Patterico's Pontifications

6/30/2021

Academia Continues Its Rapid Slide into Irrelevancy

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:25 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Well, here it is:

You may remember the infamous Ms. Hannah-Jones, the New York Times feature writer who led the disastrous “1619 Project” which almost immediately was exposed by honest historians for its omissions, distortions, and outright fabrications. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author herself is noted for spinning fanciful tales provided it stirs up racial resentments in a way that is suitable to her purposes. She joins the rouges’ gallery of Al Sharpton, Ibrham Kendi, and guest ofay Robin DiAngelo (among others) in the race-hustling racket that so effortlessly reaches into the pockets of high-strung white progressives.

For all that, a saving grace of the higher education establishment (speaking of rackets) had been that they showed a sensible reluctance to embrace someone like Nikola Hannah-Jones who had done such slipshod and risible work. In a fleeting moment of good judgement, the UNC Board of Trustees voted in May to deny her a tenured professorship in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, though in an obvious dodge they cited her lack of a traditional academic pedigree rather than her history of mendacity. (At National Review Online, Kevin Williamson argued convincingly that modern university journalism departments are so completely worthless that a Professor Nikola Hannah-Jones would fit right in.) They instead offered her a traditional five-year tenure-track appointment as a non-tenured assistant professor, giving her the chance to earn her status through academic merit. This was deemed an insult by the celebrity scholar, who immediately announced that she would not accept the position without first being granted a permanent appointment with full honors. Today, the UNC Board of Trustees blinked.

I’ve been down on UNC ever since the scandal broke of UNC athletes being funneled into phony-baloney African-American Studies courses in order to keep them eligible, and the NCAA’s cowardly determination that since this academic fraud wasn’t restricted exclusively to athletes that the Tar Heel’s celebrated basketball program would have no sanctions placed upon it. But I’ve always believed that UNC’s treatment of the academic integrity of football and basketball players tells you as much about what black scholars truly mean to the white progressives running the university as hires like the one earlier today do.

– JVW

15 Responses to “Academia Continues Its Rapid Slide into Irrelevancy”

  1. It’s amazing to me that university faculty and administration sit around and wonder why fewer and fewer Americans are willing to take their opinions seriously, and why now even their scholarship is assumed to be tainted by ideological manipulations.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  2. There’s a lot of momentum in this system though. It’s going to take some time for the disease to kill the body and it’s going to be a long and painful process.

    frosty (f27e97)

  3. I can’t remember where I read it, but there was a complaint about critics of NHJ’s 1619 Project not being historians, therefore, who were they to criticize her. Except, NHJ isn’t a historian either. She’s a journalist, by training and profession. So…

    Dana (fd537d)

  4. There’s a lot of momentum in this system though. It’s going to take some time for the disease to kill the body and it’s going to be a long and painful process.

    Well, to start off with I think that journalism doesn’t have much of a future ahead of it. Like the Williamson essay says, journalism is a craft not an art or a science, and that aspiring journalists would be better off studying history, economics, philosophy, biology, and a whole host of other things rather than taking courses in “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” Maybe someday when the last newspaper on earth has a staff consisting of about nine section editors and then a few hundred freelance stringers, academia will figure it out.

    And don’t get me started on College of Education.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  5. UNC seems to want her pretty badly (are they having trouble getting applicants and need a celebrity prof?) but since everyone else whose been offered the Knights Chair has been offered it with tenure attached I can see why she wasn’t willing to take it without tenure. Anyone know why they wanted her so badly?

    Nic (896fdf)

  6. I can’t remember where I read it, but there was a complaint about critics of NHJ’s 1619 Project not being historians. . .

    The funny thing about that is that a lot of people who indeed aren’t historians have criticized the 1619 Project, but then again so have a whole hell of a lot of people who are historians. As it turned out, just about everyone with a passive understanding of the process of researching and recording history figured out pretty early that Nikola Hannah-Jones’s work was a steaming pile of equine excrement.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  7. Anyone know why they wanted her so badly?

    Check out the faculty listing on the department’s website. I count five people out of forty-three who are very likely black, with the possibility of two or three others who may be of mixed race. This makes the percentage of black faculty members somewhere between 11.6% and 18.6%. By contrast, better than one in five North Carolinians is either black or partially black. I’m guessing that has at least something to do with their desire to land Ms. Hannah-Jones. They have to offset departments like Physics & Astronomy where only one out of forty-four faculty members is black.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  8. The Cancel Culture ratchet. This is what the culture is all about, to bully everyone into letting them have their way. The ad baculum falacy now rules public discourse.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  9. Anyone know why they wanted her so badly?

