Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

How Intellectuals Cover for Evil

original article: How Intellectuals Cover for Evil: Deconstruction
March 18, 2017 by Thomas McArdle

Alongside its unprecedented mass violence, the 20th century saw the rise and reign of the secular intellectual as false prophet and would-be führer. For such men, as historian Paul Johnson wrote:

The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive codes of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide.

Enter the villain of Stream columnist Jonathan Leaf’s powerful new play, Deconstruction, running through March 25 at the Theatre at Grand Hall (St. Mary’s Parish), 440 Grand Street, New York, N.Y., produced by Storm Theatre.

The Antwerp-born Paul de Man came to America after the Second World War and Blitzkrieged the study of literature by pioneering the postmodern theory of deconstruction — which, among other things, put morally-relativistic modern man in the place of a murdered God.

Pretending to be a Hero of the Anti-Nazi Resistance

De Man ultimately reached the zenith of academic prestige at Yale, becoming the single most influential literary critic in America — whose theories still deeply influence English classes at colleges today. But at the outset of Deconstruction, it’s summer 1949. He holds a menial job at a Grand Central bookshop, and finds himself the pitied guest of Catholic-turned-Marxist novelist and critic Mary McCarthy in her Rhode Island beach cottage.

Leaf’s drama speculates about the two married academics’ rumored affair.  McCarthy would secure de Man his first academic post at New York’s Bard College, an hour’s drive north of Vassar, where she was teaching. De Man doesn’t quite seduce McCarthy; it’s mutual. As she later admits, “anyone who strokes my ego after a few drinks too often can stroke other places.” He compliments her literary talent. She praises his conversational cleverness, and his brave service in the Belgian Resistance – except that, as we discover, the latter was a lie. Quite the contrary.

Deconstruction 2

Jed Peterson as de Man is a fascinating near-reincarnation of Paul Henreid playing the sly, covert Nazi in Carol Reed’s 1940 thriller Night Train To Munich. De Man apes sincerity quite effectively, as he professes shame for seducing other women, then dwells on his tragic youth. At 17, he found his mother hanged on the anniversary of his brother being struck dead by a train. Yet soon after telling the tale, he does indeed lead McCarthy to bed.

In Leaf’s telling, McCarthy would eventually find herself expecting de Man’s child, leaving her third and current husband to think the child is his. After her miscarriage it would be her husband, not de Man, at her side. De Man would by this time be busy with a 21-year-old Bard student whom he had also impregnated.

No, de Man had not fought in the Resistance. In fact, he had served the Nazis.

Inventing New Forms of Relativism to Explain Away His Crimes

But this is the tip of the iceberg. No, de Man had not fought in the Resistance. In fact, he had served the Nazis. Some four years after de Man’s 1983 death, a Belgian scholar would discover more than 100 pro-Nazi articles de Man had published under his own byline in occupied Belgium during the war in the country’s leading newspaper, Le Soir. In one, he recommended a forced exodus of the Jews, remarking that Europe “would lose, in all, a few personalities of mediocre value” then continue in greatness.

Le_SoirDe Man’s legion of deconstruction disciples would proclaim the revelations overblown. Literary scholar James Atlas noted in the New York Times in 1988, while the truth about de Man was still hitting the fan, that de Man’s Yale colleague Geoffrey Hartman minimized de Man’s offenses because they “didn’t begin to compare with the ‘vulgar anti-Semitic writing’ in other newspapers of the day.”

De Man would quit the pro-Nazi paper, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Two months after de Man’s departure Le Soir’s other literary critic was assassinated by the Resistance for being a Nazi collaborator.

Interrogated by Hannah Arendt

The play twists the knife when Leaf’s last character arrives — McCarthy’s friend, political theorist Hannah Arendt. A German Jew who grew up in Koenigsberg, she’d escaped death in the Holocaust thanks to falsified papers from a U.S. diplomat. To an audience, Karoline Fischer’s stern, straight-talking Arendt may be the least enchanting of the three characters, but that suits her harsh message of truth.

“That I managed to get out of Germany, then out of a detention camp — it’s because I’m not cowed. By anyone.” So she informs de Man in an unwelcome visit to his Bard office. “I want to know: who are you?”

But this far-and-away more honest intellectual already knows, having “made some inquiries in Belgium.”

“Tell me, did you deliver bombs for the Resistance? Is that true or a lie?” Arendt demands of de Man.

“If we cannot prove God’s existence or the moral laws taken from antiquity, then what place is there for traditional morality?”

His blood-curdling response: “As a student of Heidegger, you of all people should know that the notion of objective truth is a philosophical concept. An abstraction. Neither more, nor less.”

