Why do I never recognize the universities hated by conservatives?

I’m a creature of academia. I attended college starting in 1975, and essentially never left — I went on to do graduate school, post-docs, and taught at a couple. I’ve been at both the small liberal arts college (DePauw, UMM) and the great big state school (Universities of Washington, Oregon, and Utah, and Temple University). I talk to students and faculty and staff every day for decades now, and at worst you could say maybe I’m a little too close to this environment, but you certainly can’t argue that I know nothing about what goes on on college campuses.

But then I read these stories from outsiders about what it’s like to be on an American campus, mostly by people who haven’t been here in ages and probably had just a transient experience before leaving, and they’re all about as accurate as if I were trying to describe life on Mars. They are distinguished by their total lack of awareness of reality and the vehemence with which they condemn students.

Case in point: Andrew Sullivan. It’s pure madness.

Over the last year, the most common rebuttal to my intermittent coverage of campus culture has been: Why does it matter? These are students, after all. They’ll grow up once they leave their cloistered, neo-Marxist safe spaces. The real world isn’t like that. You’re exaggerating anyway. And so on. I certainly see the point. In the world beyond campus, few people use the term microaggressions without irony or an eye roll; claims of “white supremacy,” “rape culture,” or “white privilege” can seem like mere rhetorical flourishes; racial and gender segregation hasn’t been perpetuated in the workplace yet; the campus Title IX sex tribunals where, under the Obama administration, the “preponderance of evidence” rather than the absence of a “reasonable doubt” could ruin a young man’s life and future are just a product of a hothouse environment. And I can sometimes get carried away.

I’ll give him a different rebuttal: you’re clueless, Mr Sullivan. Your “intermittent coverage of campus culture” is so detached from reality, so thickly slathered with conservative bullshit, that it is an unrecognizable caricature.

What “neo-Marxist safe spaces”? “Neo-Marxism”, by the way, is an empty buzzword generally used by terrified “neo-conservatives” who are upset that students explore new ideas outside the conventional, capitalism-worshipping straitjackets conservatives would rather we brainwashed students into worshipping. We actually encourage students to think, rather than accept the received wisdom of hidebound old farts. We ask them to look at systems of thought with new eyes and a wider perspective, and we tell them it’s OK to question that system. That’s it. That does not imply that we’re sitting around inculcating them with the sacred words of Lenin and Mao.

Most of our students are solidly middle-class, not interested in rocking the boat too much. It’s kind of ironic that our universities are accused of promoting communism when the most common rationale students and administrators use to get students to attend is that it’s the path to a good, well-paying job. You’d think that if we were busy indoctrinating them into neo-Marxism that they’d wake up somewhere around their junior year, look around, and realize that they’re imbedded deeply into an institution with a vested interest in moving them into the bourgeoisie, and they’d riot. Or leave. We’re not seeing much of a revolution right now because the rising costs of a university education have already filtered out most of the citizens with an interest in overthrowing the system.

At best we can stir up a modicum of social consciousness. Yeah, you’re here at a university, we’re going to try and make sure you acquire at least middle-class status (here’s your alumni newsletter, please donate!), but hey, if we can make you aware of your privilege and advantages, and the fact that not everyone in our country shares them, we can dream that you’ll help promote some incremental change for the better.

That’s the extent of campus radicalism. Relax, hidebound old farts. David Brooks still has his sinecure at the NY Times, and Andrew Sullivan will still get TV appearances where he can pretend to be an enlightened conservative. I wish it were otherwise.

As for “white supremacy,” “rape culture,” or “white privilege” — those are real things. I know that when you get snugged down tightly in your socio-economic slot, it gets harder to see them, because you are no longer exposed to as many contrasts, and you’re now rewarded for conformity rather than enquiry. It’s not that campuses are narrow and constraining and forcing people into radicalism, it’s that your life as a cossetted, privileged, boring white man means it’s easy for you to move right into a secure bubble and never think again. You’re the one being warped by your milieu, not the students. They tend to be liberated to think in new ways, a freedom they may never have to the same degree again. There’s no hothouse here. That’s reserved for defenders of the status quo in the non-campus universe, who will forever strain to suppress novelties that might emerge from a free-thinking environment.

