Patterico's Pontifications

2/18/2022

How Sadly Predictable and Unreadable Academic History Has Become

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:27 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Note: I thought of holding this post until Monday since Dana got an early start on the Weekend Open Thread (TGIF!), but I figured I would just post this now and get it out of the way. The story is a week old anyway, though it only came to my attention recently.

A PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania by the name of Taylor Dysart wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post last week which inadvertently demonstrates just how stultifyingly banal and mindlessly predictable modern academia has become. Ms. Dysart surveys the Canadian truckers’ protest and discovers that their grievances stem from — you won’t believe it! — white colonialism.

The convoy has surprised onlookers in the United States and Canada, both because of the explicitly racist and violent perspectives of some of the organizers and because the action seems to violate norms of Canadian “politeness.” But the convoy represents the extension of a strain of Canadian history that has long masked itself behind “peacefulness” or “unity”: settler colonialism. It is not incidental that this latest expression of white supremacy is emerging amid a public health crisis. The history of Canadian settler colonialism and public health demonstrates how both overt white-supremacist claims and seemingly more inert nationalistic claims about “unity” and “freedom” both enable and erase ongoing harm to marginalized communities.

Set aside the super lazy invocation of racism, which has really come to be defined in recent years as “anything which irks leftists.” Set aside the woke bingo card contained within her essay (buzzwords which appear include the stuff quoted above as well as “Indigenous peoples,” “genocidal,” “weaponized,” “land dispossession,” “segregation and racial hierarchy,” “Donald Trump,” and so many others). Set aide Ms. Dysart’s citation of alleged mass unmarked graves found at state schools for First Nations children in Ontario, which roiled the North American left last year and led to the dipshit Prime Minister demanding an apology from Pope Francis right up until rational people investigated and determined that the story had been grossly misreported by academic leftists and their media allies. Set aside the fact that the experts she marshals in support of her argument are all fellow progressive academics who reside in the same ideological bubble as she does. Beyond all that, the dumbest aspect of her argument is that the litany of white colonial settler sins throughout Canada’s history which Ms. Dysart so painstakingly enumerates has absolutely nothing to do with the truckers’ current grievances, despite her attempt to link them through the crazy and frankly obnoxious notion that “freedom” is a white concept which has no truck with people of color. Good lord.

I’m not surprised that this sort of piffle is being peddled by academic historians. Frankly, the discipline has been ruined by the faculty lounge crowd for some time now, and there is a reason why a set consisting of the best-selling authors in historical nonfiction and a set consisting of the leading historians in academia would have pretty much zero intersection on a Venn diagram. No doubt Ms. Dysart will eventually receive her sheepskin in full robe and tam, and will go on find some cozy sinecure at a middling university where she can indoctrinate young mushminds in her silly delirium.

But I do blame the Washington Post op-ed page editor for publishing this crap. Surely there has to be some point at which even a left-leaning editor says to him or herself, “No, this probably isn’t a good topic for yet another white privilege screed from a woke academic.” This really ought to have been just that instance, but it would seem that the WaPo is happy to champion mediocrity so long as it generally reflects the preferred progressive narrative. As Jon Levine and others have pointed out, the final submission wasn’t even properly copyedited and continues to contain a very clunky sentence that any competent editor would have caught: “The belief that one’s entitlement to freedom is a key component of White supremacy.” Perhaps not even the copyeditors at WaPo are willing to actually read Ms. Dysart’s dreck. Democracy may indeed die in darkness, as the paper is so fond of telling us, but democracy also dies in dumbness, which the Washington Post is making manifest these days.

– JVW

23 Responses to “How Sadly Predictable and Unreadable Academic History Has Become”

  1. Best comment on this piece in the WaPo comments section, which, happily so, are overwhelmingly negative:

    The writer is as ignorant of Canada as I am not.

    Canadian “politeness”? Canadians say: “You can’t beat them on the ice if you can’t beat them in the alley.”

    The writer is unaware that Canadians care not a whit what Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, Joe Rogan nor Donald Trump think about Canada.

    The writer is unaware of the Lower Canada and Riel Rebellions and their seminal significance ever since.

