At least as far back as the 18th century, the left has struggled to avoid facing the plain fact of evil — that some people simply choose to do things that they know to be wrong when they do them. Every kind of excuse, from poverty to an unhappy childhood, is used by the left to…— Thomas Sowell Quotes (@ThomasSowell) September 12, 2023
We've had plenty of confirmation over the past few days of both ends of Sowell's observation (click thereon for the whole thing): (a) the inherent cussedness of humans and (b) the left's desperate avoidance to face that fact.
Which brings us to this perceptive tweet from a UC Davis physicist (it's long, click through to RTWT):
In 2017 when neo nazis marched in Charlotteville yielding Tikki torches, spokespeople at every university raced to denounce them. My own chancellor wrote:— Inna Vishik (@InnaVishik) October 10, 2023
“There was only one side that provoked the hate-fueled violence…” and
“We cannot allow our institutions of higher learning…
This makes me wonder what twists of fate made the University Near Here wind up with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on its physics faculty instead of Inna Vishik.
Jerry Coyne has more—much more—on the disparate reactions to evil seen in academe: How uber-Woke colleges respond publicly to the horrific slaughter, rape, and kidnapping by Hamas.
Now that the horrors committed by Hamas in Israel are being revealed in detail, colleges and universities are issuing statements about the Israel/Palestine war. As I adhere to the University of Chicago’s Kalven Principles of institutional neutrality, I don’t think any such statements should take sides, even though I think that there’s a clear right-and-wrong wrong here: Hamas perpetrated sickening butchery and invaded Israel, and Israel is simply responding in self defense. (It’s morally obtuse to recite a list of Israel’s supposed oppression of Palestine when condemning such barbarity.)
Nevertheless, universities should not, I think, say anything like that so long as they’ve adopted the principle of institutional neutrality embodied in Kalven. The principle is there to avoid chilling speech by avoiding institutional statements, and of course there are those, misguided as they are, who think that Israel got what was coming to it. Their speech should not be chilled or suppressed because the University has taken sides. It should not take sides.
If a school doesn’t have a policy of institutional neutrality, and has in the past issued statements taking sides on political, ideological, or moral issues (e.g.. George Floyd’s murder, the Capitol insurrection), then it is more or less obliged to say something about Israel and Palestine, and at the very least condemn Hamas. For all moral and rational people must condemn Hamas, and, at the same time, avoid the reprehensible tactic of equating what Hamas did with Israel’s supposed aparthid-ish oppression of Gaza, or of calling Israel an “apartheid state” that had this butchery coming to it because of its “colonialism.” There are other times when you can express such opinions. But I have not seen any letters to a college from its administration that said the right thing. (I’ve omitted several others in this post.)
Professor Coyne has examples, but observations like his, and Professor Vishik's, made me check out the University Near Here for any official reaction.
UNH's George Floyd response is very easy to find, from co-authors James Dean (UNH's President) and Wayne Jones (Provost), dated June 4, 2020: Call for Focus on Core Values in Wake of George Floyd's Death. [Emphasis added.]
Dear UNH Community,
Like virtually all Americans, we reacted with horror at the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This was particularly painful coming on the heels of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. While the circumstances of these deaths were different, they all underscore the risks to black people interacting with police or simply going about their daily lives (as was demonstrated vividly by what happened to Christian Cooper in New York City). It is beyond belief that more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, nearly 30 years after Rodney King’s beating, six years after the shooting of Michael Brown and the choking death of Eric Garner, tragedies like this continue to occur. It is clear that, as former President Obama said in a recent statement, "If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must do better." Our hearts go out to our African American students, faculty, staff and alumni who are particularly affected by these events.
We cannot remain silent in the face of the trauma that these events inflict on marginalized communities across the country.[…]
But as for the Hamas atrocities, "we" apparently can remain silent. There's nothing I can find on the UNH website about it. Why not?
