Education, Politics

What’s Wrong with the American Academy

A colleague of mine in the economics department once said, “when the price of bullshit is zero, demand is inelastic.” A corollary of this principle is that when the price of bullshit is zero, the supply of bullshit is infinite, especially when there are tangible gains for bullshitters. 

Last year, I was a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona, which was in the process of starting a new interdisciplinary department (The Department of Political Economy). About a decade ago, the department chair got a grant from the Koch Foundation, which has donated to several universities around the United States. Because Charles Koch has a libertarian bent—he advocates drug legalization, criminal justice reform, and low taxes, among other things—a number of ‘progressive’ and socialist groups have gone after people who receive grants from the Koch foundation. 

My point here is not to make a political statement. I don’t have especially strong feelings about Charles Koch, who I disagree with on some issues, and agree with on others. Instead, I want to use my case to illustrate what’s wrong with the contemporary academy, and with political culture more generally in 2018.   

When I arrived in Tucson, I was asked to give a lunchtime talk to other faculty members on a paper in progress. At first, I figured I’d discuss a paper on the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, since I was about to give a lecture in Sweden on this topic. But since a colleague of mine was writing a book on education, I thought I’d try out some ideas for a new paper on the same subject.

The point of my informal talk was to get critical feedback from other faculty, so when the day of the talk had arrived, I was surprised to find a mob of protestors instead of the usual group of grad students and professors. Local political operatives got word of the talk when someone in the philosophy department forwarded an internal email to a group of progressive activists. The activists then used this talk as an excuse to criticize my department for receiving Koch funding many years ago, and then proceeded to make loud statements about public education to the crowd that showed up. Protestors were especially encouraged by an inflammatory blog post by an Arizona activist who misrepresented my paper and made a bunch of bizarre accusations against me. 

The blogger described me as a Koch-funded operative (I’m not) who seeks to create right wing lobbyists (I don’t), and who founded Heterodox Academy (I didn’t, but I wish I did). Some of his followers then decided that I was a sexist, racist, Nazi sympathizer who hates the poor. I’m not sure why, but they missed the opportunity for a hat trick by also calling me “Islamophobic.” The protestors were rowdy, so I was told by a colleague that we should cancel the talk and reschedule it for spring.

When I decided to give the talk a few months later, I thought I’d extend an olive branch to the blogger who smeared me. I invited him to attend, and also asked him if he wouldn’t mind removing his original blog post since it contained a bunch of factual errors, quite apart from describing the subject of my talk in a deliberately misleading way. He responded with a single answer to both questions: “No, I will not.”  He then ran another hit piece on me, opting to score more political points rather than actually attend the talk and give constructive criticism.

By inviting the blogger to the talk, I made the mistake of believing activists are engaged in an honest search for the truth. When another unhinged blogger linked to his bogus accusations – treating fake news as if it were true – I began to see how reputations can be ruined by a quirk in American law. In the United States, it is permissible to defame people, unless they can afford to hire a lawyer, and that lawyer can prove that they have suffered serious damage as a result of the lies other people tell. 

The Progressive Playbook

Apart from the lessons I’ve learned about the American legal system, I experienced first-hand how anti-liberal many progressives on campus have become.

Some political and religious movements have an explicit strategy to advance their interests. Others don’t. But I’ve detected a pattern that might be described as the Progressive Playbook on modern American campuses. Of course, I do not impugn all people who self-describe as progressive, and I don’t doubt that some conservatives also employ dirty tricks. I am here describing a sect within a church that exhibits consistent patterns. For case studies, I recommend a forthcoming documentary, “No Safe Spaces,” along with a new book, The Coddling of the American Mind. 

Here is the playbook:

1. Encourage guilt by association. Find a funding source that you don’t agree with, and say that since your opponent is funded by X, there is no point in engaging with their argument. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is actually funded by X – maybe their colleague is, or they co-authored a paper with someone who is.  Eventually you will find someone associated with them who is somehow connected to something you disagree with. 

2. Play identity politics. If all else fails, point out that your opponent’s argument is predictable given their group membership, like race, sex, or religion.  Meanwhile, repeat whatever slogans your group currently sacralizes: disagreeable speech is violence, Islam is a religion of peace, Western civilization is oppressive. Repeat these every day, before your morning cup of coffee, and after you’ve put your cats to bed. It doesn’t matter if they’re true. 

3. Stand your ground. Even when there is an earthquake of evidence that seems to threaten your position, do not relent. The weaker your position is, the louder you should shriek.  Remember that successful religious cults ask their followers to believe in spite of the evidence, not because of it.

I wish this were a caricature, but I’ve seen the pattern repeated online and on campus. 

Reclaiming the Humanities

The reason I decided to study philosophy is that it was a subject, I thought, that encouraged intellectual humility. At its best, philosophy implores each of us to test out bold new ideas, to question everything – especially appeals to authority – and to accept that other people should take you seriously enough to offer counter-arguments rather than empty insults. In the closing remarks to the final debate of his life, Christopher Hitchens said:

To me the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet. That I haven’t understood enough. That I can’t know enough. That I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom… Those who tell you that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority: don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poison chalice. Push it aside, however tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way. 

This is the spirit that brought me into the academy. When pursued with openness and mutual respect, studying subjects in the humanities and social sciences can be liberating. But when they are permeated with a set of political dogmas, they are boring and suffocating. 

A few years ago, I invited Jonathan Haidt to give a guest lecture to my PPE (philosophy, politics, and economics) class at Duke University. He asked the students to choose between prioritizing the pursuit of truth and the pursuit of social justice. He did not mean to imply that the two are always incompatible, but rather that, as David Schmidtz recently said, “If your heart is in the right place, you’d better get your facts straight.” 

Feature photo by Autumn Berend.

Jonathan Anomaly is a faculty fellow at the University of Gothenburg’s Center for Collective Action and Antimicrobial Resistance for the summer of 2018. 

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  1. Rule 4 should be “Always accuse your opponents of what you are guilty of”. Pre-empt criticism by instantly accusing everybody else of being insecure, triggered, hateful, ignorant, angry, fragile, irrational and emotional. Use the “I knew you would disagree with me because you are [this], therefore I am right” tactic like as if it is an argument winner. Also use empty and fatuous shut up tactics like “read a book” and “go learn some history” in an attempt to discredit counter arguments.

