27 votes

Academics are really, really worried about their freedom

81 comments

  1. [5]
    tindall
    (edited )
    Link
    I can only provide my experience as a recent graduate of a small liberal arts college in the Midwest which is currently dealing with a racist legacy and significant inequity. There were a lot of...
    • Exemplary

    I can only provide my experience as a recent graduate of a small liberal arts college in the Midwest which is currently dealing with a racist legacy and significant inequity.

    There were a lot of instances of what this author is discussing here, but as far as I know, they were mostly among the students. I myself was "cancelled" among the queer community on campus for not conforming to their idea of a "responsible" trans person. It certainly had a social effect on me, and it was unpleasant. One professor was even "cancelled" for her role in creating a (cross-department) syllabus that was perceived as elevating white voices speaking about POC over the voices of POC themselves. As far as I know, this lead to her enrollment numbers dropping slightly and not much else.

    On the other hand, there were a number of instances where professors did egregiously awful things and had no consequences. One film professor showed my boyfriend's a graphic rape scene with no warning at all. Someone in the class threw up and dropped the class the next day; that part of the film was not discussed further in the course, and the professor was not reprimanded, nor was the syllabus updated with so much as a note. Another professor, in a class I had, demonstrated a sorting algorithm by manhandling students to move them into different locations in the classroom. Several of us felt quite uncomfortable, and expressed this to him. When he said the demo was critical (believe me, it was not), we complained to the acting dean. Nothing was done.

    On the other hand, the main thing I would really call a "crisis" during my time at the school was the work of four very well-funded students who started a chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom and began to invite speakers of rising levels of controversiality, culminating in Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary group Blackwater.

    The student body at large was not amused, and managed to engineer a situation that so scared this battle-hardened ubermensch that he did not appear on stage and instead spent thirty minutes hiding in the women's restroom before fleeing campus. The tactics used were absolutely brutal, including moving furniture, drumming, playing pop music on speakers, and walking around in drag.

    There are other genuine crises in academic freedom and the safety of the academy. Three out of my four years saw a significant hate crime or hate act targeting marginalized students. In my sophomore year, white nationalists put up recruiting posters all over campus. These events lead to a number of people of color dropping out because they felt so unsafe. It also lead to some students making pretty serious demands of the administration, including to fire a tenured professor because he refused to condemn these acts. This is a real problem - but of course the administration didn't do it.

    I'm very skeptical of this person and his assertions. The "open letter" he mentions is essentially a bunch of journalists and writers asking for a license to verbally abuse trans people, and was signed by a lot of well-known anti-LGBTQ activists. The Heterodox Academy study mentioned does not actually provide, as he asserts, "hard evidence" that academics are being oppressed by leftist cancel culture; simply that they don't feel comfortable saying controversial things. In my experience, professors making assertions like "universal exploitation of labor is bad for the economy" or "profit takes priority to human rights in the US" or even "we observe significant human rights abuses in Israel" has much more significant and much more real consequences than even overtly hateful nonsense like "Black people are less intelligent than whites", even within "cancel culture."

    EDIT: I also want to point out that there are much more pressing issues in SLACs currently. I was heavily involved in activism for my first 3 years in college, and it was entirely focused on getting fair wages for student workers and reducing discrimination against disabled students. If they're anything like the ones at Beloit, these same professors, among other things, take significant advantage of extremely strict anti-accomodation policies, including requiring students to disclose the traumatic events leading to professionally-diagnosed PTSD and denying students the doctor-requested extra time on exams.

    I'm a fac-brat. I know that professors need their academic freedom. But most of these people are frankly just whining. Students are in a much worse situation, and will continue to be so as fascism rises in this country; we can sit around worrying about senior profs getting their feelings hurt, or we can handle the academic labor crisis, the increasing lack of tenure-track positions, and the funding cuts to the humanities made by increasingly right-wing governments, the hate crimes on campuses, the unsafe environment created by handsy instructors, the inability of many students to afford an education at all. The list goes on.

    EDIT 2: I should mention that the student counterprotestors playing drums and moving chairs scared the admin so much than when the same student group invited Vice President Dick Cheney, the entire fucking campus got put on lockdown by armed police. It was terrifying. As a student activist at the time, I'm almost certain that nobody was planning to lift a finger against the guy, because we knew that nobody was going to show up to see him speak.

    The power imbalance here is not the students against the professors, but the administration against everyone else.

    27 votes
    1. [4]
      onelap32
      Link Parent
      This characterization is not exactly helping the political divide. You use "ubermensch", subtly implying that Prince is a Nazi, and you specifically note that he was in the women's restroom, which...

      The student body at large was not amused, and managed to engineer a situation that so scared this battle-hardened ubermensch that he did not appear on stage and instead spent thirty minutes hiding in the women's restroom before fleeing campus.

      This characterization is not exactly helping the political divide. You use "ubermensch", subtly implying that Prince is a Nazi, and you specifically note that he was in the women's restroom, which comes off as an attempt to emasculate him. Regardless of whether one agrees with Prince's views or conduct, this sort of writing only harms the "meeting of minds" that society relies on.

      7 votes
      1. tindall
        Link Parent
        He called himself this in an interview with Soldier of Fortune magazine that someone sent a photocopy of around the campus mailing list. I apologise for using an inside joke. I meant it as a...

        You use "ubermensch", subtly implying that Prince is a Nazi

        He called himself this in an interview with Soldier of Fortune magazine that someone sent a photocopy of around the campus mailing list. I apologise for using an inside joke.

        you specifically note that he was in the women's restroom, which comes off as an attempt to emasculate him

        I meant it as a reference to the hand-wringing this author has engaged in regarding trans women in the past. It's also fact.

        this sort of writing only harms the "meeting of minds" that society relies on

        I'm no more interested in a meeting of the minds with Prince than I am with Manson or al-Qurashi. The man is a literal murderer by even the strictest definition.

        22 votes
      2. no_exit
        Link Parent
        mocking a fascist responsible for murdering civilians with paramilitary death squads is in fact not harmful whatsoever

        mocking a fascist responsible for murdering civilians with paramilitary death squads is in fact not harmful whatsoever

        18 votes
      3. moonbathers
        Link Parent
        The guy's a warlord if there ever was one. His paramilitary squads have a whole lot of war crimes and human rights violations and I don't think he's going to listen to what we say, regardless of...

        The guy's a warlord if there ever was one. His paramilitary squads have a whole lot of war crimes and human rights violations and I don't think he's going to listen to what we say, regardless of how we say it.

        14 votes
  2. [6]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm usually someone who likes to explore nuance and gray areas and all that good stuff, but I'm going to confidently call the shot on this in a way I normally don't: "Cancel culture" is a...
    • Exemplary

    I'm usually someone who likes to explore nuance and gray areas and all that good stuff, but I'm going to confidently call the shot on this in a way I normally don't:

    "Cancel culture" is a weaponized misrepresentation of a larger problem: harassment.

    Here's what I mean by that: "cancel culture" is almost exclusively used by people on the right to critique the left for penalties administered by a "mob" for someone who is out of alignment with leftist dogma, and it's defined by a sense of injustice and outrage at disproportionate harms being levied against undeserving targets.

    The reason I call it "weaponized" is because it's a deliberately partisan framing that plays right into an ongoing and widespread culture war, and it's transparently dishonest in particular because so many examples of "cancel culture" do not get lumped under that umbrella when they don't align with the "left = bad" implications of the term.

    For example, the single largest instance of "cancel culture" that I can identify in the past decade would have to be Gamergate. To the unfamiliar, this was an event where someone aired a grievance about someone to a community, which then took it upon themselves to "cancel" her. It was an absolute firestorm and is, years later, still smouldering.

    I have never, ever seen Gamergate referred to as "cancel culture". It is the prototypical example, and it has all the hallmarks, but it exists in the giant partisan blindspot that "cancel culture" deliberately fails to examine because it was people on the right taking down someone on the left.

    I've shared before about how I got hatemobbed on reddit by a bunch of misogynistic people because they thought I was a woman. Was this "cancel culture" from the right? It sure felt like it!

    When I was in college, I had enough anti-gay stuff happen to me that I became good acquaintences with the person who took reports for the university's anti-hate hotline. I would call to report something, he'd ask if I was okay, I'd reply that I was fine and just wanted to make sure it was documented, and he'd say okay and then we'd go on our merry ways until I called the next week. Where was the rallying cry about "cancel culture" from the right against the people writing "fag" on my whiteboard or spitting on me when I ran a booth for our LGBT organization? I had two people who tried to get me fired from my college job for being gay. I'm a small fry in the grand scheme of things yet I've been being cancelled for a long time now, but the people beating the "cancel culture" drum the loudest don't seem to notice when those sorts of things happen to people like me. That would convey "right = bad", which is explicitly outside "cancel culture's" framework.

