Category Archives: Academic Freedom

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.

Charles Bowden

What do you say, at age 61, as I am rubbernecking the constant superficial, seedy, consumer-caked world now as someone considered a major failure – a few dozens jobs, mostly sacked from, and a few dozen careers, and, I am slogging away at a homeless shelter trying to save myself from the constrictor of capitalism, that strangulating system that gets us all complicit in the crime, making us all little Eichmann’s in this murder incorporated killing, complicit in the hyper exploitation of man, woman, child, ecosystem?

Consumerism as a psychological wedge to allow for the synchronized event horizon of finance-government-surveillance-media-military to work on the masses as a suffocating fog pumped out across the globe by an elite bent on total dominance.

We can jump onto the global stage and see the battering truth:

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’).

Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, New York Times from April 12. 2018: Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

The reality is, though, most of the revolutionaries like myself in this cesspool of capitalism have to slog ahead in the belly of the beast, without the rarefied air of being an international journalist like Andre Vltchek. The reality is most of us know that when 11 million babies under age two die of treatable maladies each year, or when bodies are shot through and extremities are shattered by the sadism that is the Gestapo-Apartheid “state/religion” of Israel, we push through the fog of rapacious consumerism and consort with our deep empathy for our brothers and sisters under the thumb of despotic regimes like USA, Russia, Israel, China, India, et al.

Because, now, no matter the level of melanin in a collective people’s skin or the desperation of the people, the globe has been infected by a virus called Capitalism-Finance-Unfettered Exploitation.

Exploitation is a pretty tame word for what I am hinting at: destruction, annihilation, extinction. As is the case with me, a rant percolates from the bowels of the commonness of my life, the microcosm of traveling from point A to point B. What happens in Vegas happens in New York City. What unfolds in little town USA is unfolding in San Fran.

Whatever it is, here I was, back in Arizona, first Phoenix, the cancer, the cancer, and then up to Flagstaff, oh that place before white man invasion sacred healing cloud island peaks. Arizona, as I’ve written extensively, is where I cut my teeth as a small town newspaper reporter, learned directly the value of radical conservation, became a brother in arms for Chicanoism, tried my hand at diving and helping bring across refugees of the proxy wars of USA in Guatemala, etc.

I’ve written poetically about the place – here and there, and have inserted the value of those formative years into almost everything I’ve written, taught, done in my 48 years since coming to Arizona young, 13:

Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War – (September 4th, 2013) or page 12, Cirque

But this most recent trip, a weekend, I went to celebrate my 22-year-old niece’s matriculation, with bachelor of science degree, from Northern Arizona University. The old days when I was young, 19, and a journalist, and then, activist, like quicksilver in my brain, taking over not only my senses, but memory. Many of us saw the writing on the wall 40 and 50 years ago – this barely inhabitable place (a place of migration for Papago and other indigenous people’s), with a blitzkrieg of outsiders plowing the desert and eventually corralling the Colorado River into brackish canals to feed the malls and mayhem of winter baseball leagues and out of control military complex tax cheats. Three state universities, and then this new cheater, University of Phoenix . . . headquarters for the bizarre U-Haul . . . dry mothball arenas for the USA’s killing flying machines. Odd as hell place, with the likes of Edward Abbey running amok. I hear now Noam Chomsky is visiting prof at U of A in Tucson.

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

I kind of think of Charles Bowden from time to time, who was a reporter and novelist living in Tucson and covering the Southwest and northern Mexico. When I go into the desert, after looking at some shell of a rag that we now call daily newspapers, I feel this guy’s haunting – now dead going on four years:

When he got a hold of a story, he wouldn’t let it go, said former Citizen copy editor Judy Carlock. He had a very generous heart and a lot of compassion … he didn’t mince words.

The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty.

He was compelled to work; he had to write … in vivid imagery and concrete detail, Carlock said. Every Monday morning, the (Citizen) city desk would come in to find a long, brilliant masterpiece they had to find room for in the paper.

He lived at full tilt, fueled on caffeine and nicotine, said Carlock. Bowden had stopped smoking about two years ago, Carroll said, and was lifting weights, working on that second wind in his life.

He was no saint, but he was true to himself, said Carlock. I think he secretly relished being thought of as a rogue.

This amazing ecosystem, with syncopated Native American tribes and amazing Mexican communities turned into a wheezing series of six-lane freeways and spiraling communities for the infirm, the emphysemic and the insane.

It’s really difficult to find a place to start.  Sedona and the vortices? Flagstaff, from one-horse town to bedroom (climatically cooler but fire prone) to Phoenix? The 365 days a year fire pit danger, as heat comes earlier, rain disappears quicker, and the landscape is peppered with suburbia’s faux Mexican-Italian-Spanish-Greek designs as the ubiquitous 20-mile caravans of cars and trucks push the hot tunnel of air which is Arizona?

As a former newspaperman, I am compelled to read the dwindling local news anywhere I go, even five and dime advertising things, or corny local monthlies, and so just a few minutes with the Arizona Republic show me where the mass delusion, mass magical thinking and mass ignorance get set in. But, compelling, the stories slugs or ledes:

• Border Patrol punk who murdered 16 year old for throwing rocks, and the jury convicting him of involuntary manslaughter gets hung

• Animal abuse claims against the Havasupal Tribe’s section of the Grand Canyon – you know, animal lovers saying the pack animals used to ferry the tourists into the Canyon are treated like shit (abused) . . . . oh those do-gooders, just how many of them are animal-free product users . . . how many of them know how every stitch of clothing, every chemical smeared in their lives, every product of the modern age are placed in their realm with millions of rats, mice, dogs, and apes murdered for that consumer entitlement . . . ?

• PK12 teachers on the march for wage increases, class size reductions, more counselors, more money for staff and support personnel . . . and yet many of these Arizona scallywags want them to eat shit

• Flagstaff keeping homeless people from living – camping – on public property through ordinances from hell

• A great female representative from the state wanting dreamer children – undocumented – out of the Copper State, more of the same Trump et al giving children the boot while Trump’s monster wife calls for no more bullying

• God in the classroom, a civics literacy bill, more report cards for schools (to fail them so the charter schools get more easy pickings), and this drive for charter (for- profit, hedge-fund lined) schools to take from the public coffers and teach absolute shit

• More gigantic housing developments planned in the Sonora desert without any water delivery plans, without any water!

• Raytheon Missile Systems breaks ground on an expansion of its Tucson facility – 2,000 more Little Eichmann’s added to the already large 10,000 workers designing, testing, manufacturing and delivering via Amazon dot Com killing systems to include Tomahawk missiles and this new Stormbreaker small diameter bomb

• Mexican-American female columnist for the Arizona Republic newspaper bashing the possibility of socialist former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador making it as president of Mexico . . . “he’s a Hugo Chavez-style authoritarian tropical messiah who would turn Mexico into another Venezuela”

• The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community building lavish baseball stadiums for professional teams like the Diamondbacks

• HBO plans to debut John McCain documentary on Memorial Day – “John McCain; For Whom the Bell Tolls”

• soda or sugar taxes outlawed in the state
• non-English contracts will be voided in all insurance transactions, and beyond

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

Oh the compounding blasphemy. If this were a thematic essay, well, here are the components:

• Wanton excess in the state, with brand new, freshly washed expensive SUV’s, power cars, pick-up trucks

• Endless strip mall after strip mall and faux Spanish colonial kitsch and after faux Hacienda kitsch which propels the dribbling consumerism of 24/7 Superstore Grand Openings

• Zero tribute to the peoples of the real Arizona – Chemehuevi, Chiricahua, Cocopa, or Xawitt Kwñchawaay, Dilzhe’e, Apache, Havasupai, or Havasuw `Baaja, Hopi, Hualapai, or Hwal `Baaja, Maricopa, or Piipaash, Mohave, or Hamakhava (also spelled Mojave), Navajo, or Diné, Southern Paiute, Akimel O’odham, formerly Pima, Quechan, or Yuma, San Carlos Apache, Nné – Coyotero, or Western Apaches, Tewa, Tohono O’odham, formerly Papago, Southern Ute, White Mountain Apache, Ndé – Coyotero or Western Apaches, Xalychidom, or Halchidhoma, Yaqui people, Yavapai, or Kwevkepaya, Wipukepa, Tolkepaya, and Yavepé (four separate groups), Zuni, or A:shiwi

• Redneck clashing with wimpy liberal clashing with snowbird clashing with old Mafia clashing with Hispanic-Latino/a clashing with senior citizen Trump lover clashing with new money clashing with the Raytheon mentality clashing with the endless cancer spur that is Arizona

• My old stomping grounds, now despoiled by in-ground pools, putrid man-made lakes, endless track homes like carcinoma, endless twisting cul-de-sacs where minds end up mushed up in mojito-ville

• Hatred, man, the Trump way, McCain way, Goldwater, putrid former Maricopa County Sheriff and Minutemen militias on the border, and the Gestapo Border Patrol and the rot which is a state in the union emblematic of red state loafers and the hard-working people like those teachers

• A college, NAU, broken by a president who cheats faculty and luxuriates in the money thrown her way and the attention the local yokels give her

• Students fighting this female NAU president Rita Cheng who wants cuts to all sorts of important programs (in the liberal arts) so she can court those wanton criminal corporations and alt-right Koch Brothers

• The graduation I went to was embarrassing, dead, nothing in the way of speakers, controlled by this president, and was ten times more lackluster than a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday meeting

• Peter Principle of incompetents rising, as in the case of Rita Cheng and thousands of movers and shakers (sic) that run the state

• The inarticulate middle and upper classes of society exemplified in Arizona

• A state with more sun per year with nary a solar panel in sight

• The rotten belief that infinite growth, infinite in-migration, infinite giveaways to the corporate leeches will lead to prosperity

• The Caucasian and other Whitey people’s insipid Trader Joe’s-Dutch Brothers-Bed, Bath and Beyond systematic lobotomizing of the masses

• Sprayed-on lawns and Astroturf backyards scattered around the desiccating real lawns throughout the entire Phoenix and Tucson metroplexes

• Daily reminder of the old adage of “who the fuck thought white people and their poodles settling in Arizona made any sense”

• Like anywhere else, Arizona has no worthy newspaper of note anymore, and the news is not to be seen in the light of day

I’ve always said, that one slice of life is a microcosm, that splice onto one of the big fat four-hour reels of 70 mm movie film depicting the universality in the absurdity of being Homo Sapiens under the thumb of money changers, militaries and grand exploiters. Example: One shit-hole sugar cane fucker and his sibling (Fanjul Brothers) and his fucking family destroying the lives of thousands of slaves, upsetting the natural world, and sending the sweet sting of death to millions. One fucking family owning billions of dollars and billions of people and draining the Everglades. Something along those lines – just look at history of rubber, gold, oil, wood, fruit, minerals, raw labor, animals.

This arithmetic is as clear as the day is long, in a world where this time, the so-called now time, is bereft of no logic, no ethics, no depth of knowledge, no truth except the rubbery huckster kind. While NAU had zero commencement speakers for all five graduation sequences, we now have to read about a world of Rex Tillerson — that son of a bitch lying, thieving, fossil fuel thug — now at a graduation for a military institute (what the fuck are we still living in a world of military academies – sic).

You can’t make this shit up in a work of fiction:

In a commencement speech at Virginia Military Institute, the camera-shy former secretary of state gave his most public remarks since President Donald Trump ousted him from the White House in March.

“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”

Tillerson’s emphasis on integrity echoed his parting words to colleagues at the State Department in March. Then he went even further:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Tillerson’s time in Trump administration was marked by tension. He reportedly called the president a “moron” eight months before he was fired and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But the oil industry veteran has yet to directly criticize Trump. His speech, which began with a discussion on the globalized economy and stressed “the value of friends and allies,” is the closest he has come to attacking Trump’s rhetoric and “America First” policy.