“What Is Truth?”

De Man was taunting Arendt, aware that she’d once been both Heidegger’s student and his lover. (Heidegger’s blatant, public support for the Nazis even after the war has since dimmed his intellectual star a little.)

If there is no real truth, then why be good? Or, as de Man earlier asked McCarthy, “If we cannot prove God’s existence or the moral laws taken from antiquity, then what place is there for traditional morality? You do see the logic at least?”

The logic she sees – indeed keenly feels – is the soul-destroying vacuum of love and beauty that de Man leaves in his wake. As Mary McCarthy, Fleur Alys Dobbins, in the performance of the night, shifts jarringly from a feathery hedonism to ravaged victimhood.

“You know, Paul, I spent hours thinking of baby names, painting the child’s room different colors in my mind. Wondering: a girl or a boy, which would you like?” she cries in her pain. When de Man claims, “I’m ashamed,” Arendt counters, “You have no shame,” then reveals, “one of the inquiries I made told me something that didn’t entirely surprise me: you wrote for a Nazi newspaper.”

The real difference between de Man and McCarthy?  She admits, “I know I’m a fraud,” but “I want to be good.”

The year he died, de Man would write, “’I am not given to retrospective self-examination, and mercifully forget what I have written with the same alacrity I forget bad movies … although, as with bad movies, certain scenes or phrases return at times to embarrass and haunt me like a guilty conscience.” Atlas noted that, writing on Rousseau, de Man had even claimed we can never distinguish between “fictional discourse and empirical event,” which “makes it possible to excuse the bleakest of crimes.”

Leaf’s deconstruction of the de Man myth ends with McCarthy (“some Marxist, I am!”) repeating aloud a prayer to the Virgin Mary. In the words of Whittaker Chambers, the Communist spy who turned Christian, Deconstruction’s audience discovers that “man without mysticism is a monster.”

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What does a progressive consider “righteous anger”?

Allison Stranger, the Middlebury College professor injured by protesters opposing Charles Murray’s appearance on campus, has something to say. The New York Times published her comments on the incident in an article titled Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion.

Stranger has some straightforward and well justified criticism of the protesters, the extremely illiberal liberals supposedly fighting against hate (by using hate). And yet she also has an odd attitude about the whole thing. Stranger construes the hateful speech and hateful actions of the progressive protests as “righteous anger” and curiously proceeds to build a case showing the exact opposite.

Nearly half way into her article Stranger admits this “righteous anger” was in fact hate: “Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray…” She proceeds to describe what is unavoidably understood as intimidation and terrorism as she states “I feared for my life.”

The problems only continue to mount. Strange proceeds to describe how the well was poisoned long before Murray even showed up on campus.

Part of the problem was the furor that preceded the talk. This past month, as the campus uproar about Dr. Murray’s visit built, I was genuinely surprised and troubled to learn that some of my faculty colleagues had rendered judgment on Dr. Murray’s work and character without ever having read anything he has written.

Once the propaganda began, college progressives were simply uninterested in intellectual (or any other kind of) honesty.

Intelligent members of the Middlebury community — including some of my own students and advisees — concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. Never mind that Dr. Murray supports same-sex marriage and is a member of the courageous “never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.

There is no excusing what happened at Middlebury, and those who prevented Charles Murray from speaking must be punished for violating college rules. But what the events at Middlebury made clear is that, regardless of political persuasion, Americans today are deeply susceptible to a renunciation of reason and celebration of ignorance. They know what they know without reading, discussing or engaging those who might disagree with them.

It’s true, as Stranger says, “People from both sides of the aisle reject calm logic, eager to embrace the alternative news that supports their prejudices” but we should note it is not the political right who is engaging in and celebrating violent protests: that is the hallmark of the modern political left.

Stranger honorably recommends “We must all be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger, or this pattern of miscommunication will continue on other college campuses.” But it would be good for her to take her own advice. Notice how she seems to have blindly embraced the anti-Trump narrative of the left.

Throughout an ugly campaign and into his presidency, President Trump has demonized Muslims as terrorists and dehumanized many groups of marginalized people. He declared the free press an enemy of the people…, and seems bent on dismantling the separation of powers and 230 years of progress this country has made toward a more perfect union. Much of the free speech he has inspired — or has refused to disavow — is ugly, and has already had ugly real-world consequences.

In an effort to “be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger” let’s take a closer look at Stranger’s allegations.

No one is claiming all Muslims are terrorists, while the vast majority of terrorist actions in the world today are in fact committed by Islamic extremists (or American progressives). To even acknowledge this plain fact garners the label “Islamophobic”. Why? Because over generalizing and making blanket accusations are fine if the target is Christianity or conservatism, but Islam is to be protected at all costs, even the cost of one’s own intellectual credibility.

