‘A Disgraceful Capitulation to the Mob’

Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, which used to be the pre-eminent publication covering higher education, the inmates are now running the institution.

Editor Liz McMillen’s disgraceful capitulation to the mob demanding the head of Chronicle blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley for having the temerity to criticize the field of black studies ironically demonstrates the accuracy of Riley’s underlying argument–that political correctness has run amok on campuses, especially where race is concerned.

Just as Elizabeth Warren’s claimed Cherokee-ness highlights the endemic corruption of rewarding people based on their race, the Chronicle’s heavy-handed firing of one of its writers because of “distress” she caused some readers has changed the nature of the controversy. It is no longer about whether Riley’s reading of the dissertations and the field is correct, or even whether she is a vicious “downright racist” (I’ll have more to say about that in a moment); it is whether the field of black studies and those working in it are now sacrosanct, making criticism (at least criticism that causes “distress”) off limits. In any event turning to the Chronicle for informed and professional coverage of this issue now makes about as much sense as, well, the Oxford Encyclopedia of African American History enlisting La TaSha B. Levy to write its entries on several black conservatives, as KC Johnson notes above.

About 6,500 people signed a petition demanding that Riley be fired. Equally striking as the comments–180 as of this writing–on Editor McMillen’s abject apology for not having subjected Riley’s posts to pre-publication censorship. Very revealingly, I think, these comments–many of them quite vituperative–about even divided: half praise McMillen for firing the ignorant racist and half demand McMillen’s resignation, or her head, for having allowed the ignorant racist to publish in the first place.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned, Riley has been typically denounced as a racist. That of course is not surprising. Anyone who criticizes affirmative action or anything related to it (and black studies is certainly related to it) is invariably called a racist, often in lieu of any other argument in response.

I’ve never met or had any dealing with Riley, other than reading her Chronicle blogs. I’ve seen no evidence of racism (maybe all that means is that I should fire myself from my own blog), but what I think about Riley isn’t relevant here. One thing that does clearly reveal the shrill hollowness of these mob cries of racism, however, is that her husband and the father of her two children, Jason Riley, is black, something I believe she’s never mentioned in response to any of these racist accusations.


6 thoughts on “‘A Disgraceful Capitulation to the Mob’

  1. Amar Wright:
    “I think Riley messed up. But the mob reaction was completely out of proportion”
    I agree – being generous to the Left, I would actually agree that the blog post did seem flippant and a bit inappropriate for Chronicle, a serious publication. I think it would be fine to criticise it, and to advocate for Black Studies as a legitimate discipline.
    But the reaction was far, far worse – calling her a racist, calling for her to be fired, getting her fired. And it’s disgraceful that Chronicle did indeed fire her. The reaction demonstrated that supporters of BS are apparently disinterested in academic enquiry, only interested in power and the exercise of it.

  2. This is just another illustrative example of how the intellectual left views free speech. Knowing they could never win in a fair debate they instead seek to destroy any who dare question their group think.

  3. I appreciate the point that her original post might have deserved sharp criticism. But I had the misfortune of reading the “response” from the 3 graduate students whose work she criticized. Their response is far worse. It’s vicious, hateful, attributes to Riley all sorts of ridiculous thoughts and motives that are nowhere in her work, but hey all the easier to make her look evil and stupid. Not to mention it only seems to confirm Riley’s comment about it being “left-wing victimhood claptrap”.
    I think Riley messed up. But the mob reaction was completely out of proportion. And frankly, when you actually *read* much of it, is less (note: less) about the weakness of her original article and far more about demonizing someone who had the temerity to question the sanctity of ethnic studies programs. The academic left had a small stone’s worth of legitimate complaint but buried it under a deluge of mindless outrage.

  4. Mr. Kreider wrote:
    “But it has no place at a publication that has at least pretensions towards serious reflection on the state of the academy.”
    Henry Gates, Cornel West…. the state of the academy. Case Closed.
    Naomi only penned the obvious. She’s like that.

  5. The ultimate issue here is not the worth (or lack thereof) of black studies. Not was it the question of her being racist. It was the absurd standards used to evaluate the discipline.
    Any one who formed an opinion about the academic value in a discipline by perusing synopses of a handful of dissertations is seriously deficient in intellectual integrity.
    This kind of cavalier assessment may have a place at “Minding the Campus” or at NRO’s “Phi Beta Cons” – where entertainment value plays a role. But it has no place at a publication that has at least pretensions towards serious reflection on the state of the academy.

  6. Editor McMillen could have simply ignored the vengeful mob. Or, better, she might have replied that the proper response to arguments you dislike is to offer refutations and encouraged unfettered debate over the question of the academic value of the dissertations Mrs. Riley cast doubt upon. But no — McMillen did the easy thing and surrendered to the mob.

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