This from the moronic Huffington Post. Alternative realities, sure, Mister Exxon. The reality of propping up dictators, of hiring murderers to take over land, of stealing oil from any number of countries, and the complete environmental despoilment created by the great Exxon-Shell-Chevron-You-Name-It soul and soil eating machine. Imagine, this guy’s a thug, Tillerson, who has no concept of realities, except his thuggery, and a billionaire mentality. Yeah, Exxon and the alternative reality of climate change and the bullshit destruction of the earth from fossil fuel burning. What great record this keynote speaker Tillerson has, and, in the end, he’s as ballless as the lot of the millionaires\billionaires, afraid to criticize the deviant, stupid and reckless Trump.

Where do these people come from? Which DNA-warped womb do they exit from? Which felonious family raised them? Which two-bit schools educated them? Which insane people hire them and then promote them?

A two-day trip back to Arizona is like a two-year LSD trip, floating around with mushrooms on the tongue daily, as bottles of mescal run through the veins. I am telling you, when you get out of your routine – I am a social worker in a veterans’ homeless shelter, where the word “chaos” describes the totality of my time there, daily – and this rushing hot wave of air sucks the oxygen from the lungs for a minute or two. Arizona is California is Oregon is Washington . . . .

And exactly what is the US of A, with so much junk, so much materialistic droning, and yet, poverty is growing, big time, and the fear of the future in terms of no one achieving affordable housing and clean public transportation and free education and decent jobs is like us all whistling as we walk past the graveyard which is Western Capitalism.

Arizona, like any other state, is defined by the kleptomaniacs in government, on boards, in corporations and in the political class. Arizona is defined by a schizophrenia of faux opulence and real indebtedness and our fellow citizens struggling, dying, really, in a world that is upside down when it comes to clean air, clean water, real medicine, and affordable life.

Arizona is the mix of Eastern seaboard accents and southern twangs and amazingly mean people who are in it for themselves, for their backyard in-ground pools, for the 6,000 square foot Barcelona- style triple-decker home. We are talking about leathery skin from all the sun and leathery pools of empathy in the hearts and minds of most Arizonans.

Yet, here I am, 61, wishing my niece good tidings, as she embarks on the journey of medical school applications, and then, what? What world is it we have to give or anoint our children with? I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of the NAU graduation, the bloodlessness of the speakers, the lack of verve, the paucity of an event that for many has cost a pretty penny in debt for parents and children alike.

I end with 2011 commencement speech at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, Angela Davis:

Commencement speakers frequently assume that their role is to encourage graduates to go out and conquer the world. The task I have set for myself is much more modest. I want to urge you to be able to retrieve and sort through and rethink and preserve memories of your time here, which may very well turn out to be the most important period of your lives. Like the philosopher Walter Benjamin, I emphasize the past as the key to your future.

And so as you move on, some of you will go to graduate school, right? Some of you will find jobs. Unfortunately, some of you may not find jobs. Some of you will make families, some of you will engage in activism, some you will be involved in cultural work, and there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of all of these. But I would like you to periodically stop and reflect about the extent to which your lives were radically transformed by your experiences here. And I hope that you will have courage to draw upon the education you have received here from your most challenging professors, as you try to imagine more equitable ways of inhabiting all of our worlds. If you continue to think and act in the tradition of your college you will respect all of the inhabitants of our environments, and not simply assume that the environment must be preserved for the sake of future human generations, but rather for all the future generations of plant life, future generations of all animal life.

How do we extricate ourselves from enduring hierarchies, class, race, sexual, religious, geopolitical? This question, I think, is the question that needs to be posed. Posing that question is the mark of educated human beings. So I might then ask you to think about education as the practice of freedom. Education is the practice of freedom. And so freedom becomes, not an imagined condition in the future, not the set of achievements that will fulfill some desire, but rather an unrelenting, unending, collective effort to reconstruct our lives, our ways of relating to each other, our communities, and our futures. Congratulations to The Evergreen State College class of 2011.

Tackling the Dogma of Political Correctness

Over the past year, Jordan Peterson has shot into the public eye with his jihad against political correctness, using YouTube, the new medium for getting one’s beliefs broadcast without corporations, governments and media gatekeepers censuring and burying one’s new ideas. His ideas are radical, but more radically old than new. To him, cherished beliefs are mostly cherished because they’ve worked for millennia, some actually hardwired in us, and we abandon them at our peril.

He asserts what he argues is his male, rational energy, taking no prisoners as he fights to save the English language from attempts to substitute gender neutral terms with ‘they’s and ‘zhe’s and then forcing one and all (provincial premiers and profs included) to bow to the new golden calf. Language is important, as is marriage and respect for sex (not the amorphous ‘gender’). That is just part of his message, and he is now riding an angry, bucking herd of politically correct broncos. Peterson stares them down unapologetically.

Prairie boy makes good

Peterson grew up in a tiny village in northern Alberta, and gives a fascinating account of his youthful friendships, looking at his early life now through his psychiatrist lenses. His own maturing led from socialism till he turned 18 (he grew disenchanted with the NDP due to what he saw as a preponderance of “the intellectual, tweed-wearing middle-class socialist” who “didn’t like the poor; they just hated the rich”) to … well, some kind of conservatism, but not the neoliberalism which has poisoned both conservative and liberal politics. He also moved from a limp protestantism to a kind of spiritual agnosticism, though his conservative bent will please Catholics.

According to Wikipedia, his lectures at Harvard in the 1990s were highly admired by students. In July 1998, he returned to Canada and took up a post as a full professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, practicing as a clinical psychologist, and very public intellectual.

Peterson epitomizes the new type of newsmaker. His YouTube channel has gathered more than one million subscribers and his videos have received more than 48 million views as of April 2018. He used funds received via the crowdfunding website Patreon after he became embroiled in the Bill C-16 controversy1 in September 2016. His funding through Patreon has increased from $1,000 per month in August 2016 to $14,000 by January 2017, and then to more than $50,000 by July 2017. Who needs crusty academia?

His critique and his linguistic critics

His critique of political correctness looks at the relationship between political belief and personality, and posits two types of “offense sensitivity”: PC-egalitarianism and PC-authoritarianism. The first type is represented by a group of classical liberals, the latter by “social justice warriors” who “weaponize compassion”.

Postmodernists, instead of pitting the proletariat, the working class, against the bourgeois, started to pit the oppressed against the oppressor. That opened up the avenue to identifying any number of groups as oppressed and oppressor and to continue the same narrative under a different name. This makes racial identity or sexual identity or gender identity or some kind of group identity paramount, replacing class analysis.

Right so far. But he calls this a continuation of Marxism, taking the word of the intellectual gadflies he despises. Yes, practitioners of neomarxism “in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs.” But I doubt Marx would have any use for these self-styled Marxists. Marx wrote nothing about pronouns or gender preferences, not even a word about homosexuality, a phrase which had barely been coined before his death. There can be no Marx without class, and as Marx famously quipped to French theorists: “If that is Marxism, then I’m not a Marxist.”

So Peterson has a misnamed axe he’s grinding, but the axe is still worth grinding. He advises students to avoid disciplines like women’s studies, ethnic studies and racial studies, as well other fields of study he believes are “corrupted” by this ideology, such as sociology, anthropology and English literature. He states that these fields, under the pretense of academic inquiry, propagate unscientific methods, fraudulent peer-review processes for academic journals, publications that garner zero citations, cult-like behaviour, safe-spaces,2 and radical left-wing political activism for students. He calls the ongoing campaign against ‘white privilege’ and (even worse) white male privilege blatant racism.

The university threatened him in late 2016 but then backed off. He is tenured and now a major media figure, and the best strategy with hot potatoes is generally to try to ignore them. When he was denied a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant for the first time in his career a few months later, he called this retaliation for his statements regarding Bill C-16. In response, the notorious Rebel Media launched an Indiegogo campaign on Peterson’s behalf, an organization which, considering his YouTube success, he might have been smarter to distance himself from.

In November 2017, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University was censured by her professors and WLU’s Manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support for showing a segment of The Agenda, which featured Peterson debating Bill C-16, during a classroom discussion. This implied that even criticism of the bill was itself in violation of Bill C-16. The farce could not be ignored and the censure was withdrawn. A minor victory against the semantical forces of 1984, but 2017 was a rough ride for Peterson.

Psychological bull’s eyes

The furor surrounding Peterson as related in the monopoly media left me with a wariness of the guy, portrayed as rude, a bigot, a tyrant to a handful of outspoken critics. A prickly character, not your average psychotherapist. He had become notorious, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and ordered his book from the public library (as of this writing, there are 1162 holds on 176 copies).

By the time it arrived months later, I had forgotten about him and what seemed a strident but sensible feint in the ongoing feminist/gay war against the white male. I thought — what a corny title! Why did I ever order such a trite self-help book? I grudgingly picked it up — and was soon blown away. It slowly dawned on me that this is ‘that guy’, but it was neither strident, nor flakey.

Is monopoly media really so distorting as to leave us all so prejudiced? A spot on a panel on Steve Paikin’s TVO news show, but no platform in the public eye beyond his own YouTube site. Are transactivists on campus, the darlings of monopoly media, just hysterical, spoiled brats trying to destroy the English language, dump all traditions as sexist etc.?

Peterson is the quintessential renaissance man, bringing together many ideas from the natural and social sciences, projecting a refreshing understanding of the conundrum of human existence — both Old and New Testaments, history and philosophy (though he came to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology and lumps Stalin with Hitler), and of course psychology, with Freud, Jung, Skinner all providing insight into the various paths to self-understanding. This is not easy stuff, he’s bound to get some things wrong, and his own strong opinions are guaranteed to offend just about everyone in some way.

It is occasionally long-winded and unfocused, but worth plowing through to the end. I suspect Peterson finished it in a rush, hounded by the university, government, and the omnipresent political thought policy. Capitalizing on his notoriety, he caught the moment to make 12 rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House, 2018) a bestseller.

The postmodern left reduces morality and ideals to a cynical power grab, leaving only relative/personal ‘value judgments’. All we’re left with is tolerance and compassion for people who think differently/different cultures.

Peterson looks to myth from oral traditions, which were not just stories, but were moral in intent, telling us how humans should act. The world is a drama on stage, not a mere place of objects. The human dialectic is between chaos and order, female and male, yang and yin, epitomized by the tao circle. Meaning is found in the tension on the border between that ever-entwined pair. To walk that border is to stay on the path of life. Resolve chaos into order via language. I.e., language is vital, even sacred, like marriage and other human heritage, not to be treated lightly.

We need a shared belief system as a code for mutually predictable relations, expectations, desires allowing for cooperation, peaceful competition. We need a clear value system because both perception and action require a goal. For this to work, we need to take responsibility to strive for goals consistent with reality. Hey, this is Islam or Christianity!

Feminists will fume at Peterson’s use of lobsters as the oldest of reasonably intelligent life (140m yrs ago). The Alpha male syndrome in ‘society’ is already in place. Mr Alpha enjoys higher serotonin and struts cockily over his brood, rousting subordinate male from shelters at night to remind them who’s top dog. When the defeated male lobster regains courage, he is more likely than the victor to lose in future battles.

Peterson’s conclusions: 1/ We too are hardwired by serotonin. Dominance hierarchies are basic to all living ‘souls’. If peers despise you, your serotonin is low, a self-fulfilling prophecy as you stumble through life. This can even shut down your immune system, or render you dangerously impulsive. You see change as leading to disaster, not opportunity.

