Who Is Truly Marginalized? – Part 2

Tendayi Achiume - UN Special Rapporteur - Britain UK racism Brexit

Champions of intersectional identity politics in academia, culture and government have accrued near-hegemonic societal power for themselves by exploiting both the real and imagined oppression of certain groups on whose behalf they boldly presume to speak

Last month, I wrote a short reflection on who is and is not effectively marginalized in 21st century Western society, both societally and intellectually. Building on far more substantial contributions from Rod Dreher and Kevin Williamson, I concluded that while racism, sexism and LGBT discrimination remain very real and pressing challenges to be overcome, when it comes to setting the political and cultural agenda it is those who refuse to embrace, uphold and evangelise intersectional identity politics who are increasingly the most functionally marginalized.

To me, this seems self-evidently true. Try being a black conservative or libertarian politician in America, or a gay politician questioning of current gender theory in Britain and see how far you rise and how welcome you are in the Democratic or Labour parties, or the Op-Ed pages of prestige newspapers. In each case it will not be the color of your skin or your sexual preference which holds you back, stymies your career and invites social and professional ostracization from the most prestigious and influential networks; rather, it will be the “unacceptable” opinions you profess and the supposed harm you are doing to sweepingly designated victim classes.

Partly depending on how one defines being marginalized – and there are different perspectives here, one being the ability to speak up for one’s personal interests and meaningfully control one’s own destiny, the other being the ability to wield influence to shape wider society in one’s preferred direction – a powerful case can be made that race, gender and sexuality are now far less a determining factor than whether or not one possesses the education, social justice lexicon and properly conforming social viewpoints to avoid scrutiny and censure by other “gatekeepers”. In other words, we have returned to an almost class-based form of societal hierarchy where the new underclass do not necessarily work with their hands or sit on the dole queue but generally hold opinions and values now considered unfashionable or harmful, while the new upper class do not necessarily own mansions or penthouses but are uniformly fluent in the lore and language of intersectionality.

Note that this is very different to making the tedious, self-pitying Alt-Right claim that straight white Christian males are now a terribly downtrodden group while reverse discrimination-benefiting racial minorities or perpetually unsatisfied “feminazis” are on the ascendance and have the best of everything – far from it. In fact, a straight white male is still likely to do extraordinarily well, to the extent that he also holds a narrow range of opinions deemed acceptable by current elites, while a black lesbian woman who blasphemes against one of the identity politics movement’s main articles of faith is likely to find herself every bit as limited in opportunity and outcome as a straight white male who commits the same sin.

Thus we need to think about power in a more nuanced, multilayered way. There are differences in power between various individuals in society, resulting from numerous factors including (but certainly not limited to or even predominantly caused by) race, gender and sexuality. But there are also differences in power between various voices in the public square, and these differences depend even less on immutable personal characteristics and more on the particular political opinions which people hold and either choose to voice or suppress. The former may well often be overwhelmingly important to the individual, whose personal happiness or fulfilment is likely closely tied to getting through life unstymied by various forms of discrimination. But the other power differential – the ongoing interplay of voices in the public square, which slowly shapes society through rules, customs and laws – is far more consequential to us all. And it is here where the social justice left insult our intelligence by continually playing the overwhelmed underdog when in reality they enjoy every conceivable advantage and inch closer to victory with every passing day.

To this end, I was very heartened to read the latest blog post by Ben Cobley, a left-wing journalist who freely expresses qualms about the groupthink and illiberal authoritarianism now rampant on the Left. Cobley focuses on the work of UN “Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” E. Tendayi Achiume, who recently made an official fact-finding trip to Britain in order to apply a remarkably presumptive “post hoc ergo propter hoc” analytical lens to the supposed impact of “Brexit” (which hasn’t yet taken place) on racial equality in the UK.

Referencing the UN Special Rapporteur’s report, Cobley writes:

For this interpretation, which is appearing in our public life daily and prominently, the life chances and well-being of non-white-skinned people, women, the ethnically non-British, Muslims and disabled people are determined by those identity markers, so that they appear as universal victims of society and of the identity groups which dominate it. This is direct causation she is talking about – that identity leads to either success or failure. She makes no qualification on it and makes an unequivocal judgement on the situation as unacceptable and also sometimes unlawful – so assuming a kind of absolute authority over it.

