Category Archive 'Left Think'
12 Nov 2018

Camille Paglia Speaks Out

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Yale Professor Cleanth Brooks 1906-1994, leading figure of the New Criticism.

In Quillette, Claire Lehmann interviews Camille Paglia on the current state of the Humanities in the universities, Leftist Ressentiment as Religion, and Feminism.

Claire Lehmann: You seem to be one of the only scholars of the humanities who are willing to challenge the post-structuralist status quo. Why have other humanities academics been so spineless in preserving the integrity of their fields?

Camille Paglia: The silence of the academic establishment about the corruption of Western universities by postmodernism and post-structuralism has been an absolute disgrace. First of all, the older generation of true scholars who still ruled the roost when I arrived at the Yale Graduate School in 1968 were not fighters, to begin with. American professors, unlike their British counterparts, had not been schooled in ferocious and satirical debate. They were courtly and genteel, a High Protestant middlebrow style. Voices were hushed, and propriety ruled at the Yale department of English: I once described it as “walking on eggs at the funeral home.”

An ossified New Criticism was then still ascendant. I had been trained in college in that technique of microscopic close analysis of the text, and it remains a marvelous tool for cultural criticism: I have applied it to everything from painting to pop songs. However, my strong view at the time (from my early grounding in archaeology) was that literary criticism had to recover authentic historical consciousness and also to expand toward psychology, which was still considered vulgar. Harold Bloom and Geoffrey Hartman (whose Yale careers had begun amid tinges of anti-Semitism) were moving in a different, more conceptual direction, heavy on European philosophy.

By the early 1970s, when I was writing my doctoral dissertation (Sexual Personae, directed by Bloom), change suddenly arrived from outside: deconstruction was the hot new thing, hastened along by J. Hillis Miller, who left Johns Hopkins for Yale. I thought Derrida and DeMan and the rest of that crew were arrant nonsense from the start, a pedantic diversion from direct engagement with art. About the obsequious Yale welcome given to the pratlings of one continental “star” visitor, I acidly remarked to a fellow grad student sitting next to me, “They’re like high priests murmuring to each other.”

The New Criticism desperately needed supplementation, but that opaque hash (so divorced from genuine art appreciation) was certainly not it. I was disgusted at the rapid spread of deconstruction and post-structuralism throughout elite U.S. universities in the 1970s, when I was teaching at my first job at Bennington College. The reason it happened is really quite prosaic: a recession hit in the 1970s, and the job market in academe collapsed. Fancy-pants post-structuralism was the ticket to ride for ambitious, beady-eyed young careerists on the make. Its coy, showy gestures and clotted lingo were insiders’ badges of claimed intellectual superiority. But the whole lot of them were mediocrities from the start. It is doubtful that much if any of their work will have long-term traction.

As I argued in my long attack on post-structuralism, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf” (Arion, Spring 1991; reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture), Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault were already outmoded thinkers even in France, where their prominence had been relatively brief. There was nothing genuinely leftist in their elitist, monotonously language-based analysis. On the contrary, post-structuralism was abjectly reactionary, resisting and reversing the true revolution of the 1960s American counterculture, which liberated the senses and reconnected the body and personal identity to nature, in the Romantic manner. It is very telling that Foucault’s principal inspiration, by his own admission, was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which I loathed as a college student for its postwar passivity and nihilism. (As a teacher, I admire Godot as a play but still reject its parochial and at times juvenile world-view.)

Post-structuralism, along with identity politics, made huge gains in the 1970s, as the old guard professors proved helpless against a rising tide of rapid add-on programs and departments like women’s studies and African-American studies. The tenured professoriate seemed not to realize that change of some kind was necessary, and thus they failed to provide an alternative vision of a remodeled university of the future. I myself was lobbying for interdisciplinary innovation in the humanities—something that remained highly controversial right through the 1980s, when there were fierce battles over it where I was then teaching (during the merger of the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts with the Philadelphia College of Art to form the present University of the Arts). Another persistent proposal of mine has been for comparative religion to become the undergraduate core curriculum, an authentically global multiculturalism

Most established professors in the 1970s probably believed that the new theory trend was a fad that would blow away like autumn leaves. The greatness of the complex and continuous Western tradition seemed self-evident: the canon would surely stand, even if supplemented by new names. Well, guess what? Helped along by a swelling horde of officious, overpaid administrators, North American universities became, decade by decade, political correctness camps. Out went half the classics, as well as pedagogically useful survey courses demonstrating sequential patterns in history (now dismissed as a “false narrative” by callow theorists). Bookish, introverted old-school professors were not prepared for guerrilla warfare to defend basic scholarly principles or to withstand waves of defamation and harassment.

