Sunday, November 01, 2015

Bobo on meaning and colleges

The perennially favorite American conservative complaint about allegedly liberal/leftwing domination of academic continued to be aired this year.

Early in January, David "Bobo" Brooks took the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack as an occasion to complain about all the Mean Libruals in US colleges and universities, I Am Not Charlie Hebdo New York Times 01/08/2015. They are setting up "speech codes" and the like that are producing "crude censorship and a strangled conversation," in Bobo's considered opinion.

Another Mr. Brooks, Arthur Brooks, the head of AEI, aka, Neocon Central, is complaining in the Times now in the last quarter of the year about Academia’s Rejection of Diversity 10/30/2015. The AEI Brooks claims to see "discrimination and hostility within academia toward conservative researchers and their viewpoints."

This kind of talk reminds me of one of my favorite stories, about the Rev. Ezekiel Bittery, from Sinclair Lewis' 1943 novel, Gideon Planish. That was pre-Internet times, so news didn't go viral quite as fast as now. The Rev. Bittery was discovered by some leftie newspaper who reported he was preaching hellfire sermons about the virtues of Jesus and fascism. After a while, a regional newspaper picked up the story. Finally, it made its way to a major metropolitan daily. Eventually Congress and others make formal investigations, and there is considerable hand-wringing about this exotic development in the heartland:

And during all this time, the Reverend Ezekiel himself will, as publicly as possible, to as many persons as he can persuade to attend his meetings, have admitted, insisted, bellowed, that he has always been a Ku Kluxer and a Fascist, that he has always hated Jews, colleges and good manners, and that the only thing he has ever disliked about Hitler is that he once tried to paint barns instead of leaving the barns the way God made them.
Conservatives were fretting even then about them thar Islamocommonist tendencies in those colleges that teach all those fancy ideas.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Bloggrappled with Bobo's January complaint David Brooks Makes A Category Error in 01/09/2015:

Yes, activists fight to block speeches by Ayaan Hirsi Ali [who propagates anti-Muslim propaganda of the most dubious kind] on their campuses, but not only do they not try to kill her, they don't try to prevent her from speaking anywhere else. They don't try to prevent her from publishing. They don't (violently or nonviolently) threaten bookstores and online retailers that sell her books, or periodicals that publish her articles.
To the extent his column was coherent, it sounds like Bobo was more-or-less adopting the same position as the thoroughly obnoxious Bill Donohue, who pretty much validated the French terrorist attack in his own version of using violent Muslim extremism to validate Catholic fundamentalist extremism. (See: Andrew Seidel, Charlie Hebdo, Bill Donohue, and the freedom of thought 01/08/2015) That was too over-the-top for even Megyn Kelly at FOX News, and that's saying a lot! (Arturo Garcia, Megyn Kelly puts Bill Donohue in his place by linking Larry Flynt and Charlie Hebdo Raw Story 01/08/2015)

But still performing the same verbal acrobatics, Bobo doubled down on the colleges-are-like-Islamic-terrorists point in Shields and Brooks on Paris terrorism and tolerance, GOP takeover in Congress PBS Newshour 01/09/2015. And Sleepy Mark Shields, in his characteristic semi-somnolent mode, says Bobo's point is "absolutely legitimate and valid":

This is Bobo's highbrow version of what all the Mississippi segregationists were saying about places like my undergradute alma mater Millsaps College in Jackson MS circa 1965, when they were denounced by segregationists defenders of the White Race because they de-segregated before they were forced to by a court.

And this is now official Pundit Groupthink? I'm sure if Ruth Marcus had been sitting in for Mark in that segment, she would have said, "I agree with David." But then, she tends to say that three or four times whenever she's there. (To be fair, Mark eventually gets around to pointing out that Christian terrorism is also a thing.)

Erik Loomis weighs in on AEI Brooks' recent complaint in Conservatives Want to Bring Politics into Academic Hiring LGM 11/01/2015:

As for the question of why there are more liberals than conservatives in academia–and note the op-ed conveniently leaves out economics and the enormous and growing business schools in this discussion–it’s about two things. First, studying the human past and present in depth tends to challenge the mythology about the world conservatives hold dear. I’ve known many a person who came to graduate school a conservative and came out a liberal. ...

Second, it’s that conservatives are unlikely to take low-paying jobs in professions that have no future. Chalk that up to conservatives being smarter than liberals I guess.
This type of complaint is not an issue on which should be difficult for people, even Bobo, to walk and talk and the same time. Classically "liberal" freedom of speech and freedom of religion mean that people can get to say stupid and ugly things about religion, and that people who are offended can say whatever they think is appropriate in response. It doesn't mean you get to shoot people who insult you. (Except in Stand Your Ground/Kill At Will states in the US, where you can claim you feel threatened and legally murder your critic, especially if you're white and he's black. And those laws are insane.)

And it means the law is required to protect people from violent retaliation on either side of that argument.

Conservatives have been whining about the alleged "political correctness" in campus speech codes since at least the 1980s. And sometimes, they have had a point that civil libertarians can agree with. But neither students in classrooms nor employees in a business get to address each other in formal settings as, say, "stupid n****r" or "worthless c**t." Freedom of speech means you don't go to jail for it. But it doesn't mean that you can still go to class or work at a workplace if you insist on that kind of trash-talking.

At UC-Berkeley a couple of years ago, some white frat boys did one of those "affirmative action bake sales," where white boys pay more than women or minorities. (UCB has the largest College Republican chapter in the country.) Other students did a very effective counter-protest with a "die-in," in which they lay down all over the plaza where the frat-boy twits were doing their bake sale. The frat boys weren't deprived of the option to publicly advertise what jerks they were. And the counter-protesters made sure as many people as possible were paying attention to what jerks the frat-boys were being. Free speech at work.

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