The War on Satire, Brought to You by Social Justice Warriors

Satire truly is becoming impossible. Steve Hayward recently posted this item at Powerline:

A New York City proposal to diversify middle schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, by setting aside seats for children with low test scores, is facing stiff resistance from parents worried their high-achieving children might lose access to the popular public schools.

The article continues:

Supporters say the disadvantaged deserve better access. Principal Henry Zymeck of the Computer School, which would be affected, said children benefit from learning alongside others with varying abilities, and teachers know how to differentiate instruction.

Hayward adds at the end, “I think Harvard and other elite universities should admit applicants by random drawing.”

Who could have seen this coming? Actually, who could not have seen this coming? According to the canons of the “social justice warrior” Left, all inequalities are problematic, especially those that have a “disparate impact” upon the distribution of access to better (perhaps that should be “better”) schools. What starts on campus seldom stays on campus. Nowadays the physical qualifications necessary to be a firefighter have been changed so more women can pass the test. In such a world attacks on academic standards are hardly surprising. The child of two parents who attended highly ranked colleges or high schools is much more likely than another child to attend such schools, and prosper as a result. To base entrance to “elite” schools on an accident of birth—the random luck of being born to parents who did well in school is to perpetuate “privilege.” And who is to say what is “better” or “worse” when it comes to writing, math, etc., as post-modernism teaches?

Hence, I wrote in an April Fool’s Day piece a few years ago, “Harvard to Go Egalitarian.”

In a move designed to foster diversity and to create a university that “thinks like America,” Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University announced yesterday that the school will embrace egalitarian admissions. The school will no longer give priority to students with good grades, high SAT scores, and impressive extra-curricular activities. Such policies have, Dr. Faust acknowledged, created an “elitist” and “inegalitarian” atmosphere at the college. “It is unacceptable in 2014 to be favoring the intelligent over the unlearned, and the energetic over the slothful,” she proclaimed

Henceforth, it would be a new Harvard, with grades assigned by lot, to avoid perpetuating privilege. That would require some adjustment, I suggested: “This summer, the entire Harvard faculty will be trained in sensitivity to needs of DIDL [the proposed acronym for ‘differently intellectual’ and ‘differently learned’] students.” Or, in the words of the actual news item, “teachers know how to differentiate instruction.” Presumably, that will require additional “sensitivity training.”

Other recent SJW suggestions about dating are similarly predictable. In my misspent youth, I penned an op-ed in my undergraduate newspaper suggesting that the obvious answer to the various emotional and legal needs of the school and of students on the dating scene was to draft and sign a standard contract before dating, to ensure there was explicit written consent each and every sexual activity, and no ambiguity due to drinking or other impairment. Not long thereafter, Antioch College enacted a policy very much like that. They were much mocked at the time, but nowadays that policy is garnering praise and imitation, and not just on campus.

When one points out the likely tendency of Progressive policies, one is often called paranoid, unhinged, even bigoted. Also, one often hears “that’s not funny!”

Rod Dreher describes an analogous phenomenon as “the law of merited impossibility”:

The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and gay civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

If one had said that gay marriage would mean Christians who run small businesses will be forced out of business, or that, in New York City, businesses could be ruined for refusing to call a biological man who thinks he a women “she,” one would have been accused of being paranoid, and offering “red herring” arguments. Clearly, anyone who offered up such an argument, since it was so unhinged, must be a bigot, and not making a serious argument. (The people at Snopes rate the later claim “false” because “fines won’t be handed out for accidentally misusing pronouns.” But they do note that “Intentional or repeated refusal to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun or title” would make one liable to fines of $250,000.  It does not occur to the people at Snopes, apparently, that there might be competing understandings of male and female, and that forced speech is tyranny).

Near the start of Parlor Politics, Catherine Allgor’s fine book on the political culture of Washington, DC in the early republic, she states that “politics incorporates many goals, including . . . the assignment of values.” In the American tradition, of course, we begin with “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” and are “endowed by our Creator” with rights. Before the Progressive attack on the founding, Americans understood our politics to be based upon the premise that we do not assign or create “values” in politics. The trouble is that there will never be complete agreement about what is just by nature.  Especially in a large republic like the United States, we seek to achieve peace amid the diversity of understandings of how one ought to live.

Liberalism, in the classic sense, left us largely free to live according to different understandings of right, limiting government only to those tasks that, of necessity, must be done collectively—such as making war. The “social justice” perspective casts justice as single and self-evident. There is no room for an idea of politics as the arena in which competing, and sometimes incommensurable ideas of justice are adjudicated, and when separation is allowed in the name peace.

In this perspective, irony disappears because what seems like an absurd exaggeration only seems to be absurd because of what are thought of as, ultimately, random circumstances. Absent a natural standard of right, however contested, anything might be okay. It’s simply a matter of all “right thinking” people being on board. Hence the movement from “that’s a red herring” to “shut up, bigot.” It is also why Progressives are largely immune to the dramatic irony of their position.

One can be “woke” or one can be self-aware, that is, aware of man’s political nature. One cannot be both.

Reader Discussion

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on May 07, 2018 at 12:06:11 pm

Would it not be interesting if the teachers in the classroom taught the way successful coaches coach?

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on May 07, 2018 at 13:35:58 pm

This is an interesting point. But I think we may consider that the goal of social justice warriors is not to have teachers inspire their students to succeed in the way that a coach inspires a team to victory. The goal is to change the rules so that every game ends in a scoreless tie.

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Image of z9z99
on May 07, 2018 at 14:39:21 pm

"...One can be woke or one can be self-aware, that is, of man's political nature. One cannot be both." Olé, bravíssimo, Amen!!!