However, it is indeed difficult to understand why major professors already in safe, powerful positions avoided direct combat. For example, although he had made passing dismissive remarks about post-structuralism (“Foucault and soda water”), Harold Bloom never systematically engaged or critiqued the subject or used his access to the general media to endorse debate, which was left instead to self-identified conservatives. The latter situation was clearly counterproductive, insofar as it enabled the bourgeois faux leftists of academe to define themselves and their reflex gobbledygook as boldly progressive.

In October 1990, I sat with my longtime mentor Bloom at a presidential dinner preceding his Shakespeare lecture at Bryn Mawr College in the Philadelphia suburbs. I told him about the exposé of post-structuralism that I was writing for Arion (and that took six months to do). He flatly replied, “You’re wasting your time.” I must suppose there was simply a generational divide: as a product of the 1960s, I still passionately believe in reform as an ethical imperative. Furthermore, most of my teaching career has been spent at small art schools, which have always spurned the conformist formulas and protocols of traditional universities.

Nevertheless, the poisons of post-structuralism have now spread throughout academe and have done enormous damage to basic scholarly standards and disastrously undermined belief even in the possibility of knowledge. I suspect history will not be kind to the leading professors who appear to have put loyalty to friends and colleagues above defending scholarly values during a chaotic era of overt vandalism that has deprived several generations of students of a profound education in the humanities. The steady decline in humanities majors is an unmistakable signal that this once noble field has become a wasteland.

Do you believe that politics and in particular social justice (i.e., anti-racism and feminism) are becoming cults or pseudo-religions? Is politics filling the void left by the receding influence of organized religion?

Paglia: This has certainly been my view for many years now. I said in the introduction to my art book, Glittering Images (2012), that secular humanism has failed. As an atheist, I have argued that if religion is erased, something must be put in its place. Belief systems are intrinsic to human intelligence and survival. They “frame” the flux of primary experience, which would otherwise flood the mind.

But politics cannot fill the gap. Society, with which Marxism is obsessed, is only a fragment of the totality of life. As I have written, Marxism has no metaphysics: it cannot even detect, much less comprehend, the enormity of the universe and the operations of nature. Those who invest all of their spiritual energies in politics will reap the whirlwind. The evidence is all around us—the paroxysms of inchoate, infantile rage suffered by those who have turned fallible politicians into saviors and devils, godlike avatars of Good versus Evil.

My substitute for religion is art, which I have expanded to include all of popular culture. But when art is reduced to politics, as has been programmatically done in academe for 40 years, its spiritual dimension is gone. It is coarsely reductive to claim that value in the history of art is always determined by the power plays of a self-referential social elite. I take Marxist social analysis seriously: Arnold Hauser’s Marxist, multi-volume A Social History of Art (1951) was a major influence on me in graduate school. However, Hauser honored art and never condescended to it. A society that respects neither religion nor art cannot be called a civilization.

RTWT

Even well-educated people on the Left,like Paglia, recognize the disastrous state of contemporary culture.

05 Nov 2018

Stopped Talking to Her/Their/Zir Parents

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Erika aka “Devon” Price.

A lot of people on Facebook yesterday were marveling at, and laughing about, this leftie idiot‘s ideological derangement and her absolutely appalling Mount-Everest-sized shrill sense of self-entitlement. Her much-enduring and despite-all-her-bullshit loving family has evidently, for years and years, through what must have been a truly dreadful adolescence well into what-ought-to-be adulthood tolerated her vicious politics and humored her sexually perverse nonsense, but those terrible people failed to climb on board the radical LGBTQ&c.&c. train with her and she, they, zir, or ze is finally fed up.

Every Sunday for the last 12 years, I have called my conservative Republican mom and talked to her for upwards of an hour. I tell her about my work, and try to keep her entertained with cheery, funny anecdotes. I share good news and paper over bad. I keep the conversation flowing and effervescent. In each call, I work hard to come across as someone happy, with lots of friends and lots to do, and nothing to complain or cry about.

