It’s getting rather difficult to write headlines and lede paragraphs for these sorts of things, since the same tripe keeps bubbling up over and over from the septic tanks of the American academy.
A college president must profess that freedom of speech is oppressive and objective truth is all a “myth,” according to the demands of an open letter from a group of students at one California college.
It has been over a week since conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald was chased off the campus of Pomona College by the illiberal ilk of the same whiny thugs who mobbed Charles Murray at Middlebury College earlier this year.
“This is not just my loss of free speech,” Mac Donald told Fox and Friends afterwards. “These students are exercising brute force against their fellow students to prevent them from hearing me live.”
A few days prior to the incident, the university’s outgoing president, David Oxtoby, sent an email that reiterated the college’s commitment to “the exercise of free speech and academic freedom.”
Now, with all the trappings of a modern-day witch-burning, a trio of underclassmen graduating in 2019 and 2020, along with some 20-plus signatories, have demanded that Oxtoby formally recant in the form of a revised email “apologizing for the previous patronizing statement, enforcing that Pomona College does not tolerate hate speech and speech that projects violence onto the bodies of its marginalized students and oppressed peoples …”
The letter was first reported by the Claremont Independent, an independent student paper at the Claremont Colleges. According to the outlet’s story on Monday, the signatories have demanded a response by Tuesday, April 18.
But the recant is not enough for Pomona’s heretic hunters; These kids want some scalps. They are demanding that Pomona College and the Claremont system “take action against the Claremont Independent editorial staff for its continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.”
Such tittles, of course, are all typical battle streamers one should aspire to accrue when writing anything that drifts slightly right of center on a college campus these days.
Most of the eight-paragraph letter remainder reads as a semi-coherent mini-screed articulating what appear to be this month’s most recent intersectionalist shibboleths. For those of you who may not be familiar with the latest liberty-hating campus fad-philosophy, Andrew Sullivan has a worthwhile synopsis at New York Magazine.
“On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power,” he explains. “It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a ‘smelly little orthodoxy,’ and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion,” the enforcement of which is reminiscent of New England Puritanism.
But it gets better. As if the entire exercise were not rich enough, the authors of intersectional bull then turn their attention to the concept of truth.
“Your statement contains unnuanced views surrounding the academy and a belief in searching for some venerated truth,” the letter continues.
“Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth–’the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny.”
One wonders how often the professors who indoctrinated these kids have asked them to cite their sources. I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same Enlightenment, because it sounds like they have a philosophical movement focused on human liberty and empirical truth confused with a weird racist version of Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage.
There are two great ironies here. The first one is that those doing this disparaging of the concept of a universal truth as being “deeply rooted in the Enlightenment” don’t realize how being free to pursue that truth without coercion is itself an Enlightenment principle, or that the rejection of this liberty is typically what leads to real oppression. [See: Fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, Sharia supremacism, etc.] If freedom hurts your feelings, I don’t really know where else to send you, since you clearly also can’t handle true oppression.
The concept of an objective truth isn’t rooted in one philosophical movement; Rather, philosophy itself is rooted in the search for truth, which is rooted in human nature. The difference between those who believe in ‘oppressive’ Enlightenment concepts like free speech and those who don’t is that the former are far more likely to engage in debate than brute-force tactics and toddler-esque demands.
The second irony here is that the letter goes on to espouse a metanarrative of history right after disparaging the concept of objective truth altogether. That’s a flag on the play. You don’t get to call a narrative absurd — or have the audacity to make someone recant their beliefs — when just a moment before you removed the framework that lets you claim one set of beliefs is greater than another. A freshman logic class should remedy this.
Claims like these are best met with philosopher Roger Scruton’s famous quip: “A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.” (For more from the author of “If Freedom Hurts Your Feelings, College Crybabies, Watch out for This Truth Grenade” please click HERE)