“The Concept of Microaggressions” Is “Subjective by Nature”

(p. 25) Scott Lilienfeld, an expert in personality disorders who repeatedly disturbed the order in his own field, questioning the science behind many of psychology’s conceits, popular therapies and prized tools, died on Sept. 30 [2020] at his home in Atlanta.

. . .

He . . . received blowback when he touched a nerve. In 2017, he published a critique of the scientific basis for microaggressions, described as subtle and often unwitting snubs of marginalized groups. (For instance, a white teacher might say to a student of color, “My, this essay is so articulate!”) Dr. Lilienfeld argued that the concept of microaggressions was subjective by nature, difficult to define precisely, and did not take into account the motives of the presumed offender, or the perceptions of the purported victim. What one recipient of the feedback might consider injustice, another might regard as a compliment.

The nasty mail rolled in, from many corners of academia, Dr. Lilienfeld told colleagues.

“There was no one like him in this field,” said Steven Jay Lynn, a psychology professor at Binghamton and a longtime collaborator. “He just had this abiding faith that science could better us, better humankind; he saw his championing as an opportunity to make a difference in the world. He enjoyed stepping into controversial areas, it’s true, but the motives were positive.”

For the full obituary, see:

Benedict Carey. “Scott Lilienfeld, 59, Psychologist Who Questioned Science of Psychology, Dies.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, October 18, 2020): 25.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Oct. 16, 2018, and has the title “Scott Lilienfeld, Psychologist Who Questioned Psychology, Dies at 59.”)

Cancel Culture Seeks to Silence the Heterodox

(p. A23) Christopher Hitchens was one of the great essayists in America. He would be unemployable today because there was no set of priors he wasn’t willing to offend.

Now the boundaries of exclusion are shifting again. What we erroneously call “cancel culture” is an attempt to shift the boundaries of the sayable so it excludes not only conservatives but liberals and the heterodox as well. Hence the attacks on, say, Steven Pinker and Andrew Sullivan.

This is not just an elite or rare phenomenon. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they are afraid to share things they believe, according to a poll for the Cato Institute. A majority of staunch progressives say they feel free to share their political views, but majorities of liberals, moderates and conservatives are afraid to.

Happily, there’s a growing rebellion against groupthink and exclusion. A Politico poll found that 49 percent of Americans say the cancel culture has a negative impact on society and only 27 say it has a positive impact.   . . .

After being pushed out from New York magazine, Sullivan established his own newsletter, The Weekly Dish, on Substack, a platform that makes it easy for readers to pay writers for their work. He now has 60,000 subscribers, instantly making his venture financially viable.

Other heterodox writers are already on Substack. Matt Taibbi and Judd Legum are iconoclastic left-wing writers with large subscriber bases. The Dispatch is a conservative publication featuring Jonah Goldberg, David French and Stephen F. Hayes, superb writers but too critical of Trump for the orthodox right. The Dispatch is reportedly making about $2 million a year on Substack.

The first good thing about Substack is there’s no canceling.

For the full commentary, see:

David Brooks. “The Future of Nonconformity.” The New York Times (Friday, July 24, 2020): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 23, 2018, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Slavery Without Private Property”

(p. B11) Yuri Orlov, a Soviet physicist and disillusioned former Communist who publicly held Moscow accountable for failing to protect the rights of dissidents and was imprisoned and exiled for his own apostasy, died on Sunday [September 27, 2020] at his home in Ithaca, N.Y.

. . .

A credulous Communist Party member since college, Professor Orlov began having doubts about the party based on a growing foreboding under Stalin over what he later described as “slavery without private property.” He was further alienated by the subsequent Soviet repression of civil liberties movements in Hungary and what he called the “savage suppressions of workers’ unrest” in Czechoslovakia.

. . .

In 1956, after publicly advocating democratic socialism, Professor Orlov was fired as a research physicist at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics and expelled from the Communist Party. In 1973, in a letter to Leonid Brezhnev, the general secretary of the party, he denounced the stultifying effect of repression on scientific research and presciently proposed “glasnost,” or openness, long before that word was in common use.

. . .

Professor Orlov was arrested in 1977 and, after a show trial, sentenced to seven years in a labor camp, followed by five years in Siberian exile, for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Yuri Orlov, Dissident Of Soviet Union Sent Into Exile, Dies at 96.” The New York Times (Friday, October 2, 2020): B11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Oct. 1, 2020, and has the title “Yuri Orlov, Bold Champion of Soviet Dissidents, Dies at 96.”)

Chinese Communists Try to Intimidate U.S. Universities

(p. A1) The effect of the new national-security law that China imposed on Hong Kong is extending far beyond the territory to American college campuses.

Classes at some elite universities will carry a warning label this fall: This course may cover material considered politically sensitive by China. And schools are weighing measures to try to shield students and faculty from prosecution by Chinese authorities.