2/ Winner-takes-all. Unequal distribution is also hardwired, i.e., the pareto concept of rich get richer, the Matthew (25: 28-9) effect.3

3/ So you need a balance of compassionate self-sacrificing vs self-protective anger to defend yourself. If you can bite, you generally don’t have to. The mere ability to respond, even for the lobster is not the same as ‘might makes right,’ but there is a whiff of it.

4/ Boys will be boys. Guys are hardwired with aggression and higher testosterone. Rather than labelling antsy boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and pumping them with Ritalin, sapping their natural energy, schooling should be structured to nurture them, not to try to turn them into little girls.

Peterson’s book is worth it just for his advice to parents. It’s full of gems: the first four years are crucial, a child really needs both a mother and father, memory is there not to be nostalgic, but to consolidate a useful version of the past to help you navigate the present and future. This is the foundation of his counselling practice, and his fame is deserved as a first rate counsellor.

The real Marx

My radar was alerted by Peterson’s overt right-wing slant. He early on saw the hypocrisy of the NDP mentality, not so much liking the poor, but resenting the rich. Ouch! A cute anecdote of right wingers is that Marx didn’t want everyone to be poor, but to be rich. That is doubtful. Marx wanted people to be free of work, “to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner.”4

Yes, redistributing wealth to make society more equal isn’t the silver bullet to make everyone happy and free, but studies show that societies with more equal distribution are far happier.5

His blanket dismissal of Marx, confusing the neo-Marxist gender warriors with Marx, leaves a big gap in his social theory. It is urban civilization, leading to over-centralization and increased mal-distribution, that leads to tyranny and capitalist globalization. That is Marx, and is ’hardwired’ into unmediated social evolution. Capitalism makes Genghis Khan scientific, and the role accessible to many khans, Hitler the 20th century version, Trump a 21st century wannabe, playing with the nuclear button, strutting his hardwired alpha pretensions, terrifying us all.

Better small groups, giving more room for talent to develop. There is a higher ratio of creatives in rural settings (the young Peterson a fine example), and greater contentment, longer lives. Small is beautiful. That is the essence of Marx. His blueprint for a bright future is to put the giants of industry under state control, and let small producers carry out economic production without exploitation.

Not bread alone

Rather than rejecting Marx and socialism, as Peterson seems to be doing, we can take a leaf from his other major point: man does not live by bread alone. Spirituality is also hardwired into us, as Peterson argues. He described himself as a classic British liberal, a philosophical pragmatist. He lost his socialist faith in 1980 as a teen, taking no inspiration from the fading Soviet alternative to capitalism, mired in the Cold War and Afghanistan. Sad, as that was the era of Thatcher, TINA and neoliberalism, and there is no understanding of imperialism here as the motive behind today’s crises. Bootstraps are all well and good, but you won’t solve the world’s problems with 12 Rules.

His concept of Christianity is to imitate Christ, for him meaning “something like you need to take responsibility for the evil in the world as if you were responsible for it to understand that you determine the direction of the world, whether it’s toward heaven or hell”. Yes, the devil is at work and we must recognize it and fight it.

The 12 commandments

Peterson’s homilies are all worthwhile, and are full of anecdotes from his work as a therapist and his wide knowledge of philosophy and psychology. They include

* Treat yourself like someone you must care for.

* Make friends with people who want the best for you.

* Compare yourself to yesterday (not to someone else today).

* Don’t let children do what makes you dislike them.

* Set your own house in order first.

* Pursue the meaningful, not the expedient.

* Tell the truth or at least don’t lie.

* Assume x knows something you don’t know.

* Be precise in speech.

* Be a skateboarder. So don’t minimize risk, optimize it. We are hardwired for risk.

He adds meat to religious homilies like ‘love thine enemies.’ Love thine enemies means learning from their success, listening to their critique, adopting as your ambition the creation of a world in which those who work against you see the light so what you’re aiming at encompasses them. Noah: ‘The centre cannot hold’ so prepare your character to prevail against the flood.

  1. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s bill adds gender expression and gender identity as protected grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act, and also to the Criminal Code.
  2. An autonomous ‘space’, meaning that a teacher, educational institution, or student body is resolved to not tolerate anti-LGBT violence, harassment or hate speech), typically on a university campus, but also at workplaces, as in the case of Nokia.
  3. One form of the penalty of the slothful will be to see work which might have been their’s to do, done by those who have been faithful while on earth. In secular lingo, unused muscle atrophies.
  4. German Ideology (1945).
  5. While cumulative advantage has its role in society, a pareto effect rule of thumb for acceptable inequality is 80:20, not 99:1, a point Peterson doesn’t make. Social justice is as much ‘hardwired’ into us as hunger, sex, or aggression.

    The Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database found that the more income is concentrated in the hands of a few, the more likely individuals are to report lower levels of life satisfaction and more negative daily emotional experiences.

Academic Freedom? How Nasty Can a University Be?

The present era of reactionary institutional responses to violations of political correctness is exposing the fact that “academic freedom”, of both professors and students, does not really mean much, except what it has always meant.

In the concluding paragraphs of her chapter on academic freedom in her 1986 book No Ivory Tower, Ellen W. Schrecker brilliantly states what modern academic freedom has always been and was always meant to be:

The academic world of Schaper and Cattell, Ely and Nearing, was to change considerably over the next few decades. Especially in the years following the Second World War, the American system of higher education was to expand in size and to become a more democratic and less genteel place. Yet its treatment of political dissidents changed little. The same pattern of pressures and responses that set the early precedents determined the later cases as well. There were some differences to be sure, especially in procedural matters. There was more faculty participation, for example. This was largely the result of the academic profession’s success in establishing the principle of tenure. Though its possession did not invariably protect controversial professors from being fired, by the 1940s and 1950s it did usually ensure that they got some kind of a faculty hearing.

Procedures apart, however, there were fewer differences than we might assume. Institutional loyalty was the overriding concern. In almost every situation, faculty members and administrators responded to outside pressures for the dismissal of dissenting faculty members in accord with what they believed would best protect or enhance their schools reputation. The rhetoric of academic freedom obscures those concerns, as, in many instances, it was designed to. After all, even the famous academic freedom statement that the University of Wisconsin released after the Regents reinstated Richard T. Ely in 1894 was planned in part as a piece of institutional promotion-as, in the words of the man who suggested it, “an excellent advertisement for the institution.” Stripped of its rhetoric, academic freedom thus turns out to be an essentially corporate protection. And, as we trace its development during the Cold War, we should not be surprised to find that it was invoked more often to defend the well-being of an institution than the political rights of an individual.1

Nonetheless, it is interesting to ask: Just how far can a Western university, in a so-called free and democratic society, go in violating the freedom of expression and the professional independence of a tenured professor?

My own case gives a graphic answer to this question.

First, here is the background of what was actually happening in the classroom. This letter from a parent on one of my students was published in Canada’s largest national newspaper on February 9, 2009:

“Free to Learn” by Julia Debono

Windsor, Ont. — In 2006, while shadowing my daughter, then a student at the University of Ottawa, I attended one of Denis Rancourt’s classes (Professor Makes His Mark, But It Costs Him His Job – Feb. 6). Prof. Rancourt, clearly a dedicated, principled teacher, moderated a spirited, engaging, intellectually provocative discussion in which about 50 students eagerly participated.

Other undergraduate classes that I attended consisted of the professor lecturing while students chatted, surfed the Net or took verbatim notes. Few asked questions and there were no discussions, even when the professor asked for some.

Prof. Rancourt’s class resembled classes I had at the University of Michigan’s Residential College in the mid-1970s, right down to the use of narrative summaries instead of grades to evaluate learning.

His class was an example of the kind of educational experience I sent my daughter to university to be a part of.2

There were hundreds of such letters to the university and to media, and a large petition. Here is my report of how my first-year (freshman) physics course had developed: “How to Not Teach Physics”.3

In addition, I was publicly critical of the university administration on my “U of O Watch” blog and I practiced reform wherever I could legally do so, given the on-paper guaranties of my academic freedom and professional independence.

Twice the university disciplined me for allegedly not following the curriculum. Both times the university was rebuffed by binding arbitration decisions and the discipline was removed. I established that in Ontario a university professor is allowed to be political in the classroom, in addition to covering the curriculum, even in a science course. This irked the reactionary administration to no end.

As a result, sometimes the political activism would spill over into students demanding their rights within the institution. There was an upsurge of student activism in the years that I taught, which I mostly attribute to reactions against oppressive policies and an influx of politically savvy international students. But, of course, the administration blamed me and scribbled network diagrams about it in their notes (I saw this in access-to-information records).

In one such “spill over”, the president — experienced trial lawyer, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations and former Liberal prospective candidate for Prime Minister of Canada, Allan Rock — was publicly exposed intimidating a student complainant, in the president’s office. The student’s audio recording was played on regional cable TV, and a link of it was sent to all the university’s students by email. The president never did that again.

Within a few weeks after the cable TV show aired, my many research graduate students and I were locked out of our laboratory without notice and, as I learned in 2017, the university destroyed my large collections of valuable scientific samples, and immediately made the laboratory inoperable.

The violations of my academic and constitutional rights that also occurred prior to and after the lock out are difficult to grasp, but they did occur, and many “respectable” high officials were knowingly involved. Now I want the new president to fix this and the university to be accountable. This recent letter is how I presented the case to the new president:

January 8, 2018

Jacques Frémont
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Ottawa
550 Cumberland, Room 212
Ottawa, ON  K1N 6N5

f: 613-562-5103
e: ac.awattOunull@tnediserp
By email and by fax

Re: Ending the University of Ottawa’s unrelenting punishment of me

Dear President Frémont,

I was a professor in the department of physics at the University of Ottawa from 1987 until 2009.  I occupied the highest academic rank of Full Professor beginning in 1997.

I am recognized as an expert in my profession and have taught thousands of students.  I am a much appreciated teacher and research supervisor and I have published over 100 articles in leading journals in several areas of science (my present h-index score is 35).

I taught the Senate-approved course “Science in Society”, which I created following campus-wide student demand, in the largest auditorium on campus.  It was informally known as the activism course.

I was a critic of the university and I defended students against what I saw as institutional discrimination and racism.  In so doing, I used Malcolm X’s political term, “house negro”.  I did this in the context of a struggle for justice and in good faith, as attested to by the attached letters to you from community activists: Hazel Gashoka, Jean-Marie Vianney, and Cynthia McKinney.

The university dismissed me in 2009 using the pretext of my having assigned high grades to all 23 students in one advanced physics course, and then spent over $1 million sponsoring a large defamation lawsuit against me.

You have emptied out my bank account by court order, you have repeatedly threatened to take my family’s home, and you have asserted that you will continue to enforce recovery of your legal costs in excess of $1 million.  Therefore, I am not able to pursue my work as a teacher and scholar, since you would take every penny.

You destroyed my career and took everything I have. You have done enough. I’m hoping that your sense of decency will cause you to grant this request for relief.

The university’s punishment of me has been relentless, including the following.

Destroyed scientific samples

Recently this year, as I sought to continue my scientific work, the university said that it destroyed my large and unique collection of scientific samples — when it locked me and my students out of our laboratory while I was still a full professor.

Many of the samples are irreplaceable and priceless, and I considered myself their custodian on behalf the scientific community.  The Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) has assumed my $1.25 million grievance concerning this destruction.

The destroyed scientific samples included:

(a) The only large non-oxidized piece of the Santa Catharina meteorite, in which the meteoritic metallic phase “antitaenite” was discovered.

(b) The only large sample of remnants of the K/T boundary meteorite that may have killed the dinosaurs, collected in the field by a leading-expert collaborator, and kept in a sealed atmosphere.