    I say all of this to take the wind out of the sails of "cancel culture" as a talking point, but that doesn't mean we can consider the problem solved. Instead, I think it's deeply important that we understand that there genuinely is a problem here, but it's consistently and deliberately misidentified. "Cancel culture" is a distortion. It's what we see when harassment is standing in a funhouse mirror.

    And harassment is a genuine problem. Hate mobs are a genuine problem. The ability for disproportionate harm to be levied as punishment for perceived wrongdoing is a genuine problem. None of these are partisan, and all of them are enabled and exacerbated by social media.

    There's a secondary piece here that I don't see a lot of people talk about. I think the reason we are seeing an increase in harassment-as-mob-justice events is partially because people have lost faith in standard measures for accountability. If, societally, we could trust leaders to enforce rules and properly administer consequences fairly, then we wouldn't have such a strong desire to enact accountability ourselves. However, the trajectory of our modern lives at present is a widespread loss of faith in leadership and fairness at seemingly every level. And if we can't trust that people in power will do their jobs, then we'll have to do it for them using the tools we have, right? The ends justify the means, right?

    I fear that stories of "harassment overreach" aren't going to get any better because we're no longer satisfied with the idea that any given person will get their just desserts in the absence of accountability. We've seen too many people get away with things for too long that we've decided to take matters into our own hands. This is a dark and demoralizing place to be, but I think it says as much about the flaws in our institutions as it does about the flaws in our society.

    30 votes
    1. [3]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      Exactly! And this is why I almost automatically reject these kinds of terms. "Cancel Culture", "Woke", "Fake News", "Antifa", "Virtue Signaling", etc., are all quite literally newspeak. They exist...

      Exactly! And this is why I almost automatically reject these kinds of terms. "Cancel Culture", "Woke", "Fake News", "Antifa", "Virtue Signaling", etc., are all quite literally newspeak. They exist to reframe things in ways that benefit the speaker. Like you mention before, "cancel culture" has older historical examples, but we don't ever take those into account. The same with every other modern "culture war" internet vocabulary and turn of phrase.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that the major gains for the right in our culture are directly caused by their use of language against the left. The right seems to be dominating the conversation because they are reinventing the wheel and the majority of people do not see it as the shoddy replica that it actually is.

      10 votes
      1. [2]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        You could add “Karens” to the list as another memorable term that seems to be irresistible to many. Some words identify the speaker as a member of a particular subculture, but other words are...

        You could add “Karens” to the list as another memorable term that seems to be irresistible to many.

        Some words identify the speaker as a member of a particular subculture, but other words are catchy enough to get picked up more generally. (“Woke” for example.) Irony and re-appropriation means they can be used all over the place.

        It’s often good to step back and think about what you really know and how to say it without jargon.

        6 votes
        1. onyxleopard
          Link Parent
          There is a tension here with the natural propensity of language to want to lexically compress certain concepts. I think there is a certain parsimonious aesthetic that demands lexical gaps to be...

          There is a tension here with the natural propensity of language to want to lexically compress certain concepts. I think there is a certain parsimonious aesthetic that demands lexical gaps to be filled by pithy names. You can look to theories like Generative Lexicon to see @Akir’s point and your point regarding the need to examine especially the telic and agentive qualia of neologisms (that is, their function and their provenance/etymology). Some neologisms do stick around and become part of the lexicon more generally, and it’s usually because there is a real lexical gap that they are filling, rather than being a newfangled synonym or merely a slight compression over previous terms.

          4 votes
    2. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Good point about the vocabulary. I wonder what would be a neutral term for this phenomenon? It seems like certain terms get picked up by populists based on bluntness. For example, “fake news” was...

      Good point about the vocabulary. I wonder what would be a neutral term for this phenomenon?

      It seems like certain terms get picked up by populists based on bluntness. For example, “fake news” was originally about made-up news articles from websites that pretended to be news organizations, before it got picked up by Trump and now means any news story that you think is wrong.

      It seems like “cancel culture” gets repeated mostly due to alliteration. If people started using it for harassment of women like in gamer gate, I’m not sure that’s wrong? But it still seems like vocabulary to be avoided.

      I guess we could be more specific about tactics. Sending critical mail, threats, doxing people, boycotts, and trying to get people fired are all tactics that have been used for both good and bad purposes. And there are legit channels to make complaints that might get people fired, but it depends on what sort of complaint it is. Wanting to speak to a manager isn’t necessarily wrong.

      Also, scale matters. One critical message is a lot different than a thousand. But the people sending it may have no idea about the scale of the thing they are participating in.

      It seems like the end result is that everyone feels insecure, regardless of how secure they actually are. It’s naive to assume that if you’re innocent then whatever decision-making process protects your job is going to rule in your favor.

      3 votes
      1. kfwyre
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        It's hard to put a single label on it, since there's a confluence of issues: There's a continuum of discourse that stretches from critique to abuse. There's a continuum that stretches from...

        It's hard to put a single label on it, since there's a confluence of issues:

        There's a continuum of discourse that stretches from critique to abuse.

        There's a continuum that stretches from pushback to punishment.

        There's an amplification of information enabled primarily by social media's immediacy and connectedness.

        There's an amplification of reaction enabled primarily by social media's large population sizes and scope.

        There's a tendency for understatement of harm to create the perception that the aggregate outcomes are justified.

        There's a tendency for overstatement of harm to create the perception that the aggregate outcomes are disproportionate.

        There's misrepresentation and falsification of information in order to bait others into action.

        There's the sowing of doubt and disbelief about genuine information in order to temper others' reactions.

        There's the doctrine of "fair game" that makes abuse and harrassment "justifiable" if the target is considered deserving of it.

        In writing it out like this, I think part of the reason it's hard to put a single label on it is that it can't be whittled down into a single thing. I also think that's part of why "cancel culture" as a term has such stickiness, because it is a distillation of these complex things, however, I'd argue that it's ultimately useless for anything other than being a culture war salvo, as it's only referring to a very specific configuration of these aspects, and in a way that's outright misrepresentative of their larger framework.

        If I had to pick one "name" to best identify the root issue, it would simply be "distributed harassment". It's the idea that no matter the event, its details, or the alignments or beliefs of anyone involved, something of this type can be best identified by a many-to-one dynamic that creates pressures which cause allegedly disproportionate harm to their target.

        It's not catchy or flashy like "cancel culture" but it's the best, most neutral, and most intellectually honest way I can convey the concept.

        12 votes
  3. [22]
    thundergolfer
    Link
    Sorry what? No it doesn't demonstrate that at all. Yes studies have found that white liberals respond more strongly on social justice than people of color, but that's easily explained by the fact...

    This episode represents a pattern in the letters, wherein it is white students who are “woker” than their Black classmates, neatly demonstrating the degree to which this new religion is more about virtue signaling than social justice.

    Sorry what? No it doesn't demonstrate that at all. Yes studies have found that white liberals respond more strongly on social justice than people of color, but that's easily explained by the fact that white liberals are more able to come to understand and then challenge status quo political structures.

    We can clutch pearls about SJW campus drama, but it's just totally wrong that the relative prominence of young white liberal types identifies that a movement is about virtue signalling.

    Would the fact that white liberal types like Noam Chomsky were leading the anti-war movement during the 60s, and were probably more openly strident about it than your average Vietnamese-American, indicate that the movement was about virtue signalling?

    17 votes
    1. [12]
      moonbathers
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      On average, we probably have more energy to push back since we're not dealing with racism all the time. This whole "conservatives are being censored on campus!!" thing is completely overblown.

      Yes studies have found that white liberals respond more strongly on social justice than people of color, but that's easily explained by the fact that white liberals are more able to come to understand and then challenge status quo political structures.

      We also on average On average, we probably have more energy to push back since we're not dealing with racism all the time. This whole "conservatives are being censored on campus!!" thing is completely overblown.

      11 votes
      1. [11]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        I don’t know anything more about what’s happening at universities than what I read in the press, but according to the article, it’s not about conservatives anymore. How do you learn what’s going on?

        I don’t know anything more about what’s happening at universities than what I read in the press, but according to the article, it’s not about conservatives anymore. How do you learn what’s going on?

        2 votes
        1. [10]
          moonbathers
          Link Parent
          I'm not necessarily going on anything more than articles about it and my experience as a college student in the first part of the 2010s. I think it's overblown for a few reasons: conservatives...

          I'm not necessarily going on anything more than articles about it and my experience as a college student in the first part of the 2010s. I think it's overblown for a few reasons:

          • conservatives tend to have a victim complex and are very loud about it.
          • they also intentionally go into hostile territory to stir up an inevitable protest which they then use to play victim, similar to Mike Pence going to and then walking out of that Colts game a few years ago.
          • not a lot of people at colleges are conservative because being exposed to new ideas and different kinds of people makes you more empathetic which makes you less conservative.
          • the free speech defense is disingenuous. No one actually being censored and you can find College Republican groups at every big campus in the country. The free speech defense is what you use when you have no better argument to defend yourself, that what you're doing or saying isn't literally illegal.
          • at least in Wisconsin, the Republican legislature is the one actually trying to suppress viewpoints that oppose their own, as I wrote about a few weeks ago.
          • conservatives are often hated on college campuses because their views are just trash. It's like expecting John McClain to be treated ok when he walked into Harlem wearing a sandwich board with racial slurs in Die Hard 3.

