Boghossian quits! PSU students can celebrate!

The infamous ignoramus Peter Boghossian has resigned from Portland State University, and of course he does it with a long-winded tedious whine about how he was oppressed and his free speech abridged. You can read the whole thing if you want in an appropriate venue, the Daily Mail. I just want to single out one misbegotten complaint.

Over the last decade, it has been my privilege to teach at the university. My specialties are critical thinking, ethics and the Socratic method, and I teach classes like Science and Pseudoscience and The Philosophy of Education. But in addition to exploring classic philosophers and traditional texts, I’ve invited a wide range of guest lecturers to address my classes, from Flat-Earthers to Christian apologists to global climate skeptics to Occupy Wall Street advocates. I’m proud of my work.

I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

Oh, bullshit. If you want to expose them to the full range of ideas, from the sublime to the ridiculous, just tell ’em to go browse Facebook. This is not how teaching works. Part of what you must do is act as an informed guide, who can show students the best ideas and help them to understand why they are good. What do they learn from bringing in a flat-earther? Nothing of value, except that they should follow the example of their teacher and accommodate madness and stupidity. I would never, for instance, give a creationist free reign in one of my classes to explain his bad ideas; I will instead use that time more productively to explain why those ideas are bad. If a student wants to discuss such ideas with me, I’m happy to do so and will treat them respectfully, but I will not and should not give such claims the benefit of my attention without ripping them to shreds.

If a student were to leave my classes without having been led to the knowledge that informs us about the shape of the world, the age of the Earth, or the patterns of our changing climate, I would be a bad teacher. Like Boghossian. But then, maybe he’s one of those namby-pamby feels-over-facts guys who doesn’t believe that some ideas are correct and others are not.

Now we just have to wait for the other shoe to drop. I don’t think he would have quit without some fall-back position already lined up. Which conservative think-tank will be paying his salary in the future, do you think?

I’m not on the side of Boghossian and Lindsay, OK?

Critical Race Theory is simultaneously a profound readjustment of how we see American history, and a trivial, obvious fact. Yes, the United States was founded by genocidal European colonizers who built their country on the backs of African slaves. Yes, the Founding Fathers were philosophical hypocrites who wrote elegantly and beautifully about liberty and freedom and human rights and then went home to rape black women. Yes, that lovely classical architecture and those white pillars were erected on an Indian burial ground by black slaves. Get used to reality and accept it and do something about it.

The only people who reflexively object to Critical Race Theory are the worst and whitest buffoons in the country. So who do we see eagerly marching up to the microphones and cameras to express their dissent from reality? Two representative white atheists with arrogance to spare and a history of whining about “grievance studies,” Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay.

Jesus fuck, it’s embarrassing to be an atheist anymore.

Their ignorance got exposed and ridiculed on air, and now Michael Harriot completes the disembowelment. This is a truly ugly execution. Jimmy and Petey really need to stay at home, hiding under their bed, from now on.

Lindsay and Boghossian are college professors who have turned whitesplaining into an academic field called Grievance Studies. Basically, they propose that social justice is just a bunch of whining from people who don’t want to be held accountable for their lack of agency, unlike our white brethren who are coasting off a quarter of a millennium of privilege and convulse into conniptions at the very mention of this country’s racist past.

That’s just the prelude. Marc Lamont Hill, the man in the middle, let the two insipid fuckwits dig their own graves for 10 minutes. I about died when Lindsay, thinking he was so clever, tried to go on the counterattack and tell Hill that he was made uncomfortable by the word “folk” because Germans used the word “Volk” in Nazi propaganda. What a maroon…but here, enjoy the idiocy for yourself:

Or just savor Harriot’s summary:

So when Lindsay and Boghossian began whitemanning using polysyllabic words to explain why all the negroes are wrong, they had no idea that Hill was a practitioner of the ancient African tradition of knowing what the fuck he’s talking about. The pair filibustered through two segments while Hill patiently allowed them to say the things they made up. When they were done, Hill surprised Pinky and No-Brain with why they would not be able to take over the world with their pseudo-intellectual tripe.

