Where is the voice coming from?

  1. Meet Sam Abrams, since 2010 my colleague at Sarah Lawrence College, who published an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times. If you search ‘professors liberal’ today, this is what you will see.

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2. Meet Mike Flynn, retired US Army Lieutenant General, former Obama Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency & former Trump National Security Advisor, who gave this fascinating speech to the Young America’s Foundation at their Fall College Retreat, the Saturday after the 2016 elections.

3. & while we’re at it, meet Cass Sunstein, former Obama Administrator of the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, whose name you’ll see in that Google search mentioned above, talking about some of the same things Sam does.

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4. Mike Flynn addressed the Young America’s Foundation at the Trump Hotel in DC on Saturday November 12, 2016. The young woman who introduced him said to start, “As a young person I kind of want to pause & reflect just for a quick moment on what sitting here tonight, after this week, in this building, means to our students.”

5. Then Mike Flynn says, “This was not an election. This was a revolution. This was a revolution. And I have uh been doing this a bit for him.”

6. At 13:53 in the video he says: “We have an army.”

7. “We have an army of digital soldiers,” Flynn said. “This was an insurgency, folks. This was run like an insurgency. This was irregular warfare at its finest. In politics. And that story will continue to be told here.”

8. He tells “the young ones here” that the previous night he’d been hanging out with Dinesh D’Souza “and Milo…Myopolis. I tag him on Twitter,” & then decries some of the same things Sam does in his editorial, re the marginalization of ‘conservative’ voices on college campuses, & applauds Milo’s courage in confronting this “shutting out of ideological diversity.”

9. The first time the word ‘diversity’ appeared in the Sarah Lawrence administrative structure was in the title of a committee that started in 2005 in the Office of Student Affairs, before I chaired our first official Diversity Committee in 2010

10. —the same Office of Student Affairs that sponsored the Our Liberation Summit that made Sam Abrams feel like an oppressed minority.

11. “I was taken aback,” Sam wrote in his editorial in the New York Times, “by the college’s sponsorship of such a politically lopsided event.”

12. —which included workshops on “Black Lives Matter and justice for women as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and allied people,” called things like “Stay Healthy, Stay Woke,” “Microaggressions” and “Understanding White Privilege.”

13. According to Sam, this reflects a nationwide “warped ideological distribution.”

14. I teach a non-fiction writing class called To Tell the Truth, during which yesterday some of the students were discussing Sam’s editorial. “What does he want?” one student asked. “Workshops called “Stay Sick, Stay Asleep”? “How To Defend White Supremacy”?

15. Someone else earlier in the day had noted that the Times editorial bio says Sam is “a professor of politics,” but not that he’s also affiliated with American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Foundation, & the Heterodox Academy.

16. As it happens, I gave a talk in DC last June at the annual gathering of the American Association of University Professors, and attended a workshop given by faculty affiliated with the Heterodox Academy.

17. —headed by Jonathan Haidt, who semi-instantly retweeted Sam’s editorial yesterday.

18. Here are 2 paragraphs from Tamsin Shaw’s March 21 story in the New York Review of Books, “The New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops”:

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19. “I like the term ‘heterodoxy,’” Aaron Kindsvatter of the University of Vermont was saying as I walked into the room in DC in June for his AAUP talk called “Echo Chamber Replaces Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education.” “We’ll see if that takes off.”

20. “The most recent vice I see on campus,” he said later, “is social justice,” which he said is “slowly destroying everything that it touches.” He called himself “self-identified liberal but anti-tribal.”

21. I’d agree with Jonathan Haidt’s tweet yesterday that Sam Abrams is giving us a piece of the puzzle, but we see the puzzle differently I think.

22. “Who doesn’t want to be progressive, right?” Mike Flynn said to the Young America Foundation. “It’s a cool thing to be.”

23. & in his next sentence tried to inoculate them against the contagion by making the real Foundation clear: “Progressive is socialism.”

24. Or as Peter Thiel put it for a different audience in 2014, the year before the budget of the Young America’s Foundation shot up to $8 million: “The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

25. Cass Sunstein, propagating the machinery of freedom in a 2008 article with Adrian Vermeule via Harvard’s Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series & the U of Chicago’s Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series & Law & Economics Research Paper Series: “Our principal claim here involves the potential value of cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, designed to introduce informational diversity into such groups.”

26. Flynn to the young Americans: “And there are some paid anarchists in there. And they’ll be dealt with by our law enforcement system.”

27. My questions here are less about Sam Abrams’s opinions than about the channels open to him through which to share them, & the various only-partly-visible structures that sustain him as he does.

28. —or as Eudora Welty put it, in the title of her short story channeling the voice of the man who shot Medgar Evers: Where is the voice coming from?