But Sullivan wants to claim that he’s not totally against new ideas. He just hates the boogeyman du jour of conservative thought, “identity politics”. It’s ironic that people like Sullivan who are so committed to preserving the privileges of a narrow group, white men, are also committed to demeaning efforts to extend those privileges to all citizens in the name of denial of opportunity to all others.

The reason I don’t agree with this is because I believe ideas matter. When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large. What matters most of all in these colleges — your membership in a group that is embedded in a hierarchy of oppression — will soon enough be what matters in the society as a whole.

Oh, look at the projection! Identity politics is what people other than white males do to create oppressive power structures around race or sex; when white men erect power structures around their positions to block those others from achieving equality, well, that’s just fair and generous, not identity politics at all! The thoughtful people on college campuses aren’t at all interested in building silos of power for themselves and no others — they look at the identity politics of white men for white men and want to tear down those walls. That’s the ideal, anyway. I fear that most of them will graduate and find themselves forced to conform in order to keep themselves housed and fed within that hierarchy that Sullivan loves so much.

And, sure enough, the whole concept of an individual who exists apart from group identity is slipping from the discourse. The idea of individual merit — as opposed to various forms of unearned “privilege” — is increasingly suspect. The Enlightenment principles that formed the bedrock of the American experiment — untrammeled free speech, due process, individual (rather than group) rights — are now routinely understood as mere masks for “white male” power, code words for the oppression of women and nonwhites. Any differences in outcome for various groups must always be a function of “hate,” rather than a function of nature or choice or freedom or individual agency. And anyone who questions these assertions is obviously a white supremacist himself.

Oh, christ. So much nonsense.

Groups form in response to pressure from dominant, oppressive forces. They aren’t about suppressing individuality — to the contrary, they’re all about finding power in unity to resist the opposition of an overwhelming pressure to succumb to your myth that American culture is about “merit”. It ain’t.

For example, I often hear people mock the idea of different pronouns, or that the LGBT acronym keeps expanding to include more letters. How ridiculous, they say — I can’t be bothered to learn how to reference someone with all those weird new pronouns, and I will resist the neo-Marxist Left’s effort to pollute my language; or they laugh at the alphabet soup of LGBTTQQIAAP2S or QUILTBAG or whatever unique set of terms a particular group chooses to use. But there’s a reason for that: it’s not about conformity to a group, but the opposite of that, where people are trying to build structures under which everyone is free to express their personal, unique identity, where differences are encompassed with respect and no one is trying to dictate that individuals must fit into two and only two narrow types, the masculine and the feminine. How can Sullivan honestly defend the concept of individual agency while complaining about people who demand their own?

Speaking of conformity, though, I’ve noticed that status quo warriors like Sullivan are all speaking the same set of codes. Hierarchies are good. Everyone fits into the hierarchy on the basis of pure merit. Privilege doesn’t exist, except that dominance is good and natural, so somehow some people are privileged (but they must have earned it!). Cultural factors are negligible before the power of biology, and if it’s biological, it is necessarily good and true. History and environment don’t matter when Nature is the sole determinant of your status. Anyone who is not a conservative capitalist is a neo-Marxist.

It all makes me wish college campuses were seething hotbeds of chaos and rage, rising up to shatter these lies.

But I’m here. I know. They’re actually all fairly complacent places where students learn and maybe think a bit more than they do in Andrew Sullivan’s world, and just that is enough to make conservatives quake in their jackboots. That world is an upside-down place where demanding tolerance of diversity is bigotry, and where calling out men on harassment is a witch hunt. Let’s all hope his world continues its decay and dies off eventually.

Now if we can just get a few more women and dark-skinned people on the research team

It isn’t at all surprising that ancient Britons were dark skinned — we know the genes behind pigmentation, we have sequenced genomes from skeletons that are thousands of years old, and we know that light skins were the result of a mutation that swept through Europe about 6,000 years ago. So when a reconstruction of Cheddar Man, a 10,000 year old skeleton found in England, is made from the skull plus genomic information, we should expect that he’d be found to have been dark-skinned.

