Several years ago, I published a mammoth review essay on Ricardo Duchesne’s The Uniqueness of Western Civilization. I regard it as one of the most interesting and important books I have ever read. Duchesne is a valiant defender of Western civilization against the madness of politically correct academics – and now, it seems, he may be paying the price. On May 18, The Huffington Post published a long hit piece on Duchesne, and it has all the signs of being the first step in a push to get Duchesne fired from his tenured position at the University of New Brunswick, where he teaches sociology.
HuffPo’s article, by one Nick Robins-Early, is such a clumsy, textbook example of a smear job it verges on being unintentionally amusing – like something The Onion might dish up. The article is illustrated with a drawing of a professor in an academic gown, casting a shadow that looks like – gasp! – a Klansman in a hood. Needless to say, Duchesne is repeatedly referred to as a “white supremacist,” and sometimes as a “white nationalist,” with no attempt made to define (let along distinguish) these terms. Robins-Early cites as an example of Duchesne’s “white supremacism” his view that “Whites must simply reclaim the West as uniquely theirs.” No citation is given for this quotation, so we should be suspicious. But who would deny that Western civilization – for better or worse – is uniquely the product of white Europeans? It is hard to see how Leftists can deny it: after all, they blame white people, and no one else, for the Western culture they constantly execrate.
Robins-Early follows this up with another “white supremacist” view, quoting Duchesne as saying “Europeans were the first, and still the only race, to become conscious of their consciousness.” But this was the view of Hegel, one of the greatest philosophers in the Western canon. (And Duchesne is heavily indebted to Hegel’s thought.) Of course, Robins-Early and his ilk are too ignorant to be aware of this – but, in any case, it won’t pass muster as a defense of Duchesne. Hegel, you see, would be completely unemployable at a North American university today. Aside from being a very dead white European male, his views (considered liberal in his own time) now put him beyond the pale of what is considered acceptable discourse in academia.
Robins-Early says that Duchesne’s work is “filled with racist conspiracy theories.” Indeed, this accusation is made more than once – without, of course, any supporting evidence. The tactic is fairly clear. The accusation of promoting “conspiracy theories” is now a standard device used to discredit individuals who hold anti-establishment viewpoints. The hope is that weak-minded people will associate nationalist, anti-globalist views with genuine craziness, such as the “lizard-people-rule-the-world” theory – and being branded as a purveyor of “conspiracy theories” was enough to get Alex Jones deplatformed. Perhaps, so Mr. Robins-Early seems to hope, it is an accusation that will stick to Duchesne.
But what would a smear job be without repeated accusations of “extremism”? This is the classic smear, and now a laughable cliché. It entered into currency in the 1964 American presidential race, as a device to malign Barry Goldwater and his supporters. At the time, Ayn Rand devoted an entire article to the subject, “Extremism, Or The Art of Smearing” (actually worth a look). She argued, correctly, that “extremism” is a meaningless “anti-concept.” Whether “extremism” is good or bad depends entirely on what one is extreme about. Goldwater himself had the best response: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Robins-Early informs us that Duchesne “continues to teach at the University of New Brunswick, despite his extremist views.” And then he cites what he calls “extremism researchers” (unnamed) who solemnly affirm that “Duchesne is peddling white supremacist views, while the university’s leadership is unable or unwilling to intervene.”
Let us consider the case of another faculty member at New Brunswick, and whether his views qualify as “extremism.” The faculty member in question is Matthew Sears, who is quoted in the article. Sears is a Professor of Classics (!) and an open supporter of Antifa violence. In April, Sears tweeted the following: “We should name every white supremacist. Name every writer, blogger, YouTuber, and politician that inspires them. Plaster their faces in public. Fire them from their jobs. Hound them from restaurants. Expose them and those that fuel them for the hateful pathetic wretches they are.”
In a subsequent tweet, Sears went on to take aim at New Brunswick students: “And that includes every vile little shitlord in a campus ‘free speech’ club who spends his time platforming white supremacist trolls under the banner of ‘free speech,’ and every grifting liar that goes on about campus ‘censorship’ and the ‘marketplace of ideas.’” (Realizing that he had gone too far, Sears deleted that last tweet.) I don’t know about you, but this seems pretty extreme to me. Fat chance, however, that New Brunswick will be reprimanding Sears anytime soon.
Ironically, Sears is quoted in the HuffPo article accusing Duchesne of creating a hostile environment for students! I took the time to look at Sears’s reviews on Rate My Professors, and what I found is illuminating. Here are some of the more interesting, recent reviews:
Signed up for one of his courses, but dropped it after attending the first class. This [professor] aggressively pushes his liberal agenda on students and teaches revisionist history. He is a smug and arrogant man and should be avoided if you have the option.
I took the first class and decided not take his course. This guy is really into himself, he thinks he is so powerful that he can rewrite history to fit his political agenda. Sad that students have to hear his views on current politics when we take a course to learn about classics. Two thumbs down!
This is one of those professors who teaches 10% fact and 90% opinion. He’d be a better professor if he left his politics out of his class.
