Education, Features, Politics

Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity

Last week, tiny public liberal arts college Evergreen State in Olympia, Washington became the focus of national attention when progressive biology professor Bret Weinstein attracted the ire of a student lynch mob for refusing to leave campus due to being white. I won’t delve into the full timeline, which can be readily found elsewhere, but basically the university has celebrated a long standing tradition starting in the 70s, called Day of Absence, in which black students consensually left campus in order to leave “those left to reflect on the meaning of their community without these essential members.” On this particular occasion, they requested that whites leave instead, and when Weinstein wrote an email protesting, describing the event as “a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself,” chaos shortly ensued. Online videos surfaced displaying student activists menacing, cursing, and chanting at white professors, even demanding that president George Bridges keep his hands to his side. Currently, news reports indicate that vigilante groups are roaming the campus with bats, seeking out Weinstein supporters (for what reason, you can use your imagination).

Weinstein promptly went to the media to present his concerns, appearing on classical liberal podcasts such as the Rubin Report and Joe Rogan. Beyond the fact that this incident represents just another example in a long line of despicable student behavior, from Yale (outrage over Halloween costumes) to the University of Missouri protests to the Berkeley riots over invited speakers. The most interesting aspect of this saga, however, was revealed when Weinstein, on Rogan’s show provided the following analysis of the student’s motivations, “The thought process that led to this was postmodernism.” Weinstein clarified his position in greater detail on Rubin’s podcast:

The real issue is, in the 60s and 70s, a new type of scholarship emerged around critical theory, and at the moment critical race theory at the front, it has reorganized the fundamental nature of the academy, because it is built from an incompatible set of assumptions from the sciences and other disciplines… and because of that the two can’t really be in terribly close contact, they have to be compartmentalized away from each other in a normal university setting, but that also means science is not in a position to check critical race theory, so critical race theory has reached some conclusions that I believe are not valid and it is now in such as strong political position to dictate those terms to the sciences that we are seeing a kind of reversal of fortune.

It is this dichotomy between postmodern and modern that is the most important takeaway from this entire affair. In many ways, the old left/right dichotomy no longer applies. Instead we are faced with a three-part distinction between postmodern/modern/traditional. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn, and discuss why they are particularly important today. Starting with the most right-leaning, the traditionalists. These folks do not like the direction in which modernity is headed, and so are looking to go back to an earlier time when they believe society was better. They may disagree with same-sex marriage, label sexual promiscuity as “deviance,” and feel threatened by racial and demographic changes in Western society. These folks include typical status-quo conservatives, Evangelical Christians as well as more nefarious types such as white nationalists and the “alt right”. Even though there is much furor in the media about the threat that these groups represent, I would argue that they have largely been pushed to the fringes in terms of their social influence, not withstanding the election of Trump who was actually opposed by many traditionalists such as the Never Trumpers.

Indeed, it is between the modernists and postmodernists where the future of society is being fought. Modernists are those who believe in human progress within a classical Western tradition. They believe that the world can continuously be improved through science, technology, and rationality. Unlike traditionalists, they seek progress rather than reversal, but what they share in common is an interest in preserving the basic structures of Western society. Most modernists could be classified as centrists (either left or right-leaning), classical liberals and libertarians.

Postmodernists, on the other hand, eschew any notion of objectivity, perceiving knowledge as a construct of power differentials rather than anything that could possibly be mutually agreed upon. Informed by such thinkers as Foucault and Derrida, science therefore becomes an instrument of Western oppression; indeed, all discourse is a power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. In this scheme, there is no Western civilization to preserve—as the more powerful force in the world, it automatically takes on the role of oppressor and therefore any form of equity must consequently then involve the overthrow of Western “hegemony.” These folks form the current Far Left, including those who would be described as communists, socialists, anarchists, Antifa, as well as social justice warriors (SJWs). These are all very different groups, but they all share a postmodernist ethos.

All of this matters because, whether people are overtly aware of it or not, their beliefs and actions are implicitly guided by one of these three world-views. A person may have never attended an Ivy League gender studies class, but if they belong to and agree with the ideas of a typical urban, liberal, hipster milieu, they are very likely subscribing to a postmodernist ideology, even if they’ve never cracked open Lyotard.

Such contemporary terminology as ‘mansplaining’, for example, which refers to when a man overly assertively explains something to a woman, is a uniquely postmodernist concept. In this dynamic, seen through a postmodernist lens, the interaction between the man and woman represents a power struggle between historically empowered and disempowered groups, divided by gender. The man displays his privilege through his verbal assertions. The validity or usefulness of his content is irrelevant; this interaction calls for real-time equity that can only be established by calling attention to the man’s utilization of unearned privilege manifested through his forceful, perhaps even “violent” rhetoric. A woman could not possibly be guilty of something similar since she does not possess historical power. A modernist, on the other hand, would likely see this interaction on a case-by-case basis, preferring to see both individuals as possessing self-agency rather than guided by unseen power dynamics, like puppets pulled on invisible strings. If the man was indeed overly dominant in his delivery, he would receive appropriate feedback and both people would move on with their lives, rather than seeing this interaction as a revolutionary feminist moment.

Much of the confusion between liberal and centrist groups comes down to this modern/postmodernist distinction. As another example, since modernists believe in science and its utility, they are aware that obese individuals are at higher health risks. For postmodernists, however, the concept of health is just another oppressive force of Western colonial hegemony (since objective truth doesn’t exist and is merely manufactured as a tool of oppression), and so an entire cadre of “fat” activists mobilize themselves on social media, emboldened with postmodern concepts. Modernists recognize that nobody should be shamed or discriminated against for their appearance and believe that everyone has the right to make their own lifestyle choices, but are also concerned that distributing scientifically inaccurate information about health poses considerable risk to those who might believe it. Again, as in so many other cases, these disagreements fundamentally can be distilled down to science acceptance vs denialism.

The same dynamic unfolds regarding Islam. While modernists perceive an influx of Islam, and particularly conservative strains of Islam, in the form of unbridled mass migration, to pose a threat to Western culture due to its authoritarian, sexist and homophobic views, postmodernists consider a discourse about Islam from a Western perspective to reinforce historical power dynamics; therefore, Islam is off limits and may not be criticized by Westerners. Modernists discern differences between people and ideology and believe that while no one should ever be discriminated against (see above), bad ideas such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and the punishments within Islam for homosexuality and apostasy are not off limits from discussion, much like the absurdity of literal understandings of Christianity are frequent butts of jokes. For postmodernists, discussing these concepts are merely further examples of neocolonialism, therefore minorities within these same minority communities must suffer in silence.

In the end, the Weinstein/Evergreen State affair poses a significant crossroads to modern society, extending well beyond the conflict occurring on campus. Evergreen State represents the natural culmination of postmodern thought—roving mobs attempting to silence dissenting thought merely based on race, informed by far left theories that weaponize a victim status drawn solely from immutable, innate traits. Unfortunately, I cannot place full blame on the students either, as they have been indoctrinated with these ideas on the very campus that is now serving as the petri dish for applied postmodernism.