I have upheld this ritual through breakups, bereavements, depressive episodes, periods of trauma, and years of acute political turmoil. I’ve only wavered and broken kayfabe a few times — when my dad died, for example, or when Trump was elected. That time, I curled up on a bench and sobbed, begging my conservative mom to understand what her vote had done to me. I shook and sputtered borderline incomprehensible things about how much it hurt for her to vote the way she did, how betrayed I felt as a sexual assault survivor, a trans person, a scientist, or a person who needs birth control.

She believed we could agree to disagree, so long as we never discussed or even thought about our disagreements.

She reacted with the same equanimity she always projects when unwanted emotions rear their needy heads. She wasn’t concerned that her actions had hurt or betrayed me, no, she was worried I was stressing myself out by thinking about it too much. She believed we could agree to disagree, so long as we never discussed or even thought about our disagreements. By refusing to stop glaring at our differences, I was the one hurting myself.

That’s how it’s always been in my family. I am the renegade, the unstable queer one, with big emotions and strange desires that alienate me from my family’s politics. I am responsible for minimizing the conflict that my existence creates. I’m not supposed to express emotion, start fights, or remind anyone of the chasm that separates my life from their traditional, “family-oriented” values.

I’m done carrying that responsibility. It’s been slowly poisoning me for years. …

My mom wouldn’t say she’s socially conservative. Neither would most of my Republican relatives. They like to think of themselves as family-oriented, patriotic, no-nonsense lovers of fiscal restraint, and it doesn’t matter if the reality of the political choices lines up with those ideals. They don’t like to talk about the basis for their ideology, or evidence in support of their views — and they absolutely will not acknowledge the social consequences of their actions. They have always voted Republican, and it seems they always will, no matter the candidate they are given or the abhorrent policies that candidate advances. And for the most part, they don’t want to talk about their beliefs or the reasons for their choices — aside, perhaps, from a few idle rants about the evils of the Clintons. In such a vacuum of reflection and vulnerability, it’s paralyzingly difficult for me to even start a conversation about the harm they’ve done.

In my family, control and invalidation are wielded subtly, and perhaps without conscious intent. Norms are enforced through a gentle blend of selective praise, light mockery, quiet dismissal, and mild admonition. If I take a step toward prescribed, traditional roles, I am celebrated and recognized. If I take a different path, or express a competing desire, I am ignored or ridiculed in a way I can’t quite point to. If I complain about that ridicule, I am dismissed as overly sensitive or told I’m making things up, misremembering them.

I have dozens of memories of family members chiding a teenage me for expressing disinterest in giving birth or having a family. Whenever I expressed a passion for the sciences or a desire to go to grad school, I was treated as though my interests were cute, but fleeting. When I began throwing my adolescent, closeted self into politics — mostly activism for LGBT rights — my mother would tell me, in hushed tones, that it was “okay” that I was doing so, but that we wouldn’t be letting my grandparents know about what I’d been up to.

I wasn’t beaten for being who I was. Usually, I wasn’t even directly berated. The problem wasn’t a specific act of mistreatment or abuse, but rather the emotional and political climate that surrounded me. My family consistently listened to conservative voices that branded me, and people like me, as perverse, immature, deluded, and mockable. My family voted, without relent, for politicians who wanted to curtail abortion rights, LGBT rights, educational access, and intellectual freedom. They unilaterally advanced and rewarded a life path that was traditional, deeply gendered, and rooted in devotion to the family unit, often to the detriment of connections with the outside world. They couldn’t see how these actions wore me down and slowly, quietly, left me feeling broken, incapable of appropriate adulthood, and totally alone.

RTWT

Her family sounds very nice. It’s a shame that parents like that had one child that obviously long ago landed the wrong way on its head.

30 Oct 2018

Progressives Fed Up With Americans

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Robert Curry contends that Progressives, after losing in 2016, resemble the East German government of 1953, unhappy with the uprising in East Germany, referenced in Berthold Brecht’s famous poem, looking to elect a different people.

The difference between today’s American Progs and the 1950s East German Nomenklatura being that our Progressives actually have a method of tinkering with the constituency of the electorate.

