Every Day a Dreyfus Affair: Art, Polarization, and the New “Both-Sidesism”

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack newsletter, Hinternet:

In the spring of 1991, the Romanian comparative-religionist Ioan Petru Culianu was shot to death while seated in a toilet stall near his office in Swift Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago. A single Winchester .25 bullet to the back of the head suggested the work of a trained assassin, who had swooped down upon him from over the wall of the neighboring stall like a hawk.

The FBI report on the murder was declassified in 2016. While most proper names are blacked out, the several documents it collates still manage to transmit a vivid picture of his life and times, and of the circumstances of his death. The murder remains unsolved, and already in the report we see an unusually thick fog of cluelessness hanging over its investigation. The efforts of the Chicago police detectives to make sense of Balkan politics and of the emerging post-communist order are predictably bone-headed, yet somehow valiant, mixing the high and the low of international intrigue and local color. We learn of one unnamed source, “contacted in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” who notes that Culianu had recently been “very outspoken about the repression in present Romania,” and in particular about the enduring power of the Ceaușescu-era secret police after the 1989 revolution. Another source, by contrast, says that “[h]e did not believe that the victim was shot over Romanian politics. Ioan didn’t seem to care anymore. [His] area of expertise is attractive to ‘wackos’. Some of the students are very bizarre.” In another place in the report a detective patiently listens to an unnamed source who “said he had never heard anyone accuse CULIANU of being a homosexual, however [REDACTED] said he could understand why CULIANU may have been accused of being a homosexual because CULIANU had a foreign accent.” The detective hastens to explain: “It is [REDACTED’S] belief that some people tend to associate those with foreign accents with homosexuality.”

More here.