          “Imagine expressing your views about a controversial issue while at work, at a time when faculty, staff, and/or other colleagues were present. To what extent would you worry about the following consequences?” To the hypothetical “My reputation would be tarnished,” 32.68 percent answered “very concerned” and 27.27 percent answered “extremely concerned.” To the hypothetical “My career would be hurt,” 24.75 percent answered “very concerned” and 28.68 percent answered “extremely concerned.” In other words, more than half the respondents consider expressing views beyond a certain consensus in an academic setting quite dangerous to their career trajectory.

          This seems to me like men being afraid of talking to women because they'll be accused of something. It's completely overblown and as long as you are honest and respectful you'll be fine. I really wonder what views these people have that they're so worried about losing their careers over.

          “Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.”

          Have either of these things ever actually happened anywhere?

          The author of this article, like many others, tries to portray "woke" people as authoritarians when that's not at all the case; they just want people to be treated equally and respectfully. They've already got a side in this battle and have no interest in understanding the other side:

          Valid intellectual and artistic endeavor must hold the battle against white supremacy front and center, white people are to identify and expunge their complicity in this white supremacy with the assumption that this task can never be completed, and statements questioning this program constitute a form of “violence” that merits shaming and expulsion.

          This framing of what white people are being asked to do is disingenuous and comes close to "white people are made to feel guilty for being white", which is not at all the case. White people often feel threatened by being asked to confront the ways that they're biased, and it is difficult to face and deal with, but this isn't some sort of situation where people are being ostracized if their social credit score isn't high enough. I'm sure a lot of the white people who have been out protesting in support of BLM aren't perfect and have their biases, but they're still welcomed. I'm really surprised that the person who wrote this article is black.

          The author makes it sound like Steven Pinker is the victim of an angry mob, but I read the open letter to the LSA and it's really not good. They show that he has a history of downplaying violence against women and black people. Downplaying Elliot Rodger's motivation for killing in particular is a really, really bad look.

          I also wrote about "cancel culture" a few weeks ago.

          11 votes
          1. [9]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            Most of that is about what conservatives are doing. Based on his Wikipedia article, the author doesn't appear to be a conservative, so I don't see how it's all that relevant here? In the next...

            Most of that is about what conservatives are doing. Based on his Wikipedia article, the author doesn't appear to be a conservative, so I don't see how it's all that relevant here?

            “Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.”

            Have either of these things ever actually happened anywhere?

            In the next sentence, there is a claim that it did:

            exactly this, he says, happened to his predecessor.

            7 votes
            1. [8]
              moonbathers
              Link Parent
              Alright, I missed that. I'd be interested in knowing what actually happened there though. I'm open to seeing examples of non-conservative professors being "cancelled", but I haven't seen any that...

              exactly this, he says, happened to his predecessor.

              Alright, I missed that. I'd be interested in knowing what actually happened there though.

              Most of that is about what conservatives are doing. Based on his Wikipedia article, the author doesn't appear to be a conservative, so I don't see how it's all that relevant here?

              I'm open to seeing examples of non-conservative professors being "cancelled", but I haven't seen any that I remember. This is not to say that people never overreact or that no one has ever been unjustly "cancelled", but I think it doesn't happen nearly as often as "free speech" (put in quotes because that's not usually what they're actually doing) advocates claim it does.

              6 votes
              1. [7]
                skybrian
                Link Parent
                Well, the article sort of has evidence, but it's anonymized so I guess it depends if you think the author is representing his correspondents accurately.

                Well, the article sort of has evidence, but it's anonymized so I guess it depends if you think the author is representing his correspondents accurately.

                6 votes
                1. [6]
                  Micycle_the_Bichael
                  Link Parent
                  I think it also matters if the people writing to him are being honest. I find this really hard to believe given how many people I know who have filed Title IX complaints after being sexually...

                  I think it also matters if the people writing to him are being honest.

                  One professor notes, “Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.”

                  I find this really hard to believe given how many people I know who have filed Title IX complaints after being sexually assaulted on campus and all of them got swept under the rug to protect the reputation of the school.

                  6 votes
                  1. [4]
                    skybrian
                    Link Parent
                    I don't know but it seems like both could be happening, at different schools? It wouldn't be all that surprising if colleges varied a lot in how they investigated these complaints.

                    I don't know but it seems like both could be happening, at different schools? It wouldn't be all that surprising if colleges varied a lot in how they investigated these complaints.

                    3 votes
                    1. [3]
                      tindall
                      Link Parent
                      I mean... maybe? But again, this kind of invalidates the argument that it's (primarily student) wokescolds who are the problem. It's the administration doing administration shit, as they always...

                      I mean... maybe? But again, this kind of invalidates the argument that it's (primarily student) wokescolds who are the problem. It's the administration doing administration shit, as they always have; this is nothing new.

                      5 votes
                      1. [2]
                        skybrian
                        Link Parent
                        Yes, in the end it's a judicial process. The people doing these investigations have a certain amount of power to make the decisions about what happens. (Or I guess more like recommendations? But...

                        Yes, in the end it's a judicial process. The people doing these investigations have a certain amount of power to make the decisions about what happens. (Or I guess more like recommendations? But they are the ones collecting and summarizing the evidence.)

                        I have seen articles saying that these processes are not very good, either for the person making the complaint or the one being accused. They can be highly controversial and political though (at least the ones that get written about and shared), so it can be hard to tell what the truth is.

                        I wonder how much this contributes to how college administration keeps getting bigger? If you want to have judicial processes, someone has to do the work. Perhaps in former times, professors did more of it themselves, and if you're up against a professor you're mostly out of luck?

                        1. tindall
                          Link Parent
                          In my experience with Beloit and UCSD, generally professors do as much of this as possible, specifically to preserve academic freedom. Every professor is required to do a certain amount of...

                          In my experience with Beloit and UCSD, generally professors do as much of this as possible, specifically to preserve academic freedom. Every professor is required to do a certain amount of "service" - being on committees, serving in Academic Senate, etc. This is usually part of that. BUT, admin always has the final say, except for the limitations imposed by tenure contracts.

                          2 votes
                  2. tindall
                    Link Parent
                    Yep. As a recent graduate, I can vouch for this. Nothing has ever happened to a professor because of a Title IX complaint as far as I know, nor as the result of a "hate act report" (at least at...

                    Yep. As a recent graduate, I can vouch for this. Nothing has ever happened to a professor because of a Title IX complaint as far as I know, nor as the result of a "hate act report" (at least at Beloit). Similarly, "boycotting" a professor does nothing except make it harder to fill your schedule.

                    Maybe this is possible at larger schools, but I doubt it. And how the hell are students supposed to remove someone as Chair?

                    3 votes
    2. [2]
      jgb
      Link Parent
      Why are white people 'more able to come to understand and then challenge' political structures than non-white people, given that all are in the position of being students on the same course at the...

      Why are white people 'more able to come to understand and then challenge' political structures than non-white people, given that all are in the position of being students on the same course at the same institution?

      4 votes
      1. thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        Because this doesn't come close to ensuring a 'level playing field'. Various inequalities that basically always favour white people exist even amongst students in the same course in the same...

        all are in the position of being students on the same course at the same institution?

        Because this doesn't come close to ensuring a 'level playing field'. Various inequalities that basically always favour white people exist even amongst students in the same course in the same institution.

        The "more able to come to understand" is talking about the education quality disparity experienced by minorities.

        "more able to challenge" is talking about the relative power positions of white people versus minorities, and the consequences to white people for challenging power versus the consequences for minorities who challenge power.

        4 votes
    3. [2]
      AnthonyB
      Link Parent
      I think this is why we need to carefully differentiate actual social justice from 'woke virtue signaling' and disavow the latter so we can protect the former. There is a popular trend (especially...

      I think this is why we need to carefully differentiate actual social justice from 'woke virtue signaling' and disavow the latter so we can protect the former. There is a popular trend (especially on the right) to falsely equate meaningful calls for social justice with overly woke nonsense, and responses like this play into that. We need to recognize that protesting the Vietnam War is entirely different from protesting a professor for explaining what the N in NWA stands for, and not fall into the trap of comparing the two.

      3 votes
      1. thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        Even acknowledging articles like this that talk about that latter is "falling into the trap", I think. This is storm in a teacup stuff compared to the Vietnam War, and compared to the USA's...

        We need to recognize that protesting the Vietnam War is entirely different from protesting a professor for explaining what the N in NWA stands for, and not fall into the trap of comparing the two.

        Even acknowledging articles like this that talk about that latter is "falling into the trap", I think. This is storm in a teacup stuff compared to the Vietnam War, and compared to the USA's current political crises.

