Useful Idiots Gone Wild

Race-related protests on American college campuses are spreading faster than head lice at a daycare center (for an update, see here). Though each disturbance has its own idiosyncrasies, all include demands that the university recruit more black faculty and students, forcefully “re-educate” all students and faculty to expel lingering anti-black racism and then do whatever is necessary to make the campus a warm, caring and, most of all, a safe space for communities of color.

Far more is involved here than howling for school president’s head or cancelling a mid-term exam to permit traumatized students time to heal. The ruckus is entirely about pushing the university leftward, and these immature campus social justice warriors are what Lenin called useful idiots. All the nattering about diversity and dialogue is a subterfuge; these hypersensitive snowflakes and fellow traveler thugs are just the ground troops in a much larger ideological war.  

A recent New York Times op-ed by Ross Douthat let the cat out of the bag: “The protesters at Yale and Missouri and a longer list of schools stand accused of being spoiled, silly, self-dramatizing -- and many of them are. But they’re also dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt….” He further characterizes today’s university as being filled with “rot.” Meanwhile, when 30 black students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) barged into President Michael Rao’s office with the usual list of demands (particularly too few black professors at VCU), the president welcomed them with, “I’m really glad you’re here.”  Elsewhere, the president of Skidmore College, Philip Glotzbach actively encouraged students to skip classes to protest racism and show solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. Not to be outdone, Hiram Chodosh, president of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) actually formally invited students to have a sit-in at his office when it was discovered that two Caucasian CMC students had posed in Mexican Halloween costumes on their Facebook page. And to top it off, the president of Yale (Peter Salovey) thanked the unruly protestors for their disruptive, uncivil antics with, “It is clear that we need to make significant changes so that all members of our community truly feel welcome and can participate equally in the activities of the university, and to reaffirm and reinforce our commitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination have no place.” He predictably promised yet more effort to expand inclusion and wage war on discrimination including facilitating snitching on racist professors.

Those who doubt that college administrators genuinely welcome these disturbances to advance a leftist political agenda should ask why school administrators never discuss the downside of these demands. Or put such a premium of feelings apart from any reality. They certainly can ask protestors who will pay for all this iffy social engineering. What about items on the list such as race-based hiring of faculty that are clearly illegal? Total silence. Disapproval is only about nitpicking tactics. It will be awhile before the VCU president explains to protesters that excluding white and Asian job applicants is illegal. 

Better yet, how would these presidents react if some white students raucously demanded that universities embrace color blind, merit-based policies? Or complained of their tuition money going to frivolous non-academic pursuits? Presidents would surely note that “colorblind” is a code word for “whites only.” Hate!!

Muzzling politically incorrect faculty is hardly a snap but universities now, happily, have these social justice recruits to perform this odious work. The hypersensitive buttercups plus a few aggrieved football players can terrify professors, even liberal ones, and the slightest departure from the orthodoxy can be career-ending. It matters not that the offending lecture or reading assignment is factually correct or a venerated classic. All professors understand the futility of confronting ideologically obsessed, empty-headed, demonstration-prone undergraduates. Not even trigger warnings on The Bell Curve, if that is a class reading, can shield those wandering off the ideological reservation. No professor would discuss the sky-high black crime rate if there was the slightest chance of a buttercup of color sobbing uncontrollably. If that happened, call the campus police… a microaggression in progress! Better to preemptively scrub anything that might, somehow, possibly be deemed offensive to those just itching to rally against “hate.” And for those unfamiliar with the latest Newspeak, censorship is now called creating “safe spaces.”

Thus, if you are a white professor teaching politics (as I did), hew to the party line and avoid any risk. If the subject is voting, lecture about how only blacks were systematically excluded from the suffrage since mentioning that whites were similarly barred minimizes black suffering (recall the brouhaha over “all lives matter”).

This agitation will be especially welcomed in departments where some old geezers resist the PC party line. Professors quickly lose the passion for teaching and research when they live under a sword of Damocles. Social justice warrior tactics are merely applying what was commonplace in Communist China -- public shaming whereby alleged perpetrators are paraded in public, often wearing signs announcing their misdeeds and then forced to give humiliating confessions of guilt. No doubt, unPC professors will now consider early retirement rather than wait for an angry mob of offended snowflakes to hound them into Leisure Village.                    