Achiume, who The Times described as a ‘Zambian-born, US-based academic’ and ‘a UN expert’ on its front page, added, “Austerity measures have been disproportionately detrimental to racial and ethnic minority communities. Unsurprisingly, austerity has had especially pronounced intersectional consequences, making women of colour the worst affected.”

Here we see the logic of this form of knowledge, attributing victimhood along the lines of identity categories – so, combining women and people ‘of colour’ as victims, we arrive at a maximum victimhood of ‘women of colour’. This type of knowledge, of ‘intersectionality’, will be familiar to anyone accustomed to the theories coming out of the social sciences (and wider humanities) departments of Western universities.

However the ability to make assertion in the public sphere – and to have it leading the news with the one making the assertion described as a ‘UN expert’ as in this case – is an indication of political power. The domination of academic discourse by this sort of universalising theory is a sign of political power. That someone propounding this theory gets appointed by the body that brings the world together to go and inspect countries and tell them what to do is a sign of political power.

Absolutely so. Such is the power wielded by devotees of intersectional identity politics within academia that reputations can be ruined, careers terminated and cringeworthily fawning apologies extracted by identity politics practitioners, not on the basis of an intellectual refutation of a contrary argument but by the mere assertion that merely having to hear such alternative opinions constitutes intolerable cruelty and harm.

Such is the power wielded by identity politics practitioners within British politics that a one-time party leader – Tim Farron of the risibly named Liberal Democrats – can be forced through media pressure to publicly deny what we all know to be his true beliefs on certain hot-button social issues, and ultimately to quit his post because of the incompatibility of private conscience with the totalitarian demand that he personally approve of alternative lifestyle choices rather than simply promising never to legislate against them.

The power to hand down a statement or opinion of any kind – from a UN report accusing Britain of becoming a land of racist oppression following the Brexit vote to a university professor redesigning a curriculum or writing a grievance-soaked Op-Ed – and receive unsceptical, unquestioning newspaper coverage or approving cable news commentary is immense indeed. They who control the universities, cultural outlets serving mass markets and the media outlets consumed by political elites can be reasonably said to control the basic narrative of society. Sure, dissenting voices are still permitted to appear (though less frequently in prestige outlets, and often with various disqualifying provisos attached) from time to time, but as a general rule they who control the narrative determine the future.

Those in opposition to the social justice and identity politics movements simply do not possess this media or cultural reach. Their arguments are not given the same weight by opinion-makers and their messages are not amplified to nearly the same extent by media gatekeepers. Bad individuals on this side of the societal divide remain intermittently capable of causing physical or emotional harm to others through their private actions, which is always reprehensible, but the conservative movement as a whole is firmly in retreat on a societal level. Even many of those most concerned about the rise to power of Donald Trump concede that this historical aberration is very much a “last gasp” from a segment of society they openly write off as unimportant and “deplorable”.

Cobley continues to explore:

[..] how this power works through relationships which have built up between what I am calling ‘the liberal-left’ [..] and these favoured groups via those who appear as their representatives – so feminists, Islamists and ethnic group activists for example. These relationships make up what I am calling ‘the system of diversity’ – a form of society grounded in these relationships of favouring and representing, linked to assumptions of identity group victimhood.

As I am seeing it, many of our major institutions, including major media organisations like the BBC, Sky NewsThe Times and especially The Guardian and Channel 4 are constantly being drawn towards the system of diversity and its ways of relating to the world – seeing fixed and ‘quasi-fixed’ identity as primary to what is going on in the world and primary to how they should address it.

And warns:

This agenda is increasingly working its way into our daily lives as rules and orders and social norms – to implement positive discrimination in the workplace, to attend training to correct our ‘unconscious bias’ and to report assertions that are not favourable to favoured group members to the police as ‘hate crime’.

The natural response in this situation is to give way, which is after all, fundamentally, a giving-way to power. We evade, we protect ourselves, while the winners go on producing their reports and setting the agenda and setting the rules that govern our lives.

It takes a strong person to resist all of these pressures to conform. Only the very brave, generally reckless or those with little to lose will readily voice dissent against the identity politics left’s stark design for society, which is why such dissent is concentrated among a handful of brave and exceptional academics or journalists, opportunistic politicians or disenfranchised and often under-occupied young men online.