        2 votes
    4. [5]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I think you're right that it's an overreach to attribute motives. But it seems like there's still a question of whether the white students speaking up should be considered to represent the...

      I think you're right that it's an overreach to attribute motives. But it seems like there's still a question of whether the white students speaking up should be considered to represent the concerns of others? It seems like a claim that you're speaking for someone else shouldn't necessarily be accepted without evidence.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        I'm a white person and when I speak up about various injustices I'm absolutely representing the concerns of others. When I donate substantial portions of my income and talk about doing it I become...

        whether the white students speaking up should be considered to represent the concerns of others?

        I'm a white person and when I speak up about various injustices I'm absolutely representing the concerns of others. When I donate substantial portions of my income and talk about doing it I become a voice for the endangered people that I support.

        When white Socialists advocate Socialism, which is a fundamentally communitarian political philosophy, it's inclusivity means that the one represents the concerns of all.

        Black revolutionaries like Fred Hampton, a Socialist, understood this. He wanted to enjoin multiple races with solidarity and a shared political project. Fred Hampton, a black man, could meaningfully represent the concerns of poor white southerners.

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Okay, but who specifically are you representing, and how do you know you’re doing a good job of representing their concerns? It seems like it would be hard to know whether you’re doing a good job...

          Okay, but who specifically are you representing, and how do you know you’re doing a good job of representing their concerns? It seems like it would be hard to know whether you’re doing a good job without feedback.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            thundergolfer
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Yes, of course. But do you really think serious people would avoid feedback? One such organisation that I involve myself with is GiveWell, which is notable for actually giving a shit about whether...

            It seems like it would be hard to know whether you’re doing a good job without feedback.

            Yes, of course. But do you really think serious people would avoid feedback? One such organisation that I involve myself with is GiveWell, which is notable for actually giving a shit about whether the money flowing to charities actually helps people.

            On the broader stuff, like Socialism, there's just buildings and buildings full of research, theory, and inquiry as to whether it does a good job, and what a good job even is.

            On particular features of Socialism, like universal healthcare and childhood malnutrition (ie. child hunger), there's obviously very strong research that it does good. They're also policies that don't fail basic and obvious moral challenges, for example that if someone is hungry and you can feed them, you should feed them. Any political system intertwined with Capitalistic morality says essentially "no, you don't have to feed them".

            2 votes
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Interesting, what sort of work have you done with GiveWell? I think GiveWell is great but I don’t think of them as representing the people they try to help. There are some minimal assumptions...

              Interesting, what sort of work have you done with GiveWell?

              I think GiveWell is great but I don’t think of them as representing the people they try to help. There are some minimal assumptions made, like people don’t want to get malaria or die. It’s more of an abstract analysis like is done in economics. The charities doing the work do need to have a good understanding of the area they are working in, but as donors we don’t; we can just give money without understanding people in Africa much at all, and thanks to the research with pretty good confidence that it’s actually helping.

              Also, GiveDirectly (another well-known charity that GiveWell recommends) doesn’t even go that far - they give people money and let them make their own choices. It seems like this is empowering people, not representing them.

              This seems pretty far removed from political advocacy where people aren’t directly helping others, but rather speaking up on their behalf?

              Regarding your example, it seems like if you are feeding people then this requires more cultural knowledge. Food isn’t just food, people have a lot of preferences and cultural traditions about what they want to eat. Better to give them money and let them decide? It’s also a better way to support local businesses, rather than competing with them as in-kind assistance does.

              I’m sure there is a lot written about socialism, but it’s also hard to know what’s good, so it would be useful to get some recommendations about what to read. (I’m particularly interested in how decisions are made, which is often left vague.)

              1 vote
  4. [5]
    Akir
    Link
    I realize that most of my replies here are pretty negative. And while the things I have to say about this article are unpleasant, I'll do my best to make it less confrontational and angry. The...
    • Exemplary

    I realize that most of my replies here are pretty negative. And while the things I have to say about this article are unpleasant, I'll do my best to make it less confrontational and angry.

    The main problem I have with this piece is simply that it basically amounts to one guy calling a bunch of nameless nobodies a bunch of 'academic-sounding' names without attempting to understand where they might be coming from. But perhaps just as bad is how many category errors he presents. The best example is his very conclusion:

    But let’s face it: Half a dozen reports of teachers grading Black students more harshly than white students would be accepted by many as demonstrating a stain on our entire national fabric. These 150 missives stand as an articulate demonstration of something general—and deeply disturbing—as well.

    I don't even know where to begin unraveling the problems. Are the "reports" from the black students who are being discriminated against by a specific professor? Because that's not a national shame, that's just a shame on the institution where that happened. Is it news reports of widespread discrimination? That's certainly a stain on the national fabric! But even then, none of those are anywhere equivalent to what he's talking about. Those 'missives' are barely even missives - they are a bunch of anonymous cowards who are just whining to each other about imagined damages.

    But I just want to go back to my first complaint; the author is only in this to make a mockery of the people with whom he disagrees, and he does it by using uncommon vocabulary to make himself sound smart while dismissing other peoples' ideas. Look at the subtitle: "Some fear for their career because they don’t believe progressive orthodoxies." "Orthodoxies" is used to imply that the left believes what it does arbitrarily without any individual reasoning. He doesn't describe his adversaries as having ideas - they have religious-tinged "tenets" instead. He groups them into "cadres", as if firing professors is the purpose of these people's lives. They are "new Maoists". He lampoons them as if they are holy and to disagree with them is to "sin".

    And then he goes on to say that these academics aren't even conservative as if that means anything. First off, in modern discourse, everyone misrepresents what they believe in, and it's highly doubtful that the author personally knows these 150 people personally. And second, it really doesn't matter. You can be a shitty person on the left or right. Declaring one's self a leftist does not instantly absolve someone of racism and bigotry. That is an entire personal process, and I can tell you that it's one that many actively reject.

    I know that it's unfair to call these 150 people cowards for not coming public with these comments, but I do so partially to show off how bad it is to refer to them anonymously without getting even one single full account. There's a reason why he tries to prematurely defend against people who have disbelief in his story; you are left to rely entirely on his anecdotes which he only gives us the slightest hint of detail. The whole article is him basically saying "Trust me, things are bad." Right now there really isn't any reason to say that these people are anything more than rhetorical inventions.

    But let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are real. Remind yourself that the reason why these people feel persecuted is their ideology. But the thing about ideology is that it should stand up to logic and reason. The fact that these people are not brave enough to defend their ideology seems to signify that they are not confident enough in that ideology to defend it in the light of day. These people are academics - I feel that if they actually could defend their position, they would have. So in the end, having these people be anonymous actually makes the entire premise all the more suspect.

    So I'm going to call this article exactly what it is; pure hypocrisy. It's admonishing the left for being a part of the culture war while itself being a salvo in that exact same culture war. You can't stop a war by taking sides - you need to be against the very idea of fighting! And that's the exact same pattern I see with every single one of these kinds of opinion piece. You can't do anything about "the left" or "the right". You need specific people and actions in order to make any kind of progress; everything else is just poking the bear.

    9 votes
    1. [4]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Unfortunately, a lot of cultural criticism ends up sounding like listening to half a telephone conversation. You hear the reaction but not the original. I don’t think this is due to hypocrisy, but...

      Unfortunately, a lot of cultural criticism ends up sounding like listening to half a telephone conversation. You hear the reaction but not the original.

      I don’t think this is due to hypocrisy, but rather due to a respect for privacy and not wanting to call people out for stuff when it’s not really about them, it’s about the trend.

      The author put his name on the piece, but he shouldn’t out people for things they told him privately, nor should he be quoting his students in a national magazine without permission. It would be totally hypocritical and unethical to do that to them.

      As readers, we unfortunately don’t have the sort of evidence that would really be convincing. It comes down to trust in the author, so if you don’t trust him there isn’t much more to say.

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        Please note that I took pain to not call the author a hypocrite; I don't have any reason to believe that this hypocrisy is intentional. I think that calling this cultural criticism is far more...

        Please note that I took pain to not call the author a hypocrite; I don't have any reason to believe that this hypocrisy is intentional.

        I think that calling this cultural criticism is far more generous than it really deserves. The point of criticism is to improve what you are criticizing. This is not criticism, it is antagonism. The author makes no effort to understand the other side of the issue, choosing instead to caricaturize them, and does not directly offer a solution to the problem. So what's left is the implied solutions, and those are generally pretty crazy. Should students not advocate for minorities? Should people stay silent when they come across discrimination? Should students stop calling out their rapists so a department chairman can stop being worried about their position?

        Of course, I completely agree that he should not out these people for what they say. My issue with unbelief is not that I don't trust the author. If there is anyone I don't trust, it's the people who wrote the emails. I don't think that life for them is as fragile as the author describes, and in some cases I think that they are just bad at their jobs:

        I routinely discuss the fallacy of assuming that disparity implies discrimination, which is just a specific way of confusing correlation for causality. Frankly, I'm now somewhat afraid to broach these topics … since according to the new faith, disparity actually is conclusive evidence of discrimination.

