Two defenses of Camille Paglia

There’s no doubt that Camille Paglia is a provocateur and a self-promoter, but there’s equally little doubt that she truly believes what she’s saying. Much of what she’s saying goes against the Authoritarian Left, even though she’s on that side of the divide. She also has the Leftist street cred of being a woman, a lesbian, and someone who identifies as transgender (she says she’s never felt like a woman). Besides that, she’s a historical and literary scholar, and though I haven’t read a lot of what she’s written, I was much taken by her poetry anthology and analysis Break, Blow, Burn which was reviewed favorably by Clive James in the 2005 New York Times.

What makes the Woke hate Paglia is that she voices opinions about the relationships between men and women, about the #MeToo movement, about victimization, and other matters—opinions that aren’t politically congenial to the Woke (see the videos I posted here). Her bona fides hasn’t saved her this time, for, as I reported not long ago, students at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she works as a tenured professor, demanded that she be disciplined for her activities and for scheduling an upcoming talk called “Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art.” Never mind what she was going to say (the protestors didn’t know): Paglia had crossed too many boundaries into Unwokeville. The students demanded these things (this is a quote):

1) Camille Paglia should be removed from UArts faculty and replaced by a queer person of color. If, due to tenure, it is absolutely illegal to remove her, then the University must at least offer alternate sections of the classes she teaches, instead taught by professors who respect transgender students and survivors of sexual assault.
2) The University of the Arts must cease to provide Camille Paglia additional platforms such as public events and opportunities to sell her books on campus.
3) The University of the Arts must apologize for its embarrassing response to this situation, and specifically President David Yager must apologize for his wildly ignorant and hypocritical letter.
4) The University of the Arts must sit down with a group of transgenders [sic] students and survivors of sexual assault to discuss how they can best be supported moving forward. This group must include students of color.

UArts: you are disrespecting your students and putting them in danger. Do better.

No selling her books on campus! What the hell kind of censorship is that? And note the stupid, gratuitous, and completely bogus accusation of Paglia “endangering” them. Maybe endangering the opinions they get from their Facebook friends, but that’s all.

These familiar lists are depressing, and all too often cowardly university administrators cave in to them. Fortunately, University President David Yager didn’t; he wrote a reasonable letter to the University community refusing to give in to these demands and reiterating the dangers of the kind of censorship the students were calling for.

Paglia’s demonization and her defense by Yager have inspired two columns this week: one measured but firm and the other splenetic but funny. Both make the point that students are overly entitled and neglecting their educations in favor of extreme and ill-conceived programs of social justice. And they cry out for a return to the purpose of an education: to learn not just knowledge, but how to think.

The first column, in The Atlantic (click on screenshot), is by the eminently reasonable Tom Nichols, an international affairs expert and author of the well-reviewed book The Death of Expertise.  I’m just going to give quotes as I have nothing much to add to what he says, and I agree 100%.

Referring to misguided “activism” not just at the College of the Arts, but also at Middlebury College, Swarthmore, and Sarah Lawrence, he says this:

This is not activism so much as it is preening would-be totalitarianism. If college is to become something more than a collection of trade schools on one end and a group of overpriced coffeehouses on the other, Americans have to think about how we got here and how to restore some sanity to the crucial enterprise of higher education.

First, we have to recognize a shameless dereliction of duty among faculty and administrators. Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system. Faculty, both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.

Instead, in the name of respect and relevance, even tenured faculty sometimes quail before the anger of people barely out of high school. Paglia has always been a notable exception here, and it is encouraging to see Swarthmore College’s president, Valerie Smith, refusing to meet with student protesters unless they end their occupation of college offices. (The students want the fraternities disbanded, which happened; they want a promise from Swarthmore that they will never come back. They’re staging an occupation not over losing, but over not winning quite enough to suit them.)

Overall, unfortunately, the typical reaction to such events is to “hear” the students and to allow them to stomp on the very traditions of rational inquiry they’re supposed to be learning while in college.

This is what’s happening now at Sarah Lawrence, at Williams College, at Middlebury College, and many others that I don’t have room to name.

Nichols also has a diagnosis and a prescription, which resemble those suggested by the curmudgeonly Rex Murphy in the next highlighted article:

As I wrote in a book titled The Death of Expertise, much of this, at institutions both great and humble, proceeds from a shift in the late 20th century to a kind of therapeutic model of education, which prioritizes feelings and happiness over learning. Colleges take the temperature of their students constantly, asking if they feel fulfilled, if they like their courses, and if they have any complaints. Little wonder that the students have made the short and obvious jump to the conclusion that they should be in charge.

