Monday, May 18, 2015

Two Related Thoughts: The Myth of Liberal Academia and the Myth of Mad Men's Finale, Don Draper, and Coca-Cola

I would like to thank the nice folks who sent me well wishes regarding my busted up leg. I am slowly getting better. My knee that was once the size of half a grapefruit, now has contours similar to a flattened out avocado. I am continuing to take my medication. I also made my first great foray...across the street to get a can of the healing ambrosia known as Coca-Cola and a bag of barbecue potato chips. The walk was epic.

The legendary professional wrestler Jake the Snake Roberts said that the definition of a "professional" is someone who can perform at a much higher level than anyone else regardless of their personal pain, sickness, hurt, or other distractions. I took a foray into a broader world a few hours ago; we shall see if a man with a damaged meniscus can still (relatively speaking) tear the house down.

Tomorrow we will know.

I will talking with friend of WARN Mr. Bill the Lizard later today about his thoughts on the great new movie Mad Max: Fury Road. Our conversation will be included on this week's edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show.

I am still getting my sea legs (or is that leg?) back, so I will be leaning on you good folks to carry the ball a bit as I reorient myself.

As such, here are two quick thoughts to begin the week.

Once more and again, the myth of liberal academia and higher education is exposed. Last week, Saida Grundy, an African-American professor at Boston University had to get on her knee, kiss the ring, and publicly apologize for daring to mutter a basic fact via Social Media: white male college students are a problem population.

By empirical measures of drug use, rape, violence, problem drinking, and other indicators, white male college students (and white men more generally) are in fact a "problem" population. Of course, white people can never be a problem--that is a category exclusively reserved for the Other because the White Racial Frame and the White Gaze dominate all.

America's colleges and universities are subjected to the same social, economic, and political forces as the rest of society. A racist society produces racist social institutions and practices. The university is not immune from that dynamic.

Unfortunately, such basic truth-telling is denied and deflected because of the myth of "liberal" higher education and how the university is a space which is supposed to be "cosmopolitan" and "forward thinking".

As someone who has basically been called a "nigger" to his face both by a former boss, and also by white male students while doing my time at a liberal arts college, this story in the Washington Post about an unapologetically white supremacist and racist professor does not surprise me:
Nearly three decades later, however, Hough’s contempt for conventional wisdom has gotten him into a serious controversy. During the past week, the Duke politics professor has come under attack from students, colleagues and school administrators over allegedly racially “noxious” comments he posted online. The enfant terrible has been accused of simply being terrible. 
Reacting to a May 9 editorial in the New York Times titled “How Racism Doomed Baltimore,” Hough posted a six-paragraph comment that compared “the blacks” to “the Asians” and blamed African Americans for refusing to integrate by insisting on “strange new” names.
Hough's comment in question:
This editorial is what is wrong. The Democrats are an alliance of Westchester and Harlem, of Montgomery County and intercity Baltimore. Westchester and Montgomery get a Citigroup asset stimulus policy that triples the market. The blacks get a decline in wages after inflation. 
But the blacks get symbolic recognition in an utterly incompetent mayor who handled this so badly from beginning to end that her resignation would be demanded if she were white. The blacks get awful editorials like this that tell them to feel sorry for themselves.
In 1965 the Asians were discriminated against as least as badly as blacks. That was reflected in the word “colored.” The racism against what even Eleanor Roosevelt called the yellow races was at least as bad. 
So where are the editorials that say racism doomed the Asian-Americans. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard. 
I am a professor at Duke University. Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration. The amount of Asian-white dating is enormous and so surely will be the intermarriage. Black-white dating is almost non-existent because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone who dates a white. 
It was appropriate that a Chinese design won the competition for the Martin Luther King state. King helped them overcome. The blacks followed Malcolm X.
Despite Republican and culture warrior fantasies of their enemies in "liberal academia", the White Right has far more allies and friends in that social milieu than is widely known.

Mad Men aired its final episode last evening. I have a huge amount of respect for Mad Men as a project. I was however disappointed with how it abandoned all of the potentially exciting and ideologically disruptive moments that a more full exploration of race and the colorline in the context of its White imaginary could have provided the show. Mad Men also dropped the ball by evading the rich history of African-American ad agencies and how their "mad men" intersected with their fellow dream merchants on the other side of the colorline.

The show teased such a foray when Peter asked a black elevator attendant about the types of televisions that "negroes" like in an episode several years ago. Perhaps, the show's creator Matt Weiner felt that white folks do not want to have their Mad Men fantasies disrupted by too many black people--except when the latter are giant negroes robbing Joan and Roger--or being asked to navigate their structured semi-absence on the show (as in the idyllic lie that is 1950s and early 1960s "good old days" America).

Mad Men's finale, and Donald Sterling's character arc, are smart and insightful explorations of white masculinity, the rise of the neoliberal multicultural corporate state, racial capitalism, and the human livestock management provided by the State via such programs as the New Age movement and yoga.

I know that I am not the only person who will be writing an article on that topic. Thus, there is no harm in sharing it.

I wonder if the average viewer of Mad Men's finale (and the show more generally) understood that Matt Weiner's vision of a culture of illusion, consumerist fantasy, self-gratification, excess, and faux notions of "diversity" is largely an accurate historical account that is only pretending to be fiction?


Char said...