. . .

(p. A6) “We cannot self-censor,” said Rory Truex, an assistant professor who teaches Chinese politics at Princeton. “If we, as a Chinese teaching community, out of fear stop teaching things like Tiananmen or Xinjiang or whatever sensitive topic the Chinese government doesn’t want us talking about, if we cave, then we’ve lost.”

. . .

Concerns about China’s influence on academics around the world have grown over the past two decades, as some educational institutions set up campuses in China and many increasingly rely on fees paid by Chinese students, who account for more foreign students in the U.S. than any other country.

There are indications that Chinese students in the U.S. could fall afoul of Chinese laws. A University of Minnesota student was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after returning home to the Chinese city of Wuhan last year. He was convicted of “provocation” for tweets he wrote while studying in the U.S. that allegedly mocked Chinese leaders.

For the full story, see:

Lucy Craymer. “Hong Kong Law Makes Top U.S. Colleges Wary.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, August 20, 2020): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 19, 2020, and has the title “China’s National-Security Law Reaches Into Harvard, Princeton Classrooms.”)

Founder of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Newspaper: “We Will Persevere”

(p. A12) HONG KONG — After more than 200 police officers raided the newsroom of Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, a staff reporter messaged the editor in chief with a question: Should I still go to work?

“You decide,” the top editor, Ryan Law, replied. “This is the biggest news story in the world.”

The reporter hurried to the office. The Monday [Aug. 10, 2020] raid led reporters and editors to produce livestreams and more than two dozen articles that day about the police sweep. They detailed the arrest of the newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, analyzed the legal implications of the crackdown, and covered the international outrage that it triggered.

“Apple will definitely keep fighting,” screamed a bold red banner headline in Tuesday’s edition.

. . .

On Wednesday [Aug. 12, 2020], Apple Daily staff took a brief moment to celebrate the return of Mr. Lai, their embattled owner, after he was released on bail.

Mr. Lai, who had been marched through his newspaper in handcuffs while police officers carried out the search on Monday [Aug. 10, 2020], was given a hero’s welcome. He bowed and waved as employees applauded and handed him a bouquet of flowers. Cheung Kim-hung, the Next Digital chief executive who had also been arrested, gave him a hug.

“We will persevere and just keep going,” Mr. Lai told the team.

For the full story, see:

Tiffany May and Austin Ramzy. “‘We Will Persevere’: A Newspaper Faces the Weight of a Crackdown.” The New York Times (Thursday, August 13, 2020): A12.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 12, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Mainland Communists Capture Speedboat Taking Hong Kong Activists to Freedom in Taiwan

(p. A13) HONG KONG — Chinese authorities have detained a dozen activists from Hong Kong who were attempting to leave the territory via speedboat, according to people familiar with the attempt and the individuals captured, as Beijing intensifies a campaign to seek out protest leaders and others resisting the Communist Party’s tightening grip.

At least one of the people on board the boat, seized on Sunday [Aug. 23, 2020] by the Chinese Coast Guard, was an activist who was being investigated under the city’s new national security law, said one of the people familiar with the capture.

The group was apparently trying to flee to Taiwan, said a second person familiar with the episode. More than 200 Hong Kong protesters and activists have sought refuge in Taiwan over the past year. The detentions on Sunday were the first confirmed case of such activists being caught by the Chinese authorities at sea.

For the full story, see:

Austin Ramzy and Elaine Yu. “China Captures Speedboat Ferrying Hong Kong Dissidents to Taiwan.” The New York Times (Saturday, August 29, 2020): A13.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 28, 2020, and has the title “China Captures Hong Kong Activists Fleeing to Taiwan by Sea.”)

The Case for Canceling “Yale,” and Renaming it “Dummer University”

(p. A5) I see that #CancelYale is trending on Twitter and elsewhere in social media. It’s a development I’d like to encourage—not, to be frank, because I think that canceling things is a good idea. Quite the opposite. But if the Left is going to pursue its dream of destroying every reminder of our past it doesn’t like, and if woke institutions like Yale, bloated with too much money and far too much self-regard, are going to betray their raison d’être and join in the effort to control the present by destroying the past, then I think an example should be made of corrupt institutions like Yale and craven leaders like Peter Salovey, the university’s president.

Besides, if the Left can deface or destroy statues of George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and countless others, shouldn’t we insist that they live up to their own ideals and cancel racially tainted liberal institutions like Yale?

A few years ago, Yale, in a fit of woke panic, decided to change the name of Calhoun College—named for John C. Calhoun, Yale graduate and valedictorian—because his position on slavery was not consonant with the position today advocated by Yale.

. . .

President Salovey’s letter announcing that Calhoun College would be renamed argues that “unlike . . . Elihu Yale, who made a gift that supported the founding of our university, . . . Calhoun has no similarly strong association with our campus.” What can that mean? Calhoun graduated valedictorian from Yale College in 1804. Is that not a “strong association”? . . .

