Lawrence Summers And The Left’s Thought Gulag

March 18, 2005

It’s time we call political correctness what it is: a liberal code of thought, speech and conduct. Anyone who thinks conservatives are behind any of this lunacy is either uninformed or being dishonest.

The Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) at Harvard University issued a no-confidence vote this week condemning university president Lawrence H. Summers. The stated reasons for the censure, according to the New York Times, were “longstanding dissatisfaction with his management style and, to a lesser extent, his remarks in January about women in science.”

To a lesser extent? Right. How many believe Dr. Summers would have incurred the wrath of the academics had he not opened his mouth in a closed meeting in which he threw open for discussion the theory that women, in general, have less aptitude in science and math than men?

Do you not remember the uproar that ensued following his remarks: the outrage of women and the emotional response of one female academic leaving the room in a huff? Are you aware that Dr. Summers has been spending the last several weeks, perhaps months, groveling to the individual members of the FAS, trying to prostitute himself back in their favor?

The action of the FAS is disgraceful and serves as a damning indictment of the state of academic inquiry among our universities today. We are not talking about some ragtag junior college here, folks, but the most celebrated, august, nonpareil Ivy League university in the universe: Harvard.

The FAS just could not abide the suggestion that women might have different intellectual strengths from men. It not only wouldn’t accept Summers’ apology, it virtually demanded his head and permanently tarnished his reputation.

The dirty secret — at least it’s a secret to liberals — is that political correctness, emanating as it does from a liberal mindset, is not open-minded, it’s not inviting, and it’s not progressive or enlightened. It is the antithesis of what liberalism claims to be all about.

No, the liberal code is illiberal, it’s close-minded, censorial, tyrannical, oppressive, uncompassionate, intolerant, anti-libertarian, anti-intellectual, anti-academic inquiry, arrogant, proud and unforgiving.

One outspoken professor, J. Lorand Matory, a professor of anthropology and African and African-American studies, was quite clear to reporters following the meeting that the beleaguered Summers should step down. “There is no noble alternative for him but resignation,” said Matory.

But not all the condemning FAS members were willing to go on the record, or even to disclose their position publicly. These FAS paragons of free and open debate insisted on having a secret ballot, making it that much easier for the cowardly thought police to affect their dirty work.

If they felt so strongly and justified about their stance, why couldn’t they do so out in the open? Don’t give me any “fear of administrative retribution” garbage. It’s obvious that Summers isn’t the one doing the intimidating here, though you wouldn’t know that by listening to the faculty bullies.

In an ironic twist, one of those faculty members lambasted Summers for “intimidating faculty members and squelching debate.” “There is a widespread dissatisfaction with his substantive decisions as well as style,” said Professor Waters.

Now isn’t that special: the intimidating faculty condemning Summers for squelching debate when they just got through blistering him for trying to open academic debate on a subject they unilaterally deemed to be so offensive as to be beyond discussion. I wonder if it ever occurs to them that they work against their own purposes when they adopt this smothering, patronizing attitude about women, treating them as if they’re just too delicate to be discussed. Their hypocrisy and lack of self-reflection knows no bounds.

Yet William C. Kirby, the dean of FAS, had the audacity to suggest in a statement that the last few weeks had demonstrated “how willing we are to engage in a process of self-examination, for the betterment of this institution. … I value the views of the faculty, and of President Summers, and I believe we are all committed to moving forward in a constructive fashion.”

How can anyone take such people seriously? They not only don’t value President Summers’ views (or those of anyone else who runs afoul of the “code”), they won’t even let him bring certain subjects up for discussion. This isn’t just thought control, it’s thought prison.

The Left is increasingly intellectually bankrupt and delusional. But worse, it has become boorishly dictatorial, not even sparing would-be allies, like Clintonite Lawrence Summers, from its hellish wrath, if they dare not just to disagree with their dogma, but to express a willingness to consider ideas the “code” forbids.