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Academia: How tolerance becomes intolerance, peace becomes war and love becomes hate

Life is tough.  It’s tougher if you’re stupid.

                                                                                                                Attributed to John Wayne (actor)

In order to quell the backlash against Harvard for the rampant violent anti-Semitic rhetoric on campus, Harvard’s president Claudine Gay travelled to Washington to, so to speak, testify.  Since she was unable to make the basic distinctions that used to be expected of a high school student and answer questions directly her testimony only made the backlash worse.  The Harvard “Anti-Semitism Advisor,” Rabbi Wolpe, resigned from Harvard immediately after her “painfully inadequate” testimony, saying that “the toxicity of intellectual slovenliness has been laid bare for all to see.”  Many Harvard alum have said that she should resign after her “shocking” testimony.  Harvard BA and MBA Billionaire Bill Ackerman, who states that Gay, who is black and gay, was  appointed “solely because of [Harvard’s] Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative,” not because she was] the best choice for President, says “She has to go. … We are shortly going to realize that the DEI era is the McCarthy era Part II.”

            These criticisms are not based on the fact that people disagree with Gay’s views but because she deflected and refused to answer many questions, or could not answer them, sometimes using cheap debate techniques to avoid accountability.  Since many students at US universities are, effectively, calling for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, and since university administrations find themselves mysteriously incapable of condemning that in unambiguous terms, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) tried to get President Gay to face the issues.  Stefanik first asked Gay if calling for the mass murder of African Americans is not protected speech to which President Gay responded with the non-answer that Harvard is “committed to free speech”.  Does Gay understand English?  For Stefanik did not ask Gay to state an empty platitude about free speech but to answer a specific question about anti-Semitism at Harvard.  Unfortunately, the president of Harvard does not appear to grasp the distinction between a request for an abstract principle and a specific answer.

                Stefanik then asked Gay if she had heard of the term “intifada” that is being used on Harvard campus, which Stefanik explained as meaning a violent a call for violent armed resistance.   Gay replied that this term “is personally abhorrent to” her.  Unfortunately, Gay was not asked about her personal feelings for material for her biography.   She was being asked whether calling for intifada on Harvard campus is “consistent with Harvard’s code of conduct or is it allowed at Harvard?” to which Gay replied, again shifting the standard, that it is inconsistent with the “values at Harvard.”  That is, Gay refused to say specifically that it is inconsistent with Harvard’s Code of Conduct because that would require her to punish the students calling for intifada.  With that dodge Gay stakes out the stand of moral cowardice.

            In what may be Gay’s most astonishing dodge, she insisted on using Harvard’s commitment to free speech to conflate objectionable speech, e.g., saying homosexuality is wrong, with calls for violence against homosexuals.  Putting it so simply, the objection to permitting calls to intifada at Harvard is not merely an objection to objectionable speech.  It is an objection to explicitly violent speech.  It is standard point, tracing as far back as the patron saint of free speech, John Stuart Mill, that the principle of free speech does not permit explicit calls to violence. President Gay refused to understand this standard point.

             Gay also tried to evade the issue when she stated that it is only when speech crosses over into conduct.  Gay apparently forgot they were talking about speech, not conduct.

            Stefanik then reminded Gay that, based on the objective data compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Harvard ranks “dead last” for free speech.  Instead of promising to do better, Gay simply dismissed that evaluation.  Astonishingly, an article in the Harvard Crimson, though disagreeing with some of FIRE’’s specific points, admits that “their fundamental diagnosis is not too far off. Free speech is under threat at Harvard.”  Does President Gay read the Harvard Crimson?

            The president, Liz Magill, of the University of Pennsylvania’s responses to Stefanik’s questions was equally absurd.  In response to Stefanik’s question whether “calling for the genocide of Jews violate[s] Penn’s rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?” Magill responded, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment. … It’s a context-dependent decision.”  It “can” be a violation of Penn’s rules of conduct depending on the “context”?  In what “context” is calling for genocide acceptable speech?  By parity of reasoning one can infer that Magill thinks that calling for the death of all black people may not be a violation of Penn’s rules of conduct in some contexts. Please explain President Magill! The Klan would love to know Penn’s meaningless guidelines. 

In response to the same questions, MIT President Sally Kornbluth stated that whether the call for genocide of the Jews would be investigated would depend on the context or the pervasiveness of it.  The context and the pervasiveness of it?  Let me get this straight.!  If one called for the death of all black people or homosexuals on the MIT campus but only did so once, not “pervasively,” that would not necessarily even be investigated.  Investigated?  What about punished?  Once again, the Klan must be thrilled with Kornbluth’s “learned” gibberish.

The response of all three of these presidents appear to be wilfully perverse.  All three twist themselves into knots to avoid stating the obvious, that calling for the genocide of any group, Jews, homosexuals, whites, blacks, Muslims, Native Americans, etc., is flat out wrong and the 1st amendment protection of freedom of speech has nothing to do with that. 

These three elitist presidents have all tried to walk back and apologize for their “disastrous” testimony.  Translation:  They want to keep their cushy jobs and pay checks after making the mistake of letting their “educated” biases show all too clearly.  The president of the University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Penn, Scott Bok, have just resigned.  At least those two seem to be more or less awake now. 

All three of these presidents said that the condemnation of explicit violent antisemitic speech must be viewed in context, exposing the pernicious moral relativism, that turns moral principles into rubber bands and brains into mush, that has destroyed US education.

The rampant anti-Semitism in these universities was inevitable.  All three of these university presidents were appointed, not on the basis of their merits because they were the best person for the job, but as part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program. They each checked some favoured “identity politics” boxes.   Whereas former Harvard president, Larry Summers had published about an astonishing list of published books and articles when he was appointed, Gay had only published a much smaller list of articles, mostly concerned with race grievance (and accusations of plagiarism as well).  

Accordingly, one gets university presidents that twist themselves into knots with transparent sophistries to advance their self-serving leftist ideologies and damage their perceived political enemies.   That is how liberalism becomes illiberalism, tolerance becomes intolerance and love becomes hate.

It is not as if this intolerance in our universities is a secret.  It has been evident for decades while everybody plays pretend. 

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Richard McDonough

Richard Michael McDonough, American philosophy educator. Achievements include production of original interpretation of Wittgenstein’s logical-metaphysical system, original application Kantian Copernican Revolution to philosophy of language; significant interdisciplinary work logic, linguistics, psychology & philosophy. Member Australasian Debating Federation (honorary life, adjudicator since 1991), Phi Kappa Phi.

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  1. NEWS FLASH Madam Gay! Free speech has been under attack for three plus years under the installation of current Commander n thief! Demwit school led by a Demwit token. Fire her. Where is Right and Republican representation?

  2. I had read that Claudine Gay is herself gay but apparently that is not true. The misinformation may derive from the fact that she is first cousins with Roxanne Gay who I gather identifies as “trans.” Apologies for the misinformation.

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