The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Commissars Sacrifice Naomi Schaefer Riley to the ‘New Gods of Diversity’

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: More at Memeorandum with commentary by New York Post, National Review, American Thinker and Legal Insurrection.

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.

The person who wrote that is a Ph.D. professor at an Ohio college.

 

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Comments

  • http://profiles.google.com/dianna.deeley Dianna Deeley

    And I have to read that rag. 

  • PaulLemmen

    *snicker* Hoist on their own petards! It is ever so with the Cultural Marxists (motto: “On The March, Ever #Forward!”, they know not where, just that they are getting good gas mileage), driving America over a cliff and Americans into the gulag of NewSpeak and indoctrination. Meh!

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  • Adobe_Walls

    I’m sure we are all shocked to discover that Political Correctness fires people. As usual the key here is money, higher education institutions and scholarship recipients have way too much money available to spend it wisely. Student loans should require a down payments just as home loans should. Having a monetary stake particularly if parents were providing it might eliminate some of the nonsense in education options.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    Black Studies is not an intellectually rigorous discipline, but it is easy to pick on it.  Examine the dissertations in other fields like Sociology and Education:  while there may be some serious scholarship in some, it is certainly not required – and is well down the list of attributes needed to win the degrees.

    There is no perfect way to assess these soft subjects or their benefits, if any.  Too much subjectivity enters into the equation from the beginning.  There is however a self-correcting regulator which, if reconnected to education, could over time reduce or eliminate the  resources wasted on jargon and gibberish.

    It’s called the marketplace.  Remove federal funding, and let colleges, universities, and technical schools compete for student dollars openly and freely, with no big fat thumbs on the scales.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/65KXANPVQHQ5ELO7VVUUU5UGZY Maurice

    “A witch! A witch! BURN HER!!”

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  • DaveO

    Cool. The thickness of the skin of a black-studies Ph.D. is measured in single digit nanometers.

    I never understood why black people at Harvard have to study being black. Or did Elizabeth Warren recruit them?

  • http://www.haemet.blogivists.com/ Roxeanne de Luca

    (Shrug) Look at when blacks had the right (at least the de jure right, albeit not always de facto) to vote compared to when women could vote.  Consider that a lot of Democrats tried to defeat the 1965 Civil Rights Act by adding women to it as a protected class of citizens.  Look at the 2008 elections.  Compare white-on-black violence (minimal) with man-on-woman violence (not so minimal).

    Reality is that it’s a lot easier, in our society, to discriminate against women than it is to discriminate against ethnic minorities. So when a woman goes and points out what is going on, the referees of the Oppression Olympics  have decided that she’s committed a foul and must be disqualified. 

  • http://therionorteline.com/ Michael Smith

    War on wimmenses

  • http://twitter.com/wtfci wtfci

    I just read Naomi’s post on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog.  Her post is pretty weak.

    If the dissertations are a persuasive case for ending black studies programs, why not highlight the dissertations as much as possible?  If they speak for themselves, let them.

    This brings up with it is so important to gather your thoughts, plan on how you will express them, draft something, then publish it.  You to review your work.

    If “Black Studies” departments are teeing it up for their critics to blast the programs, uhh, why not play along but with a more studious approach?

  • Dale Miller

    She criticized work that she had never actually read on the grounds that it wasn’t intellectually rigorous enough. Isn’t there a certain level of irony there, at the very least?

  • http://twitter.com/wtfci wtfci

     She never wrote in her post that she never read the dissertations.  She doesn’t say she read them entirely either.

    Was she interviewed and admitted to not reading them?  I may have missed this.

  • Dale Miller

    It’s in the post where she responded to her critics. “Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.” 
    http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/black-studies-part-2-a-response-to-critics/46401

  • http://twitter.com/wtfci wtfci

     She still doesn’t say “I didn’t read them.”

    She sort of infers it, but never actually confirms that she never read them.  She generally dogs dissertations like these so I can see if she didn’t read them.  But she just doesn’t affirmatively verify she never read them.

  • Dale Miller

    She implies it, leading us to infer it. And if the implication wasn’t clear enough, she is more explicit in what follows the sentence I quoted. “I read some academic publications (as they relate to other research I do), but there are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery.”

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  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Historical black midwifery? Is that the woman black “leaders” like Jackson and Sharpton stop to see on their way home from work?

