Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 10, 2020

Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic

Filed under: Counterpunch,cruise missile left,repression — louisproyect @ 2:28 pm


Cary Nelson, who signed Harper’s letter against cancel culture, also canceled Steven Salaita

You can imagine my chagrin when I discovered that Harper’s, a magazine that I have subscribed to since the early 80s, provided a platform for “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” The open letter was a denunciation of “cancel culture” in the name of liberal values as if angry Tweets by mostly powerless young people had anything to do with state-sponsored censorship. Although I will say more about how and why this letter materialized, it is worth pointing out that one of its signatories is Cary Nelson, a professor emeritus at the U. of Illinois. In 2013, the board of trustees sent Steven Salaita a letter stating they were hiring him for a job teaching American Indian studies. Behind the scenes, Nelson and major donors connected to the Israel lobby had already begun a campaign to persuade the board to rescind the offer because of Salaita’s pro-Palestinian views. He had already resigned a tenured position when the board caved into Zionist pressures. That left Salaita unemployed. Today he drives a school bus and will likely never teach again.

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  1. I know I haven’t had a drink, nor had a smoke or dropped acid … but I seem to have hallucinated that a Farans comment appeared under this post but is not here anymore. Was I seeing things?

    Comment by Reza — July 10, 2020 @ 8:47 pm

  2. He asked for it to be taken down since it was mistakenly attributed to Walter Benn Michaels.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 10, 2020 @ 9:13 pm

  3. Thanks, Louis. It was one of my better efforts, but I was attacking the wrong fellow–idiotic. Senility does that. The points I was trying to make in my madness were roughly as follows–hope I’ve got it right this time:

    I was reminded by this appalling Harper’s piece of my youth as a student radical circa 1967. When we sat in to prevent Dow Chemical from recruiting young Drs. Strangelove, we were reprimanded for attacking “freedom of speech” and–get this–politicizing the university. Pure cancel culture avant la lettre.


    Then we went after some big shitbird–as I recall, John McCloy, who had once single-handedly rescued poor Alfried Krupp from the gallows and a lengthy prison sentence and at the time in question had come to Harvard for a healing dose of mutual admiration from his friends. We surrounded this angel of mercy in stony silence while he was getting into a taxi and kept him from leaving for ten or fifteen minutes while we thought about tipping the car over with him inside.


    Of course, at the time, it was universally acknowledged that the Trusted Advisors on the Harvad-to-Washington circuit–the Wise Men, who were also naturally the realest Real Men–not only had the right but indeed a positive moral duty to lie to the polloi, including “infantile” student radicals, most women, and all queers except Socrates, who of course had been safely dead for a couple of millennia.

    Leo Strauss AFAIK had a large and devoted following among the self-denominated “liberal” professoriate long before Paul Wolfowitz and his gang of zombies came on the scene, and Strauss’s Platonic elitism was universal among those in the know.

    The reins of power, as everyone who matters knows without having to be told, belong in one place only–draped over a plump leather armchair in the Harvard Faculty Club!! Deny it–profane the idols of the tenured tribe–and see what you get–a lifetime of unemployment and damnatio memoriae. Ask Stephen Salaita. (Yes I know he wasn’t at Harvard–allow me some latitude.

    The apex of this glorious tradition of high-minded liberal intercourse was achieved by the University of Virginia Department of English when they graduated the Nazi Richard Spencer with an unprecedented category of undergraduate honors invented specially for him and almost certainly an insider recommendation that guaranteed his admission to a graduate program at the University of Chicago and a public platform for the rest of his life.

    Such a splendid instance of the great unending civilized Conversation that these young people jumping up and down are trying to suppress with their cancellations!! Why it’s a frigging Haydn quartet! How dare they?

    It’s high time order was restored.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 11, 2020 @ 2:12 am

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