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The Watchlist



As Brockington mentioned earlier, I was placed on the Professor Watch List, a rather lame but not unserious attempt by right-wingers to intimidate supposedly leftist professors in the age of Trump.

On the face of it, this list is stupid. It has a bunch of people on it who are not even radicals, but rather are people who talk about politics in the public sphere. It is full of falsehoods and half-truths about professors. It claims that it is out there to stop commie professors from suppressing free speech in the classroom, and yet includes me because of my history with the NRA, an issue that had nothing to do with the classroom or the university and was about me expressing my own free speech rights.

I was talking to my wife about this and she was perplexed by the whole thing because there are so many lies in how they describe these professors. But if we know anything at all from 2016, it’s that truth and facts don’t matter. As we have seen from the fake news phenomenon, there are millions of people out there who are more than happy to believe anything they read about people they already see as enemies. And here lies the very real danger. It’s hardly surprising that the right would want to institute a blacklist for the modern era. This is an early attempt to create a rough draft of those who would be on that list. There is real money behind it, as the kid putting it together is making a cool $2 million a year from the conservative funding network. You’d think for that money they could alphabetize properly.

Of course, as we are finding with the rise of actual Nazi sympathizers and open racists into the highest reaches of government with the actual cheering of the Ku Klux Klan, it can happen here. And it is happening here. Ignoring such attacks is not useful because they are going to come fast and furious over at least the next four years. Some of those will probably be against me. So I have to prepare for the possibility federal pressure to eliminate leftist professors as part of the broader attack on human rights like we saw during and after World War I. It has happened before and it may well happen again.

Friends of mine on Twitter and Facebook had a variety of responses to the Watchlist. Some were genuinely fearful. This is not the right answer. Fear is what they want. They want to intimidate faculty into not speaking the truth, however one defines it. Rather, we have to see everything thing they do, to immigrants, to African-Americans, to unions, to dissenters, to faculty, as part of a very real attack. It’s either acquiesce or fight. Now, there are many ways to fight. One of the best ways to fight something like this is an overwhelming response to shame and embarrass the jerks putting it together. That’s been a great thing about this. Because since the right now is totally cool with cuddling with Nazis, you can do things like this and be relevant.



But while all of this has gotten me a few congratulations from colleagues and students, it’s still a very real threat. Over the years, a lot of people like to easily say that they would have stood up and fought the Nazis. Or the Stalinists. Or whatever oppressive regime where we don’t understand how a population could have let bad people take over. But this is how it happens. It’s not overnight until it is. It’s a slow creep, day by day, action by action. It has advanced enormously in 2016. Very bad people are taking power. They have no intention on ever giving up power again if they can help it. It’s now when we have to stand up, as well as when, after a terrorist attack from a Muslim, the Sessions Department of Justice orders concentration camps for American Muslims. This stupid watchlist is very much part of this larger fight.

So the question I would pose to you all is what you are going to do to fight rising fascism. We can’t all do everything. But we can work with the organizations we already work with to turn them into anti-fascist organizations ready to fight for all who are oppressed by this regime. I have doubled down on work in my own union over the past two weeks to prepare for this. I gave a talk to our school’s graduate student union to encourage them to see their union as the front line in fighting the oppression their members will face, both with the likely decline of union rights and the fact that so many of their members are here on visas from Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American nations. I played a very small role in facilitating a 1000 person meeting in Providence the Saturday after the election of people desperate for something to do. And of course I’ve been writing. None of this turns me into a great leader, but it’s trying to prepare for the attacks to come by using whatever limited skills I have. And we all have some skills to bring to the table. This is why I am frustrated by the left-liberal screaming on Twitter about the election and its meanings, which always happens to reinforce whatever take the writer already had before November 8. This is why I am equally contemptuous of Class Not Race people and Every Trump Voter is a Racist so Let’s Denigrate Actual Economic Anxiety people. Because none of this helps us face the facts that we are going to be dealing with starting on January 20, 2017.

If something happens to me or my job during this administration, I am at least going to know that I did whatever I could to fight this. I urge all of you to do the same. Even if it starts by insulting and trolling those trying to create the new blacklist.

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