“Universities are madrassas for woke stupidity.” -James Delingpole
When I first encountered the discipline of Philosophy as an undergraduate at West Point some twenty years ago, I was put into a state of awe. Encountering the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Hume, Berkeley and Russell for the very first time felt like I was being let in on some ancient and esoteric form of knowledge, some sort of secret language invisible to the uninitiated. Leaving the classroom each day, debating and conversing with other students over these new and earth-shattering concepts and questions felt like a kind of drug trip; like I was Neo being shown the code for the Matrix. For those years and for who I was at the time, it was truly a mind-altering and life-changing experience. And while the questions shook my sense of certainty to the core, filling my head with all sorts of doubts, I nonetheless remained certain of one thing; that Socrates was ultimately right and that the unexamined life was indeed not worth living.
I was compelled so much so by these philosophical questions and ideas that I would later be moved to terminate what was, at the time, a fruitful career as a U.S. Army officer, to turn down several lucrative white-collar jobs thereafter, and to shove all my chips into the center of the playing table, in hopes of one day becoming a professional analytic philosopher. Now, after a decade of being within the ivory tower, of seeing how the sausage is made and witnessing first-hand the business that academia really is, I’ve determined, quite sadly, that the discipline of academic Philosophy, and the university system more generally, has become little more than an indoctrination center for ‘woke’ leftist ideology and the antithesis of its original aim and purpose. That being said, this essay is my explanation of how and why I’m leaving academia, or, more appropriately, how academia ended up leaving me.
My cynicism towards academia was not always this way, however. Coming away jaded from the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war in my mid-twenties, believing that we as American citizens had some basic duties to look out for animals, the environment, and for the poor, and thinking that African Americans still had some reasonable and justified grievances because of slavery, I found myself entering into graduate school at the beginning of the Obama years as a self-described ‘center left’ liberal.
The beginning few years of my time in grad school were a combination of exhilaration, possibility, and most of all, vindication. Unlike my time in the stifling, hyper-conformist atmosphere of the military, now I was finally home, around my people; people who were thoughtful, open-minded, knowledgeable, worldly, lovers of ideas and appreciators of the life of mind. No longer the odd-duck soldier who thought too much, I felt, for the very first time in my adult life, like I was finally accepted.
For the most part, many of my professors and my graduate peers found me to be somewhat of a refreshing anomaly. I was the thoughtful, philosophical soldier, critical of our country’s recent wars. During that time period, I could also sleep easily at night with a clear conscience knowing I was now one of ‘the good people’ on the left, a proud ‘bleeding heart’, no longer immersed among the religious nut-jobs, the money obsessed corporate shills, the war-hawks, and the racists who comprised the ranks of the right. I was none of these things. Rather, I was the open-minded, compassionate, slightly left-leaning, ‘nuanced centrist’, who could just as easily have a chat with the frontline infantryman from Nebraska as I could with the Ivory tower academic from Oxford and serve as a kind of bridge between these two worlds, synthesizing a dialogue between left and right, mind and body, theory and practice. At least this was the story that I told myself.
In retrospect, the cracks in the liberal dam were always there from the very beginning, but I was either too distracted, too busy, too intimidated, too career obsessed, or just too willfully ignorant to truly see let alone acknowledge them or their ultimate ideological direction of travel. At first, such fissures were easy to dismiss or handwave away. Certainly, the more fringe versions of the left, what Richard Rorty referred to as the ‘cultural left’, I could openly critique with the tolerance or even support of my professors or graduate peers. “We do analytic philosophy here, arguments from arm-chair first principles,” I was re-assured, “not that postmodern nonsense you find on the edges of some anthropology or lit crit department. That’s the far left. We’re on the moderate, sensible left. Have you ever read Rawls?”