And the prescription: the administration (and especially the faculty) has to stop coddling students by meeting their every demand, and remember the purpose of universities:

Changing this culture will be hard, but it starts with the confident assertion by faculty that they are there for a reason and know what they are doing. Students must be reminded that they petitioned the institution for entry, and not the other way around; they asked the university to allow them to enter into a contract in which the professors are obligated to educate them and they are obligated to fulfill the requirements that will allow those professors to recommend them to the university for graduation.

This last point is especially important. The contract is not just a bill for client services from the university’s dutiful employees. It is a promise by the students to accept instruction, rather than to give it.

Do I sound old and grumpy? Maybe I am, but then so is Tom Nichols.

And even more so is Rex Murphy, who wrote a pro-Paglia and anti-Woke-University column in Canada’s conservative National Post. I don’t know Murphy, but Diana MacPherson, who called this piece to my attention, notes that “Rex Murphy can be a jerk but it’s funny when he does it to someone else.

Indeed. Look at the money quote below (and click on the screenshot if you want to read his fulminations):

After defending Paglia’s scholarship and reiterating that colleges are places where students come as knowledge-seeking mendicants, Murphy discusses the Outrage Brigade that tried to dethrone Paglia at her school.

The mob had a sliver of rationality. They did halt the railroading long enough to consider that the outright firing of a tenured professor might be illegal. While this caused a brief stumble, they quickly suggested a route past the obstacle: “However, if, due to tenure, it is absolutely illegal to remove her, then the University must at least offer alternate sections of the classes she teaches, instead taught by professors who respect transgender students and survivors of sexual assault.” And, finally, they slobbered a puffball of social-justice meringue on their efforts by also insisting that she be “banned from holding speaking events or selling books on campus. In their telling, her ideas “are not merely ‘controversial,’ they are dangerous.”

Now, the answer to this cloddish, puerile, arrogant, self-righteous, ideological twaddle — the lexicon of social-justice hollow-heads everywhere — is: “Just who do you think you are? Intellectually, you’re still in the cocoon. You are yet birdlings in the nest waiting for momma to bring you a worm. What possible standing do you have to ‘demand’ elders and betters yield to your uninformed, ignorant whinings. Not only will we not ‘yield’ to your jejune demands, we laugh at the very notion that you have some ridiculous right to make them.

“Obviously you are not university material, Depart. There must be some low-end coffee shop in need of sweepers, and even there you should be careful about telling its owner, your boss-to-be, which people and of what colour he must hire, if he foolishly hires any of you.

Just once I’d like to hear a University administrator at places like Middlebury or Williams say something like this: not in those words, of course, but in the sense of those words.

55 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted May 7, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    My, my!Such a long list of stuff the University must do to get Paglia to stop her… Wrong Speaking. Can’t she be sent for re-programing?

    • Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, they should have done the same to E.O. Wilson!

  3. tubby
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    That’s funny- UARTS doesn’t really have what you could call a campus. Didn’t even have a bookstore back in the day either. So, like, where do they want them to ban Paglia’s books from? The bookstores on South Street?

    • tubby
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I was wondering what’s going on because UARTS doesn’t really have the humanities classes we associate with these social justice demands, but peeking through their bookstore (No more ordering your books from Jefferson University!) I found “CRIT – CRITICAL APPROACHES ARTS & CULTURES”
      with books for:
      300 – ST: Be(com)ing Human
      301 – Revolution, Mobs & the Arts
      302 – Inside Out: Facing the Other
      303 – Politics & Consumerism
      304 – Madmen, Depressives and Fools
      313 – Sacrifice, Violence & the State
      315 – Food, Labor & Art
      322 – Analyzing Talk
      323 – Folklore and Folk Art
      324 – Envisioning Nature
      327 – Love, Power and Justice

      There were third year science/math/psychology requirements, which may no longer be offered or just not on offer this semester. These might be replacing those. Or they may be using books ordered through Jefferson University or bought from a regular bookstore.

    • tubby
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      After a peek at the catalogue, these seem to be from the creative writing department. So these cannot be replacements for science/math/psychology courses because of the prereqs. Still, I did not really expect to find these courses at UARTS. There’s also way more of these on offer this semester than art history and psychology combined.