Ignoring the influx of violent immigrants and imported gang violence (especially among states bordering Mexico) does no good for the American people despite the gains it provides to the political left vilifying those who acknowledge this. No one is claiming all immigrants are a danger. But pretending there is no danger is downright idiotic especially considering ISIS has bragged about infiltrating other countries with operatives posing as refugees (something that has actually happened).

The American “free press” has chosen sides in political conflict and it is absurd to deny this: it has been the case for decades. With very few exceptions they are an enemy of Trump and were nauseatingly fond (and protective) of Obama and Clinton (either of them). As a single piece of evidence: Stranger accuses Trump of being bent on dismantling the separation of powers and over two centuries of progress in the United States when that dishonor could easily be placed on Obama’s shoulders.

Also, it is common place for politicians to portray their agendas as the will of “the American people” so there no point in denying this when Trump brands the press as the enemy. It would be easier to reject his claims if the press weren’t so hell bent on pumping any and all criticisms and accusations Democrats throw at Trump when they worked so hard to refute or dismiss Obama’s critics.

And so what if a lot of the free speech of late has been ugly? Falsely accusing the political right of various forms of bigotry (something that has been done for decades) is also ugly, but that doesn’t stop the political left doing so. Stranger is doing that very thing even here in unquestioningly regurgitating the left’s narrative on Trump. Did you notice how Nazi comparisons were treated as distasteful when Obama was president but were perfectly fine when Bush was president, and are once again in vogue with president Trump?

Intentionally misconstruing the political right’s comments provides an excellent example for Stranger and the rest of the political left to “be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger”. With very few exceptions Stranger’s criticism of hate is an apt description of the common progressive, and even more apt of left wing activists. It looks like Jonathan Haidt is proven right once again.

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Middlebury showed us how colleges today punish blasphemy

original article: The Dangerous Safety of College
March 11, 2017 by Frank Bruni

The moral of the recent melee at Middlebury College, where students shouted down and chased away a controversial social scientist, isn’t just about free speech, though that’s the rubric under which the ugly incident has been tucked. It’s about emotional coddling. It’s about intellectual impoverishment.

Somewhere along the way, those young men and women — our future leaders, perhaps — got the idea that they should be able to purge their world of perspectives offensive to them. They came to believe that it’s morally dignified and politically constructive to scream rather than to reason, to hurl slurs in place of arguments.

They have been done a terrible disservice. All of us have, and we need to reacquaint ourselves with what education really means and what colleges do and don’t owe their charges.

Physical safety? Absolutely. A smooth, validating passage across the ocean of ideas? No. If anything, colleges owe students turbulence, because it’s from a contest of perspectives and an assault on presumptions that truth emerges — and, with it, true confidence.

What happened at Middlebury was this: A group of conservative students invited Charles Murray to speak, and administrators rightly consented to it. Although his latest writings about class divisions in America have been perceptive, even prescient, his 1994 book “The Bell Curve” trafficked in race-based theories of intelligence and was broadly (and, in my opinion, correctly) denounced. The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled him a white nationalist.

He arrived on campus wearing that tag, to encounter hundreds of protesters intent on registering their disgust. Many jammed the auditorium where he was supposed to be interviewed — by, mind you, a liberal professor — and stood with their backs to him. That much was fine, even commendable, but the protest didn’t stop there.

Chanting that Murray was “racist, sexist, anti-gay,” the students wouldn’t let him talk. And when he and the professor moved their planned interchange to a private room where it could be recorded on camera, protesters disrupted that, too, by pulling fire alarms and banging on windows. A subsequent confrontation between some of them and Murray grew physical enough that the professor with him sought medical treatment for a wrenched neck.

Middlebury isn’t every school, and only a small fraction of Middlebury students were involved. But we’d be foolish not to treat this as a wake-up call, because it’s of a piece with some of the extraordinary demands that students at other campuses have made, and it’s the fruit of a dangerous ideological conformity in too much of higher education.

It put me in mind of important remarks that the commentator Van Jones, a prominent Democrat, made just six days beforehand at the University of Chicago, where he upbraided students for insisting on being swaddled in Bubble Wrap.

“I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically,” he told them. “I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity.”

“You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous,” he added. “I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you.”

The liberalism that Jones was bemoaning is really illiberalism, inasmuch as it issues repressive rules about what people should be able to say and hear. It’s part of what some angry voters in 2016 were reacting to and rebelling against. And colleges promote it by failing to summon a rich spectrum of voices.

