flexing their social muscles

I remember when Donald Trump was elected, and for a while after the Yahoo news aggregator was filled with articles about lowly people–teachers, policemen, and the like–being fired for racism.  The charge of racism was always contrived (criticism or impoliteness toward a black person or a group that included some black people), but the point was made.  “Don’t imagine that this electoral theatre makes any difference.  We are still in power here.”  Around the same time (but less concentrated around the election), the was a spate of articles about people (school principles, policemen) being fired and ostracized for criticizing the immodest dress of teenage girls.  The message was again one of power–“Don’t dare enforce any of your local standards of propriety against women, or we will destroy you.”  Those cases of Trump officials being kicked out of restaurants and the like is the sort of thing one only does if one senses that the social hierarchy has one’s back.

In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, we have once again a formal victory of the center-Right, which one could now say formally controls all branches of the federal government.  Again, it is stunning how this corresponds to no social power whatsoever.  It’s Mr. Kavanaugh’s supporting senators who are getting screamed at and being targeted by donors.  Myself, I cannot understand the strength of emotion on either side of that issue.  To me,  Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence is clearly a disputable question, one on which reasonable people may disagree.  Then again, I would say the same about the exact value of the total climate feedback parameter and the exact body count of the Holocaust, so clearly I’m weird.  That’s not the point, though.  The point is which side feels sufficient control of the social space to feel free to express their anger.  Is there anyone who needs be afraid to admit that he or she opposed Kavanaugh?  In an alternate universe in which the Right held social power, I would expect us to scream and bully.  People do what they know they can get away with.

Similarly, I am struck by the recent affirmation of the Left by Taylor Swift and disassociation from the Right by Linus Torvald.  Their political beliefs are not themselves matters of intrinsic interest, but in both cases we have well-known people who have long been under criticism and pressure for so long staying out of politics, so regardless of their personal beliefs, one has the impression of powerful people caving.  The message:  “Neutrality will not be tolerated.”

I am vaguely worried to learn that the scientific collaboration of which I am a part will soon be adopting a code of conduct.  I have no objection to the thing as written, since it only requires that we treat each other professionally, but I’m well aware that the up-and-coming graduate students and postdocs read these things differently than I and my older colleagues.   Regardless of what they say, these things can come to serve as markers of ownership of social space, and Leftists have a way of redefining professionalism and civility to include acquiescence to their ideology.  I expect that my position in the collaboration will ultimately become untenable, but that I have several years to design a fully independent research program.  I’ve been wanting to do this anyway, and since I’ve got tenure I’m not terribly worried.

While on the subject of tenure and tenure-track positions, I’ve noticed that more assistant professor applications are requiring diversity statements in addition to research and teaching statements.  Neutrality will not be tolerated.

The goal of the Benedict Option is to own social space by retreating and creating it since conquering existing space is currently unfeasible.

11 Responses

  1. I am on a footling college committee to which all things silly are sent. In recent years these silly items have begun to include complaints about college “climate.” Not long ago we were asked to consider a policy on the items some professors tape to the outside of their office doors. I have literally never seen an icon of the Right on a professor’s door, and have naturally seen hundreds of Marxist slogans and portraits, but the complaint vaguely implied there were klansmen in the college. Perhaps someone in the Geology department had decorated his door with a noose! As I’m sure you know, a good college “climate” means nothing that offends the sensibility of feminists, minorities, secularists, or disciples of Whig history.

    My door is bare and my office is neutral, but as you say, neutrality is suspect. It’s not the portrait of General Pinochet on one’s wall that gets one into trouble, it’s the blank space where the portrait of Che might have been.

  2. I’ve always thought that we professors have a duty to be reserved around students about our beliefs on emotionally salient issues, and I’m grateful that the faculty in my department have left our building a pretty apolitical space. One would like to be able to take this for granted, but one cannot. Some students might actually find it disconcerting. Why isn’t Professor so-and-so reassuring us that he only has approved thoughts?

    In some departments that are less, shall we say, reserved, one could argue that Pinochet posters are justified to provide some balance. Not that I would recommend it, but I’d have a hard time condemning it when the offices on either side have Che posters.

  3. It’s strange to me how differently elections register socially and celebrity wise in the US and UK. It’s a sort of morality play here with forces of light democrats versus forces of darkness and all celebrities are supposed to be good guys and girls who care and so are “democrats.” It’s not as moralistic in the UK. All the spice girls were torries. But yeah obviously you will be fired anywhere for not being on board with the tranny stuff.
    I love the Democratic Unionists! They rule! I want to start a Catholic Americans for the DU PAC.

  4. I’ve read that in England most of the Jews are Tories. It’s another world across the pond.

    I suspect that nowhere else on Earth is there as big of a difference between election results and who calls the shots in the office (wherever one’s office is) and in the culture. Such a dissociation would seem to be unstable except that it’s been the American way for a while now. The vanguard continues to push everyone to the Left, and the majority take up the Leftward-moving rear, home of the Republicans.