It is no coincidence that, while society outside the walls of campus looks on with disbelief, administrators to this point have been siding with the students. For if they were to repudiate the actions of the students, they would also need to repudiate the ideology with which they have been brainwashing them. In other words, taking a stand against the students would require administrators and professors to re-evaluate the meaning and value of the entire raison d’etre of their adult professional careers. Holding on to madness is a way of forestalling dealing with the grief that comes with the realization that one’s higher purpose has been a fraud. I am not sure of the final outcome, as this kind of process is long, difficult, and very, very painful.

But this internal struggle serves as a microcosm for the larger battle occurring in society between the ideas behind modernism and postmodernism. And the stakes are extremely high. As Weinstein articulated in his Rogan appearance, “Let’s put it this way, I believe at the moment coalitions are unholy alliances between two things. In this case you have the real equity movement, which are people who wish to end oppression, and then you have another movement that wishes to reverse oppression, and they don’t know that they are different because until you reach equity, they are pointing in the same direction.” For the sake of basic humanity and decency, let’s all hope that the Evergreen State affair has finally exposed this vital distinction.

Filed under: Education, Features, Politics

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Michael Aaron is the author of "Modern Sexuality: The Truth About Sex and Relationships," and a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. Visit his website at www.drmichaelaaronnyc.com.

130 Comments

  1. paul says

    looking at this from the outside it looks like the students and faculty who are against weinstein are the one who have institutional power. i wonder at what point have they had this power long enough or at a scale large enough for them to be considered the oppressors by post-modern standards?

    • Frank says

      During the early 1920s historian Oswald Spengler told us how, during the late urbanistic/intellectualistic phase of every high culture, the people(s) of that culture become averse to their traditions and inheritance, and a movement begins, and grows, of despising and tearing down that patrimony until in the end nothing remains. Leftism/liberalism is the manifestation of that suicide for us. Multiculturiasm/Diversity is, of course, an enemy to the continuation of the European culture.

  2. may miko says

    I’ve noticed a lot of high school students holding the same views and engaging in the same kind of activism. It’s hard to know where they get it from, since I’m sure that about zero high school students read Derrida, though I suspect the internet has something to do with it. The consequence, though, is that the universities are being fed students who are highly receptive to postmodern ideas.

    I think what needs to be done is that people who care about this need to actively promote conflict. Accelerate the process, if you will. Not commit violence, of course, but to say or do things openly that are both truthful and provoke a response. Everything they care about is based in real unresolved problems. They’re prepared to battle over these problems. The strategy can’t be appeasement when their solutions are so bad.

    • I was heavily exposed to post-modern ideas at university over 20 years ago. Anyone graduating from the humanities at that time will now be amongst the ranks of teachers and administrators at schools. In fact, most institutions will have people working at them or running them who have been essentially indoctrinated by this ideology. The aim of the ideology is to take control of the cultural apparatus of power. They have done that and we are now witnessing the fruits of their labours as they are in a position to indoctrinate another generation through institutions such as high schools (and, increasingly, elementary schools).

    • Stephen Henstock says

      As a graduate student in the late 80s, I first encountered postmodernism in anew English seminar where my fellow students declared that reading “Paradise Lost’ was inappropriate since, as a white male he had nothing of value to impart. Now I’m seeing this approach coming from my political masters in the public school board where I work,

      • Ron says

        I really think that all post modernist discussions should be held in open fields to avoid the taint of buildings and vehicles designed by traditionalists and modernists. Food is also a problem not using metal or plastic in production or harvest. I’ve never seen a building or tool constructed by feeling about it. The classic movie Music Man does illustrate the technique on music learning.

    • Daniel Singer says

      High school students are also being indoctrinated with post-modernist ideas by teachers hired to perform that function. For instance, I have a 15 year old niece who is taking a gender studies class at her high school. My niece is very sophisticated, and very much opposed to dogmatism — especially coercive dogmatism — in any form. The teacher asked all the girls in the class whether they have ever felt threatened by a male. Then the teacher mocked the 15 year old girls, including my niece, who have not felt threatened by a male,and implied that they were lying. The teacher asked the students to provide some examples of when they have felt humiliated. One of the male students in the class, who is roughly six inches shorter than the average height of a boy his age, stated that he felt humiliated when someone made fun of him because of his height. The teacher did not even respond to him. She pretended that she had not even heard him, and looked around the classroom for a female respondent while ignoring the male student. At the end of one of the classes, my niece confronted the teacher in front of the class. My 15 year old niece asked whether she was permitted to disagree with the teacher without being insulted. The teacher began crying crocodile tears in pretend self-pity in front of the class, saying she never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. When the teacher left the room, my niece mentioned to the other students that this very same teacher had repeatedly stated that intentions are irrelevant. But now the teacher was lying about her own intentions to elicit pity from the class. This is a high school in the tri-cities area of North Carolina.

      • Bill Haywood says

        I don’t know anything about the teacher, but nothing in your description relates to postmodernism. The claim that women get menaced by men is not postmodernist. It takes no elaborate theoretical framework of any kind to make that argument.

  3. “Most modernists could be classified as centrists (either left or right-leaning), classical liberals and libertarians.”

    “Postmodernists … form the current Far Left, including those who would be described as communists, socialists, anarchists, Antifa, as well as social justice warriors (SJWs).”

    The above indicate that you just don’t ‘get’ what is going on. Post-modern thinking has nothing to do with where you are on a political spectrum; it is simply an attack on reasoned debate, evidence and empiricism. It has long been used as a cover by groups that can’t defend their ideas in a debate involving reason and evidence. Postmodernism’s history started with Heidegger not being able to defend his collaboration with Nazi-era Germany, and so he ‘rose above’ reason and invented postmodernism, a ‘cool’ version of the Nazis’ anti-modernism. Now we have Critical Race Theory, i.e., racism; racism can’t defend itself through reason and evidence, so of course it must attach itself to postmodernism.

    None of postmodernism has anything to do with left, center, or right. It has to do with indefensible positions, which can be found all over the political dial.

    • Uri Harris says

      I agree that postmodernist views can be found on both the left and right. (You could add Nietzsche to Heidegger as being on the right, depending on your interpretation of him.)

      But I disagree that it has nothing to do with where you are on the political spectrum; it is much more prevalent on the far ends, because it allows people to reject any form of reasoned counterargument.

      It just so happens that there are virtually no far-right people at major institutions. Even the alt-right tend to largely appeal to science, even if they don’t always get it correctly. Very few of them, I imagine, would claim that truth is a social construct.

    • Meander Zakalwe says

      As a former member of anarchist/antifa political groups, I respectfully disagree. Over the past decade or so, more people with what the author of this piece describes as “postmodernist” beliefs have slowly pushed out the older “modernist” activists, leading to a situation where many of these groups are outright hostile to new activists that do not support the dominant postmodernist position within those groups. While this does not apply to all radical leftists, certainly within the English speaking left it’s an observable trait, at least for those of us with strong experience within those ideologies. While idiots of these kinds exist all over the political spectrum, it’s likely that certain ideologies are more prone to being parasitised and taken over by “postmodern” memes and ideas than others simply by their aesthetics: anarchists and antifa care about oppression and racism more than most other ideologies, so we/they were the first to be infiltrated and taken over.

