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Claudine Gay and the mafia of mediocrity The DEI agenda lends itself to corruption

Claudine Gay testifies in Washington DC last month (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Claudine Gay testifies in Washington DC last month (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)


January 6, 2024   5 mins

What do Nasra Abukar Ali and Claudine Gay have in common? Or, for that matter, the Somali Ministry of Sports and the Harvard Corporation?

The answer is straightforward: both Ali and Gay came unprepared onto a major public stage, failed spectacularly in their respective roles, and massively embarrassed their respective organisations.

In early August, Ali had dreams of winning the 100-metre sprint for Somalia at the International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer World University Games in China. Her performance was a fiasco. She looked confused at the starting blocks. Once the race started, she was so slow the cameraman struggled to keep her in the frame. As for the remainder of the race, one Forbes reporter noted: “Ali completed the 100-metre dash in 21.81 seconds, an embarrassing finish that’s almost double the winning 11.58-second time run by Brazil’s Gabriela Silva Mourão and nearly nine 9 seconds behind the second slowest time of 13.15 seconds by Turkmenistan’s Alsu Habibulina — leading many to ask questions about how a runner, who has never competed in a major event and appears to be untrained, was able to compete on such a large international stage.”

When she finally made it to the finish line, she did a little skip and a hop of triumph. A video of her sloth-like performance went viral on social media, along with demands for an explanation.

In early December, Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard was called to testify in Congress and asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews on campus violated Harvard university’s code of conduct. Gay delivered prepared remarks, priding herself and her institution on protecting free expression and, after a pitiful exercise in evasion, settling on the answer that calling for the genocide of Jews on campus depended on the context. She did the equivalent of Ali’s hop and skip with her smiles and smirks. The video clip of her abysmal performance went viral along with demands for an explanation.

Back in Somalia, the most pertinent questions in Ali’s case were obvious. Where was her record? How did she qualify? Where were the gatekeepers? The Somali Minister of Sports ordered an investigation, which found that a relative of Ali had ignored or lowered the standards of athletic selection for Ali. He sacked the woman in question and apologised publicly. This may not be the end of corruption in the government of Somalia, but it ended the story there within about 48 hours.

After Gay’s shambolic performance in Congress, similar questions were asked and answered by the public. The most obvious being: how did someone with a wafer-thin scholarly record of only 11 journal publications over a period of 26 years get to become the president of Harvard? Allegations and proof of nearly 50 instances of plagiarism followed. How on earth was this overlooked? Where were the gatekeepers?

The Harvard Corporation, the authority responsible for hiring the university’s president, chose a different path from the one taken by the Somali Minister of Sports. After a series of denials and statements of “unanimous support for the president”, threats against the New York Post and accusations of bigotry, they persuaded Gay to step down. Nevertheless, she continues to stay employed by Harvard as a tenured professor, retaining an annual salary of around $900,000. As for the university itself, the result is at least a billion dollars in withdrawn commitments from various donors, more congressional probing, a slump in applications from prospective students, and the trashing of its reputation.

All of which raises a peculiar question: if the Sports Ministry of a war-torn African country is able to show ethical clarity when objective standards of merit have been violated, what is holding back the leadership of America’s most renowned university? The answer, I suspect, lies in the three-letter acronym that has been menacing American and other Western institutions of higher education for the past decade: DEI, which supposedly stands for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

DEI is the programmatic implementation of an intolerant progressive agenda that views the existing structures of government, education, media, and industry as deeply unjust. It presents these institutions in the light of a hierarchical “intersectional” model of the oppressors and the oppressed. The ultimate oppressor is white, male, and straight. Blacks, women, gays and others are defined as their victims. To redress these past wrongs, DEI is supposed to design new structures of “positive” discrimination, or “affirmative action”.

This is how individuals such as Claudine Gay secured promotion to the commanding heights not just of the Ivy League, but of many other august institutions. Merit, qualifications, the ability to lead — all these criteria were cast aside as expressions of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy”.

The blame for this, of course, cannot be solely pinned on the individuals who have since benefited from DEI. As Gay ascended the ladder of academic preferment, her ambition was central but hardly sufficient. Rather, she did so with the complicity of a network of gatekeepers: the admissions offices of Princeton and Stanford; the peer reviewers who overlooked her plagiarism; the Harvard committees that promoted her through the various ranks of the professorship; and, finally, the members of the Harvard Corporation who deemed her the most suitable candidate for the position of president.

Thanks to their collaboration, and the fall-out following their exposure, the truth about DEI has been thrust into the mainstream. As an acronym, it still holds, but not in the way they intend. In reality, the D stands for the degradation of the standards once upheld at institutions such as Harvard; the E stands for their erasure; and the I stands not only for the indoctrination that follows, but also intimidation. Gay, after all, not only plagiarised the work of Carol Swain and other black academics. As dean and then as president, she set about destroying the careers of black scholars who choose to play by the rules of merit and academic integrity, notably Roland Fryer.

In a homogeneous society such as Somalia’s, identity politics is all about the bloodline. There, people in positions of authority try to give members of their extended family a leg up, whether or not they are qualified for the position in question. On rare occasions, the corruption might be caught on camera, as with the chubby girl who fancied she could win the 100-metre sprint. Normally, though, the favouring of family and friends continues until the resentment erupts into the next cycle of civil violence. There are no nice-sounding acronyms to cover up venality and, since everyone has the same skin colour and adheres to the same religion, immutable traits are irrelevant.

In a more sophisticated society such as the United States of America, corruption takes a different form. Here, identity politics assumes the role of bloodlines. Preferment is given to “women” or “women of colour”, so long as they follow strictly the progressive party line. But the net result is essentially the same. People without talent are rewarded and promoted. Those who would fare better in a meritocracy are left seething with resentment.

In her graceless attempt to portray her downfall as something more than the result of her exposure as a fraud, Claudine Gay alleged that there was “a broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society… Trusted institutions of all types — from public health agencies to news organisations — will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin their leaders’ credibility.”

The reality is very different. Harvard — like the New York Times, which published her screed — has done the work of unravelling public faith all by itself. It has made a mockery of itself as surely as the Somali Sports Ministry did when it fielded a manifestly unqualified runner. The difference is that Harvard humiliated itself for the sake of an ideology, as opposed to plain nepotism. Until that ideology is extirpated not just from one university but from American education as a whole, the mafia of mediocrity will continue to march on — and produce many more Claudine Gays along the way.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an UnHerd columnist. She is also the Founder of the AHA Foundation, and host of The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast. Her Substack is called Restoration.

Ayaan

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Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
6 months ago

Here is my take on why Gay’s opponents prevailed.
https://erikhildinger.substack.com/p/al-capone-meets-saul-alinsky

El Uro
El Uro
6 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Thank you! I like it…

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
6 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Thank you!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

The late, lamented military theorist Sir Basil Liddell Hart would have described this as ‘The strategy of the Indirect Approach’.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
6 months ago

Exactly!

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
6 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Excellent essay! I am now a subscriber to your work. Thank you for mentioning it on UnHerd. As an Audible subscriber, I will get Saul Alinsky’s handbook, Rules for Radicals also.

PS:
My fight is against Australia’s absurd crime reality.
It is as hopeless as it sounds.
Having exhausted all legal avenues to stop a stalker ex-coworker’s crimes against me in Melbourne, Australia since 2009, fighting back is an alternative to the only solution to stop the stalker’s crimes: suicide. I never even dated the stalker. The sole law-enforcement in Australia is police with neither duty of care/accountability, while having a monopoly on what is a crime. Police criminality is wide-spread, deep-rooted and accepted like weather phenomena in Australia.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago

Gay was the victim of a coordinated attack from far right racists who were bankrolled by a petulant billionaire ( a real one, not the Trump type) who didn’t get his way after he made some donations.
Harvard will be fine. Not that it will make a jot of difference to the Unherd readers who will never get within a million miles of an elite academic institution…
(now we wait for the utterly predictable replies from all of you who claim to have have multiple Oxbridge degrees or whatever – should be pretty funny!)

