This episode, illustrating academia’s familiar compound of vanity, mendacity and cowardice, was not startling. It followed the University of California Press, which was displeased with Israel’s response to Hamas’s rockets, proclaiming “Solidarity and Support for Palestinians in their Fight for Liberation.” And a Brandeis University dean, who is White, notifying the world, which had not sought her opinion, that “all White people are racist.”
In California, indoctrinators posing as educators say that insisting on “getting the right answer” perpetuates the fiction of “objectivity” and “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom.” The U.S. Education Department urges school districts to use some of the $200 billion covid-19 relief funds for “antiracist therapy for White educators.” A Madison, Wis., high school invites parents to participate in a segregated discussion of “police brutality and violence,” one Zoom link for White parents, one for “Parents of Color.”
What starts on campus does not stay there. The flag of Black Lives Matter, a political movement unenthusiastic about the nation, is given privileged status to fly at U.S. embassies. And so on, and on, and on.
A glimmer of good news is that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has ruled unconstitutional the provision of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund’s that grants racial preferences to minority-owned small restaurants. The bad news, which is more discouraging than the good news is encouraging, is that this provision was enacted 153 years after ratification of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. As “equity” eclipses equality as the Democratic Party’s aspiration, the infantilization of minorities as permanent wards of government has become the policy of the party of “caring.”
The unceasing torrent of political proclamations from people whose politics are not germane to their vocations raises a question. Why do people who have nothing intelligent to say insist on proving this? The urgent question, however, is whether the ideologies of the speakers, and the sensitivities of their anticipated auditors, have produced a new etiquette: Politeness is understood as genuflection at approved political altars. Today, verifiable truth is just one option among many, with a standing inferior to any ideological agenda that the truth inconveniences.
Last month, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor deliberately misquoted — actually, expurgated — one of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s opinions. In her opinion for the court in an immigration case, she quoted from a 1987 Marshall opinion in which he referred to the rights of an “alien,” the term used in the statute at issue. She replaced this word with “noncitizen,” in brackets. It has become impermissible in journalism to refer to someone who is residing indefinitely in the country illegally as an illegal immigrant. Journalism, however, is written on water, so such curtsies to current fashion do not matter as much as historical documents do. When the highest court begins prettifying yesterday’s opinions to conform to today’s ideological delicacies, the question becomes: When will today’s pandemic of nonsense stop?
Perhaps when the nation is rescued by the human capacity for boredom. In 1982, the sociologist and philosopher Robert Nisbet wrote:
“Many an evil dogma, doctrine, or other intellectual continuity has in the end been undone, not by assault, but by boredom on the part of its victims. A secret weapon against the Soviet Union and the Marx-Leninist creed is the stupefying boredom that this creed induces in the minds of the second and third generations brought up under it.”
Because today’s dogmas are amplified by ubiquitous media, their life spans from birth to boring can perhaps be compressed into a few years rather than generations. Tedium is the result when the nation is hectored by shrill claims that something (formerly, capitalism and the class struggle; today, “systemic racism”) explains why everything is dreadful. The bores, tuned out by their intended audience, might become akin to audible wallpaper — there, but no longer noticed. Bores will, however, always have the consolation of tenure.