“Certain things are not to be discussed,” said John McWhorter, a Columbia University professor who teaches linguistics and philosophy, speaking of a rigid political correctness that transcends college campuses but that he is especially disturbed to see there. Campuses are supposed to be realms of bold inquiry and fearless debate.

Reflecting on Middlebury, he told me, “Anybody whose approach to ideas that they don’t like is just to scream bloody murder has been failed in their education.” It hasn’t taught them that history is messy, society complicated and truth elusive.

Protests aren’t the problem, not in and of themselves. They’re vital, and so is work to end racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotry. But much of the policing of imperfect language, silencing of dissent and shaming of dissenters runs counter to that goal, alienating the very onlookers who need illumination.

It’s an approach less practical than passionate, less strategic than cathartic, and partly for that reason, both McWhorter and the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt have likened it to a religion.

“When something becomes a religion, we don’t choose the actions that are most likely to solve the problem,” said Haidt, the author of the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind” and a professor at New York University. “We do the things that are the most ritually satisfying.”

He added that what he saw in footage of the confrontation at Middlebury “was a modern-day auto-da-fé: the celebration of a religious rite by burning the blasphemer.”

The protesters didn’t use Murray’s presence as an occasion to hone the most eloquent, irrefutable retort to him. They swarmed and swore.

McWhorter recalled that back when “The Bell Curve” was published, there was disagreement about whether journalists should give it currency by paying it heed. But he said that it was because they engaged the material in detail, rather than just branding it sacrilegious, that he learned enough to conclude on his own that its assertions were wrong — and why.

Both he and Haidt belong to Heterodox Academy, a group of hundreds of professors who, in joining, have pledged to support a diversity of viewpoints at colleges and universities. It was founded in 2015. It’s distressing that there was — and is — even a need for it.

But according to an essay in Bloomberg View last week by Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale, the impulse to squelch upsetting words with “odious behavior” is so common “that it’s tempting to greet it with a shrug.”

“The downshouters will go on behaving deplorably,” Carter wrote, “and reminding the rest of us that the true harbinger of an authoritarian future lives not in the White House but in the groves of academe.”

I wouldn’t go that far. But I worry that in too many instances, the groves of academe are better at pumping their denizens full of an easy, intoxicating fervor than at preparing them for constructive engagement in a society that won’t echo their convictions the way their campuses do.

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University presidents more concerned with climate than free speech

original article: University presidents nationwide refuse to sign ‘Intellectual Freedom Commitment’
March 10, 2017 by NATHAN RUBBELKE

Zero presidents have signed it; all refuse

In November 2015, as racial protests engulfed the University of Missouri and students issued demands nationwide, Peter Wood thought the rocky campus landscape was ripe for higher education leaders to affirm their commitment to intellectual and academic freedom.

With that in mind, the prominent scholar penned a “College and University Presidents’ Intellectual Freedom Commitment.” However, campus leaders completely rejected it.

“Zero, absolutely zero” presidents have signed on, Wood said in an interview, but the president of the National Association of Scholars isn’t giving up on his mission.

Wood’s efforts initially began in the fall of 2015, as the Mizzou protests garnered national attention and ousted university leaders, spurring students nationwide to make demands at their respective campus.

At that time, Wood saw a number of conservative commentators responding with “very aggressive statements” about the need to preserve freedom of speech on campus. While he didn’t disagree with them, he thought “something a little bit more thought through about what kind of actions could and should be taken to preserve the intellectual freedom” might be needed.

MORE: It might be time to defund colleges that suppress free speech, scholar writes

Wood initially published in January 2016 a 30-page document entitled “The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom.” He shared it with several thousand university presidents and trustees, but received little feedback.

“It certainly did not hit home,” Wood said.

That led Wood to develop the “College and University Presidents’ Intellectual Freedom Commitment,” a single-page, 340-word document he describes as less historical and philosophical and more of a “definite pledge.”

The document states “that intellectual freedom is the foundation of higher education.” It calls in part for the protection in academia to raise questions, analyze claims, express doubts and to argue for and against conclusions.

The commitment acknowledges intellectual freedom often results in controversies and public scrutiny.

“With that in mind we believe it is important from time to time for the leaders of colleges and universities to affirm strongly the principle of intellectual freedom,” it reads.

College and University Presidents’ Academic Freedom Commitment by The College Fix on Scribd

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/341416284/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-LbyqKpDThhST7eAmM6jh&show_recommendations=true

The model for enlisting higher education leaders to sign on to such a cause comes from the progressive left, Wood said.

He pointed to the success of the “American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment,” which was brought forth by a dozen college leaders in 2006. The group worked with climate advocacy groups like Second Nature, ecoAmerica and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to push the pledge forward. By the end of 2007, the commitment had more than 300 signatures and eventually more than 650 institutions committed to it.

