It is not a good time in today’s academy for those who prize truth. One false step, one off-hand remark, one “wrong” vote on the latest hare-brained DIE initiative, and it’s off to purgatory or worse. Even if found innocent of corrupting young minds by telling the truth, the very thought of facing a Kafkaesque kangaroo court is sufficient to impose silence.
Life for the academic truth-teller is often solitary and nasty. When cornered by censor-happy administrators, one must forget about one’s colleagues, even supposedly loyal friends, lest they too become suspected of Crimethink. The most minor infraction can mean decades of career-ending isolation. Who would want a heretic as research paper co-author or want to be seen at lunch with him? Yes, free-speech organizations might protect professors from the most egregious academic violations, but these are of little consolation if colleagues then freeze them out.
What is to be done to alleviate this isolation? Let me suggest the equivalent of a gay bar that would cater to academic truth-tellers regardless of ideological inclination. A safe space where those terrified to honestly express their views on campus could assemble with like-minded colleagues for good cheer and truthful conversation. The equivalent of when closeted gays prior to the current era created a place where they could just be themselves.
For those unfamiliar with that landscape, let me offer a thumbnail sketch based on conversations with homosexual friends. In the late 1950s the typical gay bar was non-descript, often with a dark glass front obscuring its true nature. The high-profile Stonewall “Pride” phenomenon was decades away. The few big city establishments were almost invisible to the public, especially those attracting well-known but totally closeted homosexuals. Peace was kept by police pay-offs and management-imposed decorum. Gay bars were an alternative universe for those genuinely needing an alternative universe.
Today, truth-loving academics resemble the queers of yesterday and, fortunately, today’s bar and restaurant industry offers the safe space for the ideologically “closeted.” It is easy for these food and booze emporiums to quietly add one more clientele to their long list of patrons. Nothing political; just making money.
A long tradition exists of commercial venues accommodating intellectuals. New York City has the White Horse Tavern and the Cedar Tavern, both known as “Bohemian” hangouts, though literati might favor the Thirsty Scholar. The European coffee houses of the 17th century provided agreeable forums for generations of like-minded scholars. We have an abundance of options before us—but absolutely off the list are Starbucks-like sites where mute zombies blindly stare at laptops.
These sanctuaries bereft of potentially incriminating paper trails, e-mails, or Facebook posts would undoubtedly allow beleaguered academics to find sanity in a crazy world. Free at last! It is not easy to quietly suffer at the lectern while an angry student explains that enslaved people of color built America and reparations must be paid immediately. To be sure, regaling one’s fellow patrons in the basement of Murphy’s Pub and Gin Mill (or a coffee house) with this sorrowful tale will not dissuade the student of her ignorance, but it outshines Prozac. And said fellow patrons would surely contribute their own stories (“If you think that’s foolish, let me tell you about the time…”). Where else can the exasperated enjoy necessary therapy for $20 or less? The AA meetings where attendees hear from others with similar tribulations free of charge is another parallel.
Foremost is the benefit of talking frankly about topics currently taboo on the campus. Suddenly liberated professors might want to discuss why women now excel in biology-related fields but still lag in physics and math, or why minorities in elite law schools disproportionately fall in the bottom half of their classes. Imagine the fun of being able to pronounce that 2+2=4 without having to worry that your “offensive” observation will require endless apologies and clarifications. After all, aren’t such free-wheeling and frank conversations the true joys of intellectual life?
Nor do those enjoying a few pints in a pub risk being cancelled or disrupted by the social justice crowd. Casey-the-barkeep is very different from the nervous campus dean who worries that any disruption will tarnish his reputation as a pliant functionary. In fact, Casey might even throw out any snowflakes who attempt to stir up trouble. Patrons need not fear that their meetings will be cancelled at the last-minute due to “security concerns.” If Murphy’s management worries about hosting a “controversial” group, re-locate elsewhere.
Our “gay bar” colleagues will be the strongest defense against the woke mob long accustomed to picking us off one by one. Professors by their nature are timid, and victims of woke tyranny are more likely to receive support from their weekly drinking buddies than their cautious colleagues. Recall the old joke that a friend in academic life is one who stabs you in the front.
These friends may help find legal assistance or convey successful tactics that have worked in similar situations. As in the military, one does not abandon one’s friends or run when the shooting starts. Those who refused to help would never show their faces at Murphy’s Pub and Gin Mill again. Of particular importance, group loyalty would trump political ideology, unlike in academic life where befriending one’s ideological enemies may be career-ending.
Finally, out of these little gatherings a mighty movement could grow. Thousands of bars served as de facto political clubhouses to propel the LGBT movement forward. Conceivably, a network of heretic-friendly establishments could develop for today’s war-weary academics, and those on campus could stand a bit taller knowing that they had the full support of their drinking buddies.