Ed Driscoll

The Left Continues to Devour Itself

“Liberal Professor: My Liberal Students Terrify Me” — so naturally, he goes to Vox.com, the home of Matt “Fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do” Yglesias and Ezra “Not everything the Nazis touched was bad” Klein to spill his worst fears. In response, Ace of Spades writes, if a leftwing professor is feeling terrified by his fellow leftists still in the larva stage, “Then all is right. Terror is virtue, Robspierre said. It is through terror that we compel virtue”:

I say it’s sort of worth reading because the writer is such a leftist coward. The entire piece is framed around the argument that this New Reign of Terror is bad chiefly because it limits the potential for leftist political victories. He’s such a scaredy-cat he cannot go two paragraphs without coming back to his major point — or, possibly, his chief defense at the academic kangaroo court which will be investigating him for his heresies — that his real problem is that this gonzo identity politics militancy just blocks us from effective action to protect abortion rights. (No really, he says that.)

I’ve cut that twaddle out. Not just because I’m anti-leftist, and thus this argument bothers me on a subjective level. But because the argument is basically this: Terrorizing people into political conformity could be or would be a valid form of “arguing,” if it actually advanced leftist political goals, but it doesn’t, so it isn’t.

I tend to think that stupidity, solipsism, and social cruelty are objectively bad things, and not just bad because they fail the Marxist Ends Justify the Means test.

I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

by Edward Schlosser on June 3, 2015

I’m a professor at a midsize state school. I have been teaching college classes for nine years now…

Things have changed since I started teaching. The vibe is different. I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me — particularly the liberal ones.

Not, like, in a person-by-person sense, but students in general. The student-teacher dynamic has been reenvisioned along a line that’s simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective, giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront, and a teacher’s formal ability to respond to these claims is limited at best.

As I said, read the whole thing, especially Ace’s take-no-prisoners response to Schlosser’s Robespierre-like cri de coeur shortly before the revolution really devoured him. By the way, is the article at Vox yet another terrified academic, or was it written by the same professor who wrote anonymously this back in March? [Same author; see update at end of post — Ed]

Personally, liberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction.

The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.

Is this paranoid? Yes, of course. But paranoia isn’t uncalled for within the current academic job climate. Jobs are really, really, really, really hard to get. And since no reasonable person wants to put their livelihood in danger, we reasonably do not take any risks vis-a-vis momentarily upsetting liberal students. And so we leave upsetting truths unspoken, uncomfortable texts unread.

There are literally dozens of articles and books I thought nothing of teaching, 5-6 years ago, that I wouldn’t even reference in passing today. I just re-read a passage of Late Victorian Holocausts, an account of the British genocide against India, and, wow, today I’d be scared if someone saw a copy of it in my office. There’s graphic pictures right on the cover, harsh rhetoric (“genocide”), historical accounts filled with racially insensitive epithets, and a profound, disquieting indictment of capitalism. No way in hell would I assign that today. Not even to grad students.

Beyond that recent experience of deja vu, we’ve seen all this before, haven’t we? (And much more recently between the national and international socialist revolutions in France, Germany and Russia.) Back in December, after the left all-but-destroyed Ferguson, Ben Shapiro tweeted:

Trigger warning: we’ll have more painful ’60s flashbacks right after the page break.

To follow up on Shapiro’s tweet, just as areas such as Ferguson and Baltimore are reverting to the bad old riot-filled days of the Johnson era, today’s college environment is very much like the late ’60s as well; back then, the radical “New Left” went to work devouring the New Deal-minted “Old Left.” As David Gelernter wrote a few years ago in America-Lite, the Vietnam War was a purely left-on-left battle between Johnson-era old liberals and the new leftists, whose movement preceded Johnson’s escalation of the war:

Antiwar protests were powered by the New Left and “the Movement,” which originated in Tom Hayden’s “Port Huron Statement” of 1962, before the nation had ever heard of Vietnam. And the New Left picked up speed at Berkeley in the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and early ’65, before the explosion of Vietnam. Bitterness toward America was an evil spirit shopping for a body when Vietnam started to throb during 1965.

Similarly, today’s blue-on-blue academic environment sounds like a late night repeat of R.P.M., Stanley Kramer’s disastrous, unintentionally camp 1970 “message movie” about blue-on-blue student protests. Or as I wrote last year, after I forced myself to finally watch R.P.M. (short for “Revolutions Per Minute,”)  after it aired on TCM, and much like Easy Rider’s unintended happy ending, I found myself cheering the cops at the end of Kramer’s film, when they cleared the thuggish effete student protestors out of the campus computer building they had hijacked:

After the tear gas clears, parents pick up their kids on bail. Paco [Anthony Quinn’s earnest liberal college professor] meets with the school regents, to sign the student bail forms and other post-riot paperwork. One university regent (played a young Donald Moffat, who would go on to play a Data-like android a few years later in the craptacular Logan’s Run TV series, and then Lyndon Johnson, the ultimate ‘60s authority figure, in the film version of The Right Stuff) tells him, “Look, it was rebellion. Out and out rebellion. What the hell could you have done?

“Oh, I could have stayed in there with them.”

“And let them break the computer?”, Moffat’s character replies.

“To help them get what they want,” Paco mischievously smiles.

“What the hell do they want?”, asks another regent.

“Oh, they…they want to keep us awake at night,” replies Paco.

“What’s that supposed to mean,” asks Moffat’s character.

“If we can sleep at night with what is happening, then we ACCEPT what is happening! They won’t,” Paco tells him, while pointing towards the door, and the students being arraigned outside.

William F. Buckley couldn’t have tossed nearly a half century of liberalism and progress down the ash heap of history any better himself; that these were self-hating liberals who were wallowing in the failure of the Great Society made it all the more fascinating. You can hear the first draft of Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech in Quinn’s cri de Coeur, along with Eric Voegelin and Buckley’s admonishment to avoid immanentizing the eschaton.

So why didn’t more liberal colleges fight back against student protestors in the late ’60s?  In her 2007 book, The Death of the Grown-Up, Diana West gave one clue:

Indeed, at the University of Chicago, which may be the one campus where administrators acted swiftly to expel students who had occupied a building, “parents took out newspaper advertisements protesting the draconian punishment visited upon their darlings, thus providing a clue to what had gone wrong with their children.”

Likewise, who wants to be the leftwing professor today who wants to tell similarly leftwing parents how it all went wrong for their leftwing students before they even arrived in college?

In other words, just like the ’60s, it’s blue on blue on blue, all the way down.

For those who would like to escape this sort of madness, Kurt Schlichter offers “4 Pieces of Conservative Advice For Young Conservative Men.”

Young conservative men would be well advised to read it — and not just because, as Schlichter boasts, his career choices have led him to marry “an ‘exceedingly hot wife.’ For that reason, if no other, you should listen to me.” And to bring this post full circle, young men in and out of college would be equally well-advised to heed this advice from Schlichter: “If you see a chick hauling around a mattress, keep moving no matter how open to experimentation you hear she is. Do not become the lead in some daddy issue-plagued hysteric’s personal psychodrama.”

Related: “California’s sexual re-education camps are coming soon.”

What’s a leftist revolution where everyone on campus is guilty until proven innocent — including the professors — without the re-education camps?

Update: At NRO, Charles C.W. Cooke confirms that two articles I linked to above are both by Schlosser and as he wryly observes on Twitter, “Funny that the moment campus insanity began to hurt progressivism, progressives began to speak up…” In his article on Schlosser’s lament, Cooke asks, “Whatever became of the virtues of the cold spike of fear? Did its gleaming edge strike a little too close to home?”