The Academic Mob Rules

Naomi Schaefer Riley, Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2012

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a cover story called “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering Into the Future,'” in which the reporter described how “young black-studies scholars . . . are less consumed than their predecessors with the need to validate the field or explain why they are pursuing doctorates in their discipline.” The “5 Up-and-Coming Ph.D. Candidates” described in the piece’s sidebar “are rewriting the history of race.” While the article suggested some are skeptical of black studies as a discipline, the reporter neglected to quote anyone who is.

Like me. So last week, on the Chronicle’s “Brainstorm” blog (where I was paid to be a regular contributor), I suggested that the dissertation topics of the graduate students mentioned were obscure at best and “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap,” at worst.


The reaction to my blog post ranged from puerile to vitriolic. The graduate students I mentioned and the senior faculty who advise them at Northwestern University accused me (in guest blogs posted by the Chronicle editors) of bigotry and cowardice. The former wrote that “in a bid to not be ‘out-niggered’ [their word] by her right-wing cohort, Riley found some black women graduate students to beat up on.” (I confess I don’t actually know what that means.) One fellow blogger (and hundreds of commenters) called my post “racist.”

Gina Barreca, a teacher of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, composed a poem mocking me. (It begins “A certain white chick—Schaefer Riley/ decided to do something wily.”) MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry spewed a four-minute rant about my post, invoking the memory of Trayvon Martin and accusing me of “small-mindedness.”

{snip} And 6,500 academics signed a petition online demanding that I be fired.

At first, the Chronicle stood its ground, suggesting that my post was an “invitation to debate.” But that stance lasted for little more than a weekend. In a note that reads like a confession at a re-education camp, the Chronicle’s editor, Liz McMillen announced her decision on Monday to fire me: “We’ve heard you,” she tells my critics. “And we have taken to heart what you said. We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles.”

When I asked Ms. McMillen whether the poem by fellow blogger Ms. Barreca, for instance, lived up to such standards, she said they were “reviewing” the other content on the site. So far, however, that blogger has not been fired. Other ad hominem attacks against me seem to have passed editorial muster as well.

In her Monday mea culpa, Ms. McMillen wrote that her previous “editor’s note last week inviting [readers] to debate the posting also seemed to elevate it to the level of informed opinion, which it was not.” I have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years now, having visited dozens of colleges and universities and interviewed hundreds of faculty, students and administrators. My work has been published in every major newspaper in the country, most often this one, and I have written two widely reviewed books on higher education as well.


But why take my word for it? {snip}

Thirty-five years later in a piece for the Minding the Campus website, former Berkeley Prof. John McWhorter noted that little had changed: “Too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black.”

My critics have suggested that I do not believe the black experience in America is worthy of study. That is not true. It’s just that the best of this work rarely comes out of black studies departments. {snip}

But a substantive critique about the content of academic disciplines is simply impossible in the closed bubble of higher education. If you want to know why almost all of the responses to my original post consist of personal attacks on me, along with irrelevant mentions of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and George Zimmerman, it is because black studies is a cause, not a course of study. By doubting the academic worthiness of black studies, my critics conclude, I am opposed to racial justice—and therefore a racist.


My longtime familiarity with the absurdities of higher education did not, I confess, prepare me for this most absurd of results. The content of my post, after all, is hardly shocking; the same thing could have been written 30 years ago. And perhaps that’s the most depressing part of all this. Despite the real social and economic advancement that has been made by blacks in this country, the American faculty is still stuck in the 1960s.

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  • Semi-related news:

    Could that be because some of the people holding junk Ph.Ds are unemployable?

    • Church_of_Jed

      Everyone knows that black Diversity makes highly desirable employees and become the strength of our companies, campuses and government. So what explains the employment gap?

      EVIL WHITE PRIVILEGE, of course.  Your White privilege, you sick, vile, ignorant raciss!

      While the improvements in Black unemployment were commendable, an overwhelming racial gap remains. Little has been done to address the persistent gap between black and white unemployment, and African Americans remain at the back of the economic bus. White unemployment holds steady at 7.4% this month, a rate that still has many white Americans highly upset at President Obama. Ironically, the rate that whites complain about so readily is one that African Americans would be expected to celebrate. That, my friends, is White Privilege 101.

  • Tim

    College is a lot like Wildwood New Jersey in that it takes going there to realize you shouldn`t have bothered…

  • StivD

    Another example out of many that shows it’s useless to try to change minds in academia or in other ‘elite’ circles; they’re a closed culture all their own.  Focus efforts elsewhere. ‘Ordinary’ intelligent people mean a lot more to me and always will.

