The Rapaciousness of Political Correctness

February 16, 2005

Political Correctness has a voracious appetite for its opponents. Apologies from blasphemers — those who temporarily stray from the ordained path — are insufficient. Blood is required. These people even eat their own, as the ongoing saga of Harvard President Lawrence Summers continues to demonstrate. The New York Times reports that the Harvard faculty lynch mob (my description, obviously — not that of the doubtlessly approving NYT)is not satisfied with Summers’ three thousand apologies for saying what he truly believed about the relative aptitude of women in science and math in a close-door meeting.

Of course, the professors registered other complaints against the beleaguered Summers as well. The Times tells us:

Many of your faculty are dismayed and alienated and demoralized,” Dr. Arthur Kleinman, chairman of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said at the meeting, referring to a “crisis concerning your style of leadership and governance.”

The comments came at the first full meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which includes the undergraduate college and the graduate school of arts and sciences, since Dr. Summers’s remarks.

Most speakers took aim at Dr. Summers for what they described as an autocratic management style that has stifled the open debate that is at the core of the university’s values. While their comments were respectful, they were forceful and were greeted by strong applause.

“I’ve never seen a faculty meeting like it,” said Diana Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies. “So many people stood and spoke from the heart about how they felt about his leadership.”

Professor Eck recounted part of what she had said: “My question, Mr. President, is one I ask only with reluctance and respect: how will you now respond to what is clearly a widening crisis of confidence in your fitness to lead our university?”

Next we’ll probably here something like: “What did you know and when did you know it? Are you really a closet conservative Cro-Magnon?”

Summers, duly chastened, has this timid response:

If I could turn back the clock, I would have said and done things very differently,” he said, according to The Harvard Crimson, the only newspaper allowed to attend such meetings.

Some faculty members didn’t bother with pretense and went straight to the matter of Summers’ p.c. infraction. From the story:

Several, including Barbara J. Grosz, chairwoman of a new task force on women in science and engineering, called on Dr. Summers to release a transcript of his remarks about science and women. Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology, said, “President Summers appears to be apologizing profusely, yet he refuses to release for honest discussion his actual remarks.”

The bottom line, to borrow from an Animals Farm platitude, is that some speech is “freer” than others. If you don’t mouth the preferred opinion of the academic elite, you are ridiculed mercilessly, especially if you are presumed to be a card-carrying part of that elite, like Summers. As some of the critics of Summers’ critics have aptly noted, these people are unreasonable opponents of academic inquiry and openness” in a sea of “closed-minded political correctness.” As usual, though, the Left is utterly blind to its own totalitarianism.