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
6 months ago

I think you should exit from your bubble and address her publishing and plagiarism history.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

There’s no point responding to this commenter. He’s completely insane.

El Uro
El Uro
6 months ago

wait 🙂

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Nonsense! Like your good self Ms Gobshite, she is a complete FRAUD.

hugh shull
hugh shull
6 months ago

I would wager that ironically it was HBD/paleo conservatives [self-edit, alt-right] who unearthed the plagiarism (or at least one axe-driven person), and they generally aren’t usually pro-Israel. Quite the opposite.

Terry Raby
Terry Raby
6 months ago

Satirical? :))

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

Ah. The elite institutions are under dire threat from far right rac!sts. Good to know. The Harvard board is under the spell of Chris Rufo.

Nancy G
Nancy G
6 months ago

Gay had a less-than-stellar academic record and was guilty of plagiarism. One of the scholars whose work she plagiarised is herself a black woman, Carol Swain, who said she thought Gay should resign. [Carol Swain calls for Claudine Gay to be fired from Harvard (nypost.com)] See also comments by the (black) scholar John McWhorter in the New York Times – “Claudine Gay Was Not Driven Out Because She Is Black”. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/08/opinion/claudine-gay-resignation-racism.html]

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

Everyone in the west suffers when our leading institutions have been infected by cancerous ideologies like DEI. Meritocracy is flushed down the toilet in favour of ideological conformity. It has nothing to do with skin colour and everything thing to do with social standing and ideology. Black people with wrongthink are hated above all. The free market – of ideas, people, production etc. – has been the strength of the west over authoritarian regimes. When this is abandoned in favour of cronyism, it doesn’t make us any better than any banana republic.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

We’ve never had meritocracy. All that’s happened is DEI has taken over from the old class system. Now instead of your family name and wealth giving you a colossal leg up (although those things still help obviously) it’s now your gender or skin colour doing the same thing

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You are so predictable, like you’re reading from a script.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

One of the Beverly Hills silly billies ?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

So you’re suggesting kids from rich families don’t have any advantages over those from poor families?
Would you be in favour of banning private schooling as they do in Finland? (I’m aware a few exist but to all extents and purposes it’s gone)
If you believe in meritocracy then you’d be in favour of a policy that prevents those who were born wealthy from gaining an undeserved head-start over their peers surely?

Lukasz Gregorczyk
Lukasz Gregorczyk
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

This is a Leninist nonsense Billy Bob! Look at the author of this article and her own views, where did she come from how she feels about the legacy of the west and why is she willing to fight for it – especially its Christian frame.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago

So I can only assume that you believe wealthy children have no advantages over poorer ones?
If that’s the case why do parents fork out tens of thousands of pounds sending their kids to private schools if it doesn’t give them an advantage later in life?

Rick Frazier
Rick Frazier
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And kids living with married parents also have advantages. Would you be in favor of banning marriage to level the playing field? Rather than banning private schools in the U.S., we’re now seeing momentum, after decades of public school failure in most large U.S. cities, for a voucher system that allows money to follow family school choices. And yet so called “progressives” fight this momentum at every turn. Ideology and politics, once again, trump common sense, practical solutions for leveling the playing field.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Rick Frazier

I never said I was in favour of banning private schools, my point was that we’ve never had meritocracy in any real sense of the world. A child from a wealthy background will nearly always earn more over the course of their lifetime than one from a poorer family. A few kids from rough upbringings do manage to make it to the top but it’s certainly the exception rather than the norm, hence why rags to riches tales are usually big stories.
At least the old aristocracy knew they were born lucky, this new breed of elite think they owe their success to nobody else and are blind to the leg ups they’ve received and as a result think they have no obligation to those left behind

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You must be aware that the more people are sure of what they believe, the less they are willing to read about the beliefs of others. So, poorer kids don’t understand what they have to do to rise and richer kids don’t understand what the poorer kids are even talking about.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Of course being born to wealthy parents is an advantage. But it’s not just through connections (though that does happen), but also because they get a better education than the state provides.

I went to a comprehensive (UK), and not an especially good one. However, I didn’t fully realise how poor my school education was until I was in the workforce and encountered the generation above me, which had gone to grammar school. They had an advantage (one the left took away) not because of connections or wealth, but because they were better educated and able to perform at a higher level. That was meritocratic.

Taking away fee paying schools will be the same as taking away grammar schools. It won’t improve standards for everyone, it will remove the chance of some to attend higher performing schools.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
6 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

It is not possible to win this argument. The whole of the world seems to want equality, not equality of opportunity. Grammar schools will not come back – imagine the mental problems for the children!! Fee-paying schools will slowly reduce in number.
The amount of education a child gets will only depend on the drive (and money) of the parents.
I was from a poor family living in a council house. My parents wanted better for me so they strongly encouraged me to pass the 11Plus. Then at grammar school, every evening they took an interest in what I’d done at school. They tested before a school test. This was not grim, forced labour – they were sharing their lives with me. Effectively, they were sacrificing themselves for me.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You simply cannot do that in a free society. The cost to freedom far outweighs any benefits you might hope to see. I think we have enough practical evidence of this from the twentieth century experiments.
And what will you do if science at some point shows that there is a significant genetic component to intelligence (which may turn out to be the case) ? Enforced state genetic engineering so everyone is “levelled” to the same starting conditions ?
And what about attractiveness ? As people like Dominic Frisby have correctly pointed out, the most discriminated against group in society is the unnattractive. How would you propose to stop people discriminating based on people’s looks and likeability ?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Where have I ever said anything like that was desirable, or that equity rather than equality should be the goal?
I merely said that we’ve never had true meritocracy, as I believe the advantages we receive in childhood (especially financial ones) will almost always be more important than ability or work ethic when we’re talking about a persons earnings or status over their lifetime

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You should be entitled to spend your money as exactly you wish, and if that includes procuring a first class education so be it, and meritocracy be damned!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago

Unfortunately I agree with you, although I still feel the advantages of expensive private schools lie less in the actual education and more to do with the contacts made there.
We’re all guilty of nepotism, numerous mates of mine were put through their apprenticeships by working for the mates fathers for instance, which is the same thing just on a lower scale than those at expensive schools can manage getting parachuted into top jobs.
My point was the meritocracy is a utopian myth, we’ve never had it and never will. I’m more comfortable now than I would be if I’d grown up on Moss Side, but likewise I’d have coasted through life much easier if my old man had been an investment banker rather than working on a building site.
I’m not proposing any alternatives to the current system, it’s simply a bugbear of mine when people claim to have got where they are entirely on their own merits, when most are oblivious to the help they had along the way. This blind belief that we somehow live in some utopian meritocracy where everybody ends up where they deserve to me is absolute nonsense

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

See my post above. It is all about parental involvement, money or time. Don’t really agree with you when you say that private schools are about contacts. It is more to do with the idea that you are going somewhere to learn, rather than somewhere boring to waste time. Grammar schools were perfect because the pupils had worked (a little) to get there. They had achieved something by their own efforts and it was something to be proud of. But they did need support to get there.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well as Pliny the younger put it so pithily nearly two thousand years ago:-
“Nothing is more unequal than equality itself.”

Andy White
Andy White
6 months ago

Pithy remark, yes, but the evidence of the last 2000 years is that it wasn’t quite the clincher that the younger Pliny hoped it was going to be!

harry storm
harry storm
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Mericroacy is not a myth. If it were, I wouldn’t get on an airplane or even cross a bridge.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I think George W. Bush is a great example. His grades and test scores were low enough that he couldn’t get into Texas A and M or the University of Texas. But, because daddy and grandpa went to Yale, he was admitted. He received gentleman Cs there but was still admitted to Harvard for his MBA. Then there’s Jarod Kushner. Daddy got him into Harvard, despite low grades and test scores, by donating $2.5 million to Harvard. Another donation to NYU got Jarod admitted.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
6 months ago

No one is entitled to buy anything they want, surely? Kidneys, methamphetamine, people – all things we deem it socially destructive to trade for.