    • Kurt Plummer


      Another example out of many that shows it’s useless to try to change minds in academia or in other ‘elite’ circles; they’re a closed culture all their own.

      Ridiculous.  You are looking through the wrong end of the telescope, as is the author of the article.  As is her editor.

      We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles.”

      It is not up to the writer to meet the standards of ANY media source or site.  That is what an editorial department is _for_.

      By failing to note this until the steam got a little hot in the pressure cooker, ‘Ms. McMillen’ gives away the face that the ONLY reason that Naomi Schaefer’s article doesn’t meet ‘standards’ is that _there are none_.

      Academicians like it that way so that, unlike say the Post Office or the Military, they never have to meet ‘milspec’ requirements for quality education vs. self aggrandizing fraud.

      And the immediate answer to this is in YOUR hands.  Because the second higher level education becomes unpalateable to enough whites, higher educations power (as a purveyor of sheep skins) will evaporate.  And with it, the tuition matches that make it possible.

      And higher education will HAVE TO _publish standards_ of ‘open debate’ which are factually on point and equal for all.

      Focus efforts elsewhere.

      This is also wrong because as soon as whites abandon the higher education system without pulling back funds to push up their mestizo/asian/black replacements, we are lost as the dominant culture in an educated society.

      We don’t want to do that.  We want to set up an alternative, highly critical and _focussed on debate_ alternative education system.  Using vouchers and stealing staff from the existing system.  Whites who go to -these- ‘national’ schools will get ‘white degrees’ which is to say degrees that are not directed towards empowering H-1B or Ethnic-X minorities over us.

       ‘Ordinary’ intelligent people mean a lot more to me and always will.

      The problem with which is that ‘ordinary blacks’ are the kind of obnoxious, loud, in-your-face racists that whites never were.  And so long as nobody can force them to sit still while you have -your- say, facts to facts, there is no way that intelligence will be heard over the screaming chimp noise of mob psychology.

      Whites are more reserved because we are smarter and more able to manage things.  You do not want a ‘Planet of the Apes’ nation where the gorillas rule the roost and the orangutans support the militant racism which is now 100% black.  And growing more authoritarian.

      If we cannot do this, within the system, it is time to withdraw from this nation and set up a new one.

      It really is that simple a choice.  Either we return to intelligent debate which blacks _know_ they will lose, because they DO NOT comprehend the big-word concepts they make speeches about.

      Or we leave.

  • Jay1

    I studied a ‘soft’ science, namely history, for many years.  But it was rigorous nonetheless.  Besides the myriad names, dates, events and connection one had to learn, there was also a component of philosophy, political theory and other related disciplines one had to acquire to be a true ‘historian.’

    All the ‘identity’ politics majors we have now are bewildering at best.  Black studies or gender (womens) studies or various other racial studies ‘disciplines’ are basically what the author here labels them: causes or movements.  I would take it to the next logical step and label the root of the cause: marxism.

    How can ‘black studies’ prepare you for any career other than that of a race-baiter, ‘community organizer’ or social justice activist?  Those are not careers.  There are not tons of companies or organizations out there to provide you work…oh snap!  I forgot.  Every institution now public or private has to have an ‘inclusion’ or ‘diversity’ dept.  Now I know where all those cause-mongering graduates will get hired!

    • KevinPhillipsBong

      “How can ‘black studies’ prepare you for any career other than that of a race-baiter, ‘community organizer’ or social justice activist? Those are not careers.”

      Not only that but highering a ‘black studies’ major is like inviting a lawsuit. They’ll be waiting eagerly for any perceived slight or inequality…it’s like blood in the water to these sharks. Why anyone would want to hire someone who’d been fed on anti-business, anti-corporate, anti-white, anti-American dogma for 4 years is beyond understanding.

  • WhitesRdumb

    Thirty-five years later in a piece for the Minding the Campus website, former Berkeley Prof. John McWhorter noted that little had changed: “Too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black.”


    I go to a community college near Berkeley. Here are some of the clases they offer:

    1 – Perspectives on American Racism from an African American perspective.

    2 – Environmental Racism and Justice (American and global environmental policy and ethics concentrating on their impact on minorities and people of color)

    3 – Perspectives on American Racism from an Asian-American perspective.

    4- Perspectives on American Racism from a Mexican-American perspective.

    5 – Perspectives on American Racism from a Latin-American perspective.

    6 – Perspectives on American Racism from a Native American perspective.

    7 – Perspectives on American Racism from a Middle-Eastern perspective.

    8 – Perspectives on American Racism from a woman’s perspective.

    Nothing about racism against white males.