(c) Unique suites of synthetic layer silicate compounds, which led to several fundamental discoveries.

(d) Suites of loess-paleosol samples (ancient soils) from two sites, in China and Eastern Europe.

(e) Preserved samples of sediments from 100 lakes in Canada, from the largest study of its kind in the boreal forest.

(f) Several suites of samples of synthetic compounds and alloys having unique electronic, magnetic, and magneto-volume properties.

For years the university threatened to destroy my personal papers, too.  Since 2008, the university refused to give me access to my belongings from my personal office in the physics building.  The materials were research notes, original course content, unpublished book manuscripts, two decades of correspondence, specialized books, and much more.  Only recently, thanks to your direct intervention, was I able to recover the more than 200 cubic feet of paper materials.

Student spy

The university hired a student spy (Maureen Robinson) to covertly surveil me for more than one year while I was a professor.  Her actions were condoned by her immediate supervisors (the dean and the legal counsel of the university) and included using a false cyber identity (“Nathalie Page”) and falsely representing herself personally to third parties.  The student spy provided weekly reports about me to the university.  Her role was described by an Ontario appellate-court judge in his motion ruling in the following terms:

Maureen Robinson

[15] The circumstances of Maureen Robinson’s involvement in this entire matter is troubling at best.  Throughout the relevant portion of the Award by Arbitrator Foisy, Ms.  Robinson’s written notes were referred to [as] “the report on Professor Rancourt’s address prepared by a University of Ottawa student”.

[16] Pursuant to the Udell Affidavit, and based on evidence from the hearing, the student being Maureen Robinson was the editor of the student newspaper who had been hired by the University in what the University described as in a clerical capacity to assist Professor Rancourt in his office, without his input on her hiring.

[17] Either in consultation with her employer, the University, or on her own, she monitored the activities of Professor Rancourt both on and off campus and reported her finding back to the University.  In an email to Dean Lalonde, she admitted to having a “personal grudge” against Professor Rancourt and went so far as to liken her monitoring of Professor Rancourt as “posing as a young girl to catch a pedophile”.  Ms. Robinson was not called as a witness at the hearing and, the parties agreed that her “report” would be considered as an “aide memoire” only.

[18] The University referred to the “report” thereafter as a transcript which such description was objected to by the APUO.  Similarly, Arbitrator Foisy made certain findings which appear to be based solely on the report which was not evidence.  [Underlined sub-title in original]

Covert psychiatric report

In 2008, the university’s VP-Governance coordinated a capture of my intimate childhood information for use by a hired psychiatrist to make a written “psychiatric opinion” of me without my consent or knowledge.

The university thereby violated my constitutional privacy rights, my personal dignity and integrity, and numerous ethical codes regarding expert medical diagnoses.

The university followed this by not informing me of its actions, and by vigorously opposing my access to the psychiatric report until the final hour of an appeal in litigation for access in 2017.

You have a reputation as an advocate of human rights, and you recently took charge of the university’s case with me.

I write to you now to ask for a fair resolution that will allow me to resume my work as an educator and scientist, and to earn my living in this way. As it stands, the university would seize all of my income, just as it recently seized my bank account. The interest alone that you seek is more than $30,000.00 per year.

Please assure me that you will instruct the university lawyers that a settlement is needed that will allow me to resume my career.

Yours truly,

[original signed]

Professor Denis Rancourt
[address]

Encl.:  Letters from Hazel Gashoka, Jean-Marie Vianney, and Cynthia McKinney [three attachments in the original].4

That is how nasty a university in a free and democratic society can be. I know other public institutions behave the same way but we rarely find out. I have been dedicated to uncovering as much as I can.

I have been guided by this quote:

One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.

— Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.5

  1. The two last paragraphs of Chapter I: “An Excellent Advertizement for the Institution”: The Development of Academic Freedom, 1886-1918; in Ellen W. Schrecker’s No Ivory Tower – McCarthyism and the Universities, Oxford University Press, 1986.
  2. Letter to the Editor, Globe & Mail (National Edition), February 9, 2009.
  3. Rancourt, Denis. How to Not Teach Physics. Dissident Voice, January 2, 2013.
  4. “2018 01 08 Letter to end the University of Ottawa’s unrelenting punishment of Denis Rancourt”, and direct link to the document as PDF file.
  5. Human Nature: Justice versus Power”, Noam Chomsky debates with Michel Foucault, 1971.

McGill University and the Jewish National Fund (JNF)

While accusations of student anti-Semitism at McGill draw international headlines, the university administration’s open association with a Jewish supremacist organization has been ignored.

In the latest iteration of a multi-year smear campaign against Palestine solidarity activists at the university, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee activist Noah Lew cried “anti-Semitism” after he wasn’t voted on to the Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). At a General Assembly last month Democratize SSMU sought to impeach the student union’s president Muna Tojiboeva. The ad-hoc student group was angry over her role in suspending an SSMU vice president and adopting a Judicial Board decision that declared a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution unconstitutional.

(After two close votes, in February 2016 a motion mandating the student union support some BDS demands passed the union’s largest ever General Assembly, but failed an online confirmation vote after the university administration, Montreal’s English media and pro-Israel Jewish groups blitzed students. The resolution’s constitutionality was subsequently challenged.)

At the recent General Assembly Democratize SSMU’s effort to impeach the president failed. While they couldn’t muster the two thirds of votes required to oust the non-Jewish president of the student union, Democratize SSMU succeeded in blocking the re-election of two Board of Directors’ candidates who supported the effort to outlaw BDS resolutions.

After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors Noah Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” His claim was reported on by the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Global Television, as well as Israeli and Jewish press outlets. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier sent out two emails to all students and faculty concerning the matter while the SSMU Board of Directors established a committee to investigate anti-Semitism. The affair was even mentioned in the House of Commons.

While a great deal has been written about alleged student anti-Jewish attitudes, the McGill administration’s open association with an explicitly Jewish supremacist organization passes with nary a comment. On November 28 McGill’s Associate Vice-Principal Innovation Angelique Mannella is scheduled to participate in a Jewish National Fund networking event called Tech Shuk, which connects Jewish capitalists with Montreal start-ups in a “Dragon’s Den” style competition. But, the JNF is an explicitly racist organization. Owner of 13% of Israel’s land, it systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, Jewish National Fund lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” The JNF oversees discriminatory land use policies in Israel outlawed in this country 60 years ago.

In 2004 long-time McGill Principal Bernard Shapiro was the honoured guest at JNF Montréal’s annual fundraising dinner (two years later the then former University Principal was master of ceremonies at the event). The current president of JNF Montréal, Michael Goodman, was a member of the advisory board of McGill ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). In 2014 McGill gave an honorary degree to Marvin Corber. The University’s press release announcing its two honorary degree recipients cited an award Corber received from the JNF. Corber has been a JNF Montréal campaign advisor and chair of its annual fundraising dinner.

While the university administration’s ties to the JNF are a stark example of its racial bias, McGill is also entangled in other more subtle forms of anti-Palestinianism. The Montréal university has a memorandum of understanding with Tel Aviv University, which claims to be on “the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge.” McGill also has a partnership with Technion, which conducts “research and development into military technology that Israel relies on to sustain its occupation of Palestinian land.”

In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish Studies department partly for an “education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel.” But, the cultural organization turned Israel lobby group refuses to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

Imagine the outcry if a McGill department accepted a large donation to work with an organization that openly excluded Jews and others who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Palestine and fail to recognize Palestinians’ UN enshrined rights.”

It’s time to discuss the McGill administration’s support for Jewish/white supremacy in the Middle East.

Ritual Defamation: A Contemporary Academic Example

The term ritual defamation was coined by Laird Wilcox to describe the destruction of the reputation of a person by unfair, wrongful, or malicious speech or publication. The defamation is in retaliation for opinions expressed by the victim, with the intention of silencing that person’s influence, and making an example of him so as to discourage similar “insensitivity” to subjects currently ruled as taboo. It is aggressive, organized and skillfully applied, often by a representative of a special interest group, such as, ironically, the Anti-Defamation League.

Ritual defamation is not called “ritual” because it follows any prescribed religious or mystical doctrine, nor is it embraced in any particular document or scripture. Rather, it is ritualistic because it follows a predictable, stereotyped pattern which embraces a number of elements, as in a ritual.

Laird Wilcox enumerated eight basic elements of a ritual defamation:

First, the victim must have violated a particular taboo, usually by expressing or identifying with a forbidden attitude, opinion or belief.

Second, the defamers condemn the character of the victim, never offering more than a perfunctory challenge to the particular attitudes, opinions or beliefs the victim expressed or implied. Character assassination is its primary tool.

Third, the defamers avoid engaging in any kind of debate over the truthfulness or reasonableness of what has been expressed. Their goal is not discussion but rather condemnation, censorship and repression.

Fourth, the victim is usually someone who is vulnerable to public opinion, although perhaps in a very modest way. It could be a schoolteacher, writer, businessman, minor official, or merely an outspoken citizen; visibility enhances vulnerability to ritual defamation.

Fifth, an attempt is made to involve others in the defamation. In the case of a public official, other public officials will be urged to denounce the offender. In the case of a student, other students will be called upon; in the case of a professor, other professors will be asked to join the condemnation.

Sixth, in order for a ritual defamation to be most effective, the victim must be dehumanized to the extent that he becomes identical with the offending attitude, opinion or belief, and in a manner which distorts his views to the point where they appear at their most extreme. For example, a victim who is defamed as a “subversive” will be identified with the worst images of subversion, such as espionage, terrorism or treason.

Seventh, the defamation tries to bring pressure and humiliation on the victim from every quarter, including family and friends. If the victim has school children, they may be taunted and ridiculed as a consequence of adverse publicity. If the victim is employed, he may be fired from his job. If the victim belongs to clubs or associations, other members may be urged to expel him.

Eighth, any explanation the victim may offer is dismissed as irrelevant. To claim truth as a defense for a tabooed opinion or belief is treated as defiance and only compounds the offense. Ritual defamation is often not necessarily an issue of being wrong or incorrect but rather of “insensitivity” and failing to observe social taboos.

Ritual defamation is not used to persuade, but rather to punish. It is used to hurt, to intimidate, to destroy, and to persecute, and to avoid the dialogue, debate and discussion that free speech implies. Its obvious maliciousness is often hidden behind the dictates of political correctness and required sensitivity to established myths.

Ritual Defamation at Hobart and William Smith Colleges: A Textbook Example

In the September 2009 I wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper, The Finger Lakes Times, defining “Holocaust Denial.” It was submitted in response to the media frenzy and demonization of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who was scheduled to address the UN General Assembly. After several delays, it was published on September 27 under a quarter-page picture of Ahmadinejad and under the headline “What do deniers really mean? (See Appendix 1)

Although the definition I presented has been widely accepted, both by those who affirm and by those who contest or “revise” the current narrative of the Holocaust, and although the facts I presented were not challenged, the op-ed sparked a classical case of ritual defamation. Questioning the Holocaust narrative, or even defining what it means to question it, is arguably the most serious taboo in the United States today. It is considered “beyond the pale” and even touching the subject is like touching the third rail on the subway – instant death to your career.

First Blood

On October 3 a “colleague” from the Education Department, James MaKinster, “facilitated” a smear letter, signed by six additional colleagues, and circulated it by email to over 300 other professors and people in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges community. Their letter was addressed to the colleges’ President Mark Gearan; it denounced me with lies and insidious innuendos and demanded the revocation of my status as a faculty emeritus.