I wouldn’t include private education in that, but I don’t think your principle holds.

Ian_S
Ian_S
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No. This is far worse. With regard to universities, meritocracy wasn’t perfect at all say 50 years ago, and I’d agree it was heavily filtered by class, despite some efforts to find and support bright people from less advantaged backgrounds (e.g. scholarships). Though hardly perfect, the ideal of merit and excellence was there. Very unusual for a human society. While imperfect, the debasement of public institutions by promotion of apparatchik dunces like Gay didn’t happen. Do not think that under the new regime, class has disappeared: it’s just that the ruling class has now adopted DEI as an invisibility cloak to distract from their privilege, while class based wealth gaps and structural iniquities actually increase. This is in addition to the totalitarianism and identitarian nepotism of the new elites, that sneers at the ideals of universal principles and a fair go for all.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian_S

I certainly think this new policy of hiring people based on supposed ideological grievances is absolute nonsense and no better than the classed based one that preceded it, my point was that I don’t believe we’ve ever had anything close to meritocracy in practice.
When we’ve had 20 Prime Ministers who went to the same school, when half of the top 350FTSE company CEO’s and over a third of Oxbridge students (even that has dropped significantly in recent years due to social pressure) are from private schools, despite only 1 in 20 British children being privately educated I think we can safely say meritocracy is a pipe dream

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It does not automatically follow that privileged Etonians are not worthy of top jobs. The system may be deemed unfair or unequal but you can still apply a merit test on the individuals. Rishi Sunak is a more intelligent, life experienced politician and mature thinker than Johnson, May , Miliband, Reeves and Cameron. Apply the Harvard/Gay to our DEI- compliant public sector here. There is ample and shameworthy evidence (Met/Fire Service/NHS/Public Health) that gender hiring in particular has gone rogue. Ditto the boardrooms of the City who must meet equality quotas. Hello Nat West, Aviva. DEI is an anti meritocratic State ideology rapidly damaging the inner workings of the State.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Perhaps going to a certain type of school and having a certain type of upbringing did actually produce a certain type of merit: the ability to govern a country or a big institution.
Traditional upper class child-rearing and education made men who were somewhat emotionally repressed, had taken some severe knocks in life but had bounced back, had a wide understanding of historical precedent and human nature, had seen military action, understood the need for prosperity and trade, loved their country, and had a faith in some higher power which informed their morality.
Not something we might wish for ourselves, our children, or even those we associate with. But it worked, and it’s better than being an academic rabble-rouser, a careerist apparatchik, or an emotional wreck on a mission to quell their own demons.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Typical of Maxist influenced commenters, you take an all or nothing position with regard to meritocracy. Either it’s perfect or it doesn’t exist at all. Sorry, but as an American raised in Montana and Illinois, by a Harvard educated father and a UC Berkley educated mother, I learned there’s a lot more to measure than pure dialectics.

As long as the West has meritocracy as a stated goal, and has a policy of allowing talented people a good chance of improving their condition, it’s better than a system that’s entirely based on political influence and family connections. If you’re looking for a dialectic , that’s the one you should consider.

Relatively free market capitalism is the goose that laid the golden eggs. It’s lead to the greatest explosion of widespread wealth in history. based on these expeirmental results, I don’t see any reason in the rush to kill free markets and return to a feudal socialism.

Fiona Hook
Fiona Hook
5 months ago
Reply to  Ian_S

50 years ago smart people from poorer backgrounds went to grammar school, then got maintenance grants to take up university places whose fees were paid by the local authority.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Although cronyism has always played a role in every society, meritocracy was much more meaningful in the west 30-40 years ago. I came from lower middle class neighborhood, went to university and carved out a nice career. I would never ever be hired in that career today. DEI is actually the enforcement of the class system.

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You are younger than me I think. In the UK look at the backgrounds of the academics such as Denis Noble or Allan Chapman. Look at the routes taken through night school. Look at Fellows of the Royal Aeronautical Society then. Class came back in the 1990’s. John Major or Ted Heath v Blair or Benn. There is no perfect system. Compare Prof. Carol Swain to Claudine Gay. You cannot assume Matt Ridley got his position because of his title any more than you can assume that any savage is noble.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
6 months ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

Nah, this Billy Bob guy is right. We’re still a class obsessed society, we’re just in denial about it. It’s not Marxist to notice that.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It is true that who you know has often been more important than what you know and what “clan” you belong to has always had a subversive influence on your success in entering institutions and prospering in them in all societies. However, in the West the ideal that has been promoted is that the most competent are selected even if in practice the scales have been unfairly weighed in favour of those with the right connections. In the case of Harvard there is an explicit endorsement of this unfair practice in the Legacy Admissions rules that operates at the admission level but presumably the ideal that merit would prevail when it came to progress in the institution existed up to the introduction of DEI.

The problem with DEI is not that it seeks to correct the bug in the institutional system that favours the offspring of the already successful over those with a less favoured background. Rather it is that it does not support those whose background has actually held back their intellectual development and those without connections but arbitrarily supports those of certain skin colours and less formally those who are female and give ideological support to this new anti-meritocratic religion.

The result is that obviously intellectual lightweights like Claudine Gay embarrass the institutions concerned by revealing the new corruption at the heart of it.. We should stick with the ideal of merit while seeking to improve the chances of those without connections demonstrating such merit. More Ronald Fryer less Claudine Gay. Forget assuming skin colour is equivalent to disadvantage in a world where plenty of blacks are more advantaged than many whites.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Exactly . Claudine Gay’s family ( uncles and cousins) own a concrete company in Haiti . Don’t know how rich they are but they’re certainly not from a poor black social housing environment .

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Working class people achieved incredible things even in the Victorian era and rose up through society’s ranks. They often had an abiding civic pride and gave back to the towns and cities in which they had their success.
I was born into a poor working class area, I passed the 11plus and although didn’t have a stellar career I’ve done well. Social mobility shuddered to a virtual halt for the working class under New Labour and never recovered.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed. Black conservatives are the only genuine victims of White privilege.

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

” If you dont vote Democrat you ain’t black.”

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

Exactly.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I wouldn’t say white privilege. I’d say “progressive” privilege.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Or “woke privilege”.

J Bryant
J Bryant
6 months ago

” As for the university itself, the result is…at least a billion dollars in withdrawn commitments from various donors,
A quick Google search shows the Harvard endowment stands at approx. $50 billion. So Harvard lost about 2% of its endowment because of this fiasco. Not trivial but not the end of the world either.
… more congressional probing,”
So what? There has been congressional probing of DEI in colleges and schools for years with few results.
…a slump in applications from prospective students,
A quick Google search shows Harvard has an acceptance rate of 3%. So if fewer students apply, perhaps they’ll have to boost their acceptance rate to what? 6%? Hardly the end of the world?
…and the trashing of its reputation.
Really? What have we learned from this incident? That Harvard relies more on race, gender, and sexual orientation than on merit. Is that such a revelation? Admittedly, this was a particularly blatant case of DEI trumps merit, but it’s the same old game.
Harvard, and the other Ivies, don’t sell an education. They sell connections and a brand. They sell the equivalent of the old Masonic secret handshake. If prospective students and their tuition-paying parents view DEI as the price they must pay to join a particularly elite club, that’s what they’ll do.
Ultimately, this whole fiasco was about the special place Israel holds in the American consciousness, especially the “elite” consciousness. Major Harvard donors didn’t complain when males, whites, and Asians were being discriminated against–and they’re still not complaining.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes Eric Hildinger says it took her response to the antisemitism issue to get people (I assume he means Jews) to challenge her academic record . However maybe the success of this challenge will lead to more people taking the same approach in other elite universities out of concern for the general good .

