Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Perilous Heights of Ivory Towers

Mike Adams reminds us of Justin Park, who was suspended from Johns Hopkins for posting Halloween invitations that had a skeleton with a noose around its neck. And people at his party were dressed as “pimps” and “whores.” Obviously racist, then. Somehow. Racist because there are some people who know, they just know, that blacks are pimps and whores, or pimps and whores are black, or something like that. Come on. We know it's true. Anyhow, it’s racist. So Justin Park is out for a year, and required to take racial sensitivity training. By the way, he’s Korean. Koreans, as we know, are not a racial minority. Anyone who's a success, or comes from a culture that encourages ownership and study and thrift and diligence -- well, they're not minoriteis. They're wannabe whites. Come on, we know it's true. By “we,” I mean the administrators of Johns Hopkins, and all other such tolerant progressives. You know ... us.

Johns Hopkins University President William Brody cites political cartoons equating LBJ with psychopaths, and says that it “stretches our credulity to assert that [Park’s] two crude and tasteless invitations to a fraternity party posted on an Internet Web site rise to this standard of seriousness of purpose or intent. What I see here is not a courageous trespass of taboo speech but rather a fundamental breach of civility of the sort that is so commonly displayed in disparagement, mockery or epithets drawn along racial or ethnic lines. It is, simply put, common name-calling. This is what I believe we should agree is unacceptable in our community of free and open discourse. Let us not forget that true civility is not a program of fair treatment for this or that constituency but rather an underlying and fundamental commitment to showing respect for everybody.”

Well, first, wrong. Civility is not about “showing respect for everybody.” It’s about showing courtesy for those who merit it. Respect is earned, courtesy is granted for the duration of right conduct. War, for example, is not civil. But let’s pass over Mr. Brody’s muddy grasp of this fundamental.

Given the censorious atmosphere of Johns Hopkins, whereby off-campus speech is hunted down and punished, Mr. Park’s cartoons become, de facto, “a courageous trespass of taboo speech.” It becomes an act of civil disobediance. What is at issue here, is opinion. Mr. Park’s opinion would be that his actions are harmless and reasonable. Mr. Brody severely enforces his opinion, that they are “crude and tasteless.” I won’t point out the many obvious ironies. I will simply state that punishments ought to be appropriate. Where there is ambiguity, there ought to be caution. Mr. Brody has been reckless with a young man’s life. For shame.

Civility is a word, and a concept, that seems not to be understood. Its salient characteristic is that it cannot be compelled or extorted. It is like charity: it arises from one's character. A compelled charity is called a "tax." Compelled civility is called "law." A code of conduct does not include thoughts, and neither emotions nor reactions to emotions have a place in such codifications. A list of proscribed words may not be inappropriate. The enword, the effword, etc, and certain proscriptions on free speech -- such as false fire alarms, and inciting to riot, etc. -- are the proper purview of any administration. But how can an academic institution pretend to encourage learning, when it prohibits thought?

Now, it seems, what had been a virtue is to be made a function of bureaucracy. What politburo, under what apparatchiks, will administer these thought-laws? I invented a maxim years ago: Give a petty man a little power, and you have a dangerous petty little man. Something like that. Good, isn't it. Of course it is. Hm. Aren’t liberals supposed to be, um, liberal? Must be that double speak is already in play. Words mean everything, and nothing.

Who’s in charge then? Who else: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." And His Ovoidal Eminence goes on to pronounce: "The question is ... which is to be master, that's all."

Humpty Dumpty had, as we might remember, a great fall. Sic semper ovocapis.

Who is to be master? Mr. Brody gives us his answer: He is. That’s all.



Anonymous said...

If children ruled the world. . . or JHU. As hard as I try I cannot figure out the logic of a libral. I guess I start at the wrong premise that they think like a mature adult.

I had started a reponse letter from Mr. Brody to your earlier post but have been too busy to complete it.

Hey, happy anniversary. I've got an idea for you. To commemorate the one year of FP why don't you pick a fight with a moslem. There's a blog I frequent (the guy is from a town I used to be a youth pastor in) that has a discourse going with a moslem from Houston at

Anonymous said...

Hey! What's this "visible after blog owner approval" stuff. I like the random comments and the sarcastic responses.

Jack H said...

Greetings. It's very much a kindergarden thing. The shock! -- the distress! -- when a naughty word is used. I was that way myself. But that is, after all, what maturity is all about. It's not just the growth of our bodies -- our experience should expand our capacity for discomfort. Paul Johnson wrote a brilliant book about it, called "Intellectuals" -- the premise, which I adopted, is that an intellectual cares more about ideas than about reality. Maybe my paraphrase, but that's it.

That in mind, letters never do any good. But it's all we can do, right? Keep 'em short, is my rule.

You remembered! I have resolved to slow down at the least, but I don't seem to be able. I wish I could quit you! I'm thinking Mondays and Thrudays, or somesuch. We'll see.

Don't know if I want a fight.

Gayboi is a tad purile, and I can't trust him not to polute my wonderful blog with his vulgarity, so I'll have the moderator up for a while. Can you imagine? I laugh and laugh.


Anonymous said...

Feel no obligation from me. The blog is personal thing...or an impersonal thing maybe. It's your personal process. We have enough responsibilities in life to add to our list of to do's. You are a gifted writer which can bless a lot of people. I appreciate the opportunity to experience your heart - not so much the surface stuff but the heart. Do what benefits you. I have been reading another forgotten blogger who usually details his day in a story about the forgotten knight. Very creative but young in experience and sometimes dark.

I'll probably set my blogger to pick up anything new that comes on your blog. Thanks for the ride.

Jack H said...

I'm more of a knight than a prophet. And *I'm* not the forgotten prophet, or one of them.

I'm sure the ride's not over. Had trouble getting online today, and wondered what ever would I do? But, as I say, we shall see.

Thanks, B.