  5. It seems like German Jews (which I think most English Jews are) and the smallish, but historically prominent in the south, Sephardic population in the US were somewhat conservative. It was the later arriving and much larger population Shtetl Jews that shifted the average Jewish ideology leftward.

  6. I haven’t read the Benedict Option but I remember it being somewhat hyped. It’s a huge problem for Catholics because we aren’t supposed to retreat and become clannish are we? We are supposed to martyr ourselves until we own the culture. Clannish retreating is an available option for Protestants. Why don’t they all? Look how successful the Amish are! I’m jealous! Look how culturally unsuccessful mainstream Ana Baptists are. Serving on the USS Harvey Milk right now, their kids playing call of duty, everyone addicted to obscenity, their wives contracepting themselves into extinction, Protestants have no excuse…they can just go out into the woods…but what is a Catholic to do? This is a big question for women. Men write all the essays and do all the thinking but we have to put a lot of it into play. Generally men are only as conservative as their wives.

  7. If you were lucky, you would be in an organisation that had a code of conduct like so – https://www.sqlite.org/codeofconduct.html

    The first third:

    “2. The Rule

    First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole strength.
    Then, love your neighbor as yourself.
    Do not murder.
    Do not commit adultery.
    Do not steal.
    Do not covet.
    Do not bear false witness.
    Honor all.
    Do not do to another what you would not have done to yourself.
    Deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
    Chastise the body.
    Do not become attached to pleasures.
    Love fasting.
    Relieve the poor.
    Clothe the naked.
    Visit the sick.
    Bury the dead.
    Be a help in times of trouble.
    Console the sorrowing.
    Be a stranger to the world’s ways.
    Prefer nothing more than the love of Christ.
    Do not give way to anger.
    Do not nurse a grudge.
    Do not entertain deceit in your heart.
    Do not give a false peace. “

  8. @bonald – I certainly don’t want to worry you, nor deter you from doing the right thing – but the experience of my colleague Geoffrey Miller at the University of New Mexico suggests that tenure is not much protection.

    His crime was a one line twitter joke about overweight persons that ’caused’ a media firestorm; the punishment (I understand, via someone in a position to know) included (but I don’t think was restricted to) demotion, loss of salary, and multiple compulsory ‘struggle sessions’/ ideological-reprogramming.

    I believe this was the mandatory price for not being let-go.

  9. Hi Bruce. I suspect you’re right; they’ve figured out ways of getting around tenure, although it is still some protection. Social media is particularly dangerous because one has no room for context, and I mean to stay away from that (even anonymously).

    It looks like they’re coming after all of us anyway, that sooner or later all the silent or hidden dissenters will have to surrender or be exposed. The worst thing is to be brought down over something silly, like Professor Miller’s joke. I would also prefer not to be punished for one of my tangential opinions, such as my dissent from American negro worship. By getting out in front of this, I hope to be the one to frame my dissent from the modern world. By focusing on metaphysics rather than politics, I’m hoping to make it more difficult to whip up outrage against me. And if it comes anyway, I’d rather lose pay and friends (and whatever else) for being a Catholic than for something other issue that is less important to me. I think the only reason I might call off my new plan is if I don’t think I can do a good job of it. But that would be a disappointment to me, not a relief. I’m taking my time to make something I can be proud of, but I don’t want to let this take forever, or I might be sniffed out in some damned SJW craze first and fail to preempt the issue framing.

  10. This university instituted “post-tenure review” some years back. The ostensible purpose is to cut “deadwood” but the real purpose is to evade laws against a mandatory retirement age. The actual effect is that “peer review” now decides who is exempt from mandatory retirement. Obviously a world-class scholar cannot fail “post-tenure review,” but there are very few world-class scholars. “Peer review” has a lot of latitude to spin achievements up or down, and thus to separate mediocre scholars into “deadwood” and “assets.” It is also possible to make one professor into “deadwood” by “girdling his trunk,” and another professor into an asset with “water” and “fertilizer.” I have a good friend in a physical science who I believe is being set up for a PTR mandatory retirement by being “starved” of resources and classes. He is in no way a bad-thinker, just taking up space in the opinion of those in power.

  11. We also have annual reviews, though mainly (I think) to decide if someone should apply for full professorship or to give extra teaching to someone who has failed to bring in grant money for many years.

    It’s funny how some bad-thinkers have survived relatively unmolested, while other people are destroyed for trivial offenses. It brings to mind Steve Sailer’s image of the “eye of Soros” that shifts its attention from place to place. Or the episode of “Star Trek: the Next Generation” with a planet where the punishment for violating any law (no matter how trivial) is death, but the police only monitor one spot at a time, and no one knows where that spot will be.

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