I heard about the MaKinster letter quite by happenstance soon after it was circulated, but neither the President nor any of the original seven who signed it was willing to provide me with a copy. It was not until May 2011 some 20 months later that I finally got a copy of the email version, not of the final letter with all the signatures. (See Appendix 2)

My Response

In a vain attempt to clear my name and set the record straight I sent a message to the entire community rebutting the charges made in the MaKinster smear letter. I stated that:

1. Contrary to the feigned outrage of my ritual defamers as to the date of publishing the op-ed, I had nothing to do with the timing of the article and make no apology for when it appeared vis-à-vis a Jewish holiday.

2. My ritual defamers’ egregious claim to know my “personal beliefs” and their claim that I used my title to give them credence was untrue. Nowhere were my personal beliefs stated. Moreover, my article included an exceptionally long disclaimer showing The Colleges neither condone nor condemn what I had written.

3. My ritual defamers’ claim that “Holocaust denial carries absolutely no weight among academic scholars in any field whatsoever” was also untrue. There are a number of scholars who dare to criticize the typical Holocaust narrative and are willing to fight the slime hurled at them by ardent Zionists who feel it their duty to protect the current version that serves as the sword and shield of apartheid Israel. (As a footnote, our former provost and former dean of women (both Jewish) demanded that I not use the word “apartheid” in connection with Israel. Although the term was used in the Israeli press and later by ex-President Jimmy Carter, they did not consider it to be “suitable discourse” on our campus where, ironically, we routinely claim to support free speech and diversity of opinion.)

4. My ritual defamers said that “denying undisputed facts of the holocaust (sic) is not a way to show support for the Palestinians.” First, the three tenets of Holocaust revisionism are clearly not “undisputed.” To the contrary, these taboos are hotly and passionately disputed; people’s lives are ruined when they dispute these “facts” or even mention them. In fourteen countries you can get jail time for disputing “facts” surrounding the Holocaust.

Second, disputing purported facts is what science and historical analysis are all about. We academics have no problem discussing and disputing whether or not Jesus Christ is truly the son of God, or if President Obama’s birth certificate is real, or if Jewish slaves built the Egyptian pyramids, or if Roosevelt knew a Japanese attack on Hawaii was imminent, but we are not allowed to discuss or dispute the six-million figure, which was bantered about before World War I. (Yes, before World War I; see for example, “Dr. Paul Nathan’s View of Russian Massacre”, The New York Times, March 25, 1906.) To question the six million figure on most American campuses is simply taboo.

Finally, what gives these ritual defamers the credentials to pontificate on what supports or hurts Palestinians? None of them are experts on Palestine and none are activists for Palestinian human rights. To the contrary, some of them have been responsible for feting at Hobart and William Smith Colleges anti-Palestinian demagogues including Elie Wiesel and even Benyamin Netanyahu. They have also endorsed giving Madeleine Albright our highest humanitarian award, which was not only ironic, but disgraceful in light of her statement that the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children were “worth it”.

5. Labeling Holocaust revisionism “Holocaust denial” is unwarrantedly pejorative. It might be fine for Fox News, but it is not conducive to, and often precludes, intelligent discourse. To call Holocaust revisionism “thinly veiled anti-Semitism” is simply untrue and it defames scholars and others, including Jews, who question the Holocaust doctrine as we are fed it in hundreds of films, books, articles, and commentaries. Terms like Holocaust Industry, Holocaust Fatigue, Holocaust professional, Holocaust wannabes, and Holocaust High Priest were not coined by “deniers” or anti-Semites; they were coined by Jews. (The High Priest quip is an obvious reference to Elie Wiesel; it was made by Tova Reich in her book My Holocaust. Tova’s husband, Walter Reich, was the former director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington.)

In 1946 the US government told us that 20 million people were murdered by Hitler. Now that figure is said to be 11 million; it has been “revised” downward and literally carved in stone at the US Holocaust Memorial. For years we were told that over 4 million were killed at Auschwitz alone, but by the early 1990s that figure was “revised” downward to 1.5 million. Wiesel tells us that people were thrown alive onto pyres; he claims to have seen it with his own eyes; today even Israeli-trained guides at Auschwitz say that is not true. They have already “revised” his narrative. These are but a few examples of historical revisionism, examples that not inherently anti-Semitic and no longer considered taboo.

6. It is most interesting to see academic colleagues say, “(a)s we all know … the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ was introduced to make genocide sound more palatable.” That means they either deny that Palestinians have been (and continue to be) ethnically cleansed or they agree that Israel is performing genocide on the Palestinian people.

7. While the ritual defamers found my piece to be “abhorrent,” they seemed unable to find fault with a single fact I presented. So they resorted to name-calling and labeled the piece “hate speech” and “unsupported vitriol” and smeared my name to hundreds of people. I am surprised that the Anti-Defamation League or the Mossad did not come knocking on my door.

8. The ritual defamers genuinely were concerned about the op-ed’s impact on our Jewish students, staff, and faculty. But maybe it is time for all members of the community to see the Holocaust for what it really was and not the unquestionable, unimpeachable, doctrine that makes Jewish suffering superior to that of other people. Maybe it is time to recognize that Zionism as a political movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine began long before the Holocaust and that Zionist discrimination, dehumanization, and dispossession of the Palestinian people should not be excused by it. Maybe it is time to see that since over half the population (within the borders controlled by Israel) is not Jewish, the dream of creating a Jewish state has failed. Walling in the non-Jews or putting them in Bantustans or driving them into Jordan will not make Israel a Jewish state. Nationalistic allegiance to “blood and soil” has been a failure in Germany and in Israel. That should be the real lesson of the Holocaust.

9. To say that my op-ed “does not meet our expectation of minimally rational and minimally humane discourse” is pure nonsense. The piece is well written, well substantiated, and quite humane.

10. The ritual defamers are quite right about one thing; they were deeply disturbed and saddened to see a Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ title attached to it, even with a lengthy disclaimer. Diversity and perspectives outside the mainstream are to be encouraged, but not if they question Jewish power, Israel, or Holocaust doctrine. Apparently those topics are totally taboo.

11. The demand to President Gearan to remove my title of Professor Emeritus is both classic and stupid. Would it save Hobart and William Smith Colleges from being associated with my writings? Of course not; I would simply become “Former Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges” with no disclaimer.

But what it would really do is to cast me into the briar patch with Norman Finkelstein, Marc Ellis, Paul Eisen, Henry Herskovitz, Gilad Atzmon, Rich Siegel, and Hedy Epstein (a Holocaust survivor), all friends of mine and all anti-Zionists.

Lest I seem irreverent or unscathed by this widely-circulated smear letter from my ritual defamers, allow me to admit that I have been hurt by it. Many faculty and other HWS folks now shun me as a persona non grata largely because they only read the slime and never my rebuttal. My former student and long-time friend, David Deming, who is now the Chair of the HWS Board does not answer my letters. President Gearan does not answer them either. Board member Roy Dexheimer, disparages me and wonders if I fell “off my meds.” Another Board member, Stuart Pilch, took it a step further and made a threatening phone call to my home with a promise “to hunt me down.”

Recourse? Most Doors are Closed

For twenty months I did not know the contents of the MaKinster email. When I discovered it as an email draft, my first inclination was to sue him and the other six faculty members who circulated it. I wanted to sue for libel and defamation of character. I knew it would be expensive, but I was determined to correct the lies they had spread about me. The problem was that in New York State the statute of limitations for libel is one year from the date it was committed, not one year from the date it was discovered.

I went to the Provost, who is the head of our faculty, and asked her to get me a copy of the final letter as it was sent to President Gearan. (I had seen only the email draft of it shown in Appendix 2) I wanted a copy of the final letter including the names of all those ritual defamers who had signed it — MaKinster and the six other “facilitators” and any others of the 300 they sent it to who might have also signed). She refused on the grounds of “confidentiality”.

I went to the President and asked for a copy; he refused. I asked MaKinster; he refused to give me a copy of the letter and refused to meet with me to discuss it. I asked the other six “facilitators”. Three agreed to meet with me, but were unable to give me a copy of the final letter. They all told me that they thought additional people had signed, but they could not or would not name a single one for sure. Like MaKinster, the remaining three “colleagues” refused to meet with me or give me a copy of what they had collectively written in their smear letter.

I went to The Grievance Committee, but I was told that I could not bring the issue before it, since that committee does not hear such matters. I asked to address the faculty at large, but I was told that only faculty can attend an HWS Faculty Meeting and not those who are retired, with or without emeritus status.

I tried a market approach and publicly offered a $1,000 contribution to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in return for a final copy of the MaKinster ritual defamation letter with the names of all signatories. The offer was made by email to all current faculty members. No response. I raised the offer to $1,500. Some faculty called on me to stop; some even charged me with smearing MaKinster. Others counseled me to “turn the other cheek” and “get over it.”

But others thought that withholding the letter and the names of those who signed it was “cowardly,” “inappropriate,” and “unethical.” They asked rhetorically if my critics should not “openly stand by their words and acts?” They supported my right to peacefully and non-violently discover the smears and slime thrown at me by “colleagues” who now piously claim their right to anonymity.

Via college email to all members of the faculty I raised the public offer to $2,000, then $2,500, then $3,000, and so forth. At $5,000 the current acting Provost and long-time friend, Pat McGuire, came to my home (11/22/11) to discuss the “situation” and to advise that my email offers were annoying some people and that Hobart and William Smith Colleges was considering restricting or terminating my email privileges. I raised the offer to $10,000, not by campus-wide email, but in specific offers to several alumni.

Resolution?

Not yet. But I am optimistic. I have been a part of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges community for almost 40 years. I am proud of my record of teaching and activism on behalf of Palestinian human rights. And I am proud of having fought against academic hypocrisy and cowardice, especially when it comes to Israel.

I am also proud that Hobart and William Smith Colleges did not completely roll over to the ritual defamation initiated (or facilitated) by otherwise well-meaning “colleagues,” especially by those who are too cowardly to reveal or defend their participation in this injustice. And I am eternally thankful that the institution has allowed me to keep my emeritus status and my walking pass at the gym.

Appendix 1

Finger Lakes Times, September 27, 2009, Section D, p.1+ (not available on line)

What Does Holocaust Denial Really Mean?

In April 2007 the European Union agreed to set jail sentences up to three years for those who deny or trivialize the Holocaust.1 More recently, in response to the remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson, the Pope has proclaimed that Holocaust denial is “intolerable and altogether unacceptable.”

But what does Holocaust denial really mean? Begin with the word Holocaust. The Holocaust2 (spelled with a capital H) refers to the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II. It is supposed to be the German’s “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem. Much of the systematic extermination was to have taken place in concentration camps by shooting, gassing, and burning alive innocent Jewish victims of the Third Reich.

People like Germar Rudolf, Ernst Zundel, and Bishop Williamson who do not believe this account and who dare to say so in public are reviled as bigots, anti-Semites, racists, and worse. Their alternate historical scenarios are not termed simply revisionist, but are demeaned as Holocaust denial. Rudolf and Zundel were shipped to Germany where they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to three and five years, respectively.

Politicians deride Holocaust revisionist papers and conferences as “beyond the pale of international discourse and acceptable behavior.”3 Non-Zionist Jews who participate in such revisionism, like Rabbi Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta, are denounced as “self-haters” and are shunned and spat upon. Even Professor Norman Finkelstein, whose parents were both Holocaust survivors and who wrote the book, The Holocaust Industry, has been branded a Holocaust denier.

But putting aside the virile hate directed against those who question the veracity of the typical Holocaust narrative, what is it that these people believe and say at the risk of imprisonment and bodily harm? For most Holocaust revisionists or deniers if you prefer, their arguments boil down to three simple contentions:

1. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was intended to be ethnic cleansing, not extermination.

