“The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard, but I will better the instruction.”
-Shylock, The Merchant of Venice
A few weeks ago, this noble paper matched the author of this column up with all of Wesleyan in a hypothetical “death match,” and declared yours truly the winner. There is nothing to quarrel with in this assessment, but unfortunately, though other authors would take this as evidence of their own tenacity, or ideological courage, I am far too jaded to be so arrogant. The reason I have triumphed over Wesleyan has nothing to do with the persuasiveness of my arguments, or the substance of my ideas, but rather with the disgraceful lack of self-consciousness on the part of the Wesleyan Left, which has, with rare exceptions, remained blind to a deep-seated and essential fact: This column was never intended to be taken seriously.
The Ampersand, in a rare moment of clarity, was correct: this column is, and always has been, intended to troll the rest of the campus. Contrary to their interpretation, that does not meant that I, the author, am not a conservative Republican (I am). What it means is that I am not a self-important, pretentious, intellectually vapid idiot. You see, when this column was first conceived, it was conceived as a sort of satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” That is, while the conclusions I ended up reaching in the column were largely reflective of my own views on issues, the reasoning used to arrive at them, with a few rare exceptions, was designed to be a mirror—an uncharitable mirror—that I had meant to hold up to the utter lack of intellectual seriousness that was exhibited by-and-large by the Left-activist wing of this campus.
I didn’t expect to get away with it for very long. I mean, come on, this is one of the hardest schools to get into in the country. Originally, I just wanted to elevate discourse, and thought that lobbing mean-spirited softball arguments at you would get the more reasonable people at Wesleyan to start writing to the Argus, thus mitigating the stream of polemical and vitriolic garbage that frequently graces the Wespeak section, while simultaneously making such garbage less socially acceptable. “Come on,” the reasonable Leftists would say, “you’re too smart to write like Mytheos Holt!” Eventually, I could even let my writing get better, to reflect the elevated style of discourse on-campus, thus permitting a genuine Right-Left dialectic.
Instead, I was placed in the position of a satirist whose satire is too close to the grim truth to be noticed as such. Rather than spotting my gratuitously acidic phrases about “peaceniks” who supported divestment, or about “nature fetishists” in EON as cutting mimicry of students who called the WSA “conservative sycophants with no sense of right and wrong,” or who claimed that Wesleyan’s obsession with being the “stuffiest, tooliest, preppiest” school drove it to cheat out Mother Nature, the Left took it all seriously.
It only got worse from there. When I complained of the tendency by antiwar activists to “shove all dissent under the showerhead of scorn” and force “rhetorical Zyklon B” down the throats of their foes, rather than taking it as a mockery of the hyperbolic ad hominem attacks about “confederate flags” and “fascism” that students such as John Chisholm ’09 used, they took it seriously.
When I suggested that the only reasons to give money to Haiti were grounded in “saccharine” notions of charity, or that concern for the peoples of Bangladesh could only be supported under a theory of “radical egalitarianism,” rather than take it as a mockery of the fact that nearly every Wesleyan student presumes egalitarianism to be the starting point of moral analysis, they took it seriously.
When I compared homosexuality to pedophilia, and called the actions of queer activists in the March for Equality “masturbatory displays of radicalism” while simultaneously complaining about the oppression of conservative students on-campus, rather than take it as a parody of the blatantly faulty analogies and clear double standards employed by activists such as Trent Grassian ’09 and Devon Hopkins ‘11, they took it seriously.
And most scandalously of all, when I accused Melanye Price of being a poor teacher on the basis of anonymous comments and subjective opinions from friends, rather than see it as a mockery of a campus culture which takes the word of the ACB and ratemyprofessors.com as reliable information about a professor’s capacities, they once more took it seriously. Indeed, even faculty took it seriously, a fact for which I am very sorry indeed, given my generally high regard for the Wesleyan faculty.
And through it all ran the constant refrain: “Oppression, oppression, oppression.” But in order to be oppressed, you first have to threaten the dominant society, and based on what I have seen, the average Leftist activist at Wesleyan is no more a threat to said society than gnats are to the human race. This does not prove that they are stupid, but rather that they cannot escape the assumptions of the society they seek to overthrow, and their “revolutionary” ideas are nothing but word salads drawn from a buffet of paradigms offered up by that society. They are inescapably attached to their privileged position as intellectuals, and will defend it to the death.
Therefore, at bottom, it is this, and only this, that separates me from the Wesleyan Left: Whereas I have accepted and embraced the natural fact of social intellectual hegemony, they will only continue to flail impotently against it, even as conservative satirists arise anew each day to cackle over their state of hypocrisy and futility.