Guerrillas in Our Midst: The Assault on Radicals in American Law

On October 9, 1997, radicals everywhere celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, the revered Cuban and South American rebel known as much for his guerrilla manifestos as for his scraggly facial hair and the black beret positioned slightly askance. At the same time Latin Americans and revolutionaries were marking the death of their beloved Che, Professors Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry were publishing their long-awaited book, Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law. The professors’ timing was, unintentionally, quite appropriate. Like many of Che’s manifestos, the book sounds an ideological call to arms, urging liberals to root out the insurgents of radical legal theory, which threatens the very foundations of American Law, legal culture, and, indeed, life as we know it. Or so the authors would have us believe. The very subtitle of the book – “The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law” – conjures up a vision of crazy ideologues, descending on law schools in ever-increasing numbers, seeking to subvert the academy and overthrow the Enlightenment as they rush to man the barricades. Playing on an already well-developed “Che anxiety” in liberals and conservatives, the authors paint radical scholars as dangerous subversives, skulking about darkly in the annals of American law reviews and planting seeds of treason against the all-sacred Truth in the minds of impressionable young law students. Thumbing through the first chapter, we can almost picture angry radical scholars, dark-skinned fanatics in their Che berets, Army fatigues and camouflage war paint, overturning tables and toting fearsome black Uzis, with bayonets ready to slice through the most well-reasoned judicial opinion. There is much to fear from these infiltrators, advise Farber and Sherry, despite the fact that radical scholars are in the minority on law school campuses. “War and ideas are difficult to contain” (p. 5).