He’s a grad student and teaching assistant at the University of Georgia, and presumably he figured that the contemporary academy’s tolerance – and, in many cases, outright enthusiasm – for savage anti-white rhetoric would keep him out of trouble. But Irami Osei-Frimpong, who is studying for a Ph.D. in philosophy, and whose area of specialization is institutional racism, is now in hot water. On February 4, Inside Higher Ed reported that the university was looking into comments he’d made on social media, as well as into “his alleged failure to disclose that he’d previously attended the University of Chicago and had been arrested for trespassing” during a 2011 Occupy Chicago protest.
The online statement that first raised concern about Osei-Frimong, who is known to YouTube viewers as “The Funky Academic,” was this one: “some white people may have to die for black communities to be whole in this struggle to advance freedom.”
But there’s a lot more where that
came from. On April 16, he tweeted:
“To anyone talking about Bernie donating to charity. You don’t
secure rights through charity, you secure rights through good
government and political organizing. A culture of charity
strengthens the oligarchy.”
Then there was this, on April 18: “I
really do think that every school with an African American studies
department needs an White American studies department run by African
Americans and Native Americans (and Asians in California and
May 5: “I study philosophy because I
think that White schools, churches, and families in America are
internally incoherent and provide the resources for their own
de-legitimacy. I study politics and psychology because de-legitimacy
isn’t enough. We are going to need state guns.”
Same date: “I’m not targeted because
I’m Black; I’m targeted because I think the problem with Black
America is how we make White people.”
Ditto: “If we want justice for Black
Americans, we have to dismantle and replace the engines of White
cultural production: their schools, churches, and families.”
And again: “Meaningful integration
doesn’t kill blackness, but it does kill Whiteness. Meaningful
integration is a White genocide because you can’t meaningfully
integrate and keep White supremacy in tact. And make no mistake,
White Supremacy IS ethnic Whiteness.”
The organization Freedom for Individual
Rights in Education (FIRE) was founded in 1999 to defend the rights
of students and faculty at American institutions of higher education.
It spends much, if not most, of its time these days standing up for
the speech rights of conservatives whom left-wing administrators or
student mobs have tried to silence. But to its credit, FIRE has stood
up for Osai-Frimpong, arguing that his right to express his opinions,
however offensive, is protected by the First Amendment.
True enough. Osai-Frimpong does have the right to voice his ugly views. What’s disturbing is that his views are only slightly out of the contemporary on-campus mainstream – and that, all over the country, these days, people of color with viciously anti-white prejudices are admitted to, hired by, and given platforms at universities that have, for a generation, systematically excluded conservatives, moderates, and classical liberals.
We’re always puzzled to find someone who teaches “communications” at the college level but who seems to have had very little professional experience in the field. David Parry received a B.A. at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. at the University of Albany, taught at the University of Texas at Dallas from 2007 to 2013, and since then has been an Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he is chair of the Communications Department. “His work,” according to the university’s website, “focuses on understanding the complex social and cultural transformations brought about by the development of the digital network. He is particularly interested in understanding how the internet transforms political power and democracy. He also researches and is an advocate for Open Access Research.”
It is interesting to know what Parry’s “work” focuses on. But we’ve searched up and down the Internet and found almost nothing that would fall under the category of Parry’s “work.” To be specific, we found exactly one item: a revealing article entitled “Organizing information for ease of retrieval.”
One thing it revealed is that Parry is weak on punctuation. (In particular, he seems to be allergic to commas – so much so that it can be hard to follow some of his sentences.) More important, however, it revealed that he is a world-class master of the obvious.
“I have been teaching ‘digital stuff’ for about eight years now,” he writes, “and in those eight years I have noted a rather significant shift. While it used to be the case that when we would discuss the internet, social media, and the digital network, students would approach it with a certain lack of familiarity — ‘What is this strange object before us?’ Now they simply take it in stride.” No kidding! “When Facebook has 350 million plus active users,” he writes, “it is no longer a cultural outlier, it is the norm.” Wow! And here’s his conclusion: “These ‘new media’ aren’t new; they are central and a fundamental part of our cultural, legal, and social institutions. It is time we started treating them as such.”
