The rabidly martial rhetoric of that bad philosopher, Peter Boghossian


Whew. Peter Boghossian has gone full on crackpot. He’s nuttering along like a Baby Mussolini, claiming he is the true and rightful defender of Western Civilization (whatever that is), and declaring war on everyone who disagrees with him…because it’s really important that we allow freedom of expression…? Yeah, he’s that incoherent.

People want you to think a certain way, but let’s be clear about something. I’m done playing, I think Douglas is done playing, I’m waging full scale ideological warfare against the enemies of Western Civilization. I am taking no prisoners. I have very large scale projects coming for the enemies of reason and science and rationality. These people are divisive neo-racist hatemongers, and there’s simply no…we must broker zero tolerance with this ideology, and the only way forward at this point is full-scale ideological war and I will take no prisoners and that is what I’m devoting my life to. I will…I seek the complete eradication and extirpation of the ideology from every facet of life.

His rant reminds me of this classic exchange.

Bluto: Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.

He’s just reciting martial cliches. He’s not going to eradicate or extirpate anything. He’s not going to take any prisoners because he’s not going to have an opportunity to capture anyone. It’s all noise and posturing.

Boghossian was never much of a presence in the now-defunct New Atheist movement. I remember when he started appearing on the scene, and it was almost entirely by attaching himself leech-like to the most horrible, controversial phonies around, like Molyneux, which was amazing — Boghossian is supposedly a philosopher, but he was endorsing a ridiculous cult-leader whose “philosophy” is an incoherent mish-mash of racism and misogyny? I dismissed him then, but now he seems to think he’s been promoted to be the General Patton of conservative atheism.

There’s more, and recently. Here’s an hour-long video in which he gets together with Bruce Gilley and Dennis Linthicum to complain about diversity and tolerance in academia.

In case you have no idea who those other people are, Bruce Gilley is head of the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Scholars, a fringe political organization funded by right-wing millionaires which deplores “political correctness” and wants “a return to mid-20th-century curricular and scholarship norms, and an increase in conservative representation in faculty.” Yeah. One of those. Gilly himself became notorious with his “scholarship” that decreed that colonialism was a good thing. Fascist organizations everywhere clamored to have him defend their views.

The German parliament, the Bundestag, is rarely an exciting place, and even less often the site of debate and protest. But in December, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) managed to scandalize the German public by hosting an academic lecture on German colonialism.

The speaker the AfD invited has made a name for himself as a colonial revisionist in the most literal sense: Bruce Gilley, professor of political science at Portland State University, became the subject of global debate in 2017 when the (small but renowned) journal Third World Quarterly published his essay “The Case for Colonialism.” In it, Gilley argued not only that colonialism was “objectively beneficial,” but also that it should be reconsidered as a model of governance for countries in the Global South today. Critics, while scandalized by the proposal itself, mainly focused on the question of how a paper that was “blind . . . to vast sections of colonial history,” contained major “empirical shortfalls,” and was essentially “the academic equivalent of a Trump tweet, clickbait with footnotes” made it through peer review. As it turned out, the paper had been rejected by three peer reviewers, and the decision of editors to publish it without consulting the editorial board of Third World Quarterly led to the resignation of most members of the board and the retraction of the article.

He takes the interesting position that sure, there were excesses in colonialism, it wasn’t perfect, but all the hand-chopping and murder and rapes were reactions to the resistance offered by the colonized people, and wouldn’t have occurred if they’d just accepted the gifts of Western Civilization. Meanwhile, the collapse of post-colonial nations wasn’t really caused by the colonial institutions and the history of depradation, but was just the true nature of those people emerging, justifying further the loving hand of colonial imperialism.

Dennis Linthicum is a politial non-entity — a Tea Party member of the Oregon senate, one of the chickenshit Republicans who went into hiding in 2019 to undermine Oregon’s efforts to combat climate change. His contribution here seems to be to recite lists. He’s an incredible bore.

And finally, Peter Boghossian seems to have been invited because he is a notorious asshole who is comfortable with the likes of Gilley and Linthicum.

They got together to whine about the university imposing a race studies requirement in the curriculum, and about the university prioritizing diversity, which they claim is racist (that’s what he means by “neo-racist”) and against academic freedom. How dare they address contemporary issues, rather than pretending it’s still 1950!

At about the 16 minute mark, Boghossian gets on another roll.

Let’s be blunt about what we face. We face a group of small-minded, petty ideologues who have hijacked a public institution, who are hell-bent on ripping down Western Civilization. This is explicit in the doctrines of Critical Race Theory. They have created a system and a structure in which any form of dissent is punished as the new heretic, you are a heretic and you have committed blasphemy against the ideology. This is an ideology that proselytizes the consciousness of what is ordinarily…people who are ordinarily reasonable. What this is not is a partisan issue.

Not a partisan issue, which is why he got together with his far-right pals to rant. Sorry, if it’s not a partisan issue, where are the people who are not right-wing ideologues in this discussion?

I have news for Boghossian: there aren’t any universities that are trying to tear down Western Civilization. The destruction of America isn’t explicit or implicit in Critical Race Theory — if anything, the idea that we should come to grips with the failings of Western European and American history is the only way to save this culture.

