More Terrifying Tales Of The Great Stupid, Academic Division

The predictable appeal of racist “antiracism” cant to the world of scholarship and academia in the wake of the fraudulent George Floyd Freakout is producing amusing or frightening results, depending on one’s regard for higher education and resistance to despair.

Today’s sample of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, for example, comes from “Confronting “White Feminism” in the Victorian Literature Classroom,” recently published in the scholarly journal, “Nineteenth Century Gender Studies.” The author is University of California Professor Lana Dalley, who complains that Victorian feminists are “problematic” [There’s that word again!] because they promote “white feminism.” In other words, social commentators and writers of over a hundred years ago don’t seem to reflect the current approved woke perspective of 2021. This is, apparently, a surprise. Here’s her first paragraph, an AFG classic:

The transition to virtual learning in Spring and Fall 2020 intersected with international protests for racial justice and, more locally, Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy R. Wong’s call to “undiscipline Victorian Studies” by “interrogat[ing] and challeng[ing] our field’s marked resistance to centering racial logic” (370).(1) More specifically, they call for “illuminat[ing] how race and racial difference subtend our [Victorianists’] most cherished objects of study, our most familiar historical and theoretical frameworks, our most engrained scholarly protocols, and the very demographics of our field” (370). Since then, numerous virtual roundtables and panels have convened to discuss critical approaches to race within Victorian studies and to ponder the relevance of contemporary social justice movements to a field whose borders are historically drawn. This essay emerged from one such panel and offers practical suggestions for reframing pedagogical approaches to Victorian feminist discourses in order to “center[] racial logic” and “illuminate how race and racial difference subtend” those discourses.(2) Its suggestions are certainly not meant to be exhaustive, but simply to offer one set of practices for making the Victorian literature classroom more responsive to contemporary conversations about race and gender.”

Now who can argue with that?

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This Is IT! In Charlottesville, Va.’s Schools, The Apotheosis Of The Great Stupid!

Lake Wobegon

This would be funny, if it were not so ominous. In fact, it already was funny, many years ago when monologist/author Garrison Keillor (now cancelled for alleged sexual harassment: he doesn’t exist any more) introduced the fictional Minnesota community where so many of his shaggy dog stories were set, with “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average!” [Laughter from the NPR audience.] All but the most dim-witted could get the joke in the last part, for it is impossible for everyone in any group to be above average.

Ah, but that was before The Great Stupid spread over the land like one of the Egyptian plagues in the Bible. Neither irony nor logic flickered in the brains of the Charlottesville, Virginia’s school board, which is patting itself on its mass back for the achievement of identifying 86% of its students as “gifted.” This qualifies those brilliant students for the system’s special, theoretically challenging, gifted classes.

The revelation was made during a Charlottesville school board meeting last week, and the members were thrilled. This was, obviously, impressive progress. Of course, one doesn’t have to be gifted to figure out what’s going on here. As in the memorable past cases of Washington D.C.’s rogue mayor Marion Barry telling the media that D.C.’s crime rate was pretty low as long as you didn’t count all the murders, and rogue President of the United States Bill Clinton explaining that he did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky, because oral sex isn’t sex, Charlottesville is adopting the now epidemic Rationalization #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is.”

We had seen many signs that this was coming, notably in the efforts of New York city’s communist mayor, Bill de Blasio, to change the admission standards of the New York City’s elite specialized high schools because not enough minority students (except for Asian-Americans of course) were getting in. It is also an extension—heh, I almost said “logical extension”!—of the woke fundamentalist article of faith that skin color itself should be considered a qualification on par with, indeed above, such characteristics as skill, knowledge, achievements, experience, character and intelligence—thus resulting in Kamala Harris becoming Vice-President of the United States.

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Authentic Frontier Gibberish Kills: The Gun Policy Doubletalk Of Maya Wiley

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish,” or AFG, named in honor of Gabby Johnson of “Blazing Saddles” fame, is the public phenomenon of solemn and meaningful-sounding word clouds designed to make the naive and the barely educated (that is, most of society) feel certain that they are in the presence of superior intellect when in fact they are in the thrall of either con artists or morons.

Ethically, it falls somewhere under the categories of dishonesty, incompetence and disrespect, depending on the AFG culprit. It would be difficult to find a more blazing example than the “Gun Violence Prevention Policy” offered by Maya Wiley, the civil rights attorney and former de Blasio counsel who’s running for mayor along with approximately half the city. Gun-related violence has roughly doubled in New York City thanks to the weak law enforcement policies of her client, so Wiley is giving the same foolish voters who elected de Blasio twice a chance to emulate San Francisco and make the city even more dangerous and unlivable. At least I think that’s what she’s proposing. As with all “Authentic Frontier Gibberish,” it’s hard to tell, and that, of course, is the plan.