St. Joseph’s University, then, has quite a superstar on its hands. But until the other day, Parry was a total unknown. That changed when a rant he delivered in front of his class was recorded by one of his students and ended up being posted online and shared at several popular websites. “As somebody who fights for liberal values,” said Parry, “I am not sympathetic to the white voters who make over $50,000 a year and said that we are going to vote for Trump….If you are a person of color in this room, if you are a woman in this room, you do not have to open your heart to them. They told you you are not a person….It is okay to deal with it any way you want, because that normalization should not…” At this point his voice trails off; he is unable to complete his sentence. (Great communications skills!)
After expressing concern that he will “not be able to get it all together here,” Parry goes on to say that “there are two…two…two…two…two groups of people in this room. All right? There are white dudes like me who have power, and then there are other people in this room. So I’m going to divide what I’m saying here.” His message to the powerless: “I’m not gonna tell you how to feel and how to be. I’m just going to invite you to feel and be anyway you want and to hopefully communicate to me what we can do to make this situation better. Um, because let’s be clear. This is violence. People are going to die because of what happened.” He raises the spectre of people dying because of indirect “state violence” in the form of a rewrite of Obamacare, the spectre of “direct state violence” in the form of intervention in “non-white communities.” He claims to have seen swastikas and to have heard kids in York, Pennsylvania, where he lives, shouting “white power.” “That is not my democracy,” he states. The tape ends there.
After his rant went public, Jesse Watters of Fox News tried to get an interview with Parry. But the chair of the Department of Communications didn’t feel like communicating:
Needless to say, Parry is entitled to his political opinions. But to force those opinions on his students when he’s being paid to teach communications is a totally inappropriate move. To tell his students that some of them are powerful solely by virtue of their gender and sex and that some of them are powerless for the same reason is reprehensible. And to tell those students that it’s legitimate for them to respond to Trump’s election victory in “any way [they] want” is to condone the very violence that Parry claims to be so terrified of.
Parry claims to believe in liberal democracy, but this is not how teachers in a liberal democracy are supposed to speak to their students. By the way, what kind of an example does it set for his communications students that, when confronted by the nation’s most-watched news network about his classroom conduct, he was apparently incapable of doing so?
[UPDATE, March 23, 2017: The video of Parry’s rant, which earlier was available on You Tube and linked to here, has now disappeared down the memory hole.]
In November we took a brief look at Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – specifically, his admiration for Fidel Castro and the late, great USSR. At the time, it was still possible to think of Sanders as an entertaining sideshow in the race for the Democratic nomination – a far-left clown who didn’t really stand a chance of winning. But since then things have changed quickly. His poll numbers have been rising while Hillary Clinton’s have been diving. Suddenly, it seems to be within the realm of possibility that this seventy-four-year-old socialist will make it all the way to the general election.
Sanders’s campaign is especially popular with younger voters – with millennials, that is, who cheer his promises to soak the rich and give everybody else lots of free stuff. To his young supporters, who know nothing about economics or about the history of ideologies that made such promises, Sanders’s program sounds like nothing other than common sense – goodness set into system.
Sanders has, of course, his share of older fans – old hippies, old Commies, people who’ve never given up on the utopian dream. Which brings us to our friends at The Nation, who on January 14gave Sanders their endorsement. Applauding his call for “single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the breaking up of the big banks,” his vow to “wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires,” Katrina vanden Heuvel & co. averred that the “revolution” promised by Sanders “is not only possible but necessary.” In conclusion, “Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse.”
And sensible observers are getting worried. One of them is Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution, who on January 16 complained in the New York Post that the media were helping to “mainstream” Sanders. “If Sanders were vying for a Cabinet post,” maintained Sperry, “he’d never pass an FBI background check.”
Why? For one thing, in 1964, when he was a student at the University of Chicago, Sanders belonged to the youth wing of the Socialist Party USA. In the 1970s, he took part in the founding of a party that “called for the nationalization of all US banks and the public takeover of all private utility companies.” In 1979, as Yahoo News reported in a January 17 article, he called for government takeover of all commercial television stations. In the 1980s, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he “restricted property rights for landlords, set price controls and raised property taxes to pay for communal land trusts. Local small businesses distributed fliers complaining their new mayor ‘does not believe in free enterprise.’” At one event he told an audience of charity workers said he didn’t believe in private charity – government should take on all social needs.