    • markbul says

      “Rule 4 should be “Always accuse your opponents of what you are guilty of”.

      Indeed. When your spouse says ‘You don’t trust me,’ you know they’re playing hide the salami. It’s an old game.

    • Alex says

      The Nixon rule: “You should always accuse your opponent of bestiality. There’s nothing like someone denying sexual intercourse with an animal.”

  2. sweetenlife says

    I encountered this in the 60’s when the Left always made outrageous demands sure to be rejected. Saul Alinsky is the father of the movement.

  3. Jack B. Nimble says

    I THINK that I have located the blog post that is being referred to. If that is so, I don’t see anything there to justify the terms ‘bizarre,’ ‘defame,’ ‘hit piece’ or ‘serious damage.’ Much of the post is taken up with quoting from the PDF copy of the paper “Public Goods and Education” that Anomaly has also linked to.

    Here’s the complete blog post, minus comments and quotes from the ‘Public Goods’ paper, so other commenters can see what Anomaly is apparently objecting to:

    Anti-Public School Lecture Set at Koch-Funded UofA Class in Tucson
    Posted on September 18, 2017 by Larry Bodine | 78 Comments

    The Koch Brothers “Freedom Center” lecture against public education and in favor of privatization of education is set for Thursday, Sept. 21 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

    The dark-money Charles G. Koch foundation donated $1 million to the UofA to create the “Center for the Philosophy of Freedom,” which is a think tank designed to turn students into future lobbyists for the right-wing, anti-education foundation.

    The lecture, entitled “Public Goods and Education,” will be delivered by libertarian professor Jonathan Anomaly in Social Sciences 332 from 12:30 to 1:45 pm on Sept. 21. Anomaly was imported in 2017 from Duke University, where he founded the Heterodox Academy website, set up to fight a perceived liberal bias in universities.

    Because the lecture is political propaganda, it has caused concern among Tucson’s elected leaders. The Koch Brothers’ extreme right-wing agenda has sabotaged public education in the state and promoted school vouchers to funnel taxpayer money into for-profit private and religious schools.

    In August, more than 111,000 Arizona parents and voters signed petitions circulated by Save Our Schools Arizona in opposition to a new state law creating school vouchers that undermine public schools. The measure to veto the law is set to be on a referendum ballot in November 2018.

    The abstract of Assistant Professor Anomaly’s talk describes education as a “good,” like a box of cereal, which students “consume.” The lecture makes a bogus economic analysis of “markets for education,” as if it were a product to be bought and sold.

    The lecture is a diatribe against unions and “bureaucrats with monopoly power.” It is a clear example of how dark money politics are subverting higher education in Arizona.

    For example, Anomaly writes:

    It is alarming to see that a public university is now being used for political purposes to undermine the essential public nature of the school itself.

    Are the title and first 2 paragraphs of the blog post instances of guilt by association? I think that question is totally subjective, but my answer is NO.

    Did the blogger play identity politics? Only if you include Prof. Anomaly’s picture as evidence; nowhere in the text is he described as a white male.

    • Geoff says

      You weren’t at the protests. They circulated literature accusing Anomaly of everything he said in the article. That was followed up by other blog posts that said Anomaly was a “Koch-funded Professor,” etc. you can check Jason Brennan’s blog post at BHL for more evidence.

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        Fair enough; I’ve never met Prof. Anomaly or Larry Bodine, so I have to go by the written record. BTW, there are no relevant hits over at BHL for ‘anomaly’, ‘koch’, etc. Links, please.

        Meanwhile, here’s the followup blog post that @Geoff is apparently referring to:

        Koch-Funded Prof Back Again with Lecture Against Public Schools
        Posted on January 22, 2018 by Larry Bodine | 3 Comments

        Remember professor Jonny Anomaly? When faced with public outrage last September, he canceled his anti-public school lecture at a Koch-funded University of Arizona class in Tucson.

        Like Jack Nicholson in The Shining…he’s back. Anomaly will present “Public Goods and Education” on Thursday, January 25 at 12:30 pm in the Maloney Room, Social Science building 224, on the UofA Campus in Tucson.

        The class description reads:

        “But public financing of education can produce negative externalities by creating perverse incentives, and a public monopoly on the delivery of education can discourage experimentation and turn schools into an outlet for intellectual fads and political propaganda.”

        “I conclude with a note of skepticism about the desirability of direct government involvement in education, even if it plays a limited role in financing it through vouchers, grants, or loans that can be redeemed at accredited schools.”

        This talk is directly from the propaganda playbook of the right-wing Koch Brothers, their front group Americans for Prosperity, and their toady — anti-education Governor Doug Ducey.

        The dark-money Charles G. Koch foundation donated $1 million to the UofA to create the “Center for the Philosophy of Freedom,” which is a think tank designed to turn students into future lobbyists for the right-wing, anti-education foundation.

        Bogus economic analysis

        Concerned parents, teachers, and elected representatives should attend to ask why a publicly-funded university is being utilized as an indoctrination tool to sabotage publicly-funded education.

        The abstract of Assistant Professor Anomaly’s September talk describes education as a “good,” like a box of cereal, which students “consume.” The lecture makes a bogus economic analysis of “markets for education,” as if it were a product to be bought and sold.

        The lecture is a diatribe against unions and “bureaucrats with monopoly power.” It is a clear example of how dark money politics are subverting higher education in Arizona.

        For an opposing view, come to today’s presentation by UofA history professor David N. Gibbs, who will speak about getting the Koch Brothers out of the UofA campus. Gibbs will speak at the Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting at Noon today at Dragon’s View, 400 N Bonita Ave. in Tucson.

        The blog post said that the lecture was Koch-funded, not that Prof. Anomaly receives direct funding from Koch. Is that distinction important? I think so.

        Look, these posts are written from the viewpoint of a partisan Democrat who is strongly pro-union and pro-public education. As it happens, I share those views. Sharp,even sarcastic, criticism is not defamatory–if it were, the whole business of peer review in science would collapse. The only factual error I found in these blog posts was the statement that Prof. Anomaly co-founded HxA.