        This is a paid expert who is afraid to teach the subject they're most familiar with to a bunch of late teenagers. If they can't explain a fundamental part of their subject, they really do have legitimate reasons to be afraid for their job, and it's not the fault of the students.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          I don't know what really happened, but I'll point out that you don't know the situation any better since we are getting a very brief account second-hand. Given how far we are removed from them,...

          I don't know what really happened, but I'll point out that you don't know the situation any better since we are getting a very brief account second-hand. Given how far we are removed from them, your judgement of this person's teaching skills seems overconfident? It seems like if you disbelieve the article, it should be by retreating to uncertainty, not assuming the opposite must be true. It's the only evidence we have, so if we reject it then we've got nothing.

          And it seems a bit weird to entirely blame the teacher for having some closed-minded students. Like, if you're teaching evolution and some people in the class are young-earth fundamentalists, that's a tough situation. Such situations can be managed, but it's tougher if they can take revenge.

          I am reminded of what kfwyre wrote about teaching alt-right students.

          4 votes
          1. Akir
            Link Parent
            You are completely correct that the way I'm painting that person is unfair. I'm deliberately going to an extreme to demonstrate how absurd it is to trust secondhand accounts of anonymous people...

            You are completely correct that the way I'm painting that person is unfair. I'm deliberately going to an extreme to demonstrate how absurd it is to trust secondhand accounts of anonymous people with zero accountability.

            It's the only evidence we have, so if we reject it then we've got nothing.

            That's basically what I'm trying to say! This is a nothing article! The author has nothing but a collection of anecdotes which may or may not have merit to them. There is literally no reason to believe the author! And that's why I think that it's practically dangerous to call this cultural critique - he's banging the drum for what is effectively an imaginary group for which he has zero skin in the game (even if he agrees with them, he doesn't even dare to bring in the one anecdote he can actually confirm - his own). He offers no solutions and paints the people he disagrees with as homicidal religious zealots. This piece does not exist to mend problems with society, it exists to tear the seams even further!

            4 votes
  5. [8]
    post_below
    Link
    This issue has been interesting to me since 2016. In my view one of the primary reasons for Trump support was that less educated and wordly people (especially white people) felt marginalized by...

    This issue has been interesting to me since 2016. In my view one of the primary reasons for Trump support was that less educated and wordly people (especially white people) felt marginalized by the "shame all the bad stuff out of existence" philosophy common in the modern left. Especially on social media where so much nuance is lost.

    I agree with the core principles of equality, social justice and freedom to live outside of established norms. But the way we went about it backfired and we're setting things up for an even bigger backfire in the future when even academics are afraid to express themselves. Rational discourse and disagreement is a fundamental tenet in higher academia right?

    There's value in redefining what is and isn't acceptable in a society. There's equal value in doing it gently enough that most of the people in the society can understand and adjust to the new norms.

    10 votes
    1. tindall
      Link Parent
      Pretty rich to say that this is a tactic of the left when this is what the right has been doing to queer people since time immemorial. Computer pioneer Alan Turing was essentially "cancelled" for...

      less educated and wordly people (especially white people) felt marginalized by the "shame all the bad stuff out of existence" philosophy common in the modern left

      Pretty rich to say that this is a tactic of the left when this is what the right has been doing to queer people since time immemorial. Computer pioneer Alan Turing was essentially "cancelled" for being gay and shortly thereafter driven to suicide by his own right-wing government; conversion therapy and its milder forms are exactly this tactic for LGBTQ people of all kinds.

      10 votes
    2. [6]
      vord
      Link Parent
      This was it by itself. Everything that follows is in part true, but is not the whole picture. I went to several hole-in-the wall bars in inner-city Philadelphia between 2015 and early 2016, full...

      one of the primary reasons for Trump support was that less educated and wordly people (especially white people) felt marginalized

      This was it by itself. Everything that follows is in part true, but is not the whole picture.

      I went to several hole-in-the wall bars in inner-city Philadelphia between 2015 and early 2016, full of working-class people. Many, many people of all races were excited by Trump's 'drain the swamp' mentality, because the current system fails them in a wide variety of ways. Most probably didn't end up voting for him, but it does highlight how his appeal was broader than the surface 'shame all the bad stuff out of existence' reaction.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        post_below
        Link Parent
        I agree that there were myriad reasons for Trump's appeal, but I didn't say otherwise which makes your reply a little confusing. The bit you quoted starts with "one of the".

        I agree that there were myriad reasons for Trump's appeal, but I didn't say otherwise which makes your reply a little confusing. The bit you quoted starts with "one of the".

        1 vote
        1. vord
          Link Parent
          I was trying to highlight that 'marginalized' is the key word. It was not a counter per-se, rather an expansion.

          I was trying to highlight that 'marginalized' is the key word.

          It was not a counter per-se, rather an expansion.

      2. [3]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        You know what, I've heard this a lot for a long time and I realize that I've kind of taken it as a factoid; something I have taken as true but don't actually know anything about. Can you kindly...

        Many, many people of all races were excited by Trump's 'drain the swamp' mentality, because the current system fails them in a wide variety of ways.

        You know what, I've heard this a lot for a long time and I realize that I've kind of taken it as a factoid; something I have taken as true but don't actually know anything about. Can you kindly explain to me some of those ways the government was failing or appearing to fail these people?

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          vord
          Link Parent
          Without getting into a full essay: No wage increases in 30 years. Rising rent costs. Ever increasing complexity to attain assistance. Medical care still phrohibitally expensive. Gentrification Job...

          Without getting into a full essay:

          • No wage increases in 30 years.
          • Rising rent costs.
          • Ever increasing complexity to attain assistance.
          • Medical care still phrohibitally expensive.
          • Gentrification
          • Job instability, esoecially during economic crisis
          • Rock bottom approval of congress. Scroll through that, see how long it takes to get to a 50% approval.

          This is just a tiny sliver of reasons. There is a deep-seated mistrust of government in the USA (not entirely unjustified), and politicians that leverage that mistrust are more popular.

          4 votes
          1. Akir
            Link Parent
            There is so much I want to say about that list, but I think saying it here would just be speaking to the choir. And while there's a lot I disagree with, I can understand why they would think that....

            There is so much I want to say about that list, but I think saying it here would just be speaking to the choir. And while there's a lot I disagree with, I can understand why they would think that. Thank you for helping me understand this perspective.

            3 votes
  6. [8]
    AnthonyB
    Link
    I have a friend that loves to discuss politics and we have been having a long conversation about politics every other month or so for the past five years. He is one of those mythical centrist...

    I have a friend that loves to discuss politics and we have been having a long conversation about politics every other month or so for the past five years. He is one of those mythical centrist swing voters and I consider myself a leftist. In every conversation, the majority of our time is spent talking about identity politics, and the very loud "woke" portion of the left. We can debate the extent and real power of "cancel culture" - something I often try to do when talking to my friend - but there is no denying the fact that this particular brand of activism and social justice has captured the attention of the public. Unfortunately, our attention is focused on mostly superficial things like building names or a professor or public figure being shunned for using offensive language that the bigger, more meaningful issues are ignored. Maybe this is a byproduct of manufactured consent and that media props up these stories in order to keep our attention away from those bigger issues, but I worry that this attention is detrimental to the wider goals of the progressive left. This particular brand of progressives, the people that fuel "cancel culture", are being conflated with just about anyone left of center. I'm sick of talking about "woke" identity politics while issues like economic inequality and climate change (issues that disproportionately affect people of color) are left as an afterthought. If we believe the premise of this article, we can see that college students (and "twitter mobs") have a significant amount of power. I just wish they could harness it to focus on something more important.

    8 votes
    1. tindall
      Link Parent
      I think you've hit the nail on the head here. As I mentioned in my other post, I spent way more effort as a student activist on student wages and disability discrimination, but the only thing...

      Maybe this is a byproduct of manufactured consent and that media props up these stories in order to keep our attention away from those bigger issues, but I worry that this attention is detrimental to the wider goals of the progressive left.

      I think you've hit the nail on the head here. As I mentioned in my other post, I spent way more effort as a student activist on student wages and disability discrimination, but the only thing Inside Higher Ed ever wrote up was the Erik Prince incident, which they spun to be about idpol.

      8 votes
    2. [6]
      moonbathers
      Link Parent
      Social issues are not a distraction! One of the people in the article that's being "cancelled" that the author talks about and goes to bat for said that Elliot Rodger killing people wasn't...

      Social issues are not a distraction! One of the people in the article that's being "cancelled" that the author talks about and goes to bat for said that Elliot Rodger killing people wasn't motivated by hatred of women at all. Is that not as important as other issues?

      5 votes
      1. [5]
        AnthonyB
        Link Parent
        No, it's not. I don't know who this person is or what the basis of their argument was, but even if they argued that Rodger was justified, it would not by anywhere near as important as climate...