2. There were no homicidal gas chambers used by the Third Reich.

3. There were fewer than 6 million Jews killed of the 55 million who died in WWII.

Are these revisionist contentions so odious as to cause those who believe them to be reviled, beaten, and imprisoned? More importantly, is it possible that revisionist contentions are true, or even partially true, and that they are despised because they contradict the story of the Holocaust, a story which has been elevated to the level of a religion in hundreds of films, memorials, museums, and docu-dramas?

Is it sacrilegious to ask, “If Hitler was intent on extermination, how did Elie Wiesel, his father, and two of his sisters survive the worst period of incarceration at Auschwitz?” Wiesel claims that people were thrown alive into burning pits, yet even the Israeli-trained guides at Auschwitz refute this claim.

Is it really “beyond international discourse” to question the efficacy and the forensic evidence of homicidal gas chambers? If other myths, like making soap from human fat, have been dismissed as Allied war propaganda, why is it “unacceptable behavior” to ask if the gas chamber at Dachau was not reconstructed by the Americans because no other homicidal gas chamber could be found and used as evidence at the Nuremburg trials?

For more than fifty years Jewish scholars have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to document each Jewish victim of the Nazi Holocaust. The Nazis were German, obsessed with paperwork and recordkeeping. Yet only 3 million names have been collected and many of them died of natural causes. So why is it heresy to doubt that fewer than 6 million Jews were murdered in the Second World War?

“Holocaust Denial” might be no more eccentric or no more criminal than claiming the earth is flat, except that the Holocaust itself has been used as the sword and shield in the quest to build a Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, where even today over half the population is not Jewish.

The Holocaust narrative allows Yad Vashem, the finest Holocaust museum in the world, to repeat the mantra of “Never Forget” while it sits on Arab lands stolen from Ein Karem and overlooking the unmarked graves of Palestinians massacred by Jewish terrorists at Deir Yassin. It allows Elie Wiesel to boast of having worked for these same terrorists (as a journalist, not a fighter) while refusing to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the war crimes his employer committed. It makes Jews the ultimate victim no matter how they dispossess or dehumanize or ethnically cleanse indigenous Palestinian people.

The Holocaust story eliminates any comparison of Ketziot or Gaza to the concentration camps they indeed are. It memorializes the resistance of Jews in the ghettos of Europe while steadfastly denying any comparison with the resistance of Palestinians in Hebron and throughout the West Bank. It allows claims that this year’s Hanukah Massacre in Gaza, with a kill ratio of 100 to one, was a “proportionate response” to Palestinian resistance to unending occupation.

The Holocaust is used to silence critics of Israel in what the Jewish scholar, Marc Ellis, has called the ecumenical deal: you Christians look the other way while we bludgeon the Palestinians and build our Jewish state and we won’t remind you that Hitler was a good Catholic, a confirmed “soldier of Christ,” long before he was a bad Nazi.

The Holocaust narrative of systematic, industrialized extermination was an important neo-conservative tool to drive the United States into Iraq. The same neo-con ideologues, like Norman Podhoretz, routinely compare Ahmadinejad to Hitler and Nazism with Islamofascism with the intent of driving us into Iran. The title of the Israeli conference at Yad Vashem made this crystal clear: “Holocaust Denial: Paving the Way to Genocide.”

“Remember the Holocaust” will be the battle cry of the next great clash of good (Judeo/Christian values) and evil (radical Islamic aggression) and those who question it must be demonized if not burned at the stake.

Daniel McGowan
Professor Emeritus
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY 14456

September 24, 2009

Because of admonishment by the administration, it is hereby stated that the above remarks are solely those of the author. Hobart and William Smith Colleges neither condone nor condemn these opinions. Furthermore, the author has been instructed to use his personal email address of moc.oohaynull@leinadnawogcm and not his college email at ude.swhnull@nawogcm for those wishing to contact him with comments or criticisms.

Appendix 2

This is a draft of the letter “facilitated” by James MaKinster, signed by six other “colleagues,” and circulated to over 300 others in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ community.

October 3, 2009

President Gearan,

This letter is a response to Daniel McGowan’s defense of Holocaust deniers published in the Finger Lakes Times on September 27. The content of the essay and its publication on the eve of Yom Kippur was appalling. We are writing to you because of the disgrace to Hobart and William Smith caused by McGowan’s continued use of the institutional imprimatur and his honorary title of “Emeritus Professor” to lend credence in disseminating his personal beliefs. He has every right as a private citizen to hold and spew forth whatever beliefs he may happen to have, but we ask you to prevent the use of his title and the name of Hobart and William Smith from contributing to its effects in the future.

It should be clear that while McGowan is claiming to raise legitimate historical and free speech issues, Holocaust denial has a history of being no more that thinly veiled anti-Semitism. When historians talk about the Holocaust what they mean is that approximately six million Jews and several millions of others were killed in an intentional and systematic fashion by the Nazis using a number of different means, including death by shooting and in gas chambers. This is the position held universally by scholars. The Holocaust deniers reject the historicity of the Holocaust based on three types of assertions. They reject the number of 6 million, the existence of killing camps, and the element of intentionality.

Professor McGowan’s article is an example of denying the reality of the most studied and documented event in history. Holocaust denial carries absolutely no weight among academic scholars in any field whatsoever. Additionally, denying the undisputed facts of the holocaust is not a way to show support for the Palestinians. For example, his argument denying the intentionality of the Nazi’s execution of Jews is that there is not sufficient proof that it was designed to exterminate the Jewish population. Rather, he asserts, it may have been merely a program of “ethnic cleansing.” The suggestion that this somehow makes it less morally reprehensible speaks for itself, as we all know that the term “ethnic cleansing” was introduced to make genocide sound more palatable.

Professor McGowan’s position is a classic case of blaming the victims for their own victimization. Promo Levi wrote in The Drowned and the Saved that what he most feared was echoed in a remark by one of his SS guards: That if he somehow managed to live through this hell no one would believe his descriptions of Auschwitz. Sadly, for some, that day has arrived.

Freedom of speech is a right for citizens in a democracy that should be vigorously protected, especially when we find the content of that speech to be abhorrent. Colleges and universities have an educational obligation to encourage scholarship that reflects perspectives outside the mainstream of public political discourse, and we encourage that. Hate speech, on the other hand, is a trickier issue for campuses to wrestle with because while free speech has a special value, we have a duty to protect members of our diverse community from unsupported vitriol being espoused under the name of our colleges and its professors. We faculty of all persuasions, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and atheists, are deeply offended and also share a special concern about the impact of such hateful messages (and its association with us) upon our Jewish students, staff, and faculty.

Professor McGowan’s actions do not meet our expectation of minimally rational and minimally humane discourse. As human beings who see the transparent motivation and effects of such writing, we are deeply disturbed and saddened to see a Hobart and William Smith title attached to it. We therefore request the removal of Professor McGowan’s honorary title of “Emeritus Professor.”

Sincerely,

Scott Brophy, Professor of Philosophy
Michael Dobkowski, Professor of Religious Studies
Khuram Hussain, Assistant Professor of Education
Steven Lee, Professor of Philosophy
James MaKinster, Associate Professor of Education
Lilian Sherman, Assistant Professor of Education
Charles Temple, Professor of Education

  1. Previously appeared at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/850644.html.
  2. Holocaust. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005 (accessed: February 09, 2007).
  3. Previously appeared at http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=268474 (accessed: February 09, 2007).

Israel’s Slander Network

As a researcher and writer largely focused on Canadian foreign policy I was surprised to be profiled by a right wing US magazine and downright amazed when the story was tweeted out by renowned French imperialism apologist Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Recently the website Algemeiner published “It’s Time to Talk About Yves Engler” who they call “a darling of the far-left”. Publisher of an “Annual List of the US and Canada’s Worst (40) Campuses for Jewish Students”, the story decried my “diseased antisemitic brain” and stated “there must be no beating around the bush, no equivocation and no softening of the language: for years, Engler has used ‘progressive’ publications to peddle his own vile brand of anti-Semitism.”

What’s curious in this, and other smears, is I’ve done as much as any author in recent years to draw attention to real anti-Semitism in Canada. I’ve highlighted McGill’s quotas on Jewish students in the 1920s, 30s and 40s; medical students at Notre-Dame Hospital striking in 1934 to block a Jewish student from taking up a senior internship; the 1933 Christie Pits Riot where Jewish youth fought back against fascist thugs terrorizing non-Anglo-Saxons; “none is too many” immigration policies; prejudicial land covenants targeting Jews and others into the 1950s. Additionally, I’ve detailed the multiplicity of forces driving Canadian support for Israeli policy, which undermines the notion its entirely about Jewish Zionist lobbying, an idea that at its most extreme, can veer towards a stereotypical trope.

But, this commentary is not a defence of my writing. Anyone interested in the merits of the slanderous claims against me can pick up Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid or read my articles online to make up their own mind.

What’s worth discussing in this attack is the organizational and financial ecosystem from which it emanates. “It’s Time to Talk About Yves Engler” was written by a York University student affiliated to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which is a rabidly pro-Israel ‘flack’ group. Author Ben Shachar is a CAMERA Fellow, which means he attended a “four day all-expensed-paid annual summer Student Leadership and Advocacy Training conference in Boston” and receives a US$1,000 stipend if he “publishes at least four educational and informational Op-Eds or letters-to-the-editor”, distributes CAMERA materials, organizes an educational event about Israel covered by student media, monitors Israel discussion on campus notably “tracking all relevant class curriculum offered at your university.” If a school doesn’t already have one, CAMERA Fellows’ are encouraged to form an Emet for Israel group, which can access “thousands of dollars in resources for speakers, films, and other programming” promoting Zionism.

CAMERA spent US $4.6 million on campaigning in 2014 (the last year for which information is available online). Though the organization tries to keep its donors anonymous, a Haaretz investigation found CAMERA received more than $1.5 million over the past decade from Seth Klarman, a billionaire hedge fund manager who cofounded The Times of Israel, is a board member and major donor to the anti-Muslim The Israel Project, as well as providing funds to NGO Monitor and illegal West Bank settlements. Haaretz also found that CAMERA received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. (Maybe the famed casino magnet is “talking about Yves Engler”.)

According to the Jewish Forward, CAMERA was one of the “organizations aligned with right-wing and hawkish political views” that presented at the Adelson-sponsored Campus Maccabees summit, which raised at least $20 million and maybe as much $50 million to attack critics of Israel. Before presenting at the 2015 Campus Maccabees meeting Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein told Forward, “my recommendation is that all groups work together to demonize the demonizers.”

While not forthcoming with information, the Maccabees have reportedly spread to a couple dozen universities. According to a 2016 Los Angeles Times story titled “How a casino tycoon is trying to combat an exploding pro-Palestinian movement on campuses”, the Maccabees paid for “Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus” campaigns at a half dozen California universities. Contracted by Adelson’s group, the David Horowitz Freedom Center plastered posters around UCLA labelling sixteen Students for Justice in Palestine members “Jew Haters” and terrorist allies.

It’s unclear if Adelson’s initiative has funded any Canadian-specific activism, but there’s a web of organizations operating in this country that pursue similar work. In January an individual with Hasbara at York who is a former StandWithUs Canada Emerson Fellow criticized one of my essays in a piece for B’nai B’rith.

The Hasbara (meaning “public relations” or “propaganda”) Fellowship program was developed by Israel’s Foreign Ministry in 2001. It has brought over 3,000 students from 250 campuses to Israel on 16-day trips to learn how to “brand” that country on North American campuses. In partnership with Aish Toronto, Hasbara Fellowship Canada says it “brings hundreds of students to Israel every summer and winter, giving them the information and tools to return to their campuses as educators about Israel.”

StandWithUs Canada was started in 2012 as an offshoot of the LA-based parent organization. Its Emerson Fellows are trained to “act as campus emissaries of the Jewish state.”