  • holyflower

    Notable observation on American higher education:

    “…How many millions of American homes have been mortgaged in order that ordinary people can send their children to these pits called the universities, where they are then, at the best, not being educated. At the worst, being sucked into this low culture. There’s no culture anywhere lower than the culture of the American University. There is no question about that. It’s really the pits.” 
    Midge Decter*, author, “Always Right: Selected Writings of Midge Decter,” presentation on C-Span BookTV at the Conservative Women’s Network, Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC, 11-1-02 

    *Author Bio: Midge Decter, parent of four grown children, is a former managing editor at Commentary magazine and editor of Harper’s Magazine. She is the author of several books, including “The Liberated Woman & Other Americans,” “The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation,” and “Liberal Parents, Radical Children.”

  • What can you expect, from people who want the “Stand Your Ground” laws of many states to be “re-examined” (translation: repealed)? These “fair and impartial” journalistic sachems can’t stand the thought of White people pushing back, and defending their point of view, any more than they can stand the thought of them defending themselves physically against black thugs on the street.

     If this country falls, as it will if Obama is re-elected, we can blame White liberals like those who fired Naomi Schaefer Riley from the Chronicle, for being a large part of the cause. They have worked mightily for years to persuade White people to hate themselves; unfortunately, in all too many cases, they’ve succeeded.

  • Just think if somone had dual PhDs in angry womans studies and black studies. They could teach angry black womans studies.

    • WhitesRdumb

      How about 3 PhDs: Angry Black Gay Women studies.

  • Johnny Reb

    Well, you knew this was coming.  BTW . . . funny thing is . . . Naomi is married to a black guy.

    The precedent was set with MLK and his bogus PhD.  If academia allows criticism of Black Studies (regardless of how bad it is) then the whole university experience comes under question because MOST CLASSES ARE JUST AS WORTHLESS.

    A modern liberal arts education (which is what most PhDs will eventually go provide) is useless.  Doctorate programs just churn out these liberal sock puppets in the same image of the liberal who taught them.

    Teach your kids early to make things, grow things, fix things.  Teach them a craft or a special skill that will earn them a decent wage and respectability.  Then . . . and only then . . . if they want to take specific classes to further their knowledge . . . great.

    • Mutant_Swarm

      Damn straight, JR! Teach them how to fix rich people’s toys and houses, and they’ll never starve. Most of these so-called “PhD’s” aren’t even qualified to be REAL phd’s (post hole diggers).

  • geraldmartin

    Beware Midge Decter. She often says things we can agree with in social & educational policy, but she is no friend to racialists or patriotic white Americans. She is one of the original neocons, along with her husband, Norman Podhoretz and her son ( a dim bulb, but still nasty), John Podhoretz (JPod). She is also the mother-in-law of another rabid neocon (an advisor to Romney no less), Elliot Abrams.
    She and her relatives despise people like Pat Buchanan, did everything they could for years to destroy his career, and finally succeeded. She and her relatives are advocates of a hyper-interventionist foreign policy which puts the interests of Israel above those of the United States. (At least IMHO – it’s possible they honestly see the USA & Israel as so joined at the hip that whatever is good for Israel must be good for the USA.)
    Like other neocons, she is in favor of mass non-white immigration into this country. Like other neocons, after being initially against affirmative action programs in colleges, she dropped her opposition after it became clear these programs did not reduce Jewish enrollment in elite universities, although they did reduce the enrollment of gentile whites.
    To repeat: Midge Decter is in favor of open borders, anti-white affirmative action programs, and never-ending wars throughout the world to spread democracy and support Israel, and hates with a passion such champions of our traditional nation and race as Pat Buchanan.
    But yeah, she’s got eyes in her head so she can see our universities are cesspools.
    Big deal.   

    • holyflower

      “…so she [Decter] can see our universities are cesspools. Big deal.”


      It is possible to be right in a quotable way about one thing — and wrong about many others.   Decter’s history, of which I was aware, notwithstanding, she said something true and memorable about American universities.

  • This is what happens when you speak out against “leftwing claptrap” and you can bet that is the real message the PC Nazi’s want sent out.

  •  There’s a reason you didn’t see “Perspectives on American Racism from an LGBT perspective.”  That’s because it’s not just LGBT anymore.

    The new official designation is LGBTQMIA.  Q is questioning, I is intersexual, A is asexual, and M, I don’t know.  It’s an ever expanding acronym that’s meant as a catch-all for anyone who isn’t heterosexual.

    On the other hand, they’re reaching for the holy grail — An acronym that uses every letter in the alphabet.

