Wrong Thinking: America’s Stalinist Universities

Thomas DiLorenzo, In a recent article Vasko Kohlmayer explained how a tool of twentieth-century totalitarians was “public humiliation and torment” of those with “wrong thinking.”  The targeted individuals were compelled to confess their wrongdoing, apologize to society, and repent for the error of their thinking.

The reason for this is that “To totalitarians truth is as the cross is to the devil.”  Totalitarians “force their victims to give up that which is true and accept that which is false.” As F.A. Hayek wrote in the Road to Serfdom, in totalitarian societies “truth” is not discovered by research, education, discussion and debate, and the scientific method, but is merely announced by the authorities.

Kohlmayer uses as an illustration of these principles the current massive effort to censor all talk of how the presidential election was stolen and to try to ruin anyone who brings it up. “They want us to confess Joe Biden as a legitimate president even though there were no meaningful investigations into the many obvious and gross election irregularities . . . We are told we must accept the obvious sham or else.  Those who refuse are subjected to psychological, social and financial torment . . . .  If you only concede, they are told, the vilification and punishment will cease . . .”  (I write this one day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it will not hear any of the dozens of cases having to do with vote fraud.  The Supreme Ostriches with Heads in the Sand would be a more appropriate label).

Having just spent forty-one years as a university economics professor, I would suggest that the one place where such “struggle sessions” (minus threats of hanging or shooting the victim as under communism!) is America’s Stalinist universities, with very few exceptions.  One thing that immediately came to mind upon reading Kohlmayer’s article is the many examples of the now-widespread, heavy-handed, totalitarian practice on university campuses of “students” demanding the disinviting of conservative or libertarian speakers. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a list of almost 500 conservative or libertarian speakers who have been disinvited or pressured to cancel in just the past couple of years.  They then demand (not suggest) that the university apologize for the invitation or, God forbid, allowing the speaker to set foot on campus.  Quite often there is also a demand that the shamed speaker himself apologize, or someone on the campus –perhaps the students who issued the invitation — apologize for him!  It’s all about humiliating anyone with “the wrong ideas” and anyone who supports or is associated with him.

All of this is taken directly from the Stalinist political playbook, presumably the chapter on “struggle sessions.”  The purpose is to humiliate, harass, and slander anyone who challenges any of the superstitions of the reigning ideology of vulgar pop-Marxist totalitarianism that has replaced actual intellectual discourse on American college campuses.  A secondary purpose is to intimidate any conservative or libertarians from accepting any speaking invitations – almost always from student groups, rarely the faculty.

The lengthy lists of “demands” that are now frequently made by “student organizations” hardly ever originate with the students themselves, but are the work of pop Marxist faculty and administrators who use the students as pawns or dupes in their political game playing.  In an October 16, 2018 New York Times op-ed conservative Professor Samuel Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College reported on his study of 900 university administrators whose job is to directly interact with students.  Universities are polluted with such bureaucrats and bureaucracies.  They begin influencing students before school even starts in their freshman year, during freshman orientation, and work diligently to enforce mandatory “wokeness” for as long as they are enrolled.  In his sample of 900 “student-facing administrators” Professor Abrams found that only 6 percent considered themselves to be conservatives.  The other 94 percent are the conniving left-wing ideologues who view their jobs as indoctrinating students with their extreme left-wing views and shaming and intimidating those who hesitate.  Not that the top administrators – university presidents and vice presidents, deans of various colleges – are innocent:  They are the ones who hired these Stalinist indoctrinators in the first place.

The genesis of Professor Abrams’s research was his disappointment that his own campus was so overwhelmingly lopsided with conferences, lecture series, and other events where the topics and speakers were almost 100 percent leftist.

As with almost all other American colleges and universities, intellectual diversity is almost absent at Sarah Lawrence College.  Students are taught by overwhelming leftist professors, and the adults who have the most personal contact with them during their college years are even farther to the left, said Professor Abrams.

For pointing out this clear, indisputable fact, a “student group” at Sarah Lawrence College demanded that he apologize for pointing out the extreme leftist bias at all of these institutions, called him a “racist” for doing so, and called for his firing – for starters.  I have been reading about dozens of other incidents just like this for the past decade or so.  Like I said, there must be a Stalinist training manual somewhere that campus leftists, from university presidents on down, possess – a version of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.

This is what most American universities have now become:  totalitarian socialist indoctrination academies.  Rather than responding to conservative or libertarian ideas with criticism, comment, and debates that rely on logic and facts, there is slander, libel, ritualistic defamation, and attempted humiliation and ruination of careers.  They have become clones of the disgraced, far Left Southern Poverty Law Center, in other words.

I first experienced this bizarre practice of a university responding to a non-Marxist campus speaker with slander, libel, and demands for apologies instead of civilized intellectual discussion and debate a little over twelve years ago when I sponsored a lecture before a room full of undergraduates by my friend Professor Walter Block at Loyola University Maryland.  Walter’s dissertation chairman at Columbia University back in the day was Nobel laureate Gary Becker who was famous for a lot of things in his profession, including literally inventing the subdiscipline of the economics of discrimination.  Walter’s speech was a very mainstream rendition of the economics of discrimination.  It was actually a tour de force lecture filled with brilliant comments and insights and arguments backed up with loads of facts.  As the sponsor of the lecture I was thrilled at the preparation that obviously went into it and how Walter gave these students such a sterling example of economic scholarship and the economic way of thinking.  There are several versions of this lecture on YouTube.

