February 22, 2016

Are Georgetown lawprofs Randy Barnett and Nick Rosenkranz "flipping a lefty campus-activist trope on its head"?

So says Jesse Singal at  New York Magazine about the email they sent after their colleague Gary Peller saw fit to send out an email setting himself apart from the law school's email that said the law school was mourning Justice Scalia. Peller wrote that Scalia didn't deserve to be "lionized or emulated" because he "bullied lawyers, trafficked in personal humiliation of advocates and openly sided with the party of intolerance in the ‘culture wars’ he often invoked." Barnett and Rosenkranz then wrote that they were upset at Peller's email, heard from from conservative students about "how traumatized, hurt, shaken and angry" they were, and said:
All we can do, really, is convey our solidarity with our wonderful students. We share your pain. We share your anger. We stand with you. You are not alone. Be strong as Justice Scalia was strong. Remember, he heard far worse about himself than we have, and yet never wavered in both his convictions and his joy for life. But make no mistake: civil discourse at Georgetown has suffered a grievous blow. It is a time for mourning indeed.
Singal's takes the position that Barnett and Rosenkranz "are adopting campus lefty-speak in the service of a conservative argument."
After all, while some of the concerns about “trigger warnings” and fragile college students are overstated, it’s undeniably true that within a segment of the campus left, a particularly high-strung idea about dissenting views has taken hold: namely, that dissenting views on hot-button issues... actually do psychological harm to students who are exposed to them.... Barnett and Rosenkranz seem to be trying to tap into this idea with their encouragement of students to stay strong in the face of “pain” and “anger” and “traumatization” at … one professor’s email. 
Singal finds it "interesting" that Barnett and Rosenkranz didn't restrict themselves to "'traditionally' conservative argument," like respect for the dead and veneration of the Court. They deployed the kind of arguments that that lefties normally use against conservatives — empathy about emotional damage to fragile young students.

I don't know whether Barnett and Rosenkranz thought about appropriating a left-wing approach. On the text that I'm seeing, they were responding to students, and it was the students who made it about their hurt feelings. Taking it from there, Barnett and Rosenkranz didn't go far into left-speak. They mostly said: Be strong. It would have been funny if they'd gone all out "flipping a lefty campus-activist trope on its head," but humor wouldn't have fit the occasion of the Justice's death, so we don't get to see the extent to which they may have seen that potential.

44 comments:

Bruce Hayden said...

I found it quite humorous, and, yes, I do think that they are trying to hoist the left at their school on their own petard.

The Cracker Emcee said...

That's the only way the PC cookie will crumble.

Michael K said...

They knew that a typical conservative polite reply would not be noticed.

We spent years with conservative groups meeting peacefully and picking up the trash afterward.

That approach resulted in Trump.

Deal with it.

Ken B said...

They are, and good for them. How do I know? Because that would be consistent with what they are doing in the article. They are not patting hands, their entire piece is a criticism of Peller's uncivil action. Look at this: "civil discourse at Georgetown has suffered a grievous blow. It is a time for mourning indeed. " They do not refer to the death of Scalia. They refer to Peller, and mourn that tactics like his, like those of crybullies, are eroding civility, comity, and debate.

And right they are.

Rick said...

[Scalia] "bullied lawyers, trafficked in personal humiliation of advocates and openly sided with the party of intolerance in the ‘culture wars’ he often invoked.

Scalia wasn't nearly as "right wing" as the left pretends but he was no Democrat.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brando said...

Good--start letting the far left see what it feels like when sensitivity gets ratcheted up and feelings take precedence. Maybe eventually the backlash will grow and schools can become educational rather than indoctrinal.

n.n said...

Mourning is inherently an irrational process. We are only human... even if we do ascribe our faith to different sources.

Sebastian said...

"civil discourse at Georgetown has suffered a grievous blow. It is a time for mourning indeed. " Artful overstatement that gets the point across, though it falls well short of the usual lefty whining.

"Good--start letting the far left see what it feels like when sensitivity gets ratcheted up and feelings take precedence. Maybe eventually the backlash will grow and schools can become educational rather than indoctrinate." Don't get your hopes up.

Drago said...

Make them live by their own rules.

Bay Area Guy said...

No more Snowflakes! We mock them on the Left, we don't want them on the Right.

Rick said...

Brando said...
Good--start letting the far left see what it feels like when sensitivity gets ratcheted up and feelings take precedence.