“Of course, we’re running out of time but I’m going to respond just so people don’t think I don’t have a response,” Hill said, before launching into an explanation that Critical Race Theory is only related to Critical Theory in the way that bullshitting is related to having someone slap the shit out of you; it’s not the same shit. They may have known that Hill was the author of six books and holds a Ph.D. in the subject on which they speculated, but they were unaware that Hill also holds the position that can only be described by the things he is not.

He is not one of their lil’ friends. He is not Boo Boo the fool. And, most importantly, if they thought they were going to overwhelm someone with their white-centric Critical Racist Theory, they should have known:

Marc Lamont Hill is not the one.

Bewildered, Lindsay could only respond by saying: “You actually know a lot about this.”

And then, with a smile, Hill invites them to come back on sometime to continue the discussion. He sure knows when he’s got some tasty fish on the line.

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.

The hypocrisy of Boghossian’s academic defenders

I was listening to the latest Serious Inquiries Only podcast, on the Boghossian affair, while I was pumpin’ iron down at the gym, and Eli Bosnick made a really, really good point. After reading these various serious statements of support for Boghossian from people like Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker — they’re piously declaring that demanding he follow IRB requirements is a threat to academic freedom — he mentioned a curious omission. While they rush to the defense of their alt-right, Intellectual Dork Web colleague who has violated university policy and faces a rebuke from the university administration, they’ve never said a word about…Turning Point USA.

You know TPUSA is a Koch-funded far-right organization that trains students to incidents at universities so they can get left-leaning professors fired. They’re kind of incompetent at it — wearing diapers to show that left-wingers are babies isn’t very impressive — but you still don’t get to accuse universities of Orwellian behavior when right there, right in front of their faces, with no apologies and forthright insistence, TPUSA is maintaining an Orwellian Professor Watchlist (fair notice: I’m on it).

On the one hand, you’ve got a university calling in bigoted anti-feminist employee to a meeting (oh god, that’s torture!) because he violated university policy; on the other, a well-funded right-wing organization making an enemies list of professors and encouraging action against them. Which one do you side with? It says a lot about you.

Boghossian in a panic!

He thinks he’s going to be fired from his position at Portland State. That’s not necessarily the case, but Boghossian has been found guilty of ethical misconduct for his “grievance studies” exercise.

Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University and the only one of three researchers on the project to hold a full-time academic position, was found by his institutional review board to have committed research misconduct. Specifically, he failed to secure its approval before proceeding with research on human subjects — in this case, the journal editors and reviewers he was tricking with his absurd but seemingly well-researched papers.

Their defense is peculiar. James Lindsay literally says “It’s not actually scholarship”, Pluckrose says, “They can’t say we needed IRB approval…because there weren’t any real human subjects”, and that they couldn’t ask for IRB approval because that would tip off the (human) reviewers they were trying to trick. But that’s nonsense — of course you can do blind and double-blind studies on humans, IRBs approve those all the time. Here’s what they actually expected:

“An IRB protocol application should have been submitted to the Office of Research Integrity,” reads a determination letter from Portland state’s IRB dated last month. “University policy requires that all research involving human subjects conducted by faculty, other employees and students [on campus] must have prior review and approval by the IRB.”

Exactly. As an extra bonus, having an official declaration of exactly what they were trying to do and how they planned to analyze it ahead of time would have been more persuasive that they were actually doing a real study. But they weren’t, and they’ve even admitted it — if it’s not really scholarship, then what was it? I don’t know. Garbage? A publicity stunt? Propaganda?

It’s also the hypocrisy.

Over all, Christensen said he and Sears believe that Boghossian “wants to have it both ways.” That is, publicly presenting his project as a “rigorous study that exposed flaws in the peer-review system” while also “claiming that the hoax wasn’t a genuine study, and therefore IRB approval doesn’t apply.”

I don’t do research on humans, but even I know this kind of work demands IRB review (spider research doesn’t, at all), and I’m a bit shocked that they didn’t even discuss it with an IRB officer. I don’t even see any reason to expect that the application would be turned down, except possibly over its lack of rigor and poor foundation. By not going through the protocols — which even Boghossian admits are important and necessary — they did a disservice to research.

I agree with this assessment.

