Thomas Chatterton Williams reviews two Anti-Student polemics at the New York Times. Old Socialist comments

As moving and enlightening as I found Thomas Chatterton Williams’ interview here:

He is an outsider by choice, and more importantly by experience, his role model being his father aided by his own temperament. Mr. Williams remains well within the rhetoric of Neo-Libealism by accepting this pronouncement by William Egginton about ‘rampant inequality of both economic and social capital’ this demonstrates the pernicious character of the Neo-Liberal ascendancy, not to mention Mr. Williams as fellow traveler, the perfect reviewer for these two Anti-Student polemics/hysterics. Its an American Tradition from the time of  Berkley, Mario Savio, Ronald Reagan and Clark Kerr:

Student protests

Controversy exploded in 1964 when Berkeley students led the Free Speech Movement in protest of regulations limiting political activities on campus, including Civil Rights advocacy and protests against the Vietnam War. It culminated in hundreds of arrested students at a sit-in. Kerr’s initial decision was to not expel University of California students that participated in sit-ins off campus. That decision evolved into reluctance to expel students who later would protest on campus in a series of escalating events on the Berkeley campus in late 1964. Kerr was criticized both by students for not agreeing to their demands and by conservative UC Regent Edwin Pauley and others for responding too leniently to the student unrest.[3]


In 2002, the FBI released documents used to blacklist Kerr as part of a government campaign to suppress subversive viewpoints at the University.[4] This information had been classified by the FBI and was only released after a fifteen-year legal battle that the FBI repeatedly appealed up to the Supreme Court, but agreed to settle before the Supreme Court decided on hearing the matter. President Lyndon Johnson had picked Kerr to become Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare but withdrew the nomination after the FBI background check on Kerr included damaging information the agency knew to be false.

Edwin Pauley approached CIA Director John McCone (a Berkeley alum and associate) for assistance. McCone in turn met with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.[5][6] Hoover agreed to supply Pauley with confidential FBI information on “ultra-liberal” regents, faculty members, and students, and to assist in removing Kerr. Pauley received dozens of briefings from the FBI to this end. The FBI assisted Pauley and Ronald Reagan in painting Kerr as a dangerous “liberal.”

Kerr’s perceived leniency was key in Reagan’s election as Governor of California in 1966[citation needed] and in Kerr’s dismissal as president in 1967. Shortly thereafter, Kerr’s old friend Thomas M. Storke insisted that Kerr should be allowed to participate, as previously scheduled, in the dedication of a building on the Santa Barbara campus in Storke’s honor.[7] At the dedication ceremony Kerr stated that he had left the presidency of the university just as he had entered it: “fired with enthusiasm.”[7]

Kerr’s second memoir, The Gold and the Blue: A Personal Memoir of the University of California, 1949-1967 Volume Two: Political Turmoil details what he refers to as his greatest blunders in dealing with the Free Speech Movement that ultimately led to his firing.

Berkeley provides the model for the how of college administrators, like Clark Kerr, the FBI, and unscrupulous politicians like Reagan, their successors deal with ‘student unrest’ and their leaders like Mario Savio. The duplicity/mendacity of Clark Kerr, his alliance with the utterly corrupt FBI , under the leadership of the sexual/political paranoia of Closet Case J. Edgar Hoover,  the political hysteria of FBI informer Reagan,  other respectable bourgeois politicians, and a collaborationist corporate media are still active in the political present! The political actors and propagandists are now William Egginton , Gregg Lukkianoff and Jonathan Haidt with the help of  Thomas Chatterton Williams. Mr. Williams does not play his role of ‘outsider’ in this ‘review’ The political atmospherics of hysteria  are only heightened by the present post 9-11 world.

This reader recalls the ascendancy of  the bellicose  S.I. Hayakawa, to the interventions of Alan Bloom, Roger Kimball and Dinesh D’Souza, and their allies in the American press. The historical frame for these two books: ‘The Splintering of The American Mind’ and ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ is an homage to that Neo-Conservative Alan Bloom’s highfalutin even hyperbolic book title, receives not one mention from Mr. Williams,  his essay/review in the territory of the a-historical. Mr. Bloom and his disdain for those students that found his status as Platonic Guardian a bit comic, in his rambling scolding polemic against students of a generation ago: their narcissism and their addiction to the dreaded dreaded ‘Rock Music’. In the present Age, Bloom’s demon would have been Hip-Hop, not quite a fit with Mr. William’s anguished relationship with this protein American musical genre, while it might still have resonance.

The authors of these two books and their ‘reviewer’ offer immediate evidence of the pernicious nature of the Neo-Conservative/Neo-Liberal alliance, that defines the Political Centrism of America. Mr.Williams  is not incapable of  providing an alternative reading of this history, a bit of elementary research could have led him to a more cogent informed commentary. What might come as an unhappy surprise, to Mr. Williams, is that some his readership were alive and fully cognoscente of American History as it  unfolded  from 1960, or even before ,the political events happening of the present crisis in the Campus life of American Universities. Some of his readership read the interventions by the previous generation of the producers of Anti-Student hysteria , and have a jaundiced view of the two books paying a political homage to Bloom’s political agitprop, that demonized a generation of students as politically heretical.

The focus of both these polemics are the college campus, yet Occupy Wall Street, the Show Trail of Cecily McMillan, and Ferguson remain on the outside of another generation of these purveyors of Anti-Student polemics , and the reviewer of their two books.  The titles of  The Splintering of The American Mind’, ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ and pay a dubious  homage to Bloom’s book. Conservatives are addicted to jejune name calling, framed  in patriarchal moral shaming! Call the technique shopworn except, to generation of Conservatives, whose desperation is expressed, now,  in face of a ‘rebellion’ of infantile demanding students. We have heard this Party Line endlessly repeated across generations.

I’m tired of reading/listening to this shit! It reminds me of the Sixties and the paranoia about Hippies/Long Hairs and Anti-War Protestors at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The political present is informed by the past, our responsibility is to remind ourselves of what that past was, and not by engaging in an a-historical  approach to the vexing questions of the political present, framed by a homage to the polemics of the past, that simply repackages shopworn thinking as somehow valuable, viable in that political present. The concept of ‘I-Gen’,  dull witted journalistic pseudo-sociology and Jean Twenge concept of ‘ obsessed with safety’ are the contributions of the authorial duo of Lukianoff and Haidt to this toxic intervention on behalf of their conceptualization of political rationalism.  That the writers of these two books, and their reviewer, don’t even mention the rise and precipitous fall of the Neo-Liberal Swindle, as one of the most telling political/economic/civic events in the lives of this purported ‘I-Gen’ leaves this reader wondering about their grasp on the reality of American life in the dismal  political present.

Old Socialist



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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