Most people assume that Hitler’s theories could never again get a foothold in modern academia. It is a comfortable Western conceit that is built on the idea that humanities departments in universities inoculate the West against totalitarian ideas. It is inconceivable to most people that tyrannical or near-tyrannical nostrums could ever find a home in the humanities departments of modern Western universities.
After all, don’t Antifa activists bravely oppose “fascism”? Aren’t students quick to detect any instance of oppression? Don’t professors build their careers on an effort to create a new world of choice and freedom?
It would be logical to think that the disciplines that focus most on human experience would be the most richly informed by the lessons taught bloodily by the 20th century and thus most immune to any totalitarian, radical ideology that would seek to assert itself with muscular fanaticism upon the world.
But this is not so.
Within the modern academy, humanities departments are Petri dishes that spout radical theories. Ideology has been seamlessly woven into knowledge production such that the latter is now governed by the former (and is thus, not knowledge production at all).
Humanities scholars seldom any longer seek to discover and describe reality. Rather, they attempt to refashion reality as if it were play dough so that it suits their ideas. In the process they have not only dissolved much of the meaning of the study of humanities, but they have fired up their students to control and dominate campus life. Their students learn the fine arts of bullying, intimidation, and harassing others in the name of justice.
For many years, black students at Evergreen State University have held a “Day of Absence” in which they do not attend their campus for a day. They meet to discuss issues relevant to them. Last year, however, minority students and faculty at Evergreen State University decided they would like to invert their strategy. They demanded that white students and staff should stay away from the campus on the “Day of Absence” and that only minority students should attend.
Professor Brett Weinstein (in the hard sciences, naturally) resisted this demand on the entirely reasonable grounds that it constituted an attempt to intimidate and control the campus environment which is inimical to freedom, but congruent with oppression. He wrote:
There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles… and a group encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.
Professor Weinstein said that he would be attending campus on the nominated date and encouraged other white students to do the same.
The firestorm that broke against him and his wife was a demonstration of intimidation that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the dark inner workings of a dictatorship where mobs are enlisted to “do their worst” against any outspoken non-conformist. Brett Weinstein received death threats. Concerted efforts were made to get him fired, including organised marches across the campus, impromptu searches for the professor by vigilante students, and “fire Brett” graffiti which appeared on campus. Efforts were later made to get campus police fired as well.
The campus police advised Weinstein that he should absent himself from work for a few days because they could not guarantee his safety. From the moment he made his stand, Weinstein was accused of racism by students and activists on social media. His effort to explain and defend his were also considered racist. Students drew a line between his stance and the fatal attack of some unrelated men in Portland, Oregon who had tried to break up an anti-Muslim rant. This, they argued, showed how much imminent danger existed for minorities in American society and why Weinstein’s stance was actually dangerous and unreasonable.
Ultimately, Professor Weinstein and his wife left Evergreen State University and successfully sued it. The university president George Bridges said:
We may disagree with each other. However, disagreement is one thing; dehumanization is another. Over the week, a few members of the Evergreen community have used traditional and social media to malign, mock or misrepresent those with whom they disagree. While the majority of students, faculty and staff are fully engaged in the teaching and learning work of the college, a few are on a destructive course of action that hurts themselves and gives a distorted and false impression of our community.
But Brett Weinstein told the media:
The president’s carefully crafted statement is clearly intended to support a false narrative about the present state of our campus, and the extraordinary events of this past week. No one at the college has yet acknowledged that I and my students were specifically followed, harassed and doxed. If it is now safe to return, it is only because the intimidation campaign against us backfired so spectacularly and has now been called off as a matter of PR damage control.
The harassment and intimidation at Evergreen State is a mere demonstration of how frightening universities have become for free thinkers, and how hostage they are held to the shibboleths and grievance theories of their humanities departments. Worse, these students and their professors often believe they have been given the mandate of revolution to try and break down the matrix of imaginary grievances and hurts they claim to see around them. They take their intolerant, blinkered, bulldozer approach into the wider society where it causes real harm.