Also of note:
Analogies: they are a lot like analogies. Arnold Kling draws a few between The Current War and WWII. With special relevance to the above discussion:
It is fair to equate Hamas and other opponents of the Israeli occupation to Nazis. We in America like to think of the occupation as referring only to Israel’s control over territories it won in the 1967 war. But to the anti-Zionists, every inch of Israel’s territory is the occupation. They obfuscate this for Western consumption, but to themselves they say “From the Jordan River to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Rob Henderson, in an unintentionally well-timed post, discussed the problem of evil.
Many people view the crimes of Nazi Germany, Maoist China, the Soviet Union, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia through the eyes of the victims.
But to understand evil, it would be wise to view it through the eyes of the perpetrators.
Had you or I been an ordinary German, Chinese, Russian, or Cambodian person living under those regimes, we would in all likelihood not have resisted. We would have been supporters, either actively or passively.
…In real life, violent groups seldom put evil-sounding words in their name. They might even give themselves a nice-sounding name like “anti-evil.”
And evil acts are often performed by people who think they are doing something good.
…Most people who hurt others do not regard their actions as evil. They might acknowledge that they have harmed or exploited someone. But they will usually say their action was justified or that the victim deserved to be treated that way.
Many academics academics who have analyzed the moral psychology of the Nazis have pointed out that they felt justified in their behavior. They thought that they were cleansing the world of the threat to humanity posed by the Jews. Historians note that Nazi ideology strongly appealed to Arabs who resented the presence of Jews in the decades prior to the declaration of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Henderson emphasizes that none of us is immune from the possibility that we might engage in evil that we believe is justified. Those of us with a conservative outlook believe that it is the restraints provided by tradition and social institutions to keep us from turning toward evil impulses. Ideologies that call for the destruction of traditions and institutions are especially prone to engaging in mass murder. Think of Communism and all of its relatives.
I don't want to go overboard here, but prior to "destruction of traditions and institutions", you have ongoing drumbeats telling you those institutions and traditions are irredeemably racist, homophobic, oppressive, … you name it.
Not as funny as usual. Jeff Maurer describes, usefully: How to Use the Massacre in Israel to Your Political Advantage.
It’s only natural to witness the horrific events in Israel this week and think: “How can I use this tragedy to nudge my political hobby horse forward a fraction of an inch?” Sadly, the connection between foreign disasters and domestic squabbles is not always clear; not all foreigners recognize that everything is ultimately about America, and American politics, specifically. As part of I Might Be Wrong’s longstanding mission to indulge and develop our readers’ worst impulses, we present this guide to making the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Israel and Gaza work to your personal benefit.
TIP 1: Just keep talking about the thing you were already talking about.
USEFUL FOR: Political commentators with brain lock, cable news producers who have already finished 90 percent of a segment and don’t want to start from scratch.
If you think about it, don’t recent events PROVE the point you were just making??? Why, yes…yes they do! While the connection between pre and post-October 7 events might not be apparent at first, second, or even twentieth glance, with enough determination and abuse of words like “similar” and “related” so egregious that it borders on sadism, a person can link any topic from a week ago to late-breaking news. Here, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin attempts exactly that:
How about this: With US House in chaos and US military promotions on hold, Hamas struck. Republicans' weakness invites terror.— Jennifer Truthful, Not Neutral Rubin 🇺🇦🇮🇱 (@JRubinBlogger) October 7, 2023
The truly superior part of that tweet is the “How about this?” preface. Rarely do pundits say outright: “I’m just spitballing here. Does this play? You tell me — I definitely don’t know.” I welcome a norm in which pundits begin tweets with phrases like “Let’s throw this in the oven and see if it bakes” or “Will this dog hunt, or am I talking out of my ass here?” Though — as you can see by the more than ten thousand replies to Rubin’s tweet — her “How about this?” was met with a response that can be paraphrased thusly:
… and you can click over for the response. And for more tips.