You know, sometimes people are just plain wrong, an idea I’m sure Boghossian would agree with, and pointing out that people like Boghossian and Gilley are wrong in their interpretation of history and culture isn’t labeling them as heretics, any more than telling someone they don’t understand vaccines or the shape of the Earth is branding them as heretics. Boghossian is wrong about just about everything. He’s also an ass.

I expect he won’t have his platform as a member of academia for long. He’s an untenured assistant professor with a history of uncollegial behavior who is happy to condemn his institution, so I would be very surprised if he were retained — he has already been denied promotion to associate professor. He’s going to be reduced to fantasizing about running over “Wokists” with a tank without an academic title.

Comments

  1. profpedant says

    Their claim that “Critical Race Theory” is trying to tear down Western Civilization strongly suggests that they believe racism and exploitation are fundamental characteristics of Western Civilization.

  2. raven says

    … claiming he is the true and rightful defender of Western Civilization (whatever that is),

    As PZ implies, there is no such thing as Western Civilization.

    My northern California civilization has nothing whatsoever in common with Boghossian’s made up cis het white male fascist version of civilization. To even call his rantings and ravings a civilization is absurd.

    We are very diverse and cultures evolve rapidly in real time. The culture I live in now is very different from the northern working class culture I was born and raised in during the 1950’s. We’ve moved forward by a lot.
    Boghossian is just reviving the worst of old ideas and mixing them together with new made up horrible ideas.

  3. William George says

    I seek the complete eradication and extirpation of the ideology from every facet of life.

    Truly the words of a man who embraces rational thought.

  4. raven says

    Boghossian

    I’m waging full scale ideological warfare against the enemies of Western Civilization. I am taking no prisoners. I have very large scale projects coming for the enemies of reason and science and rationality.

    If Boghossian was serious about “coming for the enemies of reason and science and rationality”, he would be attacking himself and his right wingnut gang members.

    Follow the money!!!
    He is doing a Jordan Peterson.
    Selling right wingnut’s hate back to them for money
    He is no different from Ralph Limpbrain, Ann Coulter, Jordan Peterson, Hannity, Carlson, Gaetz, Breitbart, Fox NoNews, OAN, Newsmax, and all the other hate merchants

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    what is known as Western Civilization is neither, and not worth maintaining as it is currently.
    I prefer to think of it as a [process], removinging flaws as we become aware of them.
    I don’t know how to codify it, so I’ll leave it as the simple generic of process,
    IE not something we have achieved, and must preserve for eternity.
    Who am I, no one cares,

  6. acroyear says

    yeah – the phrase “Western Civilization” has now become yet another catch word for white supremacy. It basically amounts to “This is our ‘culture’ and it is why Europe and European-White Americans are the best”. When Carlson uses it, that’s exclusively what he means by it now.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    (Waves dagger in the air)
    Mumble mumble autostrada. Mumble mumble airships and flying-boats show our might, from the alps to Abbyssinia!

  8. PaulBC says

    I am taking no prisoners. I have very large scale projects coming for the enemies of reason and science and rationality.

    “Large scale projects”? What is that, death camps? He said he’s not taking prisoners, or am I just being too literal here? WTF is he going on about?

  9. birgerjohansson says

    “Running over wokists with a tank”
    MTV Celebrity Deathmatch once had his template show up in a Carro Armato M 14/41.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    PaulBC @ 10
    Those 1920s camps in Libya were pretty large scale. One third of the then population of Libya are estimated to have perished from starvation and disease.
    The resulting national trauma may have served to open the road for another “excentric” nationalist leader with a flamboyant dress sense.

  11. raven says

    …Bruce Gilley is head of the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Scholars, a fringe political organization funded by right-wing millionaires which deplores “political correctness” and
    wants “a return to mid-20th-century curricular and scholarship norms, and an increase in conservative representation in faculty.”

    LOL.
    No, we aren’t going back to the 1950’s.
    No black and white TV.
    No Ozzie and Harriet.
    Nonwhites, especially Blacks were segregated and marginalized.
    Women had narrow life choices and were mostly expected to be housewives and baby makers.
    We were also in the middle of a Cold War with another nuclear armed superpower and duck and cover drills for school children were common.
    It was boring and stagnant and a good time to be a cis het white male and a bad time for everyone else.
    And, that is why it ended with the 1960’s and 1970’s.

  12. cartomancer says

    If this is what passes for a philosopher on the American right, I’d hate to see what their morons are like…

  13. birgerjohansson says

    Re. AfD and colonial revisionism:
    .
    Remember what the Germans did in South-West Africa (currently Namibia).
    Remember the camp they built at Haifishinsel, and the racial studies performed there.
    And remember what happened to the leftover colonial uniforms, brown in color, when they were surplused after WWI.

  14. benedic says

    Surely! the correct response is Chou en Lai’s when asked as to, Western Civilisation he replied” It would be a a good idea”

  15. hemidactylus says

    So Boghossian is having a spider on the ceiling moment by not handling the aporia of diversity and it’s dialectic well. How Socratic (sarcasm). He’s swatting at the actual gadflies. Examined life and all that. Priceless.

