The rot in the Western world that has accrued in the last few years, revealed with particular clarity since the October 7th attack on Israel, showed its depth in a heretofore unparalleled manner this week in Washington, DC. The presidents of MIT, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania appeared at a congressional hearing to face questions about the rise of anti-semitism on their respective campuses (a phenomenon duplicating itself across the academic landscape).
I watched the event unfold with the same sense of surreal belief that has surrounded me more and more frequently over the last decade, as the academic world and the broader culture it shapes have succumbed ever more completely to the faux-compassionate blandishments of the radical left.
We’ll give the devil his due, first, as is always appropriate: the three personages in question were most definitely subjected to intensely unfriendly questioning, particularly by US Representative Elise Stefanik. They were genuinely put on the hot seat, while their politico interlocutor performed for the camera, and they reacted more defensively, angrily, resentfully and counterproductively than they might have otherwise. However, the same Congresswoman was for all her partisanship rather dreadfully effective in exposing the depth of narcissistic moralizing malevolent stupidity that passes for thought in our apparently-doomed institutions of higher education. I say that with no pleasure whatsoever: the six years I taught in Cambridge Massachusetts at the pre-eminent Ivy League campus in the United States served as a pinnacle point of my early career. Harvard truly lived up to its reputation in the early 90’s. The senior faculty serving there were the most educated and able people I had ever met; their junior counterparts truly the hottest young researchers and teachers in the world; the undergraduates reliably the smartest, hardest-working and generally admirable young men and women imaginable. The great university did its job, and it did it well.
Those days are long gone. Even the last competent President of the once-stellar university, Lawrence Summers, recently and publicly admitted as much. Now, led by one Claudine Gay—a diversity-hire progressive if there ever was one—Harvard was recently awarded a score below zero for freedom of speech on campus by FIRE, an organization that would have been recognized as quite liberal at any point in the past, excepting the last four or five years. MIT is faring no better. I spoke at length with two of their prominent professors in the last month. Both have bailed out in disgust from what was once and rightly so the engineering centrepiece of the entire world. The administration there no longer recognizes merit, they told me; fails to support its faculty, no longer prioritizing the innovation, excellence, and sheer brilliant eccentricity once fostered and celebrated, above all, precisely there. As goes Harvard and MIT, so goes U Penn, also a once-admirable and excellent school. There are virtually no exceptions in the realm of higher education to this rule of corruption and failure.
I watched the demise of the university in Toronto, over the twenty years I spent there as a professor. Every bloody time the ever-expanding administration put counterproductive pressure on the faculty (hiring ever-more Deans, Associate Deans, Assistant Deans and Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity commissars) the spineless academics folded. I grew tired of objecting, faculty meeting after meeting: “Why are we allowing them to (increase class size; place more restrictive rules on our research protocols; implement yet another delusional and false five-year plan; eliminate all year-long courses; subject us to constant ideological training, conducted by self-evidently unqualified frauds; etc., etc.). We could just say “no”! What could they possibly do?” The answer I received was always the same: “Then they won’t give us what we want.” My objection—“They don’t give you what you want now”—was continually met by the collective shrug of shoulders that over two decades handed the entire enterprise over to the encroaching bureaucrats.
And that was by no means the end of it: first, the administration took over the universities, massively increasing costs and decreasing efficiency—and then the bloody woke mob took over the administration. It took decades for the first catastrophe to unfold, and mere years for the second. And here we are—and where that is, precisely, was what made itself known in DC.
Representative Stefanik pushed the three Presidents hard, each in turn, requesting at least by implication an affirmative response to “the easiest question to answer”: “Does calling specifically for the genocide of Jews violate [your university’s] code of conduct or rules regarding bullying and harassment?” To understand what happened next, in all three cases, it is necessary to understand that these selfsame codes and rules have been a veritable shibboleth of the moralizing activists the three Presidents concerned so directly condone, support and produce. For years, a continuous clamor has arisen from the snowflakes, allies, Marxists, post-modernists and generally psychopathological neurotics concerning the absolute danger of speech that could in any way imaginable cause offence to anyone imaginable under any circumstances whatsoever.
But now, suddenly, this insistence—one that has already destroyed the careers and even the lives of far more than a few—appears to be fully disposable, as long as the speech in question is calling directly and viciously for the genocide of the Jews. First to prevaricate was MIT’s President, another woman (of course), one Sally Kornbluth. Demented smile plastered firmly on animus-possessed face, this dangerous excuse for a human being claimed, for example, that the increasingly strident campus-protestor calls for intifada (a word derived from the Arabic to “shake off”—as in “dirt from one’s sandals”) had to be interpreted “in context.” I presume that the same applies to “from the river to the sea.”