I’m going to stick with the summary, by your leave, but you can try to make sense out of the whole thing if you are a masochist or an optimist. One part of both that is frighteningly clear: Wiley pledges to “Reduce the NYPD budget by $1 billion and invest those funds directly into the communities most impacted by gun violence.” The second part of that sentence is classic AFG, since “invest those funds directly into the communities most impacted by gun violence” is meaningless, but the first part is called “Defunding the police.” Almost 10% of the NYPD’s operating budget was cut in the last budget cycle, and the result was a crime wave. Obviously the best plan is to cut more!

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The Ethics Conflict Of The Untrustworthy Housecleaners Is An Easy Call

house theft

…but for some reason. “The Ethicist” couldn’t figure that out.

I hadn’t checked in on Kwame Anthony Appiah, the New York Times Magazine’s current incarnation of “The Ethicist,” for a while, and based on this exchange, the usually reliable NYU philosophy professor is showing some wear and tear. I blame The Great Stupid.

An inquirer wrote to ask if her friend had done the right thing by not telling her neighbors in ” a close-knit neighborhood” who used the same mother-daughter housecleaning team she did that she had caught the daughter stealing, and dismissed the pair. “She spoke with the mother, who apologized profusely on behalf of her troubled daughter and, of course, understood when my friend said they wouldn’t use the service any longer,” the letter concluded. “Was my friend obligated to let her neighbors know? She worried about this team losing business when she had no way of knowing whether or not the daughter was stealing from others.”

I was gobsmacked that Appiah endorsed not telling the neighbors. He wrote,

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Ethics Dunce: Yahoo! Sportswriter Shalise Manza Young

Naomi-Osaka interview

The withdrawal of female tennis star Naomi Osaka from the French Open because she wasn’t allowed to ignore rules all the other players were forced to play by has inspired a revealing amount of criticism…of the concept that stars should have to abide by the same rules and laws as everybody else. Since this is a massive ethics blind spot that defies persuasive advocacy, I’ve been somewhat surprised that so many commentators and athletes have been willing to put such an unethical position in print.

I shouldn’t have been, I guess. Osaka (predictably) played the victim, suddenly revealed that she suffered from depression (the old reliable “I’m not bad, I’m sick!” ploy satirized in “Officer Krupke”), and she had the triple benefit of being Asian, Black and female, the “Get Out Of Accountability Free” hat trick (that’s hockey, but you get the point) in the Age of The Great Stupid.

I was originally going to dedicate this post to the fatuous commentary of New York Times columnist Kurt Streeter, to whom all sports is about race, on l’affaire Osaka. “Using social media posts, first last Wednesday then on Monday, Osaka called out one of the most traditional practices in major sports: the obligatory news conference, vital to reporters seeking insight for their stories, but long regarded by many elite athletes as a plank walk. After monumental wins and difficult losses, Osaka has giggled and reflected through news conferences and also dissolved into tears. In Paris, she said she wanted nothing to do with the gatherings because they had exacted a steep emotional toll,” he wrote. “She sent a message with significant weight: The days of the Grand Slam tournaments and the huge media machine behind them holding all of the clout are done. In a predominantly white, ritual-bound sport, a smoothstroking young woman of Black and Asian descent, her confidence still evolving on and off the court, holds the power. Get used to it.”

Get used to what? Star athletes (and politicians, and other celebrities) thinking that if they are successful enough and popular enough, they get to break rules and get away with it? We’re used to that. But the point is that she doesn’t have the power. Tennis authorities fining her and threatening to kick her out of upcoming tournaments proved it. So she threw a tantrum, quit, took her ball and went home, and that’s admirable to Streeter, or anyone else? Well, but, you see, “it is impossible to know the depth of Osaka’s internal anguish” as “the rare champion of color in a tennis world dominated by fans, officials and a press corps that is overwhelmingly white.” Oh, gag me with a spoon. I’d be willing to suffer a lot of internal anguish in an enterprise I could make over 50 million dollars in a year, as Osaka has. Who wouldn’t?

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Comment Of The Day: “Dispatch From ‘The Great Stupid'”

nixon-tweet

I had a long list of topics I wanted to write about today, but I have been rendered mostly unproductive due to some malady or another. Luckily, and not for the first time, readers have come through with content at least as valuable as anything I could have generated. I already have backlog from the last two Open Forums, and some delayed Comment of the Day as well. I am very grateful.