The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, which later dissolved into the United Jewish Appeal’s umbrella lobbying organization Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, was established in large measure to combat pro-Palestinian activists at Concordia, York and other universities. Immediately upon its establishment in 2004, CIJA contributed more than a million dollars to campus activism, including hiring “advocacy experts in seven Canadian cities, who assist local student groups and address anti-Israel agitation on campus.” The funding also subsidized visits to Israel and trained students to promote that country.

With fifty staff and a $10 million budget, CIJA “provides advocacy support to 25 campuses in 9 provinces. CIJA works closely with Hillel and other Jewish student groups across Canada, providing direct assistance on a wide variety of issues including combatting anti-Israel activities such as BDS initiatives.”

Part Jewish cultural organization and part Israel lobby group, Hillel receives millions of dollars a year from United Jewish Appeal Toronto, Montréal, etc. and other Israeli nationalist sources. In addition to Hillel and CIJA, B’nai B’rith attacks Palestine solidarity activism from its half dozen offices across the country. With an $8.6 million budget in 2015, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada also regularly labels Palestinian solidarity activists “anti-Semitic”. Dozens of registered Canadian charities, ranging from the Jewish National Fund to Christians United for Israel to the Association for the Soldiers of Israel, engage in at least some pro-Israel campaigning.

On the Palestinian solidarity side it’s a different story. Independent Jewish Voices has one poorly paid part-time employee while Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has another. The vast majority of Palestine activism is volunteer work. Few of those engaged in it are compensated financially. Nor are there future employment prospects, which exist in “Jewish communal” institutions for Israel campaigners.

I considered pursuing Shachar or Algemeiner for slander but decided it was more important that people “Talk About” my writing and if that’s not possible at least my “diseased brain”. Also I wouldn’t want them to remove the picture of my book Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation that accompanied the story about me. Maybe some Israel apologists who follow Algemeiner or Bernard-Henri Lévy will read up on Canada’s role in impoverishing the continent.

Too Cool For School

Implicit in the banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between human beings and the world: a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is spectator, not re-creator.

— Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968)

As a scholar who has spent my professional life reading, writing, and teaching university students, I have come to realize how lucky I was to have been fully funded for my graduate studies and likewise received into departments around the world where my scholarship was welcomed by scholars from countries whose compatriots, when they immigrate to the United States, Canada, and the UK, are often not given a reciprocal reception.  More than this, however, I have seen how education is so highly prized by students from these very same backgrounds.  Although I have taught middle and upper-class Americans and Canadians for whom education is not something you struggle for, it has been challenging to see how so many white, middle-class students have come to regard education as a right unique to their worldview.  Compare this to poor Americans and Canadians and most every immigrant student, and education shifts from being a right to a privilege.

In the early 1990s when I taught at the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco, I was stunned initially when I discovered that the students and I all had to share all the texts in the university library for each of the plays I was covering.  The course had approximately 15 students in it and ten different plays to study with the library holding one copy of each play.  So we had to time-share the texts throughout the session. My Peruvian students appreciated this course I taught on Avant-Garde theatre so much that I do not remember one complaint from any of them regarding our having to time-share the texts.

And more recently, while working on a child trafficking project in Haiti, I would spend my “off day” working on ecological projects in Port-au-Prince where I ended up in the Ministry of the Environment where several farmers were waiting to meet the Minister of Environment alongside me and my friend, Rodrigo, as we were there to pitch an ecological workshop plan to the minister.  In speaking with these young farmers, we discussed the toxic presence of Monsanto within the Ministry of Agriculture and the methods of collusion between corporations offering “free” agricultural products and the funneling of money to the Haitian government officials.  I related the similarity of what was happening with my work on child trafficking and these young men, both around 24 years of age, were not surprised by the facts, but rather shocked that I knew who in the government was the puppet master.  When they realized that I was a university professor, they both said, “I want to study with you.”  There was a certain respect for knowledge that actually involved learning from historical facts, scientific accuracies, and not the ideological spin that people from developing countries identify far more readily than most Canadians and Americans.

At no time in my career have I witnessed education being taken for granted so completely as I have in recent years where critical masses of students from the University of Toronto, New York University, Stanford  University, Princeton, Yale, and beyond have turned the classroom from the locus of debate and discussion and into the space of sacred political ideology.  Indeed, the classroom in North America and the United Kingdom has become the place where nobody dare question, think, or respond less students and professors alike are made into the objects of pile on culture. And the students who are silenced by these tactics come away with far less direct aggression given that the general model today used against professors is to attack their livelihood and demand that they be fired, to contact their publishers and demand that their words be censored or withdrawn entirely, and in more severe cases, to harass and threaten these individuals and their families.

A product of the student rebellion culture post-1968 which changed the direction of politics on and off campuses around the planet, I grew up knowing that power was always to be questioned and education to be respected.  The child of an immigrant father from India, the importance of education was hammered into my head as my father would talk of his own childhood when he would have to read his texts for school with the aid of lamps fueled by mustard seed oil. And he would tell us these stories not as a means of bringing down the learning he engaged in as a small boy, but to show his pride for the time and effort he exerted to read the texts his teachers assigned to him.

Skip to the present day, and many universities in the UK are actually asking professors not to have their students read and write.  Instead, using online applications that give the students PowerPoint presentations has become the surrogate for reading and writing. And many professors who do insist on asking students to read and write and refusing to pass undeserving students, are being punished for so doing.  I was personally asked at two different UK universities not to have my students write and I was told to not have them read at one university.  Is it any surprise that students today are struggling to read entire books?  Is it any wonder that the very students who are being so unchallenged by a curriculum which is positing political correctness as the “task” of the semester (above and beyond the learning of any factual, historical, philosophical, and literary texts) can no longer evoke any coherent critique of why they are joining in protest of the latest SJW-fabricated victim du jour?

And we are already seeing the effects of a generation which is being educated by in-class visuals which are set up to replace reading and where note taking is now comprised of students using their mobile phones and clicking a few pictures of the onscreen “lecture.”  Indeed, students are not being asked to read or to think — they are being asked to become ideological vessels in the very same way that the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire warns in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed when he discusses the dangers of education where there is no labour or thinking involved simply because the student is expected to regurgitate everything she has been told.  The classroom becomes a quasi-religious space where this parroting of ideas is expected of the young student and the university structure is cast as the space for the young to rebel, to protest, and even to question why they are being asked to read at all, especially if they are engaged in protest.

The larger problem is that university campuses have been turned into political spaces with the assumption that the students who scream the loudest are, in fact, the morally superior and the judicially correct.  And as the establishment of “safe spaces”, “privilege checking”,  and “trigger warnings” over the years have also been ideologies which have formed part of the current hijacking of education towards political ends, one must wonder about the legitimacy of these mechanisms.  For all the banging on about “privilege checking” some of these students are quite economically privileged despite their screaming at professors about their need for “safe spaces”.  While there is a sizable body of students across these three countries who depend upon student loans and online loans to receive an education, reducing the problems of class inequality, racism, and sexism to “privilege” ignores the real life core of why these very real structural inequalities exist.  In short, attacking every white male professor is not going to change—much less address—the structural problems.

Just a quick read through some of the incidents that have occurred against scholars who are posing their students serious questions and the backlash is palpable. Just ask Jordan Peterson, Michael Rechtenwald, Bret Weinstein, Rebecca Tuvel, and George Ciccariello-Maher. And one can easily leave the walls of academia and find the likes of Katie Herzog and Natasha Vargas-Cooper who have faced serious retaliation for their writing in recent months.  Largely led by students at university campuses, the problem posed by this notion that only one type of thought is acceptable in and out of the classroom, the social justice warrior movement is quickly being revealed as a massive formation of largely privileged students who embolden the historical outrage long associated with the right-wing’s notions of the sacred.  Where rational debate was once the pillar of education and academic exchange, today the concept of breeched safe spaces and hurt feelings have become the hallmark of this era which replaces safety pins as symbolic talisman for critical thinking.

Professors are not the only ones growing tired of the social justice culture of political purity.  There are students who are paying a very high price for studying subjects deemed the the “SJW politburo” as threatening.  And in one case in the UK, a university is engaging in intellectual gatekeeping by preventing a Masters student from undertaking a specific line of study for his thesis simply because his topic of choice is unpopular.  He is now crowd-funding his legal challenge to Bath Spa University for the right to undertake his Masters research.

And while many writers have long recognized the dangers of the social justice movement, there is now a shift in the tide.  In recent months, students at Princeton have been pushing back as have students at the University of Toronto.  And what is most troubling to witness is when the students actually have the opportunity to engage with the object of their hatred, such as this video of one such interaction with Jordan Peterson, it is painfully clear that these students do not have the academic dexterity to engage in thoughtful debate. The conversation inevitably turns on straw man, false accusations of violence, and the theatre of anger that fizzles out because it is clear that the many students of color surrounding Jordan Peterson view this SJW movement as endangering their access to education and thoughtful dialogue.

Aside from the acts of violence and verbal aggression reported from Evergreen State College recently, there are now calls for Weinstein to be fired because he was interviewed by Tucker Carlson earlier this year.   And Bret Weinstein’s recent evocation of the events that have transpired over the past six weeks should be enough for any reasonable student or scholar previously aligned with social justice movement, to step far away and rethink their position.

While most of us would love to live in a world that is “socially just”, the first step in understanding social justice ought to include the first bit about the “social”.  After all, this term invokes society in general, and not only the select few who scream the loudest or who claim purity within their mantra. We cannot pretend to speak truth to power if we deem massive tracts of our shared society as unworthy of being heard, of forming opinions, or of publishing their thoughts.

If those of us on the left scapegoat critical thinking as bigotry simply because it conflicts with our world view, then we are not really engaging the social whatsoever.  While those who take such a position to silence dissent have historically belonged to the religious right, it is not the rule. The left has had and is now fully engaging in its own culture of political censorship.  And it is our obligation to challenge some of the vacuous attacks by those on the left who require an allegiance to a pre-conceived “social justice” orthodoxy.  Even if driven by a progressive desire for social and political equality, anti-intellectualism and bullying simply does not make one’s political position any more reasoned.

Capitalist Economic Violence Against Road Scholars: Now You’re Hired, Now You’re Not

Economic violence against adjuncts

Just recently I went through a destabilizing, confusing, painful, shocking and infuriating experience of being stripped of my rehire rights as an adjunct college instructor. For those who do not know the term “road scholar” or “freeway flyer” is another way of saying that I cobble together a livelihood traveling from college to college. Adjuncts are like intellectual day laborers: the last hired and the first fired, with few, if any, protections or recognition.

I have taught at this school for 13 years. I have worked hard to get my guarantee of 3 classes each semester, have some autonomy in my choice of classes and the days and times of the classes so I can have a sane schedule. Practically what this demotion means is that when the scheduling begins, I will be given the courses:

  • that everyone else already has picked through, meaning they are more work, less interesting or require more management of student anxiety;
  • at times that will probably be inconvenient, such as having a morning class and a night class on the same day;
  • I might have to teach a course I have never taught before and all the added preparation to be faced;
  • I suddenly have no reassurance whether I will have three, two, one or no classes for the spring of next year;
  • that will suddenly put about $10,000 worth of my income in question;
  • I have to begin to look for work at other colleges because of the sudden uncertainty of work at this school. This means I start at the end of the line there, exactly where I started twenty odd years ago

If this is not economic violence, I don’t know what is.

Did my full time evaluator take these things into consideration? I will never know. But on the surface they gave me a rating, added up the numbers, followed the code and – bingo – I lost my rehire rights.

