Campus Identity Politics Is Dooming Liberal Causes, a Professor Charges

By Evan R. Goldstein

The day after the presidential election, Mark Lilla had to get something off his chest. “I wrote in a fever,” he says. The article that resulted, which appeared in The New York Times, argues that “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force.”

Mr. Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, pinned the blame, in part, on academe and its fixation on identity politics. “How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose … gender pronouns?” he asked. “How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in ‘His Majesty’?”

The article has provoked an avalanche of response and rebuttal. “Stop blaming our society’s political and social crises on campus-based demands for color- and gender- coded justice that reflect the crises far more than they cause them,” wrote Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale University, in the Times. “It is unconscionable, this know-better recrimination, directed at the very people who just put the most work and energy into defeating Trumpism, coming from those who will be made least vulnerable by Trump’s ascension,” wrote Rebecca Traister in New York magazine.


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Students have insufficient problems to occupy them. Lesser problems become THE problems. In our low crime rate era of sufficiency, but still possessing a fully functioning fight or flight mechanism, social media echo chambers the lesser issues of identity into something existentially threatening.

    Send them to see lives in crisis overseas or in the ghettoes. There are more than enough existential problems to share out. This will be both therapeutic and remedial.

  2. I suspect that the hysteria of identity politics on campus, like many other forms of youthful hysteria, erupts from the dysfunction of immature neurological development of the adolescent brain carried over into the twenties. Science has determined that the human brain does not reach neurological maturity until around age 25. “Maturity” in this context has nothing to do with I.Q. but refers to susceptibility to overwhelming emotional responses that obliterate proportion and perspective at the expense of rational judgement leading to embarrassing, harmful or (rarely) fatal consequences. Many of these kids moving into their forties and fifties will wish they could travel back in time and kick their silly young asses over the moon.

  3. There is no hysteria of identity politics on campus. It’s all blown way out of proportion, and this professor is being irresponsible.

  4. David #3: There is no hysteria of identity politics on campus. It’s all blown way out of proportion, and this professor is being irresponsible.

    There’s truth to this. It’s mostly a loquacious minority roping in other niche groups susceptible to suggestion and narcissistic grievances of imaginary victimization. Most people get on with the business and pleasure of simply living life. On the other hand, these silly nuisances are damaging the credibility of thoughtful liberalism and need to be called out.

  5. It doesn’t matter if it’s merely a small minority or not that propagate these regressive ideas, they’re very influential and many of these ideas originate on campuses, and they don’t really propose any solutions merely shaming people for being born male, or born White very recently someone claimed that carbon molecules were “agents of the patriarchy” and how “the masculine nature of science” keeps women out of S.T.E.M. fields and these people are taken seriously by mainstream publications and as long as we allow them to add regressive identity politics to what used to be rational thought we’re going backwards as a society. Personally I can’t wait to live in an era where we don’t look at “what” people are, but “who” they are.

  6. Haaklong Nguyệt #5
    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:23 am

    very recently someone claimed that carbon molecules were “agents of the patriarchy” and how “the masculine nature of science” keeps women out of S.T.E.M. fields and these people are taken seriously by mainstream publications and as long as we allow them to add regressive identity politics to what used to be rational thought we’re going backwards as a society.

    Actually this “one size-fits-all” pseudo-equality of ideological social pseudo-science, which treats statistical variations as evidence of bigoted discrimination, is at odds with the biology and neuroscience, which notes the differences between the male an female brain, and the consequent effects on their abilities and aptitudes.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2711771/

    Evolving Knowledge of Sex Differences in Brain Structure, Function and Chemistry

    Here, we evaluate evidence on sex differences in brain structure, chemistry and function using imaging methodologies, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in mentally healthy individuals.

    Results

    The literature suggests that while there are many similarities in brain structure, function and neurotransmission in healthy men and women, there are important differences that distinguish the male from the female brain. Overall brain volume is greater in men than women, yet, when controlling for total volume, women have a higher percentage of gray matter and men a higher percentage of white matter. Regional volume differences are less consistent. Global cerebral blood flow is higher in women than in men. Sex-specific differences in dopaminergic, serotonergic and GABAergic markers indicate that male and female brains are neurochemically distinct.

    (It should be noted that hormonal differences during development, can result in brain sex type not matching XX or XY body forms, so there can be females with male type brains and vice-versa.)

  7. We had this crap on campus in the 80s, it was just wearing a different hat.

    Art students politicos SWP mainly ruining a Wednesday afternoon “sport” in the union bar with a speech or debate

  8. Haaklong Nguyệt #5: Personally I can’t wait to live in an era where we don’t look at “what” people are, but “who” they are.

