Eight People Conservatives Need to Talk Less About

As a conservative English professor, I thought this would be the year of a breakthrough in the academy.  With all the attention to liberal excesses on college campuses in the closing months of 2015, I said, "Conservatives are finally paying close attention!  Maybe this will be the time to fight for real change."

Man, was I wrong.  The pattern of futile rage that has frustrated me for twenty years in the academy seems to continue without interruption.  I've seen this movie before.  I've also starred in it a number of times, so I know how it ends.  There's one Conservative Hero recycling an old speech we've heard a thousand times before – "College should be a place for free exchange of ideas!" – before jam-packed auditoriums.  Some cameos on a conservative outlet ensue, along with book deals, slapdash jokes about those zany liberals, and perhaps an allusion or two in a campaign speech.

And nothing.  Ever.  Changes.

In the most recent statistics to surface (see here), there are now 4% of humanities professors who are "conservative," though this figure is likely misleading, since many times libertarians à la Koch brothers are grouped in with social conservatives.  Considering that somewhere between 35% and 40% of Americans call themselves conservative, the underrepresentation and discrimination toward conservatives surpasses racism against blacks and Latinos (which is not to say that the academy isn't racist simply because it's liberal – there is enormous racism against blacks and Latinos in hiring, promotion, and publishing, but these structural problems are usually overlooked in the furor over inflammatory causes célèbres like Yale's screaming girl).

Getting interviewed on Megyn Kelly's show and selling a book with an incendiary title at CPAC are not actions that will increase the number of conservatives in graduate school.  You can start a riot and catch liberals acting like fools on YouTube without increasing the possibility of conservative scholars being hired, published, or promoted within the academy.  So here is my list of ten people we need to spend less time talking about – not because they are uninteresting or wrong, but just because talking about them is a real distraction from other stuff we have to do to reform higher education.  I am not saying never to talk about them, but we need to broaden our horizons already.

  1. Robert Oscar Lopez

Why do outlets like American Thinker and Federalist publish this guy? Okay, we get it: he's Puerto Rican and had a somewhat scandalous past involving homosexuals, liberation theology, and a lesbian mother.  He has no good headshots.  He isn't clickbait gold.  Do we really owe him a column a month?  He would be better off staying out of the discussion of higher education, and not forcing conservatives to think about racism when they'd much rather talk about who's peeing in the girls' locker room.  He should stop writing and go on a diet to lose about 100 pounds.

  1. Milo Yiannopoulos

Where on Earth did this person come from?  Two years ago, we were all living our lives and minding our business without having to hear about this blond bombshell's obsession with black genitalia and scorching contempt for women.  Now he's like the Tyra Banks of clickbait.  YouTube abounds in clips called "Milo DESTROYS feminist" or "Milo WRECKS Stupid Liberal."  Rising up out of the tech industry, it seems this alleged homosexual was a master at social media and internet traffic, so this combined with a strong British accent made him a fascinating online commodity.  He gets to say horrible things about females because he claims to be a homosexual, but I don't think he is.  I lived most of my life around gay people.  They take their hair very seriously and would never dye it like Milo's.  Also, gay men are usually mama's boys and could never be so dismissive toward all females.  But this is beside the main point: this is an interesting internet personality with little to add to academic discussion, so why are colleges constantly bringing him in to give speeches?

  1. Ben Shapiro

Tag-teaming with Milo Yiannopoulos is the latest campus tour go-go boy, Ben Shapiro.  A wunderkind with a Harvard law degree who hit it big on talk radio and fell in with some really powerful people in conservative publishing, his ascendancy was more gradual than Milo's but no less distracting.  His website Daily Wire is masterfully pushed on social media, especially with its clickbait gold headlines, but the last thing conservatives needed was another glossy, sensationalistic website letting us know that campus radicals are lunatics.

Shapiro keeps popping up on college campuses, hosted by local student groups.  He came to Cal State Los Angeles, in my neighborhood, to deliver a speech, "When Diversity Becomes A Problem."  The campus is, like most Cal States in the area, overwhelmingly populated by ethnic minorities, so the event was guaranteed to spark a riot – which it did – and occasion lots of damning cell phone footage.  I'd be okay with this P.T. Barnum-style provocation except that Shapiro had the chutzpah, only a couple of weeks later, to write a piece about how dangerous the anti-Semitism in the alt-right movement is.  So he can fly to L.A. with a talk tailor-made to inflame the tempers of blacks and Latinos, but he draws the line at Israel.