Unfortunately, despite the ability to generate the occasional flashpoint of resistance, these groups count for little against the great mass of middle class opinion which is either actively supports the identity politics message saturating the culture or (perhaps more often) is too fearful of negative personal consequences to question or object to the present direction of travel.

And all the while opposing voices are silenced, careers ended and lives ruined for failing to move in fast-enough lockstep with evolving identity politics orthodoxy, those powerful figures doing the silencing, ending and ruining have the temerity to portray themselves as the underdogs in this culture war. We must not fall for their charade.

 

Update – 30 May 2018

Ben Cobley has a new book on this very subject coming out on 1st July, entitled “The Tribe: The Liberal Left And The System Of Diversity“. I will be getting a copy and encourage my interested readers to do the same, as it promises to delve into these issues in more depth and certainly with a more scholarly eye than I currently possess.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 53 – Enforcing Social Justice Dogma, From Student Protest To Academic Coercion

Language Police

“Linguistic intervention” is the polite term for coercing students into adopting certain language, phrases and social justice codewords on pain of academic penalty

The Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics continues to capture and subvert our academic institutions, but until now the high priests of social justice have generally contented themselves with shouting down opponents, physically suppressing free speech and socially ostracising those who do not enthusiastically buy into their warped worldview.

That was bad enough. But as nervous university administrations seek to stay one step ahead of their restive student bodies, in some cases they are now going further than the activists and seeking to use their power and authority to enforce new speech codes and language guidelines – rules that do not merely govern personal conduct while on campus, but which impose academic penalties on students who hold the wrong beliefs or use the wrong language in their work.

From the Guardian:

Students at Hull University face losing marks on essays unless they employ “gender-sensitive” language.

Documents obtained under freedom of information legislation show undergraduates at the university have been advised that “language is important and highly symbolic” and informed they should be “aware of the powerful and symbolic nature of language and use gender-sensitive formulations”, while “failure to use gender-sensitive language will impact your mark”.

The document, obtained by the Sunday Times, related to undergraduates on a religious activism course in the university’s school of social science.

The direction follows moves by a number of universities to promote gender-neutral language.

Cardiff Metropolitan University’s code of practice on language has a “gender-neutral term” checklist, giving alternatives for words or phrases, including using “efficient” for “workmanlike” and “supervisor” for “foreman”. Bath University encourages neutral alternatives to “mankind” such as “humanity”, “humans” or “people”.

Two years ago, the University of North Carolina handed out a gender-inclusive language guide, which encouraged students away from using words such as “mailman” , “policeman”, “man-made” and other terms, giving alternative titles or descriptions, such as “postal carrier”.

The Hull University directive is seen as going further, with some critics describing it as “linguistic policing”.

Frank Furedi, the emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, told the Sunday Times: “Usually such threats are implicit rather than spelt out as in the case of Hull. This linguistic policing is used as a coercive tool to impose a conformist outlook. The alternative is to pay a penalty of being marked down.”

In other words, if you commit a sin such as writing “mankind” rather than “humankind” when submitting an essay at Hull University then you will now be at risk of incurring grade penalties and potentially jeopardising your future. Mastery of the academic principles and subject matter contained within the curriculum are no longer sufficient – now one must also think the “correct” things and use the correct language, unrelated to one’s own subject, in order to maintain an unblemished record.

If you are an English literature student who happens to prefer the cadence and evocations of older language when writing an essay, that’s just tough – every piece of coursework now has to help strike a hammer blow for social justice by drawing from the current leftist lexicon, on pain of penalty.

If you’re a mathematics or engineering geek who deals in empirical data and has little time for the subtleties of the English language, that’s tough too – you’d better learn fast how “words can harm” and ensure that your work meets academic standards while simultaneously avoiding the hair-trigger sensitivities of the most demented leftist professor.

And if you are a conservative religious student who sincerely believes that the new progressive orthodoxies on gender and sexuality are wrong and in conflict with your beliefs, that’s also tough. Now you must continually self-censor, guarding against ever inadvertently expressing what is in your heart, or run the risk that those beliefs might colour your writing, lest a misplaced pronoun or awkward turn of phrase cost you a vital grade.