One of the elementary insights of the economics of discrimination starts with an example of an employer who has two employees, a male and a female, who can both produce say, $100,000/year in revenue.  He pays the male  $75,000/year and the female $35,000 because he is a misogynist.  He will have to pay a price for discriminating, however, for competitors will gladly offer the female say, $50,000/year and pocket a tidy profit for themselves of $50,000 (The $100K she produces for him, minus the $50K he pays her).  Then another competitor will offer her say, $70,000 and still make an extra $30,000.  And on it goes.  If there is enough competition in the marketplace the female wage will approach the male wage.  Meanwhile, for a period of time the misogynist will be stuck with an all-male, higher-paid workforce than his competitors.  The economics of discrimination does not deny that such discrimination exists, only that market forces and competition will reduce its prevalence.

However, one of the chief superstitions of the Stalinist campus Left is that America is such an irredeemably racist and evil place, and “the legacy of slavery” is such a determining factor, that nothing can ever improve he situation, especially capitalism.  The combination of denying this Leftist superstition and defending capitalism causes their little pea-sized brains to explode.  Such things as the economics of discrimination are therefore tools of white supremacy, they say, and ought to be censored.  Anyone who speaks in such a way deserves to have his career (and his life) ruined.  So goes the campus Stalinist mantra.

Consequently, During the Q&A after Walter’s lecture, a black student who was not even an economics student, and who was sent there by some of the conniving trouble-making faculty and administrators at Loyola University Maryland, asked if this logic applied to black/white wage differences as well.  Professor Block answered in the affirmative, as Gary Becker himself would have had he been the speaker.  In fact there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of peer-reviewed academic journal articles on the subject in the economics literature.  Two Nobel laureates – Gary Becker and Kenneth Arrow – wrote books entitled The Economics of Discrimination.  To the economics profession this is a legitimate area of inquiry and research.  But not at Loyola University Maryland and most other universities these days, apparently.

The next morning a faculty colleague called me at home to ask if I was aware of the “sh*t storm” on campus.  The smear was in.  The black student had left the room and went directly to the “social justice crowd” on the faculty, as one of my students at the time described them, supposedly to complain.  The university president, one Brian Linnane, immediately announced in an email to all faculty, students, staff, and alumni that a guest speaker had made “insensitive” remarks for which he (Linnane) was apologizing.  He followed that up with a sappy, insufferably sanctimonious sermon on his personal devotion to fighting racial discrimination.  He did not mention what was said that was “insensitive,” of course, since he was not at the lecture. He called Walter Block a racist without using the word “racist,” in other words.  I met with the academic vice president to discuss this smear a few days later and told him that Linnane must have had a lawyer standing at his side when he wrote the letter in such a spineless, cowardly, and dishonest way.

When a Baltimore Sun reporter called the university to ask just what was said that was so catastrophic, she received no answer and no one else ever did.  She laughed when she called me and heard my explanation for what happened, and mocked the university administrators in the article she wrote about this act of defamation in the Sun.

The university administrators knew that Walter Block himself would never apologize, and neither would I, the sponsor of the lecture.  So they pressured several members of the economics department who were not even at the lecture to write a letter of apology in the student newspaper, which they dutifully did.  That letter was a lie, since it was signed by “The Economics Department” despite the fact that I did not even hear of the letter as it was being written and certainly did not sign it, and neither did the department chairman, Father Hank Hilton, S.J., who considered the entire charade to be morally and intellectually fraudulent.

After the letter appeared a university administrator – another Stalinist Jesuit priest like Linnane – published a letter in the school newspaper thanking and congratulating all the students who participated in the ritualistic defamation of Walter Block.  Linnane himself then sent out another one of his buffoonish emails declaring his everlasting love and devotion for free speech on campus.  That kind of subterfuge     also seems to be an integral part of the campus Stalinist handbook.

Long-time readers of LewRockwell.com may remember that Walter Block and I then forced the Stalinist administrators and economics faculty of Loyola University Maryland to deal with a sh*t storm of their own by writing dozens of articles on the topic on the Web site and spending six hours on WBAL Radio in Baltimore with my old friend the late Ron Smith discussing this attack on free speech, academic freedom, and civilized manners at this and other universities.  I heard from quite a few alumni, including one memorable letter from a man who told me that he was about to send a $50,000 donation to the university, but after hearing us on WBAL he decided to give the money to his church instead.  I made sure that the university administrators received a copy of his email.

Some thirty years ago I attended a Liberty Fund conference at which the late Professor Henry Manne was also an attendee.  I recall him saying at that time that “we’ve lost the universities.”  By “we” he was referring to scholars who considered themselves to be a part of the classical liberal tradition, whether they be conservative or libertarian economists, law professors, philosophers, historians, or anything else.  That was thirty years ago when the campus communists still hid behind the lying rhetoric of “liberalism” or “progressivism.”  Today these deeply stupid, uneducated and immoral totalitarians are running amok out in the open without even bothering with any more disguises.

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