A White Male Tired of Being “Blamed for Everything That’s Wrong in the World”

(p. A11)  You were angry when the head of BBC comedies recently said if they were doing Monty Python now it wouldn’t be “six white Oxbridge blokes.”

I wasn’t particularly angry, I just played angry. The idea is that we’re already excluded because the world has changed. I said, I’m tired of being, as a white male, blamed for everything that’s wrong in the world. So now I want you to call me Loretta. I’m a black lesbian in transition.   . . .

Could you get an irreverent film like “Life of Brian” made today?

I don’t know, but you have to try. I’m always pushing to see what we can get away with, to make people think rather than just reacting. That’s what Python was about, and we seem to be respected as the great old men of comedy. But to do what we were doing—now, yes, it would be a fight.

For the full interview, see:

Caryn James, interviewer.  “Terry Gilliam Yearns for the Old Days.”  The Wall Street Journal  (Tuesday, April 16, 2019): A11.

(Note:  ellipsis added; bold in original print version.)
(Note:  the online version of the interview has the date April 15, 2019, and has the title “Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam Wishes Comedy Hadn’t Changed.”  The bolded questions are asked by Caryn James.)

Boghossian May Be Punished for Exposing the “Faulty Epistemology” of Grievance Studies

(p. A15) A massive academic hoax has taken a surprising twist. Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy, faces disciplinary action at Oregon’s Portland State University. The accusations against him raise constitutional questions about federal regulation of academic research. They also implicitly acknowledge that the prank had a serious point.
Mr. Boghossian–along with two confederates, neither of whom has an academic affiliation–set out to expose shoddy scholarship in what they call “grievance studies.” They concocted 20 pseudonymous “academic papers,” complete with fake data, and submitted them to leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals in fields like “queer studies” and “fat studies.” The Journal’s Jillian Melchior discovered the deception last summer and broke the story in October, by which time seven of the phony papers had been accepted for publication and four published.
“It had to be done,” Mr. Boghossian tells me. “We saw what was happening in these fields, and we were horrified at the faulty epistemology that these people were using to credential themselves and teach others.” The effort drew praise from some well-known public intellectuals, including Richard Dawkins, Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker.
. . .
A hastily formed university committee recommended that Mr. Boghossian be investigated for “research misconduct”–that is, purposely fabricating data. That case would seem to be open and shut, but the investigation has stalled.
More serious are the sanctions against Mr. Boghossian announced Dec. 21 on behalf of Portland State’s Institutional Review Board for conducting research on “human subjects” without submitting his research protocol to the IRB for review as required by the federal National Research Act of 1974. The “human subjects” in question were the editors and peer-reviewers of the duped journals. Portland State ordered Mr. Boghossian to undergo “human subjects research training,” and its letter warns that “further actions may be required,” with no elaboration.
. . .
Philip Hamburger, a law professor at Columbia, argues that the National Research Act and the HHS’s regulations violate the First Amendment, infringing on scholars’ freedom of expression. Mr. Hamburger has likened IRB vetting procedures to the Star Chamber’s licensing of publications that prevailed in 17th-century England–which the Constitution’s drafters were eager not to replicate. “Licensing . . . prohibits generally, and then selectively permits what otherwise is forbidden,” Mr. Hamburger wrote in 2007.

For the full commentary, see:
Charlotte Allen. “A Hoax and Its ‘Human Subjects’; An Institutional Review Board disciplines an academic prankster. But is it constitutional?” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019): A15.
(Note: ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to last paragraph, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 28, 2019.)