And all of this shall be done, of course, in the name of creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students and faculty.

We are in new territory here. Most of the social justice outrages covered by this blog have involved cultists enforcing their ideology by either threatening heretics with social stigmatisation or using their power to shout down opponents and bend people to their will. That is bad enough. But this goes to another level – this is a university administration using its power to enforce social justice-compliant language (and thus thinking) among students.

For once, rather than scrambling to keep up with restive campus activists, the university is coming out in front of them, preemptively doing their bidding by forcing every last disinterested student to use the same prissy, stilted language as the most committed social justice zealot.

Fortunately, Hull University’s draconian move has also provoked a measure of dissent within the wider academic ranks:

Prof Judith Baxter, emeritus professor of applied linguistics at Aston University, said: “The principle of gender-neutral language has been around for at least 30 years. Businesses, schools, publishing, academic and educational texts use gender-neutral language now. So there is a total expectation.

“Most universities have just incorporated it in their general way of things. So it is a little bit odd that they have made it regulatory. I just think that is a step too far. Taking this regulatory, punitive attitude to the whole business of gender neutrality is a backward step. What it does is set up resistance. It will make people annoyed, not want to comply, when I think the majority of students would incorporate these sorts of approaches anyway.”

Precisely so. Leaving aside the most extreme linguistic absurdities to emanate from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, most people are happy to use respectful terminology in their public interactions, as a matter of basic politeness. To use the threat of academic penalty to coerce adherence to a speech code – the vast majority of which most students are happy to follow anyway – is a massive overreach.

More than that, it is simply wrong. Academic discovery can only take place when people are free to challenge existing orthodoxies, theories and beliefs. Insulating any worldview – especially such a new and untested one as intersectionalism-soaked social justice – from academic enquiry and criticism goes against the core duty of a university. Whether it is theoretical physics or (as in this case) the social sciences, ideas can only be refined, proven or disproven if people are free to question them. Nobody and no theory should be exempt from such criticism.

With this punative, draconian policy, Hull University is essentially teaching their entire student body that some ideas are above criticism, above reproach. They are functioning not as a university but as a social justice madrassa – because, ultimately, the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is less science, even less objective fact, and far more like a religion.

 

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Nicholas Kristof Admits Illiberal Leftist Overreach In Purging Conservatism And Dissenting Views From Academia

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“I say unto you that likewise more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance” – Luke 15:7

In the email introduction to his Sunday column in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes:

My Sunday column will probably provoke a number of you to roll your eyes or curse me under your breath. I’m sure many will disagree with it, but here goes.

[..] I’ll get a torrent of angry emails and indignant comments, but as you read this I’m actually in southern Africa reporting a story. If the criticisms get too bad, I’ll seek asylum.

Such are the delicate eggshells that commentators on which the American Left must tread whenever they even think about holding up a mirror to the behaviour of their own side and calling out flawed thinking or bad behaviour.

What is the subject of Kristof’s column? You can probably guess. With great trepidation, Nicholas Kristof is asking his readers to consider the possibility – just the possibility – that the atmosphere of seething intolerance for conservative voices or opinions on the university campus may be a negative thing with potentially harmful consequences.

Kristof writes:

After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members cancelled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.

I fear that liberal outrage at Trump’s presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals. Already, the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.

One can already imagine thousands of triggered New York Times readers spitting out their morning coffee and clicking away from Kristof’s column in disgust at having their worldview and prejudices challenged instead of flattered.

And Kristof continues in a similar vein:

Whatever our politics, inhabiting a bubble makes us more shrill. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard professor, conducted a fascinating study of how groupthink shapes federal judges when they are randomly assigned to three-judge panels.

When liberal judges happened to be temporarily put on a panel with other liberals, they usually swung leftward. Conversely, conservative judges usually moved rightward when randomly grouped with other conservatives.

It’s the judicial equivalent of a mob mentality. And if this happens to judges, imagine what happens to you and me.

Kristof goes on to recommend to his readers a number of prominent American conservative personalities to follow on social media, so as to get a taste of arguments and perspectives which may otherwise have been long ago purged from Facebook timelines and Twitter streams. Again, this is a good thing – other publications have preferred to ensconce their readers deeper in the bubble by publishing hysterical lists of “fake news” publications which cannot be trusted because they do not reflect the Democratic Party’s view of the world.

