It’s down to the wire for the end of the semester, which means I’m up to my neck in student term papers and other things that are keeping me from my keyboard, so lots of things are piling up on my spindle. Time to clear out a few.
• The main purpose of academic freedom, we’re told, is to protect the generation of “new knowledge.” The new knowledge we learned from academia this week is that Fresno State University hires total idiots. Which suggests what about the people in charge of the place?
• I have a theory about what really happened to Kevin Williamson at The Atlantic. Editor Jeffery Goldberg knew all about Kevin’s outré views on abortion, and the subsequent repetition of those views on a old podcast changed nothing about what Goldberg knew. Even though the left whipped up a social media storm, and no doubt feminists inside The Atlantic threw a fit and maybe even threatened a “hostile workplace” action (about a guy working from his den in Texas?), I doubt Goldberg would have fired Williamson in such an ignominious fashion unless he was pushed to do so by someone he couldn’t refuse. And I think I know who that person is: Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, who bought a majority stake in The Atlantic a year ago. Laurene Jobs is known to be very left, and it was her large infusion of cash that enabled The Atlantic to go on a recent hiring spree that included Williamson and several other writers. I suspect Goldberg got a call from Laurene Jobs ordering him to cut Williamson loose. Another reason to view Silicon Valley as the enemy. Goldberg is welcome to deny this if it isn’t true. I’ll wait.
• Another installment from John P. Roche, writing in 1969 on “The Retreat of the Faculty,” showing once again that what is taking place on college campuses today is the farce stage of history repeating itself:
I have watched colleagues at Brandeis and elsewhere, alleged intellectuals, wail like medieval penitents. At once faculty meeting, men who could not hit a barn door at six paces with a shotgun announced that they had “killed Martin Luther King.” The place was knee-deep in guilt. Exhibitionists who want to confess to sins they never committed can take their place in the great American tradition of evangelism. But I object to the point of all this angst: the moral incompetence of the faculty to reject “black militant” demands. . .
Another cause of faculty paralysis if the cult of sincerity. Perhaps because I accept a secularized version of the doctrine of original sin drawn from the Niebuhrian notion that human selfishness is the snake in the Garden of Eden, I find the emphasis on the sincerity of the militants especially irrelevant. Every time the balloon goes up in a college or university, out trots the chorus defending the innocence and good intentions of the disrupters. First of all, I doubt the factual assessment; with George Orwell I believe that “saints must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.”
Swap out “Black Lives Matter” for the “black militants” of the late 1960s, and it applies pretty well to our current moment. Except now we’re proclaiming our collective guilt about who made Starbucks coffee shops into KKK meeting halls.