    When colleges are obsessed with cosmetic diversity, it’s not hard to imagine that any black woman of note would be sought after. If she’s any good is a bonus, but not actually required. One of the terrible aspects of the diversity panic is that a lot of good non-white candidates are going to treated as though they’re commodities.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  10. 4-Like the Williamson essay says, journalism is a craft not an art or a science, and that aspiring journalists would be better off studying history, economics, philosophy, biology, and a whole host of other things rather than taking courses in “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

    The thing is, though, is that journalism has long been an ideologically-driven enterprise. Most newspapers for about the first 140 years of the nation’s history, especially from about the 1840s-1930s, were often mouthpieces for political parties. That’s why you’d often see big-city papers called the “________ Democrat” or “_________ Republican.” The Lincoln-Douglas debates is well-known for the competing party newspapers having different interpretations of the debate transcripts.

    They also practiced extremely unethical behavior in pursuit of stories. The Denver Post, for instance, was known in its early years for digging up dirt on businesses and organizations, and then blackmailing them into buying advertising in the paper, in exchange for not running the hit pieces. The Journal News doxed New York City gun owners as recently as 2012. John Cook repeated the stunt for Gawker in 2013.

    We have this idea of journalism being this neutral reporter of basic facts, but that’s mainly a paradigm from the WW2 years when FDR’s critics in the news media (and yes, there were some despite the revisionist history that FDR was a universally beloved figure by the working classes; the Chicago Tribune was his most notable nemesis) put political concerns aside in favor of winning the war. Post-WW2, most papers initially took on a promotion of the civic consensus that emerged in the wake of the Allies’ victory, focusing a lot on corporate big-city growth.

    JFK’s presidency was the first instance of the mask starting to fall off. JFK’s public image represented exactly what a lot of journalists thought the US needed to emulate, and his scandals were deliberately covered to avoid public controversy. The idolatry accelerated after his death, and Nixon’s later ascension as GOP leader, who long had a mutually antagonistic relationship with the press going back to his Congressional victory over Helen Gahagan Douglas, hardened their ideological leanings even further, and Watergate certainly accelerated it. Most still had some ethic towards discussing things in a non-partisan way, but guys like Dan Rather started to take the business in a new direction after Watergate. The integration of the New Left in academia during the late 60s and early 70s started the long march through the institutions that now sees radical left-wing cultural Marxism and obsession with fashion as the ideological status quo in universities, which have been indoctrinating journalists in this intellectual mush ever since.

    Journalism is simply reverting back to its historical partisan roots.

    Factory Working Orphan (2775f0)

  11. 7-I’m guessing that has at least something to do with their desire to land Ms. Hannah-Jones. They have to offset departments like Physics & Astronomy where only one out of forty-four faculty members is black.

    You’re definitely on to something here. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was published in the Colorado Sun a couple days ago:

    Colorado is more diverse than ever, but its college professors are overwhelmingly white

    In a state that’s become increasingly diverse, the professors who teach at Colorado’s four-year colleges are overwhelmingly white.

    Of the 3,500 professors who have tenure, just 15 of them are Black women. Another 38 are Black men.

    Hispanic students now make up about 20% of the state’s universities. But Hispanic professors? Less than 8% of all tenured professors across the state.

    In one area Colorado has similar representation: Asian faculty. Asians represent 6.4% of tenured faculty compared with 4% of students who attend the state’s four-year universities, data from the Colorado Department of Higher Education show.

    I can’t post links here, but you can google the article and it will come up. Check out the chart in the article; I suspect most of the nation’s universities have a similar racial composition.

    Factory Working Orphan (2775f0)

  12. Given the state of journalism, I’m not sure this matters big picture. It used to be that it was critical for journalists to be scrupuously accurate, painstakingly objective, disciplined about sources and methods, independent of the key players they were covering, and focused on important issues, especially rooting out corruption, injustice, and abuse of power. Now there are not-so-hidden agendas, blatant biases, painfully sloppy inaccuracies, misleading headlines, invented facts, misleading narratives, focus on the trivial, and over-focus on personalities. The rush to be first and the rush to push an ideology….and blurring journalism with the often much lazier news analysis…has created the monster. Mix in a healthy dose of confirmation bias where news consumers now demand an ideological bent, what exactly pushes to fix this? How many eye-roll-discount any and every story from the NYT or FNC, regardless of facts? People more and more want spin, not careful objectivity. Blur what Mueller was about and get on to hunting Hunter Biden.

    So Hannah-Jones is a localized disaster….a blatant appeal to diversity….rather than excellence….or a commitment to rigorous journalistic ethics. Does this help the journalism department recruit students and grow its reputation? Generally no, but probably in some political quarters…sure. Still, I kind of agree with Williamson….journalism is more like a trade that you learn from practice, rather than a lot of in-class lecturing….how many times can one repeat the key elements of journalistic ethics? I suppose the student is securing a credential to open up an internship opportunity, but it still seems like a waste of a lot of money. Better to learn critical thinking in a different discipline and read lots of examples of good journalism. In the end, Hannah-Jones is a blip in an industry that is burning down….and consumers are feeding the fire…

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  13. Good reason to pitch job applicants with UNC degrees directly into the trashcan as soon as they are submitted.

    David Longfellow (f7430d)

  14. @7 and @9 Makes sense, but you’d think they would just hire more minority profs in general instead of acquiring a lightening rod.

    Nic (896fdf)


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