This Comment of the Day is another from the frequently history-minded (and often pessimistic) Steve-O-in-NJ, and his subject is the bad ideas, an evergreen topic, focusing on the tweet above, which is more representative of the current drift of progressive thought (it one is generous enough to call it that). Only one previous post had the “bad ideas” tag: this one, on “fertility equality.” I bet there are a hundred more that should have it, like anything about making Kamala Harris Vice-President.

Here’s Steve:

The U.S. and the world have hosted some pretty bad ideas over time.

The tulip bulb bubble, the ancient astronauts theory (remember “Chariots of the Gods?”), phrenology, New Coke, the XFL, and Boston selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees were some of the more benign ones. John Maxwell’s execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and the National Guard opening fire at Kent State were some of the ones that were not so harmless. The Reign of Terror, where the Committee on Public Safety sent who knows how many to the guillotine for any reason or no reason, Pol Pot’s Year Zero, in which towns, money, religion, and private property were abolished and execution by clubbing to death by a pick or a hoe, also for any reason or no reason,, Petrograd Order No. 1 (mostly now forgotten) which de facto stripped military officers of disciplinary authority, causing the Russian military to collapse like a deflated balloon in the face of renewed German offensives, and Hitler’s crackpot racial theories were examples of instant disasters.

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Dispatch From “The Great Stupid”

Few revolting developments on the political scene justify the last words in “Bridge Over The River Kwai” more than this:

Nixon tweet

However, if such crack-brained reasoning ever progressed to widespread public policy, the iconic end of another film classic would be a better diagnosis. Take it, Marlon:

Criticism of Nixon’s insane tweet will be brushed off by progressives and Democrats (who, if honest, would own it) on the grounds that Nixon, who ran for mayor of New York not too long ago (though it seems like eons) is an uber-woke socialist, and therefore not representative of “real” progressives. There are two problems with that dodge, however. Several Democrat-run cities are barely enforcing laws against shoplifting as it is, notably Great Stupid Central, San Francisco (or is GSC Portland? Or Seattle?), where, reports the New York Times, shoplifting is out of control because law enforcement isn’t controlling it:

“The mundane crime of shoplifting has spun out of control in San Francisco, forcing some chain stores to close. Walgreens said that thefts at its stores in San Francisco were four times the chain’s national average, and that it had closed 17 stores, largely because the scale of thefts had made business untenable.”

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Saturday Ethics Cool-Off, 5/22/2021: Another “Bad Ethics Date”

dog-cooling-off

Yikes. May 22 is another of those cursed dates where ethics rot was in the air. For example, in 1958, rock superstar Jerry Lee Lewis admitted that his new bride was a child. He even lied while doing that, “admitting” she was 15 when Myra Gail Lewis was actually only 13 years old,and also Jerry Lee’s first cousin. Another detail Lewis didn’t mention was that the loving pair had married five months before his divorce from his second wife. Jerry Lee insisted the second marriage wasn’t legally valid because that one had taken place before his divorce from his first wife.

Other ethics low points on this day:

  • In 1939, Italy and Germany agreed to a military and political alliance, giving birth to the Axis powers, which would eventually include Japan.
  • In 1856, Southern Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beats Northern Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber. On May 19, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner began a two-day speech on the Senate floor in which he attacked three pro-slavery colleagues by name, one of whom, South Carolina Senator Andrew P. Butler, was sick and absent from the proceedings. Butler’s cousin, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina, decided to defend the honor of his kin. Wielding a cane, Brooks entered the Senate chamber and began beating Sumner at his desk, which was bolted to the floor. Sumner’s legs were pinned by the desk so he could not escape, and the beating continued until Senators subdued Brooks. Brooks supporters cheered the vicious act and sent him many replacement canes. Sumner could not return to the Senate for three years while he recuperated from his injuries.
  • In 2017, right after pop star after Ariana Grande finished the final song of her May 22 concert at Manchester Arena in Great Britain, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion killing 22 concertgoers and injuring 116 more. ISIS claimed responsibility.
  • In 1868 the “Great Train Robbery” was pulled off, with seven members of the Reno Gang getting away with $98,000 in cash from a train’s safe in Indiana.

And a special Happy Birthday to Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” born this day in Evergreen Park, Illinois in 1942. Yes, we’re still keeping him alive; after all, he only murdered three innocent people (he maimed or injured 23 others.).

1. The Great Stupid, International Strain: The Globe Theatre, Great Britain’s famous reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse where William Shakespeare had his works first performed, has launched a project to “decolonise’ Shakespeare’s plays, the centerpiece of Western literature. The Globe has been listening to experts who conclude that his work is ‘problematic’ for linking whiteness to beauty. Another academic maintains all of Shakespeare’s plays are “race plays’ as they all contain ‘whiteness’. For example, the first line of the 1595 comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” famously opens with Thesus saying: “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace.”