Wood hoped to have the same success. He reached out to university presidents one by one. Could he enlist campus leaders?

“The answer is a big flat no. I can’t,” he said.

Wood said it appears college and university presidents have moved so steadfastly to the left that they’re “much more interested in mounting the resistance to the rule of law and to President Trump than they are in protecting the rights of their own students and faculty members.”

However, that’s the negative way to look at the lack of signatories.

“The positive way is that the time has not yet come when they are really ready to commit themselves to this,” he said.

However, the fight for intellectual freedom on college campuses hasn’t stopped with Wood. It’s expanded outside academia. Wood pointed to model campus free speech legislationdeveloped by the Goldwater Institute and Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Additionally Wood and his organization, the National Association of Scholars, are working on proposed changes to the federal Higher Education Act.

MORE: Public colleges that threaten free expression would face steep penalties under model bill

However, Wood isn’t giving up on his intellectual freedom pledge. The potential legislation might spurn campus leaders to act on their own.

“As they begin to notice that their states and federal government are about to move into this territory, they may well begin to think that voluntary and self-regulation might not be a bad idea and could stave off these external authorities,” Wood said.

He also noted that recent riots at UC Berkeley over the appearance of conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos “revived public interest in the topic and that opens up another chance.”

Wood isn’t discouraged by the original lack of response.

“I expect that everyone of these fights is going to be hard and I understand that higher education is now pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of the progressive left,” he said.

While there are conservative scholars and conservative institutions, Wood said it doesn’t particularly help him in getting them aboard given they’re a small demographic ignored by the mainstream.

It’s the larger demographic Wood wants to reach.

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“My hope is to make this a mainstream thing,” he said.

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Too many feminists in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm women

original article: On This ‘Day Without a Woman,’ Don’t Leave Women Oppressed by Sharia Law Behind
March 8, 2017 by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Wednesday is International Women’s Day, and the organizers of the Women’s March are holding another protest. This one is called A Day Without a Woman, in solidarity with those women who have lower wages and experience greater inequalities.

The protest encourages women to take the day off work, avoid shopping other than in small women- and minority-owned stores, and wear red.

The problems being protested against Wednesday—inequality, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity—are all too real for many disadvantaged women, but the legal protections for them are in place here in the United States. Women who are unfairly treated at work or discriminated against can stand up, speak out, protest in the streets, and take legal action. Not so for many women in other parts of the world for whom the hashtag #daywithoutawoman is all too apt.

Around the world women are subjected to “honor violence” and lack legal protections and access to health and social services. According to Amnesty International’s recent annual report, throughout the Middle East and North Africa, women and girls are denied equal status with men in law and are subject to gender-based violence, including sexual violence and killings perpetrated in the name of “honor.”

The relationship between the sexes in Muslim majority countries is inspired and often governed by a mix of tribal, traditional practices and Islamic law. Algerian author Kamel Daoud recently referred to this system as entailing “sexual misery” for both men and women throughout the Islamic world.Daoud favors the full emancipation of Muslim women, yet many commentators criticized him as being guilty of “Islamophobia,” a term increasingly used to silence meaningful debate.

International Women’s Day should be a day to raise our voices on behalf of women with no recourse to protect their rights. Yet I doubt Wednesday’s protesters will wave placards condemning the religious and cultural framework for women’s oppression under Sharia law. As a moral and legal code, Sharia law is demeaning and degrading to women. It requires women to be placed under the care of male guardians; it views a woman’s testimony in court as worth half that of a man’s; and it permits a husband to beat his wife. It’s not only women’s legal and sexual freedoms that are curtailed under Sharia but their economic freedoms as well. Women generally inherit half of the amount that men inherit, and their male guardian must consent to their choosing education, work, or travel.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria, where Sharia law underpins the judicial system, women’s rights suffer greatly.

There is a growing trend among some feminists to make excuses for Sharia law and claim it is nothing more than a personal moral guide, and therefore consistent with American constitutional liberties. Yet the rules that such “Sharia-lite feminists” voluntarily choose to follow are also invoked to oppress women—to marry them off, to constrain their economic and human rights, and to limit their freedom of expression—who have not consented to them. The moral conflict between Sharia and universal human rights should not be dismissed as a misunderstanding, but openly discussed.

Many Western feminists struggle to embrace universal women’s rights. Decades ago, Germaine Greer argued that attempts to outlaw female genital mutilation amounted to “an attack on cultural identity.” That type of deference to traditional practices, in the name of cultural sensitivity, hurts vulnerable women. These days, relativism remains strong. Too many feminists in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm women—female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, marital rape, and honor violence, particularly in non-Western societies. Women’s rights are universal, and such practices cannot be accepted.