        • Anon says

          Jack, I see your point. But I’m a grad student at the department and watched this all go down this year. Basically the story is that a history professor named David Gibbs, and his friend Larry Bodine, were looking for an excuse to hit back at the department. They’ve been going after the department chair for years, and Anomaly was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

          They literally showed up to what should be a boring “brown bag” lunch talk for faculty and went berserk. Some of them screamed obscenities, and this went on for hours. They circulated flyers about the evil influence of the Koch brothers on the department, said that Anomaly was funded by the Kochs, which he’s obviously not, and made a bunch of claims that really had nothing to do with the talk.

          The blogger is the reason they showed up. Here is the guy who circulated the flyer:

          He’s clearly nuts, but the problem is that when people like this circulate flyers, and are backed up by tenured faculty like Gibbs, it gives them more credibility than they deserve. Untenured faculty like Anomaly get exposed to serious risk of losing their jobs due to public perceptions created by political activists. They are also less likely to ever take a chance and actually try out new ideas. The last thing we need on campus right now is MORE uniformity of thought.

          Anomaly’s talk was actually pretty uncontroversial. In my view it doesn’t go far enough. It’s basically just “let’s have vouchers for poor people, as long as the vouchers are big enough, and there’s an acceptable curriculum taught at the schools that qualify.” These people were looking for an excuse to protest, and they manufactured one.

          • Anon says

            Also, Jack, the second post that you quote clearly says “Koch-funded professor back with lecture”

            Anomaly is not funded by Koch, and this was not a lecture, but a brown bag discussion with faculty and grad students. If the blogger was so concerned with the content, why wouldn’t he just accept Anomaly’s invitation to attend, and give feedback, or challenge specific arguments? When someone extends an invitation to you or points out that you’ve made some mistakes in a blog post that they know can tarnish their reputation, if you’re a good person you make the changes or remove it, and if you’re not available, you say “I’d love to attend, but I can’t make it.” What you don’t do is double down and then pretend you’re a good person for repeating what you know to be false on the internet.

            I’m not attacking you. You’re right to ask questions. But this blogger is not a serious thinker, or someone who cares about getting the story right.

        • “Concerned parents, teachers, and elected representatives should attend to ask why a publicly-funded university is being utilized as an indoctrination tool to sabotage publicly-funded education.”

          LOL they always accuse others of what they do themselves. Classic psychological projection.

    • MATTHEW SHANE says

      I would disagree with you quite completely. I think the blog post is indeed a bit bizarre, and definitely makes several outlandish, guilt-by-association claims. What in the world do vouchers have to do with Anomoly’s talk? How would the blogger know that the talk is a diatribe against anything, givrnt hat the talk hadn’t happened yet? On what basis is the blogger defining the talk as political propaganda?

      Really? You see see nothinf odd about any of that?

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Matthew Shane

        Look, some of the commenters here are missing a big point – the event in question was a brown-bag discussion of Anomaly’s paper and the paper was probably distributed in PDF form, via email to interested persons BEFORE the discussion. Otherwise, how could attendees even discuss it? Even the blogger quotes from the paper, so he must have had access to a leaked or ‘pirated’ copy.

        Protesting a brown-bag seminar IS bizarre, sort of like protesting at a departmental picnic. However, no one has provided evidence that the blogger organized or even attended the protest at the UofA campus.

        About the voucher question, Anomaly’s ‘Public Goods’ paper DOES include the following paragraph [emphasis added]:

        ‘3. Third Party Payers
        The public goods argument does seem to justify some public financing of education, perhaps through a VOUCHER program in which governments establish objectives that eligible schools must meet (Gintis, 1995). Some of the problems that plague education when governments directly produce it are minimized (though still present) when governments merely set standards for schools to be eligible to receive state-financed VOUCHERS or subsidies. But when government intervenes in the educational market – even when the intervention is justified – it creates a “principal-agent problem” in which the agents (teachers, administrators, and government bureaucrats) acting on behalf of the principals (students and other beneficiaries of education) can create unintended negative externalities. These include educational arms races, political propaganda, and incentives for teachers to pay more attention to the desires of administrators than the interests of children and parents.’

        THAT is why the blogger brought up the issue of vouchers and privatization in his posts.

    • Don M says

      Really? Did you read what you quoted? “Dark money”, “diatribe”, “against unions”, “bogus”, “extreme-right’-wing-agenda”, ad nauseum.

      There is little other than lies and half-truths saturated with innuendo.

      I can only imagine you were being funny as your post is a hilarious case of self-refutation. That was your intent, I hope. Like that Monty Python episode, “The North Minehead By-Election”.

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Don M

        Look, I provided complete texts of 2 blog posts because Prof. Anomaly’s original claim was that “….In the United States, it is permissible to defame people, unless they can afford to hire a lawyer, and that lawyer can prove that they have suffered serious damage as a result of the lies other people tell….”

        Although laws vary somewhat among states, pure opinion cannot be defamatory unless provably false–and even then the falsehood has to be such as to harm the person’s reputation. So Larry Bodine’s false statement that Prof. Anomaly founded HxA is not defamatory because it is not harmful. Also, US courts have guaranteed bloggers the same 1st amendment protections as journalists. We are all entitled to our opinions, and journalists have the right to publish their opinions in print or electronic form.

        Excluding the HxA error, everything else in Larry Bodine’s blog posts is protected opinion and thus not actionable. In fact, almost everything in Prof. Anomaly’s post and almost everything in the comments section here is protected opinion. The words you quoted–“Dark money”, “diatribe”, “against unions”, “bogus”, “extreme-right’-wing-agenda”– are not defamatory; they are not even fightin’ words.

  4. Mike M says

    I’ve only read the first paragraph so far but I can’t help but comment and say that the first paragraph completely ignores the principles of supply and demand. If the price of bullshit is zero then the supply of bullshit would also be zero because no one would supply anything for no price and there be nothing to gain hence the demand of bullshit would be infinite if you were strictly following supply and demand curves. This doesn’t make as good of a the first paragraph because it makes no sense why anyone would demand bullshit but this just irked me.