Bureaucratic irrationality

In these kinds of situations, there are at least three common explanations. One is to psychologize the individuals involved and attack them as people. The second explanation is political. Perhaps these administrators and faculty were out to get me because I am a radical. The third explanation is Weber’s bureaucratic theory, and I think we can learn the most from that.

Bureaucracies as organizations are insensitive to complex situations in which normal procedures are not efficient, nor do they take into account that a resource, like a human being, cannot be reduced to a “factor in production”, as their economists like to say. Sometimes a situation requires of an administrator the use of creativity, which involves taking into account novel variables.

Bureaucrats, in this case both administration and full time faculty simply doing their job as specialists, increasingly lose their appreciation for a need to connect specializations into a whole, which is more than the sum of its parts. The results are responses to problems outside their specialization like “that is not my department”. The long-term result of working in a bureaucracy is what psychologists call “cognitive compartmentalization”. By this I mean an inability to make cross-connections between events outside their specialization or to recognize the contradictions and irrationality of applying a specialized mindset to a situation which is too complex to fit.

These administrators and faculty in turn produce an educational curriculum for students that is an expression of their bureaucratic administration. The result is courses which are specialized but few or no courses which synthesize across the disciplines of study. This is what a liberal arts education was once supposed to do, and we know what has happened to that! Just as bureaucrats cannot problem-solve outside the box of their specialty, they create in students the same cognitive compartmentalization. In this case students will receive a degree in psychology and know nothing about the politics of psychology, its use and abuse by economics and its relationship to geography or anthropology.

Right wing liberal administration supports religious fundamentalism

At the beginning of this year I received a complaint about their grade from a student who claimed that I was biased against religion. I wrote to the dean and the faculty member who handles student complaints (whom I’ll call “Tom”) and explained how I got the calculation of their grade. The student failed the class badly (with a final grade of about 46%) and I thought it was an open and shut case. It was not. In a later phone conversation, Tom accused me of being insensitive to the religious beliefs of this student by suggesting he consider that religion might be propaganda. I explained to Tom that I offer students many other forms of information control to categorize religion other than propaganda, such as “dialectic” (education) and “rhetoric”. I am not forcing them to call it propaganda. However, this was not the end of it.

Tom met with this student a number of times and I was never invited to rebut this student face-to-face. Then the dean called me in. I explained the same process and my criteria. The main thing the dean told me is that we have to keep this complaint away from getting on to the agenda of some higher committee. Additionally, the school was very afraid of lawsuits. The idea was to discourage the student by waiting and hoping they would go away. Well, the student went away, but Tom did not.

Blurring boundaries

It was in the course of our discussion about this student’s religious beliefs that Tom took it upon himself to be “curious” about how I was teaching this applied psychology course. Later, Tom implied that this “curiosity” was innocent and had no political power content. But it did. We went from dealing with a student’s complaint and then he switched into another role of evaluating how I was teaching the course. Because Tom was a self-confident bureaucrat he couldn’t imagine that he was behaving in a very unbureaucratic way—he crossed a line. He was mixing specializations. I did not say anything then and hoped the whole issue would fade away. It did not.

A couple of weeks later, I received an email announcing that is was time for me to be evaluated. There is nothing suspicious about this as we are evaluated every three years or so. What was suspicious was that the evaluator was Tom – the same person who was handling the grade complaint. A coincidence? Maybe, but:

  • of the entire full-time faculty who could evaluate me it just so happened it was the faculty member who just processed a grade complaint;
  • of the three classes I was teaching he could have chosen to evaluate me on, it just so happened that the applied psychology course was the one he chose;
  • evaluating this course required him to make other arrangements for his own course that he was teaching at the same time as mine. It seemed that he was going out of his way.

This seemed very calculated to me, given the nature of our first conversation about the student complaint. To be safe I spoke with two faculty members to see what they thought. They both agreed that Tom crossed a line.

As part of the preparation of my evaluation I asked another faculty member, Andy, to be present to witness my speaking with Tom about my concern with him blurring boundaries. I told Tom to his face that I did not want him as my evaluator because I did not trust him. At our three way meeting I requested another evaluator to which I was told I was not allowed to make that request, quoting some academic rule book. I was only allowed a second evaluator. This was a very unsafe situation for me to be stepping into. There was no question in my mind that regardless whether Tom intended to or not, the conditions of the evaluation process were hostile and there wasn’t anything I could do about it short of quitting. Apparently the administration of the school cannot imagine or anticipate conditions under which a full-time faculty could be untrustworthy in relation to an adjunct and have to step down out of the process because they were not being objective. Andy reassured me that Tom was trustworthy, but he volunteered to be my second evaluator. In a later email, Andy implied I was making too much of this and that evaluations of full-timers were much more stressful   Mostly because of the extra work involved, and because I wanted to think the best of these people, I waved a second evaluation. In retrospect, that was a mistake, as we shall see.

Being a teacher but not an academic

I am a self-educated college instructor and I have never felt at home in academic life though I have been in its periphery for over two decades. I love to teach, I honestly like my students and I relish the possibility of seeding revolutionaries and being paid for it. It was only after having dropped out of community college that I became interested in reading. I read books every day for close to two hours from the time I was 22 years old to the present. I was interested in many subjects: world history, philosophical ontology, mythology, political economy, sociology, geography, archeology, the history of science and art history. After nine years of driving fork lifts and unloading trucks, and with the economy sagging in the early 80’s, I listened to my partner and went back to school to get a degree in psychology. I chose this because a number of people who mattered to me said I would be a natural teacher and therapist. My problem was that as a teacher I did not want to leave my thirteen years of reading behind when I taught my psychology students. My economics professor, a Marxist, was furious at me for wanting to go into psychology. In retrospect I can see why he was upset and why he was right. Nevertheless I had the nerve to think I could teach across disciplines and do my job.

For the most part I succeeded, but was always up against administrative specialists and full time faculty who insisted on staying within the field of psychological specialization. Who are you to dare to connect the dots across the disciplines? I wanted students to leave school with a picture of the whole elephant, not snapshots of the limbs. With a rare exception of the dwindling private liberal arts colleges that are left, no university or community college offered courses that would integrate the disciplines. Without this, students graduate with no guidance on how to connect psychology to economics, politics or history.

“What, you’ve written books and you weren’t forced to?”

The first fifteen years of my college teaching life I taught at private universities and out of the classes I designed I produced two books that paralleled my self-educational reading. Then, again because of the economy getting worse, I began to also teach at community colleges. Upon being interviewed at one school, one of the panelists told me afterward that what separated me from the other applicants was that I had written two books. He told me he couldn’t believe that I had published these books on my own time with my own money without being forced to by the “publish or perish” syndrome.

However, once I began teaching I found that having written books were widow dressing for the administration and the full time faculty. There was no relationship between writing a book and teaching a course on your book. Objective and qualitative book reviews, and a scholarly bibliography meant nothing. I applied a number of times to teach a course based on my books but was always shot down because I didn’t have a degree in the field. Because my book was interdisciplinary they couldn’t find the right slot for it. So what I began to do was to exercise what I thought was my academic freedom to interpret psychology courses to include history, politics and economics.

Having the nerve to teach across the disciplines

For example, if any of you are familiar with Adam Curtis’ documentary, Century of the Self you know that there is a much darker side to psychology than individual self-exploration and therapy. For a hundred years this field has been explicit in manipulating people through advertising (Bernays), politics (Bernays), interventions into selling World War I to the public and in helping to overthrow the Guatemalan government in the early fifties. Psychology in the United States has been involved in brainwashing (Cameron), while the CIA has used university psychology departments to do its research for them. Humanistic psychology and transpersonal psychology did their part in de-politicizing people in the early seventies by turning them into therapy junkies and New Age spiritualists.

The title and description of the course that caused the controversy was so vaguely defined in the course curriculum that I had to ask two or three teachers how the course was different from others, like the introductory class, a class on abnormal psychology or personality theory. What I was told was that the class had to present an application to modern life.

Who designs the Curriculum?

In academic La-La Land we find a college that fosters “diversity of opinion” among faculty…except that some teachers are more equal than others. In the design of course curriculum, adjuncts do not seem to be included in the design of the learning objectives and the scope of the course. Apparently adjuncts are not considered fit to be part of this process. So, while having written books is impressive enough to get me hired, it has no relevance as to whether I would be used as a resource to design curriculum.

In the course that Tom was to evaluate, I had the nerve, as a lowly adjunct, to examine the courses the department was offering and make a judgment about what might be missing in the curriculum. My intention in teaching a course my way was to broaden and deepen what the department was doing. At least at this one school, the department is stuck in primarily teaching the 1970s “feel good” psychology, oblivious to its darker sides. I attempted to change this.

Loss of Preferential hiring rights

About three weeks after Tom sat in on the course, I received an email from him requesting a meeting. To my shock I received a “below average” evaluation in four areas, mostly because I had developed a whole new course “without the department approval”. For this I was deprived of my preferential rehire rights. Up to now, I had received consistently “outstanding” evaluations.

“Caring” about students through actual student input (matters very little)

I had 20 students present the day I was evaluated and they were asked to fill out a questionnaire asking questions about me as a teacher across 16 categories, including a commentary section. With the possible exception of “treating students with respect” there were no categories in which students were asked:

  • Did they enjoy what they were learning?
  • Could they apply the course to their lives?

I thought application to their lives was a foundation part of the course. Across these 16 categories the students gave me an overall rating of about 94 percent. These students included those who had C’s, D’s or were even failing the course. Did that count on my evaluation? No. Did my ratings by the students matter? No.

During nine years of teaching this course, I continued to deepen it by extensive reading. In my course lecture notes I included a bibliography of about 100 books covering disciplines such as advertising, politics, nationalism, economics, crowds, cults, movies, sports, brainwashing, spying, propaganda and rhetoric. Was the fact that I read all the books in my bibliography on my own time ever considered as part of my evaluation? No. There is no category for “innovation.”

What did matter, as the dean pointed out in his evaluation, is that I had consistently low enrollment. What does this mean?

Low enrollment (student input matters)

As my adjunct advocate pointed out, course enrollment has nothing to do with my evaluation as a teacher but a lot to do with lining the pocket of the district administration. In my experience, students in the United States are interested in convenience, high grades and entertainment, with as little work as possible. I do not offer these things. For the bureaucratic administration, low enrollment means that I have “low productivity”, meaning their profit rates are lowered.

So on the one hand, when it comes to student enrollment, students’ opinions are of great concern to the administration, just as when they might be when a student plays the religiously offended card. But when it comes to students who actually took my class and then evaluating me, it seems of minor importance.

Suppressed history

At my meeting with Tom, Andy seemed amazed this was the first time in 13 years of teaching that I ever had a grade complaint that required administrative intervention. Was that considered in my evaluation? No.

In thirteen years I doubt I’ve been sick or missed a class more than 5 or 6 times. Did that count in my evaluation? No. I have never been accused of grade inflation in a school in which those who give the full spectrum of grades from A to F are outnumbered. Was that considered in my evaluation? No.

So what?

When I spoke to my adjunct advocate, he told me that he knew Tom and that on the surface he seems competent, but that he thought Tom had psychological problems. I follow most sociologists on this, especially Durkheim, and am completely dismissive of explaining social problems like this through psychology. Was Tom conspiring to “get me” because I am a radical? Could be, and conspiracies are real. However I think we learn more by assuming that the people in these bureaucracies are psychologically sane, do some things that are not politically motivated, but because they work in a bureaucracy they are compelled by structure of the system to work this way. They are narrow, myopic bean counters who cannot see the big picture or the long view and innovate when the need arises. The result is they will likely lose a valuable resource and the bureaucracy is not intelligent enough as an organization to know that anything is missing.

Image from LA Times