I am pleased to report that I was yesterday informed that I will not be prosecuted for opinions I expressed here on the Orthosphere. Regular readers may recall a post I wrote in late July that said an anonymous SJW had accused me of “racism/sexism” through the university’s Stop Hate program, and that this SJW had thereby exhibited a lively hatred of me.
After ten weeks of investigation, the university has decided that my Orthosphere posts are “protected speech,” although it adds the admonition that “the blog in which you participate can elicit feelings of discrimination in some who read it.” I will come back to those elicited feelings at the end of this post, but will here simply reiterate how pleased I am to learn that speech remains more or less free in the United States of America.
I am pleased as a matter of principal, but also for the very practical reason that successful prosecution of this complaint could have resulted in my being summarily fired, tenure being a very frail reed when the mighty wind of Title IX blows. As I am neither wealthy nor skilled outside my profession (and not abundantly skilled within it), a summary firing would have been a personal calamity of the first order. In addition to acute pecuniary embarrassment, it would have forced me into early retirement under a cloud of social shame. I am not an intellectual conformist, and I have the psychological stamina to sustain a reputation for unpopular opinions, but I know I would have crumpled in the frozen social Siberia of vilified outcasts and detested pariahs.
“Many people of balanced mind and congenial activity scarcely know that they care what others think of them . . . . But this is an illusion. If failure or disgrace arrives . . . he will perceive from the shock, the fear, the sense of being outcast and helpless, that he was living in the minds of others without knowing it.” (Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order )
I will here relate some of the things that I learned from this harrowing experience. If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you also hold unpopular opinions. Since none of you have offered to endow the Orthosphere, or to award its writers fat stipends, there is also a good chance that summary firing would be for you a pecuniary calamity. And I trust you all have the social sensibility to see the truth of Cooley’s lines. You may have the fortitude to bear the chill wind that frets every ideological nonconformist, but you still have a rational fear of being sent to social Siberia.
Falling Under the Baleful Eye
It is evident from the complaint that I first fell under the baleful eye of this SJW because I wrote two posts disproving the claim that Matthew Gaines played a significant role in writing or passing the legislation that established the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, precursor to Texas A&M University (here and here). This false claim has been loudly bruited by parties who wish to erect a statue of Mr. Gaines, a Black state Senator of the Reconstruction era, in the hope that this will render the A&M campus more welcoming to Aggies of Color. I do not oppose a statue of Matthew Gaines, or efforts to render the A&M campus welcoming; but I do oppose draping the man and statue in a pious fraud.
Some of the parties who advocate erection of a statue of Matthew Gaines also advocate removing an existing statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, one-time President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College, and one-time officer in the Army of the Confederate States of America. Acting under the BLM banner, some of the more avid members of the Remove Ross faction vandalized the Ross statue last spring, and the A&M Statue Controversy has been raging ever since. In late June, the Controversy was raging on an internet forum called TexAgs, and my posts about Matthew Gaines were linked on at least four occasions.
Thus it was that I fell under the baleful eye of the SJW.
What this shows is that you will draw down the ire of SJWs when you interfere with their plans. I have been writing at the Orthosphere for five years without drawing down anyone’s ire, and I have not hidden (or flaunted) my activity; but no one tried to hurt me until I put a spoke in the wheel of the Matthew Gaines myth.
I should add that no one has disputed the truth of what I wrote about Gaines, either in the comments to my posts or by private communication, so the SJW who filed the complaint was seeking to hurt me for saying what he (or she) could not deny was true. Matthew Gaines had very little to do with the founding of the A&M College of Texas, and those who proclaim otherwise are either resounding gongs, clanging cymbals, or bald-faced liars.
Digging for Dirt
It is evident from the complaint that the SJW was angered by my posts on Matthew Gaines, but was immediately frustrated to find in those posts no grounds for a formal complaint. He (or she) therefore set to rooting about in the Orthosphere archive in the hope of finding something by which to be triggered. I should add here that the operative legal definition of hate speech is harassment or intimidation, and that the complaint maintained that this rooting SJW was harassed by words that he (or she) had gone to some trouble to dig up.
What he (or she) came up with was my July 9th post, “In Praise of Animus.” Regular readers with good memories may recall that this post defined animus as the emotion of an impotent but injured people who nevertheless retain the sense that they have been wronged. I said that this was indeed a common emotion among Trump supporters, and I praised it because it means the spirit (anima) of these Trump supporters is not altogether broken. I in fact dispraise breaking anyone’s spirit altogether.
