Having worked as a university professor in the United States for over 30 years, I have had more than my share of run-ins with the politically correct campus crackpots. Evidently, my holding a number of lefty political views confers incomplete immunity to their predations. I would like to share my insights about this insanity with outsiders to academia.
To begin with, the real hellions in the woke mob generally come from privileged backgrounds. Almost all of them are white, and none come from the working class. Coddled children of the elite, they narcissistically stroke their fragile egos with a sense of moral self-righteousness by playing the role of the white knight in shining armor riding to the rescue of hapless victims of oppression. Notice how patronizing and condescending this is to the idealized victims, by the way.
Also, contrary to much media messaging, the typical university campus is not overrun with hordes of woke fanatics. They constitute only a very small fraction of the student population, no more than five percent, it seems to me. However, their predilection for violence, both physical and bureaucratic, acts as a force multiplier, making everyone terrified of them. About one-third of the faculty, vocal fellow travelers of the zealots and concentrated in the humanities and social sciences disciplines, egg them on, too. Consequently, they are the most politically powerful constituency on campus.
It does not help matters that the typical university administrator has the backbone of a squid, which allows the mob to roll the administration at every turn. On top of this, the university administration has a financial incentive to keep the hellions happy; after all, they come from extremely affluent families and pay full freight on tuition. The campus is then left wide open, just ripe for predation by the woke mob.
Now, all of this would be risible were it not the case that the mob is one of the primary forces driving intellectual life out of the universities. Its political potency on campus is one reason for this. Another is that the logical incoherence of its ideology makes it impossible to predict whether an utterance might fall afoul of it; therefore, everyone either keeps their mouth shut or mindlessly blathers politically correct boilerplate, hoping that a landmine does not appear underfoot.
A run-in I had with the mob about a year ago is quite revealing in this regard. One of the goons filed a complaint against me because during the COVID-19 pandemic, I jokingly quipped that having to take Zoom classes from a student’s childhood bedroom while under the watchful eyes of parents was like slavery. She felt this comment was dismissive of the oppression of our black students by slavery and therefore racist. (This student, who is not black, obviously takes self-satisfaction in looking down on black people as crybabies who wilt at the mere utterance of the s-word.) Now, who could have anticipated that according to woke mob ideology, our black students remain oppressed by slavery nearly 158 years after the Emancipation Proclamation? None of them strike me as being that old. Not surprisingly, our academic administration, instead of laughing the lunatic out of the office, asked me to apologize to the class, which I refused to do.
The Cultural Revolution in China provides illuminating parallels with the dire situation on the American college campus today. During this terrifying period, the slightest deviation from the crackpot ideology holding sway could prove fatal at the hands of the Red Guard. The grave problem that everyday Chinese people faced was that the ideology was so nonsensical that no one could ascertain in advance whether an utterance of a political character might deviate from it. The obvious safe exceptions, of course, were verbatim parrotings of slogans penned by Mao at “struggle sessions” that the Red Guard dragooned the Chinese people into attending. As a result, everyday Chinese people guarded with great care what they said, and even censored their innermost thoughts for fear that “deviant” thinking would accidentally slip into “running dog capitalist roader” speech. Such self-censorship of inner thought is now standard prudential practice on the American university campus, thanks to fear of the woke mob. (READ MORE: How Education Has Changed: A Professor’s Perspective)
One can only be struck by the similarities between the Red Guard’s struggle sessions and campus brainwashing sessions, organized by the university administration, in which white faculty and staff get dragooned into confessing their moral defects, specifically their “white privilege” and “implicit bias.” Quite tellingly, North Korean defector Yeonmi Park, reflecting on the stupefying politically correct atmosphere she had to endure as a student at Columbia University, remarked, “Even North Korea is not this nuts.” Sad to say, based on what I have seen, she is right.