Campus transformations will also come from hiring more minority faculty. Inevitably, pressured recruitment committees will settle for job candidates unacceptable if they were white and these fresh recruits will overwhelmingly embrace the Left. Many will probably have backgrounds as community activists and agitators or have conducted research celebrating such folk. Who ever heard of a university seeking out politically conservative black scholars? The upshot, then, students will pay upwards of $50,000 in annual tuition to hear incompetents try to indoctrinate them in radical nonsense. 

Equally destructive will be admitting marginal students so as to create a student body that demographically resembles the state or America. These intellectually challenged youngsters are perfect cannon fodder. Most will correctly feel out of place on the campus, overwhelmed academically and the consequences of this angst will be yet more demonstrations and cries of institutional racism. Given that subtle distinctions and complicated arguments are beyond them, discussions will be nothing but sloganeering. Woe to the professor who tries to rebut the charge that America is hopelessly racist without committing multiple microaggressions.

Don’t forget the armies of administrators tasked with helping black students, from Deans of Inclusions to low-level mentors and role models. This bureaucratic expansion is, of course, catnip for empire-building careerists but there’s the added benefit of having yet more PC soldiers on campus. With time the faculty will become “Stepford Professors,” obedient, docile folk whose brains have been 100% cleaned of anything antithetical to diversity, inclusion all the while celebrating the joys of multiculturalism.

It is naïve to believe that today’s administrators honestly see the contemporary university’s primary mission as discovering truth. Nor are they holding the line against barbarians at the gate. They are handsomely paid to keep the peace. How many of these besieged presidents actually want academic departments that might hire a Charles Murray or Thomas Sowell? College apparatchiki love silencing the disruptive truth-tellers, and are overjoyed that students from protected classes are taking on this task. College faculty, at least administrators and those in the social sciences and humanities have long abandoned that pursuit of unvarnished truth and disorderly students are just making themselves useful in the war on intellectual integrity.     

Race-related protests on American college campuses are spreading faster than head lice at a daycare center (for an update, see here). Though each disturbance has its own idiosyncrasies, all include demands that the university recruit more black faculty and students, forcefully “re-educate” all students and faculty to expel lingering anti-black racism and then do whatever is necessary to make the campus a warm, caring and, most of all, a safe space for communities of color.

Far more is involved here than howling for school president’s head or cancelling a mid-term exam to permit traumatized students time to heal. The ruckus is entirely about pushing the university leftward, and these immature campus social justice warriors are what Lenin called useful idiots. All the nattering about diversity and dialogue is a subterfuge; these hypersensitive snowflakes and fellow traveler thugs are just the ground troops in a much larger ideological war.  

A recent New York Times op-ed by Ross Douthat let the cat out of the bag: “The protesters at Yale and Missouri and a longer list of schools stand accused of being spoiled, silly, self-dramatizing -- and many of them are. But they’re also dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt….” He further characterizes today’s university as being filled with “rot.” Meanwhile, when 30 black students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) barged into President Michael Rao’s office with the usual list of demands (particularly too few black professors at VCU), the president welcomed them with, “I’m really glad you’re here.”  Elsewhere, the president of Skidmore College, Philip Glotzbach actively encouraged students to skip classes to protest racism and show solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. Not to be outdone, Hiram Chodosh, president of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) actually formally invited students to have a sit-in at his office when it was discovered that two Caucasian CMC students had posed in Mexican Halloween costumes on their Facebook page. And to top it off, the president of Yale (Peter Salovey) thanked the unruly protestors for their disruptive, uncivil antics with, “It is clear that we need to make significant changes so that all members of our community truly feel welcome and can participate equally in the activities of the university, and to reaffirm and reinforce our commitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination have no place.” He predictably promised yet more effort to expand inclusion and wage war on discrimination including facilitating snitching on racist professors.