As far as I have been able to determine, Elihu Yale never set foot in New Haven. His benefaction of some books and goods worth £800 helped found Yale College, not Yale University. And whereas the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica praises Calhoun for his “just and kind” treatment of slaves and the “stainless integrity” of his character, Elihu Yale had slaves flogged, hanged a stable boy for stealing a horse, and was eventually removed from his post in India for corruption. In Calhoun’s day, although one could own slaves, participating in the international slave trade was a capital crime. Yale, as an administrator in India, was deeply involved in the slave trade. He always made sure that ships leaving his jurisdiction for Europe carried at least 10 slaves. Is all that not “fundamentally at odds” with the mission of Peter Salovey’s Yale?

. . .

But if the institution currently known as Yale wants to capitalize on its colonial origins, how about naming the university a%er Jeremiah Dummer, the Harvard chap who induced Elihu Yale to make his benefaction in the first place. Shouldn’t he, and not the slaver Yale, have the honor of having a (once) great university named after him? To ask the question is to answer it.

By all means, cancel Yale. Remove the horrid name from clothing and other merchandise. But replace it with a more honorable name: Dummer. Dummer University. The Dummer School of Law. The Dummer School of Art. A Dummer degree.

For the full commentary, see:

Kimball, Roger. “Rename Yale Now.” The New York Times (Thursday, July 2, 2020): A5.

(Note: ellipses internal to paragraphs, in original; other ellipses, added.)

(Note: Roger Kimball’s commentary appeared as a full-page ad sponsored by the Center for American Greatness. I have searched for the ad on nytimes.com and did not find it. )

Universities Are No Longer Bastions of Free Speech

(p. C2) The problem of free speech takes different forms in different settings. Speech controversies on college campuses affect relatively few Americans, but they receive a great deal of attention, since colleges have traditionally been centers of open debate. Students once jealously guarded their speech rights. The Free Speech Movement, the first great student protest of the 1960s, erupted at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, when a former student was arrested by a campus police officer for leafleting on behalf of the civil rights organization CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. At the height of the protest, up to 4,000 students demonstrated in favor of free speech on campus, and 800 went to jail.

To see how much things have changed, look at the case of Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, which the Supreme Court recently agreed to take up. The case deals with a 2016 incident in which a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, a public college in Lawrenceville, Ga., was disciplined for making a public speech testifying to his Christian faith. Ironically, Chike Uzuegbunam was standing in one of the school’s designated “free speech zones” when a campus police officer told him that the school had received complaints and he had to stop speaking.

In a 2017 brief arguing for dismissal of the case, Georgia’s attorney general argued that the officer was justified because Mr. Uzuegbunam “used contentious religious language that, when directed to a crowd, has a tendency to incite hostility.”

. . .

. . ., when people are told that they can’t say what they think, rather than being presented with an argument for why it’s wrong, they may comply, but they won’t change their minds. As the philosopher Benedict Spinoza wrote in the 17th century, when religious opinions were the ones being censored, people “are most prone to resent the branding as criminal of opinions which they believe to be true…In a democracy, everyone submits to the control of authority over his actions, but not over his judgment and reason.”

For the full commentary, see:

Adam Kirsch. “Land of Free (and Fettered) Speech.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, September 5, 2020): C1-C2.

(Note: ellipses between, and at the start of, paragraphs added; ellipsis internal to the last paragraph in original added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sep. 4, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Harvard Administrators “Allow Themselves to Be Bullied”

(p. A23) In May [2019], Harvard College announced that it would not renew the appointment of me and my wife, Stephanie Robinson, as faculty deans of Winthrop House, one of Harvard’s undergraduate residential houses, because I am one of the lawyers who represented the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in advance of his coming sexual assault trial.

. . .

. . ., the administration capitulated to protesters. Given that universities are supposed to be places of considered and civil discourse, where people are forced to wrestle with difficult, controversial and unfamiliar ideas, this is disappointing.

Harvard has been silent in other disappointing ways. Not long ago, I was taking my 9-year-old son to school when we saw that “Down with Sullivan” had been spray-painted on the wall abutting our home. I had to explain to my son that representing unpopular clients serves an important constitutional role in our democracy and that I had done nothing wrong. As you might imagine, it was hard to see my son read that piece of graffiti.

. . .

. . . I am profoundly troubled by the reaction of university administrators who are in charge of student growth and development. The job of a teacher is to help students think through what constitutes a reasonable argument. It is a dereliction of duty for administrators to allow themselves to be bullied into unprincipled positions.

Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.

This must change. Until then, universities are doing a profound disservice to those who place their trust in us to educate them.

For the full commentary, see:

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. “Harvard Capitulates Instead of Debates.” The New York Times (Tuesday, June 25, 2019): A23.

