David Gelernter , shown here being interviewed on Fox, has recently written a book called How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture. In it he argues that graduating class after graduating class has been taught a “disdain for mere facts and for old-fashioned fact-based judgments like true or false. Schoolchildren are routinely taught theories about history instead of actual history—they learn, for example, that all nations are equally nice except for America, which is nearly always nasty.
So what if it’s not the truth? One of the most interesting properties of those theories is that they are true even if they are false. They cannot be falsified by contrary evidence — for to doubt them at all is profoundly uncivil, even hateful. Dennis Prager describes the Left’s winning formula for winning an argument with anybody: if you disagree you are evil.
Since Stalin labeled Leon Trotsky — the man who was the father of Russian Bolshevism! — a “fascist,” the Left has cast its ideological opponents as evil …
The liberal media even succeeded in blaming the right wing for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, even though his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a pro-Soviet, pro-Castro Communist …
David Blankenhorn, the prominent conservative advocate for marriage and against same-sex marriage … [became] … “During the trial [over the constitutionality of Proposition 8] and in the immediate aftermath … a national figure; he was . . . the butt of ridicule. . . . And now, he has decided to give up that fight.
“Blankenhorn would be ridiculed in the New York Times, and he would be . . . [ridiculed] in a play by an Oscar-winning screenwriter, starring a bevy of Hollywood stars.”
Blankenhorn told Oppenheimer: “I had an old community organizing buddy who wrote a note to me after the trial and said how does it feel to be America’s most famous bigot? I used to think you were a good person. Now I know you’re a bad person. How does it feel to know that your tombstone will read that you’re just a bigot?”
… just one day after a deranged man, Jared Loughner, attempted to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and murdered six people in the process, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that it was right-wing hate that had provoked Loughner: “It’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence. Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right.” Krugman made it all up.
But even when you make it all up, as Krugman did, it is still true. Once the accusation of hatred is leveled against the heretic it is always potentially true even if it is actually false. Take the case of Alexandra Pennell, a student at Central Connecticut State University, who claimed she was the target of threats and hate speech because she was openly lesbian. She said that threatening notes had been slipped under her dorm room door. It turned out to be false.
After the notes were found in Alexandra Pennell’s room at Central Connecticut State University in March, hundreds came out in support of the student at a campus rally against hate crimes.
But when police hid a camera along the hallway outside her room, they allegedly caught her leaving the notes herself – and she admitted she had written them to get the attention of her roommate …
She reported the first note on March 7 and police immediately launched an investigation. Six days later, she told police she had found another note after returning from the shower.
But a video surveillance system placed in her room to identify the person behind the notes had been disabled just before the note was slid under her door and police found that a cable had been pulled out of the device.
Pennell suggested she may have pulled out the cable when she opened a desk drawer, but when police reconstructed this possibility, they were unable to dislodge the cable.
So without letting her know, Lt. Edward Dercole of the CCSU police placed another camera in a hallway closet and watched as she allegedly slid a note under the door herself.
But before the video evidence showed a hoax had been perpetrated there was a huge upwelling of anger against the “bigots” and other students began to experience similarly threatening vibes, as this video below shows.
When the hoax was revealed Pennell was barred from attending any state university for 5 years and may face criminal charges for fabricating evidence. But that did not stop the university spokesman from saying “we remain proud, however, of the campus community’s response to what we believed was an act of bias, and we reaffirm now what was said then: Acts of bias and hate will not be tolerated at CCSU”. Acts of bias and hate, even when they didn’t exist in the first place.
But it could have existed, or rather it did all along, even in the Pennell case, only the real hate crime was completely misidentified. Pennell wasn’t being singled out for anything. The actual hate crime was that everyone was ignoring her. Here is what she said:
When police first confronted her about the notes, she insisted she was not behind them.
And when they told her about the second camera, she admitted she had left a couple of the notes, but said the rest had been real. Eventually, she admitted to posting all of the notes.
She told police she had faked them to get the attention of her roommate, Siobhan Dooley. She said she hoped the incidents would make Dooley spend more time with her.
Pennell also wrote a letter to Dooley in which she allegedly said she left the notes as she feared her close friends were slipping away, the Courant reported.
She added that she continued leaving the notes because of the attention it brought her.
The last and worst offense against an ideological cause is to pay it no mind. In Pennell’s case her need was probably more personal. For some converting to Islam, becoming a follower of Xenu or adopting a certain sexual orientation is as much an attempt to attract attention, to escape from mediocrity as much as the attraction to the cause itself. Without the “lesbian” martyrdom to give her cachet, poor Pennell would have been a rather ordinary kid, who one might feel a little sorry for.
In each of the cases Prager mentioned — Stalin, the JFK assassination, gay marriage or Giffords — the supposed villains were merely foils — “a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character”. Hate speech is less about hate than it is about “do not oppose this cause”.
Trotsky was vilified in order to cover the crimes of Stalin. The CIA was posited on the grassy knoll to minimize the involvement of the Cuban-supported Oswald, Louchner was the stand-in for all the right wing assassins who never were and Blankenthorn was nothing at all; just a McGuffin to cloak the actual cultural aggressors. An example pour encourager les autres.
The poisonous academic theories that Gelertner rails on about are sold not by argument but by disinformation; dezinformatsiya and bullying. They are advanced by the process of group think and peer pressure. This is how the theories of Climate Change, Critical Race Theory and alternative history became the “scientific consensus” whatever their actual merits. This is how the academy corrupts its own knowledge stores. Left to itself it will eventually destroy the university.
Perhaps it already has.
Gelertner does not have an opinion on whether the process is reversible. He only says that it is important not to give up. But perhaps the traditional university model is already doomed, condemned by its high costs, increasingly worthless degrees and competition from new learning models. And who knows? Argument by name-calling may fail in the end. Maybe Blankenhorn’s tombstone won’t read “bigot”, just the dates of birth and death of a man who once had an opinion and that he had it while he lived.
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The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
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No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99