    • Brian says

      The missing variable in Mike M’s equation is “when there are tangible gains to bullshitters” and supply is virtually free, lots of bullshit gets thrown around. On the internet, you benefit by trashing other people, and don’t have to pay any costs for getting things wrong. That’s the point of the article.

  5. Pingback: Crackpot David Gibbs and Friends Harass Philosopher Jonny Anomaly - Bleeding Heart Libertarians

  6. Fly on the wall says

    Johnny, you seem basically right, but you are not doing yourself any favors titling papers things like “In Defense of Eugenics.” If you don’t want people mischaracterizing you and your views, perhaps you shouldn’t make it so easy for them to do so.

    • Anomaly says

      Fly on the wall: fair enough, but that’s a title, and a play on words based on another title of a book defending a similar view. It’s called Liberal Eugenics: In Defense of Human Enhancement.

      What really matters are the arguments, not the title.

  7. evd says

    Y’all “free speech” people are sure a bunch of cry babies. Sorry that people stood up to you, bro. Must have been horrible. Didn’t these people know that when a white man is speaking they’re supposed to sit down and shut up? The fact that college kids are standing up to your corporate propaganda shows that there is hope for the future.

    • Anon says

      evd, you are wrong. No college kids showed up. A small number of tenured faculty brought in activists who literally screamed rather than listened and asked questions. They circulated propaganda that featured the image of an octopus borrowed from 1930s Germany. They weren’t there to engage in dialog.

      Your second point is even stranger: the point of the talk was the opposite of endorsing “corporate propaganda.” The argument for vouchers is to enable poor families to send their kids to a school of their choice, rather than being forced into shitty state schools. Why on earth would you think the biggest corporation of all, the US Govt, is so much superior to a system of school choice at supplying education? Maybe you disagree, but saying an idea you disagree with is “corporate propaganda” is not an argument. It is falling into the same trap the article outlines.

      • evd says

        First off, activists (college students or otherwise) do not need to abide by your “respectability politics” to have their voice heard. This tired mantra has played its course. Yes yes, there is always some way that people speaking back to power are not doing it in the “proper” fashion. Your predecessors used this line of argumentation on the suffragettes and the civil rights movement. It’s played out.
        And of course privatization is a corporate funded scam. It’s moving public money to private hands. It’s a part of the non-stop effort by you folks to transfer wealth upwards. The really disgusting thing is that you use the conditions of poor children to justify your corporate sycophantry.

        • Dave says

          Good, evd, keep repeating your mantra, as outlined in rule 2 in the article. Rather than giving an argument or evidence that more school choice can’t improve schooling, just dismiss you opponents as engaging in “corporate sycophantry.”

          Do you think that those of us who support school choice should show up at your PTA meeting and shout you down, passing out flyers saying that you’re a Nazi sympathizer? Or would it be better to get smart people with different ideas in a room to hammer out some good ideas?

          • Evd says

            Isn’t it funny, the most incisive critiques are the ones you want to be out of bounds. It’s like we’re discussing slavery and you want to make the discussion of morality out of bounds (“where’s your evidence? What statistics say slavery is bad?”). Bigoted corporate shills are gonna get called such. And you wanna talk about fascists? How bout the dudes in this very comments section calling for violence against people with left-wing views (I believe one of the gentleman referred to me as a “prog”. What bro, not a fan of Rush?). Don’t kid yourself dude, this is just a more sophisticated version of Breitbart or Infowars. Just a place for reactionaries to spout there hate and defense of oppression. So yeah, spare me the high falootin talk about bringing smart people together. This article is all about pushing the right-wng victimization narrative that y’all love to wallow in. Fancy bottle, but same putrid whine inside.

        • ADM64 says

          Ah, so it’s all power. Got it. We’ll treat you exactly as you treat us and since the illogical gibberish you write clearly proves you reject reason, we’ll settle it in the streets. Two, after all, can play that game.

          • evd says

            Settle it in the streets? Jeebus! So much for the “intellectual right”. There’s not gibberish, friendo. Just pointing out the ridiculousness of defining the terms of the debate in the fashion that aides your side. It would be like if I said that a discussion of Communism could not include any discussion of the abuses of the Soviet Union. Defining the parameters of the debate in a manner that precludes incisive critique is an act of bad faith. Plus this is clearly an attempt to take a minor indecent a blow it up to foment a narrative that foments hate. Meet me in the street? For what? Tag? Frisbee? What ever happened to the free marked place of ideas? Why are you threatening me for engaging in free speech! Come on, dawg. Be better!

        • sceptical says

          Actually it’s you and people like you who are behaving in the way that the opponents of the suffragettes and the civil rights movement did. The suffragettes were not excluded by unfair rules of engagement from participation in political debate, they were DENIED the right to be included in debate at all, by people who used the same tactics that you are using now. Why you think that using the tactics of authoritarians to silence debate puts you on the same side as people who were fighting for the right to debate against authoritarians who denied it to them is a mystery to me.

          Sometimes I think the half-educated are a greater menace than the uneducated.

        • Don M says

          Has it occured to you that no one wants to hear your, so called, voice? What does that even mean? Have an argument? Write it up, think about it, edit, think about it some more, put it away, return to it, edit some more. Maybe then you have something impactful. If you cannot do that, you are just another zealot that derives energy from overwhelming subconscious insecurities.

          • TarsTarkas says

            EVD is obviously a troll. Don’t feed him.

      • Jack B. Nimble says


        Anomaly’s main argument in his ‘Public Goods’ paper is that government at all levels should just get out of the education ‘business.’ IF government is as inefficient and politically corrupt [cronyism, self-dealing] as Anomaly suggests, then there is no reason to think that state-run vouchers will be any better for students and parents than state-run schools. However, I don’t accept Anomaly’s premise of serious negative externalities and inefficiencies in public education.

