A Quote from Campusland

While I’m waiting for my dental appointment, here’s a great quote from Campusland. A progressive activist explains why you always have to make unreasonable, over-the-top demands:

“To advance progressive causes,” someone said.

“Yes! But how?”

“By defeating our enemies!” someone else shouted.

“Wrong. Precisely wrong. You don’t want to defeat them. We want to lose—strategically.”

“That makes no sense,” came a reply.

“Let me put it differently. The price of any successful attack is a constructive alternative. Alinsky said that. Alinsky. Think about it. What happens if you make demands and the other side says yes? That’s the moment you have been bought and paid for. They own your ass. That’s why any demands should always be unreasonably high—impossible to comply with. Never give the enemy something they can say yes to… Why do you think the Palestinians don’t have a state? Everyone since Jimmy Carter has offered them one, but they just move the goalposts. Why? Because the moment the struggle succeeds is the moment it ceases to exist, and that is when you lose all power. True power lies in the permanent revolution. Arafat knew that. Castro knew that. If you’re fighting the establishment, you can’t become the establishment. “This is why demands must always be unreasonable. Just as importantly, your outrage must be diffuse, impossible to pin down with specifics.”

A very good novel, folks. And the writing is as non-postmodern as is humanly possible. Do read it.

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Jilting

An article in the NYTimes today is titled:

Why Are Democrats Jilting G.O.P. Voters Who Want to Like Them?

Forget about GOP voters. Why are Democrats trying so hard to ditch many of their own voters? The other day, I spoke with a lifelong Democrat who says she decided – with great sadness and even shock – to vote for Trump. This is somebody who drove me nuts in 2016 with her incessant bellyaching about Bernie’s primary loss to Hillary, so she was never what you’d call a centrist. Still votes straight-ticket Democrat in all local elections. What’s the point of scaring off people like her?

The Glitch

So Ronan Farrow said Hillary and NBC tried to kill his Weinstein story. Once again, where are the metooing pussyhatters, screaming, marching and clawing the doors?

Chris Hayes, at least, had the decency to say yesterday on his show that NBC stinks. Good for him. Where’s everybody else? Ronan Farrow was the liberal mega darling until 5 minutes ago. Does anybody think he’s lying? Or what’s the glitch?

More importantly, if Hillary is capable of something this vile and dishonest, doesn’t it follow that it’s possible that the Russia collusion thing was another dishonest thing she engineered? Is anybody going to have the guts to change their mind on that?

Booker Disappoints

I have no words. The Booker committee skipped two novels of transcendent literary genius on its shortlist and gave the award to Atwood’s TV-series sequel* and to an intersectional lady with a novel about Brexit-wounded polyamorous non-binary social media influencers of color. No, for real.

The first time in years that the Booker shortlist actually has serious literature, and they go and do this. Obviously, the two genius novels still remain in existence, so this isn’t anything tragic. It’s extremely disappointing, though, that no area of life is to be free of “the intersections of identity centering voices we often see othered.” How do you see voices, by the way? Oh, who cares. As long as it’s ideologically appropriate, nobody cares.

*Anybody who feels tempted to inform me that Handmaid’s Tale was a novel first is officially an idiot.

Rainbows and Business

At my sister’s business conference, the keynote speaker was a transwoman. She said, “If you want to do something for LGBT rights, I can give you a list of suggestions. First of all, put a rainbow flag on all your social media and tweet out your support as often as possible.”

Everybody dutifully scribbled this in their notebooks.

“No!” the speaker said. “That’s actually a horrible idea. Everybody is doing it and it’s completely useless. It’s empty virtue-signalling. Don’t do it!”

I wasn’t there but I applaud this speaker from a distance. Waving a rainbow flag 30 years ago was brave. Now it’s fashionable. Stop using gay or trans people as marketing tools. Want to do something, then do it. Stop trying to get PR by making empty gestures.

I have a class in a minute but I have a specific example on empty gestures I’ll post later.

Book Notes: Campusland by Scott Johnston

This novel is a satire of wokesterism at Yale, my alma mater. The author is an alumnus, so he knows the campus, the architecture, the weather, the traditions, everything. Anybody who’s been to Yale will chuckle nostalgically when they read this description of the Art & Architecture building, for example:

The building’s Stalinist slabs of rectilinear concrete, set here among Gothic and Georgian masterpieces, assaulted the eye. Naturally, that was the point… The concrete was cold and would sweat in the warmer months, giving off a dank, musty smell no countermeasures could ever fix. It was an angry, perspiring fortress.

I lived right across the road from the perspiring fortress the whole time I was at Yale, and the description is spot on.

The depictions of the crazy wokesterism that is convulsing academia are really great, too. That’s not surprising, though, because the material is so rich that the novel practically writes itself. The Mattress Girl, the Halloween protests, the “Dear Colleague” letter – you don’t need to invent anything.

What’s interesting, though, is that this accidental novelist managed something that tends to elude male writers in late middle age. He actually created a believable teenage female protagonist.

Few things are more awkward and unconvincing than portrayals of teenage girls by older male writers. Tom Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons, one of the worst books I have ever read, is a great example. The reason why older men are so bad at depicting teenage girls is that for these authors the #1 quality of such a character is her extreme vulnerability. Teenagers, though, are physiologically incapable of seeing themselves as vulnerable even when they actually are. They think they are invincible and exercise notoriously poor judgement as a result. We all know this but male writers seem to enter into “protective Grandpa” mode once they hit 50 and start describing teenage girls as scared little flowers cowering with terror in their bedrooms.

Johnston is not a professional writer, so he somehow avoided this curse. His 19-year-old female protagonist is actually believable. And it’s very refreshing finally to read something so realistic.

There’s also a really interesting moment in the novel that doesn’t get developed a whole lot but I found it very important. An old, jaded Yale [called Devon in the novel] professor tells a young, idealistic colleague:

“Most of us are just dialing it in, you know. One of the best-kept secrets in the world is how easy this job is, not to mention how overpaid we are to do it… The bubble is so comfortable that no one wants to talk about how it’s going to pop. Eph, I tell you, there’s a tidal wave coming for higher ed, and it’s going to take out a lot of schools. Excuse the mixed metaphor.”

“But you don’t think that could happen here, do you?”

“Oh, Devon will survive. It has the brand. And the money. Devon will be here when the sun cools. But it will slowly lose relevance.”

This is what I strongly believe. We are pissing away the really great gig we’ve got going, and it will be our own fault when it blows.

It’s a very enjoyable novel. Not high art, obviously, but definitely fun, extremely funny, very easy to read, the ridiculing of the rich, spoiled “victims of systemic oppression” is deeply enjoyable.

Highly recommended to people with a sense of humor.