Despite the stunned disbelief this demented utterance immediately produced on the part of the questioner—and the audience—the next two President-marionettes mouthed the same propagandistic and apparently-rehearsed lines: Liz Magill of U Penn indicated that calls for Jewish genocide were only “bullying and harassment” if “directed, severe and pervasive”—the diagnosis of which was a “context-dependent decision.” Then, even more unbelievably—and after being warned that her answer would resound around the world—Magill said that such speech would become harassment only “when it became conduct.” This dumbfounding response would have stopped a lesser questioner in her tracks, but Stefanik remained on course, immediately pointing out that such “conduct” meant “actually committing genocide.” Have we ever witnessed such things in our lifetime?
Harvard’s pretentious Gay fared no better. The question was repeated: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?” Gay opened her mouth, allowing the devil himself to speak through her: “It can be—depending on the context.” Now, it would be one thing if Harvard was the absolutely staunch libertarian defender of free speech that Gat was implicitly claiming (the only stance that could possibly justify such a response) but her institution’s bottom-of-the-barrel aforementioned recent score on that front rules out that possibility.
The true situation is in fact quite clear: there is one set of rules, say, for saying something mildly sexually inappropriate at a drunken party if you’re an callow frat boy and another if you’re a raving mad postmodern meta-Marxist hellbent on the destruction of the Jews. Gay was, nonetheless and quite mercifully granted another kick at the cat. Representative Stefanik, who was both shocked and irritated (to say the least) by the first answer encouraged her in follow-up to state clearly the “yes” that would have let the Harvard ruler off the hook. Gay doubled down, instead, repeating her all-explaining-and-excusing cliché: “it depends on the context.”
How did we all get to this point? There is a terribly simple answer to that question, unfortunately—terribly simple in the manner that appeals to the simplest and most terrible of minds. The universities and the idiot, cowardly and delusional academics, administrators and students who inhabit them have gone over, en masse, to the land of the postmodern nihilists and their pathological meta-Marxism. “There is and can be no uniting narrative,” the so-called philosophers howl, while simultaneously elevating the worst of all possible doctrines of resentment to precisely that status.
It was good ole’ Karl who split the world into two camps: that of the proletariat, virtuous by the mere fact of their subjugation, and that of the bourgeoisie, the capitalist owners, upon whose heads were heaped all the coals of fire necessary to burn their profiteering, thieving houses and hides to the ground, along with that of their families. Victims and victimizers: that’s the world, and all you need to know to master it. History, family, friendship, all possible social and economic relationships (the latter deemed fundamental by the bloody communists): it can all be understood in terms of the dynamic of oppressed and oppressor, the ultimate of classes and categories.
The fact that accepting such a description and interpretation inevitably brought about famine, terror and genocidal murder revealed itself with such a vengeance in the aftermath of Stalin and Mao in the 1960’s and 70’s that even the most public of French intellectuals, bitter leftist anti-capitalists to the core, found themselves required to transmute their doctrine, Forthwith, they abandoned the economic argument—but not the underlying narrative of victim and victimizer. That they instead expanded, far beyond even the imagination of the German spawn of Cain who formulated the vicious and deadly communist thesis in the first place. Oppressed and oppressor could be found everywhere, not only in the economic realm. Nothing but power exists and rules: this according to no less an authority than the damnable Michel Foucault (presently the world’s most cited academic (!)). Race, religion, ethnicity, sex, “gender,” intelligence, physical ability, attractiveness, education, wealth, ownership, talent—everything can and must be viewed through the lens of power.
Pick a dimension of evaluation. Identity the “oppressor” (anyone successful; anyone with anything not owned or characterizing by everyone else). Claim “allyship” with the oppressed. Voila! You now understand everything, and have done all the work necessary to establish your reputation. It’s a one-idea universal explanation—and more: a one-claim pathway to the highest strata of unearned moral virtue. That’s a deal too attractive to resist, allowing those who accept it to bask in their stupidity, glory in their hypocrisy and torture those they envy in good conscience. How can such a combination possibly be beat?
The fact that such a theory allows the accusation of exploitation to be levied against everyone (as we all have something lacked by someone else somewhere or at some time), and that there is tremendous danger in that, can be all-too-conveniently ignored—until the mob shows up at the once-accuser’s door, pitchfork and torch in hand. On second thought: Maybe that’s a feature, instead of a bug. The payoff for the dreadful simplification is just too high: all work necessary to understand the complexities of human psychological, economic and social function is no longer necessary (as a full explanation has been provided); furthermore, the goodness so long sought by serious contemplatives, mystics and saints exists right at hand: mere stated pity for the oppressed makes you the best of all possible persons. And if that means to hell with everyone else, so be it—even if that’s future you, languishing in the hands of your now-enemies, in 2033.
