The SAFS Newsletter presents an unending spectacle of honourable and conscientious Canadian university faculty and others who have been skewered by the forces of political correctness. Universities lose dedicated researchers, thinkers, and educators. No one, whether employed by a university or an ordinary citizen, is safe from attack.
The threat impacts all, from Lindsay Shephard teaching a class while studying for an advanced degree, to Steven Galloway, a tenured professor. What makes the situation for these people so infuriating is that the charges are absurd and even vindication does nothing to protect them. Despite being cleared by former B.C. Supreme Court judge Mary Ellen Boyd of the accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment made by Corolea Cole, and others who jumped on the bandwagon, Galloway was fired from U.B.C. Because she audio-recorded the meeting at which she was berated for showing a clip of Jordan Peterson speaking on TV-Ontario, Shepherd’s reputation is intact. Nevertheless, her future as a scholar is bleak. In this climate, finding a university and a thesis advisor to accept someone with her notoriety will not be easy.
It’s easy to blame the mob of highly visible, chanting students that is the public face of repression, and hope that, like the taste for tattoos, the youthful fashion will one day change. An article in The Boston Review Forum, and the responses to it, exposes a far more insidious threat. Agnes Callard, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago, shares the ethics of a mafia don. In her Forum article, “On Anger,” Callard offers a closely reasoned argument revealing the “truth” about anger. She maintains that the effect that an injury has on an individual is not erased by apologies, restitution, or even penalties inflicted on the perpetrator. Not even time can erase the injury as the individual can be preoccupied indefinitely by a desire to mete out revenge far in excess of the original injury. Callard concludes that suffering an injury damages the character of the victim. “We cannot be good in a bad world.”
Although Callard expresses her theory about anger in general terms, it is clear that it is not just any anger that is the subject, but the special anger of social justice.
Myisha Cherry, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside, is not interested in anger as a character flaw. “I concede that those who are angry at racial injustice are both corrupt and wounded. I am not surprised by this, though. Instead I am grateful that there exist corrupt and wounded folk who are willing to use their anger at racial injustice to make the world better—not in the absence of these traits, but in spite of them.”
Cherry cheers the angry on, convinced that anger is the essential source of reform.
There are responders who question the value of anger and warn of the risks of adopting it as a strategy. Amy Olberding, Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma, observes, “If she’s bad enough to need a punch, she’s not likely good enough to take it well and change. The far more likely outcome is that she’ll answer like with like, return the punch, and we together will descend at speed into a gutter war for social dominance. ‘Victory’ will come when one of us is cowed enough at last to quit—no one changed, all bloodied.”
Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, questions abandoning the tactics of great leaders. “Martin Luther King, Jr., the one distinguished Western philosopher who did recognize and emphasize this distinction, spoke of the way that the anger of people in his movement had to be purified and ‘channelized.’
“In a statement in 1959, he vividly characterized the two types. One is the development of a wholesome social organization to resist with effective, firm measures any efforts to impede progress. The other is a confused, anger-motivated drive to strike back violently, to inflict damage. Primarily, it seeks to cause injury to retaliate for wrongful suffering. . . . It is punitive—not radical or constructive.
“I’m with King: the retaliatory sort is not useful to the struggle because it is confused and not constructive. Nor is it really ‘radical’ in the sense of creating something new and better. King wanted accountability, legal punishment, and the public expression of shared values. He rejected pain for pain as easy, weak, and stupid.”
Despite the very sensible point that attack is ineffective for changing beliefs, and having the historic example of Martin Luther King Jr., who changed the legal and social status of Black Americans in a matter of decades, the exponents of anger and intimidation insist on the value of their weapons.