  16. hemidactylus says

    His first book was an exercise in engineering little horsemen clones riding the coat tails of the Big Four rational dudebros. Actually the SE notion is better though than the “debate me” approach and has some good practitioners. Not discounting that. But he’s kinda toxic and still influential.

  17. PaulBC says

    He’s going to be reduced to fantasizing about running over “Wokists” with a tank

    Damn wokists! You can take my skillet when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers. That’s a proper Western cooking implement.

  18. garnetstar says

    @16, that’s funny!

    You notice how the vast majority of academics are completely silent about increasing diversity, etc.? It’s not because they’re all rabidly woke, it’s because a lot of them don’t really care. They’re going to carry on teaching, researching, whatever, with any diverse or un-diverse student body, faculty, etc.

    As for “an increase in conservative representation in faculty”? You want to see conversative faculty members, you should check out your own, or any, chemistry department. About 50-50 republicans/democrats, on average.

    But since we never spout our political opinions to classes (it’s difficult enough to get through the syllabus on time), that doesn’t count. He wants indoctrination, but we just talk about covalent bonding.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    B film baddie:
    “I seek the complete eradication and extirpation of….every facet of life.”
    FIFY

  20. Bruce says

    So they want a return to Oregon in 1940, instead of studying race? Do they just think it was a voluntary coincidence that no black people lived there then? Like the whole state being a “sundown town” was a meaningless wrinkle on the fabric of “true” Western Civilization”?

  21. Bruce says

    Sorry. The Oregon black exclusion laws were repealed in 1926, not 1940. Unfortunately, I never studied critical race theory myself, so I am still learning.

  22. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    I love the complaints about conservative underrepresentation in academia. It proves conservatives believe in personal responsibility only when it doesn’t apply to them.

    Conservatives don’t even believe in academia. They don’t think sociology or ethnic studies should exist. They want to go into the private sector. So… there just are fewer qualified conservatives in academia. So should we hire them disproportionate to their representation, irrespective of their choices?

  23. unclefrogy says

    @13
    abso-f’n-lutely
    that ship has sailed this is 2021 already. Take a look around at what you see the new people are not clamoring for any kind of return to some idealized past much of any where on the f’n planet. These a’holes are pushing but facing backwards. The only thing good about the colonial era was the introduction and dispersal of modern technology and world trade and connection of the many peoples of the whole planet.
    The biggest problem was it was done in the worst possible way imaginable, war, death and abject subjugation. the international problems we are facing a today all have roots in those failures. racism, imperialism, super-nationalism the sooner they are forgotten the better for us all.
    uncle frogy

  24. PaulBC says

    @13 @25 I agree. These assholes are not just on the wrong side of history. They’re on the losing side of public opinion. (And there’s no guarantee of alignment.) Those who want to go back to the 1950s, by and large, are the minority of people who were socially privileged, many of whom are still economically privileged (and still socially privileged just more likely to find that privilege questioned).

    Most people don’t want to go back. We’re about as likely to restore 1950s culture as we are to restore French nobility. Nobody is demanding it except those who benefited. The rest of us like living in the 21st century.

  25. PaulBC says

    He takes the interesting position that sure, there were excesses in colonialism, it wasn’t perfect, but all the hand-chopping and murder and rapes were reactions to the resistance offered by the colonized people, and wouldn’t have occurred if they’d just accepted the gifts of Western Civilization.

    Who the fuck can he possibly think he’s kidding? Working indigenous people to death was the main “gift” that Western Barbarism offered in return for the extraction of mineral resources and agricultural output.

    I mean, you don’t need a “woke” professor to tell you this. Read some Joseph Conrad (a brilliant writer with deep insight into human nature, but also a product of his time). Read about King Leopold’s atrocities in the Belgian Congo.

    European powers entered other parts of the world as conquerors looking for treasure, but moreover, they also built up a mythology of that the people they were exploiting were their inferiors, no better than animals. Most did not even pretend to show up offering a “gift.” The people were as much raw material as the ore they mined, there to be used… or exterminated if they became a nuisance. Some missionaries may have styled themselves as civilizing influences offering the “gift” of salvation. They too committed atrocities, but they were probably unusual in even showing a pretense of offering anything in return.

  26. InitHello says

    an ideology that proselytizes the consciousness

    Does it also leverage synergy to enstrengthen its enterprises?

  27. blf says

    @29, Or a potentially forward looking decentralised heterogeneous nexus for goobleding gook ?

  28. birgerjohansson says

    unclefrogy @ 25 (sark)

    Meh. The only wrong thing with the 1950s were those Papist poilticians of the Kennedy family getting into senate. And the young hooligans playing loud, rocking music they learned from the n*ggers. God bless George Wallace for wanting to keep god-fearing white folk safe from that kind of shenagians.

  29. HappyHead says

    @29 / @30
    It definitely employs dynamic core competencies to shift paradigm challenges.

  30. rrutis1 says

    @14 Oh, we’ve seen what the conservative morons look like (looks back at the last 5 years)!!

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