Let me begin by stating that this type of article (or “Listicle” as they are almost pejoratively called) is not my usual fare. I greatly enjoy writing long-winded essays that make my humble audience work for the garbled points I am trying to elucidate. However, I am going to briefly venture into list-writing for the sake of clarity, for this is quite possibly the most important article I have written to date, at least in terms of what it is trying to achieve.
Oh, young man or woman, young conservative, anti-SJW, reactionary, contrarian, new counter-culture aficionado – whatever you choose to label yourself as – we have all come to recognize that one basic point that sours our souls: we are the new marginalized voices. Oh yes, we see it, read it, live it every single day, a new horror story coming out of the universities. We have no pull in the ivory tower, and despite a growing public distaste for the most inane and myopic of radical (yet establishment-backed) politics we often find on campus, those on the Right of all stripes continue to be derided, censored and subjected to a supremely hostile environment in academia. This has produced many very grave consequences. We have all seen the out-there trailblazer academics, those who are willing to put their public images and careers on the line to challenge progressive orthodoxy in academia. Sadly, these voices are few and far between, especially among graduate students and associate professors who have not been sufficiently established or well-funded enough to care less about the backroom insider politics of the Academy.
This is my message I give to fellow millennials and Gen-Zers on the Right (or the moderate left for that matter): FEAR NOT. It is quite distressing to hear about the slow erosion of discourse on campus, but why shall we challenge this rot when people above us, the voices in the popular right-wing and Anti-SJW communities, do nothing to aid this situation! A bold claim I know, but it seems that all I hear from my fellow contrarians, besides pessimism (a charge I am guilty of as well), is a disdain for the academy that borders on anti-intellectualism. It seems all our popular voices and e-celebrities do is scream at us aloud and often to get out of the universities, and get out of them fast! Double time if you are in the humanities. They tell you that the university is:
1. Beyond saving
2. That it is no place for anyone to the right of Lenin or Ocasio-Cortez, that there is no chance of a career (besides the economic issues of getting advanced degrees to begin with).
3. That you will inevitably suffer severe consequences at the hands of almost everyone, from profs, to HR to your fellow students,
4. Even if by some miracle you fly under the Radar, you will always be watching your back, that it is akin to Perseus going into Medusa’s den of serpents.
I cannot say they are totally wrong. I cannot gauge what it is like everywhere, but from my experience I say to you, dear young reader, fear not, for at least some of the alarmism and hostility towards the academy has been exaggerated. Cases are often nit-picked by some and then circulated throughout the alternative media, but for good reason. The abuses of free expression and speech on modern university campuses are appalling, and should make you fearful if you have the ability and will to pursue a humanities degree. But I urge you, MAKE THIS FEAR PRODUCTIVE. Do not simply listen to naysayers, even the ones you respect and with whom you agree. I know I was afraid for my life having first ventured into the Canadian university atmosphere, partly because I let the horror stories and opinions of certain hostile leftist academics themselves inform my opinion of the whole situation. However, I used this fear, as you shall use this fear, to guide your behavior, and sharpen your academic skills potentially.
This popular attitude among the Right and the Anti-SJW Left has thrown out the baby with the bath water as it were. The academy is in desperate need of reform, but this cannot happen unless people like us, of all stripes and heterodox ideologies, find their way into the universities and think-tanks. This seems like a Sisyphean task no doubt, but unless we are committed to a long-term goal, and aim to produce valuable dissident scholarship and scholarly works, then academia will continue to fester in its echo chamber. The fact is a lot of popular voices on the Right and moderate left, the YouTubers and e-celebrities know little of how things work in academia. We all must be committed to training a whole generation of vibrant young scholars with good ideas, but for this we must not callously defame and caste aside the university system. This approach is infantile, and smacks of some long-persistent temper tantrum, hence why high-minded people will never take us seriously with such an attitude. And lets face reality, cold, hard and sobering reality: Not a lot of legitimacy can be gained still without that socially approved and enforced marks of approval. Having a degree, and especially grinding it out all the way to gaining a PhD is still valuable, especially when it comes to taking your political and cultural ideas seriously. When push comes to shove, who are average people that are more educated than most, going to listen to on important political matters, or actually mulling over ideas that are out of the left-media norm? Some guy with a YouTube personality cult (there are a lot of those), or a dissent yet eloquent professor like, say….Adrian Vermeule? My money is that the ladder has a greater chance at longevity of influence than the former.
An important institution is like a diseased patient; we must work from within to cure the disease, not attempt to shoot the patient in the head, or whine about it and wait with impotent hopes that the patient will keel over one day, and cease to be important to average suburban proles that sends millions of their kids to it each year.
Think of it this way, in terms of what the New Left had to do to achieve subversion and then lasting influence and power. Think of their masterstroke plan, generations-long infiltration of nearly every major societal institution – now look at that, dear young reactionary, with a gleam of hope.