And he concludes:

I fear the damage a Trump administration will do, from health care to foreign policy. But this election also underscores that we were out of touch with much of America, and we will fight back more effectively if we are less isolated.

When universities are echo chambers, they become conservative punch lines, and liberal hand-wringing may be one reason Trump’s popularity has jumped since his election.

It’s ineffably sad that today “that’s academic” often means “that’s irrelevant.” One step to correcting that is for us liberals to embrace the diversity we supposedly champion.

This blog has not always been a fan of Nicholas Kristof, having only recently taken him to task for comparing the American Left’s coming endurance of Donald Trump to the agonies of somebody suffering from addiction and receiving treatment through a 12-step programme.

But as a reader pointed out at the time, the people who need to hear this message are not likely to accept it from people like me and blogs such as this, with a proud tradition of beating up on “liberal” intolerance and the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Nicholas Kristof is clearly one of their own, however, as evidenced by the fact that he thought it was appropriate to compare surviving the Trump administration to attending AA. When somebody with otherwise impeccable social justice credentials like Nicholas Kristof questions the culture and dynamic on the American university campus, people might actually listen, and so one cannot entirely dismiss his work.

Overall, this is a positive development. Nicholas Kristof is a prominent and celebrated left-wing columnist and commentator, as well connected to the establishment as a writer can be. If he is now expressing reservations about the oppressive climate for academic freedom on campus, then there must truly be disquiet growing about the takeover of academia by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

The Right cannot hope to win this fight on their own, but finally it looks as though we may be gaining a few unexpected allies. May many more follow in Kristof’s footsteps.

 

Postscript: At present, there are 93 comments to Kristof’s column, the majority expressing angry incredulity that anybody might think that hostility toward conservatism on American university campuses is in any way a bad thing. However, there are exceptions. One reader, a professor at a university I happen to know very well, writes:

An example: I am a professor at a university (Washington University in St. Louis) that brandishes “prestige” it doesn’t quite have—an Ivy League wanna-be. My web page contained some semi-controversial essays—arguing that science is a terrible career choice, that perhaps Summers’s ideas are worth consideration, “diversity”, “political correctness”, that some moral responsibility attaches to the movements that gave us the AIDS epidemic.

My essays, clearly marked as personal opinion, were censored—kicked off my university web page. As expressions of personal opinion, they didn’t belong in the classroom, and were never mentioned there. As thought-pieces on current issues, they are part of being a public intellectual, part of a professor’s job. Academic freedom? Not here.

As Yale University proved with the whole Halloween costume saga of 2015, Ivy League universities are often the worst offenders, so from that perspective Washington University in St. Louis is absolutely heading in the right direction.

Back in the real world, however, they are hurtling off a cliff, and threatening to take what is left of academic freedom down with them.

 

Danger Unsafe Space Sign - The Koala - UCSD

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 50 – University of Maryland President And Students Vie For Coveted Victim Status

latinx

Waah, waah, waah

What happens when SJW students and their university president become locked in a social justice victimhood showdown, each trying to claim offence and present themselves as having been somehow harmed by the other in a gruesome yet compelling display of whinnying, childish immaturity?

The University of Maryland shows us exactly what happens.

Campus Reform reports:

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh inadvertently outraged liberal students by using Spanish while pledging to protect illegal immigrant students, a move deemed “offensive” to UMD’s immigrant population.

Much of Loh’s annual State of the Campus Address was a “a clear call to embrace diversity,” according to The Diamondback, including a promise to protect illegal immigrant students on campus by barring immigration officials from campus if they don’t have a warrant and refusing to voluntarily share undocumented student information.

“These are the things that we will commit to, that we will do and will not do in order to create a safe and supportive learning environment,” he declared.

His repetition of the same statement in Spanish, however, raised eyebrows among some members of the crowd, even though he had employed a similar tactic in a campus-wide email last month in which he first outlined UMD’s intent to resist federal immigration enforcement efforts.

Student Senator Ashley Vasquez, for instance, complained that Spanish “does not represent the entire immigrant community here” during a post-speech Q&A, asking Loh if he would like to apologize for repeating his promise in Spanish.