The revival of part of the women’s movement, catalyzed by the election of Donald Trump, has deeper roots than can be seen on the surface. Like Wednesday’s protest, a large portion of Western feminism has been captured by political ideologues and postmodern apologists. Rather than protecting women’s rights, many feminists are focused on signaling opposition to “right-wing” politics.

One of the organizers of the Women’s March movement recently tweeted: “If the right wing is defending or agreeing with you, you are probably on the wrong side. Re-evaluate your positions.”

I’m all for dissent, but that “us vs. them” mentality has caused political gridlock, even on humanitarian issues where the left and right should work together. Hostility and intolerance to others’ views have made rational discussion on important issues taboo. A robust defense of universal women’s rights should welcome support from both the left and the right, overcoming domestic partisan divisions in order to help women abroad attain their full rights.

This International Women’s Day, we should protest the oppression of women who have no access to legal protections. We should support those Muslim reformers, such as Asra Nomani, Zuhdi Jasser, and Irshad Manji, who seek to reform Islam in line with full legal equality between men and women. And we should strive to overcome domestic political divisions to defend the universality of women’s rights.

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Was I raped?

original article: How colleges muddy the waters on sexual-assault accusations
March 6, 2017 by Naomi Schaefer Riley

“Was I raped?” This is the question Yale sophomore Ayla Besemer spends several thousand words exploring in a recent issue of her school’s newspaper.

The story: Besemer got very drunk one night during her freshman year. She brought home a guy she knew but doesn’t remember anything that happened next. She woke up with a bruise on her thigh and a used condom on her floor. Yale requires an “affirmative consent” for sexual activity to be considered truly consensual, but Besemer acknowledges she may well have said yes. She blacked out, meaning she might still have been “fully operational — talking, laughing, drinking more and, indeed, having sex as if [she were only] minimally drunk.”

There are clearly some women out there who are deeply confused about what it means to be raped, and they are, in many cases, being misled by the adults around them.

As Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson document in their new book, “The Campus Rape Frenzy,” the Title IX coordinators, whose jobs on campus often involve digging up rape allegations or helping to gather evidence to adjudicate them, encourage young, impressionable women to call every incident of regrettable drunken sex “rape.”

But it would be wrong to suggest that these women are all just confused about sex and sexual assault. Many of them know perfectly well what they have done and are using the system to make excuses for their behavior or even to manipulate the men around them.

Take Nikki Yovino, the 18-year-old Sacred Heart University student who has been charged with falsely claiming she was sexually assaulted by two football players because she didn’t want to lose the interest of another guy. Yovino is a reminder that even in our age of gender enlightenment, women know enough about human nature to get what they want from men.

That was certainly the conclusion from the elaborate hoax perpetrated by “Jackie” at the University of Virginia a couple of years ago. She not only made up a rape allegation, she made up the assailant in order to get another guy jealous.

Columbia graduate Emma Sulkowicz, a k a “Mattress Girl,” accused a fellow student of rape. But the school exonerated him and Sulkowicz declined to press charges. She managed to turn herself into a celebrity and even get course credit in performance art for carrying a mattress around campus. (All while the accusations were destroying the life of the guy who claims she was attacking him after he rebuffed her professed love for him.)

In a case at Appalachian State University, a woman accused two football players of rape even though witnesses saw her inviting them into her room. At Amherst, a woman actually texted a residential adviser about her “stupid” decision to have sex with her roommate’s boyfriend before she accused him of rape. The student was expelled, but is suing Amherst for violating his rights. Last month, a judge seemed sympathetic to his claim against the school.

And then there are the times that seem a bit more clear-cut. A University of Michigan student, for example, allegedly used a rape accusation to explain certain things to her mother, who was upset after reading diary entries about her daughter’s wild life on campus.

Women actually used to employ such tactics more regularly. A pregnancy was not so easily avoided, ended or hidden. And, well, folks used to be bigger sticklers for marital fidelity. So having sex with the wrong guy meant women had some explaining to do.

But these days, the reasons for falsely claiming rape have much more to do with the campus soap opera and the sexual politics of one’s peer group than any concern that families will disown you or church communities will banish you.

And the false claims — both on campus and off — are much more prevalent than the media would have you believe. A 2012 Urban Institute report found that of 227 men convicted of rape, 15 percent of them could be eliminated by DNA evidence alone. A study of 351 cases in a Southeastern police department found that 17 percent of the allegations were fabricated and another 66 percent were uncertain.

