Academia’s “Double Standards” Are an Illusion

These days, it’s increasingly common for conservatives, classical liberals, and centrists to point out the Left’s so-called “double standards.” The examples are endless: Black Lives Matter’s “fiery but mostly peaceful” protests were justified, while the Canadian trucker convoy was domestic terrorism. Feminists claim to uphold the dignity of women while encouraging promiscuity and allowing “trans” men to dominate their sporting events with ease. Progressives push for election “reforms,” which means allowing illegal immigrants to vote and blocking voter-ID laws. White nationalism is wrong, except if you’re Ukrainian. Oh, and don’t you dare mention any of the evidence demonstrating that COVID lockdowns, masks, and vaccines have been a massive flop. Why? Because we trust the science, of course.

The list goes on, and higher education is no different. Virtually every contentious issue facing the academy—including racial preferences in admissions and hiring, DEI and anti-racism initiatives, free speech and academic freedom, and Title IX adjudication—is laden with alleged leftist double standards. The incessant stream of apparent hypocrisy is met with an equally incessant stream of op-eds essentially saying the same thing: “Hey, that’s a double standard! Stop it!” At this point, it’s easy to churn out these sorts of articles, in large part because the Left’s stated contradictions have become so painfully obvious.

Now, to be sure, I have written my fair share of these articles. And I still believe that highlighting hypocrisy in higher education can be an important exercise. But I’ve become increasingly convinced that this genre of article is practically ineffective and usually misses the heart of the issue: namely, that most of the apparent “double standards” aren’t real. They are an illusion built upon the false premise that we all have a shared set of standards. In reality, the academic Left’s behavior is perfectly consistent with its true standard: gain power, crush resistance, and destroy the West by any means necessary.

Let’s start with practical effectiveness. What are double-standard exposés supposed to achieve, and are they successful? Surely, some are simply meant to add to the running catalog of progressive academic malfeasance—in that, many succeed ably. But what about changing hearts and minds and proposing realistic solutions? That’s where the majority of such pieces fall short. For starters, there’s the problem of visibility. Most serious critiques of the academic Left will only be published by right-of-center outlets. And who are the people who do not frequent such outlets? The very progressives who need to be reading these articles most. Indeed, in many exposés, critics of the Left merely preach to the choir, recycling familiar talking points for readers that already agree with them. The chances that a true believer will stumble upon one of these articles and actually read it are slim to none. (The irony is not lost on me that, to the extent that Minding the Campus is a “right-of-center outlet,” I may be committing this error right now. But this piece is primarily directed toward aspiring critics of the academic Left, not toward the education establishment itself, so I see this as inside baseball.)

What’s more, there seems to be a general reluctance to put forward creative, actionable solutions to the problems we perceive. Okay, so we’ve established that the academic Left is up to no good and that it is apparently hypocritical. What are we going to do about it? Many observers spend nearly all of their writing detailing the problem, with a half-hearted nod toward potential solutions relegated to the last few sentences. Again, this is not an issue if the purpose of the piece is merely to document a problem (such as the article you’re reading right now). But when tangible solutions are treated as an afterthought, then they will become an afterthought. We continually find ourselves two steps behind the progressives: they do something bad, we critique it, they do something bad, we critique it, and so on. It’s high time we stopped playing chase and started doing something positive in response.

[Related: “Columbia’s Crumbling Core”]

Now, let’s get back to these alleged “double standards.” The problem here is that many falsely assume that we all agree on the same standards. When radical leftists claim that they have the same standards as everyone else, their critics believe them. “We all agree on the ends,” many seem to believe, “we simply disagree on the means.” This is manifestly false.

Let’s take racial preferences in admissions as a timely example. The academic Left clearly favors blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and other “BIPOC” groups over whites and Asians. It claims that these preferences are part of its fight against American racism (usually of the systemic/structural/institutional variety). “But wait,” many conservative critics reply, “that’s a double standard! You claim to be against racism, and yet you use racist practices to fight it. Also, shouldn’t Asians be included as a BIPOC group deserving of preferences?”

There’s a kernel of truth in this critique—it would highlight a double standard if we actually believe that the academic Left is concerned with fighting racism. But are we really so naive as to believe this? It seems much more apparent that the Left seeks to destroy the West, not “combat systemic racism.” And what is the primary ethnic group that stands in the way of this? Whites, of course. Meritocracy is another major obstacle to taking down Western culture, so Asians, who are even more successful than whites by some metrics, are thrown in as well. This explains the Left’s actions far better than so-called “anti-racism,” both in theory and in practice.