    • This is just silly. Heidegger’s postmodernism did not start with his inability to distance himself from collaboration with the Nazi Party, and the Nazis were not anti-modernist in the slightest. As Heidegger saw it himself in the later years, they were the modernist extremists par excellence.

      Moreover, Horkheimer, only 6 years Heidegger’s junior and influenced by the latter only in a negative way (and by the charisma of his approach to philosophy), laid the foundations of critical theory no later than 1930.

      And perhaps most importantly, what is typically called “postmodernism” is not in any meaningful sense philosophically post-modernity.

      I go into explaining why here: https://profkrampus.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/in-defense-of-postmodernism/

      • Thank you for the first reply from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about when they talk about postmodernism (and I definitely include the OP in that group). Being loud and stupid has always been part of the university experience, whether it’s gulping live goldfish while smooshing oneself into a telephone box, or dying one’s hair pink and flapping one’s bingo wings while screaming oneself hoarse at right-wing idiots whose entire stock in trade involves being screamed at by left-wing idiots. The OP author’s panic-stoking warning that “it’s worse now than it’s ever been” is also, sadly, evergreen.

  4. Michiel van Haren says

    Then again, on the (alt-/far-)right more would claim that certain facts are “fake news”, and provide “alternative facts”. A mirror image of the postmodernists’ rejection of factual discourse perhaps? Certainly there is science denial there when it comes to, for example, climate change.

    • Christo says

      There may be some of this, but it’s generally coming from the opposite direction from postmodernism – ie a sort of theological worldview that fervently supports the existence of truth, even more perhaps than scientists in fields like quantum mechanics. They just think the scientists, or at least *these* scientists, are getting it wrong.

    • The difference, such as it is, is that the Right/Fascist voices actually are behaving in a postmodern way, and are living examples of what actual postmodernist thinkers and theorists tried to warn us about, but are now being falsely accused of actually being, themselves.

    • Araf says

      “Science denial” is a matter of whose pet ideas are being supported or attacked. People who don’t accept the admittedly uncertain predictions about the future environment are considered “deniers” by people who don’t accept the very solid data about the need to vaccinate children against epidemic diseases.

  5. “These folks form the current Far Left, including those who would be described as communists, socialists, anarchists, Antifa, as well as social justice warriors (SJWs). ” I am a (democratic) socialist – please don’t lump me in with the whiny crybabies. They are ANYTHING but socialist – they don’t think class matters at all. Socialism fits fine within a western liberal Enlightenment tradition as a debate to what extent public goods matter and to what extent capitalism externalizes costs to the point that governments should regulate them. It has nothing to do with this shit.

    • They are ANYTHING but socialist – they don’t think class matters at all.

      This. Most of these kids are the sons and daughters and whatever the fuck else of the rich, attending elite schools, studying useless crap they’ll never need because they already have a guaranteed job at Daddy’s company.

      These are kids who lecture catering staff about privilege and cultural appropriation.

      They have nothing but contempt for those on minimum wage, and they don’t acknowledge that the unemployed exist at all.

      • The left is rotten and corrupt. Close down the universities; they are nothing more than cesspools of anti-intellectualism, irrationality, anti-traditionalism and enemies of political and social freedom.

      • Daniel Singer says

        I agree 100% that they are ANYTHING but socialist. The proponents of queer theory, gender “studies,” etc. are hostile to Marxism or any form of socialism. For them, truth consists entirely of their own subjective perceptions. They claim science itself is rooted in patriarchy and therefore coercive. They are incapable of reasoning such crude “guilty by association” arguments, which is why they have so much jargon and gibberish to every sentence they write.

        It is this hostility to objectivity that leads people like Mark Carey, associate professor and associate professor of environmental studies at the University of Oregon (with co-authors, described below) to write such absolute rubbish as their 2016 article titled “Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research,” which was published in Progress [sic] in Human Geography. At the end of this jaw-dropping article, the authors include the following statement. “Funding. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work is based upon work supported by the US National Science Foundation under grant #1253779.” Here is the abstract for this nonsense:

        Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

        Just to give you a sense of the depth of this postmodern crisis in academia, one of the co-authors, M. Jackson, is a PhD candidate in geography at the University of Oregon. Jackson is currently a Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Fellow investigating glacier-society relationships in Iceland.

        How on earth do these people qualify to receive funding to investigate “glacier-society relationships in Iceland”???!!!

        In 1985, Jill Bowling, BSC, in the Human Sciences Program, Australian National University, and Brian Martin, PhD, in the Department of Mathematics, Australian State University, published an article titled “Science: a masculine disorder?” Among their criticisms of science is that it objectifies nature! That’s right. Objective facts about nature are evidence of a masculine disorder! These people belong with the lunatic asylum inmates in Edgar Allan Poe’s story, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether

    • Christo says

      Perhaps, but the idea that “truth” can only be found in examining conflict, as in dialectical materialism for example, obviously has its roots in Marxism. It wasn’t the positivists or liberals that gave rise to this concept. These kids are your progeny: they simply have a more nuanced notion of “class.” I have no idea how you will stuff the genie back into the bottle.

      • Daniel Singer says

        They have no notion of “class” whatsoever. They are far to self-obsessed to be concerned with class. They are hostile to objective categorization of anything. Only their own solipsistic, subjective dogmatism counts as truth.

    • jsolbakken says

      “Socialism fits fine within a western liberal Enlightenment tradition as a debate to what extent public goods matter and to what extent capitalism externalizes costs to the point that governments should regulate them. It has nothing to do with this shit.”
      Hey, you know what? As someone who sees himself as generally anti-socialist, I think your point there about the balance of public and private goods is valid and necessary and reasonable and I want to hear what you and others like you have to say and I expect I’ll learn a lot and gain great insight from considering your opinion about how the world should be run. So, what I’m saying is, it really is something weird and crazy going on, and these violent creeps seem to have hijacked the “Left” the way some on the “Right” claim that Nazi’s hijacked them. I see a lot of similarity between the old Nazi movement and this new “SJW” movement, which is what I’d like to see discussed more. Too bad about Godwin’s rule of Nazi Analogies, the one that says it’s disqualifying to bring up Nazi’s in a political discussion. May I suggest that the problem is one of “heresy.” The SJW anarchist antifa crowd are heretics of the Left, the way Nazi’s were heretics of the Right. The Nazi’s hijacked the ideas of nationalism and patriotism with their heretical approach, and these antifa SJW’s hijack the legitimate idea of social justice and pervert it to serve an obviously totalitarian end.

  6. Cheri says

    You’ve misrepresented the initial situation. Leaving campus was VOLUNTARY, for students and professors who wished to participate in an activity designed to explore race. In previous years, people of color left the campus and this year, they wished to reverse it. No one was forced to participate at all. Weinstein didn’t make a mountain out of a molehill, he fabricated the molehill (you may infer whatever you like about his motives).

    • Cristian Manuel Bauche says

      Except it was strongly implied that people with the WRONG SKIN COLOR stayed they would be racist. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to volutarly absent themselvs from a shared space in order to their vital and under-appreciated roles, and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away”

      Did white people ever asked people of color to go way in day of absence? Did any white person ever protested a black proffesor who didn’t participate in the day of absese? haven’t heard anything as such. Im sure both those examples probably happen in the past against black people in an university, racist acts against peolpe of color. But now that they are reversed, well according to post modernist ideas, they can’t be racist, that’s how they get away with it.

