Derb: Are You Ready for Waxgate?

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  1. il ragno Proud American Deplorable

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    Two Minutes Hate at U. Penn
    By John Derbyshire
    September 8, 2017

    In my August 18th podcast I reported on the flap over two law professors promoting bourgeois values in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed August 9th. Reactions to that op-ed rippled down through the end of the month.

    Professor Amy Wax, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, has been the main target of hostile commentary. The other author of the op-ed, Prof. Lawrence Alexander of the University of San Diego, seems to be getting off lightly. Perhaps the west coast is still waiting for the Pony Express to deliver that August 9th edition of the Inquirer.

    Here's a fuller account of the reactions to that Wax-Alexander op-ed.

    • On August 14th, the Monday following weekend ructions in Charlottesville, Va., the U. Penn school newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, ran an op-ed by law professor Theodore Ruger.

    Prof. Ruger condemned, quote, "the neo-Nazi, KKK and other white supremacist groups that demonstrated in Charlottesville," but not the antifa anarchists who attacked them, nor the city and state authorities who ordered the police to stand by and allow the attacks, nor the mainstream media who placed sole blame for the violence on the original (i.e. before the antifa showed up), entirely peaceful demonstrators.

    He mentioned the Wax-Alexander op-ed of the previous week, and spoke up for freedom of speech, including even "noxious" speech. He then sent up a 100,000-lumens virtue-signaling flare:

    Blood-drinking headhunters, Viking marauders, Polynesian cannibalism and infanticide, slave societies, Afghan dancing boys, mid-20th-century Anglo-Protestant bourgeois culture, Norway or North Korea… It's all the same to Prof. Ruger.

    • Three days later something called the IDEAL Council, "representing marginalized graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania," published an open letter with a list of eight demands for the college administration.

    Sample demand: "A policy in place to ensure that tenured faculty with a record of discrimination do not sit on hiring, tenure, or student admissions committees." Since Prof. Wax is tenured, they can't get her fired, but they may be able to get her barred from any administrative decision-making.

    The IDEAL letter spotted the connection between Prof. Wax and the Charlottesville disturbances.

    Prior to teaching at Penn, Wax was a professor at the University of Virginia Law School. On August 12th, White supremacists marched through the University of Virginia carrying torches …

    Ha! You see? Prof. Wax must be allied to the marchers because she used to teach at the place where they marched! Isn't it obvious?

    • On August 20th five U. Penn law professors contributed an op-ed to the Daily Pennsylvanian accusing Profs. Wax and Alexander of promoting "a distorted version of American history."

    Wax and Alexander had done no such thing, making dutiful mention of "racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism" in the 1950s, but then arguing that "banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture." The position of the five critics is basically: "Oh yes it does!"

    • As dishonest and wrong-headed as that was, it at least made sense. The following day the Daily Pennsylvanian ran another op-ed, this one from a group of 54 "Penn alumni and current students," that was raw untreated po-mo sociobabble. It called for the college administration "to directly confront Wax and Alexander's op-ed as racist and white supremacist discourse and to push for an investigation into Wax's advocacy for white supremacy."

    The thing itself is mostly incoherent, but it's worth going there to read the comments, which are withering. Sample: "Wow, bet this sounded even better in the original Chinese, circa 1966."

    As several commenters noted, a remarkably high proportion of the 54 signers there are from the college's Anthropology Department. It's depressing to recall that anthropology once had claims to be a serious science.

    Now things are taking a sinister turn. Professor Wax can't be summarily fired because she has tenure. She can, though, be barred from teaching some or even all of her classes; and students can be encouraged, possibly even bribed, to report or invent offensive behavior on Prof. Wax's part. Given that the phrase "offensive behavior" on today's campuses can include well-nigh any behavior at all other than sitting dead still and silent in a chair with a paper bag over your head, Prof. Wax could find herself fighting off lawyers.

    You can see the naked totalitarian fist in plain view in an open letter by 33 Penn Law faculty members published this week. Sample:



    Translation: Come and tell us about any microaggressions Prof. Wax committed against you. We'll see that she pays a price for them.