They thus justify the introduction of new unscientific social ideas into psychology, education, religion, and history. These students rise to positions of influence HR departments, in media newsrooms, in corporations, and in government agencies where they continue their social crusade. Through intimidation these social theories and ideas then become the institutional culture of the broader society. The theories are applied to the real world with often bizarre, expensive, harmful, or unjust results for families, individuals and children. Nonetheless, these radical principles are not permitted to be questioned or dissented from. Those who would do so are often relentlessly bullied and abused in the manner so sadly exemplified by Professor Weinstein.
HOW BAD IS IT?
The rot of humanities in modern universities seriously imperils the future of the academy. Over a year ago three (left-leaning) scholars – James Lindsey, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose – decided they were unable to ignore the dysfunction that now plagues the social sciences. They decided to begin a project in which they would visibly and publicly demonstrate how intellectually moribund and bankrupt the humanities had become by writing a series of spoof papers and getting them published in prestigious and reputable peer-reviewed journals.
Publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal is the Holy Grail of scholarship. Not only is it a way for an academic to gain notoriety and influence – since scholarly journals are regarded as high-quality source material for citations – but it is also a standard condition of tenure in most universities. To get a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal means that you have made a worthy scholarly contribution that has passed a process of being checked, vetted and approved by peer experts for accuracy and value.
Publication means that the paper is adding to the specialised knowledge contained within the field and is consistent with the knowledge that already exists. Peer-review is a means by which scholars testify that a methodology is sound and a work is reliable.
Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose successfully published seven spoof papers that ranged from the absurd to the outright dangerous. In one case, they demonstrated they could publish Hitler’s theorems of grievance, modified with a little grease and spanner-work to suit contemporary feminist ideology, with high praise from the reviewers. In the name of a fictitious Ph.D holder, they were able to get a paper published that utilised Hitler’s multi-point plan in Chapter 12 of Mein Kampf as a basic template for feminist struggle.
In another peer-reviewed paper they argued that astrology was a more feminist “science” than astronomy and thus and deserved a role within astronomy. They also successfully published an utterly meaningless paper about “feminist artificial intelligence” which was written in dense, impenetrable prose. Absurder examples included a highly-commended paper in which they argued that dog parks perpetuate a canine rape culture with systematic oppression against “the oppressed dog”.
Perhaps the most ridiculous paper of all was written by James Lindsey featuring poetry derived from an online teenage-angst poetry generator merged with a long, rambling anecdote about an imaginary feminist “moon meeting” at which women rub wooden carvings of their genitals.
Each paper was intended to demonstrate a different ideological defect within the field of humanities. For example, they argue that the publication of their dog park paper showed that, “Journals will accept arguments which should be clearly ludicrous and unethical if they provide (an unfalsifiable) way to perpetuate notions of toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and implicit bias“.
Certainly, the idea that dogs could be oppressed by rape culture is absurd and it defies belief that anyone could take this seriously. But ideology tends to have the effect of corroding critical faculty in those who fanatically hold to it, until the grotesquely nonsensical is advanced as proof of the ideology. Indeed, the dog park paper has eerie parallels to the story that circulated in German schools in the 1930’s in which students were taught about the discovery of a remarkable talking dog, unlike anything seen before, that had been successfully able to tell scientists that he had undying faith in his Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.
Another spoof paper argued that heterosexual men rarely anally stimulate themselves with sex toys because of a deep-seated homophobia and bigotry against transgender people. This paper was described as “rich and exciting” by one reviewer who apologised for being so enthused but explained she could not help it because the article was so “marvellous”. The reviewer described the piece as an “interesting contribution to knowledge”. Yet, once again, the premise of the article is blatantly unfair, cannot be proved on the basis of objective data, and is exclusively grounded on the idea that something is innately wrong with heterosexual male sexual desire.
Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose concluded that: “journals will accept ludicrous arguments if they support (unfalsifiable) claims that common (and harmless) sexual choices made by straight men are actually homophobic, transphobic, and anti-feminist.”
It is hard to come to any other conclusion given that the article was purposefully written so that it amounted to little more than a sophisticated attack on normal male desire. Yet though its premise is clearly discriminatory and biased, it was sufficiently dressed up in the garb of supposed academic writing to allow it to gain a respectable receptivity within the suffocating ideological confines of humanities scholarship.