Li Rui Stood Up to Mao and Xi

(p. A8) BEIJING — While alive, Li Rui was a decades-long headache for China’s ruling Communists — a former aide to Mao Zedong who became an obdurate, sharp-tongued critic of the party. And the controversy did not stop in death, even for his funeral.
Hundreds of people gathered in Beijing on Wednesday to say goodbye to Mr. Li, four days after his death at 101. But the funeral revealed tensions between the government, which wanted a brisk Communist ceremony, and mourners who celebrated Mr. Li as a renegade — one who, even as he lay dying, railed against the authoritarian policies of Xi Jinping, the party’s leader and China’s president.
. . .
A few paid tribute to Mr. Li by holding up handwritten signs, or by making brief speeches that praised him as a freethinker who had stood up to Mao — opposing the calamitous excesses of the Great Leap Forward — and pressed Mao’s successors to take China in a more liberal direction. Police officers and officials kept watch, and tried to keep foreign reporters from talking to mourners throughout the morning.
“He was someone who had the guts to speak up for the people,” said Sheng Lianqi, a retired worker in his 70s, who said he never met Mr. Li but admired his writings.
He held up a handwritten sign that read in part: “Li Rui’s name will live in eternity. The ordinary people have sharp eyes and clear minds.”
. . .
These days, the party restricts criticism of Mao. But Mr. Li seemed determined to have the last word. He donated many of his papers — including notebooks and letters from his decades in the party, and a diary he kept for more than 80 years — to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where scholars will eventually be able to study them, said his daughter, Ms. Li.

For the full obituary, see:
Chris Buckley. “A Red-Banner Funeral in Beijing for a Critic of the Party From Mao to Xi.” The New York Times (Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019): A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Feb. 20, 2019, and has the title “In Beijing, a Communist Funeral for an Inconvenient Critic.”)

“The Key Is Freedom”

(p. A17) . . . Ronald Reagan, in the last year of his presidency, delivered one of his most magnificent speeches . . . before a packed auditorium of students at Moscow State University.
. . .
Reagan’s ultimate aim was to plant the seed of freedom in the newly receptive furrows of a cracking totalitarianism.
. . .
Reagan delivered his Moscow speech standing before a gigantic scowling bust of Lenin and a mural of the Russian Revolution. He incorporated them as props in his address. “Standing here before a mural of your revolution,” he said, “I want to talk about a very different revolution,” a technological and “information revolution” that was transforming the world. How much progress had already been realized! But progress was not foreordained. “The key,” Reagan said, “is freedom–freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication.”

For the full commentary, see:
Roger Kimball. “‘When Reagan Met Lenin.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 31, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 30, 2018.)

North Sentinel Hunter-Gatherers Defecate on Anthropology

(p. A13) T.N. Pandit, an Indian anthropologist who visited North Sentinel several times between 1967 and 1991, said their hostility is simple: They want to be left alone.
“They are not wanting anything from you. We are coming to them,” he said. “They suspect that we have no good intentions. That’s why they are resisting.”
. . .
In the years since India won independence from the British, groups of anthropologists have tried to study them.
But no one has managed to get through. Several times, Mr. Pandit said, the Sentinelese have turned their backs on anthropologists and squatted down, as if they were defecating.

For the full story, see:
Kai Schultz, Hari Kumar and Jeffrey Gettleman. “‘Tribe That Killed American Has History of Guarding Island’s Isolation.” The New York Times (Friday, Nov. 23, 2018): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 22, 2018, and has the title “Sentinelese Tribe That Killed American Has a History of Guarding Its Isolation.”)

Tracking the Rosenbergs Was About Catching Spies, Not About Suppressing Dissent

(p. 18) In writing about the events and the back story surrounding the espionage case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Howard Blum, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, seems at first glance to be going over well-trod territory. But “In the Enemy’s House” is not a mere rehash. Instead, it is an account of the two men who were principally responsible for tracking down the Rosenbergs: Robert Lamphere, an F.B.I. counterintelligence agent, and Meredith Gardner, the most experienced and able code-breaker working for the United States government.
. . .
Blum’s book is especially valuable in rebutting the dwindling few who still believe the Rosenberg case was about the government seeking to curb the civil liberties of dissenters. Suppression of dissent, Blum demonstrates, was the furthest thing from the two men’s minds.