    Right. I look forward to living in a society where we cease asking vacuous questions about identity, “shaming people for being born male, or born white [or whatever] ” and start asking relevant questions about their achievements in the Arts and Sciences after informed impartial evaluation.

  9. Well the deranged politically correct have just struck again. Steve Martin tweeted what I thought was a perfectly nice compliment to his friend Carrie Fisher. “When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.” What TF is wrong with that?

    But he’s been forced to delete it after complaints it was sexist or “appearanceist” or whatever TF these idiots are railing against now. I’d be delighted if someone complimented me on my aging body or even what it was like in my youth.

  10. Arkrid Sandwich quoting Steve Martin tweet #10: “When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.” What TF is wrong with that?
    A moving tribute if ever I heard one. Steve Martin’s crime is not the content of his gentle tweet but his identity as an old white cisgendered male. These crazy thought-crime police have bought into the taboo of turning 30 just as the deluded youth-obsessed zealots of the 1960s believed they could purify thought, speech, and society by virtue of their tender years and baby-smooth skin kicking their mentally and physically defective parents to the curb. When they start aging into their thirties, forties, fifties and beyond they will take the same hits from running the gauntlet of succeeding youth generations. Get ready, you assholes, to beg for mercy on your knees after the mauling you’re in for.

  11. Human kind’s seeming need for rabid hate is pervasive and now it is “safe” to direct it at the old white cis-gendered males. What seems to be lost in the mix is that if a large percentage of white men were NOT tolerant of and accepting of, others “types” then none of these movements would have gained any traction at all.

    Some percentage of white men have acquiesced to “equality” in the name of fair mindedness and what is right. I wonder, and I am sure i will catch shit for this, I wonder how many other demographics would allow the erosion of their perch upon the top in the name of what is fair. for example, women get custody of children in 85% of divorce cases. And, the 15% of fathers who get custody are way way way less likely to be awarded child support. EQUAL MEANS EQUAL or does it?. There would be (and I will catch shit for this, I am sure) a huge outcry if men dared to demand that the number be adjusted to 50%.

    Civil rights progress, equality of women, the LGBT accomplishments…. are at least partially due to some percentage of the existing power class seeing and agreeing that what they were doing was wrong. There is a long long way to go, and many unjust policies still exist, but there would be zero progress if white men were in fact, all shit mongers (and many are), but NOT all.

    I am old, white, cis gendered and support the causes to the point of equity. ERA does not mean EXTRA rights amendment. Fair is fair and right is right and I acknowledge my privilege. I do, though, see that many of these “liberals” and SJW’s are as caustic and hate filled as the people that they rail against. It is a new currency of hypocrisy and it is extremely pernicious because it masquerades as tolerance, but it is the same old hate emotion, aimed at a new demographic (thank you, George Carlin)

    "It is wrong to judge people based on their skin color and gender and I wish these white male pieces of shit would understand that."

  12. I’d lay blame on the lack of critical thinking, a lack of logic and the isolationist tendencies of those opposed to equality. Rural Americans do not mix with others… geographic separation combined with hostility towards outsiders. Not to say those in the city fail to mix, but it’s more difficult with a larger base of minorities that can support each other with their numbers. This will eventually be a moot point in the U.S., as whites are on their way to becoming a numerical minority down the road.

  13. This will eventually be a moot point in the U.S., as whites are on
    their way to becoming a numerical minority down the road.

    Or will the tables simply be turned and a new group simply displace “whites” and do the exact same thing to other races (including whites). I am not saying that turnabout is fair play, but I’d love to see the new majority be learned and evolved from the shit show we’ve seen.

    Q: Does being the majority automatically set you up to be pejorative to the minorities.

  14. Crooked Shoes,
    It means that there will be no single ethnic majority but whites will make up the largest minority group until mixed relationships start to break that down. It will take longer for economic and political power to be leveled out because of white entrenchment in the system. The social aspects should even out sooner. Sexism and anti-lgbt issues will still exist.

  15. I think the trends demonstrate that you are correct. What do you think about the Q I posed?

    Will the new majority be powerful enough to be pejorative to the other demographics? Will they actually BE pejorative?

    I always cringe when I hear a person of color voice an opinion firmly bigoted against the LGBT community. It seems nothing was learned for some folks.
    BUT, what if (GASP), they (the new majority) LEARN from history and EVOLVE and even though they are in the majority, they are FAIR???

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