For a certain moment in time, I could arguably get on board with such thinking. What barbarian didn’t believe that we had some duty to animals and to the environment? To future generations? To fellow citizens who were most vulnerable? To soldiers and civilians alike? Somewhere around spring of 2017, however, amidst the cultural backlash against Trumpism, coupled with the mainstream explosion of transgenderism, intersectionality, critical race theory, and mass campus protests against perceived ‘far right extremist’ speakers, the academy I once knew and loved seemed to go completely off the rails. The mask of the ‘tolerant’, ‘open-minded’ left suddenly fell off and, for the very first time, I came to realize that the ivory tower and so-called ‘free market of ideas’ was not above and beyond or as immune to the present social zeitgeist as I once had thought.
With few exceptions, present-day analytic philosophy and academia more generally exhibit hardly any of the values and virtues that they explicitly profess to care so much about: tolerance, open-mindedness, regard for different perspectives, epistemic charity, a willingness to entertain pluralistic viewpoints, rational and dispassionate assessment of arguments, lack of ad hoc justifications, lack of ad hominem attacks, operating from arm-chair first principles, and a willingness to follow the entailments of premises to their logical conclusions come hell or highwater. Nearly all of these epistemic virtues are markedly and demonstrably absent in present-day academia and present-day academics save for a Hillsdale or a Claremont, a Peterson, Boghossian, Lindsay, or Sowell.
Rather, academics on the left now make their arguments primarily by means of social pressure and stigmatization, intimidation, group struggle sessions, virtue signaling, and online reputational assassination in the form of labelling their opponents as ‘extremists’, ‘racists’, ‘phobes’, ‘bigots’ or worse, rather than engaging with their opponents’ arguments on their own merits. More perplexing still, such folks often do so having fully convinced themselves that they are somehow oppressed victims, scrappy underdogs ‘speaking truth to power’ against impossible odds as part of some revolutionary underground resistance movement while garnering support from nearly every major western institution imaginable from Hollywood, to big business, to the Queen of England, to Oreo cookies.
Mark Bray, for instance, author of the Antifascist Handbook, nearly openly calls for overt violence against anyone who disagrees with his group’s political vision while promoting his work on Amazon’s bestseller list and enjoying the safety of a professorship at Rutgers. Feminist journalist, Laurie Penny, promotes her ‘radical’ viewpoints, too disruptive and controversial for everyday consumption, at the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” officially sponsored by the Sydney Opera House and the city of Sydney. And LGBTQ philosopher, Rebecca Kukla, is able to tell her opponents on Twitter to ‘suck her queer cock’ while maintaining a comfortable tenureship as Senior Research Scholar of Ethics at (nominally Catholic) Georgetown while suffering zero professional backlash. Meanwhile veteran suicide rates in this country get shoved behind a superficial veil of ‘Thank you for your service’, but please someone stop the presses, because ‘trans people are dying’, whatever the hell that even means. Still these folks are somehow ‘the marginalized.’
If not actively taking part in ceaseless woke attacks as part of the small but highly vocal far left vanguard, the majority of academics, I’d wager even a super-majority of academics, have now been completely cowed into silence and complicity by the intersectional ideologues, burying their heads deeper in the sand, promising themselves that on some far-off future day, once the professional and social climate somehow improves, once someone else has stuck their neck out and cleared a safer path, once they achieve tenure, department head, emeritus status, enough grant money, etc. then the gloves will suddenly come off, then they will magically turn into a fire-breathing lion, then they will finally speak their minds.
If human psychology and human history are any guide, then the trend suggests that such a day will never come for such persons, since feeding that muscle of complicity and inaction only serves to strengthen it, and ‘tenure’ will most likely become swapped out with some new placeholder excuse to put off standing up and speaking the truth for just one more day. Maybe the cannibalization will somehow miss them if they just stay silent, just bend the knee, and just disavow long enough. The writings of Arendt, Niemoller, and Solzhenitsyn to name just a few, suggest the supreme folly and ultimate end-state of such a strategy of never-ending appeasement. This however, is the new normal within the ‘free market of ideas.’