        Look, libertarian theories can have real-world consequences, and I am mostly concerned with how school vouchers have worked in practice. A few states to the east of Arizona, “In Louisiana, students who won a lottery for tuition scholarships to private schools wound up with worse academic performance than their peers who were lucky enough to lose the lottery. The affected students had won a voucher to attend, at no cost, a private school in Louisiana……..The vouchers, averaging $5,311 per student, must be accepted as full tuition at the private schools that participate in the program; schools are not allowed to ask students to “top-up” their vouchers if the school has a higher sticker price. Further, schools can’t pick and choose among the voucher winners. Instead, they have to take any student who holds a voucher.”


        There are a lot of issues with state-funded school vouchers in a state like Louisiana, including its long history of Roman Catholic schools and its recent history of ‘white flight’ private schools set up in response to desegregation. Also, as is typical in Louisiana, the program was under-funded relative to its stated purpose. Is Anomaly personally responsible for the failure of school vouchers in Louisiana to improve average student performance? Of course not, but a complete picture of school vouchers has to include real-world costs AND benefits, successes AND failures, not just libertarian assumptions.

        • Anon says

          The point of this article isn’t to debate the merits of vouchers, or to provide documentary evidence of everything that happened. It’s to say that the tactics of many of the people involved were dreadful. It should go without saying that it’s irresponsible to try to shut down events at which people are trying to get feedback on work in progress. And calling his talk “political propaganda” online while rejecting an invitation to attend the talk and engage in reasoned dialogue after it was rescheduled. That’s not what an intellectually serious person does.

          The group who showed up to the protest said very explicitly that they were part of the local progressive group that Bodine and Gibbs lead. Michael McKenna has documentary evidence of this, since taped the event. Bodine and Gibbs didn’t show up to the rescheduled talk, which is a shame, because it was actually a really productive discussion. That’s what we do in philosophy. Give an argument for a view and then wait for the objections to come rolling in.

          Weeks after the talk, Gibbs organized a rally at the university against the department chair, at which he invited a bunch of students, to try to humiliate the new department. It backfired. He did not succeed because his accusations were so offensively ridiculous. But it is telling that Gibbs went after two junior faculty members, and when both defended themselves, the audience actually turned against Gibbs.

          I’ve been a student at UofA for three years, and I can tell you that Gibbs and Bodine have done this stuff before, long before Anomaly was here. Gibbs has even accused other faculty of being CIA plants, and both have gone after the department chair and his wife for as long as I’ve been here. It’s funny because our department is ranked as the best in the world in political philosophy, and these activists have no idea that we’re serious scholars. They assume that because 10 years ago, one person in the department got a Koch grant, we’re all somehow morally tainted. It’s fucked up.

          • Jack B. Nimble says


            To be clear, I am against no-platforming at public institutions in the US, where 1st amendment rights are involved. However, the libertarian topics that Prof. Anomaly are discussing–and even the funding of the ‘freedom schools’ in AZ–are issues that go well beyond Prof. Gibbs and Mr. Bodine, as shown by this recent article. If Rachel Leingang is wrong about the politics involved, please set the record straight:

            “Koch-backed ‘freedom schools’ in Arizona to get money in university funding budget
            Rachel Leingang, The Republic | Published 9:57 a.m. MT May 1, 2018 |

            Arizona’s three state universities would get $10 million more this year if the Arizona Legislature passes the budget it released Monday.

            But $2 million of that would go toward so-called “freedom schools,” programs at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona focused on free-market philosophies and backed by conservative organizations like the Charles Koch Foundation.

            The universities didn’t ask for additional funding for the freedom schools. Instead, the universities asked for money to support the cost of tuition for in-state students and to cover increasing health insurance costs.

            The proposed budget doesn’t come near meeting the universities’ request for the state to help fund half the cost of educating in-state undergraduate students, which would require $252 million.

            The additional funds aren’t approved yet. The Legislature still needs to pass a budget, then send it to Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature.

            How the funding is divided

            The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at ASU would get $1 million if the budget passes as proposed. UA’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom would also get $1 million. The freedom schools already are set to get $5 million from the state this year.

            Of the additional $10 million proposed, $8 million would go toward overall university funding, with ASU getting $4.2 million, UA getting $2.2 million and Northern Arizona University getting $1.6 million.

            ASU also would get $250,000 to set up an office in Guanajuato, Mexico, that would promote trade and economic development, budget documents show.

            The universities’ budgets have not recovered from major cuts seen during the recession and subsequent years of economic turmoil.

            But the freedom schools have seen support from Republican state lawmakers. In 2016, lawmakers gave the schools $5 million.Last year, the schools got $7 million from the state.
            Funding for ‘freedom schools’ vs. money for teachers

            The added funds for freedom schools come as thousands of K-12 teachers have walked out of their classrooms and rallied for days for additional money for education.

            Lawmakers and Ducey have agreed, in principle, to a 20 percent raise for teachers by 2020, but educators have additional demands, including raises for support staff and a return to pre-recession school funding levels.

            The initial 20×2020 plan from Ducey showed the universities sacrificing an $8 million appropriation in service of increased teacher pay.

            Gov. Doug Ducey announces on April 12, 2018, a new education-funding proposal that would give Arizona’s teachers 9 percent pay raises this year. Carly Henry |

            Arizona Board of Regents Vice Chairman Ron Shoopman said the regents are pleased to see the budget plan now includes the $8 million in university funding, which will go toward Arizona-resident students.

            “We appreciate the commitment of our legislators and the dedication of Gov. Ducey to prioritize education as the catalyst for economic opportunity in our state, including the university bonding proposal passed last year and the support of our K-12 teachers who teach our children and make a difference in their lives,” Shoopman said.
            What ‘freedom schools’ teach

            ASU’s school has its own curriculum that teaches about American leaders and their philosophies and ideas, the school says on its website. It says the school’s mission is to “engage students in civic life through the investigation of great works of political, economic, civic, and moral thought.”


            “What does it take for societies to free their members from oppression and poverty? How is it possible, in a world shaped by prior causes, for people to exercise free will? And what sorts of lives might free people aspire to create for themselves?” the center wrote on its website.

            The UA center also received money from Randy and Ken Kendrick, the owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks who are frequent GOP donors.

            Budget footnotes show at least $100,000 of the $1 million given to ASU’s freedom school must be used to support research on Arizona’s Constitution and the development of a course on civics and constitutionalism for K-12 students.

