Another Progressive Fusillade Goes Awry

Another Progressive Fusillade Goes Awry
Christopher Rufo, senior fellow and director of the initiative on critical race theory at the Manhattan Institute., and writer. (Courtesy of Christopher Rufo)
Roger Kimball
Is Chris Rufo our Br'er Rabbit?
In his tireless battle against critical race theory (CRT), the latest allotrope of vicious anti-white, polymorphously perverse Marxist ideology, Rufo has had signal success.

He has succeeded in bringing the truth about CRT to the public’s attention, and his work has inspired a significant backlash.

He has inspired legislation in more than a dozen states and even a presidential order (though not, of course, by the current president) to check this moral Trojan horse.

The Empire always strikes back, however.

The “woke” watchmen at the citadels of orthodoxy have begun to sit up, take notice, and sound the alarm about this patient and methodical gadfly buzzing about their efforts to subvert the wholesome, race-blind canons of liberal education as traditionally conceived.

Rufo’s critics face two huge hurdles.

One, CRT and allied ideologies are every bit as toxic as Rufo says.

To describe CRT is to discredit it, and Rufo describes it in patient, if not exactly loving, detail.

Two, those attacking Rufo seem to believe that by saying he represents an assault on “progressive” sentiment they have landed a damaging blow.

They don’t understand that, like Br’er Rabbit, he glories in being tossed into the Briar Patch of anti-progressive reaction.

The latest, inadvertently amusing, instance of this phenomenon, was vouchsafed us by a truly obtuse opinion piece in our former paper of record.
One of Rufo’s highest-profile interventions to date has been at New College in Sarasota, Florida.
That failing college attracted the attention of Gov. Ron DeSantis partly because it was floundering, hemorrhaging students and financial stability, partly because it was a safe haven for every toxic element of the CRT roadshow.

DeSantis brought in several new board members, including Rufo, and they instantly began shaking things up.

His statement that he wanted to help transform New College into “the Hillsdale of the South” was particularly galling to the woke mandarins in the media because Hillsdale, probably the best liberal arts college in the country, is calmly but conspicuously and determinedly non-woke.

Hillsdale is interested in education, not indoctrination.

That is its real tort: It refuses to be part of the “progressive” assault on independent thought and genuine learning.

The hilarity of The New York Times piece begins with its title: “This Is What the Right-Wing Takeover of a Progressive College Looks Like.”

We are meant to shudder at the phrase “Right-Wing.”

It’s true that most conservatives cower in the corner when accused of being “right-wing,” “racist,” “homophobic,” etc.

That cowardice is part of what’s wrong with contemporary conservatism.

But Rufo outflanked the machine by embracing the charge.

He linked to the NY Times column on Twitter and proudly assented to the charge.

“Yes, this is what the right-wing takeover of a progressive college looks like,” he said. “And we’re just getting started.”

Oh no, narrative disruption!

Rufo continued: “My critics believe that the ‘progressive college’ is the only natural and legitimate form of the university.

“But we won’t play that game. Conservative voters deserve conservative institutions. In a republic, the people, through their elected representatives, get to decide.”

What a novel idea!

I (almost) felt sorry for the NY Times columnist.

Reading her column was like watching a toddler having a meltdown.

There she was wailing and pounding her tiny fists on the floor, but nobody was paying her the slightest heed.

One curious trope that the woke punditocracy has put great store by is the belief in the dark magical powers of the adjective “Christian.”

A recent New Yorker piece on Hillsdale featured the word in its title, doubtless because the author or her editors were confident that their readers would recoil from the term.

Doubtless they are correct in that calculation.

But who still reads The New Yorker or The New York Times?

In the event, The New Yorker piece wasn’t as hostile as one might have expected.

It was less damning than curious.

That is, what we saw in that column was The New Yorker in its cultural anthropology guise, its reporter embedded among a far-off tribe and reporting on their strange customs and behavior for the sophisticates back home.

The New York Times, by contrast, was taut, angry, and hysterical.

The author begins with a sympathetic portrayal of some legacy professors at New College.

They tried to give Rufo and his wrecking balls the benefit of the doubt. They tried to work with them.

But it was no good.

“Rufo,” quoth this columnist, is “the ideological entrepreneur who made critical race theory a Republican boogeyman.”

Moreover, he was “open about his ambition to turn the quirky, LGBT-friendly liberal arts school into a public version of Hillsdale, a conservative Christian college in Michigan with close ties to both DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. He hoped the transformation would be proof of concept for his dream: a conservative takeover of higher education across the country.”

Imagine, he actually admits it!

And note again the deployment of the word “Christian” and the ultimate high-caliber weaponry, DeSantis and Trump.

I have no doubt that NY Times readers were reaching for their smelling salts or locally sourced vegan sedatives.

Indeed, the NY Times column is full of what St. Matthew called “fletus et stridor dentium”: “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

The new board fired the college president and replaced her with—wait for it—a Republican!

Perhaps my favorite two sentences in the column follow immediately on that terrible revelation: “They fired its chief diversity officer and dismantled the diversity, equity and inclusion office. As I was writing this on Friday, several people sent me photographs of gender-neutral signage scraped off school bathrooms.”

But wait, you’re thinking, aren’t those good things?

Why should any college maintain such a thing as a “chief diversity officer” let alone an office of “diversity, equity, and inclusion”? Why?

And why should a public college—or for that matter, a private one—maintain “gender neutral” (by which, incidentally, she probably meant “transgender friendly”) bathrooms? Why?

At the center of this pathetic piece is an account of a long and unpleasant public board meeting at which a holdover board member and others stormed out.

Rufo himself had to Zoom in, we’re told, because he was in Hungary, “where he had a fellowship at a right-wing think tank closely tied to Viktor Orbán’s government. (This seemed fitting, since Orbán’s Hungary created the template for Rufo and DeSantis’s educational crusade.)”

Oh dear, oh dear. “A right-wing think tank.” Viktor Orbán: Can things get any worse?

The New York Times endeavored to stage a tragedy here.

They succeeded only in producing a farce.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Where Next? Western Civilization at the Crossroads.”
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