Whitney Phillips, Assistant Professor of Communication, Culture, and Digital Technologies at Syracuse University, justifies mob action on the grounds that the targets deserve it: “Any equivalence, implicit or explicit, between the push for justice and reactionary violence is false. This isn’t a claim about what specific tactics are used on either side. A hateful message and a supportive message could both be written on a piece of paper in pencil; no one would say the messages were the same, simply because the tool was the same. Sarah Hagi emphasizes this point, arguing in Time that the angry mob caricature of cancel culture gets the issue all wrong. What’s actually happening, she argues, is a move toward public accountability. Thanks to social media, marginalized people now have public channels for pushing back against the powerful. ‘This applies to not only wealthy people or industry leaders,’ Hagi explains, ‘but anyone whose privilege has historically shielded them from public scrutiny. Because they can’t handle this cultural shift, they rely on phrases like “cancel culture” to delegitimize the criticism.’”
Check colour of skin, sex, political orientation, to tell who is in the right. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the conflict, forget logic or evidence as a defense. Apology will not save you. It will merely confirm your guilt.
The goal of Martin Luther King Jr., and for that matter most of the thinkers of Western Civilization, was to reduce anger and aggression, whether expressed as war or crime. It is completely contrary to the goal of a peaceful society to work at inflaming racial tensions by convincing people that they are racist when they feel no animus toward other races. You may think that you harbor no ill feelings toward other races, but universities hire professors like Robin DiAngelo (PhD, Univeristy of Washington) at great expense to prove to you that you are secretly full of animus. The more you cling to your conviction that you are not a racist, the greater the evidence is that you are utterly unregenerate. Should you ask how you can remedy the situation, you will be told there is nothing you can do, except spend a lifetime becoming more and more aware of your bigotry. Apology is useless. Redemption is impossible. Not only does this treatment create anxiety in the target “white” group, but also it convinces people of other races that their anger is justified against “white” bigotry, which has no solution.
The implications of this stance, justified by respected scholars, are profound. Seeing people who occupy honoured positions in universities carelessly tossing out non-violent strategies and replacing them with older, primitive emotions is alarming. Worse, they are indifferent to the harm that anger can do. Demagogues have fanned the flames of anger at “the other” with terrifying success. Nazi Germany, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda are only a few of the bloodbaths energized by anger. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of having people judged by their character not their colour is being systematically dismantled. When anger at select targets is deployed in the halls of the university to shut down research, prevent debate, and deprive students and faculty of the opportunity to hear different points of view, then those forces are undermining the foundations of the technologically advanced, democratic, and law abiding society we value.
Suppressing unpopular views in the university unleashes peril on the public which depends of research and scholarship to determine the truth. Sharon Kirkey reported on January 21, 2019, in the National Post that Canadian Family Doctors has new guidelines to deal with the increase in gender dysphoric youngsters who are faced with long wait times at gender clinics. Dr. Joey Bonifacio, a co-author of the article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, gives the green light to prescribing puberty blockers at ten-and-a-half in girls and eleven-and-a-half in boys, preparatory to prescribing opposite sex hormones at the age of 16. In the article in the Journal itself, Bonifacio and others note a number of concerns with the program, which include decreased bone density with puberty blockers, which can be repaired by early use of sex hormones. The administration of puberty blockers has another effect: infertility.
The conclusion Dr. Bonifacio et al reach about the serious, life altering problem of infertility is astonishing: “Although the effects of hormone blockers are reversible, commencing them at earlier ages may preclude adolescents from pursuing fertility preservation, especially if medical management progresses from blockers to administration of cross-sex hormones at an earlier age, preventing sufficient endogenous pubertal development to attain reproductive capacity. However, even with current ages of medication administration, a recent study found that very few youth with gender dysphoria opted for fertility preservation procedures such as sperm or egg harvesting. More research is required to understand why this is the case. Although it may be important to delay medical therapy temporarily to allow for fertility preservation, decisions regarding future fertility should not preclude care to address gender dysphoria.” (Emphasis mine.)
Dr. Bonifacio is puzzled that so few 10 or 11 year olds would choose to delay hormone blockers to allow harvesting of eggs and sperm. How many 10 or 11 year old children would see delaying present gratification so as to have babies decades later as an appealing choice? Bonifacio is keen to warn that the risk of losing the ability to have a family shouldn’t get in the way. After all, “decisions regarding future fertility should not preclude care to address gender dysphoria.” With opinions like that of Dr. Bonifacio, surely it would be valuable to hear a different point of view.
