Creative Destruction, Destruction of Creativity

Right about now, a lot of North American colleges and universities, rich and poor, public and private, are realizing that the economic foundations of their enterprise have shifted rather dramatically.

Historians love to argue and argue about whether there are ever revolutions, sudden transformations, disjunctures. Name me a revolution or supposedly sudden transformation and I can find you a body of scholarship that argues that what appeared revolutionary was only the very last act of a very long-standing process of gradual change. (Or that it wasn’t a change at all, only a lot of hue and cry which gave way to a reversion to previous norms.)

I’d certainly argue the many chickens now clucking on the roosts of higher education in this winter of discontent have been lurking about the barnyard for a long time. The 1990s pace of tuition increases became politically and economically unsustainable a few years back. Relying on endowment income has always involved exposure to risk, but the size of endowments at rich institutions had become a political concern in its own right, while institutions with minimal endowments have long since struggled with the problems that lack created in a competitive environment. Perhaps partly because of the size of large endowments, donations were also already under pressure before this year.

I’ll reiterate what I said a few months back about planning for contraction. I’m already seeing signs that as higher education comes under pressure, many institutions are going to handle budgetary shortfalls in the same bad way that flawed or bloated companies do, by getting out a fiscal shotgun and prowling around the herd looking for wounded or vulnerable victims.

When times were flush, a lot of wealthier institutions put money into deferring internal conflicts by supporting all possible pedagogies, all possible missions, all possible institutional identities. Clarity about purpose and approach was largely found in institutions that had to be clear about what they were doing because of limited resources. The need to economize can be an opportunity to clarify, intensify, focus. It can be undertaken as a positive project–but only if some conflicts and disagreements are brought out into the open and worked out as honestly as possible. Leon Botstein can rub a lot people the wrong way with his style, but I think he’s talking a lot of sense in this interview when he notes that institutions flush with endowment money became risk-averse and unable to make tough choices. (via Margaret Soltan). (Though I don’t see why Botstein scorns using endowment income as a part of annual operating expenses. Like tenure, used correctly, that should precisely allow those institutions to take risky choices, even if it hasn’t traditionally led to that.)


Across the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian Ocean begins, another kind of academic crisis is unfolding. If you read this blog largely to scold me for what you see as my wildly liberal views of Africa, but you would honestly like to help people on the African continent who are fighting for freedom and justice, please hold your powder dry, or I won’t be doing anyone any favors by calling attention to this story.

I’m often asked if I’m optimistic about South Africa. My answer has often been “cautiously yes”, and it still is. But over the past three or four years, there have been more and more critical junctures where the balance between optimism and pessimism is being intensely tested. There will be more to come in the next few years.

One of the things I’ve always liked about South Africa is maybe also one source of vulnerability. I’ve always appreciated the combination of intensity and intellectualism in a lot of South African political discourse. South Africans of varying educational backgrounds care about public debate and political decisions in a very passionate way. Even before things went spectacularly bad in Zimbabwe, I was always struck by the much more muted, private and digressive character of public conversation there in comparison to South Africa both before and after the end of apartheid.

That intensity can very quickly turn sour and vicious, however. As a student observer of the Board of Trustees at my undergraduate institution, I was an advocate of divestment. On one occasion, we had a chance to bring together some board members with an ANC representative at a friendly dinner. The representative who came up from New York proceeded to spend the entire meal screaming at the trustees at the top of his lungs. This did not exactly help us persuade them to change policy, but quite aside from the tactical failure, it had that weird harshness that South African public figures can unexpectedly drop into.

This is part of the unfolding crisis at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) over the past few months. The confrontation between the university administration and the faculty has been building for much longer, but it has come to a point of final, critical explosiveness. Vice-Chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba came into office charged with managing a difficult merger of campuses and divisions, and this might caused bad feelings under any circumstances. Makgoba was also an enthusiast for mangerialism of a type that has bedeviled global higher education in general. His administration has tried to exert very fine-grained control over virtually every aspect of the culture and business of academic life. I’ve argued that whether we’re in South Africa or the United States, this approach not only turns its back on the highest responsibilities of academic communities, it is also bad management that wastes human capital to no good purpose.