Though we may not always treat them as such, female college students are adults. It’s true that in many cases, bureaucrats have manipulated them into believing that they were raped when by any reasonable standard, they weren’t. Besemer’s counselor and Yale’s Title IX coordinator told her that her experience could definitely be considered assault.

But we also shouldn’t discount the notion that many of these women knew exactly what they were doing. When you decide to ruin a man’s life and reputation in order to cover up your own mistakes or get what you want from others, you’re not a victim — you’re a sociopath.

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Middlebury College enabled student riot

original article: How Middlebury College Enabled The Student Riot During Charles Murray’s Visit
March 7, 2017 by Peter W. Wood

School administrators must stop abasing themselves to student outrage. Colleges should foster intellectual community—not progressive appeasement.

The fracas at Middlebury College on March 2 has been widely reported. Both the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal covered it, though perhaps no report improved on the local Addison County Independent: Middlebury College professor injured by protesters as she escorted controversial speaker.” Web coverage and commentary has also been ample. The American Interest was among the first to post.

This is an ongoing story with important details to come. The links above provide concise versions. What follows is a zoomed-in look at the events that preceded the apparent effort by a protester to inflict serious harm on a Middlebury professor, a professor who herself played an ambiguous part in the disturbance.

read full article

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White guilt gave us a mock politics based on the pretense of moral authority

original article: The Exhaustion of American Liberalism
March 5, 2017 by SHELBY STEELE

The recent flurry of marches, demonstrations and even riots, along with the Democratic Party’s spiteful reaction to the Trump presidency, exposes what modern liberalism has become: a politics shrouded in pathos. Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism.

All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning. What is ending?

America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exercised in American life for the last half-century.

White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.

It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.

When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”

For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization. For Mr. Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Mrs. Clinton, liberalism was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.

Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt, so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. There are so many public moments now in which liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks—Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a 30-year-old letter by Coretta Scott King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general. There it was with deadly predictability: a white liberal stealing moral authority from a black heroine in order to stigmatize a white male as racist. When Ms. Warren was finally told to sit, there was real mortification behind her glaring eyes.

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

This is the reality that made Ms. Warren’s attack on Mr. Sessions so tiresome. And it is what caused so many Democrats at President Trump’s address to Congress to look a little mortified, defiantly proud but dark with doubt. The sight of them was a profound moment in American political history.

Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome. It has no grip whatever on what American exceptionalism is and what it means at home and especially abroad. Instead it remains defined by an America of 1965—an America newly opening itself to its sins, an America of genuine goodwill, yet lacking in self-knowledge.

This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive. Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.

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Harvard orders students to spy on each other

original article: Harvard orders students to spy on each other with broad new rules against single-sex clubs
March 7, 2017 by Greg Piper

Don’t worry, it’s not ‘intrusive’

No one expects the Harvard Inquisition!

That is, unless you saw snippets of an implementation committee’s report that called for Harvard to not only punish and exclude members of single-sex clubs from a broad range of fellowships and leadership positions, but to block those students from running for office or leading The Harvard Crimson.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana has finally released the full 46-page report by the committee in charge of deciding how best to undermine freedom of association, and he said he agrees with practically all of it, The Crimson reports:

Under the recommendations, students starting with the class of 2021 who seek leadership positions, captaincies, or fellowships will have to sign a written statement affirming their commitment to “nondiscrimination on the basis of characteristics of ‘intrinsic identity,’ including gender.” Students will also have to affirm they do not currently belong to an “unrecognized single-gender social organization,” did not belong to one in the past year, and will not belong to one in the year after their tenure in a leadership position or athletic captaincy ends.

Sound like the House Un-American Activities Committee? We’ll get to that later.

Harvard wants students to attest in writing that they are not in final clubs–but noninvasively! Hello, Upside-Down! http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/3/6/implementation-committee-recommendations/  pic.twitter.com/CAh9xymlr6

Harvard: We evaluated our peers’ practices targeting Greek orgs closely
World: Can we see your results
Harvard: Surehttp://osl.fas.harvard.edu/files/osl/files/implementationcommitteefinalreport.pdf pic.twitter.com/MxrAf4bRe0

View image on Twitter

The main change: Khurana “did not accept the committee’s recommendation that members of single-gender social groups be barred from leadership roles on The Crimson and the Undergraduate Council.”

But this wholesale attack on campus democracy and freedom of the press still might happen when fewer people are paying attention. Khurana said those ideas deserve “further deliberation.”

MORE: Harvard’s anti-male committee wants to overturn campus democracy, free press

The most stunning part of the report is how it plans to enforce compliance, and the disingenuous way it describes the method, which may explain why committee leaders refused to even give its members copies of the report while its future was in doubt:

The committee recommended that the Honor Council investigate students who violate the policy by “falsely affirming compliance,” though the report emphasized that students should “not perceive the policy as intrusive or punitive.”