Those who doubt that college administrators genuinely welcome these disturbances to advance a leftist political agenda should ask why school administrators never discuss the downside of these demands. Or put such a premium of feelings apart from any reality. They certainly can ask protestors who will pay for all this iffy social engineering. What about items on the list such as race-based hiring of faculty that are clearly illegal? Total silence. Disapproval is only about nitpicking tactics. It will be awhile before the VCU president explains to protesters that excluding white and Asian job applicants is illegal. 

Better yet, how would these presidents react if some white students raucously demanded that universities embrace color blind, merit-based policies? Or complained of their tuition money going to frivolous non-academic pursuits? Presidents would surely note that “colorblind” is a code word for “whites only.” Hate!!

Muzzling politically incorrect faculty is hardly a snap but universities now, happily, have these social justice recruits to perform this odious work. The hypersensitive buttercups plus a few aggrieved football players can terrify professors, even liberal ones, and the slightest departure from the orthodoxy can be career-ending. It matters not that the offending lecture or reading assignment is factually correct or a venerated classic. All professors understand the futility of confronting ideologically obsessed, empty-headed, demonstration-prone undergraduates. Not even trigger warnings on The Bell Curve, if that is a class reading, can shield those wandering off the ideological reservation. No professor would discuss the sky-high black crime rate if there was the slightest chance of a buttercup of color sobbing uncontrollably. If that happened, call the campus police… a microaggression in progress! Better to preemptively scrub anything that might, somehow, possibly be deemed offensive to those just itching to rally against “hate.” And for those unfamiliar with the latest Newspeak, censorship is now called creating “safe spaces.”

Thus, if you are a white professor teaching politics (as I did), hew to the party line and avoid any risk. If the subject is voting, lecture about how only blacks were systematically excluded from the suffrage since mentioning that whites were similarly barred minimizes black suffering (recall the brouhaha over “all lives matter”).

This agitation will be especially welcomed in departments where some old geezers resist the PC party line. Professors quickly lose the passion for teaching and research when they live under a sword of Damocles. Social justice warrior tactics are merely applying what was commonplace in Communist China -- public shaming whereby alleged perpetrators are paraded in public, often wearing signs announcing their misdeeds and then forced to give humiliating confessions of guilt. No doubt, unPC professors will now consider early retirement rather than wait for an angry mob of offended snowflakes to hound them into Leisure Village.                    

Campus transformations will also come from hiring more minority faculty. Inevitably, pressured recruitment committees will settle for job candidates unacceptable if they were white and these fresh recruits will overwhelmingly embrace the Left. Many will probably have backgrounds as community activists and agitators or have conducted research celebrating such folk. Who ever heard of a university seeking out politically conservative black scholars? The upshot, then, students will pay upwards of $50,000 in annual tuition to hear incompetents try to indoctrinate them in radical nonsense. 

Equally destructive will be admitting marginal students so as to create a student body that demographically resembles the state or America. These intellectually challenged youngsters are perfect cannon fodder. Most will correctly feel out of place on the campus, overwhelmed academically and the consequences of this angst will be yet more demonstrations and cries of institutional racism. Given that subtle distinctions and complicated arguments are beyond them, discussions will be nothing but sloganeering. Woe to the professor who tries to rebut the charge that America is hopelessly racist without committing multiple microaggressions.

Don’t forget the armies of administrators tasked with helping black students, from Deans of Inclusions to low-level mentors and role models. This bureaucratic expansion is, of course, catnip for empire-building careerists but there’s the added benefit of having yet more PC soldiers on campus. With time the faculty will become “Stepford Professors,” obedient, docile folk whose brains have been 100% cleaned of anything antithetical to diversity, inclusion all the while celebrating the joys of multiculturalism.

It is naïve to believe that today’s administrators honestly see the contemporary university’s primary mission as discovering truth. Nor are they holding the line against barbarians at the gate. They are handsomely paid to keep the peace. How many of these besieged presidents actually want academic departments that might hire a Charles Murray or Thomas Sowell? College apparatchiki love silencing the disruptive truth-tellers, and are overjoyed that students from protected classes are taking on this task. College faculty, at least administrators and those in the social sciences and humanities have long abandoned that pursuit of unvarnished truth and disorderly students are just making themselves useful in the war on intellectual integrity.