An Open Letter to the Jewish Community of Northern New Jersey
From Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey
May 5, 2023
Massive demonstrations have been taking place in Israel over the future of its judiciary amid rising authoritarianism. Democratic activism is most welcome, but, overwhelmingly, the protests do not focus on the more than half-century occupation that Israel has imposed on the Palestinian people or the continued second-class status of those Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. Still less do the demonstrations draw attention to the Nakba (the “catastrophe”), the ethnic cleansing that the indigenous Palestinian population experienced seventy-five years ago at the founding of the Israeli state. Continue reading →
Humor is a funny thing. What we find funny–what we spontaneously laugh at–tells others more about us than might be revealed by an extended interview. Consider this passage from a blog post dedicated to the defense of what its author regards as “Enlightenment values.” The author quotes a passage from Zeev Sternhell’s The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, and comments as follows:
Sternhell takes Rousseau and Kant to be Enlightenment figures, though he is very aware of their being “complex and ambiguous figures in the history of Western political thought.”
(By contrast, I take Rousseau and Kant to be Counter-Enlightenment figures, though I agree very much with Sternhell that those are difficult judgment calls. And I laughed out loud at his quoting from Judith Shklar’s Men and Citizens on Rousseau as “the Homer of the losers.” Perfect.)
So “the Homer of the losers” is supposed to be funny. Maybe because losers are?
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There’s a big debate at Princeton University about whether or not to take down the statue of John Witherspoon, the Revolutionary-era intellectual (and slaveowner), and namesake of actress Reese Witherspoon. Here’s a less controversial suggestion.
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From a statement by the National Association of Scholars, a right-wing lobbying group:
Just last week, Ohio State Senator Jerry Cirino introduced Senate Bill 83—also known as the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act. This is one of many bills introduced across the U.S., both for K–12 and higher education, that are inspired by model legislation drafted by the National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance. In response to SB 83’s introduction, NAS promptly published an enthusiastic endorsement. SB 83 and our Model Higher Education Code provide a solid foundation upon which to rebuild Ohio’s colleges and universities, and to fight back against overreach by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) activists. …
SB 83 would prohibit state-funded colleges and universities from requiring diversity statements for promotion, hire, and admissions, and would ban DEI concepts in classrooms and on campus. The bill would also mandate syllabus transparency and further commit to intellectual diversity and institutional neutrality. …
In a day and age where free speech is a nonstarter in higher education, legislation like SB 83 offers hope for the preservation of American ideals, as well as the restoration of institutional integrity and academic freedom.
Freedom isn’t free. There’s a hefty fucking fee.
The Bethany Mandel “define wokeness” controversy manages to be illuminating and absurd at the same time. Mandel, for the uninitiated, is an American anti-woke polemicist who’s apparently written a book on the subject of wokeness, and generally made a sophistical career of attacking it. She was recently invited to a YouTube talk show on wokeness, and asked to define the term. Turns out she didn’t have a definition. When asked for one, she managed instead to draw an embarrassing blank on her would-be area of specialization, babble a bit, and look like an all-round idiot. Continue reading →
For years now, we’ve heard a hue and cry over “woke cancel culture.” There are, no doubt, many subtleties, twists, and turns involved in this controversy, all worth discussing. But it’s clarifying to ask whether there are sufficient conditions for cancellation. Should nothing ever be canceled? Or are there some things, sometimes, somewhere, under some circumstances however carefully defined and delimited, that should be canceled? We have, I think, now reached the reductio ad absurdum of the “never cancel” position in the debate over Bezalel Smotrich’s forthcoming trip to the United States. Continue reading →
Below the fold is a short letter of mine in Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW), responding to a critique by Yoram Hazony of “liberalism” in an earlier article in PAW. I kept the letter brief to maximize the chances of its getting printed, but there’s more to say; I’ll say it here when I get the chance. Most of what’s said in the article is head-shaking nonsense, but Hazony in particular takes the gaslighting to outlandish extremes. Leave it to these allegedly child-loving sophists to use their children as rhetorical props when ideology demands it. Continue reading →
Someone asked me last night for an update on the Hamline “Muhammad Painting” case. I’m happy to report that public opinion, in the US at least, seems largely to be going against Hamline, and in López Prater’s direction. Here’s a sample, focused mostly on the American reaction to the case.
In the original post, I’d said that The New York Times article “tells you what you need to know.” That’s almost, but not entirely, true. Eugene Volokh at Reason magazine has reproduced the full texts of many relevant university communications on the controversy, not otherwise reported elsewhere in their entirety–memos, statements, scuttlebutt, etc. Some of the details matter, but none of them really alter anything I said in the original post. Continue reading →
I could belabor this case, but I’ll refrain. This New York Times article tells you what you need to know. A summary:
Erika López Prater, an adjunct professor at Hamline University, said she knew many Muslims have deeply held religious beliefs that prohibit depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. So last semester for a global art history class, she took many precautions before showing a 14th-century painting of Islam’s founder.
In the syllabus, she warned that images of holy figures, including the Prophet Muhammad and the Buddha, would be shown in the course. She asked students to contact her with any concerns, and she said no one did.
In class, she prepped students, telling them that in a few minutes, the painting would be displayed, in case anyone wanted to leave.
Then Dr. López Prater showed the image — and lost her teaching gig.
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Elon Musk, describing his own absolutist commitment to free speech:
“This is a battle for the future of civilization,” Musk tweeted, in late November, after a promo of the Twitter Files. “If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”
Elon Musk’s Twitter, applying those absolutist principles in practice: Continue reading →