“We think that he did commit academic fraud, by design, and that some professional sanctions might be warranted,” Christensen continued. Boghossian and his colleagues “did misrepresent themselves, they did falsify their evidence and they did commit a serious infraction of research misconduct by deceiving these editors, wasting the time of the readers and then publicly slandering the journals and their fields. It is the right of any university to investigate fraud perpetrated by its employees.”

They also wasted the time of reviewers — you know that reviewing papers is unpaid service work for professors, right?

But guess who is defending Boghossian: Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker. Of course.

At least we’ve got the authors on record now admitting that their “study” wasn’t a study, and wasn’t even any kind of scholarship at all.

Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose are simply incompetent hacks

There are many reasons why that inane fake article “study” was bad. Here’s a good summary from HJ.

But we also know bullshit gets published, with relatively little effort, in non-“grievance studies” journals. SCIgen is a program that automatically generates Computer Science papers. The authors were able to get one such paper accepted to a scientific conference in 2005. Eight years later, some researchers discovered that a whopping 120 SCIgen papers had been published across thirty conferences. That same year, John Bohannon submitted a paper on “medicinal lichen” that was machine translated from English to French and back again to 300 open-access journals; it was accepted in 157, and of the 36 submissions where peer reviewers caught the hoax a whopping 16 journals published the paper anyway. Not recent enough for you? While Boghossian and his two friends were toiling away on twenty papers, one person submitted an obvious hoax paper to fourteen biology journals; it got published in three journals and accepted in a further five.

Again, their core claim is that “grievance studies” journals are more prone to hoaxes than non-“grievance studies” journals. If we use my examples as controls, their hypothesis lacks sufficient evidence to be considered true; if we do not, then they don’t have control group and their hypothesis lacks sufficient evidence to be considered true.

Boghossian, Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Mounk do not have the science knowledge of an alert High School student. They should be deeply ashamed and laughed out of academia, instead of rewarded with wingnut welfare.

They used the same hatchet science denialists employ to criticize everything from evolution to climate to physics to medicine: find a few deficiencies — and that peer-review in general can be gamed is a recognized, ongoing problem — and use them to pillory an entire field of study. And like the denialists, they focus on one thing they don’t like, in this case feminism, and selectively criticize narrow, specific problems while generalizing to the whole. This is precisely the kind of game kooks play to claim that evolution is unsupported by evidence, that the earth’s climate isn’t changing, that cigarettes aren’t really that bad for you, and that the AMA is hiding a secret cure for cancer.

I agree. All of them have demonstrated a sophomoric understanding of science and a weird ideological bias that taints everything they do, and they’ve just earned a universal thumbs-down from academia.

Give it a rest, Boghossian and pals

You’d think they’d learn. When Boghossian and Lindsay published their phony “conceptual penis” paper, they were roundly mocked and ridiculed for concluding that academia was corrupt because they got a badly written paper published in an obscure journal, proving nothing. It’s the skeptical equivalent of p-hacking — yes, if you carry out a badly designed experiment, you will sometimes get a positive hit, but you can’t conclude anything from it. No one is surprised that, in the volume of papers submitted to the peer-reviewed literature, clunkers get through. We know the system is not perfect.

But now we learn that, after their initial ‘success’ with the “conceptual penis” article, they sat down and repeated the same thing, over and over again. They intentionally flooded journals with “fake news”, and when some of it leaked through, cried triumph.

Beginning in August 2017, the trio wrote 20 hoax papers, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as the name of their friend Richard Baldwin, a professor emeritus at Florida’s Gulf Coast State College. Mr. Baldwin confirms he gave them permission use his name. Journals accepted seven hoax papers. Four have been published.

What I have learned from this is that the familiar trio of frauds — Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose — have a real talent for writing garbage papers, which I’d actually kind of already known from their activities on social media. Now they’ve gone beyond their original efforts of making nonsensical interpretations to making up data, as in a paper about observations made at a Portland dog park, which made a number of people suspicious, and which led to an unraveling of their game.

All of this prompted me to ask my own questions. My email to “Helen Wilson” was answered by James Lindsay, a math doctorate and one of the real co-authors of the dog-park study. Gender, Place & Culture had been duped, he admitted. So had half a dozen other prominent journals that accepted fake papers by Mr. Lindsay and his collaborators—Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, and Helen Pluckrose, a London-based scholar of English literature and history and editor of AreoMagazine.com.