Vasquez later told The Diamondback that she found Loh’s use of Spanish offensive because it implied that the only immigrants on campus are “Latinx.”

This is brilliant on so many levels.

Firstly, why make the comment in Spanish at all? Is anybody studying at the University of Maryland incapable of speaking English? (Hint: No) Is this part of a policy of general bilingual communications, signs, written and verbal instructions at the university? (Hint: No again). The only reason for President Wallace Loh to make such a gesture is that it affords him a quick and easy way to signal his own virtue, his acceptance of absolutely all kinds of immigration, legal and illegal, moral and immoral.

To see Wallace Loh then called out by a professional offence-taking student for oppressing immigrant students of other backgrounds by failing to pander obsequiously to their own native languages is in many ways inevitable. Just as straight gay men are often no longer considered sufficiently “oppressed” to warrant full coverage under the Social Justice umbrella, so it may soon come to pass that “Latinx” students, being so plentiful in the United States, find themselves summarily deemed relatively privileged and cut adrift as the SJWs go looking for rarer and more exotic immigrants to defend.

And if one accepts SJW logic, who can argue with the student’s complaint? Hispanic people are a rapidly growing demographic in America. In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where I have family, the Hispanic population far exceeds the white and there are some stores and businesses where I am disadvantaged as a non Spanish speaker. But in terms of how much their language is catered for in America, Hispanics are immensely “privileged” compared to, say, German, French or Mandarin speakers. The student is therefore doing what any good SJW student should do – casting aside the interests and concerns of a relatively privileged group and focusing on more “marginalised” ones instead.

But President Loh’s response makes this story even better:

Loh, who is Peruvian and a native Spanish speaker, did not initially address the question, but later responded to the accusations after a second student asked him to apologize, as well.

“I simply said that I completely support—I said in Spanish what I previously said in English,” Loh remarked with surprise. “Are you asking me to apologize because I’m speaking in Spanish, which is the first language I learned?”

Loh probably realises that he actually committed a bit of a culturally imperialistic faux-pas by translating his Ode to Undocumented Immigrants only into Spanish, thus suggesting that immigrants and illegal immigrants can only come from an Hispanic background. But he doesn’t want to back down, so instead he chooses to take public offence at the student for criticising him for speaking in his native language.

In other words, we have here a grown man and somebody who rose to the position of president of a state university flopping around on the floor like a wounded victim and playing the role of a wide-eyed innocent child whose ice cream was just stolen because rather than confess to a mistake, his social justice ideology commands him to always play the victim to get out of a tight spot.

Naturally the student was unimpressed with his deflection:

UMD senior Lauryn Froneberger apparently didn’t find Loh’s response sufficient, mainly because he did not concede that his use of Spanish was offensive.

“As a student you want to know that your university stands by you and won’t use language that sort of offends you,” Froneberger said. “And even if you let them know they offended you, I think it’s important to acknowledge that. I don’t think he acknowledged that at all.”

I’ve said it before and I will no doubt say it many more times on this blog – the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is not about doing good or liberating people from genuine oppression. It is a first world, middle class cult of power, a virtual country club with its own finicky rules and seething, petty power struggles.

And this pathetic little exchange at the University of Maryland’s “State of the Campus” (ha!) address is just one of what will be many more tussles between students and faculty, both of whom drink the identity politics Kool-Aid and both of whom intend to use identity politics principles to bolster their own tawdry arguments and undermine their foes.

The University of Maryland’s own president is apparently unable to think properly in public or respond to a challenge when called out by a student in any way other than curling up into a ball and asserting hurt feewings victim status himself.

Where’s rock bottom again?

 

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Conservatism, Behind Enemy Lines

Rod Dreher reports on a fascinating (and depressing) exchange posted on the wall of Princeton professor Robert P. George, between Professor George and a closeted conservative colleague.

The recounted exchange is worth posting in full:

Closeted conservative colleague: “I don’t feel I can say what I think, at least not at this stage. I have a family to care for and other responsibilities, you know.”

Me: “Sure. I’m not criticizing you.”

CCC: “I’ve seen people’s careers ruined for saying what they think.”

Me: “I have, too. I’m really not criticizing you. I assume you’re following your conscience.”