Prof Sears began the semester pretending to respect students, but it became clear that he is a political partisan who assumes everyone he doesn’t agree with is evil and wrong. I wish our university funded mirrors for faculty so they could see what arrogance and virtue signaling look like.
To be sure, Sears also gets some positive reviews as well. His overall grade is 3.6 (on a 4.0 scale). The contrast with Duchesne is fascinating, however. He earns a solid 4.0 rating (relatively rare on Rate My Professors), with forty-two student reviews (in contrast to Sears’s 16). Some of the students posting reviews are clearly conservative, but the more interesting reviews are from those who simply seem to be pleased that they were exposed to a challenging professor, with unusual ideas. Here are just a few:
I’ve taken several courses with Ricardo Duchesne. He’s always been considered controversial because he’s right wing, although there are topics where he isn’t. His ideas may be out there, but I think it’s important to have a prof with different views to challenge yourself. Go ahead and downvote this comment because it doesn’t fit your narrative.
Duchesne is a professor who wants to challenge your thought process. As someone who has taken many classes with him, you have to be open to other ideas that you may not agree with. Hilarious guy who cares about the material he shares in class. He often sends articles and such to back up his points. He can be cringy at times, but swell overall.
Awesome prof. Forces you to really consider alternative perspectives. Sweet, caring, and concerned with what you take away from the class. An easy class not because he does not make you do work, but because a lot if it is based on your perspective and experiences. A++++
The reason why you go to university is to learn to think critically. Although you may not agree what Profession Duchesne lectures, he WILL make you think about all the things that you believe in. He gets “real” in class discussion and challenges the Left political thinkers. I highly recommend his classes, get prepared to think outside the box.
The takeaway here is not that Duchesne beats Sears on Rate My Professors (a highly unscientific device for measuring instructional effectiveness!). Instead, what strikes one is the difference in tone in the student reviews. It’s clear that Duchesne’s students recognize that he is a conservative. But, unless I missed one, out of forty-two reviews, not a single student complains that he feels like a captive audience to Duchesne’s political views. Not a single one accuses Duchesne of being “closed-minded.” Instead, the students repeatedly laud Duchesne for exposing them to new ideas and for making them think.
The contrast in student response to Professors Sears and Duchesne is quite typical. When students complain that a professor is injecting his politics into the classroom, or will not tolerate disagreement, or penalizes the grades of dissenting students, or advocates violence, or speaks out against free speech, you may be assured that 99.9 percent of the time, they are complaining about a Leftist. This was my own experience in college. The professors who were the most tolerant and open were all conservatives. (Yes, I had my share of those; now all retired and replaced by Leftists.)
People often wonder why academia is so chock-full of outrageously intolerant and unreasonable Left-wing ideologues. The reason is fairly easy to understand. We have long had a habit of contrasting university life to “the real world” (“out there in the real world, when you’ve graduated and are looking for a job . . .” we often say). And we have long observed that academics (“ivory-tower intellectuals”) tend to be rather detached from that “real world.” Academia provides an environment in which people who hold fundamentally false views can be protected from facing reality. Leftist academics only hire other Leftists (a proposal to hire a conservative in order to provide “diversity of opinion” would never be seriously considered, under any circumstances). The primary reason for this is so that Leftist academics are never placed in situations where they might be caused to reflect on their presuppositions.
To be sure, academics attend professional conferences and speak at other universities. But wherever they go within the academic world, they can be reasonably assured of never facing any challenges to their fundamental worldview. The challenges certainly won’t come from their students. Most students will complain about Leftist professors only under the cloak of anonymity provided by Rate My Professors and other venues. Most are terrified to disagree with Leftist professors in class or in their term papers because of the very reasonable fear that their grades will be suffer, or that that they will be publicly shamed. A recent study of US college students found that a majority were afraid to disagree with their professors, when those professors took political positions.
Western academia is thus a giant, supra-national safe space for Leftist ideologues. Within its hallowed halls, Leftists can spend their lives in a kind of fantastic alternate reality, confident that no one around them will be so gauche as to confront them with facts. (I recently heard a story about a girl who was ordered out of a sociology class for daring to mention that forensic pathologists can discern the difference between male and female skeletons; “gender” is a social construct, you see.) For this reason, academia doesn’t just attract Leftists, it attracts the most neurotic, emotionally fragile, and intellectually conforming Leftists. This is the reason why Leftist academics react with such outrage and horror when they find that somehow, in spite of all their precautions, a conservative has slipped into their midst and is asking questions. It is not just their ideology that is threatened, it is their tenuous grip on sanity.
Precisely for this reason, Matthew Sears and his kind must target Ricardo Duchesne for destruction. Not only is there a risk that he may ask colleagues questions they cannot answer, he is also committing the unpardonable sin of actually teaching his students to “think critically.” North American universities today constantly proclaim that they are teaching “critical thinking,” but in fact it’s the last thing they want to inculcate in their students. Nor can they, since most professors don’t possess the skill (or they do so only within certain narrow confines).