Ian_S
Ian_S
6 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

To J Bryant. — Ouch. Good points — I too am unconvinced that this is a major hit to Harvard. But I’d interpret your last paragraph differently. The DEI stuff has rankled for years. True, many elites surely believe it all. Others may not, and might not even be aware there are strong arguments against the ideology, given its hegemony and it’s marginalisation of counterarguments. Also DEI Is extremely efficient at killing off any opposition, so many won’t reveal their concerns anyway, either due to their intellectual isolation or fear for their livelihood or stress levels. But in Gay’s case, those concerns could be denied as being just an undercurrent: unlike opposition to DEI, it was respectable to be concerned about the equivocation over calling for a renewal of H!tler’s project, and respectable to be concerned about the routine plagiarism that characterized Gay’s meagre academic output. For once, you could shoot even while keeping your head below the parapet.

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

We can but hope but we are seeing more corruption in high places than we have ever seen.

Tom L
Tom L
6 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

I don’t think that it was really all about Gay herself. She became a symbol of the frustrations that many people feel when they see heads of corporations, universities, colleges, military, high political offices, medical boards, medical professional orgs, engineering organizations, city mayers, police chiefs, DA’s and many other top positions held by women and non-whites. This happened slowly, first under the umbrella of affirmative action and then turbo-charged by DEI and media drumbeat. On TV, the faces of couples you see are not what you see around you. In private people talk about this sea change and feel short-changed. This is true even for non-white people who are not part of a preferred category.
I think, she just lit a fuse to the frustration.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom L

You make a couple of fair points, but the biggest calumny is that those women and non-whites who make it to positions of leadership on merit alone are looked at from the same point of view, which is hugely unfair to them.
(No need to use italics, by the way, except for emphasis.)

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom L

I agree with your statement that DEI had its origins in the affirmative actions of the 1970s. During that time I worked for a major US insurance company that introduced thinly disguised racial quotas in the guise of affirmative action. Each department head was given a quota of AA hires each year. As a result we often had to work alongside AA hires who were woefully lacking in either experience or skills. As a result, they often failed. Now, with DEI they can fail and be promoted.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom L

Less short changed than knowing that racism had a hand in pushing forward a person. In other words we readily see the fruits of racism. Which is a real problem for those people who worked hard and were gifted with a good brain (two powerful pillars) who cannot be distinguished from a distance.
I travelled the world 30 years ago and would ask all the European and Australasian travelers what percentage of the US population was black. They all assumed 30-40% based on all the attention paid to it. They also assumed a lot of things about America based on TV shows, which was also preposterous. Very few traveled long term in the USA (for a lot of reasons), so they didn’t know.
Keep in mind that the pool of excellence is proportional to some extent by the proportion of a particular groups number in society. A multiplicative factor is culture (which is why certain groups outperform).

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
6 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Thanks for reading my Substack, Alan.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

It was a pleasure , really interesting

Ian_S
Ian_S
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Ouch. Good points — I too am unconvinced that this is a major hit to Harvard. But I’d interpret your last paragraph differently. The DEI stuff has rankled for years. True, many elites surely believe it all. Others may not, and might not even be aware there are strong arguments against the ideology, given its hegemony and it’s marginalisation of counterarguments. Also DEI Is extremely efficient at killing off any opposition, so many won’t reveal their concerns anyway, either due to their intellectual isolation or fear for their livelihood or stress levels. But in Gay’s case, those concerns could be denied as being just an undercurrent: unlike opposition to DEI, it was respectable to be concerned about the equivocation over calling for a renewal of Hitler’s project, and respectable to be concerned about the routine plagiarism that characterized Gat’s meagre academic output. For once, you could shoot even while keeping your head below the parapet.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

But a lot of normal people hold Israel in special consciousness too. After WW2 the entire west “collectively” agreed that a genocide occurred in Europe to a cultural population that was irrationally targeted. Westerners that know History know what Jews went through in the 30s and 40s. The overwhelming majority of Woke people don’t know History and know not what they do. It’s an ideology. They’re given an oppressed/oppressor chart and they follow it. They don’t ask who’s the oppressor or why. The “experts” decide that for them.

I feel like Conservatives get so tripped up on the absurdities of Left wing philosophies that they forget that even absurd concepts like Post-colonial Theory, CRT and DEI hold kernels of truth. These are alchemical ideologies smashed together into a massive Entitlement Complex. Some concepts of DEI are actually valid because they’re based on a disability theory of helping those that truly can’t help themselves. Obviously that’s not what DEI does but I think alot of the people that buy into it actually think they’re progressing humanity.

I hear you. I get your pessimism but let’s for once step back and acknowledge that western civilization understands DEI better than it did last week.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

A welcome contribution to this comment board, thank you. Yascha Mounk (a German-born American-Jewish academic who was recently interviewed by Freddie Sayers for this website) addresses both the kernels of truth and ultimate, disabling shortcomings of Intersectionality, CRT, Postcolonial Theory, and Foucault’s central claims about power–which form what Mounk calls the identity synthesis— in his new book, The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time.
His critique gathers force and credibility from his good-faith engagement with the key thinkers of the aforesaid synthesis, whose work he does not caricature or simply dismiss. He also demonstrates deep knowledge of those who oppose the “new identitarians”. I strongly recommend the book.
In our current culture wars, most of those who are firmly entrenched in either camp have strawman ideas of what the other side wants and believes. Interestingly, Mounk shows that many of the most militantly woke have adopted debased versions of what Michel Foucault, Edward Said, and Kimberlé Crenshaw (and a few others) have argued, perversions and simplifications which those thinkers would not endorse, and have sometimes publicly rejected.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

As usual, I admire your mission to promote genuine debate. I’ll run the risk of being demoted numerically, though, by noting a problem with your approach.
Not being a biographer, I don’t really care about Foucault, Said and Crenshaw (or any other influential leaders) as people–not even if I were to admire some of their personal characteristics: honesty, sincerity, integrity, courage or whatever. I care only about the ideas that they’ve created and inevitably left behind in the custody of others to elaborate or pervert. That is, I care about the vicissitudes of those ideas and their effects on society. What difference would it make if Marx and Engels had been kind and generous people who didn’t foresee how Stalin or Mao would interpret their Communist Manifesto to produce totalitarian dystopias?
No one can seriously argue that nothing in the writings of Foucault, Said and Crenshaw (or others) is insightful, that they came up without even a kernel of truth. Of course they did. They’ve observed the world and correctly identified some of the things that we all find there in daily life: contradiction, ambiguity or ambivalence, injustice, anxiety and so on. I don’t oppose Said, say, for observing that Westerners tend to see “Orientals” as “others,” which made it easy to justify imperial ambitions. It’s true. Rather, I oppose Said (or any of his followers) for suggesting that this is a uniquely Western phenomenon–and this is the core of postcolonialism– instead of a universal one. That’s not true. Therefore, I oppose many of the conclusions that either he or his followers have drawn from that observation.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I’m not sure what part of my comment you intend to respond to, Paul. I’m not talking about who they were as people either. And I don’t know if you think I have a certain “approach”, overall or in my above response to T Bone’s comment. If you do, I’d like to know just what my approach seems to be. I prefer to approach, embrace, and attack things from a variety of angles, holding with Ralph Waldo Emerson that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin or little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines”. (Of course, we can debate interminably what amounts to the foolish kind).
I agree on Marx, Engels, and Said** too, and said on another of these comment boards that I think Foucault’s work–from which I have read perhaps 200 pages*, resulting in a qualified respect–has had a “net pernicious effect” on our world. I’ve read key selections from Said’s Orientalism too, but I trust Yascha Mounk to do a better parsing of the works of all the “identity synthesizers” than I would ever have the patience and focus to attempt.
However, since you brought it up (apropos of an earlier exchange?): I do think that the character and actions of an author whose work has huge ethical and behavioral implications is of some significance. I would certainly receive the teachings of Jesus differently if I thought he had lived like Caligula or Herod. And I’m not going to fully lose track of the known historical reality of one Austrian-born dictator’s life and “struggle” either. (Yes, I played that card).
On the other hand, a idea-maker or idea-synthesizer should not be on the hook for every perceived effect of those ideas, nor every sawed-off jackass who claims to follow a given “ethical forefather”. Also, those ideas, however original, did not emerge from a void and would likely have been spoken or written into being by someone else, in some form, before very long.
Now, the level of responsibility rises when one marshals revolutionary forces of thought and attracts a great audience, as with Gautama Siddhartha or Karl Marx. People do not have to listen to such luminaries, but the volume and reach is a inescapable factor of note. They are more deserving of praise or blame for their utterances than the local lunatic, whom we may be forced to hear, but seldom listen to. At times our dismissiveness (or fear) is a mistake because even seeming or actual fools can channel a wise sentence or two. If only we could follow Francis Bacon’s advice more often:

