Friday, October 19, 2007

A different Nobel prize-winner: Doris Lessing on political correctness

Her early Leftism seems to have morphed into clear-sightedness with the benefit of experience -- as so often happens. Lubos Motl comments below:

Doris Lessing, the winner of the 2007 Nobel prize for literature, has been described as an epicist of the female experience. You might think that she is just another colorless feminist, the kind of literary foam that has been awarded many recent awards. That would be highly inaccurate, to say the least.The New York Times re-published her op-ed from 1992, the last year when her writing was readable, according to the newspaper. She describes political correctness as the most obvious legacy of communism that hasn't yet been eliminated. Language is the first aspect to see this fact: both spiritual frameworks like to fill pages with mind-deadening jargon that lacks any content.

Those of us who have lived through communism can surely recognize a few clich‚s such as the "interpenetration of opposites", a universal principle of Marxist dialectics. ;-) Lessing argues that many Western journalists have been writing in a purely Marxist style without realizing it. Needless to say, many more journalists and sociologists are doing so today.

Another part of the communist or politically correct writing is that the journalists assume that every writer (or everyone) should be doing the same thing - when they ask "What should writers do...?" A popular universal clich‚ from the Marxist discourse is "commitment" and its newer variation, "raising consciousness". Lessing uses exactly these words. It just happens that the IPCC and Al Gore have received a Nobel prize for "raising consciousness" yesterday. Only Lessing and a small percentage of enlightened readers of the New York Times realize that these are Marxist mind-deadening, propagandist pseudoideas.

Al Gore should get a proper thrashing rather than an award for these methods.

"Raising consciousness", "political correctness", and "commitments" are continuations of the old bully, namely the communist party line, she explains - even though this is certainly not a new revolutionary discovery for your humble correspondent. ;-)

Lessing argues that most of the contemporary literary critics are Marxists as well. A typical aspect of their attitude is their opinion that a novel must be "about something". So they always invent one topic that your novel is "all about": the Palestinian problem, or AIDS, or something else. This is a way of thinking directly inherited from socialist realism where novels had a clear goal in the scheme of propaganda. A story written for the sake of storytelling is a "reactionary" concept. ;-)

Lessing speculated that "political correctness" was born exactly when "communism" was dying because the emitted communist methods of thinking and controlling the society were simply absorbed by different people, often without admitting it. She argues that arts are incompatible with these rigid frameworks and with witch hunts because they are always unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be uncomfortable (or, using modern adjectives, inconvenient).


Leftist discomfort with the facts again

Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

Does "affirmative action" work? Its proponents don't want to know, Fox News reports:
An explosive study that suggests it does not is pitting the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights against the State Bar of California in a battle over admissions data that could determine once and for all if racial preferences help or hurt minority students.

"Currently only about one in three African-Americans who goes to an American law school passes the bar on the first attempt and a majority never become lawyers at all," says UCLA law professor Richard Sander.

In an article published in the Stanford Law Review, Sander and his research team concluded several thousand would-be black lawyers either dropped out of law school or failed to pass the bar because of affirmative action.

Known as the "mismatch" effect, Sander claims students who are unprepared and whose academic credentials are below the median are admitted to law schools they are unqualified to attend. If those same students instead were to go to less elite or competitive schools, more would graduate, pass the bar and become lawyers.

"This is a serious issue and we need to see more research in the area of mismatch," argues Gail Heriot, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "What we need now is more cooperation from the California Bar" Association.
But the Bar is refusing to turn over the data it has collected "over the last three decades on student test scores, law school admissions, academic performance and bar passage rates":
Law Professor Vikram Amar at UC Davis believes the Bar rejected Sander's request because the study is "controversial," examining the huge disparities in bar passage among different racial groups attending the same law school. Law schools do not disclose attrition, graduation and bar passage rates to minorities admitted through preferences and have opposed pressure to do so.
As a constitutional matter, race discrimination is supposed to be subjected to "strict scrutiny," but advocates of racial preferences demand that they be subject to no scrutiny at all. If these actions are so "affirmative," why not put them to the test of social science?