Stay within the safe lanes of extremely clever, overly technical, and ultimately inconsequential intellectual discourse, and you will likely be able to make tenure and have a long and prosperous academic career. Say something the least bit critical of the current intersectional orthodoxy or conversely, say something the least bit positive about Christianity, men, the free market, liberty, merit, America, or the values of Western civilization and you are instantly relegated to persona non grata. Here is the blueprint for anyone seeking success within academia in 2021. Spine not included.
All this being said, it isn’t even as if these folks somehow possess arguments that are clearly and decisively better, more coherent, or sound. Indeed, some of the more blatant contradictions and hypocrisies found on the left warrant our explicit acknowledgement. Western science is an oppressive structure of the white male patriarchy that we are dutybound to oppose and deconstruct, but we must trust the latest Covid biomedical data. We must trust the latest Covid biomedical data, but the biomedical categories of male and female are just social constructs. The categories of male and female are just social constructs which can be chosen at will, but the category of race cannot be similarly chosen at will because race is ostensibly an objective natural kind. But race is also just a social construct. But neither of these previous claims are true since race doesn’t refer to anything at all because there is only one race, the human race. But whites oppress blacks.
Objective evolutionary data discredits God and objective morality, but that same evolutionary data as it relates to heritable features due to race is suddenly just a social construct again. We are in a radically relativistic, post-truth world, but we must guard against conservative fake news. There is no historical meta-narrative, but the events of slavery and colonialism are undeniable objective facts. The patriarchy of Christianity is bad, but the patriarchy of Islam, of the very same Abrahamic tradition, is to be lauded and venerated. Obesity is a social construct but also a marker of objective health at any weight. Atheist materialist science proves that life is fundamentally meaningless and worthless, but for heaven’s sake, will someone please think of the rights, dignity, and intrinsic value of animals and future generations threatened by climate change. A priori Mathematics and Logic are just socially constructed systems of oppression. There is no such thing as objective truth, but CNN reports just the facts. And what do we even mean by ‘truth’ anyway? And so on. The amount of mental gymnastics required for these folks to simultaneously hold such blatant and obvious contradictions all while walking, talking, and even sometimes operating heavy machinery is truly a sight to behold, impressive as it is horrifying.
What’s more, such arguments are often deployed from such folks with a self-satisfied air of condescension and a near total lack of gratitude for anything and everything their fellow countrymen or forebears have sacrificed on their behalf, making the luxury of sustaining such superfluous and nonsensical arguments even possible in the first place. I can honestly say now, having seen both sides, that during my time in the military I met folks who were markedly less conformist, far more open-minded, and far less vindictive towards peers and colleagues who dared to entertain or voice alternative viewpoints. My academic peers should reflect upon that last sentence carefully.
To quote H.L. Menken, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” This essay constitutes my best and most earnest attempt at communicating such understanding to my now former colleagues. Some may call me an alarmist, a bigot, an extremist, etc. So be it. Such ad hominem attacks do not constitute a counter-argument nor do they do anything to take away from the one-way intersectional steamroller and one’s own fixed position within the victim hierarchy. Those overly quick to dismiss what I’ve said here simply because I’m a straight, white, male should pause and take a moment to seriously reconsider their own presumed immunity from similar cancelling, silencing, and cannibalization later on down the line.
That being said, I sincerely apologize to my fellow American citizens, family, friends, comrades at arms, and former colleagues for my complicity and silence on such matters for this long. No longer. It is my hope that this essay will inspire others in academia, students and professors alike, to also begin speaking up loudly and vocally and to continue to speak up against this pernicious woke ideology until we bat it out the door of academia and society at large. Until then, I will continue to sound the alarm for any of those with minds and hearts open enough to hear. Listen to or dismiss these words at your own peril. However, when the woke mob comes to cancel you, when the HR department calls you into their office for mandatory remedial pronoun training, or when the agents of the pink police state come to knock at your door in the middle of the night, don’t say I didn’t warn you. So farewell academia,
I disavow you.