    The same day, this past Wednesday, U. Penn Law School's Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild accused the lady of committing, quote, "an explicit and implicit endorsement of white supremacy," end quote, and asked whether it is, quote, "appropriate" for her to continue teaching her first-year course.

    Again the threat, the naked totalitarianism. Also crappy written English. If the endorsement is explicit, what need to say it's also implicit? That's like saying: "I'm going to punch you in the head, but I'm also going to drop a hint that maybe I might punch you in the head."

    As Heather Mac Donald pointed out in one of the excellent pieces about this that she's been posting at National Review Online, Amy Wax is one of the couple of hundred smartest people in the U.S.A.

    Prof. Wax actually started out aiming for a medical career, in pursuit of which she studied molecular biology at Yale, graduating summa cum laude. She got her M.D. from Harvard Medical School, cum laude with distinction, specialty neuroscience.

    Then she switched to law, getting her J.D. from Columbia University, serving as an editor at at the Columbia Law Review. She went from there to assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, arguing many cases before the Supreme Court.

    Reading Prof. Wax's résumé leaves you feeling breathless. That a person of this extraordinary caliber is being harried and insulted by fools, poseurs, and malicious malcontents gibbering their infantile cant about being "targeted" and "marginalized," is a sad — very sad, very depressing — commentary on the depths to which our academic culture has sunk.

    It would be nice to think that the administration of U. Penn. will take a firm line against these threats; but our college administrators have not distinguished themselves by firmess of spine these past few years, to state the matter very mildly indeed. Probably they'll cave to the witch-hunters and Prof. Wax will lose some of her classes or end up defending herself in a lawsuit against a battery of Barack Obama-style Social Justice attorneys.

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and argue that the campaign against Professor Amy Wax at U. Penn. may end up as a net plus for race realism.

    Here's my argument.

    The original Wax-Alexander op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer was perfectly culturist, with not a hint of race realism. (Likewise, by the way, Heather Mac Donald's defenses of it.) All the social outcomes under discussion were caused by culture, culture, culture — this wonderful all-explanatory thing called culture.

    That didn't do the authors a bit of good; they're being called "bigots" and "white supremacists" anyway. If not for the fact that Prof. Wax is Jewish, I have no doubt she'd have been called a "Nazi" by now. Perhaps she has been and I just missed it.

    After a couple more episodes like this, some other Amy Wax or Larry Alexander or Heather Mac Donald — some credentialed adult with access to mainstream outlets, perhaps one of those actual names — will figure he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and serve the cause of Truth.

    If you're anyway going to be called a "white supremacist" and have your windows broken, you may as well drop the culturist flim-flam and go straight to race realism.

    At this point everyone outside the crazy white left — the baizuo — everyone with half a brain knows that there are innate, intractable statistical differences between the races in behavior, intelligence, and personality: big differences between black Africans and the out-of-Africa races, smaller differences among those races.

    Pretending not to know that is just a social courtesy practiced to avoid hurting the feelings of persons too dimwitted to grasp sophisticated statistical concepts like "average" and "variation."

    Or possibly, in the case of gentle souls like Prof. Wax and Ms. Mac Donald (I've had no personal acquaintance with Prof. Alexander), it's a case of knowing but not knowing that you know. This is a phenomenon familiar to anyone acquainted with neuroscience: google "blindsight."

    Persons with blindsight can see things, but don't know that they're seeing them. They can navigate across a room, avoiding the furniture; but if you ask them, they'll tell you they can't see a thing. Their eyes are working and getting data to the motor control centers of the brain, but it's not being passed on to the conscious executive centers.

    Whatever: If the social price of race realism is no higher than the price for mild culturism like that of Wax and Alexander — if every position not straight-ticket Cultural Marxism is Nazi — well, heck, you may as well say out loud what every sane person knows, at some level, to be true.*

    Sooner or later all this careful culturist side-stepping, and this see-no-biology, hear-no-biology, speak-no-biology in commentary on social issues — sooner or later someone of authority and status is going to say the hell with it, let's talk honestly about the race differences we all know are contributing to some of our social problems.

    Professor Wax, in fact, with her background in microbiology and neuroscience, might just be the person to do it.


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