      This is wrong, i think it’s creating even more prejudice and racism, and i will strongly oppose those that seek what i call progressive segregation (homogeneous safe spaces, cultural appropriation, demonizing words and terms, denial of the principles of dialogue, etc…)

      • Evergreen Student that wants to correct an error of reports says

        While I understand your comment, it comes from misinformation. The only people that were asked to leave the campus were the supporters of the day of absence, not all WHITE people. I spent the day researching in the library without any negative response. The ONLY time I have had to leave the campus is when it was closed due to the threat of violence. It is just my opinion but the professor who shall not be named wanted publicity and thus is being handed just that. The sad result of this publicity is my well being and others in my campus community has been threatened due to misinformation.
        Oh, by the way, my skin is white but my thoughts are that it takes all kinds to make the world and that we should celebrate our differences and not fear them.

        • Evergreen Student that wants to correct an error of reports says

          I also would like to add that the lynch mob discussed in this article as well as reported in the news was a reaction to the Weinstein’s comments to the news media and for going outside our community. This even happened weeks after the actual day of absence.

        • bozoerrebbe says

          “my well being and others in my campus community has been threatened due to misinformation”

          Well, aren’t you a precious little snowflake?

          It takes all kinds? How many bible believing Christians or orthodox Jews do you know personally?

        • Why were students screaming at him outside his class, if it was voluntary? What were they doing there? Do you think it justifies any of the subsequent behavior the students? Does it justify calling him racist? Threatening him or his family?

        • CosmicRay says

          “The only people that were asked to leave the campus were the supporters of the day of absence, not all WHITE people.” The corollary is that if you did not leave you were not a supporter, and a WHITE person who is not a supporter is a racist by definition. Pretty clear to me. Your protestations otherwise indicate either idiocy or disingenuousness.

        • CosmicRay says

          “The sad result of this publicity is my well being and others in my campus community has been threatened due to misinformation.” Really?

          The only threat of physical violence that has been reported is the conduct of the Maoist wannabes. There are also reports that the legislature will try to defund Evergreen. If you count that as a threat to your “well being and others in my campus community” then I would agree with you, but I would not agree that it is a “sad result.” In fact, your campus is a disgrace and should have all public funding removed. You have no a priori right to public money, generated by taxes paid by others. You need to make they case as to why you deserve to be supported using money taken from others, many of whom are much less well off that the students of Evergreen. But the case is clear that Evergreen is undeserving of public support. Rather, the funds should be reallocated for scholarships for students who come from poor families to go to a school like UW, where they can get a solid education and improve their lives.

        • Let’s say you’re right. How does this justify the violence that ensued perpetrated by the SJW mob?

          Regardless of Prof. B. Weinstein attitude, the “revolutionaries” would find another excuse to violently promote their agenda.

    • biz says

      Your contention is logically impossible. If leaving was “voluntary” why was Weinstein stalked and forced off of campus for disagreeing with it?

      • Evergreen Student that wants to correct an error of reports says

        That happened in response to his comments to the news channels weeks after the day of absence. I am not saying whether or not I agree with one or the other, I am just trying to get the calendar right and show that the issues the professor is having is because his erroneous comments and major emotions on both sides.

        • biz says

          Nope that’s a lie. The intial student confrontation of Weinstein that was caught on video was before he went to the media. In fact it is why he went to the media.

        • bozoerrebbe says

          You can’t say that you disagree with a professor being stalked and forced to hold his class off campus? What’s wrong with you?

        • Daniel Singer says

          Even if it did happen because he went to the media, the behavior of those students was absolutely inexcusable. But that is clearly not how it happened.

    • Nobody misunderstands that it was formally voluntary. That he was harangued and ridiculed for showing up even though it was “voluntary” shows this to be voluntary in name only. It was anything but. The students used coercion and intimidation.

  7. You modernists are in denial
    Postmodern is the child of godless modernism call me reactionary but i nelieve that the moral rot started with the glorious revolution of 1680 and the overthrow of James 2 and the house of Stuart Hume and Locke have a lot to answer for

  8. WILLIAM J FRANCIS says

    This “school” and those like this should not be given ant public funds, period.

  9. George Dworkin says

    People tend to fail at postmodernism because they don’t square the circle, i.e. their skepticism towards rational knowledge never extends towards themselves

    • Michael Rogers says

      Squaring the circle is a geometry exercise that is known to be impossible. Do you mean to imply that self-criticism is impossible, or that it is impossible to generate an internally-consistent post-modern philosophy (or something else entirely)?

      • George Dworkin says

        I suppose you could argue for the former, but mostly a poor choice of metaphor. Thanks for learning me.

        My point was that postmodernism in academic settings fails to apply skepticism to its own narrative, everything is outwardly directed. Awareness of a universal subjectivity should lead to greater humility, rather than the emotion it inspires on college campuses, which seems like it’s warped into a subjective argument being delivered with the worst sort of objective pretenses – anger, certainty, rigid thinking. And baseball bats, apparently.

        I’m more familiar with literary postmodernism, so perhaps it’s a function of who’s making the argument.

        • Michael says

          This is correct. Take for example Francois Lyotard’s claim that “master-narratives are all wrong.” Of course, his claim was a master-narrative as well.

          • bozoerrebbe says

            I believe that was the problem the logical positivists faced. If you can’t know anything for sure, why should I believe anything you say?

      • Don says

        Squaring the circle is a trivial exercise in plane geometry. Any curious child can do it with protractor, straight edge.

      • Don says

        No.
        It is a trivial exercise in plane geometry.

        • Ned says

          No, squaring the circle traditionally means constructing a square with the same area as a given circle, which can NOT be done with straightedge and compass alone.

  10. The same hubris that has followed humanity since the beginning – ‘this time its different’. Reading history and early texts tells us this – we have not changed much since we started documenting our existence.
    We are not evolving and our ability to make things over a long period of time proves nothing about our humanity.
    The truth is still with us, and as lost civilizations in the past discovered, you walk outside the truth at our own peril.

  11. J. Agnew says

    Very sad. Through most of the second half of the 20th century America made progress towards a just pluralistic society. People being people, a truly just society is not achievable. But ultimately most of society sought, in good faith, fairness and justice. The postmodernism described in this piece is ultimately regressive. I am a 60 year old male of European descent. These are immutable characteristics, just as much as being female and/or of African descent. If such radical postmodernism gains pervasive sway in society at large, then empirical fact will no longer matter – or exist in the minds of the postmodernists – and my opinions are to be dismissed because of my immutable characteristics. If this comes to pass we are in for a rough and ugly ride. If the “oppressed” are to become the “oppressors,” the social upheaval and violence of the 1960s will be repeated and exceeded. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

    • Frank says

      What we are witnessing is the complete breakdown and failure of multiculturalism. Dictionary.com defines multiculturalism as “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.” That definition contains a glaring contradiction. A society cannot be unified if it preserves different cultures and cultural identities within itself. That’s why our national motto is translated “out of many, one.” To the multiculturalist it appears to be, “Out of one, many.” History demonstrates that no nation can long survive if it forgets why it exists. Our failure to inculcate American traditions, beliefs and history, even in the native born, not to mention immigrants, is rapidly destroying the country bequeathed to us by our forebears.