This will never happen. No lefty will be protested, fired, or forced to resign. Diversity will never be reworked to include them, nor will they receive a million dollar budget to hire their activists. There's no place to divest from. No right winger is going to have a screaming fit on video in the center of campus. They're never going to earn a job in the Department of Education by demonstrating they can repeat obvious lies with a straight face.

In fact what we see already will remain the only effect: the left will pretend this modest reproach means both sides do it so it's not a sign of bias.

Henry said...

It is really unnecessary to read Singal's deep thoughts. Barnett and Rosenkranz are quite clear in their opinions and intentions. They explicitly juxtapose the difference between the violation of respect due to those in mourning and the outrage of imperceptible slights:

Nick also reminded the Dean about the recent controversy at Yale, which began with an email as well. In that case, a faculty member sent an email to the student body that some subset perceived as a “micro-aggression”: perhaps adults can be trusted to choose their own Halloween costumes. In our case, a faculty member sent out an email to the student body — in violation of Georgetown policy — which was clearly the most grievous imaginable macro-aggression against all conservative students and faculty: in effect, your hero was a stupid bigot, and we are not sad that he is dead.

The difference between micro and macro is incontestable.

traditionalguy said...

Are they going to dig up his body and burn the bones of the heretic ? If not they are just grandstanding.

CStanley said...

Reads like parody to me. Maybe I'm just hoping that's the case.

Otto said...

Those guys have every right to do what they did. Don't whine. The problem is that conservatives profs( am I being unreal) should have the guts to do the same when a venerable liberal passes away and the accolades are pouring in from their dept head or whatever school official. You are in culture war, man up - go Trump.

Unknown said...

they were clearly mocking their colleagues at Georgetown. and using the leftist invective (although softened) is clear satire

Bill R said...

No true conservative is ever "traumatized, hurt, or shaken". Anger is fine.

Dan Hossley said...

I think they call it "satire".

LYNNDH said...

All this micro or macro aggression, hurt feelings, safe places, etc. are very funny. When I was in college our hurt feelings were over the friends that were killed or maimed in Vietnam. And the fact our time was coming.
Now, that sounds like I was against the war, which I wasn't, and am still not. Can feel empathy without condemning.

eddie willers said...

I got my 2S deferment and kept up my grades because I knew I would be a shitty soldier and step on a punji stick and die a horrible death 12,000 miles from home.

In hindsight, the first people who would figure out I would be a shitty soldier would have been the Army itself and I would have spent the time using an adding machine to keep tabs on the number of shirts laundered.

Farmer said...

Does Singal not realize they're trolling, or is he pretending to not to? Performance art can get confusing even for the participants.

fivewheels said...

Also, they're not flipping a trope on its head, they're using that trope straight-on, as if "sensitivity" were a real principle and not just a way to attack conservatives.

Unless Singal is admitting that the "trope" is not that people should be sensitive to other people's feelings, but simply that liberals should use any excuse to keep conservatives from expressing their opinions, even stupid made-up trauma.

PB said...

The lefties really don't like being hoisted by they own petard. BTW, isn't that one of Alinsky's rules for radicals - make them live by their own rules?

Rocketeer said...

First Barnett and Rozenkranz trolled Peller and Singal, and then Althouse tries to troll us by pretending she doesn't realize they were.

PeterJ said...

Isn't it obvious that Barnett& Rosencranz are satirizing the lefties, whose tender feelings keep being outraged by those wicket conservatives? They ARE using humor-- and Justice Scalia would be the first to laugh at it! Maybe he is laughing now, in purgatory perhaps, where he'll have to spend some time to atone for how "bullied lawyers, trafficked in personal humiliation of advocates and openly sided with the party of intolerance". But maybe God isn't a bleeding-heart progressive? Who knows...

Tom said...

Rules for Radicals need not be just for progressives. As a recipe for civil discourse, it's a disaster. But as a process for winning political advantage, it's stupid to continue to lose to these tactics without implementing effective countermeasures - and conservative arguments don't seem to resonate.

Freder Frederson said...

Isn't it obvious that Barnett& Rosencranz are satirizing the lefties, whose tender feelings keep being outraged by those wicket conservatives?

Reading the entire message, it isn't obvious at all. If they meant it as satire, they did a horrible job. They seem genuinely hurt and angry, not satirical.

wildswan said...