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Dave Puente
on May 07, 2018 at 18:28:59 pm

This is not new in education. I was a senior in high school in 1969. I was in a program designed for college-bound kids. All "stem" classes were taken with students in this group and as such we had more "advanced" expectations and requirements. Mid year, we were INFORMED that this program was being disbanded. When I asked "why", I was told that it was "discriminatory" since we were being treated differently (?????). Upon the ending of the program, we went from taking sociology (etc) to Current Events - 100 kids in the class where the end of week quiz asked things like "who is the Vice President". So, this effort to make "everyone equal" has existed for 40 years. AND I should point out that this was NOT an elite school - nor were any kids in this program wealthy or elite. We were middle and lower-middle class kids. 40% of this kids in this group were from "Hispanic" families or Asian families.

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Image of Suzanne
on May 07, 2018 at 20:39:51 pm

Hmmm! I beg to differ - every game ends in the "privileged" being taken down - their legs broken, their bats cracked and their *count* at the plate begins at "0-2".

Now that IS what these despicable bastards are attempting.

THE PROGGIES ARE NOT looking for a tie - they are looking for complete domination!

After all, since we are positioned to impose our *true equality* we must OVERCOME the vagaries of chance, birth, parenting AND bloody BRAINS and TALENT!

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Image of gabe
on May 07, 2018 at 22:29:49 pm

I don’t know why everyone is angry about this. It should be expanded. Why shouldn’t I be hired as a master chef? Just because my food is lousy? This is clearly discrimination against the food challenged. If diversity in for food preparation were mandated,’
restaurants would love it. They could virtue signal. They could put a sign out front telling everyone that they hire the food challenged. The people with lots of money would patronize them to stand up to hate. I’m getting excited about this idea.

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Image of John
on May 08, 2018 at 06:59:50 am

"It is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City,
so steeled, that he can restrain himself." - Juvenal (Roman) @ 100 AD

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steve baker
on May 08, 2018 at 08:29:29 am

1969 was a satanic year

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Pancake rachel corrie
on May 10, 2018 at 21:48:29 pm

Something went terribly wrong in modern equality movements when they gained traction, authority and the ability to enforce their will on societies and individuals. What initially started as a struggle against discrimination, as an attempt to give new opportunities to people discarded by the system or the society, became corrupted and turned into a struggle for equal outcome for everyone.

What are the examples of civic movement goals a few decades ago? Ending systematic discrimination of non-white races. Tuning infrastructure and technology to remove obstacles from the lives of disabled. Ending gender discrimination in workplaces. Assuring that LGBT people obtain all the rights and treatment everyone else enjoys.

However, every movement that has gained enough power becomes twisted. What was initially envisioned as a world in which everyone can live full life and work hard on achieving their dreams, now is often seen as a comfortable bubble where everyone is smiled at and given candies just for existing. I do not agree with all the examples the author suggested, but the general trend of focusing on environmental comfort over achieved comfort treads on an unknown territory, with unknown destination.

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Image of MayCaesar
on May 24, 2018 at 02:32:59 am

Absolute 'Equality' is a complete mockery to our Democratic-Republic, whose economy is run by Capitalism.

Very few gifted people can handle a pile of work, enjoy what they do, go home and relax, spend time with family and friends, relax, and still look forward to returning to their job. Health is not just body and mind, it's also financial, spiritual, and relationships. Humans are not 'Silly Putty', to be stretched and stretched.

We have a right to pursue 'Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness'. There is no guarantee you will be born healthy or sane, remain healthy or sane, maintain economic stability, or even born into a stable family.

Benjamin Franklin said, "God helps those who help themselves." But don't overdo it, or take what rightfully belong to someone else who's more deserving - ie. Job, College Exceptance, Scholarship. 'If they don't have the merit ... They'll just have to bear it."

Before the Progressive Era, many women, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought her father to be educated, and her we are 150+ years later arguing that the academically challenged should be given better education? Why? What is the liklihood that we will have another Stephan Hawking?

Annie Oakley was a strong femininist, but as much as she loved her guns, did not believe women. Equality is equality!

The best example is Brown v The Board of Education (1954). Your skin color does not affect your intelligence. 'Ten little fingers, Ten little toes: Two little eyes, Button nose.'

We need valid candidates, for careers, offices, and parents ... to make this country more lawful, ethical, and logical to suit your needs and budget.

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Image of TAHA
on September 02, 2020 at 17:38:38 pm

Someone shoudl write a book on the Left and Humor. Leftwing humorlessness is very old. In the 3rd Republic, the monarchists had all the witty French writers. You've heard the joke about how many feminists it takes to screw in a light bulb, a very old joke. National Review had fun as part of its mission. Actually, what's interesting is not that there are funny conservatives as that there aren't funny liberals nad they frown on the entire idea of humor. Their idea of wit is more like "Fooey on you!", and the delicate twist of the rhetorical knife is beyond their ken. Why? George Bernard Shaw was a leftwing humorist. Tom Lehrer songs. Are there others? Perhaps this is linked to the Left's idea of the POlitics As Sacred Rite. "Some things are too serious to joke about", but that includes pretty much every political issue. One is not supposed to enjoy politics-- it is a crusade. Rules for Radicals had to tell them to make demonstrations fun, and I bet many of them don't like that advice at all, and probably the organizers have to try to make demonstrations fun but assure the demonstrators that they're really not having fun at all and their only motivation is righteousness and meeting guysand singing in the fresh air aren't anything anyone would ever think about.

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Eric B Rasmusen

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.