What has happened recently, however, goes beyond this ongoing problem. You can read some of the details at the following archive. To summarize, the UKZN administration brought disciplinary charges against two professors who have been careful, civil critics of the UKZN administration in public. The main thrust of the charge against them was that they had criticized their own institution, which Vice-Chancellor Makgoba and his closest supporters maintain is not part of what is meant by “academic freedom”. (The director of personnel replied tersely to a request that these issues be discussed within the faculty senate by writing, ‘Employees are required to act in the interests of their employer at all times, and to show due respect’.)

Facing an expensive legal process (the UKZN adminstration retained its own lawyers using public funds, but the two accused professors would have had to pay for their own defense with little prospect of success under current South African labor law), one of the accused has found a job at another university and the other has signed a statement repudiating his earlier actions.

If you want a good sense of just how ugly and aggressive the behavior of the UKZN administration has become as international and national attention to their actions has escalated, read Vice-Chancellor Makgoba’s lengthy, rambling communique dated December 5th. Every once in a while, a U.S. university administration tries to keep a lid on public criticism by disciplining faculty critics, and it is always a sign that there is some kind of serious malfeasance that such an administration is trying to conceal. But I can’t think of any university president, no matter how desperately beseiged, who would say some of what Makgoba says in this communique: the pettiness and obsessiveness of the tone (such as disputing whether one of the two targeted professors is actually a scholar with a good intellectual reputation) reminds me of Captain Queeg on the stand in The Caine Mutiny. On grounds of pure professionalism alone, this should be enough reason for the national education bureaucracy to dismiss Makgoba and his closest advisors as soon as possible: this is the perfect opposite of leadership.

If you’re an academic professional and you’d like to help, consider signing the petition. (I also think this would make a good opportunity for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education to update or write a story.) At the very least, though, no matter how bleak things may look for you right now if you’re working in a North American university, this should clarify about how bad things could be.

This is one of those crossroads for South Africa. Once certain thresholds are crossed, certain institutions ransacked, certain fragile possibilities destroyed, it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to regain a hope for the future.

This entry was posted in Academia, Africa. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Creative Destruction, Destruction of Creativity

  1. withywindle says:

    On college endowments: you did just get Al Bloom’s note that Swarthmore’s endowment is down 30%?

  2. moldbug says:

    Those wondering whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about South Africa might want to watch the new BBC documentary Law and Disorder In Johannesburg. For non-Brits, someone has YouTubed it here.

    As for Vice-Chancellor Makgoba, he sounds very typical of “post-Western” academic institutions in the postcolonial world. The forms remain. The substance is something else entirely.

    I applaud the petition and I would sign it if I was an “academic professional.” However, it’s not clear to me why anyone would expect Vice-Chancellor Makgoba or his superiors to care. The old South Africa was run by Calvinists with bad consciences, who ultimately proved unable to ignore what nice people in Pennsylvania thought of them. The old South Africa is gone. Perhaps there is something peculiarly American in the desire to give up control, yet retain it.

  3. Timothy Burke says:

    Yup. Let’s just say that reminded me that I had meant to write about this issue anyway.

  4. Timothy Burke says:

    Good lord, moldbug, you have opinions about what people should and should not do in all sorts of places far away from wherever it is that you are. Perhaps that is peculiarly American too? Or maybe people in many places have opinions about what people in other places ought to do, and in some cases express those opinions with whatever personal and collective force they can muster.

    Academia is a global institution, and South African academia is an institution to which I have some long-standing ties. Your idee fixes ride you a bit hard.

    I think that Makgoba is not an especially post-Western character, actually, except for he and his closest supporters’ attempts to deploy nationalist and nativist tropes as a shield for his bullying. I think he’s what managerialism in all sorts of institutions around the world has a tendency to decompose into. He’s less postcolonial and more The Office.

  5. moldbug says:

    Having opinions is one thing. Mobilizing shared opinions to influence or control political systems is another – as you point out.