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

*At first for academic work, then I read a bit more on purpose
**One can engage with authors in good faith and still reject or take issue with most of their conclusions, as Mounk does with Foucault, Said, and Crenshaw.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sometimes, your approach is confrontational. Usually, however, it’s dialogical. That’s my impression.
Don’t worry about playing the “Austrian dictator’s card.” Even he said some things, after all, that were true. The Versailles Treaty, for example, really was based on revenge more than justice. And yet agreeing with that idea in Mein Kampf and in his many speeches, as many Germans and even non-Germans did, doesn’t lead inevitably to his own attempt to take revenge (let alone to indulge in mass murder).
But never mind such an extreme example. Heidegger is a more useful one. I’ve never found anything of value in his work, although I admit that I’ve always found his books very difficult to read, even in English, and that I gave up trying long ago. But I do know some very intelligent people who consider him the most important philosopher of the twentieth century. Go figure. Never mind that, his brilliant mind notwithstanding, Heidegger was a true believer in National Socialism, not merely a political opportunist. “There is only one will to the full existence (Dasein) of the State,” he said. “The Führer has awakened this will in the entire people and has welded it into a single resolve.” Even his later philosophy must be somehow related to, or even compatible with, Nazi ideology (which he never renounced), no matter how sophisticated it might seem.
On the other hand, I don’t believe that all or even many of today’s Heideggerians are Nazis. I just doubt that I could have useful intellectual engagements with those who feel a need to defend Heidegger. And ditto for people who feel a need to defend Marx, Foucault, Said, Crenshaw–or Gautama or Jesus for that matter. I prefer to argue about ideas, not about the people who create them or institutionalize them.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I accept your framing of two approaches I use: confrontation/challenge and dialogue/civil exchange. I’ll have more to say later about your other remarks, some that I’m tempted to say now, but I don’t have enough time to respond with the care and courtesy I prefer to use most of the time (but always with a cheeky or volatile edge not too far away from the niceness–that is also fundamental to who I am). Have a good Sunday, Paul.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I certainly “defend” both Jesus and Siddhartha but no one else you mentioned. I think it’s quite absurd to take the person’s conduct off the table when talking about a spiritual leader. I’m not trying to provoke or insult you by expressing my honest opinion that it is absurd, or at least quite odd, to divorce the ideas from the person altogether in such instances, where the life is an integral part of the teaching.
Here’s something I feel the need to address, Paul: You are scrupulously civil but not available for actual good faith exchanges on many issues. You rarely seem ready to learn anything, but only to teach. In effect you often prefer to lecture or declaim about a handful of ideas on which your opinions–or preferences, or logical conclusions, choose the term–are quite fixed, even calcified. I think you have quite a lot to teach and share, but your seeming unwillingness to learn from me or anyone you don’t already agree with–or just consider opposing arguments and new input with a genuinely open mind, in a way that might color or modify your established views in any significant measure–is quite dispiriting. I find you to be thoughtful, a nuanced and fair if rather severe and sometimes self-certain judge of things (I sometimes “approach” things that way too, I admit). But you almost never budge on anything.
I’m not sure how you reconcile your preference for deracinated ideas or disembodied abstraction with your fierce commitment to ethics and moral responsibility, which I judge to be sincere. You weigh the perceived real-world fallout of certain books or ideas but disregard the way they were uttered or to what intended purpose? In many cases, the means become the ends, so context and “approach” often matter a great deal. Sometimes rather less so.
I do find an inalienable link between thought and action, that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit and vice versa, as with a literal N–i like Heidegger. A less extreme example than mine, sure, but still pretty extreme. Of course most people don’t fall so clearly to the good or bad, and some sifting or skeptical scrutiny is needed.
We know quite little about the person called Buddha, and that’s fine. We don’t need a photograph or a series of biographical videos in order to appreciate his teachings. But the community of unselfishness and nonviolence he created, the sangha which allowed for oral transmission of the dharma beyond his lifetime–before much of the teaching was ever written down–is an essential aspect of the ideas themselves. They were put in practice, modified and improved even, and that cannot occur in the abstract. Not from where I sit and breathe.
You’re welcome to keep posting contrary responses to my posts–and of course I can’t stop you!–and I admit that your pushback if often fitting and deserved, though it may sting a bit at times. Heck, especially when it stings. But your repeated announcement about your preference for ideas-only is nothing more than a stated preference. It does not hold any intrinsic superiority nor represent something that will or should appeal to everyone. In other words, I admit I’m not your ideal “idea guy”, nor do I aspire to be. There are ways in which we disagree or have divergent preferences that don’t make either of us wrong…right?
I do wish that your replies more often revealed sincere engagement with the parts of my comments you don’t consider frivolous or irrelevant, rather than seeming to use my perspective to launch into dissenting speeches that often sound a bit prepared. It could be that your problems with my center-left, cultural-preservationist views and “approaches” represent a more sincere engagement than I’m giving you credit for.
And sometimes I say intemperate, mean, silly, or weird things. When I find myself most guilty of this, I try to acknowledge it and sometimes make apologies. But the apologies don’t erase my overreach, and it would certainly be better if I didn’t lose balance or offend so much in the first place.
You remain one of my favorite commenters at UnHerd–especially when I’m not under your critical lens.
*Addendum about Foucault: I think he really was a contemptible person, who advocated legal sex between adults and 13-year-olds. His sneering cynicism, and the moral vacuum from which his ideas emerged, are absolutely connected to the truth–or lack thereof–in what he wrote. Some of it is of interest due his intellectual chops or if only for the reason that one should try to read influential books for oneself instead of trusting secondary critics or pre-emptively dismissing them.
However, if books are too offensive or unethical I totally support closing them after a fair trial, or throwing them against a wall, literally. Also, there’s not time to read all the really good books–a subjective measure, with schools of consensus–so why bother with corrupt ones? I’d never call Foucault “essential reading” and I don’t even think undergraduates should have his work assigned to them. I feel the same way about Nietzsche.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