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Ok, honestly if you are going to criticize something you should probably read it first — but, but…if a dissertation is starting to stink on the first page (heck, even the title) you can pretty much take it to the bank that the rest of it will be no damn good.

    This has been an ongoing problem in academia: many of the traditional liberal arts departments have been broken up piecemeal into a million and one special interest “studies” departments.  The reasoning behind this was there was too much emphasis on “old, dead, white guys”…what it actually was, was a full on assault against the Western cannon and Western Civ…period.
    Now we have a million and one “studies” departments which do not engage in any sort of thorough critical study of anything — the academic work is really sub-par; the topics “critiqued” are laughably nonserious and contribute nothing to a better understanding of our culture (in fact, they often help degrade and undermine it)….and heaven help you if you, as an academic, say a word against these special interest departments.

    Which our protagonist here has recently discovered it would seem.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Oh, and might I add: a lot of profs dearly love the special interest “studies” departments — 1) grant money — hard for the humble English Lit prof to get if he/she is studying pedagogic strategies for teaching Shakespeare in modern classrooms, but propose studying “voices of Afro-centric, matrilinear rebellion in Rolling Stones’ blues reworkings” and you have gotten yourself one step closer to some fat stash; 2) invites to collegiums and conferences abound with topic #2 (topic #1` will get you nowhere’sville); 3)this leads to being a BM(or W or LGBT) OC…which means groupies (after all, which is better: being a staid but humble scholar or a rockstar baby!).

    So it’s incredibly hard to get profs to give up their golden goose (and the universities get nearly the same perks, so they sure as heck aren’t going to either).
    And heaven help you if you point out how very trite and unscholarly it all is (like our protagonist).

  • Adobe_Walls

    It’s always about the Money, then indoctrination don’t know is useful education is in there at all. This is why we need to abolish all federal grants.

  • Wombat_socho

     Jerry Pournelle didn’t call them the “voodoo sciences” for no reason.

  • Wombat_socho

     Would you care to edit your third paragraph so it makes some kind of sense? Because otherwise, it makes you look like a nattering nincompoop who can’t read or write in English.

  • Wombat_socho

    Do you have to read an entire document before you realize it’s a piece of crap? I don’t, and I rather doubt Ms. Riley does, so I don’t see what your point is in arguing that she “didn’t read the whole thing”. It’s not like somebody is going to save their Richard Wright-caliber chops for the last chapter after writing like a slushpile reject in the preceding pages.

  • Dale Miller

    Actually, I don’t see much evidence that the traditional departments have been broken up. I’m a professor of philosophy. I don’t think that I’ve ever come across a university where a department like philosophy had been done away with and the faculty moved into “studies” departments. Sometimes there will be a joint “philosophy and religion” department, because there aren’t enough people for separate departments to make sense. but even  schools that have added “studies” departments don’t seem to have done away with philosophy, English, history, etc.

  • John Higgins1990

    This makes me want to see O’s coursework/dissertation all the more.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Reality is that it’s a lot easier, in our society, to discriminate against women than it is to discriminate against ethnic minorities.

    As this is National Offend A Feminist Week, I am forced to respond to your statement by asking the question: And the problem is???

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Well put.

    The key is your statement: ‘…a full on assault against the Western cannon and Western Civ…period.’

    The immediate goal of all Leftism is the destruction of The West and everything it stands for.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    In the humanities — half of the English profs are now engaged in “studies” rather than teaching lit (and this also translates into a shift in where students can pick up credits — they can study traditional humanities, or they can pick up their credits in the “studies”…guess which are the more “fun” classes?  so you can guess where they go).  Same with history department, and the philosophy department has been curtailed to a very small corner on most campuses.  This also translates into affecting the business, education, and even sciences/math departments because of an initiative 20 odd years ago to promote studies across the curriculum — in short, all departments engaged in across the curriculum sharing (interesting from a pedagogic angle, but what it translated into was a wider field of influence for the “studies”).

    I know, because I was a grad student who had to help a PhD. do the research to set up such a program on a university campus, which then turned around and developed the program at the tributary jr. college (and that university did so due to the program being implemented at an even bigger, local university).

    So no, not done away with — but when most of your profs in the department are teaching “studies” half the time rather than their actual field…

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