Let me make this perfectly clear: the victim/victimizer narrative presents everything in the world of facts as the consequence of use and misuse of power—and that is power as ability and willingness to employ force, compel and exploit. It adds to this the reduction of morality to nothing more than reflexive pity for the oppressed, no matter how unthinking, wilfully-blind, self-serving or outright false. Acceptance of this appalling theory means that all the problems of the entire world of fact and the entire world of value have been solved, permanently, in one stroke (or else). Nothing could be easier to understand, or more attractive, to the immature and ignorant, to say nothing of the wilfully-blind and malevolent. How convenient. How self-serving—and, ultimately, how destructive and deadly. And we know that it is the blind, naïve and intellectually inept as well as the outright psychopathic who are most prone to possession by such ideas.
What does all this have to do with the universities, their Presidents, and the Jews? Well, the latter have the great misfortune of being successful. In a world where the possession of anything of discriminating merit defines the oppressor—and, therefore, the Evil One—the Jews always have too much. This makes them the victimizers, just as they always have been to the eternal anti-semites; just as they were, most infamously, to the Nazis. The Palestinians have for some reason been deemed the loser-winners of the most intense current victim/victimizer contest (the only tournament currently deemed acceptable). Thus, they’re good, all historical complexity be damned—as are those who stand heroically beside them, no matter how counterproductively. The flipside of this decision is, of course, that the Jews must be bad, an outcome which has the enviable side-benefit of allowing them to be hated with good conscience, by exactly those who constantly proclaim undying solidarity with the underdogs.
I watched the spectacle of the university Presidents with true dread. It was not only that they unthinkably, self-righteously and dangerously promulgated the most dangerous of claims: that power rules everything—the very claim that justifies the use of power; the very claim that is put forward for precisely that purpose; the very claim that when sufficiently widespread (as it was in the USSR and still is in China and North Korea) turns everything and very rapidly to hell. It was that they did so without even noticing or reflecting upon the fact that they were doing; without thinking about what they were doing meant.
Let’s make it stark and clear: The Presidents of three of the most influential universities in the world this week justified the utterance on their respective campuses of genocidal threats against the Jews. They did so while claiming the moral high ground—and as if that claim was undeniable, in keeping with the axioms of their pathological doctrine. They did so, furthermore, while purporting to support the free speech they most truly hold in contempt (as part of the superseded oppressive patriarchal morality of the liberal West). They did so even though there is nothing worse than a Nazi, in hypothetical principle, to a moralizing leftist: so much so that everyone and anyone can be therefore conveniently tarred with that brush, at the drop of a hat. I have had more than my fair share of experience with such delights, despite lecturing about the dangers of National Socialism for more than three decades at Harvard itself, as well as the University of Toronto.
The fact that plunging snout-deep into the postmodern meta-Marxist academic trough will actually turn you, if not into a full-fledged Nazi, at least into someone who will testify in front of Congress on behalf of those promoting the deadliest of hatreds toward the Jews—shouldn’t that have given those Presidents pause? And the fact that it didn’t, while they simultaneously didn’t or refused to notice the fact of their own possession, showing no shame whatsoever for it, failing even to be concerned with the potential effect on their own reputation—shouldn’t that give all of us watching pause? Is the bubble they inhabit truly that thick? And the answer is likely “yes.” Worse yet, it is that pervasive, in the general culture: I don’t believe for a minute that these women will pay for their sin with their jobs, even though they should clearly be fired, given that they don’t have enough sense to resign in well-deserved disgrace.
And I should point out in closing that the same bloody dread doctrine that poured itself out of the mouths of those pathetic excuses for intellectual leaders and thinkers in DC also fully possesses the leadership of our current government in Canada, our own institutes of higher education and, increasingly, all the minds of the educated class. Luciferian presumption rules everywhere—and the pride we now celebrate (or else) for a month if not a season goes before the inevitable fall.
I have seldom seen such a sickening sight. I’m embarrassed in its aftermath to have even been associated with an enterprise that could go so spectacularly and perilously wrong. I’ve done my level best for many years to warn everyone I could of what was happening on campus, in class, and behind the closed doors of the universities. We’re also trying to do something about it, concretely, with the forthcoming launch of Peterson Academy, which already has a mailing list of some two hundred thousand. Now you can see the rot for yourself, if you have the eyes to see.
We will look back on what we are doing with great shame. The Jews today, blind fools: You and those you love tomorrow. So it has been since the dawn of history.