Die Lösung

Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni
Ließ der Sekretär des Schriftstellerverbands
In der Stalinallee Flugblätter verteilen
Auf denen zu lesen war, daß das Volk
Das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe
Und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit
zurückerobern könne. Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

————————–

The Solution

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Progressives have finally lost patience with the American people.

Until recently and on the whole they have been remarkably patient. From their beginning over a century ago, they have been quite far-sighted, keeping their eyes on the prize, always advancing their agenda while at the same time being careful not to unnecessarily alarm or clue in too many American voters. Their overall strategy is right there in the name they chose for their movement. For over 100 years, progressives have been transforming America persistently, progressively.

What makes their patience remarkable is that patience is not the hallmark of revolutionaries—and revolutionaries is what they are. The progressives’ revolutionary purpose is to reverse the outcome of the American Revolution, to overthrow the American system that is the gift of the Founders. You can call them the anti-American revolutionaries.

In the 20th century, there were three great attempts in the West to replace the social order created during the Enlightenment era. The Enlightenment era ultimately put the people in charge of the government. Each of the three movements born in the 20th century was an attempt to put the government back in charge of the people. The Germans and the Italians tried national socialism; the Russians and the Chinese tried Communism. Both brought ruin and catastrophe and then failed spectacularly.

The third attempt, the American one, is progressivism. The progressives have outlasted the other two. They were more clever and more patient than their two rivals. Realizing that the American people were not ripe for the kind of revolutionary upheaval that had worked in Germany or Russia, their plan was to introduce government control of the American people slowly or, if you like, progressively.

But the advent of Obama changed everything for them. The Obama phenomenon brought the American progressives’ to the peak of a frenzied enthusiasm. The Left understood that for the Democrats to nominate and for Americans to elect such a man to the presidency meant the long-anticipated final moment had arrived. Obama promised a “fundamental transformation” of America was at hand—and the Left went wild.

They threw caution to the wind. The Democrats pushed through Obamacare on a straight party-line vote, creating widespread voter alarm and galvanizing the Tea Party movement. Obama’s signal foreign policy initiative was to provide a life-saving gift to the mullahs in Iran. He lifted the sanctions on Iran, which in addition to giving the mullahs a new lease on life, also augmented that lease with direct foreign aid variously reported but in the neighborhood of $150 billion.

Back home, Obama and the Democrats required that schools allow boys who “identify as girls” to use the showers and dressing rooms set aside for girls. To the progressive elite, Obama in the White House meant the Democrats no longer needed to worry about alarming American voters.

The Tea Party was an early warning they ignored. And then there was Donald Trump. That the Republicans could nominate and America could elect such a man to the highest office in the land was understood by the Left to be an outrage, a crime against History. Trump’s election dashed the cup from their lips just as they were celebrating their long-awaited victory sip over the American founders.

Once upon a time, progressives would have re-calibrated and re-committed themselves to their long-term vision. That is what they used to do every time their dream of imposing socialized medicine on America—a goal cherished from the earliest days of the original Progressive era—failed.

But not this time. The Democrats are done with paying lip service to American ideals they do not believe in just so they can get elected. They have had it with the American people, and they have decided to replace us with people more to their liking, people who will never consider blocking their progressive agenda.

How can the Democrats be so certain that the floodtide of illegals they’ve chosen for this task can be counted upon to empower them? Could it be because those people are not exactly dedicated to the American idea, either?

These new people may not be able to mouth the progressive talking points against the Electoral College or argue for “the living Constitution” but, for the progressives, their hearts are in the right place and their votes will obediently follow their benefactors. That’s what counts.

It seems it was only yesterday when Barack Obama was saying illegal immigration was totally unacceptable. Today, the Democrats are all about open borders, abolishing ICE, and even socialized medicine for illegals.

What happened? The Democrats are done with waiting. They want what they have always wanted and, like the spoiled girl Veruca Salt in “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory,” they want it now.

RTWT

29 Oct 2018

Sad Progressivism

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E.M. Cadwaldr describes the culture of boundless negativity that is Progressivism.