(Note ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 24, 2019, and has the title “Why Harvard Was Wrong to Make Me Step Down.” The online version says that the New York print version appeared on p. A25. The article appeared on p. A23 of my National print version.)

Disney’s Mulan Movie Credits Chinese Communists Who Force Uighur Muslims Into Prison Camps

(p. A10) Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” has drawn a fresh wave of criticism for being filmed partly in Xinjiang, the region in China where Uighur Muslims have been detained in mass internment camps.

The outcry, which has spread to include U.S. lawmakers, was the latest example of how the new film, released on Disney+ over the weekend, has become a magnet for anger over the Chinese Communist Party’s policies promoting nationalism and ethnic Han chauvinism.

. . .

The film was already coming under fire months ago, facing calls for a boycott by supporters of the Hong Kong antigovernment protests after the movie’s star, Liu Yifei, said she backed the city’s police, who have been criticized for their use of force against pro-democracy demonstrators.

Last month, as Disney ramped up promotion for the new film, supporters of the Hong Kong protests anointed Agnes Chow, a prominent democracy activist who was recently arrested under the territory’s new national security law, as their own, “real” Mulan.

Rayhan Asat, an ethnic Uighur lawyer in Washington whose younger brother, Ekpar Asat, has been imprisoned in Xinjiang, said in an interview that Disney giving credit to Xinjiang government agencies “runs counter to the ideals of those in the artistic, business and entertainment communities.”

“Devastatingly, Disney’s support amounts to collaboration and enables repression,” she added. “Those who claim to champion freedom in the world cannot afford to ignore such complicity.”

. . .

Last year, Mr. Pence criticized American companies for trying to silence speech in order to maintain access to the Chinese market. He accused Nike of checking its “conscience at the door” and owners and players in the N.B.A. of “siding with the Chinese Communist Party” by suppressing support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

In July [2020], an ESPN investigation described reports of abuse of young players at the National Basketball Association’s player-development training camps in China, including in Xinjiang. After the investigation was published, the N.B.A. acknowledged for the first time that it had ended its relationship with the Xinjiang academy more than a year earlier, but declined to say whether human rights had been a factor.

On Monday, calls to boycott “Mulan” began growing on social media. Among the critics was Joshua Wong, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, who accused Disney of bowing to pressure from Beijing. Supporters in Thailand and Taiwan had also urged a boycott of the movie, citing concerns about China’s growing influence in the region.

For the full story, see:

Amy Qin and Edward Wong. “Calls Grow to Boycott ‘Mulan’ Over China’s Treatment of Uighur Muslims.” The New York Times (Wednesday, September 9, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 8, 2020, and has the title “Why Calls to Boycott ‘Mulan’ Over Concerns About China Are Growing.” Where the online and print versions differ, the passages above follow the print version.)

“She Is Very Brave and Dedicated”

(p. A10) MOSCOW — Maria Kolesnikova, a prominent opposition leader in Belarus who vanished on Monday [Sept. 7, 2020] in what her supporters said was a kidnapping by security agents, reappeared overnight at her country’s southern border with Ukraine.

But an elaborate operation aimed at forcing her to leave Belarus came unstuck, according to opposition activists who were at the border with Ms. Kolesnikova when she destroyed her passport to make it impossible for Ukraine to admit her.

At a news conference in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, on Tuesday evening, two Belarusian activists, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, told how they had been seized in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Monday and taken to the border with Ukraine, along with Ms. Kolesnikova, by masked security agents who warned that if they did not leave the country they would be jailed indefinitely.

After passing through a Belarusian border checkpoint, they said, Ms. Kolesnikova grabbed her passport and started shouting that she was not going anywhere. She tore the passport into small pieces and threw them out of the window.

Mr. Rodnenkov and Mr. Kravtsov continued onto Ukraine without her. “She climbed out of the car and started walking back toward the Belarus border,” Mr. Kravtsov said. “She is very brave and dedicated to what she is doing.”

. . .

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has never warmed to Mr. Lukashenko but still sees him as an important bulwark against the West, announced at the end of August that he had formed a reserve force of Russian security officers to assist Belarus if “the situation gets out of control.”

In another sign of close collaboration between the two countries, Belarus announced on Tuesday that it would hold military exercises later this week with troops from Russia and Serbia. The exercises, called Slavic Brotherhood 2020, underscore an important propaganda point for Mr. Lukashenko, suggesting that he is not alone in his struggle for political survival but a sentinel for broader Slavic interests against the West.

For the full story, see:

Andrew Higgins. “Opposition Leader in Belarus Avoids Expulsion, Dramatically.” The New York Times (Wednesday, September 9, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 8, 2020, and has the title “Opposition Leader in Belarus Averts Expulsion by Tearing Up Passport.”)