Only ideology could explain why such a paper could be deemed a serious academic effort given its unhinged nature. For example, at one point the article strongly hinted that there was something bigoted, defective, or sinister (“transhysteria”) at work when heterosexual men were interviewed and said they did not wish to be anally penetrated by another man or by a transgender woman with a penis. The article posited that this was demonstrable proof of the existence of a masculine construct that opposes and oppresses homosexual and transgender people. In other words, the paper was essentially arguing that heterosexual men must engage in homosexual sex to some degree in order for them to cease participating in an alleged hegemonic oppressive structure.
The conclusions made by this article were, of course, supported by no empirical data. Instead, like many social science articles it used “qualitative data”. It referenced personal anecdotes, interviews conducted with very small numbers of people, and citations from books such as “The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure“, a text purporting to teach men how to engage in “anal play”. This is the basis, it seems, for making a “serious contribution” to a scientific understanding of human sexuality.
No wonder ideologies of sexuality are among the most intolerant on university campuses – taking no prisoners as they hack their way across the intellectual landscape – for the substance upon which they are based add up to self-affirming fantasy. But this fantasy has such a thin membrane that it is not be able to withstand the most basic questions or elementary scrutiny, just as an over-inflated balloon bursts when it makes contact with anything angular. The only solution, therefore, is to silence the would-be questioners and shout down any effort at dissent or scrutiny.
The Atlantic magazine rightly observed that such papers do not only:
…expose the low standards of the journals that publish this kind of dreck… It also demonstrates the extent to which many of them are willing to license discrimination if it serves ostensibly progressive goals.
This was most vividly seen in a paper arguing that students of “privilege” should be made to give “experiential reparations” by sitting in chains on the floor, being spoken over, and treated with serious inhumanity. This paper was not published by the journal it was submitted to on the basis that the privileged students making the reparations were being treated with too much compassion. Nonetheless the authors were invited to rewrite and resubmit.
Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose comment:
This paper insists that the most privileged students shouldn’t be allowed to speak in class at all and should just listen and learn in silence throughout the term. Even more, it insists that students with high privilege could benefit from adding on “experiential reparations,” such as sitting in the floor, wearing chains, or intentionally being spoken over, as an educational “opportunity” within the class.
The reviewers’ only concerns with these points so far have been that (1) we approach the topic with too much compassion for the students who are being subjected to this, and (2) we risk exploiting underprivileged students by burdening them with an expectation to teach about privilege.
To correct for this, the reviewers urged us to make sure we avoid “recentering the needs of the privileged.” They asked us to incorporate Megan Boler’s approach called “pedagogy of discomfort” and Barbara Applebaum’s insistence that the privileged learn from this discomfort rather than being coddled or having their own experiences (suffering) “recentered.” It also utilizes Robin DiAngelo’s now-famous concept of “white fragility” to explain why students subjected to this treatment will object to it, and uses that to justify the more cruel treatment suggested by the reviewers. The reviewers acknowledged that they believe this “fragility” is the correct interpretation for student pushback against being told to stay silent and sit in the floor, possibly in chains, throughout the semester.
They go on to observe that the enthusiastic reception by reviewers and the invitation to resubmit by the journal demonstrates:
Patently unfair, inhumane, and abusive treatments of students will be acceptable in educational theory if it is framed as an opportunity to teach them about the problems of privilege.
In rebutting left-wing defences of the journals, The Atlantic commented:
…it is nonsensical to insist that nonsense scholarship doesn’t matter because you don’t like the motives of the people who exposed it, or because some other forms of scholarship may also contain nonsense. If certain fields of study cannot reliably differentiate between real scholarship and noxious bloviating, they become deeply suspect. And if they are so invested in overcoming injustice that they are willing to embrace rank cruelty as long as it is presented in the right kind of progressive jargon, they are worsening the problems they purport to address.
It demonstrates how rotten the timbers have become within the field of humanities and perhaps goes some way to explaining why the discipline is so often held in derision. For instead of being a machine to create knowledge about the true human condition, humanities departments – especially those dealing with gender and sexuality – now manufacture a worldview that is largely immune to knowledge or the tools of reason.
The escalating authoritarianism of this no-holds-barred, grievance-detecting, bullying social fascism would make a natural transplant into the fascism of yesteryear. This is what is flowing from politicised humanities departments and journals that are sunk in ideological decay. It embraces a wide swathe of fields like gender studies, anthropology, sociology, psychology, education, and others which are all complicit in packaging such grotesque and preposterous ideas in the name of remedying “oppression”.
WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?
Lindsey and Pluckrose (2018) argue in their essay that the excesses of students and the circus sideshow of radicalism on campuses merely represent the symptoms of a longer-term malaise within the humanities. An intellectual virus is at work. It is characterised by a number of features, including a binary, good-vs-bad mode thinking in which students memorise matrices that purport to show dialectics of oppression; something termed “intersectionality” which is the fashionable theoretical engine driving much of the harm.
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of New York University writes:
But what happens when young people study intersectionality? In some majors, it’s woven into many courses. Students memorize diagrams showing matrices of privilege and oppression. It’s not just white privilege causing black oppression, and male privilege causing female oppression; its heterosexual vs. LGBTQ, able-bodied vs. disabled; young vs. old, attractive vs. unattractive, even fertile vs. infertile…. A funny thing happens when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side of each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.
And here’s the strategically brilliant move made by intersectionality: all of the binary dimensions of oppression are said to be interlocking and overlapping. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups. This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists.
The intellectual virus is also characterised by low-quality research which suffers from a “replication crisis” – a term coined by Cofnas, Carl, and Woodley (2015) in a paper that questioned the scientific foundations of much of what passes for research within the humanities.
Replication refers to the ability of other researchers to duplicate the results of an experiment or a study. This constitutes a cornerstone of the scientific method. Since the scientific method is concerned with discovering objective truths about how the world works, multiple researchers in different places and contexts performing the same experiments should get the same results if the experiment truly addresses an objective reality. In this way, the results are shown to be independent of the researcher.
For instance, a researcher using an Ohmmeter to gauge the electrical resistance of different metals – perhaps copper, iron, and gold – will get the same results no matter how many times the experiment is repeated. Providing the variables of the experiment remain the same (e.g. amount of metal, the length of the metal pieces, amount of voltage etc.) the results will be identical.
Or, suppose a researcher drops some weights from a fixed height and measures their impact velocity. The results of this experiment will be the same when it is repeated in London, Johannesburg, or Timbuktu. It will be the same because gravitation and its effects are the same. Furthermore, the results of these experiments will be able to be duplicated by multiple researchers with all kinds of personal beliefs.
It will not matter whether the researcher votes for conservatives or liberals, or is a fanatical vegetarian. It will not matter if the researcher is a Christian or a pagan. It will not matter if they cavort in Bacchanalian parties and slosh enough alcohol down their gullet to stun a whale, or if they adhere to godly morality and self-restraint as revealed in scripture. None of this will matter.
It will not matter because if the researchers follow the same method the experiment’s results will be successfully replicated, thus proving that the experiment is built around an objective principle or law that is true. It further proves that the researcher himself has not brought an uncertain variable or a personal bias to the experiment and has influenced the results.
There has been a breakdown of this principle within the humanities, especially in regards to experiments that utilise “qualitative research” rather than the quantitative research of the hard sciences. Thus, social scientists often perform experiments and treat the results as solid even when those results cannot be replicated by other researchers. This has been a problem for decades and the lack of scrutiny and scientific rigour has allowed the findings of these experiments to become virtually unchallenged lore.
Some of the most celebrated social experiments have been unethical, like the infamous (and unethical) Robbers Cave experiment led by Muzafer Sherif:
Sherif’s cover story was that he was running a summer camp in Middle Grove. His plan was to bring a group of boys together, allow them to make friends, then separate them into two factions to compete for a prize. At this point, he believed, they would forget their friendships and start demonising one another. The pièce de résistance was to come at the end: Sherif planned to set a forest fire in the vicinity of the camp. Facing a shared threat, they would be forced to work as one team again.
In 50s Middle Grove, things didn’t go according to plan either, though the surprise was of a different nature. Despite his pretence of leaving the 11-year-olds to their own devices, Sherif and his research staff, posing as camp counsellors and caretakers, interfered to engineer the result they wanted. He believed he could make the two groups, called the Pythons and the Panthers, sworn enemies via a series of well-timed “frustration exercises”. These included his assistants stealing items of clothing from the boys’ tents and cutting the rope that held up the Panthers’ homemade flag, in the hope they would blame the Pythons. One of the researchers crushed the Panthers’ tent, flung their suitcases into the bushes and broke a boy’s beloved ukulele. To Sherif’s dismay, however, the children just couldn’t be persuaded to hate each other.