Only you can figure out for yourself if the life of an academic is for you, and I urge most to not follow. It is true that the humanities need reforming, and not everyone should be expected to get a university degree, but unfortunately the smart and careful thinkers who harbor heterodox opinions and ideas, who belong in the universities, are often too afraid to try due to the perceived hostile atmosphere. They choose to post on blogs or YouTube, not only hurting us on the Right or Anti-SJW Left, but hurting the universities themselves by not producing scholarship of any vibrancy or worth. So here I am, a person who is as you might say, somewhat acquainted with academia. I will try my best to provide the most helpful tips I can think of that certainly helped me survive in a sea of people who generally disagree with me. Some may work better than others, and from being an undergrad to a graduate, a lot of these lessons were learned the hard way (and I really mean that). I hope I may be potentially saving future scholars the trouble of learning through the hard way as well! But most importantly, do not be discouraged if you are willing to do the hard work and commit to the intellectual rigor it takes to last in the ivory tower.
- Know thy enemy; do the work.
Let us start off with the most obvious tip: get to know foundational texts of the New Left, of old-school Marxism, of the latest in intersectional theory, and argue things out with the best of them. But more importantly, be empathetic. This is the Christian thing to do, but it is exceedingly difficult in our age of unhinged Blue checkmark bloggers and campus radical activists. Know what your ideological opponent is not just thinking but feeling as well about any given topic. Know their lingo, know their thought patterns, and you will thereby, as Sun Tzu said, “know your capabilities and the capabilities of your enemies, and you will win every battle”. Try your best not to sound totally ignorant or arrogantly dismissive about what you are learning and arguing over, and avoid any mischaracterization their positions. Do not just rely on a handful of articles and videos that “totally own” some extreme example of a feminist, Marxist, etc. – this is the real world, those games simply do not work when coming face to face with someone who might accuse you of insensitively pigeon-holing them or of being ignorant on the topic at hand, or being a handful of popular “ISMS” they might throw your way casually. The last one might be unavoidable, so try your best to either explain why your ideas are not those ISMS, or bite the bullet and try to calmly poke holes in their definition or warped understanding of that accusatory ISM.You might feel a surge of anger and emotion at being accused of wrong think, but try with all your might to appear more calm and rational, and argue things out fairly. Its difficult, but the more you do this, the more other people observing this might come around to defending you.
Do not just grit your teeth at all of this, you might find (as I have) very useful insights in some of their foundational texts that can support your way of thinking, so long as you are nuanced about it and do not come to wild conclusions. Which leads me to…
- Do not make wild claims.
Always be cautious of the fact that if you are open about your verboten beliefs, you will receive unwarranted negative attention, and sometimes this is unconscious. Some people – in fact quite a few – will judge you more harshly than others and expect more of you. A lot of academics, I hate to say, can be rather petty, and you have to realize some have never come across serious person-to-person opposition to their ideas (depending on the sub-field they teach in; some are worse than others obviously). As The Rock says, “Know your role”, and know you are a student and they are the professor!
A small percentage of professors will unfortunately strawman you with the absolute worst representations of your ideas, and assume nefarious implications of your work. It is best you know first and foremost what you are talking about, and try to avoid making grandiose claims about certain thinkers and their works. Do not try to fit everything into a narrative that is too neat and easy to attack, and always have a sense of proportion and nuance in what you are writing or speaking about. I love comparative work in politics and philosophy, but there are helpful comparisons between ideas and thinkers, and then there is butchering ideas and thinkers, while ignoring possible refutations of your thesis, in trying to fit your preferred narratives. Above all, you should be CONSTANTLY ANTICIPATING COUNTER-ARGUMENTS; know them and know how to neutralize them. If you are stuck, there is no shame in asking for help or other people’s opinions on the matter, and prepare to be corrected. Also, try to argue that you are exploring the possibilities of a certain thinker you are reading about in class. Do not make some sweeping claim that “Thinker X was really this or that”; at the undergrad level you are not prepared to throw yourselves into the weeds of scholarship surrounding any particular thinker or theorist, unless you are truly exceptional.
- Be humble, control yourself.
Along with knowing the subject matter, always be nuanced in how you are presenting things as I have stated above, and take criticism like a professional and humble scholar. Do not pass off any criticism as merely the persecution of you as a right-winger by some Marxist professor; most times you just made a mistake, and they wish to help you. Be humble and always be calm in the way you argue things. You already face an uphill battle, so being known as some hothead or an extremely rigid ideologue firebrand will get you nowhere in academia, unless people generally see that you are a good scholar and are willing to let things slide (this comes with as stated above, SITUATIONAL AWARENESS). Even if you feel this rush of anger inside of you, and the counter-arguments to someone spewing garbage are rising in your chest just ready to leap out in a torrent of fire and bile, resist the urge to come off looking like an uncontrollable maniac. In other words: Pat Buchanan and Alex Jones may have similar ideas, but Pat comes off as the more convincing thinker for obvious reasons.
This has been quite a lot of take in, part two, three and four will be out in the coming days.