      • tubby
        Posted May 7, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        You know, I take that back. These only require what’s probably the first year “We’re making sure you guys can read, write, and comprehend English before letting you move on” class. These may well be for the third year humanities requirement. I’m pretty sure this stuff didn’t exist when I went there- we took art history and literature classes for the req.

  4. Steve Gerrard
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Just once I’d like to hear a University administrator say “let’s put this to a vote.”

    It is not clear to me that at any of these colleges the majority of students and faculty would concur with the outrage brigades. If 75% of the campus agrees with their complaint, well then they would have something.

    • Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Then they would have a really big problem.

  5. Mark Reaume
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always liked Rex, didn’t always agree with him but he definitely had a way with words.

    • Jeff J
      Posted May 8, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      I’ve always hated him. He’s just an articulate Don Cherry.

      Rex Murphy suggests students “…conduct themselves in silence and humility, till at least the time that they may make a plausible claim they have learned something…” Now, if I were a protesting student, this would only strengthen my resolve. No matter how wrong I was.

      • Posted May 9, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Are you sure of the “articulate”? I find him very rambling a lot of the time.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Jejune is a good word. Indeed, much of the Woke agenda seems to proceed from a perspective of no perspective. The Wokiees seem to think that the are the first ones to ever confront the challenges they face&mdashor indeed any challenge&mdashand that everyone else is an active author of the horror that is Today. If education and maturity are about anything, they are about learning perspective about the world, and learning not to throw your toys out of the pram when confronted with the quotitidian difficulties of life.

  7. Liz
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    “’Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art.'” What is sexual multiplicity and why is that offensive? That sounds like an interesting talk.

    “And they cry out for a return to the purpose of an education: to learn not just knowledge, but how to think.” I agree with this, too.

    • tubby
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      From what I read, the student who organized the protest did not agree with Paglia’s views on campus sexual assault and transgenderism and wanted the talk moved off campus on the basis of that rather than on the content of the talk. A fire alarm was pulled, interrupting not only the talk, but also students who actually had work to get done.

      • Liz
        Posted May 7, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Thanks so much. I just saw the other post from a few weeks ago and understand why some don’t agree with Paglia’s views.

  8. Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I don’t believe their ever was an age or time when unpopular ideas/thoughts/beliefs were accepted of tolerated at universities or schools. People used to get burned or hung for ideas not in favor.

    It is nice to imagine past golden ages of free thought and expression. Just don’t believe it ever happened.

    I am not excusing the students and faculty in this case. We are not there yet. Do not think we will ever be there. Human nature is not likely to change much. As much as we would like it to and would like go think otherwise.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    From the lede of the Nichols’s piece:

    The distressing trend of students somehow thinking that they’re the teachers began in earnest in the 1960s, a time when at least some of the grievances of campus protesters—from racism and sexism to the possibility of being sent to die in Southeast Asia—made sense.

    I think there’s another big distinction: In the earlier generation, it was all about getting the school administration’s bootheels off our backs. It was all about escaping the curfews and chaperones and other crap earlier generations of college students had had put up with. We wanted to have as little to do with school administrators as possible, or at least wanted them (and their discipline) to have as little as possible to do with us. If you were old enough to get drafted, so the thinking went, you were damn well old enough to drink and to vote and to decide what time to get your girlfriend back to the dorm after a date.

    The yeoman’s work in this regard was done by the students who’d broken down these campus walls in the Sixties. By the time I hit a college campus in the early Seventies, all that was left to us was some mopping-up reconnaissance on the “we don’ need no stinkin’ in loco parentis” front.

    Nowadays, by contrast, it seems that kids on campuses, especially at some of these fancy-shmancy rich-kid schools, think of themselves as clients at a high-end sleepover spa, where the administrators are little more than the trainers and masseuses and towel-attendants who should take their orders and do their bidding.

    • Posted May 7, 2019 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      +1!

    • A C Harper
      Posted May 8, 2019 at 3:09 am | Permalink

      I wonder if there is a general social change here, not just in universities. In my youth (UK, 1950s) there was a respect for age and position and you were not treated as ‘proper adult’ until you had a proper job and were married or joined the armed forces (I’ve oversimplified). The music available was the music of our parents. Males joining apprenticeships might still be wearing short trousers. People still went to church.