    Fortunately for you, few people now living share my opinions. Unfortunately for, say, Raymond Harris, many share yours.

    If producing net benefit to humanity is your goal, have you ever considered the possibility that your talents and influence would be better spent on persuading South Africans, of whatever race, to leave their collapsing country – rather than helping them plunge deeper and deeper into Amy Biehl syndrome?

    Academia is indeed a global institution. The tentacles of the octopus are everywhere. But I can’t imagine anyone questioning in what country the polyp’s body, beak and brain reside.

    Would you describe your long-standing ties to South African academia as symmetric? Do cutting-edge ideas flow from Johannesburg to Swarthmore, pray tell, or is it the other way around? Do the contacts on the other end of these ties gain more status from knowing you, or you from knowing them? To be brutally frank, do you feel more like you’re sucking up to them, or more like they’re sucking up to you?

    You are aware that a hundred years ago, the world’s leading universities were in Germany, Britain and France, and the US was a second-rate imitator – just as South Africa is today? What do you think changed this? The delightful climate and delicious cuisine, perhaps, of the Massachusetts seaboard, which lured epicurean scholars en masse from dank old Heidelberg and the Sorbonne?

    As for Chancellor Makgoba, I assume you’ve seen this letter to him. If it is the same MW Makgoba, which I think it is, you’re right in at least a relative sense: South Africa holds deeper circles of hell. Zimbabwe beckons.

    I am intrigued, however, by the quotes from “Mokoko.” Here is a review. Assuming this condensation is accurate:

    What is questionable is his resort to some unorthodox–and, possibly, unethical–methods of struggle, such as his surreptitious access to his adversaries’ personal files and resumes (as he himself admits on pp. 123-126), or his consultation of traditional healers for “protective medicines” designed to scare his enemies (recounted in minute detail on pp. 137-139), a most intriguing practice coming from a world-renown medical scientist. There is also a distinct paradox and inherent contradiction in the fact that on the one hand Makgoba craves for international recognition as “a first rate, world-acclaimed African scientist” (p. xix) trained in “some of the world’s best and leading institutions” (p. 46), while on the other hand he advocates a distinctly Afro-centric vision of South African education which, in his view, “must take into account the primacy of Africa and what it embodies in its history, philosophy, identity and culture” (p. 206).

    Honestly, I can’t imagine what could be more “post-Western” than an Oxford PhD in molecular biology who hires witch doctors to cast hexes on his academic detractors. Again: does this sound to you like someone who is concerned with the opinions of Prius-driving NPR listeners in Pennsylvania?

    Speaking of Pennsylvania, Louis Theroux (who is indeed Paul’s son) has another documentary in the same BBC series – Law and Disorder in Philadelphia. Perhaps if you have some spare time on your hands you can watch them both, and try to spot the common element.

  6. sarabeth says:

    Writing from South Africa, I would add that the issues at UKZN–which is hemorrhaging academic staff to more competently run universities all over the country–are part and parcel of a broader cultural/political debate that has come to a boil in the last year, leading to both Mbeki’s firing as ANC president and the split of the ANC. This process has been marked by dozens of small-scale scandals, intrigues, and consitutional crises, mostly linked in some fashion to the corruption case against Jacob Zuma.

    The upshot of this is that 1) the ANC has much less power to discipline people within the party (and the vice-chancellor is deeply embedded in ANC power structures) for fear that they will run off and join the new party, and 2) the robust civil society that is such a feature of the South African political landscape has other things on its plate right now. And as a result, these academics are getting hung out to dry.

    The good news is that, to the extent that COPE does become a viable alternative to the ANC, its platform so far seems to mostly be based on not pulling this kind of crap. And while I am ambivalent about their use of Mbeki as a rallying point (the ANC should have done something about his disastrous AIDS policy years ago, to name but one issue) I think that they are articulating a defense of independence from political meddling for the judiciary, the civil service, and hopefully academia as well. We’ll see how compelling that is as an election manifesto, though.

