First, they burnt books. Then, they burnt people. Are we coming back full circle?

How dare you use your own head to think? Out with you (a number of labels follows).

That’s called “cancel culture,” and it has been spreading all over the world like the worst form of cancer. Yes, cancer: it’s going to kill us all. It has become norm at our establishments of higher learning. Graduates, trained not to know the meaning of the word “tolerance” will gradually fill all kinds of positions of authority.

Can you imagine any of them having time to listen to (and hear) opinions that differ from theirs? Can you imagine them tolerating difference?

Gone are the centuries of universities guided by the motto “whatsoever is true” (quaecumque sunt vera in Latin), or students asking their teachers to “teach them whatsoever is true” (still in good old academic Latin: quaecumque vera doce me).

Intolerance toward dissent is only just beginning all over the place in general, and in academic circles in particular.

Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London; Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, has just published a study named Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination, and Self-Censorship. Its executive summary consists of 16 pages of shocking points, its full text includes 195 pages of shocking facts.

People of what is now known as conservative points of view have been complaining that they and their political viewpoints face disproportionate levels of ideologically-motivated censorship.

Professor Kaufmann’s paper proves with undisputable facts that this is precisely what’s been going on the last few decades. And, reality shows that it has culminated in the most recent couple of years so as to become unbearable, bordering on the criminal.

The so-called “hard authoritarianism” includes such relatively new expressions as no-platforming, social media brigading, ‘open’ letters, dismissal campaigns, and formal complaints. These developments have been comparatively rare so far. But, Professor Kaufmann’s paper shows, there hasn’t been much of a push-back. This shows that the militant cancel-culture activists have been getting their way too often.

The other method, a.k.a. “soft authoritarianism,” includes punishing non-conformists by limiting their ability to publish, win grants for their work, be promoted or retain current positions. That, Professor Kaufmann’s paper proves with numbers, provides an added burden (and incentive to keep quiet about their beliefs) to conservative academics.

This one has been baring its teeth way too often in recent years. That it brings the vaunted academic impartiality, absence of bias, disinterestedness and detachment into blatant disrepute matters not to the “soft authoritarianism” practitioners. They are promoting loftier goals than just simple and boring knowledge. They are promoting what American economist Martin Armstrong calls feudalistic socialism. Who cares that feudalism is based on serfdom, and who cares that serfdom is just one step above slavery?

Definitely not the cancel-culture promoters in academia. That is, if they even know about it.

Different matters

It’s one thing when a physician at a teaching hospital has built her or his reputation on curing disease A using medication (or approach) B, and all students must accept it as gospel, lest they don’t qualify. Granted, this can turn out to be an extremely dangerous situation, as Scottish physician Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described is his brilliant page-turner of a book, Doctoring Data.

Such an expert will have terrible time accepting (and admitting) that times have changed and that either her/his theory has been wrong all along, or that times have changed and new research reveals new treatments. And if that expert’s opinion comes with vast support provided by, for example, pharmaceutical industry, and said expert still has a mortgage to pay off, her/his resistance will become somewhat understandable. Not acceptable, but understandable.

It becomes an altogether another matter when about 40 per cent academics in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain openly admit that they wouldn’t hire a former President Donald J. Trump supporter, even if her/his academic credentials were impeccable.

The British have one more criterion: support your country’s departure from the European Union (a.k.a. Brexit), and in one-third of hiring decisions the ruling will go against you.

And, should you hold a biological-based view of sex, that is, should you be viewed as a so-called gender-critical feminist, your academic future is gone.

The fear is overwhelming: only 28 per cent of American and Canadian academics agreed they would not mind sharing a lunch table with someone who believed trans-women should not have access to women’s shelters.

And the number of math teachers who don’t dare question the newest fad, namely, that math is a racist science because it demands precise answers instead of wild guesses, isn’t overwhelming, either.

Most want just to live with it

Professor Kaufmann also found out that most Professors do not like the authoritarian cancel culture. But, and that is really a shock (while not really much of a surprise), most wouldn’t lift a finger to oppose it, either.

A bare one-tenth of those who answered Professor Kaufmann’s questions, would agree that so-called “controversial professors” should lose their jobs.

If that is so, then this fact shows that a relatively tiny minority gets to exercise its powers far disproportionately to its numbers.

Here’s another problem: younger academics, Kaufmann writes in his study, “were more favourably inclined toward kicking ‘controversial’ scholars out of their posts.” This factor, he adds, “appears to be self-perpetuating, as conservative graduate students claimed that a hostile academic climate ‘plays a part’ in stopping them from pursuing academic careers.”

Another set of scary numbers: more than a third of right-wing academics had been threatened with some form of discipline for their views, Kaufmann writes, adding: “Fully 70 per cent cited a ‘hostile departmental climate for their beliefs,’ even if they had not personally been threatened, suggesting at least some on the right camouflage their beliefs to avoid punishment.”

It must be awful for the vast majority of academics in social sciences or humanities (90 per cent of Trump supporters and 80 per cent of Brexit supporters) who admit that they would not feel comfortable sharing their views with colleagues. More than half of them also said they have imposed self-censorship on themselves even in their research and/or teaching, in order to avoid repercussions. “Academics in the social sciences – particularly those involved in studying race, gender and sexuality – were particularly required to walk on eggshells,” Kaufmann writes.

Here’s one of the scariest results: the younger the academic, the more likely s/he would support at least one of the hypothetical research findings.

The numbers: a 30-year-old leftist academic has a 50-50 chance of supporting one of the hypothetical cancel-culture campaigns while his 70-year-old ideological equivalent had just a 35 per cent chance of doing so.

Most of the academics, though, seemed not to give a damn about their colleagues’ fates.

Some 76 per cent of academics in the social sciences and humanities believe the “protective benefits of political correctness outweigh its threat to free speech” – something that should make us think again before answering the question whether these people are of any use to society.

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