Harvard wants students to attest in writing that they are not in final clubs–but noninvasively! Hello, Upside-Down! http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/3/6/implementation-committee-recommendations/ 

The Honor Council judges allegations of academic-integrity violations. It includes administrators, faculty and – yep – students who might want those coveted fellowships and leadership positions for themselves.

A spokesperson told The Crimson the Honor Council would stick to investigating those who apply for fellowships, while those who hold “organizational leadership positions” in prohibited groups will be evaluated under a “trust-based system,” whatever that means.

MORE: Harvard is ready to blacklist 1 in 4 students

Ryne Weiss at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) describes the council’s new mission as leading “inquisitorial efforts for those suspected of fibbing when asked whether they are, or have ever been, a member of the Communist Par— I mean, single-gender sorority, fraternity, or final club”:

So it looks like a modern-day version of the Secret Court is back, and this time, it’s enlisting students along with the faculty and staff traditionally tasked with ferreting out those with associations too unsavory for Harvard. Given that students compete with each other for the very positions that the students on the Honor Council will have the power to deny (athletic captaincies, scholarships, leadership of student groups, etc.) this is obviously and unmistakably ripe for abuse.

Keep in mind that two days after the committee delivered its report to Khurana, the dean created a faculty review committee that had (in theory) authority to scrap or revise the very single-sex sanctions in the report.

He was probably afraid that if faculty saw the report, they would quickly quash the sanctions with their own “nondiscrimination” motion, which was slated for a vote just days later. (The motion’s sponsor, former Dean Harry Lewis, withdrew it after Khurana’s concession, and recently announced he’s teaching only two more semesters before officially retiring.)

Now Khurana’s conveniently timed creation of the faculty committee looks like “a dishonest diversionary tactic to kill a motion by faculty members that which would have challenged the sanctions regime” in the still-hidden report, Weiss writes:

If Harvard administrators had any kind of accountability, the use of such a tactic might pose a real problem. But given that they can apparently read faculty emails without any real consequences, that might be too much to ask.

How dare you slow our ‘momentum towards greater inclusivity’

If there’s one piece of black comedy in this sorry display of Harvard’s most illiberal impulses, it’s the implementation committee’s annoyance at having to compete with a new lover (the faculty committee) for Khurana’s attention.

In a section that specifically credited “student members of the committee,” the report says this:

[T]he lack of clarity as well as the events of the past month, namely the formation of a new faculty committee to review this policy, have had a particularly negative effect on conversations with numerous existing stakeholders in the College’s social scene. These events have fostered skepticism about the intent and commitment to the policy, discouraged those students who are supportive of efforts to transform the nature of the clubs, and undermined the confidence and progress of those groups who have already made difficult decisions to move in a more inclusive direction [by capitulating to months of threats]. Momentum towards greater inclusivity was stalled by lack of clear leadership and legitimate concerns as to whether institutional support was unstable.

Such Newspeak is just the beginning, though. As The Crimson points out:

The report also details a plan for the “dissemination of a positive narrative around the new policy,” including a draft of a letter to incoming students, and “professional brochures.”

You can see more about the propaganda campaign under Section C, “Communications and Benchmarking,” page 21 of the report. Note the multiple references to “diversity” and “inclusion.”

Committee whose recs sought to expand Harvard’s anti-freedom/association policy urges college to push “positive narrative.” Remarkable.

The remaining single-sex clubs aren’t being bludgeoned into nonexistence just yet: The report creates a “provisional social organization” designation for clubs that pledge to forsake their right to free association (and apparently their ties to national organizations).

And once more, the women are getting preferential treatment:

The report also calls for … a five-year “bridge” program for traditionally female final clubs and sororities that would allow these groups “to operate with gender focused missions” for some time after the College’s policy takes effect next fall.

If you don’t want to see Harvard take a step backwards to the good ol’ days of communist witch hunts, sign FIRE’s petition to Khurana and President Drew Faust while it might still change this Orwellian policy.

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Media personality accidentally admits the purpose of news is to control what people think

original article: Mika Brzezinski — The Media’s Job Is To ‘Actually Control Exactly What People Think’
February 22, 2017 by Christian Datoc

Mika Brzezinski criticized President Trump for undermining the media’s role in controlling “what people think” on MSNBC Wednesday morning.

The “Morning Joe” host explained to the panel that Trump’s behavior is “dangerous.”

“He is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts,” she continued. “He could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think.”

“That is our job.”

watch the video

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