March 4th, 2024
The Empty Canvas

If you don’t have anything nice to say, Barnard College tells its students, don’t say anything at all.

New policy: NOTHING may be displayed on your dorm door. NOTHING. Onaccounta you might say something that upsets someone. We’re thinking lately of Palestine, but into the future we can think of lots of other shit. Maybe you’re Iranian and you dare express some negative thoughts about the hijab. Maybe you’re antiabortion, and you put the phone number of adoption agencies on your door. Hey, maybe you even oppose American support for the war in Ukraine. Maybe you think women should carry guns.

All of these and more are guaranteed to piss off some of the people who walk by your dorm door – not to mention some of our donors – so shut the fuck up.

February 16th, 2024
‘Then, shalt thou ban three books. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt ban, and the number of the banning shall be three. Four shalt thou not ban, nor either ban thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.’

Governor DeSantis makes his banning announcement.

Video of his remarks.

December 10th, 2023
‘[F]or many on the right, the careful, evasive answers from three college presidents at Tuesday’s hearing — Ms. Magill, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — were in stark contrast to those institutions’ long indulgence of left-wing sensitivities around race and gender.’

You don’t gotta be on the right, babe.

“The same administrators now cloaking themselves in the mantle of free speech have been all too willing to censor all kinds of unpopular stuff on their campuses,” said [one observer]. “It is such utter hypocrisy.”


UD‘s favorite example.

December 8th, 2023
It’s what UD has long called The Michael Dukakis Problem.

U Penn’s president is probably about to announce her resignation, and Harvard’s doesn’t look too secure either, after what everyone’s calling their “disastrous” congressional testimony. What’d they do wrong?

Same thing that sank Dukakis: Lack of emotion when emotion is clearly called for. A reporter asked Dukakis, a death penalty opponent, about whether he thought his wife being raped and murdered would affect his thinking on the penalty.

“No, I don’t, and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.” Perhaps there is validity in the criticism many directed toward [the questioner,] accusing him of injecting an unfair scenario into a policy discussion. Regardless, all I know is that when I heard Dukasis’ words, my brain red flagged, and my heart sank. For the candidate, in his response, came across as robotic, uncaring, and devoid of emotion. That night Dukakis’ poll numbers dropped from 49% to 42%.

On that fateful evening the candidate spoke only with his brain, and he completely disregarded his heart. This catastrophe would have been avoided had he said something like: “Barnard, I would want to murder, to torture, to rip from limb to limb anyone who even dared to hurt my wife or child. But, you see, with all of my heart, I want laws to protect me from the worst of me.”

The presidents need not have said something so vehement; but they needed to communicate their fundamental humanity, their capacity as sensitive human beings to be appalled by the cruelty of (in this instance) anti-semitism, and for whatever reason they didn’t go there. They waxed bureaucratic. Terrible mistake.

August 24th, 2022
The Kid Stays in the Picture!

It was touch and go there for awhile, but Anne Frank – it has just been announced – has passed the notoriously rigorous admissions standards of the Keller Texas Independent School District public library, and will be allowed to return to its shelves.

Some parents had complained that Frank’s hiding out in Amsterdam and then dying in a concentration camp was pornographic and had no place in a young person’s library, but, after removing the book, the library’s Review Committee came down with the judgment that, although end-stage emaciation from typhus in Bergen-Belsen is certainly in questionable taste, well, chacun à son goût!

February 7th, 2022
Every now and then, there’s a cosmic convergence, when a lot of the things you love appear together at the same time, same place.

Such as this 2015 event at the University of Chicago, which wee UD only just discovered.

Let me frame my remarks by recalling this comment from Christopher Hitchens:

When the Washington Post telephoned me at home on Valentine’s Day 1989 to ask my opinion about the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwah, I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression.

