Roger’s Rules

Williams College: A Modest Proposal for Adam Falk

CRF9WH Books burning in fire

Attentive readers will recall that in this space yesterday I reported on the decision by Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, to rescind an invitation to the mathematician and social commentator John Derbyshire to come to the sylvan purlieus of that elite playground and speak to the entitled, politically correct scions of the aspirant class. Adam Falk, in a campus-wide email, first declared his allegiance to free speech (“a value I hold in extremely high regard”) and then stomped all over it by smearing John Derbyshire with the all-purpose, content-free epithet “hate speech” and denying him a platform at the immaculate halls of Williams College.

After my column appeared, a friend of liberty at Williams pointed out to me that the college library contains some books written by Derbyshire.  He said two, but a little investigation revealed that the Sawyer Library actually contains four printed books by Derbyshire, Prime Obsession, a book about the Riemann hypothesis (memo to SJWs at Williams: the Riemann hypothesis has to do with math), a novel called Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream (keep calm: it has basically nothing to do with the 30th President of the United States who, yes, was a Republican–ugh), Unknown Quantitya popular history of algebra from ancient to contemporary times, and We Are Doomeda wide-ranging work of cultural pathology written from an astringently conservative but jovially undogmatic perspective.

You might think that such works would afford little material for “hate speech” miners to work with. It’s true that the two books on math and the novel are sadly deficient in this regard, but what about We Are Doomed?  Note that its subtitle is “Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism.” And, yes, just as you feared (or, secretly, just as you were hoping) it is a brief for a certain species of conservative outlook on things, not the happy, Reaganesque “it’s-morning-in-America” variety, but something closer to the view espoused by the author of Der Untergang des Abendlandes, though in much better prose and without the Teutonic inevitabilities that made Spengler such catnip for intellectually overactive adolescents of dyspeptic temperament. (Second memo to SJWs: Oswald Spengler is a dead, white, European male: you may ignore him with impunity).

There are many statements in We Are Doomed  that, regarded in a certain tenebrous light, might be thought (by Lilliputian Robespierres like Adam Falk, anyway) to be evidence of hate speech.  Consider, to take a random example, Derbyshire’s recollection of his time living in Mao’s China:  “If you wanted to hear a total-credulity, utterly unreflective parroting of the Party line, a woman was always your best bet.”

Gosh. Can you believe it?  How sexist!  It is true that Derbyshire immediately preceded that observation with a quotation from George Orwell’s 1984.  Are you sitting down? “It was always the women,” Orwell writes, “and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of orthodoxy.” Promising fodder for those in search of sexist hate speech, wouldn’t you say?

In fact, We are Doomed is chock full of disobliging observations calculated to disturb the serenity of politically correct social justice warriors. Some of his observations should be classified as micro-aggressions and be preceded by a trigger warning.  When it comes to the fraud generally described as undergraduate education at a liberal arts college circa  2016, for example, We Are Doomed  is positively hostile to the maintenance of a “safe space.” Hark: “Towering over all the lesser pathologies is the college racket, a vast, money swollen credentialing machine for middle-class worker bees. American parents are now all resigned to beggaring themselves in order to purchase college diplomas for their offspring, so that said offspring can get low-paying, outsourceable office jobs, instead of having to descend to high-paying, unoutsourceable work like plumbing, carpentry, or electrical installation.”

Shhh!  Were parents to read and absorb such things, the gravy train that is private undergraduate so-called “education” in this country would screech to a stop.  Parents might actually stop to ask about the $63,290 that is this year’s tab at the Berkshire nursery that is Williams College. They might want to know why, with $2.5 billion in the bank, they need to fork over so much dough to have Johnny and Mary be separated from every social, moral, sexual, and political value they had been brought up with. They might even start to ask about the actual substance of the education they are so lavishly funding.

We wouldn’t want that, of course, so let us draw a veil.  Indeed, let us now move to my modest proposal.  If  John Derbyshire is a practitioner of “hate speech,” as Adam Falk assured us he was, then how can Williams College, an echt correct institution where everyone believes (or at least says) the same thing about all contentious issues regarding sex, race, the virtues (or, more to the point, the vices) of traditional American values and, oh, so many other things — how can Williams, I say, countenance the presence in its midst of not one, not two, but FOUR books by the swine Derbyshire?

Adam Falk made a preliminary gesture by disinviting John Derbyshire from coming to Williams. But surely, when Williams has in its possession four of Derbyshire’s books,  that is too timid a response.  He and the deans and all right-minded (by which I mean left-leaning) students should organize a public holocaust of Derbyshire’s books.  After all, the works of someone who is guilty of expressing contraband opinions must not be allowed the implicit endorsement of space on the shelves of Sawyer Library. The Williams administration called in the FBI — the FBI! — when a racialist epithet was discovered on the wall of a student dormitory. Surely the presence of books authored by an emitter of hate speech should be publicly burned in the presence of Adam Falk and the college deans (“What a day, what a day for an auto-da-fé . . .”).  I expect members of “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Department,” the “Africana Studies” program, and kindred exercises in expensive pseudo-academic grievance mongering to take the lead here.  After all, they are not burdened with any serious academic work. They should help Adam Falk to repudiate the hurtful, offensive presence in their midst of four books by a person whom the president of Williams has publicly identified as someone guilty of hate speech.  Burning his books in public, with appropriate expressions of contrition laced with smug self-satisfaction, should go a long way towards providing a much needed catharsis.  The event should, of course, be filmed and made widely available as a model of how the contemporary American college and university ought to deal with speech that its self-appointed guardians disagree with.  It is sure to be an exemplary performance, and I am only sorry (though I am not surprised) that the Williams library has no books by me to add to the conflagration.