Among the Intellectualoids
Prof. Raccoon, the chair of the Critical Studies Department, is scowling in the boxwood hedge.
It’s Commencement Day, but he ignores the Tiepolo blue skies and smiling faces, the folding chairs in a row and proud families in the quadrangle. His 2015 commencement season is fraught with anxiety. He is looking for a safe space.
White privilege, LGBT injustices, wars against women, trigger warnings, and assorted micro-aggressions cloud the horizon. The injustices at Amerika University are uncountable, and Prof. Raccoon’s opportunities for purification are unending.
Prof. Raccoon has made a tidy career celebrating diversity with new perspectives. He patrols vigilantly to make sure colleagues, graduate students, department policies, and his university press all conform to his virtue.
Yet he meets increasing skepticism and indifference from students, parents, alumni, trustees, and now, administrators. He is dismayed. Dismayed is one of Prof. Raccoon’s favorite words.
Why are “liberals” or “progressives” great fans of big government? (I put the words in scare quotes because it seems to me that these people are, objectively speaking, illiberal and regressive.) There are, I suggest, four reasons.
Liberals feel the need to repair the damage their moral values have done in the last half-century or so. When I speak of damage, I am thinking above all of the breakdown of the married two-parent family, a breakdown — caused largely by the liberal-promoted sexual revolution — that has inflicted immeasurable damage on fatherless boys and girls.
This breakdown is greatest among our poorer social classes — and has contributed of course to their poverty. And it is greatest of all among poor African-Americans: in black ghettos the married two-parent family has virtually disappeared. But to reverse this breakdown, to begin a return to the married two-parent family, liberals would have to proclaim that there is something seriously wrong with the ethic of sexual freedom that they have been promoting since the middle of the last century.
The “progressive” (or ultra-liberal) wing of the Democratic Party is trying to push Hillary further to the left. They do this in a number of ways: by urging Elizabeth Warren to get into the presidential race; by threatening to support Bernie Sanders if he runs for president as an independent; by telling Hillary that they will not be able to support her with their work, wealth, and wisdom until she demonstrates that she has a truly progressive agenda.
For instance, Bill de Blasio, the progressive mayor of New York, an old friend of hers who was her campaign manager when she ran successfully for the U.S. Senate in 2000, was on Meet the Press recently and said he would not be endorsing her until she laid out a progressive “vision.”
Vying for control of the great uninformed masses are the rabid climate change “deniers” and the level-headed scientists. The latter have the inside line on what’s really going on, in the sky above and the earth below, while the former are moved by irrational disgust aimed at limousine liberals.
In this polarized and disheartening scenario, who best offers a sensible way forward? As it turns out, it’s other scientists: social scientists.
Or so says one academic. University of Michigan “Professor of Sustainable Enterprise” Andy Hoffman believes those with insight into demographics, religion, and the human psyche ought to be recruited to bring middle-Americans into the climate debate. Science alone won’t cut it. Cut carbon emissions, that is:
We must recognize that people have multiple motivations for being concerned over climate change, and most are not scientific. For example, Pope Francis speaks about climate change as an issue of faith and social equity.
Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet. The Internet Is Not the Answer makes the case that Erich Mielke, head of the East German Stasi, did.
The “Ministry of Propaganda,” author Andrew Keen notes, “was supposed to have gone out of business in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. But, like other failed twentieth-century institutions, the ministry has relocated its operations to the west coast of America.”
That Google, Facebook, and Amazon wield a more effective, and perhaps creepier, intelligence apparatus than the NSA stands as one of the reasons Keen remains not so keen on the Internet after writing several books critical of the digital phenomenon’s effect on life offline. Whereas East Germans sought to avoid surveillance, Americans increasingly feel validated by publicizing the private.
Foremost among the sins of St. Internet are replacing quality with efficiency and perversely disincentivizing the pursuit of talents valued by the market.
She has blue hair and a pierced nose and her name is Michelle. During last year’s National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (NYFLC), Michelle was one of the attending college students who used social media to complain that the event was too normal. “Next year, less binary, more queer feminism,” Michelle urged on Twitter, and several other young feminists expressed similar sentiments about the annual D.C. conference sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Perhaps you don’t understand what Michelle meant by “binary” in this context, and maybe the phrase “queer feminism” strikes you as rather odd, but this is the language and ideology promoted in the academic bastions of Women’s Studies programs at colleges and universities across the country nowadays.
IRS records will note that as a child I was the founder of two clubs, the first of which was an acronym of friends’ first names and the second of which was called the Junior Killers, later changed to Junior Spies after an intervention from an agitated Mrs. Purple. Half the point of these secret societies, of course, was devising a secret code. Like most young boys we reveled in this stuff, aided by monthly suggestions from the “Codemaster” section of Boys’ Life magazine. And woe to the member who suggested the shopworn “One means A, two means B” trick.
I bring this up because Jonathan Chait recently wrote a piece for New York magazine that suggests academic liberals have taken up my childhood diversion—and their codes are far more impenetrable than anything I ever invented.
In the unlikely event that administrative assistants behind the “For Dummies” book series are preparing galley proofs for a title called “Religion Reporting for Dummies,” complimentary copies of such a book ought to be shipped to the Washington, D.C. offices of U.S. News and World Report, which just this week published a thinly-disguised plea for help in that area.
If you were following the great Commencement Speaker Bloodbath of 2014, you might have noticed that there were two stories happening. Here’s story number one: “hyper-sensitive college students suppress freedom of speech.” This was the story most people accepted at the time. The other story went like this: “college administrators and commencement speakers prove unable to handle freedom of speech.” This story, though less popular, fits the facts a little better.
Students, though loud and opinionated, have no real power; they can’t even suppress a mouse uprising in their dorm rooms without administrative help. As protests go, these were weak. Christine Lagarde, for instance, decided not to give an address at Smith’s commencement ceremony over a Change.org petition. When have you ever heard about a Change.org petition as anything other than the punchline to a joke?