Saturday, September 17, 2016

Political Correctness Is Insanity: New Yale / Christakis Video

   So we all watch a video of a shrieky Yale girl completely lose her shit screaming at Nicholas Christakis last year. Now here's new video at FIRE and The Federalist. It's a lot longer, and, though the shrieksplosion is the most dramatic part of it in certain ways, the rest is very much worth watching, too. It's a nonstop tapestry of acquired insanity. The students are gathered around Christakis--who is so patient and reasonable that he actually becomes unreasonable by conceding too much and being too irenic--and their side of the conversation is irrational to a degree I'm not sure I've ever seen surpassed. It's hard to generalize about the crazy things they say; it's hard pin down their particular type of madness. It's obviously acquired, almost certainly from Yale itself. It's clearly the current madness of the left, political correctness and its adjuncts. But after that...hell, I'd have to watch that a lot to be able to characterize it. One shot at it: they accepted a view that convinces them that the only fair rules are ones that allow them to say whatever they want, and others to say, basically, nothing. No matter how far Christakis bends over backwards to accommodate them, it's never far enough. They accuse him of being wrong and mean and evil and of talking out of turn and saying things he has no right to say. They accuse him of arrogance, he tries to be more touchy-feely, even to the point of bowing down, so they accuse him of, in effect, infantilizing them. He tries to find some other posture and demeanor, something that they will not object to. They talk over him at ever turn, they yell, they scream, they weep inconsolably when he cannot speak directly to each one of them at once. They scream at him for not knowing all their names--he points out that he is new to the position and has 500 names to learn (not counting his classes). They step up on him. Finally they just scream at him that he is disgusting, and he makes them sick, and that it is "never [his] time to talk." (Only one person says each of these things, but the others clearly acquiesce.)
   They don't ever actually hit him, though shrieking girl obviously does want to gesture at the possibility of violence. So they're not the Brown Shirts...but in terms of the content of what they say, they are utterly batshit crazy. We can draw a couple of conclusions from the tape, one of which is: there is no reasoning with such people. It is total agreement or nothing. And I'm fairly sure that if he'd have agreed, they'd have told him that he had to right to do so. Shut up and do as we say; we don't care about your agreement, we care about your obedience. Well, actually I'm sure they do care about agreement...obedience isn't enough for that type, in the end... Which is why the far left loves (in their jargon) "education". And, of course, re-education...
   I have a high tolerance for watching such stuff, and I don't think even I could stomach that again. Besides, what's needed is a writer's eye and ear. Maybe a Nietzsche or a Kafka or an Orwell or a Parker or somebody... There are patterns and nuances of crazy there that I just can't capture.
   One thing I can say: it's all artificial insanity, it's all theory-based. And the theory is a theory that is largely rooted in the humanities and social sciences and the campus left. The method that's most on display is one of shifting interpretations and protean rules; at each moment, a new demand is placed. Are you treating me as an equal? then I demand that you treat me more gently--and add that we are not equals, and your belief that we are shows that you are evil and have no right (to anything). Do you then treat me gently? Then I proclaim that you are treating me like a child, and must treat me some other way--and add that this, again, shows that you are evil and have no right. You then treat me as if we were friends? I proclaim that we aren't friends and never can be--and add that this again demonstrates that you are evil and have no right... And on and on and on... Almost the only constant is the assumption that you are wrong; all that's left to do is explain how you are wrong at each moment.
   Oh and it's not about ideas and disagreement, it's about pain and violence. My words are words; your words are fists. By even articulating your position, you violate me, you are violent.
   The shrieking and's all so embarrassing and nauseating, but angrifying too.
   These kids have been ruined. Some will recover. Some never will. And they've been ruined by bad theories. They've been converted to an insane political cult, and it's rotted their minds and robbed them of part of their humanity.
   I think in a way Christakis is not just fighting the students (though he's trying not to fight them at all). He's fighting an alliance of students (campus activists) and the faculty and shadowy administrators that are filling their heads with this nonsense. The faculty generate the crazy ideas, the students put them into action. Anyway, that's the way I've begun thinking about the current struggle for the soul of the university and Western civilization.

[Another thing; a lot of it is obviously "performance," mostly for the other students, I'd guess. As I read someone say recently, maybe in comments here, but I can't remember: *the performance of injury.* It's not *just*'s more like method acting. They largely believe what they're saying (and doing), I'd guess.]


Blogger The Mystic said...

You know, I was actually impressed with the relative civility of the first ten minutes, since it's the infamous screaming clip and the latter five minutes of those videos that I was expecting throughout.

But, admitting that no one can be perfect in ex tempore situations, I still think Christakis did a relatively poor job of handling those interactions. The initial analogy of a person accidentally kicking a soccer ball into someone's face and breaking his or her nose was one which he should have immediately capitalized upon.

It's hard to get people to draw their own analogies which are better suited to defeating their own arguments than that one. It provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the reason behind an immediately issued apology in that situation, and why an apology issued for misconstrued speech is distinct from it. With physical violence, there is no question about the harm that is caused. The person in the analogy cannot choose not to have a broken nose. With speech, of course, the harm only arises following interpretation of the words being spoken, and where that interpretation is faulty to an unreasonable extent, it is in no way obligatory for the speaker to apologize to the erroneous interpreter.

That is the crux of the whole issue, and he never really got into it. He kept getting derailed by their chaos and led into various other points through which one would have to dig a good way to get to that same crux, though it is equally required for many of them.

And he did have myriad targets thrown up at him; everything from cultural appropriation to accusations of causing offense by running afoul of allegedly incomprehensible personal experience. For a person who hasn't had enough time to consider the situation at hand, it's far more forgivable to become distracted by it all.

But Christakis seems like he's actually out of his league in dealing with all this. He's had lots and lots of time to hone down this situation in his mind, and this encounter seemed to show that, even though he didn't appear caught off guard, he was unprepared to deal with it.

The students could have easily been shut down, at least rationally. I have no doubt that they would have continued to berate him and make fools of themselves, but at least then he would have had video evidence of a situation in which he did not appear to struggle to placate irrational critics with half-concessions and self-deprecation.

This is kinda what keeps this whole phenomenon going, too; it seems most people don't have a good enough grasp on the issues at play to defend themselves from irrational critique, so irrational critics have broad leniency for their continued errors.

We gotta have stronger displays from those who stand up in these incidents.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Huh, I thought he did pretty well in certain respects, but not in others. We probably agree on that.

What you write suggests that this is a recent tape, but I think it's the full tape of the incident last year, so he didn't actually have lots of time to think about it. I think it was at practically the very beginning of the whole shitshow.

Hell, I'm pretty good at such things, and I'm not sure I could have done nearly as well...and I *know* I couldn't have kept my temper as well.

2:10 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Hm, looks like I did overestimate the amount of time he had to prepare; I guess I had my timeline off as you suggest. Also, my estimation that he was not caught off guard could really have been contributed more to his maintenance of a calm demeanor despite having actually been caught off guard.

I could also just be fantasizing that I'd've done a million times better when it totally wouldn't have happened.

But this is almost exactly the kind of argumentative throwdown that I long for..

Maybe stupidly.

2:42 PM  

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