A well-known reader writes:
This is why ordinary people hate elites:
Fordham has invited a well-known plagiarist to give a prestigious lecture that is supposed to advance “rigorous scholarship.” Poor Monica Crowley worked for Fox, is white, and a Republican. So, she must suffer in shame for her plagiarism. While Fareed, who works for CNN, is a person of color, and is a liberal, gets to give prestigious academic lectures in New York City at a Jesuit university.
Again, this is another reason why Trump won. There are two different standards in this country: one for the rich and connected and their friends, and another for those who have the temerity to resist their hegemony. It makes me sick. Blow it up.
Relatedly, a reader sends in this brilliant essay by the liberal (socialist, actually, and atheist) academic William Deresiewicz, on how the cultural left has turned many American universities into PC madrassas. We’ve all seen this kind of piece before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it expressed so well. He writes from personal experience. Excerpts:
So this is how I’ve come to understand the situation. Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion.
I should mention that when I was speaking about these issues last fall with a group of students at Whitman College, a selective school in Washington State, that idea, that elite private colleges are religious institutions, is the one that resonated with them most. I should also mention that I received an email recently from a student who had transferred from Oral Roberts, the evangelical Christian university in Tulsa, to Columbia, my alma mater. The latter, he found to his surprise, is also a religious school, only there, he said, the faith is the religion of success. The religion of success is not the same as political correctness, but as I will presently explain, the two go hand in hand.
What does it mean to say that these institutions are religious schools? First, that they possess a dogma, unwritten but understood by all: a set of “correct” opinions and beliefs, or at best, a narrow range within which disagreement is permitted. There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to think and talk about. Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity—principally the holy trinity of race, gender, and sexuality—occupy the center of concern. The presiding presence is Michel Foucault, with his theories of power, discourse, and the social construction of the self, who plays the same role on the left as Marx once did. The fundamental questions that a college education ought to raise—questions of individual and collective virtue, of what it means to be a good person and a good community—are understood to have been settled. The assumption, on elite college campuses, is that we are already in full possession of the moral truth. This is a religious attitude. It is certainly not a scholarly or intellectual attitude.
The power of political correctness is wielded not only against the faculty, however, but also against other groups within the student body, ones who don’t belong to the ideologically privileged demographics or espouse the approved points of view: conservative students; religious students, particularly Christians; students who identify as Zionists, a category that includes a lot of Jewish students; “athletes,” meaning white male athletes; white students from red states; heterosexual cisgendered white men from anywhere at all, who represent, depending on the school, between a fifth and a third of all students. (I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.) I haven’t heard too many people talk about creating safe spaces for Christians, or preventing micro-aggressions against conservatives, or banning hate speech against athletes, or disinviting socialists.
What I have heard, frequently, for as long as I have been involved in academia, are open expressions of contempt or prejudice or hostility against those suspect groups or members of those groups. If you are a white man, you are routinely regarded as guilty until proven innocent, the worst possible construction is put upon your words, and anything you say on a sensitive issue is received with suspicion at best. I attended a workshop on micro-aggressions at the University of Missouri last year. The problem with micro-aggressions, the leader said, is that they “create a space of hostility,” that they say, “you don’t belong; you are different in a way that’s not okay.” Those formulations precisely describe the environment that the groups I just enumerated often encounter at elite private colleges, except that unlike the typical micro-aggression, the offense is not inadvertent. It is quite deliberate.
There is one category that the religion of the liberal elite does not recognize—that its purpose, one might almost conclude, is to conceal: class. Class at fancy colleges, as throughout American society, has been the unspeakable word, the great forbidden truth. And the exclusion of class on selective college campuses enables the exclusion of a class. It has long struck me in leftist or PC rhetoric how often “white” is conflated with “wealthy,” as if all white people were wealthy and all wealthy people were white. In fact, more than 40 percent of poor Americans are white. Roughly 60 percent of working-class Americans are white. Almost two-thirds of white Americans are poor or working-class. Altogether, lower-income whites make up about 40 percent of the country, yet they are almost entirely absent on elite college campuses, where they amount, at most, to a few percent and constitute, by a wide margin, the single most underrepresented group.
We don’t acknowledge class, so there are few affirmative-action programs based on class. Not coincidentally, lower-income whites belong disproportionately to precisely those groups whom it is acceptable and even desirable, in the religion of the colleges, to demonize: conservatives, Christians, people from red states. Selective private colleges are produced by the liberal elite and reproduce it in turn. If it took an electoral catastrophe to remind this elite of the existence (and ultimately, one hopes, the humanity) of the white working class, the fact should come as no surprise. They’ve never met them, so they neither know nor care about them. In the psychic economy of the liberal elite, the white working class plays the role of the repressed. The recent presidential campaign may be understood as the return of that repressed—and the repressed, when it returns, is always monstrous.
The exclusion of class also enables the concealment of the role that elite colleges play in perpetuating class, which they do through a system that pretends to accomplish the opposite, our so-called meritocracy. Students have as much merit, in general, as their parents can purchase (which, for example, is the reason SAT scores correlate closely with family income). The college admissions process is, as Mitchell L. Stevens writes in Creating a Class, a way of “laundering privilege.”
But it isn’t simply the admissions process. The culture of political correctness, the religion of the fancy private colleges, provides the affluent white and Asian students who make up the preponderant majority of their student bodies, and the affluent white and Asian professionals who make up the preponderant majority of their tenured faculty and managerial staffs, with the ideological resources to alibi or erase their privilege. It enables them to tell themselves that they are children of the light—part of the solution to our social ills, not an integral component of the problem. It may speak about dismantling the elite, but its real purpose is to flatter it.
Read the whole thing. Seriously, do. Fareed Zakaria is in the club; Monica Crowley is not. This is the lesson for people to take about elitism, class, and access to power in this country.
The tragedy of Trump is that this system really does need to be blown up, or if not blown up, then dismantled and rebuilt. But his fatally flawed character is probably going to make that harder to do than it ought to be.
Still, why, exactly, would a smart, self-respecting aspiring scholar want to go into a world of people who think and behave that way? If most people are sick of it, but it still goes on, what are we to conclude?