We’re obviously the only two still reading this discussion (for which I thank you), so I suggest that we continue it privately, if you like, after this.
No one has ever praised my social skills, AJ, and I don’t want to irritate you or anyone else. That’s one reason for my relatively rare entries (another reason being lack of time, especially when I agree with comments or have nothing much to add).
Actually, I’m not certain of why I felt an urge to add anything to your comment. As you must know from personal experience, some comments hit a nerve for reasons that are not immediately self-evident. In this case, I agreed with most of what you wrote. But I thought about your comment, of course, in my own context. So maybe what follows will clarify things at my end (although it might have little to do with anything at your end).
I worry about ad hominem arguments, which have become a way of life over the past few years–not only in the States but in many other places. It’s always easy to avoid or ignore arguments by shifting attention to those who make them. We can’t accept this or that policy, this or that claim, because its proponent is such a horrible person. This happens over and over in connection with Trump. Whatever his flaws, he sometimes said or did useful things (whether intentionally or not). But he’s an old story by now. On my mind since 7 October has been the war in Israel and its political fallout around here.
Consider the controversy over that infamous Congressional hearing about anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism at three prestigious universities, culminating in the resignation of Claudine Gay as president of Harvard. Last week, I read an excellent essay by Bill Ackman, the Harvard donor who was appalled by her incompetence–First, there was her inability to answer a simple but profoundly important question at the hearing about Harvard’s double standard, which offers protection to students who use their freedom of speech to advocate genocide as a weapon against Jews but not to their Jewish targets. He argued cogently that the underlying problem was not anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism but the inherent anti-Westernism of DIE at Harvard and its allied ideologies. Then, he commented on Gay’s history of plagiarism. He was glad, therefore, that she had finally resigned (albeit keeping her job as a teacher and her stratospheric salary). I sent his essay to my sister (despite our agreement not to discuss politics) who found it “interesting.” Later, though, she sent me another letter. In it, she mentioned the news that Ackman’s wife had just admitted to plagiarism. From this, my sister concluded (supported eagerly by CNN) that Ackman himself was guilty of relying on a double standard. Later on, he defended his wife (vaguely), even though she had done exactly what Gay had done. For that reason alone, my sister concluded (expediently from her point of view) that his argument against the double standard of DIE was worthless. From my point of view, Ackman’s analysis of DIE was brilliant even if he himself was inconsistent for supporting his wife.
I could cite many similar examples from all sides in public discourse. (I’m thinking of Thomas Jefferson’s opposition to slavery, for example, despite failing to free his own slaves.) I don’t disagree with your general point, AJ, about the relation between ideas and people. You weren’t thinking about any of this. But it’s indirectly related, and it was on my mind. I apologize for misrepresenting you.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Thank you for this thoughtful reply, Paul. It does you credit and fits with “the Paul I know”, to the slight degree that we are acquainted.
I understand where you’re coming from better now, and am in general agreement on your main points too. I also accept Jefferson’s opposition to slavery as a example of a meaningful stance whose importance and bravery–and even sincerity–is not erased by the element of hypocrisy in it.
As I think I made pretty clear, I did feel unfairly or inaccurately accused by parts of your recent replies. But I’ve made similar replies in my way too, including a few that were misdirected at you. Please forgive or disregard the portions of my recent replies that were harsh or came from a place of irritation.
Feel free to contact me if you like, though I’d rather not extend this current exchange from the point we are at now, and though we have come to an impasse on multiple occasions in the past.
Friendly regards and best wishes.
*I plan to leave the (un)herd when my latest trial subscription expires in a bit over a week. I at least need a break, as too much of the old, familiar contentiousness is taking hold, both in myself and in the commentariat as a whole.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

We have only history to say whether Marx or Engels were “nice”. What communism and marxism fail to account for are variations in human nature. They thought we were all the same. We are not. Most of us do rhyme, which is where the social “science” (and marketing) come in.
People have been getting raw deals since Adam met Eve. We all try to find ways to “other” people. While the Irish were white, they were still Irish and discriminated against. The advantage of DEI is there is an endless number of raw deals that have happened starting long before humans inhabited the planet.

starkbreath
starkbreath
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

How does this create the ‘advantage’ of DEI?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Exactly there is an even more obvious sense of the west and the infidel as the ‘other’ in Muslim societies . In this country the progressives typically assume racists are white ( often working class whites ) and the ‘victims’ of racism are blacks or at least non whites.
Go tell that to the girls of Rotherham .

Postcolonialism seems to posit the west as morally inferior merely because for hundreds of years it has been more powerful economically and militarily , and that is absurd .

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Postmodernism wasn’t meant to be applied. It was literally just a “Lens.” Jordan Peterson is the person that brought the idea of Postmodern Neomarxism into “public consciousness.” He caused everyone on the Left to flip out and claim he “didn’t get it” because Postmodernism doesn’t favor any one perspective. It turns out he was correct and what we’re dealing with is Applied Postmodernism that privileges an evolved synthetic form Marxism that we now call Intersectionality (see Lindsay and Pluckrose).

Because Marxism is Utilitarian; in a further (illiberal) synthesis of Bentham and Mill, where the “ends justify the means” it is militant in suppressing critique of itself. Marxism will always be guided by a Censorship Regime. It creates an environment of pre-censorship which leads to ideological conformity because people can’t question it. What we’re seeing now is that the Censorship dam has broke and people are angry about the thought suppression.

The next step is reengaging the many Leftists that got sucked into the Vortex. Plenty of them had no idea they were part of a militant speech suppressing ideology.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

So Machiavellian Neo-Marxist Postmodernism, filtered through the lens of Grievance Studies? You’ve synthesized and in some sense mashed together quite a lot there but I think I mostly agree.
Foucault the effete aesthete seemed to view all things as a mere curiosity, devoid of any moral or essential qualities, so he may well have intended his brand of radical critique (which I don’t think he’d label “postmodernism”) as a mere lens, without any likely real-world consequences. There’s a famous debate between Foucault and Noam Chomsky from 1971, in which Chomsky, a fellow man of the far left, is astonished at Foucault’s totalizing amorality. He remains openly astonished to this day.
But I don’t think that’s true of Foucault followers, avowedly postmodern or not. Edward Said admired Foucault’s insights but was also aghast at his de facto nihilism. But he wanted institutional transformation, applied changes, even if he didn’t expect them to occur. So does Crenshaw and many others who could–by a stretch they’d likely reject–be called postmodernists.
Who knew that attempting to radicalize every undergraduate you can get your ideological tentacles into might backfire? They did know, the old-guard faculty-lounge socialists, or should have. Many young adults were and indeed are clueless as to what they were/are being spoon or even force fed. Some students will always be conformists, perhaps of middling intellect. (Radical Conformists or Conformist Radicals? Take your pick). Hyper-intellectualizations and gnostic speculations provide a sense or order and meaning for a while, even when the new creed says “all is chaos and nothing has essential meaning”. Fingers crossed–and nonviolent weapons stockpiled–for a better year on this front.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Excellent comment T Bone.

rupert carnegie
rupert carnegie
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I agree that there are interesting “kernels of truth” in progressive thought worthy of amiable debate. It seems to me that the main problem with the progressives is not their ideas – though I disagree with many – but their tactics which are not only illiberal and inherently authoritarian but have proved hard to resist.

Gay’s downfall may have involved the plagiarism issues highlighted by a few conservative journalists but most would agree that it was powered for the most part by her alienation of supporters of Israel as a result of her lack of vigour in opposing anti-Semitism.

It is striking that the progressives’ most effective opponents have come from two groups: radical feminists and, recently, fervent supporters of the Israel. In comparison, the elegant arguments of traditional liberals with their reverence for truth and tolerance have had little impact. Neither group is noted for their enthusiasm for amiable good faith debate. If anything, they are as unscrupulous,dogmatic and intolerant of other viewpoints as the progressives. 

Maybe we will be lucky and the clash of these various well motivated illiberal groups will lead to a revival in open debate and free speech and thus, by a circuitous route, back to a single well informed public debate of the sort that JS Mills would have liked. Perhaps victory for tolerance and free speech can come only from setting all the intolerant fanatics against each other. Maybe. If so, it would be rather ironic but not unwelcome.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

The easiest way to sell a lie is to sprinkle in kernels of truth. Jews in Germany were in the banking system (a legacy that may continue to today), but it is likely due to the concept of usery whereby “believers” could not charge interest. In order for business to happen, people need to make money. If you loan money and cannot make any money, soon you stop loaning out money (because for a variety of reasons, maybe someone doesn’t pay the money back). No chance of gain with a chance of loss makes zero interest banking unprofitable. Since “Christians” and “Muslims” had usery laws, who was left to do the banking?? Just an example. Though maybe it is only held together by a kernel of truth….

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago

Good post as usual. I agree that the “well-motivated illiberality” or targeted intolerance at both extremes of these debates is the key obstacle. I also share your hope for a “well informed public debate” in the spirit of JS Mill. I’d only note that when that happens we’ll being “going back” there for the first time. Not that we haven’t been closer to that than we are right now.

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

One kind of knows something is not right but explaining it in black and white does help. When you shine your light on it you become a target but the more light we have collectively the nearer we get to a solution.

