The tide is turning against academic institutions. Just 36% of Republicans in America believe that Universities have a positive effect on their country. In Canada Progressive Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer wants to revoke funding for universities that don’t defend his nebulous definition of free speech. In Turkey, professors have been, and have fired and persecuted by the government for perceived criticism. The tools that the social conservatives use to delegitimize academic institutions vary, but are rooted in the same instinct to silence institutions that challenge authority. Meet the Status Quo Warriors.
The silencing of academic thought is not new for those who wish to maintain the status quo. Whether it be Galileo being a general crazy person, professors demanding the end of segregation in 1960s, or the scientific community warning of the dangers of climate change, conservatives have been there to be pulled forcefully into the 17th, 20th, and 21st century, kicking and screaming.
Academia historically has had the right opinion on two large domains. The first being issues of science and research, like the existence of the LGBT community being natural and not a product of the devil’s hard work. The second is issues of moral clarity, in which academia recognizes injustice in the world, like the systemic and calculated immiseration of the working class through the lie of trickle down economics.
Interestingly, it is through attempts to assert moral clarity on the issues of LGBT communities that conservatives have attempted to undermine Academia’s domain over science. While on issues of moral clarity, the right clings to the pseudo science known as economics to delegitimize academia’s campaigns against systemic injustices.
This is the same sad routine that has played out to the loss of conservative thinkers every time, and rest assured this time will be no different. Jordan Peterson’s “heroic” stand against compelled speech is one example of this cycle. Milo Yiannopoulos insistence on feminism, the belief of substantive equality between genders, as being akin to cancer is another inspiring cause being taken up by the right. Most worrisome is the vibrant ecosystem centered around gluttonous consumption of news stories about campus politics. Both Yiannopoulos and Peterson have accrued large followings on social media.
That academia has been right in every memorable fight that they have picked with the structures that shape society does not mean that they are infallible. The case of Lindsay Shepherd at Wilfred Laurier University showing a video featuring Nicholas Matte, a professor of Trans studies debating Jordan Peterson did not reflect well on WLU. Lindsay Shepherd should not have been reprimanded by WLU for showing that video.
Because Lindsay Shepherd was right does not mean that academic institutions as a whole are corrupted. Universities do not need means testing for funding through proposed policies like Andrew Scheers free speech initiative. What is worthy of examination are articles on websites such as rightsidenews.com that describe WLU as a “neo-Marxist indoctrination factory.”
The purpose of this is clear, to persuade angry dads on social media that academic institutions are positioned as being against the country in which they reside. It’s naked nationalism, and an attempt to remove public faith in the institutions that hold those in power to account. This nationalistic rhetoric is rested on the quiet assumption that the state, or the country that you are residing in, is not to be questioned.
Calling someone a Marxist as a way to delegitimize their controversial views was commonplace during the Cold War. After the Cold War it became much more common to call someone a terrorist sympathizer in order to delegitimize their stance on just about everything. This has been the preferred tactic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has referred to professors who signed a public petition, urging Turkey’s government to seek peace with the PKK, as terrorist sympathizers. As many as 700 Turkish professors have applied to scholars at risk in order to seek asylum abroad from a government that doesn’t hold them in high regard.
Also pertinent is the public sector purge. Erdogan in the aftermath of a failed military coup in 2016, dismissed or suspended close to 150,000 civil servants, soldiers, and university professors in the ensuing clamp down. Resulting in the aforementioned exodus of university professors.
What is important to note is that whether the campaign against university campuses is being waged by Andrew Scheer, Donald Trump, Or Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite differing backgrounds and demeanors, all have embraced their role as Status Quo Warriors. An SQW is someone who will stop at nothing to halt the unstoppable advance of traitorous dissent fomenting in campus politics.
For these people, change is treasonous. Since Universities are often funded publicly, it becomes a battle to turn the general tax paying public against these institutions by the SQWs. For those reading this who think that campus politics have gone too far, I would ask, is the status quo worth defending? Is the status quo really serving your interests?