        No, it's not. I don't know who this person is or what the basis of their argument was, but even if they argued that Rodger was justified, it would not by anywhere near as important as climate change or economic inequality. The clock is ticking on those issues and we're spending time and energy getting worked up over a professor's pov about a school shooter? That's insane.

        2 votes
        1. mftrhu
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Why, exactly, would that be "insane"? We do not exist. We are not one. We are eight billion people with distinct viewpoints, who have about sixteen hours a day each we can use to weight all of...

          The clock is ticking on those issues and we're spending time and energy getting worked up over a professor's pov about a school shooter? That's insane.

          Why, exactly, would that be "insane"?

          We do not exist. We are not one. We are eight billion people with distinct viewpoints, who have about sixteen hours a day each we can use to weight all of these issues, worry about them, and try to tackle them in often wildly different manners.

          We also have a limit to how much we can do, and how much time we can spend worrying about any given issue. Climate change and income inequality are, after all, Big Problems™, with the impact of any given individual being extremely limited, which can easily lead to burning out if that is all you are thinking about.

          There are other Big Problems™, too, ones which can be tackled on a smaller scale and which mostly interlink: discrimination - misogyny, racism, homotransphobia - definitely affects income, and the disinformation that people use to prop them up - the fact that it exists, the fact that it is given a voice - isn't helping convince people that climate change is a problem, at all.

          So yes, I am willing to spend time and energy getting worked up over a professor's POV about a school shooter, when that person is used to disingenuously push against social justice issues hiding behind "contrasting cancel culture" and "opposing identity politics", if only because helping people not deal with as much shit can only make them more effective at tackling the Big Problems™.

          6 votes
        2. [3]
          moonbathers
          Link Parent
          Not that much time and energy has really been spent on that professor. It probably took an hour or two tops to write that letter and another half hour to write an email asking people to sign it,...

          Not that much time and energy has really been spent on that professor. It probably took an hour or two tops to write that letter and another half hour to write an email asking people to sign it, and it took each of those people fifteen minutes to read maybe. I'm sure more time has been spent discussing it than that, but you make it sound like it's wasted time and it's not.

          Elliot Rodger and the subculture that he was part of and still inspires is part of a broader discussion of social issues and that's why it's important. He killed six innocent people because he hated women and that professor has the gall to say that his hatred of women had nothing to do with it. Hatred of women and racial minorities and LGBT people is still way too common even in developed countries. These issues are far from resolved and for a lot of people they're just as, if not more important than economic issues.

          Women are still sexually harassed and raped and killed at rates that should disgust anyone who claims to be a decent person. They're often not taken seriously (particularly women of color) even in situations as serious as their own health. They're often passed over for promotions and raises, which has economic consequences.

          People are regularly harassed, arrested, beaten and killed because of their skin color. A black guy was lynched in broad daylight in Georgia this year and it took months of outcry and video evidence for the guys who did it to be arrested. Otherwise, fifty years after a good chunk of people think we finally reached equality in the United States, they would have gotten away with it.

          South Asian and Middle Eastern people have been shot and killed because they're "terrorists" in the minds of the people killing them. People from Central and South America are being held in concentration camps along the border and exposed to disease, sexually assaulted, and trafficked even. They've been called vermin by the sitting president and a Wal-Mart was shot up in El Paso last year by someone who bought into that bullshit. People of East/Southeast Asian descent are often not considered United Statesans and othered because of their appearance, commonly stereotyped, and subject to other similar forms of racism.

          It was legal to be fired for being LGBT in over half of the states in the country until about two months ago. It was illegal to marry your partner if they were the same gender in over half of the states in the country until five years ago. The sitting vice president is a notorious homophobe and the current regime has spent plenty of time and effort on pushing back anti-discrimination laws and anything else they can do to hurt LGBT people. Lots of LGBT people still get disowned and thrown out of their homes for coming out to their families.

          20+ million people got out in the streets this year because of racism in the form of police brutality and the police responded by doubling down on their brutality. A whole lot of people are talking about what to do about the police because it's been shown that they are a problem and people can't ignore it anymore. This and a lot of discrimination happens regardless of the class of the victim and of whoever's doing it. There have been multiple instances of NBA players being discriminated against in the last few years alone. Fixing economic inequality isn't going to make discrimination go away.

          All of this is to say that there are plenty of people who care as much or more about being harassed or denied opportunities or worse because of their gender or sexuality or skin color as they do about the size of their and their neighbors' paycheck, because all of these things still happen to people every day. We're not taking away from climate change or economic inequality by talking about them and pushing for them; lots of people can and do talk about all three. People don't generally say that fighting for a $15 minimum wage takes away from fighting against racism, so why is the opposite ok?

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            AnthonyB
            Link Parent
            Hey, before I get into everything, I just want to start by saying thank you for your thoughtful response. I don't disagree with the importance of these issues, but I was responding to a specific...

            Hey, before I get into everything, I just want to start by saying thank you for your thoughtful response. I don't disagree with the importance of these issues, but I was responding to a specific question asking if this professor's comments are less important than climate change.

            What I have been trying to say is that broadly speaking, the progressive causes that are being discussed in mainstream media and around "kitchen tables" are focused on narrow social issues while more important issues are an afterthought. Often times those discussions are centered around something relatively minor like the language a professor or public figure used. I'm not trying to say that these issues don't matter - of course they do. My concern is that this isn't an effective strategy. I wish I knew exactly what the problem is specifically, but in general I feel like the focus is too narrow and the bigger issues are not being addressed with the same amount of passion or frequency (and let's not forget about what this article and thread are all about, which is that there is a widespread public perception that progressives are trying to stifle free speech). We can say that it's possible to walk and chew gum at the same time, but I don't think that is reflected in the larger political conversation. For what its worth, I think social, economic, and climate justice are intertwined, so it's especially frustrating for me to see two of those three get less attention since a solution for one without a solution for the others isn't a good solution.

            4 votes
            1. moonbathers
              Link Parent
              I guess it depends on where you are on the political spectrum. People on the right generally don't care about climate change or economic justice and are invested mostly in (opposing) social...

              I guess it depends on where you are on the political spectrum. People on the right generally don't care about climate change or economic justice and are invested mostly in (opposing) social justice. The more moderate Democrats are generally on board with improving all three but social justice does get the most attention because it's the most visible issue, the one that needs the most change (if your desired economic policy is relatively close to where we're at, you're probably less vocal about it), and the one that's "easiest" to do something about (it's easier to go to a protest and be sure you're being considerate to people than it is to change your lifestyle). People farther to the left are also on board with all three, but a decent proportion of those people that I come across dismiss social issues to some extent and it bothers me a lot. I'm a socialist myself and think both climate change and economic justice are important too, but my well-being depends on more than the size of my paycheck and how my company is run.

              At the end of the day you're right that climate change is the most important issue, but I disagree that economic issues are more important than social issues. Social issues are never isolated and a discussion about someone's shitty views is also a conversation about which views are ok or not. I also don't think that we'd be talking about either economic issues or climate change more if the protests didn't happen this year. I wish people cared more about those, but I think it's mostly separate from what's going on right now (and it's going to be a lot harder to get any kind of justice if the country falls into fascism).

              1 vote
  7. [16]
    han2k
    Link
    I believe the chaos we're witnessing around the world is a byproduct of transitioning to a postmodern civilization. Thinkers of the modern era have used reason to come up with objective truths...

    I believe the chaos we're witnessing around the world is a byproduct of transitioning to a postmodern civilization. Thinkers of the modern era have used reason to come up with objective truths with which to explain the universe. But what's seen as truth by the majority can be downright destructive and oppressive to a lot of people, because truth is always context dependent (example: Nazi Germany using eugenics to kill off the disabled, or a huge bulk of America arguing against gay marriage). As the world becomes increasingly connected, it's becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the contradictions of the modern era. More and more people are viewing that much of the old truths, values, and institutions are, in a way, convenient lies designed to justify and reinforce the status quo. The American national flag has turned from being the symbol of unity to the symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism in just a few years. We will continue to see existing truths get destructured until we realize that most of the systems that hold up the modern era (e.g. the education system) is severely antiquated and obsolete, excelling at perhaps making people suffer more than anything -- or maybe there actually is a good reason to create artificial scarcity around educational credentials and making people fight each other to get it in this day and age?

    I can understand that these academics feel worried about their freedom of speech, but we all live in a time where saying anything about anything can end up being explosive. I believe leading thinkers of our generation should fully embrace this, and work to sketch up how life could be down the road, instead of purely focusing on keeping their share of the pie intact.

    3 votes
    1. [15]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I think this is going to be high stakes as long as jobs are scarce and people are worried about losing their jobs. It seems like it would be good to lower the stakes.

      I think this is going to be high stakes as long as jobs are scarce and people are worried about losing their jobs. It seems like it would be good to lower the stakes.

      1 vote
      1. [14]
        han2k
        Link Parent
        I agree, it would be nice if people could suffer less. I believe one of the major problems is that many of us live with one foot in the postmodern world and the other foot in the modern world. We...

