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The Northwestern Ninety

Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University (Source)

There are very few profiles in courage today, when it comes to the leadership class of our institutions. I want to highlight a prominent example of one: Morton Schapiro, the president of Northwestern University. The literary scholar and historian Gary Saul Morson, who teaches at Northwestern, tells readers of Mosaic magazine what’s happening there. He talks about how Schapiro has led the university over the years to be pro-active in reaching out to the Evanston, Ill., community, where the university is, and especially to the disadvantaged black residents of the town and neighboring Chicago. A reader at Northwestern who first alerted me to this piece described Schapiro as “woke.”

Prof. Morson writes:

Following the shocking and violent death of George Floyd this past May, a Northwestern organization named “NU Community Not Cops (NUCNC)” demanded the abolition of the university police force. Northwestern administrators, who have themselves long made “racial justice” a priority, made clear that they sympathized with this demand. At many universities, high-minded statements are part of career advancement (or maintenance), but Schapiro is deeply committed to improving the opportunities for the most disadvantaged in a personal way, and sees this pursuit of justice as an expression of his Jewish observance. Top Northwestern officials reiterated the University’s commitment to Black and minority concerns, met with student groups over the summer, and issued, on September 10th, a document outlining specific reforms to advance “commitments to advancing racial and social justice.” These included appointing three high-ranking administrators with “expertise in diversity and equity,” establishing “anti-racism and unconscious-bias training” for 50 university leaders, providing $1.5 million to advance social justice in Evanston and Chicago, and, most important, hiring outside consultants to review the operations, practices, and budget of the university police. Before the fall 2020 quarter began, President Schapiro had already moved significant university resources into combatting racial bias.

Community Not Cops, dissatisfied that the NUPD was to be reformed and improved rather than abolished, vowed to continue protests until it was. Over the weekend of October 17-18, protests in downtown Evanston, not just on campus, included vandalism, lighting fires, and spray-painting calls for violence against police. The Daily Northwestern, our college newspaper, which is sympathetic to the protestors, quoted one student: “There is no level of property destruction that we can do that is more violent than the cops existing.” Another told the paper: “When I say that Evanston is the most racist place I’ve ever lived, I am not exaggerating.” In 2019 the city of Evanston passed a bill to pay reparations to its Black residents.

President Schapiro refused to dismantle the university police department. So the mob turned on him. Morson:

During that same weekend, in the early hours of the morning, NUCNC came to the president’s house to protest and shout obscenities, including a cry of “piggy Morty.” Schapiro, who makes no secret of being an observant Jew, and whose Jewishness is a target for some, recognized that the comparison of Jews to pigs is an anti-Semitic slur that was used by genocidal Nazis as well as by some in today’s Middle East. Schapiro responded with a letter to the university community that is very different from the self abasement that has become typical of the genre. After repeating his commitment to racial justice, Schapiro asserted a principle that numerous leaders on other campuses have ignored or rejected in recent years, namely, the firm support for “vigorous debate and free expression of ideas.” He drew the line at violence, intimidation, and lawbreaking. These days, any administrator who takes such a stance risks his career.

The president asked students to consider the pain of others: what would their parents or siblings feel if awakened with obscenities and personal attacks? To be sure, Schapiro allowed, students may not have known that “pigs” was a slur against Jews as well as police, but it was nevertheless hurtful and “unacceptable.” Although he was careful not to call the students anti-Semitic, replies have presumed he did. “They didn’t read all that carefully,” Schapiro later said.

You’ll never believe what happened next: Schapiro was publicly denounced by 90 Jewish faculty, students, alumni and others for, get this, anti-blackness. Here was the Jewish president of the university, suffering blatant anti-Semitism by a black mob and its allies — and 90 Jews found fault with him. Here’s a link to the letter they wrote to the campus newspaper, in which they proclaimed that “White Jews are still largely protected by our Whiteness.”

Read the whole Mosaic piece. You can read it for free if you’ll sign up. It’s worth it. That’s a great magazine.

What to make of this? The self-hatred of progressive white people is boundless. It truly is. If they could, they would set themselves on fire to rid themselves of their guilt and shame over being white. It is really important, though, to understand where this death wish comes from. These passages from Live Not By Lieswill help:

It’s possible to miss the onslaught of totalitarianism, precisely because we have a misunderstanding of how its power works. In 1951, poet and literary critic Czesław Miłosz, exiled to the West from his native Poland as an anti- communist people misunderstand the nature of communism because they think of it only in terms of “might and coercion.”

“That is wrong,” he wrote. “There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.”

In The Captive Mind, Miłosz said that communist ideology filled a void that had opened in the lives of early twentieth-century intellectuals, most of whom had ceased to believe in religion.

Today’s left-wing totalitarianism once again appeals to an internal hunger, specifically the hunger for a just society, one that vindicates and liberates the historical victims of oppression. It masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of “victims” to bring about “social justice.”

The contemporary cult of social justice identifies members of certain social groups as victimizers, as scapegoats, and calls for their suppression as a matter of righteousness. In this way, the so-called social justice warriors, (aka SJWs), who started out as liberals animated by an urgent compassion, end by abandoning authentic liberalism and embracing an aggressive and punitive politics that resembles Bolshevism, as the Soviet style of communism was first called.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the cultural critic René Girard prophetically warned: “The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition.”

This is what the survivors of communism are saying to us: liberalism’s admirable care for the weak and marginalized is fast turning into a monstrous ideology that, if it is not stopped, will transform liberal democracy into a softer, therapeutic form of totalitarianism.


Why are people so willing to believe demonstrable lies? The desperation alienated people have for a story that helps them make sense of their lives and tells them what to do explains it. For a man desperate to believe, totalitarian ideology is more precious than life itself.

“He may even be willing to help in his own prosecution and frame his own death sentence if only his status as a member of the movement is not touched,” Arendt wrote. Indeed, the files of the 1930s Stalinist show trials are full of false confessions by devout communists who were prepared to die rather than admit that communism was a lie.

Totalitarianism’s most dedicated servants are often idealists, at least at first. [Holocaust survivor Helen] Margolius Kovály testifies that she and her husband embraced communism at first precisely because it was so idealistic. It gave those who had walked out of hell a vision of paradise in which they could believe.

Ever read Darkness At Noon? The Arthur Koestler novel about Stalinism. I wrote about it last year here.  This is a quote from Ivanov, one of the Stalinist torturers.

There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community — which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb.

The Ninety Self-Hating Jews Of Northwestern have forsaken the ethical heritage of the Hebrew Bible and gone over to the other side. They’re trying to bring down Morton Schapiro, but he’s standing firm. We all need to applaud those — especially liberals like Schapiro — who will not surrender to this moral blackmail. This might well be the thing that red-pills him on wokeness.

Say, readers, I have started a Substack newsletter on the side, so I can have a place for a different kind of writing than what you see here on my blog. I explain it in more detail on my first post there. I’m not going to post any less here, but the Daily Dreher newsletter will feature a more diary-like take on the days events, and will have more personal religious reflections, which, as I have explained before in this space, I don’t feel quite right sharing on this blog. I invite you to read the first post and sign up — it’s free, and you’ll get an e-mail once a day from me with material you haven’t seen on this blog. If you don’t like it, just drop it. But I think a lot of you will.

UPDATE: Changed the title to remove the phrase “self-hating Jews.” I find it loathsome that these 90 Jews are attacking Morton Schapiro, in part on grounds of his Jewishness. But I understand that the phrase is problematic for a Gentile to use, so I will withdraw it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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