Many moons ago, in a post on classroom radicalism and the grooming of students, I wrote,
The problem is that adversarial role-play, like that of leftist academics Grover Furr and Rhonda Garelick, has little to do with reason, refutation or how the world actually is. It does, however, have a great deal to do with how those concerned wish to seem. In order to maintain a self-image of heroic radicalism - and in order to justify funding, influence and status - great leaps of imagination or paranoia may be required. Hence the goal posts of persecution tend to move and new and rarer forms of exploitation and injustice have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untutored eye. Thus, the rebel academic tends towards extremism, intolerance and absurdity, not because the mainstream of society is becoming more racist, prejudiced, patriarchal or oppressive – but precisely because it isn’t. As mainstream society becomes less fixated by race, gender, sexuality, etc., so peddlers of grievance and victimhood must search out - or invent - something to oppose. Overstatement and escalation are all but inevitable.
This last point was illustrated with the ‘scholarship’ of Barbara Barnett, a graduate of Duke’s infamous humanities department, who claimed that college campuses have a rate of rape and violent sexual assault almost 1000 times higher than any credible calculation. Other, equally bizarre examples of activist ‘scholarship’ can be found in the archives, starting with this gem. You can imagine my dismay on discovering that my thoughts were not at all original, as Jeff Goldstein had demonstrated three years earlier:
An obvious problem with the grievance aspect of identity politics is that the grievance needs to be perpetually maintained in order to justify the identity aspect of the politics. And in an era of academic specialisation wherein just about every individual identity group has its own set of researchers and theoretical champions - as well as a widely accepted generic narrative of grievance - the observation that continued relevance (which translates into political power) is contingent upon the nursing and care of the grievance is something that too often goes unexamined by a society that, at base, really does wish to understand and fix the problems and frustrations expressed by individual identity groups.
That nursing of grievance – from hoax hate crimes to hallucinated racism - is a subject that’s cropped up here many times since. It’s a trend that’s becoming increasingly surreal. As, for instance, when Kerri Dunn, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College, slashed her own tyres and defaced her own car with abusive and racist messages, before walking over to puzzled onlookers and asking if they’d seen who was responsible. Despite being witnessed vandalising her own vehicle, Dunn protested her victimhood to faculty and police, citing a “crisis of hate” on campus, while students held rallies for “tolerance and diversity.”