Genocide? What Genocide?

Critics are right that Congress has no business weighing in on historical controversies. But there is no controversy here

By Mark Krikorian (who is of Armenian ancestry)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and Turkey is in a tizzy. A few thoughts.

First of all, it is simply inarguable that the Ottoman Empire tried to eradicate the Armenian people under the cover of World War I. Despite the Turkish government's efforts to purchase a different historical narrative (by, for instance, using government funds to endow chairs in Turkish Studies at American universities), genocide denial is finding an increasingly small audience. As the International Association of Genocide Scholars has put it, "to deny its factual and moral reality as genocide is not to engage in scholarship but in propaganda."

But that, of course, doesn't give House members much direction in considering whether to vote for the actual resolution that will soon reach the House floor. It wouldn't matter much one way or the other if Congress were voting on whether to condemn the Mongols' extermination of 90 percent of Persia's population in the 13th century, for instance, because that doesn't have much political saliency. But, for whatever reason, the modern Turkish Republic has adopted a monomaniacal position of genocide denial, similar to the ChiComs' insistence on the fiction of "One China," or the Greeks' obsession with FYROM, or the Arabs' demand that we pretend Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel. This is despite the fact that the genocide was the policy of a long-defunct state and its architects were actually condemned to death in absentia by Turkish military courts specifically for committing the genocide. The smart thing would be to simply acknowledge the crimes of the ancien regime, and move on.

Nonetheless, Turkey will brook no argument. Simply asserting the existence of the Armenian Genocide there is a criminal offense, and just yesterday two Turkish-Armenian journalists were convicted on such charges, including the son of another journalist murdered earlier this year for asserting the reality of the genocide.

As a result of the House committee vote, Turkey has temporarily recalled its ambassador and Washington fears that if the genocide measure passes the full House, Turkey will limit our use of an air base in southern Turkey used to supply troops in Iraq. They may well make good on their threat, though the Turkish government's pique is likely to be short-lived, since they need us more than we need them. And we've coped just fine with earlier efforts at Turkish obstruction of our efforts in Iraq; in 2003, Turkey refused to allow U.S. troops to pass through on their way to overthrow Saddam. What's more, Turkey is moving toward sending its own troops to invade Kurdistan, the only part of Iraq that isn't at war, in order to flush out separatist guerrillas.

The context for Turkey's reaction to the House resolution is the fact that Turks are the most anti-American people on Earth. A 47-nation Pew survey earlier this year showed that ordinary Turks had the least favorable view of the United States, more negative than even the Palestinians or Pakistanis. Mein Kampf is a bestseller there, and the luridly anti-American and anti-Semitic film Valley of the Wolves - Iraq drew record audiences and thumbs-ups from Turkey's political leadership. The Turkish people's deep-seated hatred of America obviously wouldn't get any better because of passage of the genocide resolution, but it couldn't get any worse.

Back home, it's particularly amusing to see opposition to the genocide resolution from those who want to use American foreign policy to promote human rights abroad. If you're going to stick your nose in other people's business, and tell Burma's junta how to behave, and pass judgment on every nation's commitment to religious freedom, etc., this is what you're going to be stuck with. In other words, once you start moving along the spectrum toward foreign-policy Idealism, don't be surprised when this sort of thing happens.

If there's any real problem with the genocide resolution it's precisely that it feeds into an excessively idealist view of foreign policy. While its many findings are largely restatements of facts in the public record, its "Declaration of Policy" states that "The House of Representatives - (1) calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution." Our foreign policy is already reflects inordinate "sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights" - we hardly need more of it.

None of this would have happened if subsequent presidents had simply followed Ronald Reagan's lead in commemorating the Armenian Genocide along with the Holocaust, without lots of specific "findings," without declarations of policy, without even mentioning Turkey or the Ottomans. Our policy toward modern Turkey should have nothing whatsoever to do with acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. But caving to Turkish pressure never to use "Armenian" and "genocide" in the same sentence is what has given the current resolution its impetus.