It’s also important to realize that leftism thrives on blatant contradictions and apparent double standards. By forcing people to repeat glaring falsehoods, the Left breaks down their will and seizes power over the minds. I learned this crucial idea from Theodore Dalrymple, who wrote the following in a 2005 interview for FrontPageMag:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

If we actually believe that the academic Left are Marxists (many readily admit this), we shouldn’t be surprised when they use Marxist tactics. For the Left, lies, contradictions, and double standards are baked into the cake. They are features, not bugs. Yes, we ought to expose evil wherever we find it, but let’s not pretend that the Left is pursuing the good.

[Related: “Is Violence the Secret Sauce?”]

I’ll leave you with an image from 1984 that describes the academic Left perfectly. (I know that quoting Orwell is cliché these days, but I couldn’t resist.)

There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever [emphasis added].

This is the Left’s vision for the future. Its leaders realize this—their lackeys who truly believe they’re pursuing justice are just useful idiots. So let’s not pretend that leftist “double standards” are real and worth so much of our time. They’re an illusion meant to distract and humiliate. Lying boot-stampers will continue to lie and boot-stamp. We should document their evil, to be sure, but we must also devote far more energy and resources to building positive solutions devoted to truth, goodness, and beauty. These will endure. The Left’s pseudo-virtuous mirage will not.


Image: nick jenkins, Public Domain

David Acevedo

David Acevedo is Managing Editor of Minding the Campus and Communications & Research Associate at the National Association of Scholars.

11 thoughts on “Academia’s “Double Standards” Are an Illusion

  1. “The Left seeks to destroy the West.” Yes, David, you are right. It has largely succeeded in its goal. Which of our institutions are not almost entirely destroyed? Schools and universities are now occupied primarily in indoctrinating Marxist analyses and goals. A recent step in that direction is forcing everyone to accept the biological falsehood that you can change sex; once you believe that, you will believe anything. Medicine and public health disregard science for impositions of statist control. Law schools are Marxist training grounds. STEM is increasingly compromised. The legacy and mass media all pump out Marxist propaganda non-stop. Social media work hand in hand with the security state silencing diversity of opinion. All that is left of democracy are some state elected officials, and some courts that stubbornly cling to applying the law. But Western culture has been cancelled and erased by the likes of the feminists and race and sex activists who control education and media.

  2. It is ironic that, in decrying the ‘double standard’ of the Left, in respect of voting rights, you remind us that in the real world, where voting restriction is all the rage, it is the double standards of the Right that hold sway. Justifying the Supreme Court’s (5-4 majority) decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice Roberts made reference to “eradicated practices”, but we both know that neither “the tests and devices that blocked ballot access” for certain groups of eligible voters, nor the urge to impose new ones, had disappeared. Of course, the Court now leans so far Right it may soon topple over, and the mission to unpick the entire Act has gained momentum, with a series of consequential voting rights decisions underpinned by ‘opinions’ which barely rise to the level of risible. It is almost as if the Conservative majority cannot be bothered to explain rulings which, in the words of Justice Ginsburg, pertain to “… the most constitutionally invid­ious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system…” . Complaints about double standards which give off the whiff of a double standard are ill-advised, and may arouse the suspicion that the author is acting in bad faith.

    This is not to suggest that I disagree with the thrust of your article. It is plainly true that many persons claiming to be dedicated to ‘social justice’ are engaged in vilifying others for the purposes of display and acclamation, from which they derive a perverse pleasure, or, in some cases, career advancement. The veil of concern for the socially disadvantaged and the excluded does not hide the fact that they are totally indifferent to the general welfare and absolutely uninterested in establishing what we might call meaningful intersubjective relations. So far, so bad… but as you point out, it is not even close to being the whole story.

    The current ‘social justice’ rubric did not appear from nowhere, and it has taken hold in our complex societies in an interesting way – that is, technically speaking, as a form of exorcism. It turns out that our sophisticated and enlightened world is highly susceptible to the idea of systemic evil, and to the concomitant rapid spread of an objectifying attitude to the social world, which invites us to seek out and destroy the ‘instruments of malice’. Out, Demons, out! The instruments of malice, and the social structures to which they gave rise, and which in turn give rise to them, are everywhere, and must everywhere be replaced. The War on Everything. How very Maoist – and not really a secret agenda when a super-educated nincompoop like Dan-el Padilla Peralta can step forward at a Princeton freshman orientation to denounce Princeton, to share his dream of tearing it down and building a better one (with the assistance of the student body), and to encourage self-loathing in the meantime.

