moderate are only cowardly fanatics.) … Faith is, therefore, a child-like rationality.”
Expanding on this theme, Shortell deems religious people intellectually “incapable of moral action, just as children are.” “To be moral,” he explains, “requires that one accept full responsibility for one’s self. Morality is based on scientific rationality. … Faith, like superstition, prevents moral action. Those who fail to understand how the world works — who, in place of an understanding of the interaction between self and milieu, see only the saved and the damned, demons and angels, miracles and curses — will be incapable of informed choice. They will be unable to take responsibility for their actions because they lack intellectual and emotional maturity.”
As noted above, Shortell has described people of faith as “moral retards” who “discriminate, exclude and belittle.” “They make a virtue of closed-mindedness and virulent ignorance,” he adds. “They are an ugly, violent lot.” He contends that “humanity would be better off without religion,” which he depicts as “sanctimonious nonsense.”
Shortell gives no indication that he considers contemporary Islamic fundamentalism to be of any special concern. Rather, he focuses his ire most specifically on Christian fundamentalism. “American Christians,” he says, “like to think that religious violence is a problem only for other faiths. In the heart of every Christian, though, is a tiny voice preaching self-righteousness, paranoia and hatred. Christians claim that theirs is a faith based on love, but they’ll just as soon kill you.”
Along with religion, Shortell names capitalism as an equally reprehensible phenomenon that similarly obliterates personal freedom and self-determination. “Weakness,” he writes, “is demanded of us by religion and consumer capitalism.”
Shortell detests President George W. Bush, dubbing him America’s “war-criminal-in-chief.” “Someone really ought to do a comparative study of this administration and the propaganda techniques of Nazi Germany,” Shortell writes. “Karl Rove [the Republican political strategist] owes a lot to Joseph Goebbels [Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda].”
Shortell considers the United States an aggressive, oppressive nation that is content to sacrifice untold numbers of innocent lives as it lustfully pursues its quest for empire and dominion. “Just as any fascist state,” he writes, “the megalomania of the ruling elite is paid for in working class blood.”
Shortell penned a poem, titled “Brownshirts,” which portrays the American people as docile sheep who meekly permit themselves to be deceived and corrupted by their devious conservative overlords. It reads, in part, as follows:
I have seen the next generation
They are aroused by the smell
of blood in the air
intoxicated by the power of intimidation.
Old fascists lead them around by the noses
feeding them worms and lies.
Shortell candidly transmits his negative assessment of American culture and policy to his students at Brooklyn College. In the course description for his class “People, Power & Politics,” Shortell states that among the chief topics to be addressed during the semester are “the nature of inequality” and “the persistence of racism in the United States.” The planted axiom from which Shortell’s instruction stems is that the United States is a nation rife with inequity whose root cause is an intractable, irredeemable brand of racism.
In Shortell’s view, his role as an educator requires that he go beyond the mere presentation of facts, and that he actually promote his political and ideological worldview in the classroom. Consistent with this perspective is his unwavering support for Brooklyn College’s chief academic officer Roberta Matthews, whose motto is: “teaching is a political act.”