Inquisition, Ineptitude, Ideology

These are the three big categories under which you will find repression of free speech on the contemporary American college campus. Let’s glance at each one:

1. Inquisition: Way-Christian schools are always alerting us that “Academic freedom is not sacrosanct. […] It too must submit to God in a Christian college,” so shut the fuck up.

2. Ineptitude: Drop-out factories like Chicago State University are the academic equivalent of North Korea because they’ve got an insane amount of corruption and fuckupery to keep quiet.

3. Ideology: One-party states like Sarah Lawrence and Reed College do not take kindly to conservative professors… or, in the case of Reed, to liberal professors.

In a delicious historical irony, elites all over Europe are having conniption fits about burqa and niqab bans, while…

… Muslim countries are falling all over themselves to ban exactly those garments. Algeria’s already banned them in the workplace; Egypt’s on its way to a more comprehensive ban.

What is striking … is that scholars at al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni authority in Egypt, back banning the niqab. While al-Azhar supports the hijab, it said the full-face veil is a step too far.

One of the most outspoken critics of the niqab is Amina Nasir, a member of parliament and a professor of philosophy at al-Azhar University. She described the full-face veil as a threat to national security.

“The full-face veils have nothing to do with the Islamic religion at all,” Nasir said. “It even contradicts some of the verses of the Holy Quran.”

“[B]ecause he has the soul of a moralist—his grandfather was the progressive leader Henry Wallace, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third vice president—and because Trump has a tepid approval rating of 42 percent in this normally Republican district, a strong anti-Trump closing message gives him a decent shot at becoming the fourth Democrat in history to serve the district that encompasses Bucks County.”

UD‘s old friend Scott Wallace, in The Atlantic.

She has written about him here. And here.

UD’s First Political Endorsement.

UD‘s old friend Scott Wallace suddenly has the edge (according to one poll – scroll down) in the contest for Pennsylvania’s First District. If you happen to be voting in that district, she’d like a word.

For over a decade, Scott was one of UD‘s closest friends (they’ve drifted apart over the years). Basically Scott had it all – in abundance – and UD was at the beginning of their friendship wary that he might be a snob, obnoxious, ostentatious… hyper-rich person stuff. He was tall and handsome and a multimillionaire and well-connected and he lived in a cool modern house (photographs of his grandfather – Roosevelt’s Vice-President, Henry Wallace – hung in the hallways) in one of DC’s best neighborhoods. His parents lived in a Georgetown mansion.

Scott turned out to be kind, unpretentious, serious, and morally engaged. He was the best of Washington: Informed, passionate about improving people’s lives, tireless in his commitment to good works.


Unlike a lot of DC denizens, Scott was also an aesthete, with astoundingly impressive musical gifts. Like his mother, Scott played concert-level piano (his son has inherited this skill); to hear him play on the grand in his living room was a huge delight.

I remember lots of great dinners at his house, followed by charades; I remember travel together to local beaches and overseas. There were always long arguments about the politics of the day.

Scott was mild-mannered, generous, curious, funny. I think by nature he is rather quiet, rather observant. Not a natural back-slapper, like Joe Biden. But like Biden he radiates decency and modesty. He shares Biden’s political orientation; he is a natural democrat.


More than once, I saw him be tight with a penny. His wealth is primarily for distribution to a suffering world. I rarely saw him spend much of it, except on a room in his basement full of electronic music technology. (His extended family is also musical: One of his brothers, a composer, bought Glen Tonche and turned it into a famous recording studio.)


Anyway. I see that I’ve written a character sketch more than a political endorsement. But – put aside our president – character matters.



‘Khosla is a member of the board of trustees of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley.’

Vinod Khosla’s Wikipedia page still says he’s a trustee of a very high-profile outfit committed to fighting global poverty; but in fact his name disappeared from this page not long ago; and UD‘s thinking it’s maybe cuz a filthy rich stinker who goes all the way to the Supreme Court to keep people off a public beach is … not a good look for the Blum Center…

I’m seeing public presentations to the globally poor in which representatives from the Blum Center say Our trustees include a billionaire who has never spent a night at his colossal coastal property in California and in fact doesn’t like the beach but decided he wanted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars clearing out the place, posting armed guards, and pressing his case to keep doing that up to the Supreme Court. We feel your pain.