One of the heroes of free expression I’ve found through writing this blog is Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the U of C. I’ve had two occasions to feature him, one when he defended Laura Kipnis against silly Northwestern, and another when he shared an email exchange he had with American Nazi Richard Spencer. Stone is a wise calm rational defender of pretty much unfettered free expression, and he introduced the guest speaker on my cosmic convergence youtube, which – I dunno – already the combination of Stone and the U of C – a school which welcomed wee UD generously and lovingly for her graduate education – had UD warm and runny…

This is from Stone’s introductory remarks:

We the people acting individually … get to decide what we think when we think it. We do not allow a government or a university or a corporation or a religion to make those choices for us. That’s the essence of what it means to be free.

Stone goes on to introduce the U of C undergraduate who unwittingly set in motion a big event at the school. Eve Zuckerman, president of the school’s French club, wanted to invite heroic free speech advocate Zineb El Rhazoui to speak to the club. But getting a person living under five thousand fatwas to the United States ain’t exactly a matter of paying for a flight from Paris. Zuckerman ended up needing serious help (help which was happily provided) from lots of French and American government and security officials, some of whom ended up attending El Rhazoui’s talk. So that’s impressive and heartening.

Yet more impressive was the tough, articulate (in her fourth language), non-negotiable defense of free speech and free thought launched by El Rhazoui, who has been particularly visible in the French media lately because of the notorious “dolls without faces” documentary which features the apparently Muslim-radicalized French city of Roubaix.

It’s funny how these dolls, on sale at a toy store there, have taken on a powerful symbolic life across France — I guess because they’re a simple, very graphic evocation of the social reality whereby some Muslim children are trained up very early indeed in a sense of their nothingness, their invisibility. Veiling is hardly scandalous, even to a six-year-old, if you’ve always understood yourself to be without even a face.

Anyway, there it all was: The University of Chicago, Stone, El Rhazoui. What a pleasure.


UPDATE: The president of UD‘s George Washington University might want to watch the Stone/El Rhazoui youtube.

December 4th, 2021
Zemmour You Look, Zemmour You See.

Or aren’t allowed to see.

La vidéo – in which far-rightist Eric Zemmour announces his presidential candidacy to the French people – is burning up the airwaves; not only does the New Yorker give it a good once-over (“one of the most bizarre videos ever offered by a would-be leader to his nation”), but theocrat Adrian Vermeule has risen to its defense as Youtube slaps an age-restriction on it.

The age-restriction is the bizarre thing; the NYer writer is wrong that the video itself is bizarre. It’s a soppy chauvinistic rendering of La France, familiar from scads of such renderings from hyper-nationalist movements around the world. There’s no dead-in-the-water patriotic trope the video doesn’t use, re-use, and then re-use one more time. The only thing mildly unusual about it is the French sourcing. France used to be so secure in its cultural superiority that it didn’t have to sink to self-pleasuring.

October 23rd, 2021
‘Dr. van der Hilst has managed to throw red meat to the reactionary right wing, curtail academic discussion, tarnish the reputation of M.I.T. and shortchange the students and faculty he is supposed to serve.’

Nice summary. UD keeps thinking that, with each meat toss, universities will wise up and stop suppressing speech. But things are getting worse. Every week, administrators pitch another porterhouse at reactionaries. How utterly fucking stupid.


‘We are back to the age of Galileo’s inquisitors.

October 16th, 2021
‘College students shouldn’t need protection from an old film used to help them think about and debate the conversion of a classic over time. Sheng was using the film to stir and inform artistic consciousness. To read that situation otherwise is deeply anti-intellectual.’

‘[T]he current fashion [is] a performance, a kind of, yes, virtue signaling… Upon what authority are [Bright Sheng’s denouncers] allowed such primacy of influence in how we speak, think and teach in our times?’

June 23rd, 2021
Fuck Yeah!

Brandi wins big.

October 28th, 2020
‘Independent MP Yassin Ayari summed up this exasperation on Facebook, writing that “to despise the culture of others is not freedom of expression.”‘

Actually, yes it is. Even hate speech is protected in the United States, a country which models freedom of expression for the world. As an American, I’m free to say that I despise the culture that continues to thrive in, say, the camps full of ISIS members being held in Syria. No one gets to hush me and advise me that it’s an illegitimate form of expression to despise sex slavery, the full body veiling of eight year old girls, routine beheadings.