  7. moldbug says:

    a defense of independence from political meddling for the judiciary, the civil service, and hopefully academia as well.

    Apparently, even in South Africa, there is such a thing as too much majority rule. A rather blunt instrument, it seems, to get the hairy-backed Boers out and the nice Anglo liberals in. Who’d of thunk it?

    We????l see how compelling that is as an election manifesto, though.

    You mean, as compared to “we will kill for President Zuma?”

    I wish all the best for COPE. But don’t unplug that electric fence just yet. And remember – there are universities in Perth and Wellington, too.

  8. benjamin says:

    your comment in the first half of this post regarding the correct use of tenure made me wonder what your thoughts were on the proposed overhaul of contracts for public school teachers in washington, dc.


    personally, I have mixed feelings about this proposal, but would agree that something needs to be done (not because I think our education system is terrible, which I don’t, but because I think it will be in a number of years if something doesn’t change).

  9. moldbug says:

    BTW, here’s a great essay by Makgoba himself in the M&G: Wrath of dethroned white males.

    Don’t the Chancellor just sound like someone you’d love to have over to dinner? So long as you’re not “ungrateful and oblivious to Ubuntu,” of course – a category I’m afraid our host may have just installed himself in. Perhaps he can be the bonobo, and I can be the baboon.

  10. It turns out that Makgoba doesn’t know very much about baboons. Apparently South African baboons, unlike the ones in East Africa, have a winner-take-all hierarchy on the male side, so he’s right that the dominant male pretty much lords it over the rest. Otherwise I guess he’s riffing on the conventional mythology he picked up here and there. The part about the alpha male making all the others imitate him stands out as utter nonsense.

    And Makgoba couldn’t have picked a worse primate to make his point than the bonobo. Females are dominant in bonobo society, and their motto, as a species, seems to be “make love not war.” Their reputation as totally groovy sex- and peace-loving apes may be overplayed, but they’re nothing like baboons in the dominant male department, that’s for sure.

    I think the baboon and bonobo dinner party would be a great idea, though–a charming little symposium on racialized pseudoscience.

  11. Timothy Burke says:

    Benjamin: Rhee is interesting, I agree.

    Moldbug: Look, either you’re interested in the kinds of conversations that go on here in something approximating the terms that they go on here or you’re not. If it’s “not”, you’ve got your own blog. If every post I make on African or academic affairs is going to get an escalating series of “have you stopped beating your wife lately” kinds of responses or lots of connect-the-dots explorations of your own political cosmology, it’s gonna be you holding forth in the comments threads and a lot of cricket-chirping silences otherwise.

  12. hwc says:

    Let Botstein publish an annual financial report for Bard College and then we’ll see how much “sense” he is talking.

  13. moldbug says:

    Professor Burke,

    You occupy what I think you yourself would be the first to describe as a public trust; you have the great courage and wisdom to post your thoughts, which are obviously sincere, in a public space; and you invite comments from the public. You are also the host, and you have every right to tell me to go away.

    However, etiquette on the Internet (to which, sadly for both me and the Internet, I’ve been posting for more than half my life) is not blog-specific. So far as I know, my comments have obeyed it. They have been on-topic or to point (surely the discussion of Chancellor Makgoba, for instance, is relevant), not rude or illiterate, and not boring. If you think I’m breaking these tenets, please let me know where – I promise to take the complaint seriously.

    But one of the possibilities of blogging which I find exciting for the intellectual future of our civilization is its potential to create genuine interactions between widely divergent perspectives. The Internet has made it far more difficult to conceal the existence of such alternatives.

    I may consider you “wildly liberal,” but next to some of the SA dissident blogs, I am wildly liberal. And then there is Google Books: next to Carlyle, Filmer or Dean Tucker, I am wildly liberal. The playing field has changed, permanently. The only remedy is to broaden one’s mind, an exercise effective at any age.

