Fire Starters

What to Think, Not How

During Evan Coyne Maloney’s 90-minute documentary, Indoctrinate U, the historian Daniel Pipes shares his impression of the modern American university: “It’s like joining a church; you have to be a believer. You have to have the right set of views.” The nature of those views and how they’re enforced is ably documented, as example after example prompts both hilarity and alarm. During the opening titles, Professor David Clemens of Monterey Peninsula College reads out a directive regarding new course proposals: “Include a description of how course topics are treated to develop a knowledge and understanding of race, class and gender issues.” We learn that this directive isn’t confined to courses in, say, sociology or politics, but is expected of all subjects, including mathematics and ornamental horticulture. Failure to comply is not a trivial matter and, as Clemens later points out, “They’re quite ruthless about their desire for a kinder, gentler world.”

Indoctrinate_u_logoMaloney’s film begins with the campus free speech activism of the 1960s and 70s, in which his own parents took part, before highlighting how dramatically those principles have now been discarded, even upended, in many of the same universities. We see conservative speakers being shouted down, intimidated and howled off stage, unable even to start an exchange of ideas. We hear students’ accounts of incongruous political sermons being shoehorned onto lessons. (“I’ve been learning in geography class that gender is socially constructed.”) We also see a procession of academics voicing their dismay at the belligerent orthodoxy of campus politics. One psychology professor, Laura Freberg, recounts being told, “We never would have hired you if we knew you were a Republican.”

Freberg’s story is among the film’s more disturbing revelations, in that it shows how the most innocuous of details can identify someone as incompatible with orthodoxy and a target for punishment. Freberg explains how despite her excellent performance she was labelled a “problem” by her colleagues and subjected to a campaign of harassment until finally, and successfully, she sought legal remedy. Freberg’s students later admitted they’d known she was a “closet Republican” precisely because she didn’t use the classroom to air her political views.

Despite Maloney’s own right-of-centre leanings, Indoctrinate U is surprisingly non-party political and, as FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff explains, many mainstream Democrats could well be shocked by how a supposed marketplace of ideas has become so intolerant and congealed. Indeed, one wonders how many liberal parents would regard Bucknell’s Professor Geoff Schneider, who confidently asserts, “A lot of our students are unconsciously racist”, and who defines as harassment “anything that offends.” Or Professor Noel Ignatiev of the Massachusetts School of Art, who echoes the sentiments of Dr Shakti Butler and Peggy McIntosh, and says, “My concern is doing away with whiteness. Whiteness is a form of racial oppression… Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” (Schneider and Ignatiev are, of course, both white.) At Tufts and Brown universities we see how a fixation with identity politics and leftwing grievance theatre has resulted in racially segregated student orientations. Elsewhere, students are offered racially segregated housing, even segregated graduation ceremonies, and all in the name of multicultural “diversity”.

Maloney also highlights the spread of “speech codes” on hundreds of campuses, the particulars of which include, at Brown, the “banning of verbal behaviour” that “produces feelings of impotence, anger or disenfranchisement.” The University of Connecticut prohibits “inappropriately directed laughter”, while other campuses, including Colby College, have outlawed any speech deemed to result in a loss of self-esteem. Also documented are the absurd and sinister travails of several students, among them Steve Hinkle, whose flyer – advertising a speech by a black conservative author and quoting the title of his book – led to police involvement, lengthy entanglement in campus judicial proceedings and suggestions that he should seek psychological “counselling”.

Other extraordinary moments include San Francisco State University’s vehemently “pacifist” anti-military protests; the banning of patriotic expressions and symbols, including the American flag and the pledge of allegiance; and a satirical “affirmative action bake sale”, with cupcakes sold at different prices according to a person’s colour. (Needless to say, this culinary satire isn’t received terribly well and threats of arrest ensue.) 

A recurrent and revealing theme is just how readily these PC principles can be abandoned if the target is deemed politically deviant. Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, a conservative Sikh student critical of liberal bias, was unwittingly sent an email from the University of Tennessee’s Issues Committee, a student group responsible for inviting speakers to campus. Justin Rubenstein, an Issues Committee member, referred to Khalsa in less than edifying terms: “If you see one of those ragheads, shoot him right in the fucking face.” The University of Tennessee saw fit not to discipline Rubenstein or remove him from the committee. Yet when students at that same university arrived at an off-campus Halloween party dressed as the Jackson Five and complete with “black” makeup, this attention to detail resulted in the entire fraternity being suspended. 