He also became an international busybody, making “goodwill” visits to the USSR and Cuba. In 1985, he attended an “anti-U.S. rally” in Nicaragua at which participants chanted that “the Yankee will die” and President Daniel Ortega charged the U.S. with “state terrorism.” Sanders displayed a Soviet flag in his office and spoke to Communist front groups.
It’s predictable enough that the handful of marginal old Commies who edit, write, and read The Nation are marching arm in arm with Sanders into the bright, new socialist America that they’ve been dreaming about all their lives. But what is depressing is that Sanders’s ideas are admired by millions of young people who don’t understand that the programs advocated by their candidate have been tried before, in the previous century, and that they brought unprecedented calamity, disaster, and tragedy to hundreds of millions of people who’d been promised utopia.
We spent the last three days examining the life of Maurice Strong, the Canadian tycoon who concocted the global-warming scare as a rationale for subordinating democracies to a UN elite with dramatically enhanced sovereign powers.
One name that popped up briefly in our investigations into Strong’s life was that of his distant relative Anna Louise Strong. We’d never heard of her before, so we decided to find out about her. What we discovered was that she was a useful stooge of the first water.
Born in small-town Nebraska in 1885, the daughter of a Congregational minister and missionary, she attended Bryn Mawr and Oberlin and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. Moving to Seattle, she became active in local progressive politics and began writing newspaper articles in support of the Russian Revolution, which had just taken place.
In 1921, after attending a lecture about the Russian Revolution by journalist Lincoln Steffens (who was famous for saying about the USSR: “I have seen the future, and it works”), she went to Russia and began writing glowing books about Bolshevism in action. In The First Time in History (1925), which carried a preface by none other than Leon Trotsky, she described Russia as
the only place in the world where I get a feeling of hope and a plan. With hundreds of thousands of people living for that plan and dying for it and going hungry for it, and wasting themselves in inefficient work for it, and finally bringing a little order out of chaos for it. America seems cheerful and inconsequential after it. Europe, – the insane nightmare of Europe, – seems impossible to endure….
In Russia when they speak of the Revolution, they don’t mean one grand and horrible upheaval; that was merely the “October Overturn,” the taking of power. Now comes the using of power to create a new world through the decades.
There have been many revolutions in history, each with its tragic dignity, its cruelties, its power released. But never has there been a great organisation, in control of the economic as well as of the political resources of a nation, planning steadily through the prose of daily life a future embracing many lands and decades, learning from mistakes, changing methods but not aims, controlling press and education and law and industry as tools to its purpose….This is Common Consciousness in action, crude, half-organised and inefficient, but the first time in History.
Strong spent thirty years in Russia, where she pronounced herself “greatly stirred by the building of the first socialist state in the world.” She “wrote hundreds of articles about it and some fifteen books,” and almost annually “went to America to lecture and make contacts with publishers,” invariably stopping “in other countries on the way.”
Her books on Russia, along with articles for such high-profile publications as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and The Nation, made her a pretty big name. She lunched with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She met with Stalin and Molotov. She was a founder of the first English-language paper in Russia, The Moscow News.
But after years of gushing in print about Soviet Communism, the USSR, for Anna Louise Strong, turned out not to be utopia. That, she found elsewhere. Tune in tomorrow.
Let’s start with the highlights of her CV. Her books on globalization and urbanization have been translated into twenty-one languages. Born in the Netherlands, she grew up in Buenos Aires and studied in France, Italy, Argentina, and the U.S.; she’s taught sociology at Harvard and the University of Chicago, and now divides her time between Columbia University and the London School of Economics. She has a bushel full of impressive-sounding establishment affiliations – she’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, of a National Academy of Sciences panel on cities, and of something called the Committee on Global Thought, no less, and has accumulated awards and honorary degrees aplenty from places like the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, the University of Poitiers, and the Royal Stockholm Institute of Technology.