      Our society’s frantic efforts to escape these truths gives us the farce that passes for a public debate in a multiethnic democracy. We set up entire social systems and ideologies at odds with our most basic instincts, and wonder why the world seems to have lost its mind. What is certain is that large multicultural democracies like the USA inevitably collapse into smaller, more ethnically defined regions (Balkanize). The Western Roman Empire became the nations of Western Europe, the Ottoman Empire the nations of the Middle East and North Africa, etc. It has been said that Americans are incredibly naive if they think that somehow, someway, America will be the first nation in the history of humanity to avoid this fate.

      • Rod Miller says

        Now that is the best statement I have heard when reading through here. I am a 51 year old, and I have been trying to articulate this to my friends for a long time. Thank you for the explanation. I will try that the next time we discuss matters.

  12. Bobby Macadoo says

    Seems like a lot of high intellectual talk to describe a collection of selfish, ungrateful and over sensitive children (professors included). It has nothing to do with truth or power paradigms or even agency. Rather it’s children who were never held accountable from infancy. Period.

    • Santoculto says

      It’s not just a bunch of rich children. This is organized, orchestrated from the top to the bottom. So the real responsible to push this lunacy obviously cannot be these guinea pigs.

  13. Irene Macintosh says

    I am disheartened at how so many are eager to be enthusiastic oppressors of others whose only ‘crime’ is to not agree with them or not do just what they want or , worst of all, think differently. Group think, thought police, re-education camps, what next? It feels like we are on that road. That this nonsense happens at universities is mind smashing. I came of age in the sixties and I never thought I would see such offensive rot take hold .

    • Old New Leftie says

      These kids actually remind me of the Red Guard during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. So who is pulling the political strings?

      • Daniel Singer says

        The Obama Administration was pulling the political strings. I strongly recommend Johnson, KC; Taylor Jr., Stuart. The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities (2017).

  14. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    What we have here is a failure to communicate!
    I would love to know when these Postmodernists become ill or if a loved one becomes ill, like say a child, do they go to a hospital or not? Do they avoid all medical science in service to their ideology which eschews evidence? If so, do they replace it with homeopathy, prayer therapy or any number of other woo woo therapies?

    Also, one respondent mentioned godless modernism as being the root of the problem. Oi vay! If serious in that critique then which god is best? There are over 20,000 gods all invented by a fearful mankind. Placing your hope in the supernatural is just another way to stick it to reality and say that wishful thinking is the best kind of delusion.

    Thanks for the article and please know that, “Raison avant passion” is always the best way to order your life.

  15. Bill Haywood says

    I challenge anyone to quote a “postmodernist” or leftist who does not think female genital mutilation should be stigmatized. The author is just confused and making up crap.

    • biz says

      Challenge accepted!

      Here is a paper by progressive doctors urging the medical community to adapt, in their words, “a compromise position that respects cultural differences but protects the health of their patients” because, as they contend “discussion often is infused with a strong cultural and gender bias against FGA in all forms.”
      http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2016/02/21/medethics-2014-102375
      (by the way, they adapt the phrase Female Genital Alteration (FGA) because Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is just so much more, I don’t know, honest.)

      Here you can watch a video of American Ivy League university students saying we should respect and not interfere with the cultural practice, etc:
      https://youtu.be/YQge2xTKPno

      Shall we continue?

      • So you think you know better than people who have actually studied the issue in depth? You think having an opposing point of view on a complex and varied issue, relating to a cultural practice which has endured for millennia, in this case, is the result of silly, irrational post-modernism? I note above that someone conflates FGM with Islam (an idiotic connection if you know the facts). Why is it that the people who know and understand the least about a subject are always the most certain of their justified position re same? Yeats was right: “The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.” But by all means, go on tilting at the “postmodernism” windmill. You’ll kill that giant someday.

        • biz says

          Actually the challenge that I directly responded to stated, and I quote: “I challenge anyone to quote a “postmodernist” or leftist who does not think female genital mutilation should be stigmatized.”

          It actually not necessitate that the person be a postmodernist, and I am not necessarily claiming that. Being a leftist was sufficient. I am quoting leftists that are against stigamtizing FGM. They can hold whatever opinion they want, but it is a sign of the ideological and moral bankruptcy of much of the left now that their position would be anything other than abhorred opposition to this practice.

      • Bill Haywood says

        What a liar you are. People should follow the link and read at least the conclusion of the article. The author’s purpose was to find the most effective ways to end “child abuse.” The article takes a public health perspective, there’s nothing remotely “postmodernist” about it. It favors pushing parents to choose more minimal forms: “Critics of FGA worry that a compromise position of accepting de minimis procedures weakens the effort to eliminate FGA completely.51 Yet, despite 30 years of advocacy, we have not made dents in the prevalence of the practice in many countries and have been largely unable to change the attitudes regarding the acceptability of FGA.” You may disagree with the position, but it has nothing to do with liberalism or postmodernism. It’s a health care worker arguing for the most realistic method of harm reduction. And the video is just collaring random clueless people on the street and asking misleading questions about Planned Parenthood and “female circumcision.” If the question was “should Planned Parenthood fund operations to remove genitals and prevent orgasms” the answers would have been different. PP of course does nothing of the sort, this was all fabrication.

    • Daniel Singer says

      Sheila Shell-Duncan, a professor of anthropology at The University of Washington defends the practice. The interviewer at The Atlantic and Shell-Duncan choose to call the practice “circumcision,” which is a hideous misuse of language. Here is the interview. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-anthropologist/389640/ And here is a critique of the atrocious disingenuousness of the arguments Shell-Duncan puts forth to justify the practice. https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/an-anthropologist-justifies-female-genital-mutilation/

      In his book, How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, Francis Wheen “reserves his strongest critique [of postmodernism] for those who defend even the most appalling systemic mistreatment of women, even in countries where Western contact and influence is minimal,” noting that according to postmodern thought it is taboo to critique honour killings and female genital mutilation in North Africa and the Middle East.

      According to Judith Lorber, who identifies herself as “originally a liberal feminist, then a socialist feminist, and now primarily a social construction feminist, with overtones of postmodernism and queer theory”: “The Platform for Action document that came out of the UN Conference condemned
      particular cultural practices that are oppressive to women – infanticide, dowry, child marriage, female genital mutilation. The 187 governments that signed onto the Platform agreed to abolish
      these practices. However, since they are integral parts of cultural and tribal traditions, to give them up could be seen as kowtowing to Western ideas. The development feminist perspective, so critical of colonialism and yet so supportive of women’s rights, has found this issue difficult to resolve.”
      http://diglib.bis.uni-oldenburg.de/pub/unireden/ur97/kap1.pdf

      I could find countless examples for you. They are very easy to find. Perhaps you should attempt to look for them.

  16. Bob Orbit says

    “Postmodernists, on the other hand, eschew any notion of objectivity”

    That leaves violence as their ultimate tool.