Critics are right that Congress has no business weighing in on historical controversies. But there is no controversy here. This isn't even a matter of the polite fictions necessary to international diplomacy. Denying the Armenian Genocide is simply a lie, and a lie propagated at the behest of a foreign power. It's unworthy of us.


Foolish hysteria about "racism"

Anti-racist students and staff at Columbia University's Teachers College were outraged last week about a hangman's noose on a black professor's office door, and protested it as a "hate crime." They also lambasted the climate on campus as "racist," chanting, "No diversity, no university!" One sign declared: "Protest Racist Lynch Rope Provocation."

Madonna Constantine, the professor, who's an expert on race, racial identity and multiculturalism, was catapulted to instant fame. She was interviewed on TV news shows because she would "not be silenced" or cowed by the noose - a racist badge of intimidation directed at the black community. Although she was warned in advance by an eagle-eyed colleague about the noose and did not happen upon it when entering her office, Constantine was nonetheless shocked, hurt and, she says, "embarrassed" by it.

I've never found a noose on my office door, but if I had, I would have handled it differently - and not because it wouldn't have been a startling discovery. Had someone told me in advance about such a thing on my door, I would have told them to toss it where it belongs, in the trash. Had I come upon it on my own, I would have done the tossing myself. Symbols don't scare me. And they should not, in this day and age, frighten or intimidate any black person, much less an expert on race and racial identity.

Had I been a professor at Teachers College, I would have recoiled at, rather than encouraged, the taunts in headlines about how my elite university was "Poison Ivy." However one rates Columbia, it is not a racist institution, and New York City is not a remnant of the Old South, where mobs ruled and strung up blacks on a whim, where blacks had no protection in law, much less were feted on an Ivy League campus.

So, as a black American, I must dissent from the surge of racial histrionics and hysteria over the discovery of a hangman's noose at one of our campuses. I must dissent from the hard and fast conclusion about the incident as a "hate crime," even before the investigation is complete. And I must question the motivations of those who've rushed to the judgment that this was not an isolated incident or even a prank by a malcontent or just an ordinary despicable individual. As a New Yorker, I resent the stain of racism against my city and against one of the finest universities in our nation, even if the university officials can't defend their reputations for fear of offending angry blacks.

Indeed, if there is any racism on that campus, it does not take the form of mobs full of hate carrying ropes. It is the kind of racism that takes the form of paternalism directed at black students and black faculty - the attitude that blacks are fragile and need special protections from the foul deeds of social misfits.

We blacks have gotten too soft and too sensitive over symbolic speech - burning crosses, the "n" word and the hangman's noose. We are too quick to label a school "racist" and inhospitable because blacks are "only" 12 percent of the student body. I more resent blacks who band with "anti-racist" whites to support hate speech codes and to cut off controversial speakers on campus than I could ever resent "offensive" speech from students or faculty who contend blacks have been quota-ed in and are beneficiaries of a double standard in admissions to Ivy League campuses.

That's because I am a race expert, and I know better. I know the truth about preferential treatment and the real history of lynchings in America - where blacks, for no other crime than being visible and vocal, were strung up, beaten, bombed and torched. What-ever happened on Columbia's campus was no such hate crime, regardless of what the rope symbolizes.

It may shock the university officials, but blacks by and large are not impressed, much less reassured, when a college president - as did Teachers College's Susan Furhman - pledges racial tribute in the form of "more scholarships" and renewed efforts at diversity. Recruiting and retaining minority group students and staff are legitimate efforts in their own right, but illegitimate as a means for buying racial peace.

When will Columbia learn its lesson? What chances are there that it will ever learn not to overreact to overblown racial rhetoric when, in the face of challenges to its core values, even its race experts deem every hostile word or symbolic expression of ignorance as prima facie evidence of a culture and climate of racism fit for either censorship or punishment?

We blacks don't need any special protections or double standards of justice. And surely we can do without foolish comparisons of racist antics today on a liberal campus with that of an era when wanton racist violence directed against blacks was unbridled, and when American blacks, according to the law, had no rights to any, much less equal, protection of the laws.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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