The HuffPo piece tells us that ten members of New Brunswick’s Sociology Department have signed an open letter calling Duchesne’s views “devoid of academic merit.” This is offered to us by Mr. Robins-Early as if it actually means anything. It doesn’t, of course. At this point, everyone has figured out that academics have about as much integrity and credibility as journalists. The students, in spite of their “lack of critical thinking skills,” have certainly figured this out. It is one of the primary reasons why the number of majors in the humanities and social sciences is declining precipitously (to the point that some disciplines may face extinction in all but elite institutions). Academics themselves will consider almost any explanation for declining enrollments – except the suffocating politicization of disciplines; the fear and boredom inflicted by touchy Leftists spooning out the same tired old “diversity” pablum the students have been gagging on since they were small.
One would think that Duchesne could be defended simply by pointing out that while the Leftists have every right to inject their politics into the classroom, so does he. Fair is fair; both have academic freedom. But things simply don’t work that way in academia – not anymore, at least. Because knowledge only advances as a result of old ideas being challenged, professors have traditionally enjoyed the guarantee of academic freedom: that they may say the unsayable, and challenge any and all ideas, without risking their jobs. This is the reason for tenure, and the reason why many conservative academics lay low until they’ve been granted it.
Mr. Robins-Early devotes a substantial section of his article to the topic of academic freedom. First, he piously defends the concept, to make sure we know he’s one of the good guys. He quotes the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who said that “[m]aintaining a broad and liberal definition of academic freedom is fundamental to the health of institutions and prevents universities from censoring research or stifling criticism.” Then, however, comes the inevitable: “but there are limits to academic freedom.” And, ominously, he says that Duchesne “hides behind the protection of academic freedom.” You see, it’s simple: the limits of academic freedom are reached when you disagree with Left-wing orthodoxy.
Of course, that’s not how they are going to make the case. Hints as to the approach that may actually be taken are dropped here and there in the article. Robins-Early writes that “a professor who engages in discrimination . . . is still liable to face punitive action.” And: “there has to be verifiable, documented proof that someone’s views are affecting their conduct in the classroom or have resulted in unprofessional behavior.” And: “Although professors critical of Duchesne recognize that the principles of academic freedom are extremely important to uphold . . . they also noted that the university has an obligation to guard its students from discrimination and disinformation.”
Here, then, is a prediction: New Brunswick will try and get Duchesne by somehow or other inducing students who are members of a protected victim class to make complaints against him – complaints alleging some form of “discrimination.” This will then lead to an “investigation.” Or, alternatively, they will make the claim that he is spreading “disinformation,” i.e., that he is teaching falsehoods. (This ties into the “conspiracy theory” business noted earlier.) There is precedent for tenured professors being fired for dishonest scholarship. It happened to a professor at my alma mater, who was found to have cherry-picked evidence for a thesis. In Duchesne’s case, proving this on the basis of actual facts, rather than opinions, would be difficult, since virtually everything he claims in his writings and talks is demonstrably true. (Which is the reason he is so dangerous to the Left.)
So far, New Brunswick has defended Duchesne, albeit half-heartedly (saying, as if it actually needed to be said, that “Duchesne’s views . . . do not reflect those of the university as a whole”). But there are ominous signs that things may change. After the HuffPo article was published, the university’s President issued a statement saying “UNB is reviewing allegations with respect to one of our faculty members. We take these allegations seriously.”
Duchesne needs to just tough it out, and I suspect he will. He seems to be made of strong stuff. He needs to take to heart the very sound advice given by Vox Day in his SJWs Always Lie. When they go after you . . .
. . . remember the three R’s: Recognize it is happening; Remain calm; Realize that nobody cares (nobody will defend you or stick their necks out for you – least of all in academia).
Don’t try to reason with them (it won’t work; they’re not reasonable people).
Do not apologize (it never works; they’ll only use it against you, and you’ll lose your job and your dignity).
Accept your fate.
That last point will hopefully not be applicable in Duchesne’s case. Vox Day’s book was written for people in the “real world.” In academia, it really is quite difficult to fire a tenured professor for anything other than offenses such as sleeping with students, stealing or vandalizing university property, or getting caught moonlighting as a transsexual prostitute. (Though this last may have changed: it may now be grounds for promotion.) What they will certainly try and do is make Duchesne’s daily life at the university as difficult as possible (this was what they did to Kevin MacDonald at California State University, Long Beach, until he retired).
The Left has yet to realize that every time they try and censor us, or punish us for our views, they make us stronger. And students responsive to Ricardo Duchesne’s nationalism are popping up all the time. This is not, however, primarily due to the efforts of Duchesne and other conservative professors (of whom there are few). It is a direct result of the intractably uniform political culture of universities, and to the insufferable smugness and intolerance of Leftist professors. The Left is birthing the troops of the reaction every day on university campuses throughout North America and Europe.
I suspect Duchesne will live to teach again another day. And if not, there is life after academia. It’s a dying racket, anyway.
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