    • Penrod says

      And, I suspect, violence in return as the only productive response. If their victims eschew violence, for whatever reason, those willing to commit violence inevitably win. This is not going in a good direction.

    • But you’re wrong. They don’t “eschew any notion of objectivity”. What they DO do is bring up areas where scientists and technocrats – who assume themselves to be the final arbiters of truth and reality – don’t do as good of a job as they THINK they are at discerning that truth and reality. And they point out exactly where specific scientists and technocrats go wrong in their thinking. Serious postmodern thinkers present food for thought. The critics of postmodernism, instead of taking in and trying to digest said food, prefer to reflexively have a food fight with it, choosing, instead of addressing the very serious and substantial issues brought up, to make a pejorative of their ideological foe’s very name. Sound familiar? (FUKEN LIBRULS! PTOUI!)

  17. James Moloney says

    Any philosophy whether it is post-this or pre-that, that contradicts human nature, that is the desire to maintain and improve one’s life, and to retain the benefits of one’s work, requires violent enforcement and oppression to bring the non- believers in line. Good luck. We will not surrender. Ever.

    • workingfarmer says

      My guess is some of these little idiots with baseball bats, will eventually graduate to nail bombs and cop killing hollow points. Meanwhile the academics and politicians that sent these kids down this nihilistic path will eschew all responsibility. Good work Evergreen College President Bridges and Governor Inslee. It is enough to make one vote for Trump.

      • You mean all those lefty college students who are already the nation’s worst cohort of murderous terrorists? Oh, fuck… I forgot. That’s radicalized far-right-wing WHITE people!

        • biz says

          @Mark: Nope. You are apparently a postmodernist, because you have claimed something quote forcefully that is at odds with actual data.

          In the US the actual death toll from Islamic terrorism has far surpassed that committed by “right-wing white people” as you put it, and that is now true even under the most shady accounting tricks where the body count starts after September 2001 and various incidents where the perpetrator shouted ahalau akbar before killing are classified as ‘workplace violence’ because it happened to take place in a workplace. Check it out – the NY Times keeps a tally.

          • Ask any law enforcement agency you’d like to find out which group poses a larger threat in the nation’s day to day at this point. And if you think we should include 9/11, by what reasoning do you think we shouldn’t also count the Holocaust unleashed upon Iraq for no good reason in 2003? Because the people inflicting that terrorist attack (Shock and Awe!) were wearing uniforms? Because that was the running neocon theory for a while, there. That it was uniforms that made all the difference.

  18. Pingback: Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity | Show Me Politics TV

  19. SantOCulto says

    Maybe [[[THE left capitalize critic period of brain maturation [or lack of] [late adolescence] among people with lower consciousness, higher ”openness”/”idealism” and psychoticism to attack a society that has been based on ”wisdom” of adult people. From class struggle to age-mentality struggle. Conveniently ”class struggle” have become more and more irrelevant in the leftis]]] goals.

    With sub-self-aware groups you can reprogram them to ”think” and act in certain ways. Little creep to say this but seems true.

  20. bingohead says

    “Unfortunately, I cannot place full blame on the students either, as they have been indoctrinated with these ideas on the very campus that is now serving as the petri dish for applied postmodernism.”

    Why not? They are adults making informed, free choices.

    If you can’t hold adults responsible for the choices they freely make, the entire concept of adult responsibility is null and void.

    anon

  21. Dave Wright says

    “…objective truth doesn’t exist…”

    Is that true?

  22. Kathryn says

    In Canada, Australia, the US and other places, children as young as preschool are taught that this ideology is true, and this kind of activism is right. Dissenters in the classroom are punished. Teacher candidates are chosen for their ideological conformity and taught much more about microaggressions than classroom management (basing this on my boyfriend’s experience, which caused him to drop out of teacher’s ed). There’s even social justice math.

  23. Sean Williams says

    I was interested in this article until you described what we teach as “brainwashing.” Really? So my courses in ethnomusicology are “brainwashing”? Courses in physics, chemistry, literature, art history, cultural studies… they’re “brainwashing”? Wow.

    • Michael says

      Sean writes: “I was interested in this article until you described what we teach as “brainwashing.” Really? So my courses in ethnomusicology are ‘brainwashing’? Courses in physics, chemistry, literature, art history, cultural studies… they’re ‘brainwashing’? Wow.”

      I don’t think the author means to suggest that everything in the curriculum is brainwashing. But any field that includes the word “studies” likely is (e.g. “Gender Studies,” “Women Studies,” “Cultural Studies,” etc.). Gender Studies in particular is a field whose central tenets are sheer matters of faith, based on completely anti-empircal and nonscientific notions that have no basis in reality other than in the minds of those who hold them.

    • Yeah! I’ve very happily been brainwashed at TESC too! C’mon Sean, he had a valid point that really can’t be disputed; taking the one word out of context with the sentence or paragraph is what they taught us at TESC to analyze.

  24. Pingback: The War Between Modernists And Postmodernists - The Guys From The East

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  26. Evergreen Student that wants to correct an error of reports says

    I am a student at Evergreen and I happen to be white. I want people to know that emotions are high on campus on all sides as we as a community are concerned for our physical safety, That being said, this accumulation of events has been falsely reported. I was never asked to leave campus until it shut down due to violence, I was asked if I wanted to support the day of absence because of the color of my skin the forum was held off campus due to size of venue. This information was given to us way before the actual event. As it was, I did spend the day of absence at the library working on a research project without any objections by anyone.

    • Queried says

      @ Evergreen Student, could you clarify who is threatening whose safety and why?

      • Michael says

        I’d like to know too. I’ll wager that the only threat posed to anyone on campus is/was that posed by the protesters themselves, as well as the vigilantes with baseball bats.

      • Evergreen Student that wants to correct an error of reports says

        @ Queried – Telephone threats from people not within the community reacting to news reports that are not correct for one. My safety and the safety of all students, faculty, and staff without concern of skin color; all are victims of the violent threats and crossfire not to mention excessive drama not conducive to the education we are paying for.

        • Queried says

          @ Evergreen Student. Sorry it’s still not clear to me. Whose phones are being called and by whom? Are you saying that apparent supporters of Weinstein are making phone calls to College administration landline phones? Do you have access to call recordings of such phone calls? Are the threats credible? If the threats are credible, have students asked campus and non-campus police to flood the campus to prevent the telephonic threats from being realised?

  27. Santoculto says

    Mister Magoo find that people fantastic!!!

  28. Santoculto says

    People don’t need study to be stupid… it’s the faith of many…. a natural talent

  29. Pingback: Evergreen State and postmodernism « Why Evolution Is True

  30. Please the college name is “THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE”, including the “the”… We ain’t TESC fer nuthin’! Go Geoducks!

  31. biz says

    I appreciate this article, but I do have a quibble. It is really conflating regressive/far leftism and postmodernism as though they are one in the same.

    Postmodernism and regressive leftism are really two distinct things, although they are of course often correlated and feed off of each other. One way to define postmodernism is, fundamentally, the rejection of objective and knowable truths about the world and external reality in favor of the the canard that there can be many equally valid truths.