        I agree, it would be nice if people could suffer less. I believe one of the major problems is that many of us live with one foot in the postmodern world and the other foot in the modern world. We are learning that we live in post-truth era, yet many still choose to enforce their instance of truth on people who may disagree with them, because existing systems don't allow minorities to live without oppression. How we figure out a way out of this mess will be the big question of our generation, imo.

        2 votes
        1. [7]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          This sounds like a vague historical theory that’s not easily falsified. I’m not sure what’s really new. A lot of people in earlier times were in the grips of superstition and ideology, by today’s...

          This sounds like a vague historical theory that’s not easily falsified. I’m not sure what’s really new. A lot of people in earlier times were in the grips of superstition and ideology, by today’s standards. From our descendants’ point of view, we might be in a pre-truth era?

          2 votes
          1. [6]
            han2k
            Link Parent
            To be honest, I find a bit of irony (not in a bad way) in reading this, because my main message is that we no longer live in a world where an objective truth prevails over all. In any case, I...

            This sounds like a vague historical theory that’s not easily falsified.

            To be honest, I find a bit of irony (not in a bad way) in reading this, because my main message is that we no longer live in a world where an objective truth prevails over all. In any case, I would like to cautiously suggest to you that perhaps calling something "a vague theory" is not the best mindset to have a healthy conversation on a topic such as this. I'm not offended, but I do sense a dismissive tone from your comment. I wish people would be more open minded to these "vague theories" because I feel like they really could expand people's worldview by a whole dimension.

            1 vote
            1. [5]
              skybrian
              Link Parent
              Okay, maybe I should just ask what you mean. It seems like “post-truth” could mean all sorts of things? There are many kinds of truths, and I don’t see consensus being lost among scientists in the...

              Okay, maybe I should just ask what you mean.
              It seems like “post-truth” could mean all sorts of things? There are many kinds of truths, and I don’t see consensus being lost among scientists in the more established areas of the harder sciences, though there are always controversial areas.

              Also, it very much depends who you are talking about. I don’t see anti-vaxers holding up work on vaccinations, though it might mean fewer people use them.

              What are some examples of the sort of things you are concerned about?

              1 vote
              1. [4]
                han2k
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                We're used to thinking that there exists absolute truths that we must all adhere to. I'm saying this mindset is the reason truth became a tool of oppression. We see this happening with "woke"...

                We're used to thinking that there exists absolute truths that we must all adhere to. I'm saying this mindset is the reason truth became a tool of oppression. We see this happening with "woke" students in college trying to cancel professors that say things they don't like. We see it when conservatives protest against gay marriage. We see it when we fight over masks, gun control, etc. You could ask "Doesn't hard science reveal objective truths?" but in reality science is a mindless tool that points to whichever direction its holder wants to point to. Yes, it's true that some people are born with XY chromosomes and others with XX chromosomes. It's also true that we inherit genetic properties from our parents. But how we interpret these phenomenons is entirely up to the subjective whims of humans. I don't need to remind you what happened in Nazi Germany when they began killing off disabled people based on their knowledge of genetics. Truth can be brutally destructive for the minority.

                So how do we find our way out of this? What is our solution to everyone perceiving the world differently? I believe that is the key question of our generation.

                I'm not sure if I did any better with this writing, but I must also get sleep. Hope to see you in the future for more discussions!

                1. [2]
                  Greg
                  Link Parent
                  Undermining the importance of objective truth is incredibly dangerous - the truth of "this vaccine was shown to be safe and effective by parameters X, Y and Z across a population of 10,000...

                  Undermining the importance of objective truth is incredibly dangerous - the truth of "this vaccine was shown to be safe and effective by parameters X, Y and Z across a population of 10,000 people", for example, is and should be held higher than matters of opinion or interpretation.

                  To suggest that the scientific method is a weapon to be wielded, something that points in the direction chosen by its holder, is to undermine the method at its very core. Everything you mention is the politicisation of science, not the simple method of hypothesis, testing, and repetition. They aren't one and the same, and claiming that they are is the greatest possible win you could hand to those with an agenda to push.

                  Some things are true. Some things are opinions or interpretations masquerading as truth. The difficult part is telling which is which.


                  Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
                  Faith is the denial of observation so that
                  Belief can be preserved.
                  If you show me that, say, homeopathy works, then I will change my mind
                  I'll spin on a fucking dime

                  • Tim Minchin

                  Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. I live on the twenty-first floor.

                  • Alan Sokal
                  4 votes
                  1. han2k
                    Link Parent
                    Let me see if I can further clarify without droning on. I'd actually be one of the last to deny science or try to argue that science is unreliable. Science is immensely useful as a precise tool to...

                    Let me see if I can further clarify without droning on. I'd actually be one of the last to deny science or try to argue that science is unreliable. Science is immensely useful as a precise tool to observe the world, and I would firmly argue against anyone who denies it (anti-vaxxers come to mind). What I'm trying to get at is, when you measure something, how does your measurement come to hold value in our minds, and what made you measure the thing in the first place?

                    When you observe that someone has XY chromosomes, that fact alone, by itself in vacuum, holds no value. Only when the observation is perceived, utilized, and digested by human minds does it do or lead to anything. Seen this way, the core problem isn't really that science itself is heavily politicized. Rather, it's that our society is heavily divided, causing people to perceive measurements from extremely different perspectives.

                    Thanks for the comment.

                    3 votes
                2. skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  Ok, It seems to me that’s more accurately described as cultural consensus breaking down. It’s true that a lot of cultural consensus gets dressed up as “objective truth,” or at least it used to....

                  Ok, It seems to me that’s more accurately described as cultural consensus breaking down. It’s true that a lot of cultural consensus gets dressed up as “objective truth,” or at least it used to. Even religion was once treated that way.

                  This breakdown is only partial, though. There is still a lot of reporting that’s widely accepted as true. There are a lot of uncontroversial articles on Wikipedia. There are facts that only a few crackpots take issue with. Often these aren’t really things that everyone must accept as true though, because they are things that many people don’t know and don’t care about, so they’re left to specialists.

                  2 votes
        2. [6]
          ShroudedMouse
          Link Parent
          I've seen this postmodern / modern divide between people before. Never seen it resolved before though. Giving up on objective truth isn't something that happens overnight for most people I think...

          I've seen this postmodern / modern divide between people before. Never seen it resolved before though. Giving up on objective truth isn't something that happens overnight for most people I think so it's probably not too surprising to see only conflict when most of our interactions are superficial and short-lived.

          Skipping over postmodernism, one could ask, what's next? Is there post-postmodernism? I think there is and I think it offers a way to connect with modernists. Whereas postmodernism is marked by a lack of truth and definitive authors, the post-postmodernism stuff I've read emphasises a radical authenticity in dealing with others. The sort of authenticity that can accept postmodernist perspectives but still be compassionate enough to talk of objective truth when it's pragmatic (like when speaking with modernists). An authenticity that values not just the message or the author but the ongoing communication between individuals

          2 votes
          1. [5]
            han2k
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            I absolutely agree. Is there anything that helps you imagine what would come after postmodernism? This could sound overly spiritual, but I find Buddhism to be a source of great inspiration for me....

            I absolutely agree. Is there anything that helps you imagine what would come after postmodernism? This could sound overly spiritual, but I find Buddhism to be a source of great inspiration for me. I don't believe it as a religion, but its focus on compassion and choice in the absence of right and wrong sounds very valuable, to say the least.

            2 votes
            1. [4]
              ShroudedMouse
              Link Parent
              I can't imagine particularly far ahead despite my best efforts. Perphaps because of that, I rarely imagine what's next as anything other than a reconstitution of existent philosophies. I've...

              I can't imagine particularly far ahead despite my best efforts. Perphaps because of that, I rarely imagine what's next as anything other than a reconstitution of existent philosophies. I've recently been learning about Daoism and, in addition the focus you mentioned, there's also that push to understand and accept ourselves as part of nature rather than necessarily separate from it as most modernist conceptions of science require.

              Yeah, I have no clue what the future holds. It's more what I hope it holds. If the radical authenticity I'm spruiking kicks off, my pretentious waffle probably already precludes me from joining in. :P

              2 votes
              1. [3]
                Greg
                Link Parent
                I don't believe there's anything about modern conceptions of science that hold us inherently apart from nature - indeed our position as part of an evolutionary tree, another chance mutation that...

                I don't believe there's anything about modern conceptions of science that hold us inherently apart from nature - indeed our position as part of an evolutionary tree, another chance mutation that managed to fill an ecological niche, is one of many situations that have historically set scientists against their local religious authorities for claiming that humanity doesn't occupy an inherently separate or privileged position.

                2 votes
                1. han2k
                  Link Parent
                  Actually, science itself may not separate us from nature, but reductionism as an attitude has indeed been criticized for reducing the world to arbitrarily atomic units. In recent years, we have...