The Horror. Why any “expert” who makes an argument like this isn’t regarded exactly as if she had appeared in public naked, painted blue and wearing a squid on her head is beyond me. As Great Stupid break-outs go, this one is pretty trivial. Shakespeare plays have been routinely debased by absurd adaptations and meat-axe editing for centuries. The only reason this example is noteworthy is its source. You’d think the keepers of the Bard’s flame in England would have more sense, not to mention respect. [Pointer: Other Bill]

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Horrifying Tales From “The Great Stupid”

Horror comics

  • This month ,two black Penn State University professors reported a “noose” in a tree behind their home The PSU student newspaper Daily Collegian quoted the professors said the “noose” was “deliberately placed [on the tree] to harass them” and was “deeply distressing to them and their family.” PSU President Eric Barron quickly posted a statement “expressing concern” about the incident and “offering support,” adding,

    “[T]he incident underscores the importance of our anti-racism work as a University, and as a community of scholarsIt also underscores the importance of our town-gown work to build a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all who live here. Groups like Community & Campus in Unity that have formed the Centre Region Anti-bias Coalition are critical to helping create a climate of acceptance and support.”

    When police interviewed the professors’ neighbor, they learned that the “noose”  was part of a swing set. The neighbors’ kid told police he had thrown the rope “into the woods.” Police concluded  “no kind of crime [was] committed at all” and that the rope was not intentionally used to suggest a noose, or any racist statement.

  • But things could be worse, as in Scotland. There,  Lisa Keogh, a mother of two and a law student at Abertay University, faces discipline for saying that women are born with vaginas and are physically weaker than men. Keogh was taking part in a virtual discussion on “gender feminism and the law” and was discussing transgender women participating in women’s sports, Keogh also said her classmates were “man-hating feminists” after a peer stated that all men were rapists.“I didn’t deny saying these things and told the university exactly why I did so,” Keogh said. “I didn’t intend to be offensive but I did take part in a debate and outlined my sincerely held views. I was abused and called names by the other students, who told me I was a ‘typical white, cis girl’. You have got to be able to freely exchange differing opinions otherwise it’s not a debate.”

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From The Increasingly Fantastic Annals Of The Great Stupid: Norton And The Philip Roth Biography

One more time I have to remark, “I don’t understand this at all.”

Last week, publisher W.W. Norton sent a memo to its staff announcing that it will permanently take Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth out of print, as a result of allegations that Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and also behaved inappropriately toward his students when he was an eighth grade English teacher.

If that sentence makes sense to you, The Big Stupid has you by the brain stem.

“Norton is permanently putting out of print our editions of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ …Mr. Bailey will be free to seek publication elsewhere if he chooses,” the email said in part, and was signed by Norton’s president, Julia A. Reidhead. Reidhead later said that Norton would make a donation in the amount of the advance it paid to Bailey in a mid-six-figure book deal to organizations that support sexual assault survivors and victims of sexual harassment.

What’s the theory here? That the book is eeeevil? The late Philip Roth did nothing to justify banning his book, and besides, since when did we ban autobiographies of bad people anyway? Reviews of the biography were mostly positive: in The New York Times Book Review, novelist Cynthia Ozick called it “a narrative masterwork both of wholeness and particularity, of crises wedded to character, of character erupting into insight, insight into desire, and desire into destiny.” The Washington Post described it as “a colorful, confident and uncompromising biographical triumph.” The book quickly landed on the New York Times best-seller list.

As for Bailey, he is an acclaimed literary biographer of writers like Richard Yates, John Cheever and Charles Jackson, and the author of a memoir of his own. He received the Guggenheim Fellowship and was a Pulitzer finalist for his Cheever biography. Philip Roth handpicked Bailey to write his biography after meeting with him in 2012.

In addition, the allegations against Bailey have nothing to do with his profession as a writer or his professional output. It’s not as if he was running for President and was accused by a former staffer of raping her while he was serving as a U.S. Senator. More importantly, the allegations are unproven and untested. Bailey denies them, saying in a statement, “I can assure you I have never had non-consensual sex of any kind, with anybody, ever, and if it comes to a point I shall vigorously defend my reputation and livelihood.”

Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of the writers organization PEN America said that Norton’s action risked establishing a new, troubling norm that could narrow the range of ideas and information available to readers.

Gee, ya think?

“Bringing out a book should signify that a publisher believes there is something edifying, worthwhile or elucidating contained in the volume,” Nossel said. “It should not be construed as an endorsement of the ideas or narrative purveyed, nor of the personal conduct of the author.”

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