The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.

The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.

It was initially assumed that Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair, but his DNA paints a different picture, strongly suggesting he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair.

The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today.

Here’s the reconstruction in a BBC video. Cheddar Man is as we ought to have expected. Actually, the only thing that made me raise my eyebrows is that the research team consists of 6 white men and 1 white woman, kind of like how the SpaceX rocket team was mostly white men, too.

It would be nice if the research effort that is revealing the genetic diversity of our recent ancestors at least reflected a bit of that diversity today.

By the way, the comments on this reconstruction also reveal a tremendous amount of denial from the usual racists who think this is an invention cobbled up by scientists to appease radical leftists. This, also, is not surprising.

“we live in a loving, compassionate, exceptional country.”

Except for the hateful, cruel, petty people who live in it.

I’d vote that we deport Bad Santa there to some shithole country elsewhere, but I’m afraid that no matter where he is, he’s already squatting in that hole.

I was so impressed when the young woman who was brought here when she was 2 says she didn’t have health insurance for 18 years, and the Republican in back triumphantly announces that she didn’t have health insurance either, and that’s how she lost her eye. Yeah, that’s a great argument for your political party, lady.

What has Adam Corolla been up to lately?

No good and getting worse, I guess. He’s teamed up with right-wing fruitcake Dennis Prager to promote something called “No Safe Spaces” which is…I don’t know what it is. An opportunity for conservatives to whine about higher education, or something? Anyway, here’s a promo for it.

Warning: the first third of this video is set on “Utopia University”, of which Corolla says, That campus doesn’t really exist, does it? That doesn’t even look like parody to me. You could run that after Don Lemon’s show on CNN, and it would just play like a commercial. I think you’re going to see that Corolla has a bit of a credibility problem.

No university looks anything like that. I don’t understand the logic of proclaiming the importance of free speech while striving to silence all those liberal voices that make narrow-minded bigots uncomfortable.

Also, further statements that question Corolla’s credibility: in explaining their pairing, he says that Prager has more wisdom than anyone he knows (which might well be true), and that…he’s funny. I think we can safely say that statement is false.

There are more Stephen Millers out there

That a young racist asshole like Miller has risen to become the man in charge of immigration policy in America is scary enough, but there are still more Children of the Corn waiting their turn. Take a look at Cory Carnley. All you need is this one picture to know he’s a terrible human being.

Yeah, he’s proud of reporting a fellow student to ICE, because turning in race traitors is what the Hitler Youth do. He also likes to get on social media and argue that he ought to be allowed to say the “N” word, recite nonsense from The Bell Curve, threaten to murder immigrants, and say “Merry Christmas” as offensively as possible.

He’ll go far, I’m afraid.

Well, being expelled from high school for being a ranting jackhole might put a brief glitch in his plans. Having his name spread far and wide may also slow him down a little, until Trump sees him and makes him a duke or something.

Secular Social Justice — we need more of it

This message reflects my views pretty accurately, except that at that 2012 Reason Rally, I was on the stage…so I’ve fallen even further in my disillusionment.

He’s promoting the Secular Social Justice Conference, which will be held on April 7 in Washington DC. That’s a Saturday! I might be able to escape to attend that one, if I can just scrape up the cash to make it. I think I might need to go to find something to re-inspire me about atheism.

I had to check the bottom of my office chair

I was relieved — it was made in Green Bay, Wisconsin, not by slave labor from MINNCOR, the Minnesota Department of Corrections. It seems that $700,000 worth of dorm and office furniture for the University of Minnesota is purchased from MINNCOR, but the money is not going to the inmates/workers.

While most inmates languish making less than $1 an hour, public records indicate that Minnesota Department of Corrections executives, including those at MINNCOR, made over $100,000 per year in fiscal year 2015-16. MINNCOR CEO David Milton made $58 an hour, approximately $120,000 per year starting in February 2016. Despite numerous lengthy, in-person conversations Milton declined to speak on the record for this article. Milton and his executive team lease inmate labor to private companies, government entities and nonprofits and manage the prison canteen system – the internal grocery and convenience store for inmates. MINNCOR’s overall sales revenue has expanded to $44 million for 2015 alone, with profits going to the DOC general fund and MINNCOR’s budget.