In short, she’s as establishment as it comes. Routinely, however, Saskia Sassenpresents herself as a fearless anti-establishment radical and “transnational citizen” whose bag is proffering “counterintuitive” solutions to pretty much all the world’s major problems. This fearless-radical pose has won her a kind of cult following that’s rare, to say the least, among professors of the social sciences. A few years back, when she was teaching at the University of Chicago, a recent social-sciences grad student at that institution reported that many of his friends there “were staunch followers of Saskia Sassen – in fact, she was their raison d’etre there.”
A 2014 profile in Le Monde breathlessly pointed out that this globalization expert is also a world-class globetrotter: “Today in Bilbao, yesterday in New York, tomorrow in the U.K….” The irony that went utterly unmentioned by Le Monde‘s awestruck correspondent was that, even though Saskia Sassen burns a lot more than her fair share of jet fuel, she’s a world-class global-warming scold who, in a May 2014 piece for Salon, solemnly browbeat readers about the dark and dire consequences of “global CO2 emissions.”
As it happens, one of the few members of the sociology profession whose fame matches or even exceeds Saskia Sassen’s is her husband, Richard Sennett, who shares her far-left politics (he was a red-diaper baby), her preoccupation with globalization and urban issues, her hand-wringing concern about CO2 emissions and global footprints – and, ahem, her jet-setting lifestyle and two glorious homes in New York and London. For both Saskia Sassen and Sennett, hating capitalism has paid off big-time. A 2001 Guardian profile gushed over their “spacious, almost surreally well-ordered flat” in the heart of London, with a “roof terrace offer[ing] a dazzling view of an apparent jumble of warehousing and wasteground, a scene of brutal slate-grey beauty.” Six years later, a piece in the real-estate section of the New York Times described their “picturesque former carriage house on a cobblestone alleyway just off Washington Square Park” in Manhattan, in which Sennett had been living for twenty-eight years and for which they paid the landlord – Sennett’s employer, New York University – a monthly rent that was “below market rates.”
But this luxury, reported the Times, came at a cost: namely, guilt. (The piece was actually titled “The Guilt of Having a Good Thing.”) Bennett admitted that he felt guilty about living in this “gated community,” from which pedestrians were banned between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. After all, as he pointed out, he’s written himself “about the evils of gated communities.” Why live in one, then? Because “I’m not a sufficiently moral person to abandon this house.” He laughed as he accused himself of suffering from “a moral failing.” The refusal of both Saskia Sassen and Sennett to practice what they so vociferously preach made one wonder just how deep the guilt actually went; and Sennett’s laughter as he accused himself of “a moral failing” raised the question of just what the level of hypocrisy in that household is.
The Times was curious about the details of the couple’s lifestyle. Sennett explained that he and Saskia Sassen “divide up our clothes so that 50 percent are in London and 50 percent in New York.” And he “admitted — sheepishly — to owning duplicates of favorite items,” such as cellos. “I have a cello here and a cello in London, which may seem over the top,” he said. “But after 9/11 it became so difficult to travel with my cello.” Saskia Sassen, for her part, admitted, apropos of a recent trip to a conference in Mexico City: “I like a good comfortable plane ride.” Unlike her husband, however, she wasn’t quoted as accusing herself of “a moral failing.” No surprise there: she comes off as a hell of a lot more strident and self-righteous than he does. One gets the impression that she considers herself quite the moral icon. What with their two terrific homes and their constant air travel, their global footprint is obviously much bigger than most people’s – but one images that Saskia Sassen, at least, feels that they’ve earned it. They’re the exception. It’s all for the cause. For the rest of us, they’re certainly a great poster couple for leading the good life while preaching fiercely against it.
