Periodically, the Chronicle of Higher Education trundles out a dupe from the academic Left to lambaste an imaginary threat to academic freedom from “the Right,” even as there exists no meaningful “Right” on any college campus in the United States.
The Chronicle recently published a standard scare article on the topic by an extraordinary fabulist named Silke-Maria Weineck. Weineck is a professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. She describes herself as a “metaphorologist.”
Weineck is no stranger to the pages of the Chronicle, and in her typical shtick piece, Weineck perpetuates the myth of an embattled faculty atop the barricades, battling the “right,” which is embodied in this piece as the Republican Party.
Here’s the setup . . .
Weineck recounts the recent tale of a Michigan professor who tweeted an obscenity about “Republicans” and then received some blowback. What was the offending tweet? Dr. Weineck is coy.
Weineck adopts an uncharacteristic prudery as she offers us a euphemism for the professor’s tweet, which suggested that “the Republican Party engage in an auto-erotic act.” With this, Weineck’s sympathetic audience enjoys some delicious naughtiness as the euphemism is easily translated as “Republicans should go F*** themselves.” But not everyone enjoys such thigh-slapping bawdiness, especially if they’re footing the bill in the form of taxes and tuition.
A parent of a student in the professor’s class took exception to this tweet and penned a harsh email of protest to the university president that her conservative student likely might not get a fair shake in the class. The university quickly took the professor’s side and informed him that he was in the clear. End of story, right?
Not for Weineck. She seized the moment to launch a non sequitur screed against her favorite boogeymen—Republicans. This is her modus operandi, and in this case, she outdoes herself. With no actual “incident” to speak of, Weineck simply fabricates much of the piece and somehow convinces a compliant Chronicle to print it.
Let’s take the parent’s letter of complaint. Without seeing the parent’s letter, Weineck imagines that it was “unhinged” and “crazy.” Weineck imagines that the parent in question was disappointed that the offending professor “was not to be strangled at dusk, a knife twisted in his heart, his shame to outlive him.” Weineck wonders “where and how” this parent was “radicalized.” But Weinke has no idea who the parent is or what the parent said, and she professes no judgment of her own colleague’s public displays of base profanity that might give a normal person pause.
Weineck continues her fakery by cautioning against “legitimizing screeching mobs and their cheerleaders and enablers,” presumably mobs of Republicans. Where are these mobs? It turns out they don’t exist, except in Weineck’s imagination.
But we do find screeching mobs on the campuses, don’t we? It’s clear that Weineck’s distaste for imaginary screeching mobs does not extend to actual screeching mobs of law students at Yale attempting to suppress a free speech conference. Or screeching mobs of Oberlin students and administrators harassing an innocent working-class baker. (This tawdry affair has a happy ending as Oberlin has agreed to pay a $36 million defamation judgment to the baker whom the school victimized.) And certainly not to actual screeching mobs of Black Lives Matter protestors who destroyed billions of dollars of property and killed and injured dozens throughout the summer of 2020.
Weineck claims that her imagined enemies are “removing books and teaching materials” from school libraries, when it is actually Weineck’s buddies purging college libraries of “offensive” material—see the censors at work at Bard College. Weineck hand-wrings over imagined Republican attacks on the “right to speak and read freely,” but as we saw above and see here and here and here, it is the “screeching mobs” of the Left who constitute the primary threat to speaking and reading freely in the colleges.
The Fevered Paranoid World of Weineck
What is it that fuels Weineck’s tenuous grasp on reality that leads her to conjure fake outrage at imaginary threats? Is it her own limited life experience and narrow professional interest that substitutes for the world outside her ideology? For example, Weineck alludes to something she calls “the Republican Party’s long-standing contempt for knowledge and expertise,” apparently forgetting that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, business and economics are where Republicans are concentrated in the university. These are the academic spaces where the modern world is formed in which Weineck enjoys her subsidized metaphorological enthusiasms in air-conditioned comfort, wearing inexpensive clothing, eating plentiful food, enjoying access to advanced healthcare, and utilizing power, transportation, and high-tech equipment all made possible by a vibrant modern age created largely by Republican business innovators and their support for free market capitalism and entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, it is Weineck and those who share her narrow worldview who exhibit contempt for knowledge and its production. She and her cronies are those carping souls who champion pseudoscience and anti-science, who embrace fables and magical thinking. The Weinecks of academia dwell in the murky province of fantasy with the goblins and gremlins of paranoid racial conspiracy theories, “intersectionality,” the postmodernism of an increasingly tired Foucault, and the philosophical hooliganism of Marx, Marcuse, Gramsci, and Freire. A place of melancholy and perpetual discontent, where little of value is created. This is not the first time that Weineck has emerged from that dark world to froth on the pages of the Chronicle.