Let's ignore Hough's numerous falsehoods and accept his claims, for the sake of argument. His rebuttal to an article about racism in Baltimore is an observation that minorities must work "doubly hard" as their White counterparts, relinquish their identity to assimilate to White cultural norms, and breed the minority out of future generations by choosing White mates. He sure proved them wrong! To think this man may be in charge of teaching students how to craft strong arguments.

chauncey devega said...

On matters of race apparently everyone believes they are experts. Funny how supposedly "smart" people believe such foolishness. Sometimes the masses and the elites are both asses.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

On your first point, my own experience with my former institution taught me that there are a whole lot of Houghs out there. One guy brimmed over with so much racial resentment that a friend and I called him LWM ("the last white man.") He assigned Victor Davis Hansen's _Carnage and Culture_ to his world history course, natch. Another asked me, multiple times, if my Cuban immigrant father in law (who's been living here since the late 1950s) spoke English. About a third of the students at the school were not white, but all of the faculty in my department, including adjuncts, were white.

Char said...

So many people take refuge from minorities, pretending to be "color blind" in their homogeneous enclaves, only to catch hurt feelings when I tell them their lack of experience and engagement with minorities disqualifies them from the conversation.

I reject the popular narrative when things start to boil over suggesting we need to have a "conversation on race." As if there is some mutual misunderstanding at play. People who have been avoiding race need to shut up and treat as a learning experience what those of us who must master race relations as part of our everyday survival have to say.

It's insulting when people take five minutes to become an expert on a subject. The frustration of race discussions with those individuals is like an algebra teacher having to give remedial lessons in arithmetic, only to face constant challenges from students insisting 1 + 1 ≠ 2. I'm sure you know the feeling, Chauncey.

DanF said...

My wife (who is white) taught African Art and taught it in a way that is truly eye-opening and life-changing for many students who have a decidedly Euro American-centric view of the world and it's history (it can be very powerful at that age to have one's preconceived notions of other peoples and culture completely upended). Consequently, minority students would tend to get very interested and excited by the subject matter disproportionate to white students, and a small percentage of white students would almost invariably become actively hostile and charge reverse-racism. These poor special snowflakes had no capacity to deal with the world from any perspective other than their own, and if the world did not agree with them, well, the world must be wrong. So they can never be "problem" population. It's simply un-possible.

joe manning said...

That academia even countenances the race "science" of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein testifies to its racism.
If the universities were deprogramming their racist students Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush's wouldn't be able to get away with endorsing The Bell Curve; Dukian Steve Scalise and neoconfederate Lindsey Graham wouldn't be in Congress.

Academicians Stephen Pinker and Philip Bobbitt also deserve dishonorable mention for white supremacist othering on the ground of cultural inferiority.

In Madmen there was an episode in which the Robert Morse character removed the agency's black receptionist and was overruled by his peers. And two black secretaries had minor roles. But Matthew Weiner did the standard politically correct bare minimum on race relations. Don Draper joined Forest Gump in historical revisionism in that the one didn't didn't invent the hoola hoop and the other didn't Teach the World to Sing for Coke.

Dan Kasteray said...

I've always found much liberalism on the campus of college. Not so much among the admins who can be beholden to big business; and none among the business students. Those guys were shit

OldPolarBear said...

I don't see that there's anyplace to look at the actual tweets (it says her account is "now private"), but I don't see how anybody could have such a hissy fit over a mild understatement like what Dr. Grundy is quoted as saying. Iowa State University -- you can't get much closer than that to the "respectable" middle of the country than that -- can no longer hold its annual VEISHA student festival because of the behavior of (mostly) young, white males (you can see a black man near the foreground edge of the crowd from about :28 to :33; I suppose maybe he started the whole thing?). BTW, the fresh eruption of cheers at around 2:17 is because the light pole was finally brought down, from which the recorder of this video was inexplicably turned at the moment. If you actually want to see the glorious moment, you can do so here. It was said that at least one of those present was seriously injured by its fall.

It wasn't the first time this had happened, either, just the final straw in 2014. The President of ISU cancelled it, permanently. It is a shame because the festival dated back to the 1920s and was a way for students and faculty to showcase the activities and accomplishments of various departments by setting up programs and demonstrations for the public. A mob of spoiled brats destroyed it by rioting over NOTHING. And white people are going to get pissy when someone calls this shit out?

Dan Kasteray said...

Sort of like having a con artist major

The Sanity Inspector said...

I was wondering why Jerry Hough's name was familiar, until finally the penny dropped: He was one of the most notorious revisionist historians of the Cold War, defiantly downplaying communism's death toll right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of the intellectual villains of that conflict, he is. Very peculiar to hear of him again in these circumstances; probably time to put him out to pasture.

As for Saida Grundy, her recent online verbal abuse of a white rape victim ices it in my mind--she's not on a mission to educate anyone, she's just power-tripping. I wince for those of her students who disagree with her tirades but daren't answer back. She obviously views her post not as a trust or obligation, but as an instrument for Payback. A vindictive, ideology-besotted person like her in a position of responsibility is like someone standing on a high hill: everyone down below looks small to her, and she looks small to them. People like that are a testimony to how simple humanity and the common decencies can be
leached right out of a person's heart, when the only thing the mind
ingests is a bitter porridge of trendy resentments.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Of course we're all experts. Whiteness is a collective apprenticeship.

rikyrah said...

I am a longtime fan of Mad Men. I called it the delusional world of Mad Men, harkening back to a myth of the ' Good Old Days'. The Good Old Days of a so-called Meritocracy, which didn't exist. Not too hard to be a big fish in a pond when all the rest of the people are shoved into sardine cans.

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