      Then the social order was disrupted. Music became young music, short trousers died, and respect for the limits imposed by ‘adults’ died. God died (again). We probably won’t know if this is a good thing or not for 100 years… long enough for a detached view.

      Then, another turn of the screw, plenty of un-evidenced political ideas and environmental enthusiasms swept the younger parts of society as holy truth. Previously such enthusiasms were modulated by voices of (older) experience, now, not so much.

      I expect that those making the fuss today are going to find themselves wrong footed by younger people still… the New Woke schoolchildren are going to be hell on wheels.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 8, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        God died (again)

        🙂 What He gets for not staying dead after Nietzsche!

    • Robert Bray
      Posted May 8, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Yet there were demands for changes other than in the social environment on campus. At the University of Chicago (second half of the 1960s), where the undergraduate curriculum was still centered on the ‘great books’ and graduate study (in English) heavily weighted toward 16th through 19th century British literature and philosophical analysis of texts (neo-Aristotelian), students made a strong and ultimately successful push for the expansion of the ‘Western Canon,’ specifically the inclusion of literature by women, African Americans and moderns.

      I was one of those students, and I thought the changes overdue and most welcome. But some of the tenured faculty in the Dept. of English at first told us to take our curricular reform ideas and piss off. There were, of course, the expected charges that we didn’t know enough to instruct our betters in what to teach us. This was broadly true. But we did know one thing: that as the world changed, so must the objects of the study of literature, if it was to continue contributing to human knowledge. It was only after protracted insistence–never violent but always clearly present–that the English curriculum evolved. A few of the more senior professors never forgave us ‘radicals.’

      Looking back, I can see how that process of change liberated far more potential energy than I realized at the time. Once traditional inertia had been overcome, the expanding canon grew explosively, to the point that everything in a curriculum of literary studies today is centrifugal. There is no center of gravity (not even a black hole!), and professors pretty much teach the literature they like, and from the viewpoints they like. Literature is in the service of socio-cultural ideas.

      This is nothing to worry about, since everything cultural has a human purpose, IF professors are trained and students genuinely come to understand how literature works: as a driver of affection and cognition in the reader.

      But if a literary work is treated as a cadaver under autopsy, examining diseased organs to show that the patient died from ingesting the wrong ideology, then literature’s larger representative capacity goes extinct too.

      There’s a paradox at the heart of literary study. Existence is too complex for us to understand, so we simplify it in formal narrative structures whose end is to remind us of how complex and open-ended existence is (pace our greatest story-teller’s saying ‘our little life is rounded by a sleep’).

      Mine host, and subscribers, please forgive the length of this missive. It comes from one perplexed about his profession.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 8, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        This is nothing to worry about, since everything cultural has a human purpose, IF professors are trained and students genuinely come to understand how literature works: as a driver of affection and cognition in the reader.

        Ecclesiastes himself, in Chapter 3, could hardly have said it better, Robert. 🙂

        I agree with you about the centrifugal force set in motion in the Sixties and the unforeseen places it has taken us. Post-modernism (or “post-structuralism” to use the nomenclature under which I first encountered it) had, at least initially, valuable insights to share about literature and language. But in subsequent generations, it has (to reverse your metaphor) collapsed upon itself. It has also jumped its borders by moving on to the social sciences, and jumped the shark completely by sticking its unbidden nose into the hard sciences.

        After all, we (and the rest of the natural world) are not (again pace Prospero) the stuff as such dreams are made on.

  10. JB
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    You know, now that you mention it Jerry, it seems this website is run by a well-educated white male, and I find this offensive. I hereby demand you hire an assistant of color, preferably disabled and queer, no taller than 5’2″ and at least 300 lbs. Please report back when this is complete. Thanks…

    • Filippo
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      “Please report back when this is complete. Thanks…”

      If the entitled juvenile human primates referenced in this post are an example to follow, you shouldn’t use the word “please.” You should “demand.” 😉

      • Filippo
        Posted May 7, 2019 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        And you shouldn’t say “Thanks” either. We don’t need no stinkin’ good manners around here.