CCC: “You say what you think and you’ve survived. But your the exception.”

Me: “I’ve been very fortunate. That’s true. But there are plenty of others. I’m not unique. There’s Harvey Mansfield, Hadley Arkes, Mary Ann Glendon, Jim Ceaser, and others. Even some people they’ve tried hard to destroy have survived. Mark Regnerus at the University of Texas, Austin,” for example. They threw everything they could find at him, every calumny imaginable. They tried to get him formally investigated and fired. But he has beaten them. I predict he’ll be promoted to full professor this year.”

CCC: “Yes, but there have been lots of victims, too.”

Me: “Yes. Alas. Lots of victims.”

CCC: “You think I should say what I think.”

Me: “I think you should follow your conscience.”

CCC: “That’s just your way of saying I should say what I think.”

Me:; “Look, as I said, I’m not criticizing you. Only you can discern the demands of your own conscience. I didn’t even bring this whole subject up, you did.”

CCC: “I know what you tell your graduate students to do. You tell them not to hide their politically incorrect views.”

Me: “Well, yes, I hardly hide my advice to them. They initially find it counterintuitive. Their natural instinct is to hide their dissenting beliefs or downplay them. I think that’s risky from a character point of view and also not the best strategy for success.”

CCC: “You ARE judging those of us who keep our opinions to ourselves, then.”

Me: “For heaven’s sake, I’m just saying that there is a certain moral hazard in not speaking your mind. As scholars, we’ve got a special obligation to truth and a vocation to truth-telling. Of course, everybody has a basic obligation to honor the truth, as best they grasp it, but our obligation is even more central to who we are. So, speaking for myself, I don’t see what the point of being a scholar is if we’re not willing to speak the truth as best we understand it. I mean, there are lots of other fields we could go into. We could be lawyers, or doctors, operate hedge funds. There’s the insurance business. Wendy’s franchises. Anyway, again speaking for myself, if I felt I couldn’t speak the truth out loud, I would abandon academic life and go do something else.”

CCC: “You’re not afraid to say what you think because you’ve been able to get away with it without your academic career being ruined.”

Me: “That’s exactly backwards. I’ve been able to get away with it because I’m not afraid to say what I think. Fear empowers the bullies. They’re far less bold and aggressive when they know you’re not afraid of them.”

CCC: “Well, I am afraid of them.”

What emotion do you suppose is primarily motivating CCC? I think that the answer is quite clear: terror. Sheer, unbridled terror at the thought of being purged not only from one’s current job but from one’s profession field altogether if one so much as questions the progressive, social justice/identity politics dogma which has descended on academia like a suffocating blanket.

Where else in history have we seen such terror, such fear of having one’s heretical personal beliefs exposed and punished by the state or the mob? It’s hard not to give way to hyperbole, but this is literally the stuff of Orwell’s 1984, or (back in the real world) Soviet Russia during the purges.

And for what? To bring about forced adherence to the new orthodoxy on gender identity, racial politics, climate change, immigration and any other left wing cause du jour. Left-wing academics and students have abandoned any glancing interest in persuasion as a tool, and have jumped straight to brutal enforcement. Some academic fields will take longer than others to fall under the jackboots of this new authoritarianism – the STEM subjects are still relatively free, the humanities dangle over the precipice while the social sciences have long since fallen – but all are heading in the same direction.

And this is why Robert P. George’s own stance matters, and is correct. Just as there can be no equitable accommodation with people who want to establish a fundamentalist Islamist caliphate across the West, neither can conservative academics and other defenders of free speech split the difference with the authoritarian, petty tyrants who are busy consolidating their control over the university campus. One either has academic freedom and the right to free speech, or one does not. There is either censorship and an ideological test for working in certain professions, or there is not.

The time for keeping one’s head down and trying to avoid trouble is over. Those of us who believe in free speech and unrestricted academic enquiry have an obligation to speak out in defence of those being persecuted or intimidated for their beliefs, today and in the future, whether we agree with the particular speech in question or not.

They can’t arrest us all and they can’t fire everyone simultaneously. Conservatism needs to make a stand, to boldly assert that it will not be intimidated and purged from academia without a fight, or without exposing the progressive, social justice cultists as the modern day tyrants that they are.

 

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