The three academics call themselves “left-leaning liberals.” Yet they’re dismayed by what they describe as a “grievance studies” takeover of academia, especially its encroachment into the sciences. “I think that certain aspects of knowledge production in the United States have been corrupted,” Mr. Boghossian says. Anyone who questions research on identity, privilege and oppression risks accusations of bigotry.

You know, if you’re a left-leaning liberal, there are plenty of gigantic targets you could be taking aim at: all you need to do is look at all three branches of the federal government, or police activities nation-wide, or the military-industrial complex, or the undermining of regulations by big corporations, or wealth inequality. We have no shortage of big, serious problems. But for some reason, these left-leaning liberals have decided that academia is too left-leaning, and must be exposed. And what have they exposed? A set of problems that Francis Bacon railed against in the 17th century.

Bacon was well aware that science had a weakness, that it was done by flawed humans who had their own biases (he was rather deeply flawed himself), and strove to make people self-aware of their own weaknesses and make efforts to use a rigorous methodology to circumvent those problems. Even the big name journals in technical fields occasionally publish terrible work because it meets pro forma conventions and is backed by lots of money (<cough, cough&> the ENCODE project), but you don’t see PluckBogSay going after those — instead, they have an agenda of conspiring against feminist and social science journals, which says something about their intent.

It might have been interesting if they’d chosen journals in their own fields, and written articles that satirized weaknesses in their own discipline…oh. Hey. I just realized — maybe Boghossian’s entire career has been a performance art piece criticizing how lackluster frauds can get academic jobs in philosophy. He may yet pull a valid criticism out of his hat.

But punching down at marginal journals because they have a soft spot for tendentious prattle ain’t it. It’s also exploiting a feature of academia that I rather like — trust. Even Alan Sokal has problems with what they’re doing.

This isn’t the first time scholars have used a hoax paper to make a point. In 1996 Duke University Press’s journal Social Text published a hoax submission by Alan Sokal, a mathematical physicist at New York University. Mr. Sokal, who faced no punishment for the hoax, told me he was “not oblivious to the ethical issues involved in my rather unorthodox experiment,” adding that “professional communities operate largely on trust; deception undercuts that trust.”

I could agree that many disciplines can be too trusting, and that more self-discipline is warranted. We do, however, have an ethical mechanism for addressing that problem: it’s called writing rebuttals and critical arguments that directly address bad work. It’s what I do with creationism, for instance. I’ll write a confrontational article pointing out why their claims are bogus, using knowledge of my own field to explain why they are wrong. I don’t sit down and write 20 garbage creationist articles (even though that would be trivially easy to do) and contribute to their body of work, which they’ll then use to justify creationism.

If you can find a bad article accepted for publication in a feminist journal, please do jump on it and tear it apart. That contributes to the strength of the discipline. Don’t write a bunch of bad articles of your own, which are clearly intended only to weaken the whole discipline and provide a set of easy, straw-man arguments that you can use to pretend you’re a smart guy.

They seem to know deep down that what they’re doing is wrong and unethical, and they have a rather fatalistic view of their future prospects.

Mr. Boghossian doesn’t have tenure and expects the university will fire or otherwise punish him. Ms. Pluckrose predicts she’ll have a hard time getting accepted to a doctoral program. Mr. Lindsay said he expects to become “an academic pariah,” barred from professorships or publications.

Interesting that they frame the anticipated consequences in terms of being punished or barred. That’s not the case at all. They’re going to have serious problems with a future in academia because they’re writing trashy papers that don’t further the knowledge in their disciplines at all, and seem to be more interested in policing people they don’t like than in advancing philosophy, mathematics, or literature. Maybe if there were a department of anti-feminist studies somewhere, they could fit in. Or maybe their real specialty is “grievance studies,” the very thing they are complaining about.