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The old Masonic handshake is alive and well but secretive.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“What have we learned from this incident? That Harvard relies more on race, gender, and sexual orientation than on merit. Is that such a revelation?“

More so than you think. At the very least, it confirms what many have suspected and does so in a very public manner. Whether anything changes is another matter.

People who knew what Harvard has become still now, but they have a concrete example to show skeptics. And this is on top of the lawsuit from qualified Asians denied admission. The pendulum has switched direction; how far it goes will be determined.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Indeed they sell the brand. But what if they despoil the brand? They can obviously recover with their copious resources. See “New Coke”. But it will require that they try. They have a lot of foreign students. Those students have their own connection networks (which is how THEY got there). Imagine if those full price paying students started not applying….

harry storm
harry storm
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Males, whites and Asians are perhaps discriminated against in terms of admissions, hiring and tenure. But they have never been subjected to intimidation, threats, and violence, unlike Jewish students and pro-Zionist professors.

Simon S
Simon S
6 months ago

The only reason Gay was jumped on – clearly correctly – for plagiarism and thin scholarship (never mind her insane salary) was her defence of the freedom of speech in respect of Gaza. But of course it’s all a problem of DEI. How we are so easily divided!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Or maybe it was the insincerity of her defence of free speech, seeing that Harvard ranks last in the country under the FIRE rankings.

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The same is happening at Oxford. I don’t know about Cambridge. Defintion of a woman in the New Oxford Dictionary: “The new definition of woman is ‘an adult who lives and identifies as a female even though they have been born as a different sex. ‘. And the new definition of man is ‘an adult who lives and identifies as male even though they might have been born as a different sex.
Obviously the fount of knowledge is beginning to drift into deception.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Tony

As you might expect Cambridge is even worse, and both should be ‘dissolved’ as Thomas Cromwell intended.

Simon S
Simon S
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Please see my reply below

Dengie Dave
Dengie Dave
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Not so. Under Gay’s presidency Harvard was ranked lowest for free speech by Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression. See https://www.thefire.org/research-learn/2024-college-free-speech-rankings. Harvard sanctioned and terminated scholars, disinvited a feminist scholar because of her views on gender, and also espoused that “speech is violence.” The exception to this was Jews, in whose case she uniquely decided to stand up for free speech, stating that speech was not violence and that calling for the genocide of Jew could be permissible, depending on context. By contrast, mis-gendering – ie not using someone’s preferred pronouns – was widely sanctioned under the “speech is violence” mantra, which did not apply to Jews. Troubling that you seem to equate calling for the genocide of Jews as standing up for Gaza.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

A misreading of Simon S’s uncertainly worded comment, I think. He seems to mean supporting free speech “with respect to the situation in Gaza”, with no mention of Gay standing up for or against anyone in particular.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes. The “clearly correctly” in Simon’s comment has been overlooked by those with jerking knees. This kind of thing happens all too often in Comments.

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

Genocide of the Jews is permissable depending on context? It is never permissable. She sounds like she would be well in with the Nazis.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Tony

If ‘they’ would have her which I very much doubt.

Simon S
Simon S
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

Thanks for this, which buttresses my point – we all know the real reason Gay was sacked was not plagiarism but her remarks on Israel and the Palestinians, which in defending free speech made a total nonsense of her and Harvard’s censorship stance on DEI. But because of DEI’s sacred status Harvard preferred not to make a point of that: DEI trumps free speech. Which way do we want it? My apologies for not having been clearer.

Dengie Dave
Dengie Dave
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Thanks for clarifying. I think I get you and see your point. Take care

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

Freedom of speech for Palestinians but not white males.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Oh PLEEeeeze!!! Stop with the victim card. Be a man.

Simon S
Simon S
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

He is not playing the victim card, he is pointing out the contradiction in Harvard’s claiming to stand up for free speech on the one hand and cancelling people on the other.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

White men can’t say anything I’m about to say anymore…oh wait, I said it anyway and I’m still here (not under my full name, granted, but I’m a part-time loudmouth in real life too). There is certainly some inverted bigotry against white males these days but the notion that we are persecuted to the point of being silenced is just silly, or insane. There’s an important difference between being silenced, imprisoned, or disappeared for speaking out and getting “judgy” looks or even losing a job. I’m not saying unpopular opinions justify firings or public shaming, but I appeal to my fellow white dudes: Don’t lose all sense of proportion.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Silly? Insane? How very disappointing, AJ. I’m not going to provide readers with a brief summation of what I learned from decades of research on men, masculinity, maleness and misandry. Anyone who is interested in all that can easily google me and my co-author. But I will say this, the effect on men of both gynocentrism (which ignores men) and misandry (which undermines or attacks men) has been devastating, not merely insulting or inconvenient. It shows up in studies on spiritual emptiness, say, and cultural alienation. And if you don’t care about those things, it shows up in the stats not only of school drop-outs but also those on suicide, crime, addiction and psychopathology.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

You cannot brook any opposition to your emphatic opinions, and even seemed to deliberately misread the direction of my comment in order to pivot to your preferred idea-group, which approaches monomania, and is disappointing. You have come to certain conclusions in your research and writing, most of which I find at least somewhat persuasive. But your knowledge has not produced access to some adamantine wall of irrefutable truths, but informed assessments and judgments that are still somewhat limited and subject to human fallibility. And you tend to snap into a heated polemical mode, prosecuting and re-stating your case in a way unlikely to persuade any one who’s not already leaning toward your viewpoint, as I do lean when it comes to the topic of misandry. Are you concerned with being right, so convinced that you are already so right that you ignore all claims that don’t square with yours? Or chew them up just to spit them out as “disappointing” or whatnot? You have a good cause, but you have become a zealot, and that has a downside.
Are white men unable to speak up in most cases? Were they ever able to in all cases?
I’m responding to R Wright’s claim of “no free speech for white males”. This is not pertinent to your area of expertise, I don’t believe, except by a very pre-determined pivot.
All lives matter. All bigotry is wrong. Anti white-male prejudice certainly does exist and it has become more acceptable to be openly hostile to white folks, especially men, in some circles, in recent years. Without a doubt. But it has not reached “special victimhood” status in the way that some claim.
Are you practically “on my case” full time now, Paul?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

And what does “be a man” mean to you, Clare? Have you ever been one? Do you understand that “be a man” has long been used (often by women) as a way of exploiting men and therefore, intentionally or unintentionally, of fostering “toxic masculinity” (that is, the pervasive belief than men are somehow not “real” men unless they’re always in control of themselves, of others, or both)? I can understand, reluctantly, if your preoccupation with women prevents you from any effort to understand the problems of men, but I do ask you not to be one of those problems.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

One thing that is not very civil, or at least fair about some of your aggrieved responses–more of them earn that label of late–is the ease with which you say people “don’t care” or “make any effort” because they haven’t made the same effort you have, or don’t care in the exact same way. I don’t see you making much of an effort to understand other viewpoints in any charitable way. Your opponents often get “the doubt of the benefit”, so to speak.
This may not be received in the sincere way it is intended, but…I wonder if you are doing okay, Paul.

Simon S
Simon S
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

That is exactly right and that was Harvard’s dilemma

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon S

I gave an up but got a down. Nothing you said was untrue but she also said that the genocide of the Jews was permissable depending on context. We shouldn’t be free to use it to murder others. Free speech is a honest opinion not stirring up people to hatred. That is something else and should be stamped on. To have an opinion on the best course to run a country is okay I would think. We all know the difference between good and bad speech or should do.

Dengie Dave
Dengie Dave
6 months ago

The most sickening thing was how Gay in her statement made out she was the victim of racism, rather than those whose vicitmization she facilitated. Moreover, it wasn’t racism that got her sacked, it was racism that got her appointed.

AC Harper
AC Harper
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

Indeed. She had little alternative but to blame ‘others’. I formed the impression from the Op-ed in the New York Times that she was affronted by being questioned. Up until now she was a DEI protected person and therefore immune, and now – not so much.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
6 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Gosh!! Is this the writer who can’t think for themselves but needed an establish religion err cult to tell them right from wrong . Are they writing for themselves now or just for the new organization they joined ?

