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How can a heretic safely and openly discuss taboo topics? Not easy, particularly on today’s intolerant university campuses, but history shows multiple tactics to overcome censorship. It’s just a question of being creative and knowing the limits. Familiar examples have included using non-human parables—think Animal Farm— substituting the neutral sounding euphemisms such as “at-risk youngster” for black thugs, or even punctuation ((( me))). Years ago Medical textbooks defeated anti-obscenity laws by slipping into Latin for the “hot stuff.” Religious dissidents sometimes wrote in such convoluted, jargon-filled writing that only the most trusted fellow-believers were able to decipher the real message.
Let me now suggest a tactic useful to those wanting to confront today’s Mother of All Taboos: race-related biological-based differences, especially in cognitive ability, a topic that grows more treacherous by the day. This is not about defending science against the Philistines; this is a survival guide for those who might run afoul of social justice warriors out for your scalp.
This escape route became apparent to me following the Middlebury College dust-up when Charles Murray was prevented from speaking about Coming Apart. Recall that his intended speech had nothing to do with his infamous Bell Curve (Coming Apart only concerns whites). Nevertheless, his opponents seemed obsessed by the Bell Curve—the signs and shouting overwhelmingly falsely accused Murray of racism and support for eugenics.
My Eureka moment came when I noticed that Murray’s defenders typically employed the safe harbor content-free constitutionally protected free speech argument. Then, to disassociate themselves from Murray’s noxious “controversial” views, defenders might add some glib and inaccurate condemnation of Murray’s research absent any details.
In other words, it was okay to mention the Bell Curve, an act normally impermissible in the academy (textbook writers and publishers know that even citing Murray can kill sales and so he is ignored, not even refuted) provided this mentioning was accompanied by an attack, no matter how weak, on Murray’s research. Moreover, the strongest denunciations were reserved for the most scientifically solid fact, for example, IQ tests don’t measure anything. And to further escape the agitated snowflakes, just pepper the assault on Murray with bold-faced lies that absolutely certify one as a practitioner of Orwellian “Goodthink.”
To illustrate this defensive strategy, consider a hypothetical dialogue regarding racial differences in IQ between two crafty but outwardly politically correct professors.
Prof. Heckle: My dear Professor Jeckle, have you ever read that pile of manure, the pseudo-scientific screed, the Bell Curve?
Prof. Jeckle: Indeed yes, and I was especially taken with the statistical chicanery in Chapter 13 allegedly showing that the IQ of African Americans was, on average, 15 points below the white average. Disgusting! Something that Hitler would surely say.
Prof. Heckle: Actually, this racist research continues to get worse though it is plain to see that African Americans are now making remarkable academic progress despite the legacy of slavery and decades of under-funded schools lacking teachers who can serve as role models.
Prof. Jeckle: What about the dubious claim that IQ differences just reflect evolutionary adaptation to diverse environments and that black/white differences are especially large when these differences are strongly inheritable? Can you believe that these racists insist that low IQ explains crime and other alleged black pathologies? Who in their right mind would utter such blatant nonsense? We should boycott the publisher!
And so on, perhaps for hours on end, with the savvy Professors denouncing the Bell Curve’s findings at every possible point. Happily for Professors Heckle and Jeckle, their heresies will likely be celebrated by Social Justice Warriors and, conceivably, lead to paid speaking engagements, salary increases and, best of all, a book deal with an academic press.
The beauty of this deception is that it is scalable. (Recall the joke about Democrats reading smut in the privacy of their homes while Republicans form censorship committees to peruse it in groups.) Books and ideas currently verboten on today’s campus could easily be presented in the following university course:
Sociology 200: The History of Pseudo-Science Racial Theories. This course surveys the development of “scientific racism” in the writings of Madison Grant, Han Eysenck, J. Philippe Ruston, Richard Lynn and others. Special emphasis will be given to the alleged scientific basis of their work and why this research is hateful.
In fact, with a little bit of luck the school’s administration may make Sociology 200 a required course that fulfills the diversity/multiculturalism sequence so hundreds of students will now read the once-forbidden Bell Curve and see for themselves the hateful detailed statistical data on racial differences in IQ. Better yet, they might watch their instructor try to explain why such differences are “obviously” not true, as anybody can see why just looking around the campus. An ambitious professor might encourage students to visit racist websites like VDARE or American Renaissance. Will David Duke be invited to lecture to a student audience that will pay rapt attention since his talk will almost certainly be part of the upcoming mid-term exam?
This “study of hate” approach can also be readily expanded to welcome almost any topic taboo on today’s PC dominated campuses. Ideas once considered beyond the pale now easily enter the classroom. How about seminars on various conspiracies theories, for example, on who “really” runs American foreign policy or controls the mass media? After decades of hibernation, tales of the Trilateral Commission and C. Wright Mill’s The Power Elite will make a comeback. Again, what is impermissible as fact becomes acceptable for study once it is classified as “hate” (think of this as intellectual pathology).
To be sure, the approach of safety via condemnation is an open invitation to every crackpot who wants to get paid for teaching college students no matter how loony the ideas but such is the price for genuine intellectual diversity. The secret is to build on a recent Harvard English Department course covering authors who have been variously marginalized because, for example, of their gender or sexual orientation. The course also fulfills the diversity requirement.
In short, despite decades of repression, the university will finally be a place where a thousand flowers might bloom albeit they will have to be called noxious weeds.