    The writer is unaware of the growing ascendancy of Canadian First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

    The writer is unaware that Canada’s founding peoples officially are Aboriginal, French and British.

    Is the writer actually unaware that Canada was the destination of the Underground Railroad?

    The writer could begin with the authoritative online Canadian Encyclopedia.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  2. “Freedom” is a concept with which people of color have no truck?

    I am so old that I remember a rancher named Cliven Bundy who wondered (aloud and in the hearing of journalists) “The question is, are [the politest MLK-era form of the n-word] slaves the way they are, where they live as slaves to the charity and government-subsidized homes, and are they slaves when their daughters are having abortions and their sons are in the prisons?”

    “I am happy to see [African-Americans] be able to have the freedoms and liberty and be able to feel like they’re Americans and be able, be able to move and talk and choose a religion.”

    Will Dysart claim that Bundy’s apparent desire to see bipoc families gain financial independence and exercise “American” liberties a form of oppression? Or would Dysart and Bundy agree that freedom is sort of illusory?

    pouncer (6c33cf)

  3. Is Lizzy in a tizzy?

    ‘Canada is a member of the Commonwealth; an international organization in which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status, and cooperate within a framework of common values and goals, as outlined in the Singapore Declaration issued in 1971. Such common values and goals include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality before the law, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace, which are promoted through multilateral projects and meetings, such as the Commonwealth Games, held once every four years. The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who serves as the Head of the Commonwealth.’- source,wearenotamused.queenie.bangersandmash.warmbeerattheCrownAndPurse.copperhalfpenny.gov

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  4. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada.

    “Although the person of the sovereign is shared with 14 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country’s monarchy is separate and legally distinct.”

    And, anyway, didn’t she appoint Charles as Head of the Commonwealth about a year back?

    nk (1d9030)

  5. And “unreadable” nails it, JVW. The Wapo’s monkeys, you know the ones who pound on a million typewriters for a million years, must have had the day off or something, when the editors decided to print this.

    nk (1d9030)

  6. Sayre’s Law:

    “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.”

    This has been reduced to academia as:

    “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.”

    I guess then that the cancellation mob has a point: perhaps increasing the stakes of any dispute (at least for one side) tempers the emotions, but applying it to both sides would be better. All they have done is mute the resistance to the screamers.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  7. And, anyway, didn’t she appoint Charles as Head of the Commonwealth about a year back?

    I dunno. How far away is this “Commonwealth”? And can she put Edward into the “vice” position.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  8. Or would Dysart and Bundy agree that freedom is sort of illusory?

    There’s always Janis Joplin’s version.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  9. Is the writer actually unaware that Canada was the destination of the Underground Railroad?

    The writer is probably unaware that Vietnam draft resisters fled to Canada.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  10. Taylor Dysart probably comes away from this, thinking “Well, I guess they just didn’t understand. We have much more work to do!”

    Kevin M (38e250)

  11. I dunno. How far away is this “Commonwealth”? And can she put Edward into the “vice” position.

    As Mountie or mountee?

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  12. Set aside the super lazy invocation of racism, which has really come to be defined in recent years as “anything which irks leftists.”

    Just as “conservative,” to the NuRite, has come to mean “a thing Orange Man likes.”

    Demosthenes (3fd56e)

  13. “NuRite.” Hmm. sounds like a good name for a product, say…

    NuRite: Trademark for a zero calorie, non-nutritive, additive used as a substitute for…

    Or
    NuRite: A mutated neuron which resists relaying conservative impulses.

    felipe (484255)

  14. “Just a reminder that the two most violent “acts of protest” this week happened in B.C. – not Ottawa – and were both carried out by left wing activists.

    Still no word if the “Emergencies Act” will be applied here though (or bank accounts frozen)… I suspect not.”

    https://twitter.com/aarongunn/status/1494779228574785536?s=21

    Obudman (6c1761)

  15. Race-Class-Gender-Colonialism became the easy prefab framework for academic analysis decades ago, but the people who dutifully (or reflexively) force any fact set they observe into it imagine they’re on the cutting edge of progressive intellectual analysis. It’s funny that they don’t realize how stale and boring and old-fashioned their “thinking” is.

