What language are they speaking? Is it English?

I think what set Dawkins off on his University Probably Is Not For You hashtag spree was Christina Hoff Sommers on her own Twitter spree on the subject of her talk at Oberlin on Monday.

He replied to one of her tweets:

Richard Dawkins‏@RichardDawkins
@CHSommers What language are they speaking? Is it English? English is my native language and I couldn’t understand a single word they said.

Kids today eh. Students eh well I never. Young people talk a strange lingo get offa my lawn wot wot.

So what about Sommers’s talk at Oberlin? You probably know without looking. There was hostility, there were protests, there was talk of safe spaces and trigger warnings. There was probably a good deal of silliness, because people can be silly, yes even feminist undergraduates. Sommers gave a predictable little interview to Reason on the subject.

But the thing is…Sommers spends quite a lot of her time and energy deliberately provoking such responses. She’s very like Dawkins that way only more so. She does not act like an academic philosopher now, she acts like a Fox “News” personality or a shock jock. Her videos are snide and sarcastic, and her tweets are the same only more so. She’s obnoxious on purpose, then she gives a talk at a liberal college and gets the expected responses, then she gets more mileage out of complaining about the responses. It’s her shtick.

The students at the liberal college are pretty foolish to take her bait, but she’s pretty malicious to dangle it in front of them. And Dawkins is wrong to take her seriously.


  1. Anthony K says

    They were probably using neologisms like ‘meme’ and ‘dundridge’.

    Fuckin’ kids and their disrespect for the language.

  2. mcbender says

    “I don’t understand what they’re saying, therefore it can’t possibly be right!”

    How can he not notice how much he sounds like a creationist?

  3. Al Dente says

    Dawkins suffers from the problem that because he’s more intelligent and better educated than most people he thinks he’s smarter and more knowledgeable than he actually is.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    If you automatically assume that the jargon of an academic field with which you are unfamiliar is nothing but gibberish, then University Probably Is Not For You.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    Regarding Safe Spaces and “Trauma Feminism”:

    This reminded me of an argument that a friend made regarding welfare: You’ll never adjust it so it’s precisely right. It’s always going to err in one direction or another: in one direction, able bodied people will be able to cheat the system to avoid work; in the other direction, children go hungry. The question you need to ask yourself is, which is worse for society, welfare cheats or hungry kids? The answer people give to that tells you a lot about what kind of person they are.

    It’s the same with safe spaces. If you err in the “let’s make lots of safe spaces” direction, then you occasionally get silliness like waving hands instead of clapping, or people faking trauma to advance an agenda. If you err in the direction of “no safe spaces,” then people who have been raped or otherwise traumatized end up prisoners in their own homes, unable to function in the world. Which is worse for society?

  6. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    @ brucegee1962 #8
    It’s not quite a matter of which is worse. As you pointed out, the extremes are what’s bad. Everything is like a giant societal tug-of-war and, as you also mentioned, it will never be adjusted perfectly. I just wish more of the pulling force was in the middle, that’s certainly where most of the people are.

  7. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    Regarding safe spaces in general. I think the tug-of-war as it relates to safe spaces is currently in a horrible position. And I see it as far worse now than when I was young. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be those two college students having a faction of the internet sneering at them, including Richard F. Dawkins. I made the mistake of reading the replies to his tweet.

    The college students in the video weren’t doing anything to harm anyone else. A confrontational speaker was coming to be confrontational and draw a confrontational audience, and the students were announcing that there would be a place to get away from that if needed. The people they were speaking to weren’t closing their minds, they were at the bloody talk.

    There’s nothing wrong with people having places where they can go and not fear that they’re going to be provoked, harassed, sea-lioned, or trolled. People don’t need to challenge their beliefs all the effing time, especially given the number of people who do it maliciously. I do see potential problems arising in practice, because people will still be involved, but that’s no reason to not do it. The practice will improve over time.

    So… I wonder if Nugent is going to chastise Dawkins or Sommers for mocking college students. (No I don’t)

  8. StevoR says

    I think the traditional Aussie term is “shit-stirrer” if I can use that here. People who like being deliberately provocative to wind other people or groups up for the lulz.

    Hmmm . you know another word fits that decription and overlaps with it pretty closely too – troll.

    Personally, there’s nowt wrong with a lil’ bit of shit-stirring (like a bit of teasing and maybe even some types of “trolling”) if done in a reasonable relatively harmless way. However, when there’s a lot of really spite and nastiness and its deliberately clearly out to really hurt people though that’s when it crosses a line and becomes something that shouldn’t be accepted or done. Also punching down vs up. Drawing that line is a bit like determining what’s art and is a bit subjective but we know it when we see it. Kinda, maybe? Not really sure myself.

  9. =8)-DX says

    I think the first time one hears feminist jargon: safe spaces, voice, silencing, glass ceiling, male gaze, patriarchy, etc., it does come off as rather odd. I laughed heartily at all that language when doing a translation of an article about feminist deconstruction of “The Carnival” for a friend of mine at university. I laughed at the language. Then because I’d read the whole thing several times over – I undestood it. And a few years later it was much easier for me to understand feminist writing, read blogs, books etc. So yeah – laughing at this rhetoric is just being painfully ignorant. Flippantly (and a little nervously) toying and joking with it as those women did is a sign of willingness to respond to the problems feminism brings up openly and head on. I also didn’t understand all they were saying (due to the speed and the volume on my speaker), but what I did get sounded awesome. You have problems, want to discuss something? Yeah, talk to them =).

    But more importantly: shouldn’t CH Sommers be referred to more as a shock jockette? And isn’t the shock jock blogger who shockingly blogs a blog of shock called PZ Myers? And lastly and most importantly, doesn’t a “shock jock” have to wear a “shockstrap”?

  10. Iain Walker says

    Is it just me, or does Dawkins seem to be slowly metamorphosing into Vernon Dursley?

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