Global warming, to be sure, is far from the only crisis on her busy agenda. She also frets about the perpetual crisis in Middle East, and considers Israel to be at the root of the whole problem. In her writings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she consistently depicts Israel as a brutal militant aggressor and Hamas as a benign force – a supplier of food and water, medical supplies, and other services that’s always being put on the defensive by the IDF. Saskia Sassen demonstrated the extent of her hostility to Israel back in 2004, when, as Stanford law prof Peter Berkowitz put it, she “storm[ed] off the stage” during a University of Chicago panel discussion about the Middle East, outraged that the panel was composed of both pro- and anti-Israel voices. As Berkowitz later wrote,
the panel consisted of Professor Saskia Sassen, who spoke on behalf of transnationalism, or principles and forms of government that transcend the nation state; myself, discussing nationalism and how Israel could be both a liberal democracy and Jewish state; Professor Anne Bayefsky…of Columbia University Law School, who analyzed the double standard the U.N. has applied to Israel for decades; and Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Yale University geneticist, who sought to equate Zionism with Nazism, racism and apartheid.
What happened on that panel? According to Berkowitz, here’s how it went down:
After listening to Professor Bayefsky recount the many and varied ways that the U.N. had singled out Israel among all the nations of the world for special condemnation and Professor Qumsiyeh single out Israel as indistinguishable from one of the most heinous regimes in human history, Professor Saskia Sassen knew which opinion needed to be denounced…..Saskia Sassen explicitly upbraided the calm, lucid analyst of U.N. hypocrisy toward Israel (and me implicitly), and sided with the hate-mongering purveyor of the monstrous falsehood that Israel was in principle no different from the regime that murdered six million Jews for no other reason than that they were Jewish.
Here’s what she actually said on the panel in reaction to Bayefsky’s remarks: “We cannot make any headway even in our academic discussion if we talk about the Israeli government as a pure victim the way two of the speakers explicitly or implicitly did….We need to recognize that the Israeli state has operated with excess power in a situation of extreme asymmetry.” Which to her, presumably, meant that a panel discussion on the issue should also be characterized by “extreme assymetry” – in favor, naturally, of the Palestinian side.
And then she walked out – “after she had spoken for a second time,” noted Berkowitz, “but before she could be challenged.” By doing this, charged Berkowitz, “She showed that she held her own opinions to be beyond criticism and regarded her opponents’ opinions as unworthy of serious debate….Taking her conduct and comments together, one is led to conclude that Professor Saskia Sassen objects to sharing a stage with people who hold views that differ from hers; that she finds offensive the obligation to confront evidence and arguments put forward on behalf of positions she dislikes; and that she has forgotten or is unaware that the kind of debate that educates is debate with people with who hold the opposite opinion.” In short, Berkowitz concluded, she had exhibited “the high-handed and authoritarian habits that have become second nature for many faculty on campuses across the country.”
Saskia Sassen’s ardent engagement with such issues notwithstanding, her big bugaboo isn’t global warming or the brutal tyranny of Israel. It’s capitalism. For her, the overarching cause is “social justice,” and Public Enemy #1 is capitalist oppression (a conviction she shares with her late friend and mentor, Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm). She speaks of “capitalism’s deepening crisis” and of “the end of financial capitalism.”In her view, the current global financial system is suffering from a terminal ailment, and there’s no hope of saving it. “It is too late,” she maintains. What we need to do, Saskia Sassen prescribes, is “to definancialise our economies, as a prelude to move beyond the current model of capitalism.”
And what’s the ultimate symbol of capitalism’s rot, as Saskia Sassen sees it? Apparently, the phenomenon of distressed-security funds – which she, echoing Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, doesn’t hesitate to call “vulture funds.” Saskia Sassen despises those funds. They’re “a problem to be taken seriously,” she asserts, because they “threaten capital markets and the economic stability of many countries – and in doing so put the entire international economic system at risk.” When Fernández – in an effort to avoid paying her country’s debt to one such fund, Elliott Associates, as ordered by a U.S. judge in 2014 – took the case to the International Court of Justice, Saskia Sassen lent the President her full support. Of course she did: when you’re a “transnational citizen,” you support transnational institutions. This is one woman who trusts diktats by the UN (up to and including its absurd Human Rights Council) as zealously as she distrusts the free market, the American judiciary, and the West-based international financial order.
Then again, it’s easy, fun, and hip to be a “transnational citizen” who sneers at everything Western when you’ve got dream homes in the world’s two financial capitals and are constantly traveling the globe on a Western passport. “Transnational citizen,” indeed.