    I enjoy commenting here because I think the result is just such a productive interaction. To be exact, the responses tell me things I didn’t know. I am genuinely interested in the progressive and/or academic perspective of the world, and I’m curious as to its intellectual response to a small but undiluted dose of a reactionary allergen long since purged from its body politic. I feel that, for a public intellectual, “what is your reaction to X?” is always a fair question, and I think enough of progressives to be confident that many are just as interested in broadening their minds as I am.

    Even the absence of response can be informative. Does sarabeth have a response, even a stock response, to my stock comments, which represent a perspective I know for a fact is quite common in her country? Or does she just avoid social interaction with those who dissent from her perspective? Either way, the answer tells us something about South Africa as it is today.

    And to put it very baldly: seeing as you guys basically run the world and stuff, I would like to hear your answers to questions that matter to me. Where else do I ask them? Barack Obama’s website?

  14. moldbug says:


    I second the motion for a dinner party! I suggest we invite me, you, the baboon, Professor Burke, the bonobo and Chancellor Makgoba. Please let me know when you can get the restaurant, animals, and guests lined up.

  15. Timothy Burke says:

    Look, I think you pose an interesting challenge for me, not for the least reason that within the context of Africanist historiography, I tend to position myself as something of a skeptic and critic–so it’s interesting to have a very radically different kind of skeptic essentially skip over whatever arguments I’m otherwise engaged in to frame me as a Prius-driving leftist who ceaselessly celebrates African nationalism.

    I’m blog because I think it’s valuable for me as an individual and for my profession to be challenged by (and perhaps to challenge) all sorts of larger publics.

    What I’d ask of you is this:

    1) Slow down on treating me as the White Whale to your Captain Ahab. I also blog for my own pleasure; it stops being pleasurable after a while if I know that any time I post on particular topics, by the time the sun sets, there’s going to be ten replies that accuse me of lighting bonfires with purloined copies of Thomas Carlyle’s collected works, urinating on the sainted grave of P.W. Botha, and failing to understand that black criminals in Gary Indiana have been in mysterious ethereal communion with postcolonial kleptocrats in Burkina Faso. Not to mention running the world and stuff: I only wish. Then maybe I could at least trade my 15-year old Saturn in for a Prius. It just makes me feel more and more like you’re doing some kind of performance art where my job is to run around trying to put out fires while the audience laughs. I’m not interested in applying to be the monkey to your organ grinder.

    2) If you’re really serious about the notion that what’s interesting about the Internet is the meeting between divergent temperments and intellects, you gotta work just a teeny bit harder at the meeting part. Meaning go with the flow of the conversation, don’t nail a Martin-Luther list of theses to the forehead of everyone who posts in the discussion and then tap your feet impatiently, listen to what other people are saying. Relax. Stop being so entitled. Blog commentariats are dinner parties, not inquisitorial sessions.

    3) Tempermentally, I’ve arrived at a point in my life where uncertainty and humility about the way the world is and could be are important watchwords. I don’t live up to that obligation every day, and on some issues, I think certainty, passion and intensity are still very much appropriate and necessary. (I don’t have any doubt, for example, that the way VC Makgoba runs his institution is bad practice, regardless of what I might think about postcolonial Africa, global academia, etc.) The world is full of people who are absolutely sure they know everything about everything. Those people are made for each other’s company. I’d prefer to have conversations with people who still think they have something to learn, who think there are things to explore through conversation, who can play devil’s advocate against their own treasured positions, who can see both (or more) sides to an issue, who can concede a point, who hold themselves potentially persuadable, etc. That’s the culture I want to make here in this commentariat. Maybe this is the moment where that project fails, I don’t know.

  16. fridaykr says:

    The exchanges on this blog are generally pretty good. On point, well thought-out, and well-written. However, Moldbug’s posts are the conspicous exception.

    If there is a germ of useful provocation in Moldbug’s posts–a glimmer of a productive idea that could be the basis of a discussion–those germs are more than vitiated by his sprawling, associative, and bombastically categorical writing. Based on what I’ve read on this blog (note the qualification Moldbug, you should try it sometime) I don’t think Moldbug is capable of focusing his thoughts or his writing in a way that facilitates a rational exchange of ideas.