‘We hope this will give people—especially those who believe in liberalism, progress, modernity, open inquiry, and social justice—a clear reason to look at the identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left and say, “No, I will not go along with that. You do not speak for me.”’

Well, good luck with that; your Grievance Studies hoax (aka Daughter of Sokal), just now disclosed, will get plenty of attention, etc.

It might even help people understand how scandals like Avital Ronell happen.

But although the hoaxes keep coming, and although America’s best minds – Richard Rorty, for one – have for decades warned us about the deadly combination of hypertheory and political correctness —

When one of today’s academic leftists says that some topic has been ‘inadequately theorized,’ you can be pretty certain that he or she is going to drag in either philosophy of language, or Lacanian psychoanalysis, or some neo-Marxist version of economic determinism. Theorists of the Left think that dissolving political agents into plays of differential subjectivity, or political initiatives into pursuits of Lacan’s impossible object of desire, helps to subvert the established order. Such subversion, they say, is accomplished by ‘problematizing familiar concepts.’

Recent attempts to subvert social institutions by problematizing concepts have produced a few very good books. They have also produced many thousands of books which represent scholastic philosophizing at its worst. The authors of these purportedly ‘subversive’ books honestly believe that they are serving human liberty. But it is almost impossible to clamber back down from their books to a level of abstraction on which one might discuss the merits of a law, a treaty, a candidate, or a political strategy. Even though what these authors ‘theorize’ is often something very concrete and near at hand – a current TV show, a media celebrity, a recent scandal – they offer the most abstract and barren explanations imaginable.

— no one seems able to find their way out of the fog.

Excellent example of a non-story.

[T]he woman paid the fine, removed her full-face cover and walked away.

Which is the way burqa bans are working all over Europe. Wear a burqa, remove the burqa, pay a fine for having worn the burqa. This woman didn’t know about the ban. Now she knows about it. End of story.

Wanna make something of it? Wanna spend your personal fortune paying the fines of all the women who wear burqas so they can continue to wear burqas? No problem. Go ahead.

Wanna trash your incredibly hard-won freedoms by wearing burqas in street demonstrations, in some twisted gesture of affiliation with erased women? Okay.

Meanwhile countries across the world are issuing calm directives to their citizens not to wear the burqa in most European countries. People are calmly removing the burqa. Civil existence, often called upon to defend itself, defends itself. Life goes on.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Now that a major Israeli tech company has boycotted El Al — “We don’t do business with companies that discriminate.” — the airline has released a statement that they will do things differently. They won’t hold up their flights for hours as they negotiate with ultra orthodox men who refuse to sit next to women. In fact, “from now on, a passenger who refuses to sit next to another passenger will be immediately removed from the flight.”

To which UD says, take a look at Israel’s national education mandate. The same ultra orthodox refuse to follow it, and Israel lets them refuse to follow it, but the country still refers to its national education mandate. So El Al can make all the announcements it wants, but they’re as scared of the ultra orthodox as everyone else in Israel, and will in practice continue to give in to their disgusting behavior on their planes.


Why? Put yourself on the plane, okay? Twenty ultra orthodox men – in collective protest against one of their group having been seated next to a woman – are standing in the middle aisle and refusing to sit down. A couple of them have wrapped cellophane all over their bodies because the plane will be flying over cemeteries.

Everyone else on the plane, as it sits forever on the tarmac, is creeped out and angry.

“Okay, new policy!” says a steward. “The guy refusing to sit next to a woman will now be immediately removed from the flight.”

Screaming ensues from the men in the aisle, who continue to refuse to move.

What’s El Al’s policy on passengers who refuse to sit down? Do you think they’re going to make all of these guys get off the plane?


The problem in Israel, and on its planes, is that the ultra orthodox can be violent. Hardliners among them are pretty routinely violent. I don’t think El Al wants pitched battles on its planes. I don’t think it wants the interiors of its planes trashed.

There will be more and more boycotts until – you knew this was coming – El Al lays on ultra orthodox only planes.