                  Actually, science itself may not separate us from nature, but reductionism as an attitude has indeed been criticized for reducing the world to arbitrarily atomic units. In recent years, we have seen the rise in support for things like systems thinking, which try to describe things in terms of their interactions with the environment, not in terms of their "unique" properties that separate it from other things.

                  1 vote
                2. ShroudedMouse
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  In one way yes science allows us to see how we fit into nature. It's great in that sense. However, to perform 'science', typically the scientist (outside of quantum mechanics) considers their act...

                  In one way yes science allows us to see how we fit into nature. It's great in that sense. However, to perform 'science', typically the scientist (outside of quantum mechanics) considers their act of measuring as independent from the phenomenon they're measuring. And I get it, they need to consider themselves causally separated otherwise nature could always be conspiring against them to foil their well-crafted experiments.

                  When that same mentality is applied to people, to personal relations, I think it leaves a blind spot of how our choice of observations affects us and what observations we choose in the future.

  8. [2]
    onelap32
    Link
    Can anyone find if/where this survey was released? I've searched a bit for the quotes, but I'm not finding anything.

    This year, the Heterodox Academy conducted an internal member survey of 445 academics.

    Can anyone find if/where this survey was released? I've searched a bit for the quotes, but I'm not finding anything.

    3 votes
  9. [9]
    skybrian
    Link
    From the article: [...]

    From the article:

    This year, the Heterodox Academy conducted an internal member survey of 445 academics. “Imagine expressing your views about a controversial issue while at work, at a time when faculty, staff, and/or other colleagues were present. To what extent would you worry about the following consequences?” To the hypothetical “My reputation would be tarnished,” 32.68 percent answered “very concerned” and 27.27 percent answered “extremely concerned.” To the hypothetical “My career would be hurt,” 24.75 percent answered “very concerned” and 28.68 percent answered “extremely concerned.” In other words, more than half the respondents consider expressing views beyond a certain consensus in an academic setting quite dangerous to their career trajectory.

    So no one should feign surprise or disbelief that academics write to me with great frequency to share their anxieties. In a three-week period early this summer, I counted some 150 of these messages. And what they reveal is a very rational culture of fear among those who dissent, even slightly, with the tenets of the woke left.

    The degree of sheer worry among the people writing to me is poignant, and not just among nontenured faculty. (They write to me privately, and for that reason I will not share names.) One professor notes, “Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.” I have no reason to suppose that he is being dramatic, because exactly this, he says, happened to his predecessor.

    [...]

    Being nonwhite leaves one protected in this environment only to the extent that one toes the ideological line. An assistant professor of color who cannot quite get with the program writes, “At the moment, I’m more anxious about this problem than anything else in my career,” noting that “the truth is that over the last few years, this new norm of intolerance and cult of social justice has marginalized me more than all racism I have ever faced in my life.”

    The charges levied against many of these professors are rooted in a fanatical worldview, one devoted to spraying for any utterances possibly interpretable as “supremacist,” although the accusers sincerely think they have access to higher wisdom. A white professor read a passage from an interview with a well-known Black public intellectual who mentions the rap group NWA, and because few of the students knew of the group’s work at this late date, the professor parenthetically noted what the initials stand for. None of the Black students batted an eye, according to my correspondent, but a few white students demanded a humiliating public apology.

    This episode represents a pattern in the letters, wherein it is white students who are “woker” than their Black classmates, neatly demonstrating the degree to which this new religion is more about virtue signaling than social justice. From the same well is this same professor finding that the gay men in his class had no problem with his assigning a book with a gay slur in its title, a layered, ironic title for a book taking issue with traditional concepts of masculinity—but that a group of straight white women did, and reported him to his superiors.

    1 vote
    1. [8]
      vektor
      Link Parent
      Because cancelling someone and feeling good about yourself is easier than attempting to understand them; or to understand the issues; or to partake in actual activism. The same way that people who...

      Because cancelling someone and feeling good about yourself is easier than attempting to understand them; or to understand the issues; or to partake in actual activism.

      The same way that people who eat plenty of meat and take their cars everywhere lecture me about single-use plastics.

      4 votes
      1. [7]
        vord
        Link Parent
        I agree with the first paragraph, but not this bit: This particular issue is expected as those issues are not orthogonal. Eating meat is fine. Factory farming meat is not. We could all eat plenty...

        I agree with the first paragraph, but not this bit:

        The same way that people who eat plenty of meat and take their cars everywhere lecture me about single-use plastics.

        This particular issue is expected as those issues are not orthogonal.

        Eating meat is fine. Factory farming meat is not. We could all eat plenty of meat with restoration of sustainable farming.

        Cars everywhere is bad....but until public transport is up to par, it's going to be the main viable solution for most.

        And single-use plastics are utterly terrible. We need to ban their manufacture, as it will be the only way to mitigate the problem.

        Edit: Not meaning to kick up a massive thread. But want to highlight even with the example you provided there's more nuance to it.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          vektor
          Link Parent
          I should perhaps add, that this was in context of climate change. Sure single use plastics aren't pretty, and the ecological impact of the plastics in the environment isn't pretty. But it's not...

          I should perhaps add, that this was in context of climate change. Sure single use plastics aren't pretty, and the ecological impact of the plastics in the environment isn't pretty. But it's not even close in terms of how much greenhouse gases you can save.

          And I don't think we have enough land area that we could have everyone eat this much meat.

          Ahh, it was just my frustrations getting to me. I think I'm doing a damn fine job saving the planet, insofar as you can ask that of an individual. I drive an electric rental if I need transport, otherwise I use public transport. Meanwhile, some people can't be asked to walk a kilometer to their job every day, instead using a oil-powered car. I eat as little meat as I can without investing a lot of additional labor into my diet. And then people get all proud of themselves for using reusable plastic bags or something, and tell me I should do that - without knowing how I carry my groceries home. Drives me up the wall.

          In any case, we're getting a bit off topic here, so I'll point out how it's the same mentality as cancel culture. The demographic is a different one though. Funny that, how young people seem to cancel older people about social/racial issues, but older people lecture (with a cancel culture like mindset) younger people about climate change. Almost as if the cancelling students from the article are about as ready for racial equality as aunt hilda is for saving the planet.

          2 votes
          1. vord
            Link Parent
            Agreed. And any 'save the planet' discussion is going to be incredibly in-depth, and lots of people who are broadly on the same page disagreeing about specifics. This specifically wants me to have...

            Agreed. And any 'save the planet' discussion is going to be incredibly in-depth, and lots of people who are broadly on the same page disagreeing about specifics.

            And I don't think we have enough land area that we could have everyone eat this much meat.

            This specifically wants me to have a big post on it's own about it. I think we'll have enough if we re-prioritize purchasers and allow for residential farming (every 1/4 acre of land is more than enough to care for a few chickens).

            But yes, off-topic and we'll table our inevitable debate for another topic.

            4 votes
        2. [4]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Not sure I agree. Single-use plastics seem mostly benign if they are properly disposed so they don't get into the environment. (Use a good garbage bag.) Of course that depends on the landfill...

          Not sure I agree. Single-use plastics seem mostly benign if they are properly disposed so they don't get into the environment. (Use a good garbage bag.) Of course that depends on the landfill being run properly, and litter is another story.

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            vord
            Link Parent
            They're often not. And even the best run landfills have a problem with wind. Spent a summer working for a landfill. 80% of my job was walking the perimeter picking up plastic bags. And landfills...

            They're often not. And even the best run landfills have a problem with wind.

            Spent a summer working for a landfill. 80% of my job was walking the perimeter picking up plastic bags.

            And landfills have capacity and pollution problems as well. We need to stop filling them with pointless garbage.

            We could replace almost every liquid product container with a reusable one. We don't because it is less profitable than churning out disposables then blaming the public for littering and not recycling.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              skybrian
              Link Parent
              It seems like if there were enough attention and effort put into fixing landfills, they could be made safe, though? I don’t think capacity problems are much about finding suitable land. I guess...

              It seems like if there were enough attention and effort put into fixing landfills, they could be made safe, though? I don’t think capacity problems are much about finding suitable land.

              I guess garbage disposal isn’t as interesting as many other environmental issues, but it also seems easier to fix?

              1. vord
                Link Parent
                It's a deep rabbithole to dive down, and doesn't get much attention because it is kind of tricky. How do you safely dispose of the vast waste our society produces? Here's a starting point for some...

                It's a deep rabbithole to dive down, and doesn't get much attention because it is kind of tricky. How do you safely dispose of the vast waste our society produces?

                Here's a starting point for some of the problems:
                https://sciencing.com/effects-landfills-environment-8662463.html
                https://e360.yale.edu/features/piling-up-how-chinas-ban-on-importing-waste-has-stalled-global-recycling

                That's not even accounting for things like needing to transport trash from urban areas to landfills. Where I grew up, lots of the local landfills were importing trash from NYC, well over 8 hours away.

                Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is very much still applicable, and they are stated as such because they are in descending order of effectiveness.

                1 vote