    It is entirely possible to be a regressive leftist and not a postmodernist, and I will cite an example below. It is also theoretically possible to be a postmodernist but not a regressive leftist or even a leftist at all, although in practice this doesn’t seem to happen much.

    As an example of a regressive leftist but not postmodernist person, consider various Islamist and covertly Islamist spokespeople in the West (such as CAIR or 5Pillarz or Linda Sarsour). They are clearly believers in a universal, objective truth that is knowable by man – the infallibility and divine origin of the Koran and Muhammad – so they are not philosophically postmodernists, but they are most certainly regressive leftists. Of course their white allies in the regressive leftist coalition are largely postmodernists, but even there you will find some non-postmodernist regressive leftists.

    Postmodernism and regressive leftism are different philosophical and ideological currents that feed off of each other, but are distinct.

  32. Tarrou says

    Here’s your choice! The left will not rest until it eats you all. Do you throw your friends at the monster and hope it eats you last, or do you make common cause with people whose political positions you dislike, but who are willing to live and let live?

    If the former….enjoy!

    If the latter, welcome to the alt-right! Get used to being called a Nazi.

  33. You misrepresent traditionalists and conservatives. They are not reactionaries. They do not want a return to the past. They want a respect for and belief in the best that western culture has produced from Homer to T. S. Eliot (in literature). They want a thoughtful progress based in the truth.

    • John Shepherd says

      On reflexton Mr. Aaron is making a Marxist argument. He dismisses traditionalists as reactionaries who have been consigned to “ash heap of history.” His argument is with the alt-left who he sees as deviantionist. As I discused below, it is 1933 all over again. Tbe threat to Progressives (Marxists) doesn’t come from their opponents on the right. It comes from alternative forms of Socialism.

  34. Love the erudite responses, but frankly, they all fail to address the run amok violence on campus. Everyone thought the anti-intellectuals were right winger, but as it is being revealed, it is within the campus, and administrators are powerless to stop it.
    Pardon me for indulging in a little schadenfreude here … but frankly, you all had it coming. But keep talking. Maybe it will just blow over. Or not.

  35. Jim says

    As a person with a corporate job that hires college graduates who are expected to know things, learn things, arrive on time, and be presentable… I’m pretty sure Evergreen will continue to not be on our list. You can wring your hands about Derrida and postmodernism all you want.

  36. You’d have to be insane not to transfer out of this zoo immediately. The degree there has become about worthless in the market overnight.

    Good luck transferring.

  37. John Shepherd says

    You misreprented both traditionalists and modernists and really don’t understand the origins and objectives of postmodernism. Traditionalists are not the reactionaries of your imagination. They simply do not believe that human nature is plastic. Traditionalists believe that traditional Western values holds man’s baser instincts in check. We have seen what happens to society where traditional Western values are dispensed with.

    Modernists, better known as Progressives, think that technological advancement allows us to engineer a new and better man. Despite a century of trying that has failed while racking up an unprecedented body count, we find modern civilization to be thin veneer. Man is still the creature of the Bible in the sense that he is driven by his basest instincts. Progressive society attracts the worst of mankind to positions of power because it fails to acknowledge human limitations. Modernism is a product of that hobgoblin of the intellectual that is Marxist modes of thought.

    Postmodernism is derived from a synthesis of Sorel and Heiddiger brought to prominence by the crypto-Nazi literary scholar Paul de Man. Nazism is just the Socialism of race and critical race theory is merely the generalized expression of Nazi racialism. Not suprisingly Jews occupy about the same position in postmodernism as they did in the Third Reich. It should also be no surprise that postmoderns act like Brownshirts since they are adherents to a kind of generalized Nazism.

  38. mikesigman says

    Keep it simple: once they threaten or even hint at violence a violent and powerful response is needed. No one has a right to threaten you or anyone else with violence so they can force you to think as they want you to.

  39. Scott M. says

    Get google ready. Was the following said by a) an SJW/socialist etc, or b) a conservative/classic liberal that believed they were defending western civilization?

    ‘The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”‘

  40. Saul Sorrell-Till says

    If you can dismiss the rise of Trump; Brexit; Le Pen; the German, Austrian, Hungarian political right; as unimportant by comparison with the admitted obnoxiousness of(a certain strand of) left-wing academia, whose worst behaviour consists of simply being relentlessly vindictive but physically cowardly arseholes, then you are skewing your argument and stacking the deck.
    We saw a white supremacist slit the throats of two men in Portland not long ago. He was most assuredly of the alt-right(or at least the far-right, if you believe there’s a tangible difference, which there probably is) in spite of all the apologetics that came from that side in the aftermath
    .
    You can’t just iron out the recrudescence of far-right politics in the western world over the last couple of years because you want to focus on the far-left and their identity politicking. The real world will always butt in, especially at this moment in time.
    Of course it’s intellectually insulting and infuriating to hear about places like Evergreen State, but until they get a representative for their side elected into the highest office in the world, or change the relationship between the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe for the next few decades, then any attempts to inflate these spluttering student fuckwits into societal giants is going to come across as lacking in objectivity. Note that I don’t have to disagree with the author’s(entirely correct) criticisms of this kind of far-left-wing academic mindset to point out that he is making a mountain out of a molehill on the one, left, hand and a molehill out of of a mountain on the other, right, hand.

    For the sake of accuracy and in order to underline my point – ie. that the author is attempting to downplay the rise of right-wing populism and far-right politics in order to fit every kind of political type into his own tripartite procrustean bed – I’d like to note that right-wing Never-Trumpers do not tend to be on the reactionary end of the spectrum. They tend, like Andrew Sullivan, David Frum, John McCain, etc. to be on the centre-right and are invariably more liberal than their conservative peers(which is why they’re Never-Trumpers in the first place). They are certainly more socially liberal.

    Question everything right Quillette? It’d be nice to see some focus on the alt-/far-right’s resurgence as opposed to constant, enjoyably punchy low-hanging-fruit articles about the illiberal left. If this is a centrist, classically liberal website then a little balance in the subject matter would make for less of a sense of staring at the world through the wrong end of the telescope.

    • John Shepherd says

      The White Supremacist was a supporter of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. He was anti-religiosi and not just anti-Muslim. He views were more consistent with true Progressive values than the slavish Islamophilia shown by the postmodern racialists.

    • biz says

      Just a quick point of fact, while not necessarily disagreeing with the rest of your comment: the Portland train stabber does not actually appear to be politically self-identified as alt-right or even right wing at all, based on his social media postings that have been highlighted. He apparently supported Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein.

  41. Two beefs:
    1. Socialists and communists are all necessarily anti-rational postmodernists? Are you kidding? The US has a deeply unhealthy history with and relationship to these strains of thought. But countries all over the world, including those which embrace western style civil liberties, are filled with communists and socialists who are by no means opposed to these values or to rationality. Indeed, the move towards the center and to libertarianism — and away from the left — by those who publicly oppose these irrational beliefs is deeply troubling and risks further impoverishing our intellectual diversity.

