Hate and Fear Are Now Major Motivators on Campus

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Almost every university in North America has committed to what is called “social justice,” which is the implementation of identity politics through the mechanisms of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Identity politics divides everyone into one of two categories: evil oppressor or innocent victim.

Through official mandatory policies, universities have transformed academic culture from a quest to discover truth about the world and its beings, to the indoctrination of identity politics and enforcement of “social justice” policies.

As Armin Rosen puts it, higher education is “a system that has transformed itself over the past three decades into a vast federally funded cartel that has shunted aside tradition academic occupations of teaching and research in favor of bureaucratic thought-policing and ideology indoctrination.”

In practice, this means the adoption of identity ideology to the exclusion and suppression of other views. An elaborate bureaucracy of “diversity and inclusion” officers are charged with policing thought, speech, and action.

Activists, and those who support them, encourage active hate against their alleged oppressors: males, whites, Christians and Jews, heterosexuals, and cis-normal individuals. How do we know this? Three ways: First, the vehement rejection of any criticism of or counter-argument to their neo-sexist/racist/bigoted ideological positions, and complete unwillingness to entertain any alternative position to their narratives. Second, the immediate use of the most hateful rhetoric imaginable to designate anyone challenging their position. Third, their immediate and unrestrained demands that the challenger be severely punished and preferably destroyed. Let us take these in order.

In response to any opinion contrary to their own, these activists do not offer counterarguments and contrary evidence. They do not claim that the facts are wrong or the position is untrue. No, they reject the opinion on identity grounds, saying that the challenge denies their existence as people, and that it makes them feel unsafe. Or just that it denies the truth of their sacred narrative, and that the complainant is therefore a heretic, any of whose words must be rejected.

Of thousands of possible examples, let us begin with physicist Alessandro Strumia who was associated with the Counseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), which managed the Large Hadron Collider. According to Strumia’s account “Why Discussing Gender and STEM is So Dangerous,” around 2015, CERN began importing identity politics and established a diversity office and gender quotas. Strumia published in 2019 “a bibliometric publication … using the InSpire database about papers and authors in fundamental physics worldwide from 1970 to now. Checks with bibliometric data showed no bias in hires against female researchers in fundamental physics.” This quantitative data was presented in a talk that Strumia gave at CERN in 2018 in the “1st workshop on high energy theory and gender.”

The immediate result was that CERN suspended Strumia, saying “everyone is welcome regardless of beliefs,” but investigated whether he had broken internal rules, which include “obligation to exercise reserve and tact” and “reserve in expressing personal opinions.” CERN also erased Strumia’s data slides, audio, and video. While much comment was supportive, some politicians demanded that Strumia be fired, and some newspapers called Strumia “sexist” for mentioning differences in the interests of women and men. Activists continue to discuss on social media how to get Strumia fired. A group of mostly American physicists started “Particles for Justice” to attack Strumia, claiming not only that he had attacked women in physics, but was “belittling the ability and legitimacy of scientists of color,” although Strumia had not spoken about race.

There was no substantive challenge to Strumia’s data, just offense at his conclusions. His attackers were acting not out of reasoned disagreement, but out of emotion: hate. So the “Particles for Justice” took the next step of calling him hateful names, labeling him as “sexist” and “racist.” And then they took the third step of calling for his cancellation, for Strumia to be fired from his job. Strumia’s experience was similar to that of at least hundreds of academics who refused to support identity politics.

My own experience was similar to that of many other academics. Eight student organizations—the Students’ Society of McGill University executive team, the Anthropology Students Association, the Anthropology Graduate Students Association, the World Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies Association, the Black Students Network, the Muslim Students Association, Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, and the Thaqalayn Muslim Association—signed a public letter condemning material I had published on violence in the Middle East and on public issues of the day, which they characterized as “racist and Islamophobic dialogues,” although neither race nor Islam were ever mentioned in the article cited.

While criticizing my publications, at no point did these student critics claim that my assertions are untrue, nor did they make counterarguments or present contradictory evidence. In other words, the student critics made no academic response; rather, they began with an ideological position that they regarded as inviolate, and moved to crush anyone who disagrees. And so they moved on to the third phase, cancellation, in which they “demand the removal of Professor Philip Carl Salzman’s Emeritus status. To ensure lasting change we, furthermore, demand an immediate, transparent, and student-centred overhaul of McGill’s Statement of Academic Freedom, enshrining the University’s commitment to inclusivity in teaching and research in policy.”

The response on campus to this identity-fueled mob hate and its manifestation in attacks, condemnations, and cancellations is fear. Students fear bad grades if they do not repeat identity politics talking points, and they fear social isolation if they are attacked as enemies of “social justice.” Professors fear both students and administrators, especially the “diversity and inclusion” officials whose job it is to weed out dissenters for re-education, punishment, and exile.

Self-censorship by college students is well documented in multiple surveys. A survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reported that 83 percent engaged in self-censorship. Hyper-leftist Inside Higher Ed takes these results as evidence of free speech and diversity: “If by self-censorship we mean that someone ever feels reluctant to speak, then self-censorship is an inevitable condition in any free society, and in any free university. The surveys revealing self-censorship among students provide no definitive evidence of repression—in fact, they may actually show strong levels of free speech and diversity on campuses.” Uh-huh.

Many professors who have been under fire for not bowing to the “truths” of identity politics, such as Alessandro Strumia, report that some colleagues express support in private, but are afraid to go public. Anonymous supporting articles and letters reflect the fear of repercussions. The officially touted “diversity” systematically excludes diversity of opinion, and everyone on campus knows it. The great majority, fearing for their careers, jobs, and futures, stay silent. One tenured associate of mine refused to sign a letter in support of academic freedom, on the grounds that I had signed it, and he wanted to avoid being seen as supporting me against the student attacks.

How far our colleges and universities have come! From open fellowships of research inquiry and intellectual exchange, they have become seminaries of true believers and doctrine enforcers. Identity politics has divided students, professors, and administrators into warring sexes, races, sexualities, genders, ethnicities, and ablenesses, and mandated hate between them. Admission and success, once based on academic achievement, merit, and potential, is now based on one’s sex, race, sexuality, etc., and one’s devotion to the identity politics “social justice” narrative. We have regressed from Enlightenment openness back to a Medieval religious order.

Hate and Fear Are Now Major Motivators on Campus

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Philip Carl Salzman

Philip Carl Salzman served as professor of anthropology at McGill University from 1968 to 2018. He is the author of Culture and Conflict in the Middle East; the founding chair of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; the founding editor of Nomadic Peoples; and the author of Black Tents of Baluchistan; Pastoralism: Equality, Hierarchy, and the State; Thinking Anthropologically, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East; and Understanding Culture.

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