They’re paid a pittance, and the only place they have to spend that pittance is the company store.

That same year, the state’s disparate canteen systems were consolidated under MINNCOR. 2003 was also the first time that MINNCOR was profitable. Annual profits for 2003 totaled $100,000, jumping to $2.5 million in 2004. Writing in the Stillwater’s prison-produced and award-winning newspaper, Prison Mirror, investigative journalist and inmate Matt Gretz explained that when MINNCOR consolidated the canteen the expectation from inmates was that bulk purchases would cause prices to go down. Instead, canteen prices increased.

Centralization allowed the state to dip more easily into MINNCOR profits as budget cuts abound – putting more pressure on MINNCOR to generate profits. According to annual reports in 2008, canteen sales were 18 percent of MINNCOR’s revenue. By 2014 canteen sales amounted to $10.9 million, almost 25 percent of overall sales revenue for MINNCOR. This means that the single largest portion of money that MINNCOR earns comes from taxing the low wages that the organization pays inmates. After MINNCOR deducts up to 80 percent of an inmate worker’s pay for everything from the cost of confinement to victim restitution and medical co-pays, the little that is left of an inmate’s paycheck often goes to the canteen.

Like I said…slaves.

I wouldn’t boycott MINNCOR, though, since we shouldn’t punish the inmates, but I would think it only fair to arrest and imprison MINNCOR executives for corruption, and put them to work making chairs. I’d buy those.

Dig into the racist circle jerk

Take a browse through Nancy McClernan’s blog, especially for the past few weeks. She’s tying all the threads together: evolutionary psychology, human biodiversity, Steve Sailer, Steven Pinker, Jerry Coyne, Phillipe Rushton, the Pioneer Fund, Arthur Jensen, The Bell Curve, all the usual suspects. It’s the ugliest bit of knitting I’ve ever seen.

One of the many interesting examples is this story about how racists tried to use sports statistics to prove the inferiority of black people — they just can’t handle the intellectual demands of playing quarterback, goes the claim. Who is the source for the statistics behind this argument? Steve Sailer.

In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published in The Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze 40 years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance — in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs — they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top 10 positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.”

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a market research background who is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl.

If you’re citing Steve Sailer, you’re really dredging the cesspool. Do go read the rest — scroll down to the bottom of the page, there’s a list of links to this month’s posts, and they’re all good.

Not a good look, St Cloud

St Cloud is a distant suburb of Minneapolis — it’s about an hour’s drive away from the Twin Cities (can you still call that a suburb?). It’s a nice big town; my oldest son attended St Cloud State University, and still lives there. Unfortunately, it’s also Michele Bachmann country, is very Catholic, and is also infested with wingnutty Protestant megachurches. You get the vibe when you drive through it from just the billboards that seem to feature Jesus and Donald Trump in equal measure.

You can also guess what kind of culture is thriving there. There is a group calling itself the St Cloud White Student Union (not an official student organization at St Cloud State, and they also disavow any connection, but still, piggybacking on the reputation of the biggest nearby college is kind of skeevy) that has been posting signs, illegally, around the area.

Ray Sjogren, a St. Joseph resident, said he first spotted the posters leaving the post office on Wednesday. Signs said “unapologetically white,” “hate speech is free speech” and “there are two genders.”

Each poster contained a logo and the name of a group: “St. Cloud State White Student Union.”

St. Cloud State University spokesman Adam Hammer said in an email Wednesday night that the group is not a registered student organization.

A sampling of their signs:

At least there is a group, #UniteCloud, which is fighting back against this nonsense, and also, reading the White Student Union page, it looks like the racists are minuscule — it could just be one person who has been emboldened to spread more hate speech. But we mustn’t forget that Minnesota does have an undercurrent of ugly hate organizations, they’ve been here all along, and they’ve just been waiting for the proper conditions to blossom and spew their spores. Guess what? Those conditions have arrived.