Thursday, January 23, 2020

Profiles in Cowardice

How can we fight cancel culture? Douglas Murray presents an idea for a strategy in The Spectator. His thought: when a friend or a colleague is attacked by a mob of modern day Storm Troopers, stand up for him or for her.

The problem is: today’s academics and elite intellectuals are cowards. They do not have the requisite courage to take a stand against Storm Trooper tactics.

Murray offers a wonderful sentence describing the “adult inadequates” who constitute the mob:

And just as some children will always pull the wings off flies and fry small ants with their toy magnifying glasses, so a certain number of adult inadequates will find meaning in their lives by sniffing around the seats in the public square until they find an aroma they can claim offends them.

Being as they are incapable of doing anything else, and are certainly incapable of building anything, they set out to deconstruct what others have built.

Consider the case of Evergreen State College. When the mob came for Brett Weinstein the cowardly college president, George Bridges, simply acquiesced:

When Evergreen State College turned hooligan in 2017, the shock was not that American universities contained students unsuited to any education outside a correctional facility. Nor, frankly, was it a surprise that the college president — George Bridges — was so supine that he ended up begging the student protesters to allow him to go to the bathroom to pee (‘Hold it’ was the advice given by one hoodlum). What was surprising was that even when the professor who had inadvertently caused the breakdown (leftwing, Bernie-supporting, lifetime Democrat Bret Weinstein) was physically threatened, repeatedly defamed and finally chased off campus for good, not one of his longstanding colleagues took any public stance in his defense. Solidarity — perhaps the noblest aspiration of the political left — was totally absent. 

Once a vulnerable victim is chosen, the rest of his crew deserts him:

In case after case it has been the same. The problem is not that the sacrificial victim is selected. The problem is that the people who destroy his reputation are permitted to do so by the complicity, silence and slinking away of everybody else.

It was not just the president of Evergreen State College who was derelict. Not one of Weinstein’s colleagues dared defend him:

When that semiliterate mob claimed Bret Weinstein was a racist, why did his and his wife’s colleagues not stand up and say, ‘Hang on a second. I’ve known these people for decades. You come for the Weinsteins, you come for me.’ Or even just, ‘I happen to know they are not racists, so take that back.’

When Nicholas Christakis was mobbed at Yale University, his colleagues fell silent:

When Nicholas Christakis was surrounded by a screaming mob of Yale students we could have expected that Yale would be so avaricious and weak that it wouldn’t expel each of those students that very evening. But why did Christakis’s colleagues not rise up that night en masse to say, ‘Excuse me, but however much money they are paying, students should not be allowed to threaten, insult and intimidate academics’? Why is it that in so many areas of public life, from the lecture hall to the comedy club, when the mini-mob comes, the adults just vacate the room?

Among the American professoriat true courage is not just in short supply. It has been removed from the moral equation.


UbuMaccabee said...

When Georges Danton, Saint-Just, & Maximilian Robespierre were sent to the guillotine I just shrugged. They had it coming. Schadenfreude. None of those people listed would ever have stood up for an open conservative on campus, they just through the crocodile would eat them last. Courage is the rarest of the virtues. Ithaca delenda est.

Sam L. said...

We call this "self-emasculation". I recall (IIRC) the U. of Missouri rolling over for the "protesters" in 2015. They have hoisted the Yellow Flag, and nailed it to the pole.