Archive for October 2021

A Few Thoughts on Yale Law School

I won't go into all the details (one of many articles on this incident here), but the Yale Law School administration attempted to blackmail and intimidate one of their students over a party invitation he sent out, the main complaint seeming to be the party was sponsored by a right of center legal group (Federalist Society).  The audio, if you have time, is outrageous.  It is a good thing the student recorded it, because I am not sure many people would have believed the b-movie authoritarian dialog coming from the Yale executives.

I had two reactions I don't see written very many places:

  1. The law profession strikes me as a particularly confrontational profession, and with the exception of perhaps law enforcement and first responders, one in which it is almost impossible to shelter oneself from a wide variety of craziness.  So how is Yale Law possibly doing its job to train the next generation's best and brightest attorneys when they actively support the kind of mental and emotional fragility that led to the complaints?  If we take the complainers at their word, they are hiding under their bed because they got an email party invitation sponsored by a group they don't agree with.
  2. Top attorneys frequently find themselves in high stakes negotiations where their opponents try to bluff and bully them.   On this dimension, the student who refused to be blackmailed by Yale appears to be the best prospective attorney of the bunch.  I would certainly hire him.

Of course, a more likely explanation for the over-reactions among a very small number of students to the email is that Progressives have discovered that feigning more extreme fragility than that of a fainting woman in a Victorian novel is a useful tool for exercising power because university authorities (and increasingly a broader range of authorities) will act as the useful idiots who can be manipulated by such claims.

Fixed SSL Issue (I Hope)

After a lot of complicated debugging, of course it was something simple -- the certificate failed to renew automatically.  Hopefully all is working correctly now

Update:  Of course then I screwed something else up.  Some sort of problem with php vs. mysql versions.  Anyway, fixed now, hopefully

Understanding the Difference Between Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism

Who says universities don't teach anything useful?

The difference between mere authoritarianism and totalitarianism is often hard to explain to people, and some want to use the terms interchangeably.  But I think this distinction is particularly important today, as we see the American Progressive Left tilting over from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.  The University of Chicago is actually helping us to learn the difference.

For the long answer on this distinction, I recommend the work of Hannah Arendt.  She has done more than anyone in really defining the terms and nature of totalitarianism.  The history of her reception in this country is an interesting one.  During the 1950s, in the midst of the Cold War and with the Nazi plague still fresh in everyone's mind, her work resonated with a lot of people.  But as we moved into the 60's and Marxists began gaining power in many universities, academia turned against her in large part because they didn't like how she equated Nazism and communism.  Out of favor by the 1980s in colleges that still wanted to whitewash Stalin, something interesting happened.  As the Berlin Wall fell and eastern European intellectuals began looking for a framework to describe their experience under communism, they rediscovered Hannah Arendt as someone whose work resonated with their own observations.

Anyway, shortcutting a lot of complexity, the way I describe the difference simply is that authoritarians just want compliance, while totalitarians want enthusiastic belief -- belief that is ramified down from politics to the smallest elements of daily life.

So in the current context of COVID, authoritarians don't give a crap if you believe in masks or not, they are happy if you wear them when they demand.  But totalitarians....

For the second year in a row, the University of Chicago forced students to sign a “Required COVID-19 Attestation,” a lengthy document that demands students click “I agree” to a number of statements and rules regarding COVID-19.

UChicago, which last year was named America’s “No. 1 free speech campus,” is openly defying its commitment to academic freedom because the attestation goes far beyond forced compliance to inane COVID mandates — it actually thought-polices students.

Failure to sign my university’s attestation by last Monday meant your student ID was deactivated and you were banned from all university facilities, barring you from attending class.

In order to attend class, students are forced to “agree” in writing to the assertion that “COVID-19 poses a serious public health risk.” Students like me must also “agree” to the claim that “my failure to follow the [COVID-19] requirements,” like wearing a cloth over my mouth, “may endanger myself and/or others.”

Similarly, students who receive a religious exemption from UChicago’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate are forced to sign their names below a statement reading, “I acknowledge that I may be placing myself and others at risk of serious illness should I contract a disease that could have been prevented through proper vaccination.”

Authoritarians demand you wear the mask.  Totalitarians demand that you love the mask.