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Jerry cleaned up my language. I used another word to describe Rex and it ends in “hole”. 🙂

    Also, he’s the very same guy who went after atheists. Jerry wrote about it, and when I went to look for the article, I was shocked that was 6 years ago! It seems like yesterday! https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/rex-murphy-writes-the-worst-anti-atheist-column-ever-graham-templeton-takes-him-apart/

    However, he does have a way with words and he is very smart. I still enjoy his article about when Ernst Zundel was “deliciously stateless” when he applied for refugee status after leaving Canada, finding himself in trouble with the US and then begging Canada to help him because he was going to be deported to Germany, having never taken out Canadian citizenship while living here causing all the trouble he caused.

    • Raskos
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      He’s not smart enough to keep his ideology from overcoming his appreciation of reality. Try reading anything he’s written on anthropogenic climate change. It doesn’t pass the smell test; he’s an ideologue trying to pass himself off as one of the intelligentsia.

  12. Raskos
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Huh, fancy that. Ol’ Rex getting something right for a change. Well, even a blind pig finds the odd acorn.
    So glad to see that he still has his thesaurus.

    • GBJames
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Don’t pigs find acorns based on smell?

      • Posted May 7, 2019 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        OK. Even a pig with stopped up sinuses etc

        • Raskos
          Posted May 7, 2019 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          Yes. That. Thank you.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Paglia’s demonization and her defense by Yager have inspired two columns this week: one measured but firm and the other splenetic but funny.

    Can’t say as I found Murphy’s piece all that mordant or witty; it’s P.J. O’Rourke manqué. His straining comes across on the page.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Part if his appeal is his Newfoundland accent.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Chrissakes, what these kids need is some time in the Peace Corp, or AmeriCorp (or whatever the hell they’re calling VISTA these days), or working for Habitat for Humanity. Couple years outside the hothouse garden and in a public service program would round ’em out, give ’em some idea how the other half lives, let ’em see “social justice” from a grassroots perspective.

    And they should stay the hell offa my lawn while they’re at it.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Right. They can go work as a CNA at a nursing home or hospice or psychiatric facility; or visit/help the elderly under the auspices of a local Senior Citizens Service Center; or volunteer at a school assisting special education staff – maybe a one-on-one with a kindred spirit – a disagreeable, oppositionally defiant student. All character-/maturity-building experiences.

    • Posted May 7, 2019 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      I like this idea. A counter-Demand from the Admin that the children take a year off and do volunteer work for the poor. Come back and maybe we will talk.

  15. CJColucci
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Students ask for stupid s**t. The administration doesn’t give it to them, either with or without a high-flown statement of principle. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

  16. phoffman56
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    From the Urban Dictionary:
    ‘Jesus Murphy:
    A phrase uttered by Canadians who stub their toes. By replacing “Christ” with “Murphy,” these Canadians manage to avoid hell.’

    And all along I, a Canuck even, had been thinking that Rex was only begotten son of Jesus Murphy. How else could he have gotten all those multi-syllabic words? From other Rhodes (the racist) scholars? But no degree from Oxford, just enough panache to return to the colonies to make an ass of himself on CBC and in Canuck publications for 50 years.

    The quote here from him is not too difficult to have come up with. Way back when, I actually listened to him a few times, but never heard a single original idea. So went for pee during his blather on CBC’s big evening newscast. Neither was this one original, though as Jerry said, he’s at least on the right track for once.

  17. phoffman56
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    From the Urban Dictionary:
    ‘Jesus Murphy:
    A phrase uttered by Canadians who stub their toes. By replacing “Christ” with “Murphy,” these Canadians manage to avoid hell.’

    And all along I, a Canuck even, had been thinking that Rex was only begotten son of Jesus Murphy. How else could he have gotten all those multi-syllabic words? From other Rhodes (the racist) scholars? But no degree from Oxford, just enough panache to return to the colonies to make an ass of himself on CBC and in Canuck publications for 50 years.

    The quote here from him is not too difficult to have come up with. Way back when, I actually listened to him a few times, but never heard a single original idea. So went for pee during his blather on CBC’s big evening newscast. Neither was this one original, though as Jerry said, he’s at least on the right track for once.

    • phoffman56
      Posted May 7, 2019 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Apologies once again for the caffeine-free double double.

    • phoffman56
      Posted May 8, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Better : ‘…Rex (after all, meaning ‘king’) was the only begottING father of Jesus Murphy’

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 8, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Yeah I think “Jesus Murphy” is a Canuck swear. It’s funny how you don’t know the Canuck specific words until you say them to a non-Canuck and they don’t know what you’re talking about.