            The Koch-backed college programs have come under fire nationally and locally as critics claim the conservative donors sought to influence higher education.

            Documents revealed the Charles Koch Foundation influenced the hiring and firing of people at a center it funds at George Mason University in Virginia, the Associated Press reported Monday.

            At UA, a group called Kochs Off Campus has protested the school’s freedom center. UA’s center already offers a course for K-12 students called “ethics, economy and entrepreneurship.”

            Dem lawmaker: Let universities decide how to spend money

            Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said the additional money for the freedom schools is unwarranted, plus it comes as the state has failed to reinvest in higher education after the recession.

            “I don’t understand why we need to have specifically funded schools to be publishing papers on free markets and libertarianism when these are schools of thought that would be taught by our philosophy departments right now,” Engel said.

            Engel said she’s seen research put out by the centers that criticize public schools and government regulation, which she finds concerning.

            She thinks the $2 million would be better spent if it went the universities, who could then decide how best to spend it. The $8 million in overall university spending isn’t enough, she said.

            “I would say our universities are under stress and they could very much use more funding. … Our students are paying the price in higher tuition and more fees,” Engel said.
            GOP lawmaker: #RedforEd a ‘socialist movement’

            Additional funding for the freedom schools may have helped some conservative lawmakers get on board with the budget.

            Republican Rep. Anthony Kern of Glendale, one of the freedom schools’ biggest supporters in the Legislature, said the centers are designed to provide balance at universities, which tend to learn toward leftist teachings.

            “It doesn’t push any conservative views, it just allows for civil discourse,” he said.

            Most of the people who oppose the schools, including his Democratic colleagues, probably haven’t set foot in a freedom school lecture or classroom, Kern claimed.

            He defended the $2 million spend in the midst of K-12 teacher protests, saying the Legislature and Ducey are doing everything they can to meet teacher demands.

            “The RedForEd movement is not about teacher pay. It’s a socialist movement. They keep changing their goals,” Kern said.

            He said the freedom schools themselves haven’t asked for additional money, but he’s been pushing for increased state investment in them as a way to balance out viewpoints on campus.

            “As a conservative, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to fund the freedom schools, and I think it’s one of the few things in the budget that I actually absolutely agree with,” Kern said.”


            [emphasis added]

    • Northern Observer says

      Stood up?! It’s bloody assault and if you and your goons keep it up we will have to bring our goons and return to 1930s style arguments. Your incivility and “arguments by insurrection’ are open inventions to corporal discipline and indefinite detention.

      Like they say, build it and they will come, you guys are building it and it has only been our patience that has kept us from coming. But there are limits. Pray you don’t surpass them.

      • evd says

        You’re desperately looking for that Reichstag fire, aren’t you? Yes yes, shouting at a white man clearly calls for jackbooted thugs like yourself to deploy onto the streets. It’s interesting that a group of people so seething with violence and contempt can also be so fragile. Don’t worry, your fascist in chief will find something to direct your rage at. Did you know that there a people who don’t think a hardware store should ban gay people from entering it! The horror! Better get out your robe and torch!

        • Rusty Shackleford says

          You have yet to provide a single argument. You are sticking to the tactics outlined in this article proving the authors thesis correct. Out of curiosity since you like calling those you disagree with fascist, can you actually provide a definition of the term?

        • evpee says

          “It’s interesting that a group of people so seething with violence and contempt can also be so fragile.”

          This is the least self aware comment I’ve ever seen on the internet.

        • Joseph Stalin says

          You really are an ignorant closet right wing cunt aren’t you?

      • Friederick Mackie Ahriman says

        Northern Observer –
        Yeah, yeah. Conservatives warning the left that their violence will have consequences have no credibility. Progs impose themselves violently on campus because they know they can, without consequence, and that’s not changing anytime soon.

        It’s not your patience that holds you people back, it’s your lack of organisation and strategy. Progs can whip up a mob ready to start fires and hurl bricks through windows in a matter of hours, in the knowledge that charges are very unlikely to be laid, sentences will be brief, and media will turn a blind eye. Any heterodox group that tried any of the same shit would be likely shot by police, certainly charged, and have any prospects of a professional career demolished.

        If you want to effectively resist the empire and its misshapen footsoldiers like ‘evd’ here, you’re going to have to invest significant time and energy into organisation and laying the groundwork. The Long March through the institutions took the better part of a century; there’s no reason to think undoing it will be any faster.

    • Steve says

      Thank you, EVD, for helping to prove the author correct.

      • ga gamba says

        It’s rare to see such vitriol spewed here. I suspect people like EVD oppose free speech in part because they are compelled to respond and do so in such an unhinged way that’s disastrous for their side.

        Own goals are still tallied on the scoreboard.

        • evd says

          I’m not shocked by the vitriol spewed here. I wish that it wasn’t the case, I wish y’all could just be caring and compassionate people. But when people tell you are who they are the first time you should listen. What’s scary is how this vitriol can warp the mind, how it can lead people to a embrace a smug denial of common decency. Of course though, when one has been indoctrinated into supremacy ideologies the mere utterance of tearing down systems of oppression is radical beyond belief. It’s why you all think Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group. It’s why treating trans folks with respect is tantamount to gulags.Bless all your hearts. I hope that maybe, just maybe, IRL you folks are kinder. My guess is that your marching with tiki torches, though. Hope I’m wrong.

    • Timothy Konig says

      It is easier to make an accusation than an argument. Trying to speak and then having people shout in your face for so long and so loud that you cannot say a word is no way to argue a point. This isn’t even mob rule. It is simply anarchy. It is not the “free speech” advocates that are troubled but rather those tender minds who might be exposed to a new idea. Better to silence genius than to be exposed to something outside your narrow mindset. Anomaly is right. This is not what the academy is about.

    • Carl says

      Those of us who are committed to rational inquiry believe that when anyone, of any background, is speaking we all have an obligation to listen and respond to arguments, and not fall back on pre-fabricated outrage and cheap ad hominem sneers.