For the full review, see:
Ronald Radosh. “Catching the Rosenbergs.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, April 15, 2018): 18.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 10, 2018, and has the title “In This True-Life Spy Story, It’s America vs. Russia, the Early Years.”)

The book under review, is:
Blum, Howard. In the Enemy’s House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies. New York: Harper, 2018.

Chernobyl Was Due to “Bureaucratic Incompetence,” Not Due to Technology

(p. C6) Dr. Medvedev’s study of Lysenko was not approved for official publication in the Soviet Union, but samizdat, or clandestine, copies circulated among the intelligentsia. In 1969, the book was translated into English and published as “The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko.”
Dr. Medvedev was fired from his job at an agricultural research laboratory, and within a few months was summoned to a meeting with a psychiatrist, on the pretext of discussing the behavior of his teenage son. Instead, Dr. Medvedev was taken to a holding cell, where he managed to pick the lock and walk away.
Soon afterward, on May 29, 1970, as Dr. Medvedev recounted in his book “A Question of Madness,” he was confronted at his home by two psychiatrists accompanied by several police officers.
“‘If you refuse to talk to us,’ one of the psychiatrists told Dr. Medvedev, ‘then we will be obliged to draw the appropriate conclusions . . . And how do you feel yourself, Zhores Aleksandrovich?’
“I answered that I felt marvelous.
“‘But if you feel so marvelous, then why do you think we have turned up here today?’
“‘Obviously, you must answer that question yourself,’ I replied. “A police major arrived. “‘ And who on earth might you be?’ Dr. Medvedev asked. ‘I didn’t invite you here.’ ”
“He protested, to no avail, that the homes of Soviet citizens were considered private and inviolable to the forces of the state.
“‘Get to your feet!” the police major ordered Dr. Medvedev. ‘I order you to get to your feet!’ ”
Two lower-ranking officers, twisted Dr. Medvedev’s arms behind his back, forced him out of his house and into an ambulance. He was driven to a psychiatric hospital.
The preliminary diagnosis was “severe mental illness dangerous to the public,” and Dr. Medvedev was repeatedly warned to stop his “publicist activities.”
Meanwhile, his brother, Sakharov and other activists for greater openness in the Soviet system sent telegrams and published open letters calling for Dr. Medvedev’s release. One of his friends, the novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, then still living in the Soviet Union, condemned Dr. Medvedev’s detention with a bold and blistering statement.
“The incarceration of freethinking healthy people in madhouses is spiritual murder,” he said. “It is a fiendish and prolonged torture . . . These crimes will never be forgotten, and all those who take part in them will be condemned endlessly, while they live and after they’re dead.
“It is shortsighted to think that you can live constantly relying on force alone, constantly scorning the objections of conscience.”
Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for Literature later that year.
. . .
In 1990, Dr. Medvedev wrote an account of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, which he considered inevitable, with the Soviet Union’s history of scientific and bureaucratic incompetence.
“In the end, I was surprised at how poorly designed the reactor actually was,” he told the New York Times in 1990. “I wanted to write this book not only to show the real scale of this particular catastrophe, but also to demolish a few more secrets and deliberate misconceptions.”

For the full obituary, see:
SCHUDEL, Matt. “‘Scientist exposed agricultural fraud and Soviet incompetence.” The Washington Post (Sunday, Sept. 6, 2018): C6.
(Note: ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipses internal to paragraphs, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Sept. 4, 2018, and has the title “‘James Mirrlees, Whose Tax Model Earned a Nobel, Dies at 82.”)

The books by Zhores Medvedev that were mentioned above, are:
Medvedev, Zhores A. The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.
Medvedev, Zhores A., and Roy A. Medvedev. A Question of Madness: Repression by Psychiatry in the Soviet Union. London: Mcmillan London Ltd., 1971.
Medvedev, Zhores A. The Legacy of Chernobyl. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990.