Progressive Fascists Devour Tim Hunt, and Themselves

By this time what has come to be called the Tim Hunt affair has pretty well become common knowledge, having gone “viral” in the pejorative sense of the term. A malignant virus has become a virtual epidemic, precipitated by the hordes of ideological do-gooders who clutter the social media and infest the roiling bowels of academia.

To recapitulate for those who may still be in the dark: Hunt, a Nobelized physiologist, made an innocuous, self-deflating comment at a scientific conference in South Korea, poking fun both at himself and his female students. As The National Post reports, citing the transcript of Hunt’s pre-luncheon toast to a group of female journalists hosted by a trade association representing Women’s Science and Technology Associations, he said:

It’s strange that a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry. … Now seriously … Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.

Oh, the damage a joke can do in today’s repressive environment, despite the fatuous assertion that “science needs women” (science needs neither women nor men per se; it needs scientists). The poor man quickly found himself the object of a “baying lynch mob” (to quote biologist Richard Dawkins), resulting in his forced resignation from his honorary posts at University College London, the European Research Council and the Royal Society.

His most influential and virulent accuser, who helped launch the Twitter campaign which blackened Hunt’s reputation and enabled his subsequent ignominy, was a dubious academic named Connie Saint Louis, whose CV detailing her seemingly myriad accomplishments in journalism and academia is currently in the process of being serially discredited. Indeed, in some respects, according to the Daily Mail, her attestations are “demonstrably false.” St. Louis comes across as a self-promoting charlatan, her CV replete with misrepresentations regarding her career and her publication record. It beggars belief that the word of a semblant mountebank should take precedence over the lifetime achievements of a stellar member of the scientific community, who was not given the slightest chance to tell his side of the story and whose comments were not put in their facetious and exonerating context.

There can be little doubt that Sir Hunt (yes, he is knighted) is the triple victim of the radical feminist movement, the plague of political correctness that has polluted the wells of intellectual discourse, and the spineless accommodations of university administrators and institutional bureaucrats.

None of this should surprise us, but it should alarm us about the moral and intellectual degradation that has befallen the world of presumably informed opinion in the Western “social imaginary.” There is, however, even further cause for alarm, and that involves the manner in which the targets of such vendettas typically accept the prevailing cultural consensus. How often have we seen people who have committed youthful indiscretions tearfully apologizing for the putative evil of their ways? One thinks, too, of political figures caught out in sexual affairs abjectly begging forgiveness for their misdemeanors, reveling in mea culpas and mournfully vowing to reform. Why not, one may ask, simply man up and admit to what they have done with a certain virile impenitence?

In the case of Tim Hunt and his academic wife, Mary Collins, their surrender to the lie of political correctness discloses the extent to which they are complicit with their accusers. Hunt confessed that his remarks -- remarks that any sane person would account as rather funny and harmless -- were “inexcusable,” and claimed that he was “really, really sorry to have caused offense,” as he sat weeping on his sofa. His wife, while acknowledging in a Guardian article that “it was an unbelievably stupid thing to say,” rose to his defense by pointing to her credentials as a feminist “who would not have put up with him if he were sexist,” and revealing that “when Tim is not traveling for work, he does all the shopping and cooking.” Gadzooks! as the Brits used to say. What a decent, pro-feminist, socially benign, liberal thinking, house-broken exemplar of cultural rectitude Tim really is, were it only known to his attackers. How could he have been so misconceived? Despite his socially awkward and ineffably preoccupied air as a scientist who lives in another mental realm, when it comes to the crunch he truly is a progressivist at heart, a shining instance of swarm propriety.

And that is why I can feel little sympathy for Tim Hunt -- not because he let a couple of offhanded and guileless observations slip that ignited a ridiculous firestorm or because, as some aver, he should have had the self-protective smarts to camouflage or suppress his mischievous temptations, but because he didn’t have the chutzpah, the manly dignity, to stand up for himself, respond with Swiftian indignation and launch a counter-offensive. I can imagine him saying something like:

I am a Nobel prize-winning scientist with a wry sense of humor and a sterling record of accomplishment, who has worked tirelessly to promote the collective advantage of mankind, and my accusers are a cabal of self-inflated ideologues and scandal mongers who have little to recommend them. If they don’t like it, they can lump it.

But that was not to be. Where is the pride in self and in professional attainment? Where is the refusal to be intimidated by a pack of self-righteous cowards who have nothing better to do than bottom-feed off Twitter and bring down their benefactors? Why accept the role of victim and appear to recognize the ostensible justice of an unjust cause instead of gearing up for battle, affirming one’s work and character, and courageously asserting one’s spirited independence? Isn’t that what it means to be a man or, mutatis mutandis, to be a real woman?