We have followed the El Al situation on this blog for a long time. Just put El Al Israel in my search engine.

As the national witch hunt finds its …

witches, Mia Farrow, alluding to her most famous film, comes up with the very best meme of all.

— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) August 21, 2018


‘What could be more dehumanising than the niqab and the burqa?’

Polly Toynbee:

[A Muslim spokesman] accused [Boris] Johnson of “dehumanising Muslim women.” That was a step too far. What could be more dehumanising than the niqab and the burqa? Hiding a woman dehumanises her completely, turning a person into an anonymous thing.

On visits to Afghanistan I have been shocked to see how contemptuously women in burqas are treated in the street, often shoved aside by men as obstacles in the way. The burqa doesn’t give women more respect, but less.

… Religions have always branded their identities by restrictions on women. Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others all set out with extreme rules proclaiming a disgust of unclean women’s bodies, with ritualised baths, head-shaving, denying abortion and contraception, arranged marriages, purdah, churching of new mothers, and barring women from priesthoods. Inside extreme cults and sects, abuse of women is almost inevitable.


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:

I do not think hijabs and niqabs should hereafter be proscribed or inadmissible subjects in conversations. Some reactionary Muslim organisations are using Borisgate to expand and strengthen their influence. They say outlandish stuff and are not challenged.

[S]carves, cloaks and masks symbolise the negation of the female form, female inferiority and menace, and most troublingly, a wilful distancing from other humans in the public space.

… [We Muslims need to] abandon regressive customs and integrate for the greater good and our survival. With the hard right marching again across Europe, Muslims face an existential threat. This is no time for cultural and religious obstinacy.


Maladroitly, offensively, Boris Johnson has opened a door. Honest people are now speaking honestly about the appalling burqa.


In Britain we want bad boy Boris
To wash his mouth out with Lavoris.
His latest mazurka,
“Hommage a la Burqa,”
Has given the whole country tsuris.

“[H]is words are getting far more attention than they deserve.”

A British/Iranian woman writes the most sensible of the millions of words already written about Boris Johnson having compared women in burqas to letter boxes and bank robbers. UD made the same point she’s making – about the greater wisdom of ignoring his words – in this post.

Shappi Khorsandi writes:

Every part of the burqa/letterbox furore is about political warfare. Johnson knew exactly how to rattle the left and it’s working. Now we are calling Rowan Atkinson a “racist”…

The comedian is now denounced as racist because he pointed out that Johnson was attempting to be funny. And, yes, attempting to be offensive. Atkinson: “All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them.” And remember: All of this was in the context of Johnson agreeing with people on the left that there should be no burqa ban.

As the denunciations and investigations and apology-demands escalate, sensible and humane people, like Khorsandi, will direct us to what we should be thinking about:

Today, in Iran, women are risking their liberty by publicly taking off their hijabs in protests against the forced covering. Shaparak Shajarizadeh was handed a two-year sentence for protesting in Iran against the hijab. She was released on bail in April and has now apparently left the country as exile is preferable to living in a country where speaking your mind leads to arrest.

I wish those who are now calling Rowan Atkinson a “racist” left and right on social media would show more solidarity and generate more publicity for women like Shaparak.

Let the ridiculous Boris Johnson dustup have the effect of directing our attention where it belongs: To the millions of women in countries all over the world suffocating under the veil.


In other words: These are the words that deserve our attention — written by the late great Christopher Hitchens.

[W]e have no assurance that Muslim women put on the burqa or don the veil as a matter of their own choice. A huge amount of evidence goes the other way. Mothers, wives, and daughters have been threatened with acid in the face, or honor-killing, or vicious beating, if they do not adopt the humiliating outer clothing that is mandated by their menfolk. This is why, in many Muslim societies, such as Tunisia and Turkey, the shrouded look is illegal in government buildings, schools, and universities. Why should Europeans and Americans, seeking perhaps to accommodate Muslim immigrants, adopt the standard only of the most backward and primitive Muslim states? The burqa and the veil, surely, are the most aggressive sign of a refusal to integrate or accommodate.

Boris’s No Apologies Tour

As UD always says, when it comes to the burqa, don’t go there.