Indoctrinate_u_security2_2Maloney’s attempts to raise these concerns with university administrators are, alas, unsuccessful, and of course symbolic. Invariably polite and decidedly unthreatening, our hero nonetheless finds himself rebuffed, then escorted off campus by burly security guards. Maloney’s alma mater, Bucknell, proves no more accommodating. (Watching these encounters almost becomes a game - guessing exactly how little time will pass before spotting the Stare of Death™ and hearing the administrator say, “Call the campus police.”) Some viewers may wonder if many faculty members are bewitched by the homogeneity of their insulated fiefdoms and are thus unaccustomed to their assumptions being challenged. Others may suspect that some of these educators are less naïve and all too happy to do in private what they cannot defend in public. Either way, a question arises for supporters of identity politics and pretentious sensitivity: What happens when the most oppressive “hegemony” in town is, in fact, your own? 

Those lucky enough to see Maloney’s film may differ in their views of exactly how this political lockstep became so pervasive and entrenched. Fixated by a Holy Trinity of race, class and gender, leftist ideologues have certainly played a pivotal role; as have squeamish administrators anxious to avoid controversy. Few, though, could deny that a serious problem exists. On the subject of an increasingly politicised classroom and the reluctance to voice unfashionable views, one student points out perhaps the greatest sin of all: “Education becomes a spectator sport.” Charming, alarming and not quite polished, Indoctrinate U is likely to amuse and enrage in more or less equal measure. If you can, see it. Then get angry. 

Watch the trailer here.

Buy the film as MPEG4 or Virtual DVD via the online store

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I just finished watching this film for the second time. I have been preaching on this exact issue for YEARS!


David Horowitz of FrontPageMag has been hammering this issue for years. The syndrome in the Universities is symptomatic of a form of religiosity among atheists. They have pissed on conventional religion, so the superficial search for meaning from the disappointed and embittered materialism of these faith tourists finds Marxism. Like Islam, Marxism just plays the victim card and serves to make them ever more angry, disappointed and embittered.

Marxism is sloppy and unsound Philosophy at best, and since its embellishment by French "thinkers" Derrida, Foucault, Sartre and the ever pernicious liars Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, it has acquired an identity of its own. It is also a useful excuse for not checking your facts or reasoning, viz. the Intellectual indolence of the armchair cynic.

It seems at root is a flaw in human nature that goes back millions of years whereby young men group together to conduct murder raids on their neighbours. Even Chimpanzees do this, so this behaviour is very deep rooted, as Andy Thomson describes here:


The Italian Communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci seems to have been one of the first to sketch out the benefits of "the Long March through the Institutions" for cultural marxists and their religion. Of course, as Maloney's film makes clear, what is beneficent to one person can be poison to another.

Useful background on Gramsci in this essay by Alberto Luzárraga.



There’s an interview with Evan Maloney linked below, in which he elaborates a little on possible causes of the phenomenon. The “long march” gets a mention.

“Some would say it goes back as far as the Frankfurt School in the early 1900s, and that it represents an ideological desire to engage in ‘the long march through the institutions.’ Certainly, if we look at it today, it appears that in academia, the long march has succeeded. The ideology of the Frankfurt School now seems to be the default position among academics.

But even though the roots of the movement may go back that far, it really was in the late 1960s when today’s crop of academics became politically active. Anti-war activists in the late 1960s ran the risk of getting drafted for Vietnam. And because they opposed that war, they naturally wanted to stay out of the fighting. So a lot of them worked around the draft by going into academic programs that would allow them to avoid the war. And finding an environment that they found friendly to their views, they stayed. And their presence served as an advertisement to like-minded people who may not have wanted to go work for ‘the man’ in the private sector. This attracted more fellow travellers into academia.

By the late 1970s, there was enough of a critical mass of ideologically-driven academics that they began to amass power within academic institutions. By controlling hiring committees, they were able to ensure that their colleagues were as ‘ideologically pure’ as they were. And by attaining power within school administrations, they were able to institute policies such as speech codes that tried to ensure that same ideological purity from their students. By the mid-1980s, we started seeing political correctness dictate the intellectual environment on campuses, and people started facing academic retribution for saying things that were ‘incorrect’ and for thinking things that ran counter to the dominant thinking. Groupthink set in, and the group became more extreme in the conformity that it demanded from people.”


"Freberg’s students later admitted they’d known she was a “closet Republican” precisely because she didn’t use the classroom to air her political views."

Story time. About ten years ago, out of the blue, I got an invitation from the College Republicans to their officer inauguration banquet. I asked around, and only one other colleague had gotten the invitation. I looked, and one of the officers was one of my students, so before class started, I asked her politely why I had been honored with an invitation. She said, "We'd like to get to know more conservative faculty."

This puzzled me, because I never, under any circumstances, bring my personal politics into the classroom, and I said as much. She said, "Yeah, that's how we knew you were a Republican."

Scary when you think about it, isn't it?

wayne fontes

Marxism is sloppy and unsound Philosophy at best, and since its embellishment by French "thinkers" Derrida, Foucault, Sartre and the ever pernicious liars Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, it has acquired an identity of its own. It is also a useful excuse for not checking your facts or reasoning, viz. the Intellectual indolence of the armchair cynic.

While I agree with your statement Jonah Goldberg's book is an example of sloppy thinking. Any definition of fascism has to include ultra-nationalism, militarism and a concentration of the economy in the hands of large corporations. Liberals oppose all of these. While I've found it amusing that many liberals have found it necessary to squeal "no your a fascist" in response to the book I feel on balance they are correct. I predict that Goldberg's going to sell a lot of books but end being viewed as the intellectual equivalent of Ann Coulter.



You've bought into liberal lies. Corporations have nothing to do with fascism -- fascists are all about national control of the economy, not private business. The Nazi and fascist regimes had to make use of existing corporate infrastructure, but the trend over time in both states was to remove more and more from private control.

Here's Hitler's final testament, written when the Red Army was knocking on the door. And who does he blame? "International money men and finance conspirators." See for yourself:

The idea that corporations are part of fascism is part of Leninist propaganda from the 1920s, trying to paint Mussolini's rise as part of the death throes of capitalism.



You mention rather a lot of names there. When do you find the time to read all of that Marx, Derrida, Foucault, Sartre, Chomsky and Said? My reading of all of those names is very far from comprehensive. But I know that they don't all agree with each other. Marx disagrees strongly with Said's view of western imperialism, for instance. He writes: "The question is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton." For Marx, rule by a Western industrial power such as Britain, although cruel, gives India the electric telegraph, the railway, the steamship and the free press, all of which ultimately make nation building and independence possible. Such an opinion is, for Said, profoundly "Orientalist", because it predicates an eastern backwardness which he refuses to accept.

Chomsky is a fierce critic of Foucault and Derrida. Here is a clip of Chomsky arguing against Foucault:

As the Wikipedia entry on Derrida notes:

Noam Chomsky has expressed the view that Derrida uses "pretentious rhetoric" to obscure the simplicity of his ideas. He groups Derrida within a broader category of the Parisian intellectual community which he has criticized for, on his view, acting as an elite power structure for the well educated through "difficult writing" and obscurantism. Chomsky has indicated that he may simply be incapable of understanding Derrida, but he is suspicious of this possibility.

For myself, I'm very conscious of how Derrida's work changes profoundly in the course of his life, from a philosophy of language to one primarily concerned with religion and ethics.



Wayne was quoting me there. My point is not that all these people agreed with each other, but that they all subscribed to a ideology based on Marx, Nietsche or some other "post modern", "structuralist" (or whatever they call it this month - they have to keep changing the name like snake-oil salesmen) mode of thinking. ALL ideology is suspect, because it puts the cart before the horse, in this case theory before fact. All can agree on facts (though these ghastly people often try to muddy the waters by talking about "truth" - personal and otherwise), but where facts are scarce, disagreement always follows. The extreme of this spectrum is, of course, Religion - no facts and people killing for baseless ideas.

As an Engineer, I know that in science and technology, such an approach leads to failure, usually in pretty short order. When I started my career, I worked for some pretty smart guys, who would spot an error long before it got into hardware or a test plan. But technical training today is a poor shadow of what it once was, and Engineers and Scientists never belonged to the elite in Britain anyway - they have a better status in most of the rest of Europe. The elite today do not get a technical training that makes them appreciate that some issues have definite right and wrong answers, that a theory - regardless of its beauty, internal logic or the number of its adherents - is *destroyed* by a *single* contradictory fact.

Would that religions and ideologies (i.e. religion-lite) could be demolished so easily, but people are lazy. Why deal with detail and marshal reams of facts when it is easier to shout "racist", "fascist" or "islamophobe"? How long did it take for a comprehensive rebuttal of Said's ludicrous "Orientalism" to be published? About 20 years, and are the people who need to read it going to read it?

Reagan would not suffer political people in his cabinet - he did policy, not politics - and would throw out any political apparatchik from his meetings. Can you imagine Carter, Clinton, Blair or Brown doing that? Thatcher understood detail, but then she got a first in Chemistry before she studied Law. The product of all this, unless it is countered, will eventually be disastrous government policies, to the detriment of us all.


There’s a longer C-SPAN interview with Evan Maloney here. It’s a large mp4 file, so it may take a while to download, but it includes clips from the film and a phone-in and it’s worth seeing.

What’s interesting is just how feeble, emotive or irrelevant many of the callers’ arguments against Maloney’s film are - which is actually one of the points the film raises. If students are spared serious and thoughtful contact with opposing arguments, their own views can easily become lazy, reflexive and glib. One can simply *feel* one is right, or ought to be, and that’s the end of the process. This should matter irrespective of one’s political leanings. If a person wants to be right about a given issue, it helps to know *why* their ideas are sound, if indeed they are. And knowing why an idea is sound generally arises from that idea being tested.



My father was an engineer, and I have a great respect for the achievements of engineers. I agree with you that the nation of Newton and Brunel holds their professions in low esteem. In the long run, this can only be bad for the UK.

Returning to Marx, Nietzsche et al. If we are going to debate the work of these writers - especially in academia - we have to be very precise and accurate about what each of them actually wrote and said. It would be wrong to criticize Derrida for expressing opinions he didn't, simply because other so-called deconstructionists did, for instance.

Does Nietzsche have an ideology in the sense that Marx does? To me, he pushes skepticism about pretty well everything to the absolute limit ("There are no facts, only interpretations"). When French writers like Foucault turn to Nietzsche, they are turning away from the historical materialism of Marx.

I don't really see how Chomsky fits into your description either. His academic work is as an expert in linguistics. Are you challenging his theory of generative grammar? What do you think is wrong with it, exactly?

Regarding science and the need for an evidence-based approach, Chomsky is more of an ally than an opponent. The Wikipedia entry on Chomsky quotes him thus:

"I think studying science is a good way to get into fields like history. The reason is, you learn what an argument means, you learn what evidence is, you learn what makes sense to postulate and when, what's going to be convincing. You internalize the modes of rational inquiry, which happen to be much more advanced in the sciences than anywhere else. On the other hand, applying relativity theory to history isn't going to get you anywhere. So it's a mode of thinking."


That man's comment about 'shooting ragheads' just because a turban wearing Sikh criticised him makes me sick to the bone. That's the kind of language racists use when they stomp on innocent Sikhs in petrol stations. Parts of the Left are an absolute disgrace. That man should have been properly punished, and that he wasn't makes me want to puke.


Great post, David.



"Metro State College is investigating a professor who asked students to write an essay critical of Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin. One student said the instructor singled out Republican students in the class and allowed others to ridicule them."



Thanks for that. It does make one wonder what kind of staff room environment would lead him to believe that such behaviour was remotely acceptable. Though I suspect we know the answer. It seems to me the only way these incidents will be curbed is when parents and students start taking legal action against the would-be indoctrinators.

sackcloth and ashes

I must admit that I am uneasy about Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz, as I get the impression that they can be as prone to invective and to hound dissenters as the academics and students they criticise.

Nonetheless, I can't help wondering what is happening in American higher education, and I fear similar developments on British campuses (as manifested by the efforts of a minority of hard-left racists in the UCU to keep trying to force a boycott on Israeli academia, despite the disinterest and open opposition of the grass roots). It also makes me wonder what happens to institutions that can only produce doctrinaire drones for a knowledge-based economy.


Sackcloth and Ashes,

Well, I’ve seen Daniel Pipes debate in public and he didn’t resort to “hounding” anyone while I was watching. I suspect he’s at least a little interested in why people who disagree with him hold the views they do. I have, though, seen Pipes being literally howled offstage by supposedly “liberal” students before he could even begin a discussion. They wouldn’t let him speak - at all - and didn’t seem terribly interested in why he held views different to theirs.

And I think that tells us something.

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