To someone raised in a leftist family, the drill is all too familiar. There may be variations, but my experience went something like this:

One is immersed from birth in Marxist critical theory like a chicken cooking slowly in pot — not that one is ever told explicitly what Marxist critical theory is. In practice, the dogma is practiced as nothing more sophisticated than a lifestyle of continual dissatisfaction — of one long sad and negative discussion after another. The ideal setting for such discussions really has become the coffee shop — now a kind of secular parody of a church. There, one can ruminate, virtue signal to one’s fellow left-leaners, and sip slowly at the bitter cup of fair-trade, overpriced java picked by scenically depicted (but always comfortably far away) peasants from a third world hellhole du jour. If you miss the wafer normally offered in a more traditional sacrament, have a biscotti. One can tip the transgender barista graciously, earning a kind of progressive equivalent of merit, though not the least shred of actual grace. One can snub America simply by occupying the repackaged equivalent of a European institution. This is leftism by association.

The pilgrimage to the bookstore is another popular rite, though not compulsory. There, one finds all sorts of new and interesting topics to feel bad about. One can educate one’s sense of moral outrage, refining the palate to the subtler nuances of the same eternal whine. The vibrant Red whine: How bad western civilization is in general. The anti-American White whine: How bad America is in particular. All such reading fuels the same peculiarly self-destructive end. The progressive is taught to believe that an entirely unproductive and pathologically disheartened outlook is the mark of a superior being. Life is to be lamented from start to finish. Ordinary happiness is for the stupid. Such an ongoing narrative is as sticky and as lethal as a Venus fly trap. Try reading a little of the public intellectual Noam Chomsky. See how wonderfully acerbic and languid he is? Read a bit of the revisionist historian Howard Zinn. Such a blistering indictment of the West by a man who hasn’t troubled himself to examine any inconvenient historical data. Even a cursory study of leftist literature will make it plain to any conservative how leftists have developed an unspoken longing for cultural suicide. They have few or no children. They have no reason to be bothered if America is eventually transformed into just another Latin American failed state. They have been told their whole lives that it would serve us right.

RTWT

21 Oct 2018

For Some People, It Is Always 1968…

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Gerard van der Leun is fed up with our generation’s, his and mine, members of the elite community of fashion.

In the past few decades, self-loathing has drenched many Americans of the Left. …. A self-loathing that has reached its apotheosis in those “Americans” that love the hallucinogenic fantasy of an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero, a sanctuary California, a Hillary forcefully installed as Big Granny President for Life, and Donald Trump’s head on a stake over the main gate to DC. All so they can get back to sitting in their dark cave and watch their dream-world socialist vision screened on the back wall.

After the rise of Obama, the most anti-American American president in history, the vision became joyfully anti-American. It is now self-evident what their “path to success” is in the minds of those who have embraced and live the progressive vision. It is a vision very much alive, kicking and in residence in the DNC, the Obama mansions, the Clinton Crew, the Groves of Academe, and the dark, Satanic propaganda mills of the media, news as well as advertisements and “entertainment”.

Millions of Americans, unknowing, uncaring, or ungulled by the Left cannot see this vision. This vision, as far as the masses are concerned, is unknown and unknowable. It is very much a secret.

It is “the vision that dare not speak its name.”

What is no secret is that classical liberalism, in the mold of FDR, JFK, and LBJ that reached its apotheosis in Hubert Humphrey, has long been consigned to the bone-yard. What has taken its place hates to be tarred with the brush of liberalism because, frankly, it isn’t. It prefers to be called “progressivism” even though “a sociopathic political and social recidivism” more accurately describes it.

What now stands in the place one occupied by classical liberalism is a kind of perverted one-world idealism in which “the world as it is” is constantly measured against “the world as it should be.” Classic liberalism at least had the argument that it was being done for the greater good. The new perverted progressive liberalism variant is one in which policy and plans are made because it makes the initiators yearn to “feel good” in the manner that compulsive masturbators obsess over fantasies implanted before puberty. Those that make and support these measures hold themselves in high regard, seeing each other as, in the French phrase popular when many of them were young, citoyens du monde.
The donations come in the front door and the Creches go out the back. All done with a nudge and a wink to “the protection of liberty and diversity”

Typically these are people who have “gone beyond” nation-states in their own minds and, if they can afford it (and many can), in their personal lives as well. These are people with access to enough money to afford private jets or enough money to pay the premium prices of a hybrid car. They do not dwell in the same nation as their fellow, less-fortunate citizens. Instead, they can afford to spend their time spreading a gospel whose high costs and marginal benefits are always carefully hidden from the middle middle class and those below. But this is never seen by those spreading the gospel as a kind of noblesse oblige, only as something that is “good for them.” …

[W]e see thousands of continuing efforts to spread “correct thinking and correct behavior and correct belief” in the endless bullying of small organizations by larger “clear headed” organizations such as the ACLU. It is all their way or the lawsuit highway; a kind of fiscal extortion racket. The donations come in the front door and the Creches go out the back. All done with a nudge and a wink to “the protection of liberty and diversity” at the same time that diversity of the “bad” kind is reduced. Like latter-day Leona Helmsleys, these visionaries are always at pains to “thank the little people” for letting them have it their way.