After losing a tug-of-war, the Pythons declared that the Panthers were in fact the better team and deserved to win. The boys concluded that the missing clothes were the result of a mix-up at the laundry. And, after each of the Pythons swore on a Bible that they didn’t cut down the Panthers’ flag, any conflict “fizzled”. By the time of the incident with the suitcases and the ukulele, the boys had worked out that they were being manipulated. Instead of turning on each other, they helped put the tent back up and eyed their “camp counsellors” with suspicion. “Maybe you just wanted to see what our reactions would be,” one of them said.
The robustness of the boy’s “civilised” values came as a blow to Sherif, making him angry enough to want to punch one of his young academic helpers. It turned out that the strong bonds forged at the beginning of the camp weren’t easily broken. Thankfully, he never did start the forest fire – he aborted the experiment when he realised it wasn’t going to support his hypothesis.
Lindsey and Pluckrose point out that the lack of objectivity in research has allowed quack studies to gain legitimacy. One need not be a fortune teller to see how dangerous this is not only for the mission of the university, but also for wider society.
The difficulty of measuring the rigor of research in the humanities and the relative ease of producing humanities research (say, as compared to studies in the hard sciences) make it particularly prone to ideological bias and proliferate poor scholarship.
This, unfortunately, is a problem shared by the social sciences. A 2012 study by researchers Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers, cited in Cofnas et al, found that while conservative and liberal social scientists were equally likely to discriminate against each others’ papers in review, liberals are so over-represented in the field that they face a only a 5% chance of having their paper reviewed by someone who might politically discriminate against them.
Conservatives, by contrast, face an 80% chance of the same. The departments which traffic in fashionable nonsense therefore have natural advantages in producing reams of low-quality or outright bad scholarship: High levels of political motivation to agitate the system in their favor, relative ease of producing scholarship, and a high likelihood of sympathetic reviewers biased in their favor. This has led to administrative architectures that now unjustly support them and prejudicial control over key sectors of the academy — like educational theory, which creates a self-strengthening feedback loop for them — which enable them to push their agenda into the university system. The result is increased legitimacy for certain criticisms of the academy that are not judiciously applied, are being politically weaponized, and are likely to explode into radioactive political warfare.
In other words, the humanities departments of many universities have been turned into think tanks for liberal politics. They produce the theory and churn out the students that are amenable to supporting the assumptions and worldview of the left. It is not that these students are better educated and that their superior education turns them toward the left, as the popular conceit among liberals would have it.
Rather, it is that these students are intellectually docile, cowed by an unchallenged stream of propaganda that sounds sophisticated, and are never exposed to rival ideas or viewpoints. This produces students who cannot defend their views in debate against a knowledgeable opponent, and when challenged may even go so far as to call for the campus police.
These students and their identity ideology – what could be properly termed social fascism – are going to be moving into the wider world. They are intolerant of dissent. They are utterly certain they are correct. And they will bully and intimidate not only people who disagree with them, but will wreck institutions, rewrite laws and processes, and even demand the suppression of objective facts for the sake of their politics of grievance. Even language itself must be forcibly changed. A vivid example of this was seen recently when an LGBTQ activist demanded the removal of a billboard that featured nothing but the dictionary definition of “woman”. This was deemed a “hate campaign” and “transphobic”.
The strategies, techniques, theories, and continuous psychological projection is nearly indistinguishable from those employed by fascists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the name of justice they do injustice. They claim to be guardians of victims yet they victimise and terrorise their opponents. Their aim is also the same as those of classical fascists. True, they are not trying to install a fascist government, but they are certainly trying to obtain social power through a framework advocating an inversion of community values. Like the fascists of the past, they seek to force others to submit to the rules they have decided to impose.
The intellectual groundwork behind this movement is a recipe for the decline of democracy and an ever-expanding attack on Christianity. Which brings us back to the question in the title. Could Hitler get published in the modern academy? Most assuredly he could. In fact, thanks to Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose, he already has.
What are the long-term implications for a society in which Hitler’s politics of grievance are indistinguishable from other scholarship within their highest institutions of learning?