Maybe we need someone with stakes in the academy, such as experience teaching or at the very least a lecturer's appointment, instead of a talk show host, to philosophize about academic matters.

  1. Laura Kipnis

Much in the vein of Camille Paglia (see below), Laura Kipnis is a repeating archetype in the history of conservative punditry.  It's the "Crossover Woman," the liberal female who supports zero conservative causes but irritates other liberals and so becomes a sensation on right-wing sites according to the age-old calculus, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

A self-described feminist who became famous with a book about how love is an oppressive concept, Kipnis wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggesting that there's nothing wrong with professors sleeping with students (talk about choosing a hill to die on).  In the process, she was charged with a kooky Title IX violation and investigated for two months, mildly inconvenienced, and then cleared of all wrongdoing.  Compared to the kind of stuff that happens to conservatives accused of any of the classic "isms," this wasn't even a walk in the park.  This was a complete non-event.  (Look at just the timelines that faced John McAdams and Carol Swain for a contrast.)  Yet for about a year, "Laura Kipnis" became the number-one name for name-droppers to drop in conservative circles.

How many times do I have to explain to conservatives that people like this are not on our side?  She got famous and tons of credit, while scores of people who actually agree with conservatives and can teach legitimate subject matter with a conservative point of view are tortured with far worse and left to drown.

  1. Camille Paglia

Before there was Laura Kipnis, of course, there was Camille Paglia.  I was once a devotee of the great Camille, because she has so many sparkling witticisms, and it's delightful to watch her drive liberal feminists insane.  But if you sit down and read through all her ideas, as I did, you realize that she stopped contributing a lot of useful insights by the mid-1990s.  She refers to the 1950s as a dark age, preferring the sexual chaos of the 1960s and 1970s.  She defended pornography and glorified prostitution.  It's true that she challenges "born this way" determinism and defies transgender anomie.  It's true that she often scolds other leftists for being too dismissive of conservatives.  But after 25 years of following her career, I've never seen any signs that she isn't just using right-wing viewpoints as a weapon to beat up on fellow liberals she doesn't like.  She certainly isn't going to go to bat for more conservatives in academia.

  1. Brendan O'Neill

Another liberal who gets far too much attention in the conservative media is British enfant terrible Brendan O'Neill.  As editor of Spiked! and a pervasively published columnist in blue-ribbon places such as the Telegraph, O'Neill certainly commands an impressive profile.  One cannot deny that he has made the important observation that the left is intolerant and suppresses free speech when open discourse would be far more fruitful.

But wait – is this an important observation?  How many millions upon millions of people have remarked this?  Is it necessary for us to share yet another O'Neill column plugging this observation into the latest outrage, the latest disinviting or no-platforming of some scandalous pariah at East Anglia or Oxford or Cambridge or wherever?  Can we actually stop talking about these schools and do something to change them structurally?  Like most others on this list, O'Neill isn't an active academic, so his high-profile speeches, while eloquent, can't stymie the systematic problems that keep decimating the ranks of conservative academia.

  1. Christina Hoff Sommers

Along with Milo and Ben Shapiro, Hoff Sommers seems to be everywhere on college campuses, giving that counter-feminist razzle-dazzle with reports that the gender wage gap is bogus and college women aren't really raped as often as liberals like to claim.  Her web series, The Factual Feminist, published with help from the American Enterprise Institute, gives her at least greater gravitas than some of the others on this list.  Yet I include her here because I can't escape the feeling that she's overexposed and now turning stale.  A telling disappointment came with her reaction to the embarrassingly silly feud between Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.  Signing a letter as one of "sixteen conservative female journalists," she publicly demanded that Lewandowski be fired.  The implication was somehow that an act of misogyny was involved.  Fields's accusation was fatuous.  It seemed a betrayal of Hoff Somers's usual hard line against feminist silliness.

  1. Donald Trump

I am not anti-Cruz, but I do like Donald J. Trump.  I have had to shut down my Facebook too many times to count because I found that conservatives have become the Trump Channel, 24 hours a day.  Some of us like him, some of us hate him, but he's not the anti-Christ, and people who break into hysteria upon hearing his name need to calm down.  The world is full of stuff to worry about, so get to work on other things.  Get the academy to hire more conservative professors, and change curricula.  If you want an example of how people do this, read this.

Robert Oscar Lopez can be followed at English Manif, Soundcloud, or Twitter.