    I don’t care what Moldbug’s ideological bent is; I don’t have the energy or the time to read him because his writing is so poor. He can’t develop a single point (or a series of points that build to a larger point); he can’t adduce relevant evidence; and he can’t identify and answer relevant objections to his arguments without sweeping, ad hominem attacks.

    From what I can gather from a skim, Moldbug has no love of academia, and I am sure he can justify his abrogation of some of its guiding principles. But why did clarity and precision have to be renounced as well?

  17. moldbug says:

    Professor Burke,

    As always, substitute “formulating public policy” for “running the world.” I’m not sure why you’d expect this to come with a king-size salary and a mile-long car. Whatever names you use, public authority has always been a privilege for which men are willing to sacrifice compensation – far from demanding more. Power is its own form of payment. Besides, the academic idea factory behind the continuing triumph of American foreign policy in Africa is large enough these days that buying every professor a Prius would really cut into the budget for further good works.

    Believe me, I’m not oblivious to your capacity for criticizing the machine that employs you. The closest historical relative of the New Deal state is the Soviet system – which was not toppled by readers of Ayn Rand, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, etc, etc. If there is one individual responsible for the fact that we no longer have a Soviet Union to kick around, it is of course Mikhail Gorbachev. Whose attitude of moderate skepticism and critical common sense toward his own apparat was very reminiscent of yours.

    Gorbachev was a reformer, not a dissident or a revolutionary. The problem he ran into was that once you started doubting Communism just a little, there was no reason not to start doubting it a lot. Gorby himself was not the man to take this step, but the door he opened could not be closed.

    So when you write:

    I???? prefer to have conversations with people who still think they have something to learn, who think there are things to explore through conversation, who can play devil???? advocate against their own treasured positions, who can see both (or more) sides to an issue, who can concede a point, who hold themselves potentially persuadable, etc.

    I take it that you consider yourself a member of this group. One way to prove it might be to admit that, just possibly, P.W. Botha might have turned out to be right on one or two bets which you and your peers took the other side of.

    No, this does not require either (a) deciding that P.W. Botha was right about everything, or (b) kneeling on his grave with a bouquet of roses and singing “Die Stem.” For one thing, Andries Treurnicht arguably has a better case to historical vindication than De Groot Krokodil. For another, European government in Africa is now consigned quite firmly to history, and those expecting to find either perfect angels or pure devils in the past will always be disappointed if their search is sincere.

    Having the open mind you claim to have does, however, require sincerely understanding and engaging the racist, colonialist and/or imperialist perspective – which is readily available, in English, in both contemporary works and primary sources.

    What I don’t see from you is a willingness to do this. All I see in this direction is a talent for invective and ridicule, an art in which I have nothing to teach you. From this standpoint, I hope you can see how your stance of cautious, moderate and respectful skepticism against the most outrageous crazinesses of postcolonial Afrocentrism, the Makgobas and worse, appears as a form of praise by faint damn.

    To continue the Communism analogy: consider Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Yes, he acknowledged, Stalin had made terrible mistakes. Did this mean the Soviet Union needed another 33 years of mafia socialism? Of course it did! “Comrades, what’s past is past – move forward in building Communism.” Opinions may vary on whether or not this is a useful form of dissent. But somehow I doubt it is the form you intend.

    Thus, it seems fair to assign you to the camp with which you prefer to associate. Regardless of the fact that within this camp you are relatively far to the right. Or would you prefer to be described as an extremely liberal conservative? Somehow I doubt it.

    So it’s not that I believe you are some raving, Prius-driving uber-Quaker professor of past-hating and whitey-dreads, who reduces the British Empire to closeted paraphilia in the Anglican episcopal hierarchy, and whose idea of a hip young African politician is Julius Malema or Raila Odinga. It’s that mild criticism does not constitute actual disavowal.

    Moreover, in your diplomatic and carefully-worded criticisms of the Makgobas of the world, you do no service to those who criticized first and most strongly. Thus, you make your thoughts appear more original than they actually are. Doesn’t this, at least, touch your academic conscience?