Dr. Allan Josephson, University of Louisville, after years (2014, 2015, 2016) of perfect evaluations, was fired in February of 2019 for disagreeing with prescribing puberty blockers and sex hormones for youngsters that would have permanent, life-altering effects. He states, “children persistently, insistently, and consistently demand many things that are not good for them. A parent’s role is to resist these demands when parental wisdom trumps children’s limited life experience.” Colleagues, at the University of Louisville, in particular those running the campus LBGT centre, succeeded in driving Dr. Josephson out of his position as head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology. In doing so, they deprived parents, children, and professionals of a dissenting voice on an issue of fundamental importance. From positions within the university, the “progressive” forces are undermining the science and the thinking that has brought us the advanced society we live in today.
We have to fight back. SAFS’s letters to universities are stronger for representing a group. A look through the SAFS Newsletter shows the number of times the president has been able to write to administrators as the voice of concerned scholars.
Courageous individuals can achieve success. Lisa Bildy, a London lawyer, organized a campaign to run a slate of candidates for the Ontario Law Society for the purpose of removing the pressure to sign the Society’s Statement of Principles, in which lawyers were to avow opposition to homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, and any and all “incorrect” sentiments. The twenty-two candidate slate won by a landslide.
It’s time to add a new strategy. Toby Young is a British journalist, author, and playwright. He has proved his organizational abilities by serving as the driving force behind the British Free Schools (Charter schools) Network. He was personally involved in setting up The West London Free School, which provides a rigorous, traditional, classics based curriculum. Young was appointed to an educational advisory committee by the government of Theresa May. An attack by Social Justice Warriors succeeded in removing him from the committee and from the boards of five charities. The experience of being mobbed, coupled with seeing how that action drove a friend to suicide, pushed Young to search for a solution. He came up with the idea of the Free Speech Union.
Instead of facing the mob alone, a member of the Union who is attacked can be supported by other members with letters to his employer, favourable postings on social media, and, most important, a crowd funding campaign to pay for legal advice. In his article in Quillette, “Why I Want to Start a Free Speech Trade Union”, he says: “… membership will be open to academics, intellectuals, columnists, pundits, novelists, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, songwriters, comedians, and so on—‘writers of any stripe,’ in Ferguson’s phrase. And not just those who’ve achieved some professional standing in those fields, but those with ambitions to do so—students as well as practitioners, even older schoolchildren. After all, it’s on university campuses and in high schools that so much contemporary censorship takes place.”
Young debated whether to confine membership to Britain, but decided that having worldwide support for someone under attack was valuable. British membership offers access to legal support. A less expensive international membership is available, which can offer letter writing and social media posting, but not legal advice. Using the British format as a model, a Canadian chapter could develop the legal resources to assist Canadian citizens.
Some are skeptical of his initiative because of the damage the mob has done to his reputation. Young’s humorous novel, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a self-deprecating account of his complete failure to take New York by storm when he was hired by Vanity Fair, gave his enemies plenty of ammunition. However, it took the social justice mob digging up a joke title for an article he had written seventeen years previously to get him removed from the educational advisory committee for Teresa May, and dropped from five charitable boards of directors.
The Social Justice Warriors take pride in anger. Far from stifling it, they use anger as a weapon to batter anyone who holds different views. By justifying the actions of the mob, the Warriors ensconced in the university menace not just faculty, but also citizens and the fabric of civilization itself. An effective Free Speech Union would give members the confidence to speak out against the absurdity and lies that are eroding our lives and our civilization and just might turn the tide before it is too late. Join the fight.
Bonifacio, J. et al. (2019, January 21). Management of gender dysphoria in primary care. CMAJ.
Chasman, D. and J. Cohen, Eds. On Anger. (2020). Boston Review Forum.
Kearns, M. (2019, July 12). Gender Dissenter Gets Fired. National Review.
Kirkey, S. (2019, January 21). Puberty Blockers, cross-sex hormones: Canada’s family doctors get guidance on treating youth with ‘gender dysphoria’. National Post.
Young, T. (2019, August 1). Why I Want to Start a Free Speech Union. Quillette.