Posted on | May 8, 2012 | 31 Comments
You might think that being a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, an accomplished journalist and published author, would be the kind of impeccable credentials that would offer some protection against the occasional eruptions of intellectual cannibalism on campus.
Alas, no. Naomi Schaefer Riley is a former Wall Street Journal editor, the author of God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America (2006) and The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For (2011). Until this week, Riley had also been a contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s “Brainstorm” blog.
On Monday, April 30, Riley took notice of a Chronicle feature article about “A New Generation of Black-Studies Ph.D.’s.” Riley examined the doctoral dissertations produced by these scholars and pronounced them “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap”:
The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them. . . .
[T]opping the list in terms of sheer political partisanship and liberal hackery is La TaSha B. Levy. According to the Chronicle, “Ms. Levy is interested in examining the long tradition of black Republicanism, especially the rightward ideological shift it took in the 1980s after the election of Ronald Reagan. Ms. Levy’s dissertation argues that conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, John McWhorter, and others have ‘played one of the most-significant roles in the assault on the civil-rights legacy that benefited them.’” The assault on civil rights? Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights? Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?
Well, these are the sort of obvious truths that no one in American academic life can ever be permitted to speak aloud, and by publishing them under the aegis of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Riley had broken the silent taboo. Everybody knows that black studies, like women’s studies, is an academic ghetto. These programs owe their existence to political considerations, including the need to provide lucrative sinecures to radical faculty members who might otherwise be unemployable. Anyone who expects intellectual rigor from these programs is a fool.
These are facts universally known, but at the same time, no one within the academic community is permitted to call attention to this phenomenon. Riley is a professional journalist, and was under the impression that the Chronicle of Higher Education was a journalistic enterprise devoted to, y’know, facts and stuff like that.
Instead, as Riley discovered too late, the Chronicle is like 21st-century academia, devoted to rigid ideological dogma which must be fiercely protected against critical scrutiny. You can probably predict what happened next:
In reaction to Riley’s criticism, liberals “flipped out” and “lost their ever-living minds,” as Riley’s friend Mollie Hemingway says.
Her editor at the Chronicle “asked me to respond to the criticisms,” Riley told me. Evidently her response provoked even greater outrage and, Riley says, she got a call from an editor Monday informing her that her contributions to the Chronicle were “no longer welcome.” In an editor’s note, Liz McMillen informed readers of the Chronicle that Riley’s contributions “did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us.” Washington Free Beacon managing editor Sonny Bunch remarked on Twitter: “The liberal mob has spoken. The expiation has occurred. The new gods of diversity are satisfied. The sun will rise tomorrow.”
What have we learned from this incident? “The ivory tower is an inflated bubble and they don’t take criticism very well,” Riley told me.
Read the rest. Fortunately, Riley said, this wasn’t her full-time job, just a gig where she collected a “nominal amount” for two blog posts a week. But the principle of the thing — firing a blogger for offending “the new gods of diversity” — is worth fighting about, and I predict you’ll hear a lot more about this in the near future.
UPDATE II: Nick Gillespie at Reason magazine calls “the Chronicle’s response absolutely breath-taking and craven in its censoriousness. . . . This is plainly a politically correct response to a thug’s veto and should be owned up to as such.”
American universities have for so long operated on the principle of compulsory consensus that most academics now consider criticism of the consensus to be an illegitimate expression of “hate.”
UPDATE III: Oh. My. God.
Riley’s article is just the latest in an increasing wave of open bigotry from (occasionally conservative) White female political and cultural commentators. Many of these women have come down with an acute case of Privileged White Woman’s Rage, or PWRR for short. The disease has been around for years, but there has been a steady rise of cases since Obama beat Hillary in the primaries four years ago.