    Radegunda (c970ff)

  16. Just as “conservative,” to the NuRite, has come to mean “a thing Orange Man likes.”

    What might be weirder is how the intellectual New Right has reframed the “liberal order” as a form of oppression. And by “liberal order” they don’t mean the intolerant left. They mean religious liberty, limited government, “the inviolability of private institutions (e.g., corporations),” academic freedom, constitutional originalism, free markets, and free speech. According to Patrick Deneen, e.g.,

    “Liberalism has become consistently more aggressive in extending each of these features to their logical conclusion — their own contradiction in the form of liberal totalitarianism.”

    The “liberal order,” in this telling, is not just forcing you to be free. By allowing you to choose your religion, it’s really coercing you to abandon religion! By not telling you “who you are and where you fit in,” it’s leaving you adrift to “invent personal narratives,” and somehow that kills off friendship and family and faith and everything that makes life good.

    I’ve seen people with much less intellectual ability than Deneen parrot these ideas as if they arise from deep insight into human nature and a broad grasp of history, while making a hash of actual history, and denying that religious intolerance under a state-sponsored creed was ever a problem, and perverting logic too.

    New Rightists want a state that tells you what religion you should follow (as long as it’s their own, of course) and how your family should be structured — so they say that the state is robbing you of those things if it does not. At the same time, they might identify religion and family as prepolitical — and not recognize the contradiction. (Oh, those things can exist without explicit state sponsorship?)

    They’ll rail against leftist intolerance for heterodox thinking, but the really want the power to impose their own orthodoxy on you.

    Radegunda (c970ff)

  17. When I just checked, I found all of nine comments on the op-ed — which is dated February 11th. I don’t think Dysart is pleased with any of them, assuming she read them.

    (Comments are now closed.)

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  18. In academia—like anywhere else—what you reward, you get more of.

    Simon Jester (96aafe)

  19. There’s likely a continued academic push to say something original or provocative, which inevitably brings in politics and ideology which in turn dilutes (or subverts) the historicity. Original research …in light of what has been done…can be daunting…especially in an arena like history where there are always factual gaps and competing assertions. It’s easy to devolve into ideology filling the gaps. Here it’s just awful….hopefully the author can rebound

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  20. NuRite: A mutated neuron which resists relaying conservative impulses.

    felipe (484255) — 2/19/2022 @ 5:54 am

    My preferred meaning!

    What might be weirder is how the intellectual New Right has reframed the “liberal order” as a form of oppression. And by “liberal order” they don’t mean the intolerant left. They mean religious liberty, limited government, “the inviolability of private institutions (e.g., corporations),” academic freedom, constitutional originalism, free markets, and free speech…

    They’ll rail against leftist intolerance for heterodox thinking, but the really want the power to impose their own orthodoxy on you.

    Radegunda (c970ff) — 2/19/2022 @ 9:24 am

    I think this is mostly right, including the parts I didn’t excerpt. But I think it’s incomplete without the observation that what “orthodoxy” is, to the NuRite, changes to suit their own perceived needs. People blocking street traffic to protest abuses of power by police officers is an unacceptable breakdown in law and order, because your right to protest cannot be allowed to inconvenience others. Unless those people are truckers and their allies blocking an international bridge, in which case the inconvenience is justified to highlight the abuses of power emanating from the totaliarian Canadian state. The president cannot appoint a justice to the Supreme Court with an election just eight months away — the people must be allowed to have their say! Unless it’s a president and a nominee they like, in which case it’s perfectly okay that the election is not even eight weeks away — the people have already had their say!

    Not that this is exclusively NuRite, of course. The left does it too. This sort of hypocrisy is a universal human flaw. But it does make a hash of orthodoxy…

    Demosthenes (3fd56e)

  21. AJ_Liberty (ec7f74) — 2/19/2022 @ 1:54 pm

    There’s likely a continued academic push to say something original or provocative,

    This is the root cause of the problem, and it promotes falsity because the easiest way to say something new is to say something false – being false, nobody has said it before. But then it can become standard.

    Sammy Finkelman (46ec7d)

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