  8. Rich Faussette says

    You write:

    “…other people should take you seriously enough to offer counter-arguments rather than empty insults.”
    Yet your co-author Nathan did just this when I asked him respectfully to argue a point in your KMAc article. He insulted me and blocked me just for asking the question. Maybe you’ll defend the paper?

    Here’s a starter:
    “I wonder why Cofnas and MacDonald are arguing the influence of secular Jewish intellectuals? We learn in Genesis that Abraham becomes a pronatalist. We all know the prodigious birth rate of the dispersed orthodox in diaspora. We know that in the first few lines of Exodus the Egyptian pharaoh bemoans the numbers and strength of the Hebrews whose midwives ignore the pharaoh’s command to kill the Hebrew male children. Kiryas Joel in upstate NY is one of the fastest growing municipalities in the US. Towns in NY and NJ have passed ordinances to stop Jewish orthodox realtors from harassing residents offering again and again to buy their houses.

    So what you say? Ecological law predicts that the pronatalism of intelligent groups leads to social unrest (Colinvaux The Fates of Nations) but we can’t make the connection that Jewish expulsions throughout history occur when their sojourning populations increase rapidly and put great ecological pressure on their hosts? Why not?

    The orthodox are the priestly arm of Judaism. The non-orthodox are the outer core of Judaism, not real Jews, but when they grow up and learn what the Torah really is – a prescription for the displacement of indigenous peoples in favor of incoming Jewish populations, they make the decision to either stay away from or embrace Jewish hegemony which they are free to do. The proof is in the high birth rates of the orthodox. Their apostates become a warrior class. Is it any wonder Marx’s work led to the decimation of middle and upper classes. Those are the very niches Jews would require to enrich their rapidly growing populations. Is it any wonder that Freud wanted us to act out our sexual repressions? No. It leads to a lower birth rate. Liberal sexual ideology leads to lower birth rates. As they grow, and we absorb their liberalism our birth rates decrease and our population drops. The nations of the world cannot be labeled the aggressors in the anti-Semitic cycle because pronatalism and eugenics create the anti-Semitic cycle.

    It’s an ecological cycle, not an intellectual one. Without the pronatalism and eugenics there would be no intellectuals to decide whether or not they wanted to support the orthodox breeding strategy. The argument over Jewish intellectuals is a secondary argument. The primary argument is ecological.”

    • Justin says

      Rich, the incoherence of your jumbled thoughts is on full display. Thank you for showing how gullible and confused KMac’s fans are. It’s shocking that Nathan blocked you on twitter. Why would anyone refuse to listen to your eloquent soliloquies? Now, close your laptop and get back to your parents basement!

  9. hamr says

    Zhe, definately have some serious psychological issues. Seek help. It is available.

    • evd says

      Well, Ezd was receiving treatment from Jordan Peterson but Peterson dropped them to hold his hate rallies. I’ll let Ezd know you care, though. Carry on and clean your room, bucko!

      • Evd lives under a bridge says

        Evd is definitely a closet extreme right wing cunt.

        • evd says

          why would I feel the need to be a closet “extreme right wing cunt.” on a far-right website? Why wouldn’t I just flout my right-wing bona fides and get kudos. I could just be “black people are dumber than white people” or “women deserve to get raped” or “being violent towards people on the left is acceptable.” Shoot man, I’d me the most popular fella hear if I said those things! No reason to be in the closet!

  10. derek says

    The quickest way to put an end to this nonsense is to stop funding it. This is what a trillion and a half of student debt busb.

    • evd says

      There we are. This is the whole thing. Blow up a tiny little incident and use it as a means to end higher ed. By why stop there? I read that some high school kids protested gun violence. I mean, second amendment! How bout we end high schools. How bout junior highs and middle schools. I mean, the mines need workers. Right? I mean, that’s the whole point of these articles. Thanks for being honest, derek.

  11. I am astonished to read how thoroughly uncommunicative each side is with the other. As an outsider looking in, THAT seems to me as much the problem as the one Anomaly seems to be describing.

    • This is not normal for quillette. Unfortunately the trolls have arrived, and what used to be a lovely site for civil discourse has been infected with the plague that permeates the great majority of the web. Sad. Maybe it should be for subscribers only.

      • David Norman says

        Seconded. I have come to Quillette quite recently and was surprised to find the comment section to be a haven of civil, reasoned and intelligent discussion without the usual mind numbingly tedious mud slinging. I hope this is a one off but the arrival of evd does not fill me with optimism.

  12. Another indictment of the curdled progressive ideology.

    As with so many articles in Quillette, the author evinces a painful naivete with respect to religion. Quoting someone like Hitchens reinforces this (he was an entertainer, not a serious thinker).

    One does not have to accept the postulates of theism as expressed through religious dogma, however in order to be taken seriously one must be able to render an account of these ideas that is transcends childish caricature.

    Religion and reason are not opposed. They are inextricably bound up in the exploration of higher meaning. Many of the obviously intelligent but intellectually impoverished writers of today would do very well to spend a few months absorbing, for example, Summa Theologica (one of the most thoroughly logical and rational works ever produced by human beings).

    It would also benefit many to regularly attempt to expostulate and examine their own first principles. Strikingly few seem to comprehend that their own reductive materialist “scientific” world view is premised just as firmly on pure faith as any religion. Science is impossible without axioms that are not scientifically provable (e.g., that we inhabit a consistently comprehensible cosmos). Reason itself, the same. Absorb and ponder Godel until this begins to sink in.

    Those who smugly consider themselves above religion are invariably beneath it.

    • Mazzakim says

      Counterpoint: God doesn’t exist. There is no need for any thinking person to engage the fiction in any serious way. And for all your big words, your basic argument is astoundingly naive. Science is predicated on replicability, not faith. As Richard Feyman put it, “If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.” Your religion can be above me, below me, or next to me for all I could care less.

      • Mazzakim says

        Or to be more precise, science is about observation, measurement and replication. There is junk science out there, but the point of the scientific process is that we constantly test what we know for validity and we discard that which we prove to be false. You can’t do that with a “God.” It boggles the mind that any intelligent person in the 21st century accepts a 2000 year old explanation of reality over the best consensus of our smartest minds.