Otherwise, setting themselves up as martyrs is all the qualification they need to get a position in some right-wing think-tank, which is clearly the appropriate destiny for these “left-leaning liberals.”

the godfather, or grandfather, or one of the prime people that ended up actually killing the unity of the movement

A friend let me know that there was a discussion that briefly mentioned me last night, between Ember and Thomas Sheedy. Sheedy is a long time regressive conservative atheist who founded a group called Atheists for Liberty, and Ember put his views in the spotlight for a couple of hours. Sheedy was glib and articulate for a repulsive monster, but I think everyone could see right through him. He was babbling on about transgenderism, wokeism, Dave Silverman (he was framed!), Boghossian, Turning Point USA, and how he was committed to defending atheism über alles and that all this progressive ideology destroyed atheism, while his right-wing ideology was fine, and that it didn’t spill over into his atheist activism, unlike those weird Atheism+ freaks.

Somehow, he thinks promoting Trump and Desantis is compatible with his overweening support for a secular America. He’s completely blind to the fact that he is ideologically driven by forces that are inherently in opposition to atheism.

The bit where I’m mentioned is brief and not at all a big part of the conversation, and is at about the one hour mark in this video.

Sheedy says I am the godfather, or grandfather, or one of the prime people that ended up actually killing the unity of the movement. Cool. Not true and rather silly — lots of people found themselves dissatisfied with the movement, and I wasn’t a leader — but still rather flattering.

Bari Weiss is an agglutinizing agent for losers

It does me good to see one of those hateful anti-woke organizations falling apart, but it’s also dismaying to see how easily radical conservative groups can suck money out of the pockets of the obscenely rich. I guess if you’re extremely wealthy you can easily throw a million dollars here, a half million there, as long as the recipient panders to the bigotry that comes naturally to bloated capitalist nepo babies. Here’s a long story about how a few IDW types built a short-lived organization on connections to the rich. It features Bari Weiss, of course.

Weiss had already been talking with a few of her friends about creating a new anti-woke organization. One was Melissa Chen, a writer and the managing director at Ideas Beyond Borders, a nonprofit that takes books about concepts such as liberty and reason and translates them into Arabic, to make them more accessible; she later described herself as a conservative who was forming her trajectory in “the anti-woke space.” Another was Peter Boghossian, a former professor best known for getting absurd papers about subjects such as dogs perpetuating rape culture at dog parks published in feminist and postmodern academic journals to expose what he saw as corruption in scholarship, and who has earned some prominence as a public intellectual defending free speech and opposing illiberalism. Chen and Boghossian had workshopped a pitch to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, for a project to create “a modern-day Death Star” to wage “ideological warfare” on the “enemies of modernity”; their plan involved writing coördinated op-eds and promoting anti-woke content, but it was rejected. Weiss and her friends also sought advice from Niall Ferguson, a historian at the Hoover Institution, about the best way forward.

OK. The recipe begins with Weiss, Chen, Boghossian, and Ferguson, creating a rather shitty roux that has no taint of progressive values. Then they invented a label and an ambitious agenda.

Eventually, they settled on a name and a strategy. The organization would be called fair: The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism. The name was an initial act of defiance, implicitly painting the group’s opponents, self-described “anti-racists,” as the real racists. The founders’ dream was for the group to replace the A.C.L.U. as America’s new defender of civil liberties—a mission they believed the A.C.L.U. had abandoned. The vision involved a three-pronged approach: legal advocacy, via letters and lawsuits; grassroots advocacy, via a network of volunteers; and education about the issues, spread through projects such as explainer videos and training programs.

Wait, wait, wait — FAIR already exists; it’s a progressive media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. It’s been around since 1986. I have to assume that the confusion was intentional, and that we’re off to a sleazy start.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been around since 1920. It’s a distinguished organization that has fought for our constitutional rights, including free speech, and these bozos want to replace it with an ideologically biased group of bitter reactionaries? I don’t think so. So they added more extremists.

Weiss and the other founders recruited an informal board of advisers—a mix of podcasters, journalists, academics, and lawyers. Among them were the media personality Megyn Kelly, the writer Andrew Sullivan, and the anti-critical-race-theory activist Christopher Rufo.

Kelly, Sullivan, and dear god, Rufo? Can this recipe possibly get any more ugly and unpalatable? Sure can. They needed some rich sugar daddies, and they got ’em.