    • Mutant_Swarm

       LGBTQMIA = Let’s Get By The Quota, Milk It All.

  • radical7

    The fact is that Ms. Schaefer Riley wrote a blog piece that was inaccurate, misinformed and inefensible. The racism in her blog was the least of the problems.

    She should have been dismissed.

    • StivD

      Which part is inaccurate and misinformed?

  • radical7

    Stiv D”Which part is inaccurate and misinformed?”The entire article.

    • Celestial_Time

      A wee bit scared of direct questions, aren’t ya?

      Perhaps you’d like multiple choice?

  • what a surprise….”freedom for all! say whatever you want! ….so long as it concurs with the kosher liberals!”

  • IKantunderstand

    Naomi, God Bless You—-You had the courage to tell the truth. God Bless you. You are going to need it. Where do we send our contributions?

  • eunometic

    Perhaps black studies is really about free funding the building of resentments and the training of the next generation of appropriatly resentfull racial activists?
    TakiMag has an interesting aritcle on the topic and Schaefer-Riley’s ‘sacking’ titled  “How black studies avoids studying blacks”.

    Is it just possible that Black studies is so totally foccused on “blame whitey” syndrom that it can’t critique its own cultural problems or even problems within their own “disciplin” (snicker)  at a POST GRADUATE level?

    If they can’t take advantage of criticism then let them rot, Schaefer-Klein, was probably only trying to help.

  • Arbeideren

    “{snip} And 6,500 academics signed a petition online demanding that I be fired.”

    These academics,  and millions more, ought to be out on the field working the land, producing something worthwhile – food, letting thousand flowers bloom. People with glasses, thin overarms, little knowledge of real sciences, claiming to be academics. I’m with chairman Mao on this.

  • Mutant_Swarm

    You make a lot of good points.

    I firmly believe that those guys arrested in Florida, along with those five idiots in Ohio that allegedly were plotting to blow up some rotted out bridge near Cleveland, were nothing more than FBI agents trying to justify their budgets this close to June 30th by making easy, throw-down cases. They were trying to pad their stats to make it look like they’d done more work. Every traffic cop I know tells me they write more tickets toward the end of the month.

    It took them almost twenty years to catch Ted Kaczynski, who probably wouldn’t have been caught at all if he’d kept his mouth shut.

    • ed91

       the ohio idiots were from the left……. 

      the florida group is being hailed as right wingers……..

      whites don’t all think alike…….  many are self destructive, while many others believe in protecting themselves……… 

  • ed91

     you’re both right.

  • ed91

     I agree.  I followed a similar path as yours and never fit well into what is now a female dominated work force…….  I could never hide all that I am…….  and got very tired, very quickly of trying…..  but I survived in a very stifling atmosphere of men-hate, white-hate and girly pal, let’s all bring a dish for lunch………   everything they believe in is 10 times worse than the white male dominated work force of the 50’s.

    sorry for being so successful in the second World War!!   how can I make it up to you?

  • These PHONIES will all get jobs at MSNBC and Maobama’s White House.

  • anonymous_amren

    While we are opposing nonsense courses, don’t forget Chiropractic, Osteopathy, etc.  I am sick to death of alternative medicine health fraud masquerading as academic study.

    • MissBonnie123

      I’ll have to disagree with you here. I have received chiropractic treatments and I can honestly say they are very helpful. No M.D. could help me whereas chiropractic care did.

    • Natassia

      Cost me $35 and the chiropractor fixed my neck problems. No more muscle relaxers. Didn’t even need Tylenol.

  • MissBonnie123

    According to the Council of Conservative Citizens website, the New Black Panther Party is the group that is constantly telling White America that there will soon be a race war. The NBPP is the one provoking a racial war and no members have been arrested.

  • Whirlwinder

    Black people writing PHD dissertations? About black studies? This is a joke! Until these black people start writing their dissertations on the level of a Walter Williams or a Thomas Sowell it cannot be called serious education!

  • Watch some of these Black Studies majors end up in the EEOC or Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

    I’m actually going to college studying HRM.  I was wrestling between General Management and HR specialization within the Management major.  Ultimately chose HR because it’s a more specialized field.  But I also chose it because if I end up in the HR department of a large corporation I can quietly throw a wrench at the diversity initiatives.  I’d like to work for a manufacturing company so I can do my part to make high paying manufacturing jobs available to, ahem, you know.

    If the 60s radicals can infiltrate and subvert the system so can we.

  • bluffcreek1967

    I love education, love reading, love engaging in intellectual discourse and learning new things . .  . . . but I hate school, hate the university system and the entire academic elite’s thinking of what it means to be educated.