These erstwhile American citizens do not think of themselves as actual Americans (although they play them easily and glibly on TV), but as a new and better breed that only retain their “American” status for the clear and present benefits. Instead, they prefer to think of themselves as inhabiting a rarer, more personally fragrant realm of ideals that the rest of us do not see and cannot aspire to.

RTWT

I have loads of Yale classmates (all white, mind you) eagerly looking forward to the elimination of the white American majority and the country’s transformation into a more-northerly Brazil. They manage to ignore the differences in economic productivity, cultural and technological creativity, and political order and stability between the United States and Brazil. And they are, alas! completely ignorant of the overwhelmingly social importance of differing shades of color in Brazil. But, if you disagree with them, you are a racist and doomed reactionary.

20 Oct 2018

Spoiled Liberals Expect to Win Every Time

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Peter Spiliakos marvels at the self-entitlement of our liberal friends.

The response of these white liberals is not to blame themselves. If they lost a presidential election, then it is the fault of the illegitimate Electoral College. If Kavanaugh is confirmed and Mitch McConnell remains majority leader, the Senate is illegitimate. If there is a fifth conservative justice, then the Supreme Court is illegitimate. Obama told liberals that “given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere.” Instead, liberals chose to compete in ever fewer places, and then cry twice as hard when they lost.

The experience of white liberals with corrupt and partisan authority influences how they deal with their disappointments and defeats. They are used to authority stepping in to change the rules in their favor. They don’t want constitutional change, because if they lost under new rules, those rules would then become just as illegitimate.

They want — they expect — a Jimmy Fallon or a George Bridges or a Jeffrey Goldberg to step in make everything better. Attendees of Trump rallies might chant “Lock her up.” Black Lives Matters protestors might chant “No justice, no peace.” But if you hear a protester issue a long, piercing screech, it is probably a college-educated white liberal. There is a reason for that. The theorists of intersectionality teach us that for the privileged, equality can feel like oppression.

In The Atlantic, Adam Cohen brilliantly captured the entitlement and power hunger of elite white liberalism. Cohen writes of how Brett Kavanaugh can “minimize” the damage his presence does on the Supreme Court by recusing himself from a large number of cases (and thereby giving the four liberal justices an effective veto over any rulings) and otherwise voting with liberals Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

RTWT

16 Oct 2018

Pre-Columbian America According to the Left

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14 Sep 2018

I Hope All Sociology Professors Will Do Likewise

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Disclose.TV:

An anti-Trump sociology professor at the College of Southern Nevada shot himself on campus last month as way to protest the president, police said.

Mark J. Bird, 69, was found bloodied outside a bathroom in the Charleston campus K building with a self-inflicted gunshot wound the morning of the second day of classes August 28.

He was treated for his wound and later charged with possessing a dangerous weapon on school property, discharging a gun within a prohibited structure and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Not to mention Google executives…

11 Aug 2018

Death by Fuzzy Thinking

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Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan. On July 29, in Tajikistan, five ISIS members deliberately plowed their car into the American couple and their two temporary cycling companions, one from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands.

Bruce Bawer is less than sympathetic.

Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, a young American couple, both graduates of Georgetown University, who decided to quit their humdrum office jobs and go on an epic bike ride and camping trip that would take them all over the world. …

Austin, a vegan who worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Geoghegan, a vegetarian who worked in a college admissions office, were both 29 years old – old enough, one would think, to have some idea of just how dangerous a route they had mapped out. …

Both Austin and Geoghegan were seasoned travelers, who had separately gone on backpacking adventures in exotic lands and, together, had recently biked across Iceland as a sort of prelude to their odyssey through Africa, Europe, and Asia. …

[T]o read Austin’s blog is to see no hint of hesitation, on the part of either of them, to keep on cycling – no sign of fear that their luck might run out at any moment. Their naivete is nothing less than breathtaking. “You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” wrote Austin during their trek. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted….I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own.” This rosy view of humanity suffuses Austin’s blog. …

Austin’s blog also provides a window on his (and presumably her) hippie-dippy worldview and ultra-PC politics. Elephants, writes Austin, “may very well be a smarter, wiser, more thoughtful being than homo sapiens sapiens.” When white South Africans tell them “that the nation and its redistributionist government are making poor, ignorant choices,” Austin sneers at their “Eurocentric values” and their failure to realize that “[n]otions like private property” are culturally relative. This is apparently a comment on the South African government’s current expropriation of white farmers’ land without compensation. …

Austin also sneers at Thanksgiving, “a strange tradition built upon a glossy, guiltless retelling of a genocide, in which we show our appreciation for what we have by killing a quarter-billion turkeys, eating to the point of discomfort, queueing up outside shopping malls to buy electronics at reduced rates, and otherwise yearning for that which we do not have.” When President Trump announces his plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Austin and Geoghegan are in Morocco, where the people are outraged. Yes, because they hate Jews. But Austin’s response is to be so ashamed of his American identity that he tries “to disappear into the soft plush” of a couch cushion. …

The [August 7] Times article about Austin and Geoghegan drew hundreds of reader comments. A surprising number were by other people who’d bicycled or backpacked in far-off, dangerous places. Most saw Austin and Geoghegan as “heroic,” “authentic,” “idealistic,” “inspiring,” “a Beautiful example of Purity and Light.” Sample reactions: “Their candle burned brightly before it was extinguished.” And: “Good for them! They followed their dream.” Then there’s this: “I only see the beauty of two people taking steps to live the life they envision….The good experienced in their journey far far outweighs any negative.” Easy to say when you’re not the one in the body bag. “What is more dangerous,” asked yet another reader, “exposing yourself to the world and its dangers, and living a full vivid life, or insulating yourself in a safe box, in front of screens, where the world and its marvels and dangers cannot touch you? Jay and Lauren understood that safety is its own danger. They are awesome people.” No, they’re mangled, decaying corpses. “Safe boxes”? That’s what they’re both in now: boxes.

RTWT

I’m just waiting for the admiring article in Outside Magazine.

HT: Stephen Green.

23 Jun 2018

You Woke?

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22 Jun 2018

Exeter Prof: “Mathematics to Blame for Global Disparities in Wealth”

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Campus Reform shares the latest breakthrough in thought from today’s Academy.

In a chapter for a new textbook, University of Exeter professor Paul Ernest warns that mathematics education can cause “collateral damage” to society by training students in “ethics-free thought.”

He even argues that since money involves mathematics, math is “implicated in the global disparities of wealth” because math students are taught to value “detached” and “calculative” reasoning.

RTWT

22 Jun 2018

Leaked Memo Reveals ACLU Retreating on Free Speech

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Wendy Kaminer, in the Wall Street Journal, also reveals that the ACLU is now accepting the Hard Left notion that mere speech can inflict harm, even if one does not call someone pigeon pie and eat him up.

The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

This is presented as an explanation rather than a change of policy, and free-speech advocates know the ACLU has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates. ACLU leaders previously avoided acknowledging that retreat, however, in the apparent hope of preserving its reputation as the nation’s premier champion of the First Amendment.

But traditional free-speech values do not appeal to the ACLU’s increasingly partisan progressive constituency—especially after the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The Virginia ACLU affiliate rightly represented the rally’s organizers when the city attempted to deny them a permit to assemble. Responding to intense post-Charlottesville criticism, last year the ACLU reconsidered its obligation to represent white-supremacist protesters.

The 2018 guidelines claim that “the ACLU is committed to defending speech rights without regard to whether the views expressed are consistent with or opposed to the ACLU’s core values, priorities and goals.” But directly contradicting that assertion, they also cite as a reason to decline taking a free-speech case “the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values.”

In selecting speech cases to defend, the ACLU will now balance the “impact of the proposed speech and the impact of its suppression.” Factors like the potential effect of the speech on “marginalized communities” and even on “the ACLU’s credibility” could militate against taking a case. Fundraising and communications officials helped formulate the new guidelines.

RTWT

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