If you’re one of the few remaining countries in Europe that don’t ban it – if you’re England – and you don’t want it to be banned (“you” here is your political establishment), do not make an issue of it. Because making an issue of the burqa will immediately uncover the fact that significant majorities in your country would like it banned.

Making an issue of it will encourage citizens to look at neighboring countries, where orderly and effective bans have been implemented.

If you keep it quiet, if you don’t talk about it, the burqa will be an irritant; it will be intimidating; it will be an upsetting sign of the erasure of women within a culture that thinks of itself as liberal and egalitarian… it will be many things, but it will not be front and center, because there are other things to think about.

If on the other hand you allow the provocative language of Boris Johnson, who wrote a recent opinion piece saying juvenile things about burqas, to provoke you, then you’ve fallen into a very bad trap. Your loud and insistent offense-taking will accomplish one thing: It will move efforts to ban the burqa in your country forward.


The irony of course is that along with his juvenile remarks Johnson came out against a burqa ban; but rather than quietly count him among their (childish) allies, the anti-banners have reviled him as an enemy of all right-thinking people and demanded an apology, a shunning, a banishment, blah blah.

And see what happens when you do that? When you make a big deal of the burqa? When you hurl ridicule of it out of polite society?

The Burka Looks Ridiculous,
and Those Who Defend it Do
Muslim Women Like Me No Favours

headlines a Telegraph article in which Suad Farah responds to Johnson not with rage and condemnation, but with gratitude for his having brought the burqa to commentary-central:

[T]he growth of young women wearing it in the UK is concerning, and it’s something we all need to talk about.

Oh right – even though all anti-banners begin all of their articles by noting the absurdly, vanishingly, small number of women who wear the burqa, their numbers are actually growing, aren’t they… I forgot about that…

This naive notion that, if we just leave the burqa alone, a natural evolution toward democratic values will occur among burqa-wearers, reminds UD of poor David Ben-Gurion’s confident prediction “that the ultra-Orthodox community of Israel would slowly disappear…, melding into the assertively modern Zionist project. The opposite … has happened.”


[T]he temperature around this issue is rising and if anything the debate has to go far deeper. There are plenty of people who are very angry about these issues and that could have been mitigated if there had been more public debate.


The burqa is an obvious symbolic and real burden on free societies, and if you let the burden sit quietly and simply bother you occasionally, you can ignore it for a long time. If, on the other hand, you let provocateurs like Boris Johnson force you into language that suggests you’re fine with erased women on your streets, I promise you all hell’s gonna break loose, and you’re going to find yourself with a ban before you know it.

The more honest route, since burqa bans, UD believes, are the wave of the future all over Europe (and all over Canada), the route that doesn’t exhibit bad faith, is simply to state what you quite legitimately believe and act on it: The woman-erasing burqa is a bridge too far for any self-respecting democracy. Ban it.



New York Moves a Step Closer to Securing a Growing Minority of Unemployable Anti-Democratic Religious Fanatics.

If you like what the haredim have done to Israel, you’ll love the latest piece of education legislation out of New York.

A yeshiva advocacy group had sued to stop New York State from implementing the so-called “Felder amendment,” an 11th hour deal to appease a state senator who was holding up the budget…

Critics are focusing their ire at Brooklyn state senator Simcha Felder, who threw the state budget negotiations into chaos and held up passage until he got an amendment to lower the bar on the amount of secular education required for yeshiva students.

… Young Advocates For Fair Education [has] has waged an intense battle to make sure that yeshivas give their students instruction in English, math and other state-mandated subjects.

It’s that old “mandate” again, ain’t it? We’ve got mandates; Israel’s got mandates. But how can they be mandates when the ultraorthodox aren’t mandated to mandate them?

The vast majority of my friends in chasidic yeshiva … still have never even heard the words algebra, atom, or biology… I have heard of no graduates from my chasidic school who have enrolled in college. In fact, the vast majority of chasidic yeshiva graduates do not even obtain a high school diploma…


And think of the goodies civil society gets in return: Permanent profound welfare dependency. Large numbers of unemployables. A significant minority that thinks the laws of liberal democracies don’t apply to them. Indeed, that barely recognizes the state except as a source of funds.

Your tax dollars at work.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE