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What happens when a leftist isn’t left enough?

Brent Weinstein and Heather Heying

Perhaps, gentle readers, you’ve heard the story of Brent Weinstein, former professor of Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA? Weinstein, a card-carrying, life long progressive, committed progressive treason. When the most radical of the radical students of infamously leftist ESC declared a “no whites allowed” day on campus, a day that prohibited even white teachers, Weinstein dared show up for work. This act of anti-revolutionary treason—and an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox–eventually chased Weinstein and his equally progressive professor wife, Heather Heying, from their jobs and the campus. What did she do? Consorting with an anti-revolutionary reactionary, I’m sure. They recently chronicled their experience at The Washington Examiner:

At colleges and universities all over the country, students are protesting in increasingly virulent and sometimes violent ways. They demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, shouting down those with whom they disagree. It has become rote for outsiders to claim that the inmates are running the asylum; that this is analogous to Mao’s Red Guard, Germany’s brown shirts, the French Revolution’s Jacobins; and, when those being attacked are politically ‘left’ themselves, that the Left is eating its own. These stories seem to validate every fantasy the Right ever had about the Left.

As two professors who recently resigned from positions at a college we loved, and who have always been on the progressive-left end of the political spectrum, we can say that, while none of those characterizations is exactly right, there is truth in each of them.

Well, that’s a start. Weinstein and Heying continue to describe just how radical Evergreen is. They were also, by all accounts, among the most respected of a leftist faculty:

We were among Evergreen’s most popular faculty, and year in, year out, our students wrote stellar evaluations of us. Our programs were always full, even in a time of falling enrollments. Yet, we work at Evergreen no more. What happened to this brilliant, flawed experiment? There are too many subplots to recount, but here is one thread that, we hope, others can use to spot insurgencies on their own campuses.

The former professors explain how a new college president began ignoring faculty and hiring more and more administrators:

The president [George Bridges] took aim at what made Evergreen unique, such as full-time programs. He fattened the administration, creating expensive vice president positions at an unprecedented rate, while budgets tightened elsewhere due to drops in student enrollment and disappearing state dollars. He went after Evergreen’s unparalleled faculty autonomy, which was essential to the unique teaching done by the best professors.

All of this should have been alarming to a faculty in which professors have traditionally viewed administrative interference in academic matters with great suspicion. But Bridges was strategic and forged an alliance with factions known to be obsessed with race. He draped the ‘equity’ banner around everything he did. Advocating that Evergreen embrace itself as a ‘College of Social Justice,’ he argued that faculty autonomy unjustly puts the focus on teachers rather than students, and that the new VP for Equity and Inclusion would help us serve our underserved populations. But no discussion was allowed of students who did not meet the narrow criteria of being ‘underserved.’ Because of the wrapping, concerns about policy changes were dismissed as ‘anti-equity.’ What was in the nicely wrapped box turned out to be something else entirely.

It’s interesting that Weinstein and Heyer mention “social justice” as though that were not already the status quo at a place like Evergreen. Perhaps it wasn’t, but whenever an institution embraces it, education ceases to matter. The next section of their essay speaks of how, when radical students disrupted an event, playing the race card, Bridges apologized for behaving even a little like an adult, and the radicals were off to the races, becoming more and more aggressive and lawless. Weinstein made what may have been his first mistake:

Afterward, Evergreen’s email system echoed to the virtuous cry of “I’m in the canoe!” [an odd togetherness metaphor] Bret, who had refused to climb aboard, wrote and circulated his dissent, suggesting that what was happening at the college amounted to a campaign of intimidation. Dissent was impossible. He added that he did not believe the plan would benefit students of color, now or in the future. The email responses were disheartening. One colleague wrote that ‘white people … cannot dictate the terms of this conversation.’ Another emailed that ‘there are multiple versions of ‘truth’ that exist at once.’ Still another wrote: ‘If our students are telling us … that they are experiencing a hostile environment, we must take our students at their word.’

That is the sound of inquiry and due process dying.

Why yes, it is, and the bizarre behavior of students, without basis in reality, worsened.

In April, the event that nominally brought Evergreen to national attention arrived. Historically on campus, a day in April has been chosen as a ‘Day of Absence,’ on which some people of color chose to absent themselves from campus to demonstrate their important roles at the college. This year, the organizers decided that the process should be reversed, and white people were ‘asked’ to leave the campus for the day. When Bret respectfully challenged the invitation to absent himself over email, the blowback from faculty and staff was telling. One wrote, ‘I love imagining students, staff and colleagues of color having the campus to themselves to do their work.’ Another commented, ‘By switching the Day of Absence programming, we are physically moving our bodies so that people of color can be centered for ONE DAY on campus.’ Yet another wrote: ‘I feel strongly about honoring the call for white-identified people to absent themselves from campus.” The interim provost had already sent an email saying ‘This expanded programming and call for even broader participation in both Day of Presence and Day of Absence also mean faculty will need to make adjustments to teaching and associated classroom scheduling.’ Many faculty committed long in advance to require students to participate.

As you might imagine, gentle readers, that didn’t end well:

Weeks later, on the morning of May 23, an unruly group of students disrupted Bret’s class, yelled and chanted at him, barred the police from entering the scene, and then went to hold court with the college administration. Many of the protesters did not even know what they had been asked to come protest. Students acted badly, and then stupidly, taking video and posting it for the whole world to see. But it was not the students who were the driving force behind this disruption. They were, rather, empowered and encouraged by bad decisions by the administration, and by the faux-equity cabal, represented by a minority of faculty and staff.

These faculty members and their accomplices in the administration are primarily at fault. They are the adults. At an institution of higher education, it is the faculty’s job to teach, not to preach; to educate, not indoctrinate. Some of the students who became protesters will be paying off their loans for years, and for what? They were let down by an institution that imposed and nurtured grievance and propaganda rather than educating and conferring knowledge. Evergreen handed them temporary power, an intoxicating thing, instead of establishing boundaries and legitimately empowering them with insight and wisdom.

Interesting, isn’t it, to see leftists arguing in favor of adult responsibility and civil behavior on a college campus. And the very idea that college teachers should teach rather than indoctrinate? Heresy! What followed was a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. Students were actually searching the campus for Weinstein. The police told him to immediately leave the campus, and never to ride his bicycle on campus again because they couldn’t protect him. They had been ordered to do nothing to stop the radicals:

In practice, that meant the police were locked in the police station. [skip]

Later that day, a sign on the locked door of the police station read, ‘Police Department is Closed. Call 911 in case of an Emergency.’ We went with Bret’s class to the Capitol, where we spoke with the governor’s advisers on higher education and civil rights. We told them that the campus had descended into a state of anarchy, and that we needed help. Help never arrived.

Here’s another example of dim awakening:

As one faculty emeritus wrote during the chaos, “What is screamingly strange about the charges of racism … is that never are we given specific examples.” Nobody denies that racism exists. But our school was being likened to the battlegrounds of the civil rights movement, despite a failure to produce any examples. When one wondered why, another clause in the activist script became apparent: Asking for evidence of racism is itself evidence of racism.

This horrific betrayal of progressivism was the final straw:

On May 26, Friday morning, Fox News called. It was Tucker Carlson’s producer. The show was going to run a segment on Evergreen that night. Did Bret want to be part of it? No, he didn’t want to. But he felt he needed to. Fox was, at that point, the only member of the national news media that had shown up. YouTube was on fire with videos that protesters had posted, but most journalists were staying away, presumably because the story didn’t fit comfortable, mainstream narratives.

Two notable things happened after Bret went on Fox. One was that a substantial minority of our colleagues at Evergreen called for a ‘disciplinary investigation’ against him. Why? Apparently, people on the Left aren’t allowed to talk to those on the Right. It is against the rules. Prohibitions against talking to ‘the other side’ widens the intellectual fissure opening up in our society. It creates the very silos we are warned against. By speaking to others, Bret was breaking rank, and so treated like a deserter, or traitor. One thing we know is that when you’re being told by your antagonists who you’re not supposed to talk to, it’s probably a good indicator of who you should be talking to.

We were told, during mediation with the college at the very end of summer, that the college was quite pleased with the direction it was going, and that there would be no veering from the course that we continue to regard as disastrous. We suggested that we could help change Evergreen’s reputation as a laughingstock to that of a beacon of hope, of viewpoint diversity and actual civil rights, in an ever bleaker higher education landscape. The college wanted no part of it.

We asked for leave, and were denied it. The college made it clear that they wanted us gone permanently. And so, in shock, feeling betrayed, heartbroken and livid, we left. We settled with the college for half a million dollars — about two years’ joint salary after our legal fees — a small price for two tenured professorships. Grief takes many forms, and we feel it, but we also feel that we were paid to leave a burning building. Unfortunately, we can do nothing for our many friends — students, staff, and faculty — still stuck on the inside.

What other choice did Weinstein and Heyer have? Consider this:

We come from the Left, and our values and worldview have not changed. But our understanding of the landscape has, as has our understanding of who is most likely to be interested in pursuing democratic goals through democratic means. A democratic system needs intelligent dissent, which means that it must create and protect the conditions in which people can learn how to think critically, and how to critique ideas and proposals. Those are longstanding values on the Left, but today, they are hanging by a thread.

At Evergreen, a small fraction of students was the face of the protests, some even going so far as to patrol campus with baseball bats, threatening people, and vandalizing property. But the vast majority of students were not part of the protests. Some were yelled at, insulted, assaulted, even battered. Some left the school. Some graduated. Some are keeping their heads down, angry and scared, until they, too, graduate, while they wonder why their experiences are apparently of no interest to the college administration.

What of Martin Luther King’s dream? Why are we being advised by the social justice crowd that we shall not focus on the content of our character, but instead must focus primarily on the color of our skin (and our gender identification, sexual orientation, and various other signifiers of intersectional oppression)? This would be MLK’s nightmare. Why is it being handed a megaphone?

One simple answer to that rhetorical question is: because socialists/communists/anarchists/fascists have seized total control of the left. The idea of fealty to American constitutionalism, reasoned debate, good will, and tolerant kindness are anathema to such people. The values to which Weinstein and Heyer refer not only have nothing in common with contemporary leftism, they are not hanging by a thread. That thread was slashed long ago. The baseball bat wielding thugs roaming the campus are the face of contemporary progressivism, and as Weinstein and Heyer note, they brook no dissent or wrong-think. To even appear to be about to raise a question is evidence of heresy, and all opposition to their orthodoxy is treason.

Juan Williams

One is reminded of Juan Williams, who made the mistake of not being quite left enough, of actually demonstrating a bit of rationality by observing, when on a Fox program, when he saw people ostentatiously displaying themselves as Muslim, he had reason for concern.  NPR immediately fired Williams, who had worked for them for many years. For a time, Williams seemed to have learned some fundamental truths about the Left, particularly when Fox News—the leftist Anti-Christ—offered him a job he gratefully accepted. But that was in 2010. Circa 2017, it’s hard to consider Williams as anything other than a hard leftist, still working for Fox, the evil conservatives that alone offered him a job.

The larger question is why Leftists brutalized by the very people and institutions they once believed represented ultimate truth and intellectual and moral purity, take so long to understand that actual truth: these people are fascists–real fascists, not the rhetorical facists leftists so casually label. They are anti-intellectual, cruel, stupid, perpetually enraged and aggrieved, and incapable of reasoned debate, or civilized participation in a representative republic under the rule of law. That’s what social justice is all about. Some leftists eventually realize they’re actually conservatives, because what they profess to believe is, in fact, far closer to conservative than progressive principles. It would seem Weinstein and Heyer are still in the denial stage: there’s nothing wrong with leftist principles, just the way they’re being applied. That’s why socialism and communism have always murdered millions and utterly failed; it just hasn’t been done right and is waiting for sufficiently advanced and pure socialists and communists to demonstrate the true, unrealized glory of their flawless philosophy.

By all means, gentle readers, take the link and read the entire article. You’ll come away with insight into the left not easy to find. And take a moment to pray for Weinstein and Heyer, that they may one day realize how many years they’ve wasted supporting people that drove them out of their profession for not being as uncivilized and insane as they are.