Inebriates of Virtue

At Yale, where censorship never sleeps, the Committee of Public Safety—no, wait, that was Robespierre’s plaything. Yale’s new bureaucracy is called the “Committee on Art in Public Spaces.” Its charge? To police works of art on campus, to make sure that images offensive to favored populations are covered over or removed. At the residential college formerly known as Calhoun, for example, the Committee has removed stained glass windows depicting slaves and other historical scenes of Southern life. Statues and other representations of John C. Calhoun—a distinguished statesman but also an apologist for slavery—have likewise been slotted for the oubliette.

But impermissible attitudes and images are never in short supply once the itch to stamp out heresy gets going. Yesterday, it was Calhoun and representations of the Antebellum South. Today it is a carving at an entrance to Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library depicting an Indian and a Puritan. The Puritan, if you can believe it, was holding a musket—a gun! Quoth Susan Gibbons, one of Yale’s librarian-censors: its “presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate.” Why not? Never mind. Solution? Cover over the musket with a cowpat of stone. (But leave the Indian’s bow and arrow alone!)

Actually, we just learned that the removable cowpat of stone was only a stopgap. The outcry against the decision struck a chord with Peter Salovey, Yale’s President. “Such alteration,” he noted, “represents an erasure of history, which is entirely inappropriate at a university.” He’s right about that. But wait! Instead of merely altering the image, Salovey announced that Yale would go full Taliban, removing the offending stonework altogether. In the bad old days, librarians and college presidents were people who sought to protect the past, that vast storehouse of offensive attitudes and behavior. In these more enlightened times, they collude in its effacement.

You might say, Who cares what violence a super-rich bastion of privilege and unaccountability like Yale perpetrates on its patrimony? Well, you should care. Institutions like Yale (and Harvard, Stanford, and the rest of the elite educational aeries) are the chief petri dishes for the “progressive” hostility to free expression and other politically correct attitudes that have insinuated themselves like a fever-causing virus into the bloodstream of public life.

Read the rest at The New Criterion.


About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

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3 responses to “Inebriates of Virtue”

  1. Did you say, enlightened? The more educated our fellow citizens become the less “enlightened” they are. It never ceases to amaze me how we build a train, install the engine and the damned thing takes off backwards, no one can find the brakes or the lever to reverse the thing. Result … a horrific crash. Is that not where we are headed as a nation?

    • “The more educated our fellow citizens become the less “enlightened” they are.”

      We need to look at who’s doing the “educating”. I lived through the 1960s and it’s my considered opinion that the rot we see in the universities, and our public and private institutions in general, can be directly attributed to the fact that they are now being run by those same radicals or their indoctrinated descendents. After decades of teaching unbridled hatred for Western Civilization, our tattered culture is reaping the whirlwind.

  2. There are now savage barbarians squatting in chairs once filled by great men like Calhoun. Yale is leading the way to return to the dark ages. Ignorance has become the standard at Yale and Harvard. Now all that the students can learn is to be an obedient part of the tribe ready to kil all nonbelievers, because that is all the faculty knows.