        • Dear Mazzakim,

          I have been a practicing scientist for the past 28 years and I am also religious. I acknowledge that Science’s account of the materialistic universe falls short of a full explanation. I also feel that religions born out of revelations during the past 2,000 years cannot thrive, or even survive, if they persist in ignoring what Science has made us understand. Somehow, there must be room in our world for a Science that is at peace with the mystery of creation and a religion that exalts the material beauty revealed by Science. That we have not been able to articulate this new faith doesn’t diminish its pressing need.

          • Mazzakim says

            @Andre Sobolewski I appreciate your sincere response, even though I don’t agree with your premise. For me there is just no need for a supernatural explanation to anything, even if we don’t necessarily yet have the correct explanation for something. It just makes no sense to me that if there was a God, why wouldn’t He/She/It make His/Her/Its presence manifestly obvious? The Bible claims that He showed himself all the time in the past, smiting people and turning them into salt and so on. So why would He stop doing that? I’m sorry, but Occam’s Razor is there is no God.

  13. Luke says

    Progressive Attack Survival Guide.
    (Expands on the playbook above)

  14. Martti O. Suomivuori says

    These techniques of mobbing and silencing people that stand against you are as old as the human mind. Very few arguments are about real, rational issues. Most of them are about how you are situated in your preferred set of social ladders. I hate to say this but when it comes to politics, the postmodernists are right: The truth is not relevant.
    I have this very strong feeling of having overlived my era when I see news sources that used to be reliable now lying for their greater without any shame and attack you when their lies are called out.
    Not being an American, the mental malaise in the Academy is in no way my war –except that feeble minds overseas pick up the slogans and start mindlessly parroting them as if Trump was OUR president also in Europe.
    As far as I am concerned, the stuff that NASA and its likes are doing and the hard science universities that have accumulated the greatest brains on this planet, are much more interesting than loudmouthed airheads who have filled a political vacuum where no-one with any sense did not want to tread any longer.
    The social sciences have nothing to show, nothing to offer to improve the human condition in any ways. Why are you feeding them?

  15. David Lucas says

    Read Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”. These tactics are all listed there.
    It really is required reading for anybody who tussles with these people.

  16. Pingback: Free Speech or Propaganda? How Neoliberal “Millennial” Organizations Infiltrate U.S. Campuses – Post Millennial

  17. Pingback: News of the Week (June 17th, 2018) | The Political Hat

  18. Dr. GS Hurd says

    I am underwhelmed with campus spats. However, there were some gross errors of fact regarding Darwin, and Galton that should be cleared up ASAP.
    (Hot links to articles are at my blog post; )

    Matthew Sears a professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Brunswick published a short essay;”Anomaly and Academia: is the Left Really Afraid of Honest Inquiry?”

    Sears was critical of a right-wing whine by Anomaly about mean students at a public university angry that Anomaly is opposed to public education.

    What I first look at in any publication is the references. It is a habit I developed as a student. In this case, I noticed that according to Matthew Spears, the target of his criticisms, ‘Jonny’ Anomaly, had promoted a version of Darwinian racism. What Spears wrote that caught my eye was, “Anomaly expands on this line in inquiry in a 2018 article entitled “Defending Eugenics.” Beginning with Darwin himself, Anomaly says, “Darwin argued that social welfare programs for the poor and sick are a natural expression of our sympathy, but also a danger to future populations if they encourage people with serious congenital diseases and heritable traits like low levels of impulse control, intelligence, or empathy to reproduce at higher rates than other people in the population.”

    The 2018 article in question was linked, and it was “Defending eugenics From cryptic choice to conscious selection” Jonathan Anomaly, Monash Bioeth. Rev. Published on-line 26 May, 2018.

    Anomaly claims early on in that essay that “In defending eugenics, I want to reclaim the spirit of authors like Francis Galton and Charles Darwin …”

    I of course smelled a rat because Charles Darwin was dismissive of Galton’s Eugenics Society. And, I have read Darwin’s core books. I already knew that that Darwin did not propose that social welfare programs were a “danger to future populations.” Also as I have written, Darwin was not a racist.

    Anomaly in his cited paper pretended to quote from the 1882 printing of the 2nd edition of Darwin’s “The descent of Man…” citing page 138. He presented the quote as, “Darwin feared that in developed nations “the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members” (Darwin 1882, p. 138).”

    Since I long familiar with creationists who for years lied about what Darwin supposedly wrote, I have developed the habit of reading the context of any “so-called quote.” Here it is in fact;

    “A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton,(19) namely, the fact that the very poor and reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support themselves and their children in comfort.” Darwin expanded on this making the reference explicit by writing on the same page, “Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him.”

    So the opinion that Anomaly attributed to Darwin’s was in fact that of Galton, and Greg.

    (The Galton book also in Darwin’s footnote 19 was citation to “Hereditary Genius’ 1870,” and will be skipped over for now). The remainder of the quote was a paraphrase of William R. Greg, “On the failure of ‘Natural Selection’ in the case of Man,” Fraser’s Magazine, Sept. 1868, p. 353-362. My former colleague, John Wilkins has made a copy of Greg’s 1868 article available on-line. We see that the often timid Mr. Darwin was even then trying of moderate the actual statement by Greg. Here is the actual piece from Frasier’s Magazine;

    “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman, fed on potatoes, living in a pig-stye, doting on a superstition, multiplies like rabbits or ephemera: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him.”

    It goes on, but you get the gist.

    In fact, Darwin spends the rest of the Chapter V (7 pages) dismissing the false claims of Greg in particular. Recall that Darwin’s actual opinion of the Eugenics Society proposed by Galton was dismissive, “I am not, however, so hopeful as you. Your proposed Society would have awfully laborious work, and I doubt whether you could ever get efficient workers. As it is, there is much concealment of insanity and wickedness in families; and there would be more if there was a register. But the greatest difficulty, I think, would be in deciding who deserved to be on the register. How few are above mediocrity in health, strength, morals and intellect; and how difficult to judge on these latter heads.” Darwin to Galton, January 4th, 1873.

    So, Jonathan Anomaly is either incompetent, or a liar.

    Matthew Sears is either incompetent, or too lazy to read citations.

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