Reflecting on Campus thought police

In my recent post Campus Thought Police, I suggested that all the attention campuses pay to hate crimes and intolerance ends up diminishing individuals’ sense of agency and empowerment.  Looking at it after the fact, I wondered if I could make the connection more clear.

To clarify on sense of agency: when the community is given no sense of progress, it comes to feel powerless.

The messaging that comes from the campus establishment treats hate and intolerance as if they were perennial, unparalleled mortal dangers.  The constant use of such an urgent tone makes it seem as if the Civil Rights era counted for nothing.

But there has been much progress.  Racism, sexism, and other bad -isms have become stigmas to a culture that is now loathe to harbor stigmas.  Nonetheless, instead of placing us somewhere on the long arc of the moral universe, campus voices convey to us that we are in a Sisyphean task: rolling the boulder ever up the hill with nothing to show for it.  The unending klaxon calling us to battle stations against intolerance eventually convinces us that we are fighting some insurmountable evil.  No reasonable observer can maintain hope if they take the academy’s message at face value.

To clarify on empowerment: activism shunts individuals to the radical margin when they should be integrating with the mainstream.

All the prevalent theories on race, class, gender, and so on shove earnest young souls like cattle onto the divisive boat of oppression politics.  If they stay for the ride, they go on to commit civil disobedience, plan direct actions, and lead generally counterproductive lives.  The dogma that they are in mortal combat with oppressive forces locks them necessarily into solidarity and cooperation.  For the sake of comrades and self, they’re never free to think that oppression may not actually define their existence.

But if their worldview is mistaken, then in all their sound and fury they are missing their true calling.  Instead of uncritically fighting on some far flung front of the war on oppression, students should be preparing to constructively enter a society that is on balance more just than unjust.  They should experience the wonderful challenge of interpersonal competition rather than the dull drumbeat to cooperate with comrades.  The university prides itself as a marketplace of ideas, but if there is any such competition, it hasn’t pierced the Berlin Wall that upholds the politically correct dictums of the academic establishment.

Campus leaders’ actual if unintended conveyance of a lack of progress erodes onlookers’ sense of agency.  The shunting of students into unfruitful radicalism not only bereaves society but dis-empowers the students as well.  The leading voices of the academy need to re-examine the message they’re sending to the world.

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Hackers, Pirates, Brats

The Afghanistan Wikileaks story has gotten progressively more interesting in the weeks since it broke.  Initial critics rightfully blasted Julian Assange’s outfit for endangering the lives of those who have collaborated with NATO forces.  When prompted in a July 28th  interview by Today‘s Merideth Vieira, the Australian-born Assange admitted (to his credit) the possibility that further killing could result from his leak campaign.   So in an effort to save lives from American “murder,” as Wikileaks alleged in their famous Apache helicopter video from earlier this year, the once prodigy hacker and his crew have wrecklessly endangered the lives of others.

The leaks also have the secondary effect of making cooperation with American forces less appealing to any potential partners in future conflicts.  For this, some observers have concluded that Wikileaks is basically an enemy of the United States.  Its no coincidence that Iceland happens to be a base for the site or that Pirate Bay, Sweden’s ridiculous information liberators, have extended a hand of complicity to securely host the leak documents.  It would seem silly to think that Scandinavians have been conspiring in enmity against America, but such a postulation is not far off the mark.  In terms of international relations theory, these countries are known as freeriders.  Iceland is a quintessential case.  During the Cold War, America operated bases there and since that time, Iceland’s military has been virtually nonexistent.  So its not surprising that there has come to be such contempt for the military, or the idea that outside of their sheltered paradise, there exists a brutal world that sometimes necessitates the use of force.

Swedish pirates and Icelandic scofflaws are just the tip of the iceberg of today’s self-indulgent wannabe hacker heroes.  Recall the modern day anarchist, who instead of hurling a bomb like a good nineteenth century revolutionary, thanked today’s finest industrialist by hurling a pie in his face.  This was the case for Bill Gates when he visted Belgium in 1998.  So if you aspire to invent new technologies, increase worker productivity, and bless humanity by single-handedly launching an information revolution, not only will governments seek to double tax your earnings and capital gains, you should also expect occasional vollies of pie as your just dessert.  While Assange aspires to liberate secrets from the vaults of the state, those like Pirate Bay seek to terminate copyrights and all intellectual property protections.  To these starry-eyed warrior geeks, no secret is worth keeping, and all information should be freely accessible.  But if we compelled all computer code to be open-source or all pharmaceuticals researchers to immediately disclose their formulas, the only ones who would produce these goods for us would be the spoiled hacker types who do this stuff on their spare time.  They have no comprehension of economic utility or value, or their necessary relationship to work and sacrifice.

Perhaps these hacker pirates are best seen as little leather-clad Neos who feel they have moral license to run around with their figurative guns blazing, reducing Agent Smith’s marble lobby to flying chips and plaster.  In a top-notch piece by the Christian Science Monitor, former CIA officer Jerrold Post explains that the same psychological motivations of spies holds true for the Afghanistan Wikileakers.  While some people betray secrets for money or sex, others are motivated by ideology or ego.  And whether we consider the American private who initiated the leak or Assange and Pirate Bay who obliged, its the confluence of ideology and ego that satisfies these bored, ungrateful, uncomprehending brats in their quest for significance and belonging.  How sad it is that so much energy and talent of youth are poured into counterproductive and downright dangerous channels.

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