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Hybrids

Feel My Rebellion

Following recent posts on academic groupthink and campus indoctrination, this may be of interest. Mark Bauerlein ponders oppositional narcissism and the rebel professor

The Adversarial Campus Argument… says that the campus must contest the mainstream, that higher education must critique U.S. culture and society because they have drifted rightward… Several points against the Adversarial Campus Argument spring to mind, but a single question explodes it. If Democrats won the White House in ‘08 and enlarged their majorities in Congress, and if a liberal replaced Scalia on the Supreme Court, would adversarial professors adjust their turf accordingly? Would Hillary in the White House bring Bill Kristol a professorship or Larry Summers a presidency again?

Hardly, and it goes to show that the Adversarial Campus Argument isn’t really an argument. It’s an attitude. And attitudes aren’t overcome by evidence, especially when they do so much for people who bear them. For, think of what the Adversarial Campus does for professors. It flatters the ego, ennobling teachers into dissidents and gadflies. They feel underpaid and overworked, mentally superior but underappreciated, and any notion that compensates is attractive. It gives their isolation from zones of power, money, and fame a functional value. Yes, they’re marginal, but that’s because they impart threatening ideas.

The idea of academic administrators and professors picturing themselves as Luke Skywalker figures - pitted against an evil empire of oppressive bourgeois vales - is rather quaint and not without comic potential. And, as we’ve seen, ‘rebellion’ of this kind is often difficult to distinguish from absurdity, psychodrama and reactionary role-play. Take, for instance, Dr Caprice Hollins, a speaker on “multicultural issues” and currently the Director of Equity, Race and Learning for Seattle’s public schools. Hollins has famously criticised individualism, long-term planning (or “future time orientation”) and the speaking of grammatical English as “white values.” The expectation among teachers that all students should be responsible individuals and meet certain linguistic and organisational standards is, according to Hollins, a form of “cultural racism.” When not denouncing punctuality and the ability to communicate, Dr Hollins finds time to deconstruct the “myth” of Thanksgiving as “a happy time.” Speaking of her appointment in 2004, Hollins announced,

“Now I’ll be part of a system that some people see as an oppressive system. So it’s kind of this dual role - on one hand I’m part of the system and on the other, I have the role of dismantling that institutional racism… They wouldn't have hired me if there wasn't a need. I just need to find out what that need is.”

Some three years later, Hollins admitted to the Seattle Times that she had, in fact, managed to find no evidence of institutional racism in Seattle’s public schools. Dr Hollins is, of course, still employed and still claiming her $86,000 salary. Without a flicker of irony or concession, Hollins has subsequently extended her mission beyond the school gates. In order to find unspeakable wickedness “within the school system”, she is now reduced to turning over stones in children’s summer holidays, which, she claims, constitute “an example of systemic problems.” Dr Hollins is, alas, one of many Witchfinders General, whose sensitivity to oppression is apparently paranormal and whose mission to purge improper thought is unimpeded by reality.

And here’s the thing. Adversarial role-play of this kind has very little to do with 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 oppression have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untrained eye. 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.

Related. And. Also. Plus.

Fund my bourgeois conformity. I have people to oppress.

Comments

herbert

A terrific piece

mojo

One has to wonder if the Witch-finders General still use this...
http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/

KG

What a lovely post! The more these two-faced, dishonest charlatans (do I repeat myself?) are exposed, the better.

David

As a footnote, I think there’s also the careerist aspect to consider – specifically, the pressure on many academics to have something new to say – some novel (and adversarial) position which they can espouse or write a paper about. The problem is this can encourage the pursuit of shadows. If an academic is regarded as an authority of some kind on, say, racism, then new and more contentious forms of racism may have to be discovered (or fabricated), if only to warrant attention or pad out a book. If the surrounding society is not, in fact, getting worse in this regard, the actual situation may have to be embellished or distorted. This may help explain why the hugely loaded term “cultural racism” is thrown around quite casually, and why Peggy McIntosh waffles on about “invisible knapsacks of white privilege.”

Lovernios

Yes, after the carcass has long been picked clean, only the marrow remains for sustenance.

steveaz

David wrote:

"[...]new and rarer forms of oppression have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untrained eye."

This is analogous to another progressive pet-project: "universal" health care. I'm noticing a regular trickle of hyped "superbugs" and supposed epidemics, none of which ever pan out years later. Asian Bird Flu was one, and SARS was another.

5-years after we were subjected to days-long blustering about the SARS epidemic, replete with footage of masked commuters in Tokyo and Malaysia, I can't find any sign of the impending epidemic in any MSM reports.

To your wit: New and rarer forms of diseases are being discovered, many of which are truly invisible to the naked eye! If they ever existed, that is.

David

Steve,

Having trawled through plenty of Guardian commentary on racial politics, it seems to me that, for pale-skinned lefties at least, it’s very often an exercise in self-preoccupation and vanity. Far too many commentators are keen to flatter their own self-image as concerned, virtuous and superior, irrespective of whether the positions they advocate do more harm than good, and regardless of whether they perpetuate precisely the anxieties and fixations they claim to oppose. (The ideological contempt for “colour-blind” policies springs to mind as an example.) The ideologues I’ve highlighted on this site over the last few months are, unfortunately, a sampling of a more pervasive mindset, and one that seems devoid of any credible moral basis, or claim to justice, or connection with reality. The terms “institutional racism”, “white privilege” and “cultural racism” - and the tribal arguments that tend to go with them - should be met with at least one eyebrow raised and, wherever possible, a pelting with soft fruit.

steveaz

Thanks, David,
Unfortunately soft fruit doesn't leave a dent. Maybe if we tossed frozen grapefruits at 'em instead! Just jokin'!

Slightly OT, but still regarding the purposeful generation of societal psychoses that can be exploited politically: here is a link to an Oxford report that says unequivocally that SARS mortality was overstated in 2003: http://her.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/21/5/662

This Oxford link documents a more credible 5% mortality. Yet, true to form, the Leftist UK Guardian is pitching their hyped 20% mortality figure. And the NYT's hype is not much better.

Anything will do to scare us Yanks into modeling the UK's NHS!
-s

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