Maybe the only free speech is "hurt speech." Replace "I think" with "I'm so hurt" and say the same thing. Not "I think Donald Trump is saying" but "I'm so hurt that you laugh at Donald Trump". Not "I see Bernie Sanders as wolf in coyote clothing." but "I'm so hurt that you took away my doctor." Possibly I'm so hurt could disinfect any statement. "I'm so hurt that you want taxes to be higher every year." "I'm so hurt that you want me to go out of business because of $15.00 minimum wages." "I'm so hurt at the sight of hurt that I want to throw up when I listen to you talking about how you hurt. I'll stop by in a year if I can stop hurting for your hurt but probably I can't." "I'm so hurt that you are so stupid and I know you."

Rational discussion could take place in special forums which ban hurtspeech. From these special-snowflakes-banned-here areas the idea of discussing ideas, not feelings, could spread just as civilization spread among the barbarians in the Dark Ages.

Eric said...

If they really wanted to do the campus left thing they would have closed with "please sign our petition to get this horrible person fired."

Henry said...

I'm with Freder on this. One one level I think Barnett and Rosencrantz really are appealing to a concept of collegiality that seems somewhat anachronistic, but perhaps warranted within their own experience at Georgetown. On another level they are making a strong case that there is a double standard for what universities will tolerate from its students and staff.

Matthew Sablan said...

Honestly, the amount of vitriol I saw over Scalia's death really put me off from thinking I could *ever* have a reasonable conversation with a lot of people on the left.

Matthew Sablan said...

But, I think the right should do this, but more blatantly and with a much stronger stance, more often. If the left is going to define the battlespace, then, by all means, fight in it.

Matthew Sablan said...

"We spent years with conservative groups meeting peacefully and picking up the trash afterward.

That approach resulted in Trump."

-- One of the reasons I'm not too involved right now in politics. For 12~ or so years, I advocated a moderate, Republican approach. That got me McCain and Romney. The left proceeded to savage them and turn them into ridiculous caricatures of the far left's nightmare conservative. They made Romney -- Romney! -- out to be a soulless man who enjoyed the suffering of others.

So, I admit. My goal of a level-headed, adult, restrained executive branch that worked to compromise failed to garner a majority. I don't think any other candidate will do much better at governing, but they've earned their chance to nominate someone.

Rae said...

Even reading about this is a nanoggression.

CWJ said...

Matthew Sablan,

I totally agree with your last comment. If the Democrats can portray Mitt Romney of all people as a heartless plutocrat, there's no hope. That they were successful only shows the extent to which the MSM are willing accomplices. The old saying is no longer literally true, but don't pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel. I've said it before but it's still true. I'm totally demoralized in the face of "more free stuff."

The Godfather said...

Isn't it just good manners not to say nasty things about the character and actions of the recently departed? Don't decent people normally wait awhile, say until a couple of weeks after the funeral, before firing their cheap shots? De mortuis nil nisi bonum and all that?

Jupiter said...

Drago said...
"Make them live by their own rules."

In camps, you mean?

Quaestor said...

I found it quite humorous, and, yes, I do think that they are trying to hoist the left at their school on their own petard.

Perhaps a more appropriate idiom involves self-flagellation.

Peller and those who think like him have crafted a rod for their own backs.

Sergeant-at-Arms: Start the roll!
Captain Quaestor: Lay on with a will, Messrs. Bennett and Rosenkranz. Lets have a look at his backbone!

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Renee said...

Why would anyone seriously consider being a lawyer, unless it invovled a full scholarship?

Why put up with this,. If you're smart there are other fields/industries that want you.

James Pawlak said...

If, and only if, some law student is hurt by those comments (With which I disagree), s/he must:
1. Go home to "Mommy:; And,
2. Find some other profession as the Law requires such logical thinking (Even if twisted) as excludes such weakness.

Michael said...

Yes. The biter bit. If the Right could learn one thing from Alinsky with respect to the Left, it should be this: make them eat their own cooking.

damikesc said...

I'm legitimately stunned how many on the Left are taking this as their SERIOUS opinion.

That is how you know you've trolled well.

Reading the entire message, it isn't obvious at all. If they meant it as satire, they did a horrible job. They seem genuinely hurt and angry, not satirical.

This is called a rube self-identifying.

If you read a word Barnett ever wrote about anything at any point in his history, the sarcasm would be impossible to miss.