Inebriates of Virtue

By | 2017-09-04T10:20:11+00:00 September 1st, 2017|
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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 the Author:

Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. Mr. Kimball lectures widely and has appeared on national radio and television programs as well as the BBC. He is represented by Writers' Representatives, who can provide details about booking him. Mr. Kimball's latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press, 2012). He is also the author of 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). Other titles by Mr. Kimball include The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (Encounter) and Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age (Ivan R. Dee). Mr. Kimball is also the author ofTenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (HarperCollins). A new edition of Tenured Radicals, revised and expanded, was published by Ivan R. Dee in 2008. Mr. Kimball is a frequent contributor to many publications here and in England, including The New Criterion, The Times Literary Supplement, Modern Painters, Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Public Interest, Commentary, The Spectator, The New York Times Book Review, The Sunday Telegraph, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The National Interest.