    All of this has generated a mighty bandwagon effect, capturing many minds, and a growing number of our institutions, and as a basis for driving a root and branch remodelling of society its only competition is the green movement, which is practically moribund by comparison. Those seeking revolutionary change are really onto something. They must be overjoyed that the former guardians of our institutions, particularly within education, but in many other places, now joining the quest for ‘social justice’, are either too stupid to recognise the destructive consequences, and the profound lack of realistic goals, or too cynical to give a damn. It really is “high time we stopped playing chase and started doing something positive in response” – or, if one prefers, High Noon. To purloin a different image, if you have ideas on how to counter the spread of the virus effectively, without killing the patient, I suspect many people are dying to hear them.

    1. All of the hysterical complaints about “voter suppression” are refuted by the ever large numbers of voters in elections, not least members of minorities.

      1. Did that sound hysterical to you? I sympathise. Your ear must be excruciatingly sensitive. Given that the population of the US has more than doubled since the year of my birth (1953), corresponding growth in voter numbers in all groups is only to be expected, and does not provide the refutation you seek.

    2. I appreciate the comment, but would look to the extra-constitutional revision of state voting law and procedure wrongly justified by COVID pandemic emergency as the primary erosion of vote security. Add to that the “wrong” count of the 2020 census which all leaned in one direction, and you have a better image of what’s being done to “secure” not the vote but the victory. State voting procedures and limits constitutionally granted to state legislatures alone, were unconstitutionally ignored or altered by executive and judicial power in states with the right people in the right places.

      Hooray for us, we “won” the 2020 election and put in place. . . put in place. .. what? Put in place the current disaster.

      And to intention, it has long been clear that the elimination of the fossil fuel industry has been a primary goal for the American left. Various justifications have been used, but clearly everyone knew that $10.00/gallon gasoline was going to be the only way to rid America of those evil oil companies and switch to renewable energy sources. This again, is intentional, not accidental. And the behind closed door response? Stalin’s ‘you gotta break a few eggs to get to the new order.’ Yep. Just so those eggs are yours, not ours.

  3. Reality is that there are two sets of rules – one for us and another for them.

    We need to make the public aware of this.

  4. I spent 43 years in English classrooms fighting against the Left. The longer I taught the more of them there were and the further Left they were. They are not hypocrites. They believe in power and their ignorance is invincible. They are afraid of each other because they know wavering from crushing American culture can get them punished: lowered grades, poorer grad schools, lower jobs, no tenure, no publications, fewer perks…
    I have about 400 letters from students thanking me for fighting for them. But what are they compared to the millions who have been captured and put in Progressive chains? Was I wrong to make the attempt, Mr. Acevedo?

    1. I certainly don’t think you were wrong to make the attempt—in fact I commend you for it. I think we ought to reach out to those on the Left and try to rescue whomever we can. The issue I describe in this piece is rather that of pretending that leftists have good motives and just get it wrong, that they agree on the ends and just disagree on the means. The past few years should have destroyed this idea once and for all, but many conservatives seem to cling to it for dear life. It’s great to hear about those 400 letters—not a bad yield given the state of affairs.

  5. “What’s more, there seems to be a general reluctance to put forward creative, actionable solutions to the problems we perceive. Okay, so we’ve established that the academic Left is up to no good and that it is apparently hypocritical. What are we going to do about it? Many observers spend nearly all of their writing detailing the problem, with a half-hearted nod toward potential solutions relegated to the last few sentences. Again, this is not an issue if the purpose of the piece is merely to document a problem (such as the article you’re reading right now). But when tangible solutions are treated as an afterthought, then they will become an afterthought. We continually find ourselves two steps behind the progressives: they do something bad, we critique it, they do something bad, we critique it, and so on. It’s high time we stopped playing chase and started doing something positive in response.”

    Totally down with this.
    Do you have a follow-up piece in the works?
    That “afterthought” clock is ticking.

    1. You’re right, the clock is ticking. I do have a few follow ups in mind, in which I would weigh the pros and cons of various alternatives that people have proposed (new institutions, online courses, trying to salvage legacy higher ed, etc.) I will flesh these out when time permits—I certainly don’t want to become the problem I’m describing!

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