Woke Trophy Hunting

The woke mob’s attack on academic heretics can be likened to hunting. Most hunts attract scant attention, often no more than shooting squirrels with a .22. Blocking the reappointment of a visiting instructor at Smallville Community College who mis-gendered a student is an example of this low-level hunting. But of far greater consequence is what might be called “Big-Game Trophy Hunting.” Here the prey are the academic equivalent of elephants or elk, and these trophies will be prominently displayed as a warning to all others who refuse to obey.

As with big-game hunting in the wild, the academy has its own, though unwritten, rules for bagging big-time campus heretics.

First, the trophy must be associated with a top-tier institution—the more Ivy the better—and honored with notable prizes—such as an endowed chair—all the while being recognized by one’s professional colleagues as a star. Possums don’t count.

Second, the offense instigating the coup de grâce must appear inconsequential to non-academics. This is dog-whistle persecution. Firing a distinguished Yale professor for falsifying government-funded research is the equivalent of bagging an infant rhino. It’s barely noticeable and hardly worth paying the taxidermist. But not so where the hanging offense was asserting an obvious truth, albeit in language that mysteriously offended the ultra-thin-skinned Dean of Marginalized Communities. A big-game conviction is covered by the Wall Street Journal and countless internet sites. That’s the point—notoriety is the aim of these show trials. And nothing brings notoriety as much as violating some obscure, impenetrable element of today’s woke ideology. Punishing an obscure philosophy professor from a fly-over community college counts for zero. It’s a waste of time—nobody notices, so it never happened.

Finally, and most importantly for our purpose, the trophy must be secured with minimal personal risk. Cowardice is essential. Think of the luxury African safari that guarantees your safety no matter what. So, when you unload your large caliber AR-15 on a Cape buffalo and miss, and the beast charges you, don’t worry—nearby sharp-shooters will finish the job, and your trophy is secure.

In practice this means never attacking members of groups enjoying a justified reputation for violent retaliation. Similarly avoid those on the ideologically endangered species list, such as the transgendered or students explicitly protected by a government agency. Heed the commandment of the Church of the Woke—strike those who meekly shuffle off. What provost wants drumbeating, screaming feminists following his family into Costco?

Trigger Warning: What Follows May Offend

A preliminary scan of recent big-time academic trophies reveals a common trait. We are talking about Lawrence Summers, Joshua Katz, Ilya Shapiro, and, most recently, Amy Wax. All are Jewish, though I’ve been told that Katz converted to Christianity. All fit the above criteria—academic stars condemned for the most trivial offenses. Nothing they did or said even approximates a crime, yet they are being pursued as if they were serial child-murderers. And, in each instance, their cases have generated intense publicity, which, as we noted, is the whole point of these prosecutions. Moral of the story: nobody is safe.

[Related: “Indigenization Has Poisoned Mount Royal University’s Academic Environment”]

What makes Jews so tempting? The answer is simple. Yes, they will “fight back,” but in ways that do not put their prosecutors at personal risk. There will be carefully worded rejoinders and op-eds, but those responsible for sticking in the knife will still sleep soundly. Dear, dear, yet more verbiage on the sanctity of free speech and all the rest, but no angry mobs, death threats, or ruined careers. Wrongdoers may even advance academically for their “bravery” in defending against “haters” who dare label campus disruptors violent terrorists (as Professor Katz opined). How can a university presidency be denied to the hero who protected struggling black law students at Penn from discomfort?

The story here is an old one. Following the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews survived by their wits, a knack for obsequiousness and economically serving the powerful. Toughness and violent retribution were not on the survival menu, and justifiably so. Those who physically resisted were likely exterminated; meekness became a cultural trait. It was better to lend money or study the Torah than to master the martial arts. For millennia Jews fought with their brains, not weapons. It’s no wonder that in many cities, the distinctively dressed Hasidim are tempting targets for muggers.

Modern-day Israel, with its influx of grim-faced Russians and its victory in the Six-Day War, changed everything. This toughness as a cultural trait is seeping into the American Jewish community. On a trip to Israel, the comedian Jackie Mason said that he observed tough Jews for the first time. Having never observed such Jews before, he assumed them to be Mexicans.

Amy Wax’s GoFundMe campaign is not about raising money to hire thugs to whack her nemesis, Dean Ruger. Equally unlikely will be soliciting help from radical Jewish groups like Kahane Chai to harass her campus enemies (“No Justice, No Peace”), including thinly veiled threats of violence. In other words, it’s the same old story—Jews resort to intellectual brilliance, which, on today’s campus, counts for little.

But there is an alternative: promote fear. Make the administrators think twice before even thinking of sticking the knife in. Do what Israel does to its enemies and use the internet as a weapon. In particular, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has an elite unit—Unit 81—that specializes in cyber-attacks. Perhaps some retired members fresh from the war against Iran’s nuclear facilities can give Amy a hand, and being a lawyer, she can claim “plausible deniability.” What does a nice older Jewish lady like me know about such things? Ask my grandchildren.

So, one day the evil Dean Ruger discovers that all his family’s credit cards are no longer accepted. His email account and all social media accounts are likewise defunct. Worse, acting on a hunch, he checks his TIAA/CREEF account and discovers that his retirement fund no longer exists. And since most of his bills are on auto-pay, he begins receiving dunning notices that everything, including his home mortgage, is overdue, and that the repo man is about to pounce. To be sure, this will be eventually fixed, though it may take months and require borrowing from friends. In short, it will not be easy.

[Related: “Political Insanity on Campus”]

Universities may grasp what Israeli’s Arab neighbors have finally learned: Jews can talk a good game, but they can also destroy you. And, of the utmost importance, Israel is committed to defending Jews everywhere in the world—this mission may eventually include the academy.

This idea is not unusual. There are Jews today who remember when hundreds of brilliant German Jewish academics were fired for being Jewish despite being assimilated and desiring to remain in Germany. These elderly survivors will also recall how campus Nazis terrorized Jewish students while administrators appeased them by hiring non-Jews to fill vacated faculty positions. It’s not too hard to connect the dots between growing campus anti-Semitism (the BDS campaign) and firing Jewish professors for bogus reasons.

If Amy Wax is forced to leave Penn, either through termination or a buyout, who will replace her? Since she is already nearing the end of a distinguished career, and is financially well-off, nobody will care. More likely, the woke faculty and agitated students will demand that the wounds caused by Professor Wax be “healed” by a scholar who understands the pain she inflicted on her marginalized students, not to mention harsh words about black parenting. Who will replace her? I’ll be taking bets.


Image: Kaspars Grinvalds, Adobe Stock

Robert Weissberg

Robert Weissberg is a professor emeritus of political science at The University of Illinois-Urbana.

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