An extreme example? We would all condemn such a culture?

Well, but then you don’t actually believe the expressed loathing of a particular culture is out of bounds.

August 14th, 2020
‘He is also one of eight children born unto Ronald and Beatrice Seal Presgraves.’

For unto us a child is born! Folks in Luray, Virginia, where at exactly this time last year UD celebrated her birthday, do tend to be a bit old-fashioned… Here you’ve got their good ol’ boy mayor Barry Presgraves not only using a way-Biblical verbal formulation, but also chuckling online about how Joe Biden’s VP is gonna be “Aunt Jemima .” HAW!

Well people all over noticed and afirst he jest chuckled more and said he thought twas funny and ain’t racist onaccounta he ate them pancakes all time grow’n up. Then MORE people noticed and the town of Luray started to worry it’d get all shit-listed and it’s a tourist town, see (gateway to Shenandoah National Park, Luray Caverns… ) so a lot of locals said they’d appreciate it if ol’ Barry resigned but hell no he said I ain’t gonna resign nothin wrong with calling all black women Aunt Jemima hell I wouldn’t mind if yall called me Mr Deliverance...

But well now see now Barry begins to understand that he’s fucked up the town real good by making all of us think it’s racist because of what its highest profile citizen said, plus pressure is really growing on him to get his ass out of the municipal building, so now he’s doing the lord I’m really sorry I mean it I’m sorry and I’ve grown and learned from this experience thing.


Nice summary of a recent town council meeting here, where some of the locals explained that calling people racist is just the sort of thing evil fascist socialists do, while some of the locals called for ol’ Barry to resign. “Luray has a black eye right now. You did that. TKO, boom, you knocked us out. You put us on the map,” said one woman, with absolute accuracy.

I mean, take Les UDs. We find ourselves in Luray couple times a year because it’s one of the only places with good restaurants down the hill from the national park, where we like to hike in the day and sit out under the perseids at night. Now that we know the mayor of the town’s a nasty racist, we’re liable to go elsewhere for our meals.

Will he resign? UD thinks eventually he will. It’ll just take more time cuz ol’ Barry’s real, real, slow.

July 22nd, 2020

A young Tunisian woman is sentenced to six months in jail because she retweeted a covid health advisory which uses religious calligraphy.

July 15th, 2020
“Offense Archeology” is the kind of lovely new phrase that almost makes our latest wave of witch hunts worth it.

OA involves, as this afternoon’s target writes, “trolling through tweets and through statements [of prominent people] seeking to find evidence—however tortured—that there are signs of prejudice behind them.” Prominent Steven Pinker (yeah, he’s a linguist; but for me what matters is that he is among the highest-profile and most articulate of atheists) is in the process of being unpersoned because of his awful awful awfulness; though curiously, given his awesome awfulness, almost no one who signed on to the cretinous screed unpersoning him is willing to talk about it. Or even admit, in a number of cases, to having actually signed on. Self-cancel culture!

The origin of the letter remains a mystery. Of 10 signers contacted by The Times, only one hinted that she knew the identity of the authors. Many of the linguists proved shy about talking, and since the letter first surfaced on Twitter on July 3, several prominent linguists have said their names had been included without their knowledge.

Several department chairs in linguistics and philosophy signed the letter, including Professor Barry Smith of the University at Buffalo and Professor Lisa Davidson of New York University. Professor Smith did not return calls and an email and Professor Davidson declined to comment when The Times reached out.

Hit and run, baby. Hit and…. RUNNNNNNN!!



… one of the most progressive publications out there. All decent progressives are right to be enraged; mindless promiscuous attacks on the moral integrity of one’s betters do great damage to liberalism. The purulence of this group of academics in fact makes liberalism stupid and disgusting, which makes the world safe for the reelection of Trump.

July 25th, 2019
президентская печать
славный царь!!!


Origin story.

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