A Fear Of Cheese
Friday Ephemeraren’t

The Year Reheated

In which we marvel at the mental contortions of our self-imagined betters.

The year began with searing insights from the world of academia. Specifically, London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, where black student activists denounced objectivity as an “alienating” concept, and issued numerous demands, allegedly to challenge stereotypes of student laziness and inadequacy. It turns out that the way to avoid any appearance of such things is to complain about the “stress and anxiety” of being corrected, or disagreed with, especially by people who are insufficiently brown and deferential. Elsewhere, the psychological reverberations of Donald Trump’s election victory continued to be felt, as when a charmingly progressive lady sensed a fellow plane passenger’s failure to vote as she did and promptly threatened to vomit on him. Other pious lefties signalled their moral superiority by planning to sabotage transport infrastructure, stranding and distressing countless random people, and thereby reminding us that “social justice” posturing is often difficult to distinguish from petty malice or outright sociopathy. Meanwhile, Laurie Penny preferred to advocate “spite” as a guiding progressive principal, as if this were a new and novel development.

February provided further illustrations of this fashionable malice, as when educators at the University of Cincinnati bemoaned the fact that their attempts to inculcate unrealism, dishonesty and pretentious racial guilt were still being met with pockets of resistance. Objecting to slander and brow-beating by bigoted mediocrities is, we learned, merely “white fragility” and therefore, somehow, damning proof of racism. Racial fixations were also in play at the Writing Centre at the University of Washington, Tacoma, the stated goal of which is to “help writers succeed in a racist society,” a goal to be achieved by denouncing grammar as “an unjust language structure,” and the correction of punctuation as “an oppressive practice.” Because those ungrammatical job applications, the ones enlivened with incomprehensible sentences and lots of inventive spelling, will do just fine. We also learned of the steep price to be paid for small acts of courtesy – namely, holding open a door for a Guardian contributor with weight issues and a gift for hysterical screaming

Accessorising was an unexpected topic of discussion in March, when the crushingly put-upon students at Pitzer College, Claremont, California, informed the world that “winged eyeliner and big hoop earrings” are “an everyday act of resistance,” and should therefore be the exclusive ornamentation of the slightly brown and radical. Elsewhere, at Middlebury College, Dr Charles Murray attempted to give a lecture on, among other things, the dangers of tribalism and social fragmentation, only to be met with tribal hysteria and an actual riot, complete with slanderous chants, hospitalised staff and students wearing ski masks

In April, the immense, frustrated love machine Caleb Luna wondered why his Grindr profile attracts so little interest. Carefully sidestepping the possibility of weight loss, Mr Luna decided that the rest of us must “interrogate” our “phobias,” which is to say our preferences, and consequently start lusting after “alternative bodies.” Specifically, bodies like Mr Luna’s. Avoiding the obvious was also a theme in the world of performance art, where Shannon Cochrane and Márcio Carvalho unwittingly entertained us with their deep thoughts, shifting paradigms and heads wrapped in meat. Another highlight of the month came via Everyday Feminism’s Emily Zak, who wanted us to know that the allure of fresh air is, like everything else, terribly oppressive, due to the “painfully heteronormative” nature of wildland firefighting, and a shortage of adverts featuring gay people kayaking in a suitably gay-affirming manner. 

Artistic innovations were at the forefront of May, when performance artist Sarah Hill shook our tiny mental worlds with a “temporal historical rupture” that is “cathartically dialogical,” and achieved by falling over repeatedly while dressed as Wonder Woman. No less impressive were the attempts to “transform” middle-school children by making maths lessons “intersectional,” thereby furthering the cause of “social justice.” A process that entailed reducing the time available for humdrum things like trigonometry and using it instead to teach children to “subvert power,” while scorning maths itself as a “dehumanising tool.” 

June brought us a “guerrilla performance” by “artist, healer and dancer” Shizu Homma, who “interrogates the human condition” with her creative tremendousness. The month also brought us not one, but two illustrations of what happens when leftwing student psychodrama is allowed to run its course. And not entirely unrelated, we also pondered news that expired pet owners are sometimes eaten by their own dogs, cats and hamsters

In July, we once again witnessed the educational benefits of “an academic background in gender studies,” and self-declared activist and single mother Jody Allard impressed us with her exemplary feminist parenting, and a determination to humiliate her own teenage sons, publicly and in print, for the sins of being white and male, and therefore, obviously, potential rapists.

Google software developer James Damore rose to notoriety in August by politely questioning the gospel of identity politics, promptly getting fired for it, and triggering a truly boggling display of near-total media dishonesty. Elsewhere, at the University of Florida, identity politics devotees complained about the “violence” of not being taken seriously, while demanding the construction of two entirely separate buildings to house the university’s black and Latino student groups, because sharing a building, or at least an entrance lobby, would “erase and marginalise their black and brown bodies.” August also provided several vivid insights into the psychology of “social justice,” as when a mob of severely educated student Mao-lings demanded “empathy” while laughing at accounts of random beatings and then assaulting people themselves, in the name of tolerance. In the pages of The Atlantic, educator Alice Ristroph watched a total eclipse and somehow saw nothing but racism; while fellow educator Dr A.W. Strouse, whose works include Literary Theories of the Foreskin and deep ruminations on the preputial connotations of aluminium cans, signalled his radicalism by advising students to say “fuck you” to potential employers during job interviews. 

Our sexual horizons were broadened in September when we learned of the phenomenon of “ecosexuality” and the orgasmic delights of rock rubbing, tree licking and frottage al fresco. Meanwhile, academia’s Clown Quarter continued to bewilder. Dr Michael Isaacson, an adjunct professor specialising in “anti-capitalist economic theories” at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, repeatedly tweeted his enthusiasm for the murder of random police officers, and of future officers, including his own students. And Harvard-educated sociology professor Crystal Fleming championed the looting of trainers while the law-abiding were distracted by an oncoming hurricane

October brought us more unhinged educators, among them, University of Pennsylvania teaching assistant Stephanie McKellopp, whose areas of expertise include “self-marriage” and “racial blame,” and who signalled her wokeness by announcing her classroom policy of ignoring white male students. We were also told, by Charles Davis, a professor of education at the University of Southern California, that any hint of consequences for acts of thuggery on campus is “racist” and “unfair,” as it creates “an unsafe and threatening environment” for students who like to indulge in coercive and threatening behaviour.  

At the University of California, Irvine, the identity-politics contingent displayed its mental brilliance again in November, and also at Ballou High School, Washington, DC, where, thanks to “social justice,” students who are barely literate and rarely seen in class all somehow graduated and were promptly waved through the gates of a college or university. And at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, the sadistic, fever-dream world of leftist educators was caught on tape quite shockingly, when teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd found herself being accused of “targeted violence” and of being “threatening,” for remaining politically neutral and politely presenting both sides of an argument.

As the year drew to a close, we witnessed the mental disarray wrought by competitive virtue signalling, wherein racial wokeness veered towards Gorillas in the Mist territory. And we learned that standards of diligence and proficiency are racist and oppressive, according to Purdue University’s Dr Donna Riley, who congratulates herself for her own “alternative ways of thinking,” and who scorns expectations of rigour and competence as “exclusionary,” mere tools of “privilege,” and therefore unfair to women and minorities, for whom rigour and competence are presumably impossible.

So. Quite a year.