  18. Roo
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    The Atlantic also has an article about Paglia by Conor Friedersdorf that gives the reaction of some of the faculty. They seemed generally afraid to talk about it for fear of repercussions.

    I hope the students grow out of this victim mentality at some point. We all know people who, as adults, become absolutely mired in it, and it’s sad. Granted, we probably all have one or two feuds / relationships / dynamics / etc. that we approach that way, that’s part of being human, but when it’s an across the board orientation towards life I think it can be extremely embittering and limiting. (Trying to decide if ‘victim mentality’ or ‘tyrant mentality’ was the mindset here, and it’s interesting in that, the more I think about it, ‘victim mentality’ and ‘victor mentality’ are very similar, if not the same. A person who views themselves as a totally innocent victim and a person who feels they must be the victor at all costs will both assume a zero-sum, inflexible stance where apologies, seeing the other point of view, and reconciliation even in the face of differences are off the table, not even considered. Of course in some cases this is appropriate – but again, as an orientation towards life in general I think it’s very problematic. I continue to hope this is just a necessary correction after the nihilistic 90s and everyone will get over it soon.)

  19. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Camille Paglia’s adopted an idiotic pose as an “iconoclast” concerning climate change, when she’s really just an ignoramus on the topic. Ever since I read her stupidity on the subject, I stopped reading her at all.

  20. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    It is certainly appropriate for the Wokies to be answered by the author of “The Death of Expertise”. One aspect of contemporary Wokie/Identity political culture is a spectacular denigration not merely of expertise but of accomplishment of any kind. In place of accomplishment, they elevate the accident of birth into selected sanctified identities. Notice that the students who demand Camille Paglia’s dismissal specify the qualification for her replacement: no mention of scholarship or expertise in the field of Art history (or any other), just “a queer person of color”.

    Rejection of accomplishment is particularly evident in the calls for “decolonizing” academic values, coming not only from student “activists” but also from some hustlers in the Diversity cottage industry. Sensoy and DiAngelo, in their Harvard Educational Review article, make this explicit by denigrating “the discourse of merit” in academia. They propose to disrupt such things as “research in the form of peer-reviewed journal publications and the acquisition of grant monies … [as] barometers of the most-valued work driving salary and career progression”; and “White European enlightenment epistemology … the privileging of particular forms of knowledge over others (e.g. written over oral, history over memory, rationalism over wisdom)”.

  21. TJR
    Posted May 8, 2019 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    I hope that our students don’t start making threatening demands like this, given that most of our students are trained killers.

  22. Tim
    Posted May 8, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    It’s time for university administrators to take a lead from General McAuliffe, responding to a German demand for surrender at the Siege of Bastogne:

    NUTS!

  23. Kolmogorov
    Posted May 13, 2019 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Scott Aaronson writes about the the Kolmogorov option (suggested alternate title: “Kolmogorov complicity”). Mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov lived in the Soviet Union at a time when true freedom of thought was impossible. He reacted by saying whatever the Soviets wanted him to say about politics, while honorably pursuing truth in everything else. As a result, he not only made great discoveries, but gained enough status to protect other scientists, and to make occasional very careful forays into defending people who needed defending. He used his power to build an academic bubble where science could be done right and where minorities persecuted by the communist authorities (like Jews) could do their work in peace.

    Let’s be like Kolmogorov and do some good within the entirely reasonable restrictions that the social justice movement places on us. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Identity politics doesn’t seem quite true, but it’s not doing too much harm, really, and it helps keep the peace, and lots of people like it. Just ignore this one good prosocial falsehood that’s not bothering anybody, and then you can do whatever it is you want.

    • Posted May 14, 2019 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      No, let’s not. You are asking us to go along with creeping authoritarianism: to go along with suppression of free speech, with fulminating anti-Semitism and approbation for the tenets of Islam, with censorship, with segregated housing in colleges, with the rule of those who can take offense the loudest, and so on.

      Fortunately, we’re not the Soviet Union and don’t have to acquiesce to the mob. We have the right to speak up and protest and fight unwarranted intrusions on our liberty. “Reasonable restrictions that the social justice movement” places on us? Don’t make me laugh!

    • phoffman56
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      The mathematician Luzin might disagree strongly with the poster. Luzin was very lucky to get away with only the destruction of his career, and not to have been murdered in Stalin’s purges, despite charges brought by Kolmogorov and others. This info has been well known to many mathematicians, and is summarized in wiki.


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