How to win friends and influence people
Amy Wax has written yet another op-ed in the nation’s largest circulation newspaper on the ever-popular theme of how conservative professors can’t get a hearing for their ideas. (Background here, here, here and here.)
This whole thing is turning into an almost Platonic ideal of a particularly beautiful right wing academic grift. The short con is very straightforward: write something “politically incorrect,” in which for example you point out that it’s now practically a crime to point out the self-evident superiority of white northern European civilization.
When the inevitable blowback comes from various lesser breeds without the law, write some more stuff about how the reaction from outraged SJW snowflakes just proves your initial point in spades.
This will get you a bunch of attention in the hothouse world of academia, an appearance or two on Tucker Carlson’s show, and maybe a few Federalist Society lectures at $1,500 a pop plus a nice dinner.
So far so easy.
The long con is a little trickier. The key is to have your institution get upset enough that it punishes you by taking away the most onerous parts of your job, while your various emoluments remain wholly intact. (Yay academic freedom!)
Wax’s punishment for speaking truth to progressive power has consisted in Penn’s law school no longer assigning her to teach the required first year civil procedure course. What this means is that she has maneuvered the administration into allowing her to jettison by far the most burdensome aspect of her job responsibilities, while enabling her to claim she is being victimized for expressing unorthodox views. (This is not just speculation on my part).
First year law school courses are generally very large, meaning you have to deal with lots of especially neurotic and needy students, and you have tons of grading to do at the end of the semester. Civil procedure in particular is a super boring course: tedious, very tedious –especially after you’ve taught it for the 33rd time.
On the other hand, teaching a seminar on Happy Days and the Bourgeois Virtues is a piece of cake: you have just a handful of like-minded students, who will be more than willing to let you ramble on about the book you’re putting together for Regnery on how back in the day we didn’t have no welfare state and everybody pulled his weight (appropriately footnoted of course).
In other words, you’ve greatly reduced your actual law school-related workload, freeing up even more time for Wingnut Welfare side projects, such as telling the world how you’re being oppressed by the cisgendered Man, just because you dared to tell everyone what everyone already knows without having to study it.
And check it out: because you teach at an especially fancy law school, you’re getting paid north of $300,000 a year to NOT deal with students, and to use your now even-more copious free time to write WSJ op-eds and Regnery books, to jet off to exotic locales where you can recount in exquisite and lucrative detail your metaphorical water boarding at the hands of the PC inquisition, and to spend lots of time on RWNJ TV and radio building your “platform” and “brand.”
Congratulations: you are now Ann Coulter, but with tenure.
As for the latest op-ed itself, what’s the Yiddish word for chutzpah again? Let’s review here: Wax got herself extracted from teaching Civ Pro because she went on Glenn Loury’s show and said this:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class [at Penn Law School], and rarely, rarely in the top half.”
The whole op-ed is in effect a complaint about how she doesn’t know what overall grades individual Penn students have because the big bad administration won’t tell her:
Somewhere deep in a file drawer, or on a computer server humming away in a basement, [ed: Clever. Very] are thousands upon thousands of numbers, with names and identities attached. They’re called grades. They represent an objective reality, which exists independent of what people want reality to be. They sit silently, completely indifferent to indignation, angry petitions, irritable gestures, teachers’ removal from classrooms—all the furor and clamor of institutional politics.
Those numbers are now solely within the control of the individual students who earn them and the educational institutions that generate them—powerful entities ruled by bureaucracies that serve as gatekeepers to privileged positions in our society. They are jealously guarded, protected by cloaks of confidentiality and secrecy. But they are what they are. Hiding facts is not the same as changing them.
I mean what do you even say about this?
Amy Wax is admitting she slandered all of Penn’s black law students over the past eighteen years — the time she’s been at Penn — by claiming to have significant negative information about them as a group that she did not in fact have.
(Not to mention that if a law professor’s paradigmatic example of “objective reality” consists of law school grades, she needs a better paradigm).
In his message explaining why he wasn’t going to assign Wax to teach Civil Procedure any more, Penn’s dean Ted Ruger said that Wax’s claims about the collective academic performance of Penn’s black students were false. But that’s actually irrelevant to the fact that Wax is admitting she didn’t know whether those claims were true or not, but she made them anyway, in a very public forum. She was, to use Harry Frankfurt’s technical term, bullshitting rather than lying, which, as Frankfurt implies, is probably a worse habit than flat-out dishonesty for academics in particular to self-indulge in, since it shows a complete indifference to the truth, rather a willingness to pursue it, even if only for the purpose of abusing it for instrumental ends.
Here’s a message I got yesterday from one of Wax’s students:
The snowflakes at Penn Law’s FedSoc held a symposium today. It included a panel with any wax and Fox News contributor Jason Riley on the topic of immigration.
Because they didn’t want hostile questions, Wax’s involvement wasn’t advertised in any of the symposium materials until day-of, and attendees had to show student IDs that clearly marked “LAW” to obtain admission (symposia at Penn are usually open to the public)
She spoke extensively about how our immigration laws “need some form of ‘America First’” and specifically lamented how the guardians of political correctness had made it unacceptable to say “America First.” She noted, however, that you could have a more productive discussion of these topics with “commentators on the internet.”
Seriously it was like a YouTube comment thread come to life.
I’m in her [omitted] class. There, she’s lucid and fairminded. It’s incredible watching her descend into total Neolithic Fox News junkie mode.
A final note: It would have been very easy for Wax to verify whether black students at Penn had graduated in the top quarter or the top half of the class in her time there, if she had actually bothered to do any research. This is such a crudely phrased question that merely consulting public information about individual students would have answered it readily enough. That she didn’t bother to do that, and instead made bullshit claims about her own students in order to garner yet more publicity-driven professional opportunities for herself (I’m using the word professional here in its oldest sense) is a disgrace.