    For example, consider the following question. “Who, before 1940, was most accurate in their prediction of the post-1945 Third World?” In my opinion, the prize has to go to Evelyn Waugh, for Robbery under Law (1939). As Waugh put it: “civilization, like a leper, seems to rot from the extremities.” Perhaps you have your own candidate, but Waugh is a strong, strong horse.

    Yet Waugh and his ilk have no students, no influence, and basically no existence in the world today. Where as you and your ilk, who at the very least midwifed a menagerie of murderous tyrants, have all the students, and all the influence, for which any institution of learning at any time in history could ask. Doesn’t that strike you as just a little odd?

  18. moldbug says:

    fridaykr, perhaps you skim just as well as you think you skim, but someday you’ll just have to take the plunge and learn to read.

    For starters, I recommend Froude’s History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth. Froude was Regius Professor at Oxford, so he should meet with your automatic approval. He was surely a better writer than me. The History is in 12 volumes, starting here.

  19. Timothy Burke says:

    I don’t think you really took my point, moldbug.

  20. peter55 says:

    Timothy, you said:

    “Moldbug: Look, either you??re interested in the kinds of conversations that go on here in something approximating the terms that they go on here or you??re not. If it??s ??not??, you??ve got your own blog. If every post I make on African or academic affairs is going to get an escalating series of ??have you stopped beating your wife lately?? kinds of responses or lots of connect-the-dots explorations of your own political cosmology, it??s gonna be you holding forth in the comments threads and a lot of cricket-chirping silences otherwise.”

    As I have noted previously, Moldbug’s commentary is often illogical, not based on any connection with reality, evidently unsusceptible to rational argument, and often quite indistinguishable from racism. A small amount of that goes a very long way for me, and so I now mostly refrain from commenting here. Silence of the crickets, indeed!

  21. moldbug says:

    Did you expect me to?

    Surely, Professor Burke, there was a time in your life when you had strong opinions toward what you perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a power structure that had no answer to your questions but to stonewall. How did you express those opinions? How easily were you dissuaded?

    Do I need to remind anyone of the tactics that progressives used, 40 years ago, to seize control of America’s universities? (My wife has an MFA, for example, from the alma mater of the “Third World Strike.”)

    Then once ensconced, suddenly you’re Lady Catherine de Burgh, and to ask you a question you don’t want to answer is the pinnacle of barbarism.

    What if Americans knew? That the great intellectual battlements that tower gloomily above them, whose cardinals are of course the only men and women who can really be trusted to formulate the “public policy” of their purportedly democratic government, and whose fees are one of the main costs of their lives, would tremble at such feathers? That their R1 professors were so sensitive?

    Especially since so many of same, albeit in earlier life, were so elated by any petty breach of the peace that might advance the causes of their creed. I remember the shantytowns on the quad. Were their occupants defeated?

    It’s enough to make any young man want to read R.J. Dabney, Ernst von Salomon, Albert Jay Nock, Albert Beveridge, George Schuyler, Ernst Juenger, John S. Wise, John Burgess, Stuart Cloete, Henry Maine, Nirad Chaudhuri, W.E.H. Lecky, Kelly Miller, George W. Steevens, or Thomas Nelson Page.

  22. moldbug says:

    Fortunately, peter55, Kim du Toit can always show up to replace you.

  23. Timothy Burke says:

    Moldbug, I once managed to disenchant a rally of my fellow undergraduates by coming out of a meeting on divestment policy and reporting that the issues involved were complex, the virtues of divestment subtle, the trustees relatively earnest, and that we’d just have to keep on talking about the issue. I’ve certainly had strong opinions now and then, but there’s no requirement that a person with strong opinions at any time of their life be an asshole or a drama queen. Or, for that matter, an Internet troll.

  24. G. Weaire says:

    “… I once managed to disenchant a rally of my fellow undergraduates by coming out of a meeting on divestment policy and reporting that the issues involved were complex, the virtues of divestment subtle, the trustees relatively earnest, and that we???? just have to keep on talking about the issue….”

