Friday, March 24, 2006

The Yale Taliban and Diversity -- The Jollies of an Intellectual

I’m sure you’ve heard about Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi by now, the former Taliban spokesman that Yale eagerly admitted to its prestigious campus. As a spokesman for the brutal theocracy of Taliban-era Afghanistan, Hashemi was an excuser of atrocity, and the announcement of his admission surprised and outraged many. But this should come as no surprise, and the outrage should amount to no more than a knowing bitterness—this was not unexpected. This is simply the fruition of the diversity movement, the next logical step of a self-mutilating ideology that measures its success cut by ragged, cut inflicted on the classical liberal values that underpin this nation.

We must face the truth: Hashemi was not admitted to Yale despite his background as an Islamofascist-apologist and enemy of America—he was admitted because of it.

The Yalies must’ve been salivating at the prospect. This man actually fought against America’s imperialist hegemony! His values sneer in the face of polluting, globalizing Western values. The diversity! Here, the postmodernist can experience the ultimate frisson of pleasure: the flirtation with the primal forces of intolerance and unbending belief. Tolerance of the intolerant; what a subversive pleasure! The vicarious thrill of abandoning rationality, suspending belief in one’s own values, and consciously alienating one’s self, can all be experienced through Hashemi. He is the conduit through which jaded Yale faculty, themselves long divorced of any deeply held beliefs, can feel the vigor of belief once again.

Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic detailed this perverse pathology in a response to noted postmodernist Stanley Fish. Fish wrote an op-ed taking the side of the Muslims in the Muhammed cartoon/caricature controversy, and consciously setting himself against the liberal value of free speech. Fish derided a belief in liberalism as no less a faith than faith in Islam. He took this further, arguing that at least Muslims hold their beliefs strongly, whereas liberals have no such intense devotion to their faith. Thus, through some will to power, Muslims deserve respect for this belief, merely because it is strongly held (not, notably, because it is right or good in some sense—merely, solely, because it is strongly held).

Wieseltier cuts through Fish’s relativist muddle, and identifies Fish's motivating emotions:

For this reason, it is Fish's geeky paean to people who are happy to hurt other people, his anti-liberal envy of muscles, that is perfectly contentless. He recommends the radicalism of the Islamist protesters, but he does not care whether there is no God but Allah or whether Mohammed is His Prophet. The philosophy means nothing to him. He wants only the action. He mocks liberals as editors, but he is himself just a spectator. And he is demanding his thrills. He is living vicariously through the absolutism of others. Those are not the jollies of a democrat.

He identifies the diversophile sentiment in a nutshell: “What excites Fish about fervent belief is the fervor, not the belief.” Diversity is the praise of difference itself, not the praise of the content of different opinions. Content is irrelevant. The only possible mediator between differing claims is the fervency of those that hold those claims to be true—objective truth cannot be appealed to, as every belief is as much an article of faith as the next. It is all about emotional satisfaction. Beliefs, under diversity, are simply a matter of boutique preference.

The admission of an enemy of America to one of America’s premiere university isn’t surprising to anyone that’s took measure of the intellectual currents flowing therein. The postmodernist ideology of diversity—that is, the urge to dabble in illiberal fantasy through the representing of anti-liberal perspectives on college campuses—is surely a serious threat, but one that has been percolating for some time.

Surprised? No. This is the culmination of diversity. This is no accident.

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