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Wow many people are in the same cult as her.

Andrew Barton
Andrew Barton
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Sit down.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

The syntax is weak in this one.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

I presume you are talking about her conversion to Christianity. I’m not a believer, but this has precisely nothing to do with the issue.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

Well said. It really was sickening when she stooped to play the race card, and that nasty little weasel Al Sharpton backed her up. Neither of them has done race relations any favors.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

“They” can’t help it, it’s in the DNA.

Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
6 months ago

Very drôle

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
6 months ago
harry storm
harry storm
6 months ago

More like it’s in the DEI.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Their mediocrity means it is the only card they have.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Some of these people aren’t even mediocre.

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Just available for the check mark in the box.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Delusions of adequacy?

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

The whole DEI system is guaranteed to bring about conflict between the races.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Where does the idea DEI actually come from? Who seeded it nurtured it so that is became so quickly rooted and influential?

Ms Lindsay MCGAW
Ms Lindsay MCGAW
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

John Lindsay’s, ‘Cynical Theories’ explains it’s inception and development. Very good book.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
6 months ago

James Lindsay (and his co-author Helen Pluckrose).

I second this recommendation — Cynical Theories is a fantastic book, one that everyone should read. Helen narrates the audiobook version herself.

James also has a website (New Discourses . com) where he has free access to all his podcasts about these topics.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

This is definitely a comprehensive look at the subject of DEI, “grievance studies” and so forth. Funniest anecdote in it: a transwoman comes into a salon, demanding a Brazilian was on her testicles (because, well, I’m a woman), and the religiously conservative immigrant women running the salon are taken somewhat aback.

David Ackland
David Ackland
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

Perhaps ĺike most unfair, ( to the common man/woman ), new directives it is the very real fear of social upheaval which came upon the establishment after the criminal decision to lock up society because of those like Fauci who poisoned the well.

Enzo D
Enzo D
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

the play-book is well scripted by now, look to South Africa’s BEE policies (Black Economic Empowerment), look at its “fruits”, this is what is install for the West. In short, what you are seeing is the old by a new name, it used to be called Comminism (now to answer your question, that is where it comes from)

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
6 months ago
Reply to  Enzo D

It isn’t “Communism”. Lazy analysis.

Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Agreed accept could I suggest substituting ‘guaranteed’ with ‘designed’ !

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Not just guaranteed, but designed to do so!

John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Play the race card when all else fails. You can’t lose. Everything seen through the prism of race, not academic achievement or even talent.

Barry Stokes
Barry Stokes
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I wait with baited breath for the first white, anglo-saxon male or female to play the race card. Bring it on.

Arlene Wilcox
Arlene Wilcox
6 months ago
Reply to  Barry Stokes

“playing the race card” is as American as Apple pie.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631492853/ref=cm_sw_r_u_apa_i_y7YLFbXQXB2KK

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

What was most striking to me – coming late to this and watching the congressional session only recently – was the absolute contempt with which she and the other women treated their questioners in the House of Representatives. They clearly felt quite invulnerable.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Agreed. They are obviously accustomed to pulling a thought w*nk out of their bag of postmodern drivel, and that being the end of the discussion.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

She’s still on 900k a year. I wonder how the careers of those she chose to go after and cancel fared?

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

People like her pull down $900K in part at least because the bulk of the teaching faculty are adjuncts, pulling down $20K. Claudine Gay’s shortcomings aside, is any faculty member worth 45 times any other?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

No unknown political science professor makes $900,000, even at Harvard. The M.D./researchers make $1,000,000+. A scientist like E.O. Wilson, who was groundbreaking in his field, as well as a prolific writer, only made $750,000 (read it in an article about him). Famous authors like Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates didn’t make that kind of money. (Maybe Oates, as she taught at Princeton for 100 years). I think someone is exaggerating. I’d like to know where she got that figure. I read an article about the highest paid professors in the country, and they were all M.D.s or Nobel Prize winners and made a million or more. Of course, the highest paid employees of ALL of the universities were football coaches.

Tony
Tony
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

I can’t understand how they would promote people like this. Has the world gone mad?

harry storm
harry storm
6 months ago
Reply to  Tony

A bit late to be asking that particular question.

Cheryl Benard
Cheryl Benard
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

The two most sickening things are that Harvard is keeping her on with an outrageous salary, and that the New York Times published her whining concoction so prominently. The DEI sect has learned nothing from all of this. Equity should mean taking some measures to level the playing field – but academically, Gay’s field was already level, and nothing was forcing her to plagiarize or to skimp on academic and mental effort. Inclusion and Diversity should mean welcoming colleagues from a range of backgrounds, not catapulting incompetents upwards – unless Harvard believes that Gay is the best a black woman can be and do? Which would be the true racism and sexism.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Benard

But it is good that they are continuing to double down on their errors in public. Eventually people will wake up to this madness. Sadly, it will take a long overshoot into the madness before things turn around. Hard to know if this is the turning point yet. But come it will.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
6 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Benard

I thought my pay was good; she makes ten times as much.

I wouldn’t mind if she were a film star or something were merit was obvious from performance.

David Obst
David Obst
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

DEI = ‘The Blackman is fundamentally inferior to the Whiteman’.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
6 months ago
Reply to  David Obst

I commented above what it meant to me to be treated as inferior via offering me special treatment in the 1980s Australia as a female refugee from a non-English-speaking country. DEI’s intended beneficiaries will never know whether they really achieved what they are credited with, or they were given money/praise as someone’s proof of DEI compliance.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
6 months ago
Reply to  David Obst

Otherwise known as the racism of low expectations.I have rubbed that into the faces of the woke DEi crowd on occasion, and tremendously enjoy watching them squirm. At least those who have the modicum of intelligence required to actually comprehend what was said; sadly, not all meet that criterion. Too many of these people are not even one-trick ponies, but can only give the impression of pulling off even one trick. It’s a terrible state of affairs.

Poet Tissot
Poet Tissot
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

DIE is essentially a false religion – leading people from the Truth. It cannot last.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
6 months ago
Reply to  Poet Tissot

DEI is indeed a pseudo-religious cult.

Wokus Dei

Enzo D
Enzo D
6 months ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

disagree, it is Communism in disguise

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

Agreed “Reverse racism is racism.” Vivek Ramaswamy campaign principle number 4. #Vivek2024

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

As a female refugee from a non-English-speaking country I was meant to benefit from Australia’s 1980s’ DEI. This implied my inability to compete on an equal basis. It was an absolute insult! DEI harms its supposed beneficiaries the most. See the price Australia’s aborigines pay for being treated as a special needs liability, unearned money and praise thrown at them.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

Yabut broaden your thinking a little bit. With work, Gay can be seen as a Victim of Systemic: Her hiring was pure Systemic Racism, yes? Whitey put her in a position she was utterly unqualified for, thus insuring her failure and humiliation, thus Victimizing her!!

Paul F
Paul F
6 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

‘With work…’ ? Yes, if you define tedious and insurmountable brainwashing as ‘work’.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Good point. There is no way out of the maze.

carl taylor
carl taylor
6 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

And, it goes on. Denying that Gay has any culpability in her downfall is to suggest that black women have no agency – along with the racism of low expectations, this is the racism of black infantilism.

Dengie Dave
Dengie Dave
6 months ago

Just watched Nasra Abukar Ali running the 100m and reckon Claudine Gay could beat her, so there may be be a career opportunity in elite sports there for Gay if they introduce a DEI 100m.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
6 months ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

I had a watch too…. she is carrying a lot of weight and to top it all runs awkwardly. It is cringeworthy.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

It reminds me of that Irish girl swimmer, Olympian (?) whose urine sample contained mainly whiskey!

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
6 months ago

In her defense, most of her ancestors probably served in the Royal Navy.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
6 months ago

The knock-kneed skip and hurrah at the end is worth a watch in itself.