    This is a marvellous image.

    “What do we want?”

    “A detailed and complex policy approach that is informed by a nuanced, thoughtful, thorough understanding of the relevant concerns (taking, of course, a broad view of what we mean by “relevant”), and the background to those concerns, of the various parties affected in each of the possible outcomes that we might cautiously envisage would emerge from the course of action under discussion – allowing, one must keep in mind, for the fact that there are many variables of which we can only have a very insecure knowledge.”

    “When do we want it?”

    “It is, of its nature (if I may be allowed to use the expression despite the danger of essentializing that it entails), an ongoing and provisional process for which no precise schedule can be established.”

  25. jpool says:

    “Moldbug???? commentary is … often quite indistinguishable from racism.”

    There’s nothing crypto going on here. Moldbug came out in an earlier comment thread as a sincere racist with appeal/allegiance to some sort of secret organization of contemporary scientific racists who, he felt certain, would one day soon be vindicated. Obviously the current scientific consensus is just a misguided radical orthodoxy which be dethroned and dumbass nineteenth/early twentieth century thinking restored to its rightful place of intellectual dominance.

    Moldbug, to paraphrase that supremely uneven film True Romance, we’re not afraid of you, we just don’t like you or find your ideas worth engaging with. Even without the trollish bobbing and weaving, your ideas aren’t any more worth engaging with than those of flat earthers. Add the vitriol and rhetorical games on top of that and it’s not even worth telling you that you’re wrong.

  26. moldbug says:

    Professor Burke, don’t get me wrong: you are a natural Girondin. Indeed if every revolution wound up in the hands of its Girondins, history might well have vindicated Paine and refuted your namesake (who, let’s not forget, was a Whig himself). And likewise, if South Africa winds up in the hands of Terror Lekota rather than Julius Malema, you may even claim a bit of vindication yourself. I presume you don’t care to take any wagers on the matter.

    Would divestment have succeeded in the absence of drama queens? As in all counterfactuals, history is silent. I was recently encouraged by HBO’s treatment of Samuel Adams, which managed to portray him as exactly the drama queen he must have been – and a truly foul character, to boot. But without Samuel, would we ever have heard of his cousin?

    It is the permanent misfortune of the Girondin to get it from both sides. The very sincerity of his error makes him everyone’s perfect target. The right trolls him because he is not beyond redemption; the left purges him for just the same reason. At least the former address their complaints to his ears, whereas the latter go straight for his neck.

    You have asked nicely, though, so I promise to stop power-trolling your blog.

  27. moldbug says:

    Dear jpool,

    Aren’t those “public-service” websites wonderful? Who do you think takes the time to come up with all that stuff, anyway? I mean, wow.

    Before you crawl too far out on that particular limb, you might want to watch or read the transcript of the recent interview between Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and James Watson. You’ll find both at “The Root,” that notorious nest of Snapple-quaffing Klansmen.

    As for the science: the spam filter only allows one link, so I’ll go with Risch et al. 2004. These results are not even remotely controversial, nor can they be misinterpreted. As Steve Sailer put it, “it’s as if you gave Strom Thurmond a map of the world and a box of crayons.”

    On the big question, Professor Watson’s “we don’t know” remains the official answer – for now. As Watson says, however, it is unlikely that we will continue not knowing for much longer. Moreover, Occam’s razor is now in the room.

  28. moldbug says:

    Also, for a nice introduction to the whole issue: try the New York Times.

  29. BarryD says:

    Tim, there comes a time when you either ban the mofo or let your blog get turned into their ranting section. And you don’t even get to collect rent.

    Your choice.

  30. dollabrand says:

    Just block moldbug. She/ he’s a rightwing troll. Probably member of what remains of remnants of PRAAG, or part of the Saffer “diaspora.” Why don’t he/she go over to the Weekly Standard or NRO websites?

    Makgoba as you rightly points out is a mixture of managerialism and fake “Africanism” who found himself both as enemy of Mbeki (on AIDS) and as ally (odd Africanism).

    Great blog.

Comments are closed.