Kimball: Inebriates of Virtue

From “Inebriates of Virtue”, by one of the best culture critics writing, Roger Kimball:

At Yale, where censorship never sleeps, the Committee of Public Safety—no, wait, that was Robespierre’s plaything. Yale’s new bureaucracy is called the “Committee on Art in Public Spaces.” Its charge? To police works of art on campus, to make sure that images offensive to favored populations are covered over or removed. At the residential college formerly known as Calhoun, for example, the Committee has removed stained glass windows depicting slaves and other historical scenes of Southern life. Statues and other representations of John C. Calhoun—a distinguished statesman but also an apologist for slavery—have likewise been slotted for the oubliette.

But impermissible attitudes and images are never in short supply once the itch to stamp out heresy gets going. Yesterday, it was Calhoun and representations of the Antebellum South. Today it is a carving at an entrance to Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library depicting an Indian and a Puritan. The Puritan, if you can believe it, was holding a musket—a gun! Quoth Susan Gibbons, one of Yale’s librarian-censors: its “presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate.” Why not? Never mind. Solution? Cover over the musket with a cowpat of stone. (But leave the Indian’s bow and arrow alone!)

Actually, we just learned that the removable cowpat of stone was only a stopgap. The outcry against the decision struck a chord with Peter Salovey, Yale’s President. “Such alteration,” he noted, “represents an erasure of history, which is entirely inappropriate at a university.” He’s right about that. But wait! Instead of merely altering the image, Salovey announced that Yale would go full Taliban, removing the offending stonework altogether. In the bad old days, librarians and college presidents were people who sought to protect the past, that vast storehouse of offensive attitudes and behavior. In these more enlightened times, they collude in its effacement.

You might say, Who cares what violence a super-rich bastion of privilege and unaccountability like Yale perpetrates on its patrimony? Well, you should care. Institutions like Yale (and Harvard, Stanford, and the rest of the elite educational aeries) are the chief petri dishes for the “progressive” hostility to free expression and other politically correct attitudes that have insinuated themselves like a fever-causing virus into the bloodstream of public life.

As we enter a radical new phase of corporate-sponsored, soft totalitarianism, will things quickly come to a head, or will we, exhausted and afraid of losing our jobs, all slowly succumb and obey?

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