    2. I think you’re wrong about why university administrators cave. I think it has a lot less to do with purpose and belief and a lot more to do with money. Diversity programs are, among other things, a complicated form of covering marketing for higher educational institutions and systems which are deeply anti-equality. If you say all diversity is about race and gender and sexual preference, you never have to talk about economic justice and economic realities. Access to higher education in the US is severely limited both by exorbitant tuition costs and by selective admissions processes. Keep people bickering about who deserves their “spots”, and you don’t have to answer questions about why there are limited spots to begin with. Evergreen isn’t worried about ideological truth, it’s worried about tuition paying customer units.

    • John Shepherd says

      Limited spots? You have to be kidding. There are far too many spots. Universities like Evergreen State shouldn’t exist. Take an objective look at their student body. There is a reason why they are going to school there. These students would be better off learning a skilled trade then wasting their money on the worthless education that ESU provides.

      My uncle was,a carpenter. If yoy walked into his study you would think he was a college professor. My father dropped out of high school and was a truck driver yet he could do trig, analytic geometry and basic differential calculus. Both were better educated than a graduate of Evergreen State.

      • JCawell says

        Mentioned you in a comment below. If I got your position wrong, please comment to correct, and my apologies.

      • But we’re not just talking about Evergreen, we’re talking about an entire system that defines diversity in such a way as to exclude economic criteria and larger questions of access. The schools with the biggest diversity programs are also those with the most selective admissions and the highest tuition. And even less selective schools like Evergreen charge 10,000 dollars per year in tuition alone, plus fees, plus housing. If administrators start questioning identity politics, they are going to have some tough questions to answer about actual access to higher ed.

  42. also, does anyone else remember when “postmodernism” was just a literary style? I miss those days.

  43. JCawell says

    Yes, “We saw a white supremacist slit the throats of two men in Portland not long ago.”

    And daily since September 11, 2001, we have seen atrocity after atrocity committed by Muslims following the dictates of the Koran and the example of Mohammed…

    And from Lenin’s taking power in November, 1917, until the present moment, we have seen the disastrous catastrophe of Leftism in power

    And from January, 1933, until May, 1945, we saw the nightmare of Fascism in power–and, pace Michael Aaron, that is all political post-modernism is, as John Shepard pointed out: the worship of power, biologically-based tribal obessesssion, and crackpot 19th-Century racial pseudoscience–nothing more than the re-emergence of a Fascism.

    Leftism, Fascism, Political Islam: three agressive and brutal political ideologies very much alive and growing…but Sorrel’s concern is the threat posed by the unstable, though admittedly alt-right, mentally ill.

  44. Sam says

    Brilliant piece. Very well summarized description of the current state of affairs with one exception: I disagree with your contention that people who “belong to and agree with the ideas of a typical urban, liberal, hipster milieu, they are very likely subscribing to a postmodernist ideology”. I think you’re overestimating the amount of support for postmodernism prevalent among the above-mentioned group. I’m an undergraduate student at an ivy league university and my gut tells me that I’m part of a silent majority at those institutions that looks on in horror at what’s happening at Evergreen, Berkeley, Middleburry, Yale, and inside our own institutions in the student unions and other organizations on campus. We’re just too afraid to speak out for fear of ruining our futures. We’ve been cowed into silence.
    We are equally horrified at the decimation of the once-great humanities departments at our educational institutions. While I am a STEM major and most of the classes I take are in the hard sciences, engineering, and mathematics, I wish there were rigorous classes available to take in the humanities that are free of the propaganda and gibberish of the post-modernist virus.
    But where are our leaders? Why are the faculty and politicians giving in to an ultra-radical minority shouting about their feelings? We feel betrayed by our elders and we now recognize that it’s up to us, to our generation, to stop this madness. The king indeed has no clothes.
    During a mandatory freshman year seminar that was to educate (read indoctrinate) us about the supposed “rape culture” prevalent on our campus, there was a group of students who, after having scanned their IDs at the entrance, and the seminar began, silently stood up in protest and walked out. They were promptly derided by the speakers on stage, but they just kept walking through the auditorium and out of the building. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one in the audience who silently applauded them for their bravery.
    I think there is a silent majority on the center-left, who while socially liberal, believe in objective truth, reason, logic, and the core tenets of Western civilization. We are for a multi-ethnic society but not for a multi-cultural society – in the sense that we welcome immigration and other cultures into our society as long as the newcomers can demonstrably be shown to assimilate and adopt Western values.

  45. In short, Weinstein was not protested for not participating in the (admittedly kind of silly) “day of absence”, but for criticizing the fact that it was even taking place. Of the thousands of students (mostly white), only 200 took part, and nobody who didn’t take part was attacked of called a racist. Weinstein was complaining that IN THEORY, it was IMPLIED that those who chose not to take part were racist. And the students who were angry at him were NOT angry because he chose not to take part, but because they felt he publicly criticized the action itself in what they perceived to be an unfair way.

  46. So, yes, the students behaved badly, and some should probably be punished or even expelled for their behavior. But it wasn’t the end of the fucking world catastrophe that is implied in the suspiciously well organized right-wing propaganda dissemination machine.

    • Daniel Singer says

      The students at Evergreen are only one instance of a very widespread, anti-intellectual movement in academia. If this were an isolated event, it wouldn’t merit the attention it is getting. But unfortunately, the mentality of these students is becoming more and more predominant at universities around the country. That’s why it is so alarming.

  47. Bill Haywood says

    The phrase “mutually agreed upon” in the following quote is a howler — it shows the author does not actually understand what postmodernism is. “Postmodernists, on the other hand, eschew any notion of objectivity, perceiving knowledge as a construct of power differentials rather than anything that could possibly be mutually agreed upon.” Here’s the thing. Postmodernists accept that there is an “objective” world apart from human consciousness. Their interest is in the human perception of and representation of said world. There’s the world, and the movie in our heads of the world — two separate objects and PM concentrates on how the movies are made. To them, knowledge is precisely something “mutually agreed upon.” Mutual agreement is how the movie gets made and judged accurate. At the foundation, postmodernism is a trite observation: knowledge is a social process, people agree on criteria for truth and apply. Author Aaron is PM!!!

    • Prof. Pin says

      Another problem with the mod/pomo distinction here is that the postmodernism of people like Lyotard and Derrida does not support today’s identity politics. Social justice warriors act as though identities are natural and complete, thus people shouldn’t “culturally appropriate” things from groups to which they were not born. In some ways today’s SJWs are more like traditionalists than postmodernists, looking back to the patrimonies, heritages, and identities of yesteryear to provide the foundations of social identities and power relationships. Postmodernism is simply the observation that humans have lost faith in the “grand narratives” of modernity (i.e., progress, emancipation, enlightenment — this is Lyotard), and that there are always gaps between signifiers and signifieds which makes all social and cultural systems inherently unstable and provisional (Derrida). Postmodernism radically questions identity, Truth, history, culture, and everything else today’s campus radicals belligerently profess to know and understand fully (but, quite embarrassingly for them, clearly do not).

      • Bill Haywood says

        Well put. Another point that Aaron just does not get is that despite all the obscurantism, PM actually leads back to traditional narrative ways of describing the world. You spend all this time deconstructing and examining how inadequate the human mind is for representing reality. But what you’re left with is this: The truth stories we tell may be imperfect, but they are all we have. We can be sure that the present author’s understanding of postmodernism comes from Twitter rants.

  48. Pingback: Cultural Traps, Part III

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