19.9.15

JUST DON'T SET YOUR HAIR ON FIRE.

With the coming of a new academic year comes the usual fretting about liberating tolerance, or progressive intolerance, or, incivility, or, to use my preferred locution, sheer stupidity.  The editorial board of USA Today suggests it's time for the Guardians of Academic Morals to recommit to free speech.  There's even a useful piece of public health advice.
Just as children raised in overly clean houses devoid of bacteria become more vulnerable to allergies and asthma, many of today's college students — protected by "helicopter parents" — have become fearful of anything that could make them or their friends uncomfortable.
Indeed.
Not only that, letting your kids play with other kids helps develop the immune system and reduce the incidence of allergies. Instead, helicopter parents give way to bubble-wrapping school officials, and the victimization culture is residually inhabited by morons, in the old clinical sense of the term.
But, in the spirit of point-counterpoint and equal time and with complete lack of the irony that the act of providing a platform to differing points of view is repressive per se, the editorial board gives two University of Chicago students the opportunity to argue that free speech frees hate speech.  Well, yes, we have norms, and rules, and sanctions ranging from shunning to execution, because free and self-activated people will sometimes trespass against others.  But the examples they suggest to support their point suggest something more is at work.
Unlike in the past, a First Amendment defense for speech is less likely to be used by student activists or minority groups on campus, and more likely to be invoked, for example, by students defending an event such as Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes,” a fraternity party planned on our campus in 2012, then swiftly canceled after Latino students and their allies protested.

These kinds of views and actions are blatantly racist and are meant to target and stereotype an entire group of people. Such views and actions are also the kind defended by the report and statement the university issued in January that unequivocally favors freedom of speech.

By failing to put limits on — or even mention — this type of behavior, the university’s report fails to protect freedom of expression for all members of its campus. Hate speech restricts freedom of expression by creating an environment so hostile to the targeted group that its members fear speaking out.
I have trouble squaring "Latino students and their allies protested" with "members fear speaking out."  Consider, though, why fraternities and sororities might be scheduling in-your-face themed parties.
We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
That's toward the end of Animal House, when the Deltas plot to sabotage the homecoming parade, but the earlier toga party had a similar genesis.  As the Greek-letter organizations understand the contempt the academic establishment and Student Affairs and particularly the grievance lobbies hold them in, why not do something futile and stupid and in their face?

Particularly because they know that the Perpetually Aggrieved will react as if somebody offered incontrovertible evidence that Karl Marx got the dialectic wrong, or if The Bell Curve is right.

To continue, I have in common with the grievance lobby a short fuse.  All my life I have struggled with the temptation to go off on someone who is baiting me to go off.  What seems different is that the Perpetually Aggrieved on campus will go off in response to a provocation, even a futile and stupid one calculated to set them off.  And while the representatives of the offending organization go through the obligatory "if any of you I've offended" (I'm waiting for someone to add, "stick your head in a bucket of shaving cream") some of the organizers might be congratulating each other over having set the radical ruffians off.  The better response to a themed party with stupid stereotypes accordingly might be, Delta again, consider the source.

But no, the Perpetually aggrieved will go off.  Even if it's performance art that sets them off.
Students at the University at Buffalo were outraged about the sudden appearance of “White Only” and “Black Only” signs above certain bathroom doors in the College of Arts and Sciences building. But outrage was largely the point, since the signs were part of a black student’s visual arts project.

Many did not appreciate the signs, even with the knowledge that they had been deployed as deliberate social commentary. One student tweeted, “Not only is this a hate crime, but it is also an act of terrorism.” Others called the police.
O tempora! O mores! The job of the performance artist is to get the bourgeoisie to set their hair on fire.  (Consider the source.  Don't spend any money at the galleries that sell their works, and work to defund the national endowments.  Buy the stuff that you like, or build a railroad in your basement.)  As a colleague explained to me once, art is context.

But when the Perpetually Aggrieved get set off by avant-garde art, you can be sure that somewhere on Greek Row there are bros looking for a way to push back against the indoctrination that passes as "affirming diversity" and recognizing that it doesn't take a really futile and stupid gesture to set the Perpetually Aggrieved off.

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