Posts

How to Spot a Fascist

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For the past several years, some of my colleagues in medieval studies have been claiming that our neck of the scholarly profession is infected not just with white supremacism, but also with fascism, so much so that they are willing to label fellow members of the profession as out-and-out “fascists,” including yours truly.

As Inigo Montoya would put it, I’m not sure that word means what they think it means.

What they seem to mean by it is “racist,” because, of course, everyone knows that fascists are racists—and racists are evil.

It also seems for them to have something to do with being of European ancestry and/or white and not apologizing for it, as well as having status in our profession that others do not.

At a guess, it could have something to do with arguing in favor of Western civilization and/or Christianity, but for the most part they leave it undefined, hanging there as the slander that everyone knows it is without quite being able to say why.

Sometimes they gesture towards Mi…

The Shame Game

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Men bond by making jokes about each other. Women bond by shaming other women.

I would dearly love to tell you about what I have been doing this past week. The hours-long conversations with lawyers. The equally long conversations with colleagues and friends. The decisions that I have had to make about when to speak—and when to say silent.

But to tell you, I would have to do something that I am not very good at.

Namenames.

I am amazed that other women find it so easy.

It took me a year and a half of being called names on social media to call out another woman who had been trying to shame me. (I understand that she has continued to do so, including in more formal academic settings.)

It has now been almost a year since I wrote about her, and the name-calling has only gotten worse.

For the most part, from other women.

I think my favorite this past week was, in effect, an unnaming. I am She Who Must Not Be Named.

Others have been more blunt.

(And, yes, I get that by providing these links, I am…

Sir Milo of Locksley

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You’ve all heard what Milo wrote to the journalists who were pressing him for comment about a restaurant he is said to frequent in New York and his recent decision to join UKIP.

You have also heard about how Davis Richardson at The New York Observer and Will Sommer at The Daily Beast reported his comment as an actual incitement to violence.

And you have heard about how PayPal and Venmo closed his accounts after some 250,000 tweets accused him of being responsible for the deaths of five journalists thanks to the headline that The New York Observer ran on Richardson’s article about his comment.

“Dear Milo Yiannopoulos,” the PayPal service bot wrote,
We have recently reviewed your usage of PayPal’s services, as reflected in our records. Due to the nature of your activities, we have chosen to discontinue service to you in accordance with PayPal’s User Agreement. As a result, we have placed a permanent limitation on your account. Translation: You are now outside the law. Certainly, that is…

If Professor Jordan B. Peterson said he believed in God, would you?

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For months now, I have been watching Professor Peterson’s followers ask themselves on social media whether they think Jordan believes in God, and I have been struggling to figure out why.

If Milo Yiannopoulos said he believed in God (he has), would you?

If I said I believed in God (I have), would you?

I’m thinking not—but why exactly?

Milo is easily as famous as Jordan, so it can’t be fame as such. I am easily as well-educated (Ph.D., Columbia University, 1994) as Jordan (Ph.D., McGill University, 1991), so it can’t be education as such. Jordan and I both talk about the importance of the Western tradition and the role of mythology in giving us scripts for how to behave (he says archetypes, I say patterns or models), so it can’t be the arguments he is making as such. It could be that he is a man, and I am not...but I don’t think that that is quite it either.

I think it is because he insists that—whatever mode he is speaking in—he is a scientist. And what people want is for a scientist…

“Like Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos”

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Back in November 2017, Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario, was taken to task by two of her professors for showing a clip of a television show in which Professor Jordan Peterson talked about the problems he saw with Canada’s proposed Bill C-16 and the effects it would have on freedom of speech.

Her professors’ complaint? That showing the video clip was tantamount to putting the students in her discussion section at risk of doxxing, harassment, and physical threat because—they alleged—Professor Peterson had engaged in similar activities directed at his own students.

In her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana’s words:
[Peterson] is a real person. But he is a real person who has engaged in targeting of trans students, basically doxxing them, if you know the term, giving out their personal information, so that they'll be attacked, harrassed, so that death threats will find them. This is something that he has done to his own students, that…

The Brain Game

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Professor Keith Whittington (Politics, Princeton) has written a book defending the importance of free speech on American university campuses, which Princeton plans to send out this fall to its incoming students.

In Professor Whittington’s words:
The right to free speech is not an extrinsic value to a university that has to be imposed by outside forces to serve ends that have no immediate connection to the goals of higher education itself. Rather, the value of free speech is closely associated with the core commitments of the university itself. The failure to adequately foster an environment of free speech on campus represents a failure of the university to fully realize its own ideals and aspirations. Sacrificing speech subverts the very rationale for having a university and hampers the ability of universities to achieve their most basic goals. If we value what universities do and the role they play within American society, then we must likewise value free speech in universities. Nor …

Attack of the Killer Nouns

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Milo and I were watching the livestream of the Heterodox Academy “Open Mind Conference” last week, and at one point he simply started shaking his head.

“It’s all throat-clearing, isn’t it?,” he asked me. “[Quoting] ‘Yes, I think that question about identity and expression is an important one, and one we should really focus on...’ WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.”

Indeed.

Everyone knows that academics have a peculiar way of speaking that makes it difficult for Random Laypersons to understand.

I myself have been accused by family members of using “big words” to no purpose, back in the day when I was just learning academese. I think the culprit in that particular conversation was “Christology,” but it could have been “exegesis.” I don’t think I knew the word “hermeneutics” at that point.

“But,” I defended myself, “it is a technical term. I am writing for other scholars who would know what it means.”

“But don’t you want people to read your work?” my sister countered.

I spluttered. What …