We met Weineck earlier, when she brought her keen mind to bear on the Nikole Hannah-Jones brouhaha at the University of North Carolina. In that case, the notorious dissembler and racialist Hannah-Jones threw an embarrassing public tantrum over a job offer, rejected it, and set up shop at Howard University. Weineck appeared just addlepated enough to frame Hannah-Jones’ tantrum as the latest of the ongoing “culture wars” dispute with the bonus caricature of defending the university against bible-thumpers, thuggish boards of trustees, and—now—Republicans.
In that piece, Weineck hit all of her pedestrian scripted markers—shrill posturing, hyperbole, and her characterization of the university under assault by “the Right.” She wielded a vernacular worthy of an internet cesspool—“lickspittle,” “evil,” “stupid,” “shameless,” “dog whistle”—as if her article were lifted from the comments section of HuffPost.
Propaganda Pays Well
All of this extremist posturing serves an important purpose other than what Weineck naïvely believes it to be. She represents a fringe of preening front faculty, who constitute a vocal minority with whom, for whatever reason, the Chronicle of Higher Education has elected to make common cause. She perpetuates the stalking horse myth of Left versus Right in the professoriate as the struggle of our time, one that threatens the university itself. She is detached from reality in more ways than one. For instance, her tone-deaf posturing about the hard-working bureaucrats of the University of Michigan.
Weineck tells us that three University of Michigan bureaucrats with a combined salary of almost $1.5 million handled the case in favor of the professor and that this constituted “an almost comically ill-considered allocation of resources.” What is ill-considered in this era of excessive executive compensation, skyrocketing tuition costs, poorly paid adjunct faculty, and more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding is that “three highly accomplished women” receive bloated 1-percenter salaries with dubious services rendered. Weineck herself does not labor in penury with her yearly salary of $138,540. We have no word whether Weineck or the three 1-percenter bureaucrats she names have plans to alleviate the “hunger rations” doled out to the adjunct faculty she briefly professes to care about. We can hope that one result of Weineck’s tone-deaf piece is that the Michigan legislature and the university’s board of trustees look hard at the Return on Investment of these bureaucrats and the occasional propaganda stooge with a price tag of $138,540.
But the oblivious Weineck maintains the covering façade of the colonization of the university. Contrary to her Pecksniffian posturing, Weineck does little more than carry water cluelessly for university bureaucrats. These are the largely anonymous education school dullards ensconced in university administration in places like “student affairs” or “student life” or “university affairs,” which exert increasing control over the milieu of the university. These mediocrities arrive at the university through an incestuous hiring process. They award each other back-scratching credentials and degrees that provide a patina of “learning,” and they constantly expand their control over something called the “co-curriculum.” This “co-curriculum” is a fake counterpart to the actual curriculum taught by actual faculty. I address this at length elsewhere.
These are the real enemies of academic freedom, but Weineck appears stupidly oblivious to this fact even though she should know better. While Weineck expends her spittle on the “Republicans,” she remains studiously unaware of the coordinated movement on campuses nationwide to establish the Orwellian-named “Academic Freedom Committees” to elevate modestly educated and malignly motivated “diversity” goons over the faculty to vet all faculty scholarship, research, hiring, teaching, and behavior. Don’t believe it? See the blueprint in the thoroughly inquisitional screed It’s Not Free Speech by Michael Bérubé and Jennifer Ruth.
By the time Weineck and her like-minded fellow travelers rouse themselves to consciousness, this bewildered metaphorologist will find only mediocre authoritarian clerks when she peeks out from her office in 2012 Tisch Hall on the Michigan campus, searching for allies to defend her.
These colonizing functionaries will eventually find Weineck wanting in some respect, her scholarship tainted, her speech not appropriate enough, her research interests making others feel “unsafe,” her attitude not “inclusive” enough . . . that sort of thing.
Weineck will find no friends, but she will find that all of her ingénue metaphorology won’t save her from her own cancellation as the lion eats her last.