But because the rooting SJW did not read or understand the post, he (or she) took the title to mean “In Praise of Racial Hatred.”
Because nothing in that July 9th post actually supported this malicious construction of my words, the SJW continued to root about, now descending into the comment threads of other posts. Thus the “evidence” the SJW furnished in support of the complaint of “racism/sexism” was three quotes drawn from answers I wrote to readers’ comments on other posts. I will not reproduce the lengthy deposition I wrote to defend the innocence of these three quotes, but will say that two of them were polite answers to impolite commenters. Thus, the rooting SJW knew that I am not unwelcoming to commenters who disagree or ask pointed questions, and yet he (or she) did not attempt to engage me in open debate.
He (or she) already hated me, and was simply digging dirt in the hope that it would make the university give me hell.
A Strange and Unpleasant Odor
Although none of the items mentioned in the complaint contained instances of “harassment” or “intimidation,” the university proceeded to trawl through my other Orthosphere posts. As my letter of acquittal says, they found some unpopular opinions that could “elicit feelings of discrimination in some who read it,” but they found no coarse epithets, no foam-flecked rants, no menacing threats. I am sometimes crusty, and sometimes spunky, but I trust I am never a vulgarian.
Although I am not a vulgarian, this intrusion into my writing has sullied work of which I am both proud and fond. I believe some of my Orthosphere posts are superior to my best academic publications, and my entire on-line corpus (excuse the pompous word) is nowadays one of the dwindling number of reasons I do not feel entirely superannuated and defunct. But after this complaint and investigation, my five-years’ work seems to exude a faintly disreputable and mildewed smell, like a stack of old pornographic magazines.
I don’t sense this smell, but I sense that others do. And as my quote from Cooley said, we all “live in the minds of others.”
The investigation also involved interviews with various people seeking evidence of “racism/sexism” in my dealings with colleagues and students, or evidence of “the thoughts in these blog posts impacting interaction with students or employees in a negative manner.” Again, the university found nothing. But the dank odor of disrepute remains, this time attached to me.
Imagine an official investigator who came and asked you if you had any knowledge of a colleague behaving inappropriately with small children. You might answer no, but you would never see that colleague as you did before. You would ever after sense a strange and unpleasant odor when they passed by; and when they were gone, you might very well mention this odor to someone else.
So, the anonymous SJW did not destroy me, but he (or she) still managed to hurt me pretty bad.
Some Cold Comfort
The word elicit literally means to entice by deception, although in use it properly means to bring a truth to light by indirect means. Socrates, for instance, elicited the truth from his interlocutors by the indirect method of questioning. I mention this because it casts an interesting light on the sentence I have twice quoted from my letter of acquittal, “the blog in which you participate can elicit feelings of discrimination in some who read it.”
Those of you who have read Plato’s Theaetetus know that Socrates described himself as a “midwife” who helped men give birth to the contents of their minds.
Socrates: “And did you never hear, simpleton, that I am the son of a midwife, brave and burly . . .”
Theaetetus: “Yes, I have heard that.”
Socrates: “And that I myself practice midwifery”
Theaetetus: “No, I never heard that.”
Socrates: “Let me tell you that I do . . . though the world in general have not found me out; and therefore only say of me, that I am an exceedingly strange being, who drives men to their wit’s end . . .”
The reason Socrates drove men to their wits end was that he elicited from them proof of the ignorance they sought to conceal behind fine words and bluster. Men were exasperated by this “exceedingly strange being” because he forced them to confront something in themselves that they had no desire to confront. Without dreaming of comparing myself to Socrates, I suspect that an SJW finds me an “exceedingly strange being,” and that this is why my writing elicits “feelings of discrimination” in a malicious and cowardly SJW.
I am not simply referring to the fact that I hold their odious opinions in low esteem, which naturally elicits a feeling of hatred in a mind that has no psychological stamina whatsoever. It is also the humiliating observation that I am not shivering, and my teeth are not chattering, despite the chill wind that frets me as an ideological nonconformist. SJWs have what Nietzsche called a “slave morality,” and they therefore hate, hate, hate an independent mind. And I expect that this is why I elicited from this truckling myrmidon a primitive impulse to revile, hurt and destroy.