But it was Weiss, more than anyone else, who was clearly the group’s big draw. She brought in a half-million-dollar donation from Harlan Crow, a Texas real-estate developer who, ProPublica recently reported, paid for years of undisclosed vacations and private-jet travel for the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Suzy Edelman, another donor, who gave fair a million dollars in 2021, wrote in an e-mail to Weiss, “It’s your courage that inspired me to join the movement—not just to reform what’s been captured, but to build new, wonderful things.” I know Weiss a little bit—we’ve hung out in professional settings a few times over the years. When fair was founded, she had just left the New York Times in a very public way, and she was focussed on launching new organizations. “I think we are in a moment of profound change in American life, in which many old institutions are crumbling or have lost trust,” she told me recently.

You should begin to realize that what we’ve got here is a tiny, cozy in-group of destructive, bigoted assholes who have captivated a few bigoted asshole multi-millionaires who were willing to toss them big pots of money. This is the root of our current American problem: we have a surplus of spoiled rich people who know very little but are philosophically committed to the idea that their vast wealth was hard-earned, or they wouldn’t have it. It’s easy to milk them of cash by pointing at some poor people and saying that they’re out to get you.

That’s what this whole story is about, petty bigots with buckets of inherited wealth, and grifters like Weiss who know exactly how to part them from their money. Just repeat “woke, woke, woke” at them and rely on their contempt for others to trigger donations.

Fortunately, the wheels started to come off Weiss’s FAIR gravy train pretty quickly. The thing is, grifters know how to get money, but they aren’t very effective at using it. The organization started to disintegrate in disputes over how nasty and mean they ought to be, and all they would do is talk, talk, talk.

Rob Schläpfer, a volunteer state coördinator in Oregon, told me that he worked on a plan to mobilize parents to attend school-board meetings, but it “didn’t go anywhere. I was just spinning my wheels.” He found it hard to get direction from the national office about what to focus on, or how his chapter’s work should fit into fair’s mission. As time went on, other volunteer chapter leaders around the country started calling and texting Schläpfer to vent their frustrations. “fair was basically virtue-signalling for the anti-woke,” he said. “It was not an organization designed to actually do anything.”

Oh, good. Please continue bleeding money that accomplishes nothing.

Then the initial crop of assholes started to jump ship.

There seemed to be a genuine philosophical conflict within the fair community. In September of 2021, two members of the advisory board, Rufo and the libertarian podcaster Kmele Foster, started squabbling on Twitter about Rufo’s methods for opposing critical race theory in K-12 schools, which Foster described as inviting “all kinds of reactionary hysteria.” Rufo resigned from the advisory board soon afterward. “The question with FAIR that I had was: what are the substantive wins the organization has accomplished? And it was very hard for anyone to explain this,” Rufo wrote to me in an e-mail. fair’s high-profile advisers were “transgressive enough to generate attention, but not transgressive enough to achieve results. It’s almost worse than doing nothing, as it creates the illusion of action and absorbs political energy that would be better spent elsewhere.”

Worst of all, the money was dissatisfied.

Behind the scenes, there was deeper trouble. Suzy Edelman, one of the donors who gave a million dollars in 2021, had started asking questions about whether her gift had been used appropriately, requesting fair’s receipts and copies of the contracts that it used for volunteers and staff. For months, Edelman had also been questioning fair’s approach, particularly on gender issues. “Sex-based rights matter. Single sex spaces for women and girls must be protected. Transgenderism is a fiction designed to destroy,” she had written in an e-mail. She noted that fair had positioned its programs as an “alternative” to mainstream D.E.I., or diversity, equity, and inclusion, training, but, she said, “You can’t ‘DEI-lite’ this issue.” (A spokesperson for Edelman maintained that her concerns about fair were not related to its politics, only its “governance and use of charitable funds.”)

Weiss and Bartning exchanged terse e-mails about Edelman in August. “I am quite nervous that she has gotten to the Crows, which would be really damaging to me personally,” Weiss wrote, referring to Harlan Crow.

Oh, dear. Grifters hate to lose a mark, especially a rich, gullible sucker like Crow. Poor Bari! If she gets a reputation for being an ineffectual, obvious money-waster, the rich people won’t talk to her.

Hmmm. Have any of Bari Weiss’s schemes ever accomplished anything? We should be pleased that she’s at the poisonous core of so many PR campaigns for the Right.

The lesson here is that “anti-woke” is a recipe for incompetence and failure — it’s just that it inspires so much suffering in its inevitable decay.