For What It’s Worth, I Kind of Hate All of Y’all
Apparently a University of Michigan Communications Professor wrote an essay on why it’s OK to hate Republicans. I say “apparently” because some people claim to have read it, and there is a URL with that title, but the actual post is either no longer there or no longer was. There are comments in response on the site where it’s not, so it seems likely that it once was. The person alleged to have written the essay is Susan Douglas. Here’s at least part of what she’s alleged to have written, as cadged from here and here and here. I have no idea if my organization of quotes reflects the original sequence of the alleged essay.
I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’ …
What’s noteworthy ?is how entrenched this mutual animus is. It’s fine for me to use the word ‘hate’ when referring to Republicans and for them to use the same word about me, but you would never use the word ‘hate’ when referring to people of color, or women, or gays and lesbians. …
Today, marrying a Republican is unimaginable to me…
How did we come to this pass?” Douglas asks. “Obviously, my tendency is to blame the Republicans more than the Democrats, which may seem biased. But history and psychological research bear me out…
A brief review of Republican rhetoric and strategies since the 1980s shows an escalation of determined vilification (which has been amplified relentlessly on Fox News since 1996). From Spiro Agnew’s attack on intellectuals as an “effete corps of impudent snobs”; to Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech; to the GOP’s endless campaign to smear the Clintons over Whitewater, then bludgeon Bill over Monica Lewinsky; to the ceaseless denigration of President Obama (“socialist,” “Muslim”), the Republicans have crafted a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all.
Why does this work? A series of studies has found that political conservatives tend toward certain psychological characteristics. What are they? Dogmatism, rigidity and intolerance of ambiguity; a need to avoid uncertainty; support for authoritarianism; a heightened sense of threat from others; and a personal need for structure. How do these qualities influence political thinking?
According to researchers, the two core dimensions of conservative thought are resistance to change and support for inequality. These, in turn, are core elements of social intolerance. The need for certainty, the need to manage fear of social change, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes. Which could certainly lead to a desire to deride those not like you—whether people of color, LGBT people or Democrats. And, especially since the early 1990s, Republican politicians and pundits have been feeding these needs with a single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview that vilifies Democrats…
So now we hate them back,” she explains. “And with good reason.
As much text as is here, without seeing the original, it still lacks context. Is the title “It’s OK to hate Republicans” tongue-in-cheek? (Did she even write the title?) Is she bemoaning that the political culture is such that she’s found herself actually hating them? Or is she actually encouraging and promoting hatred of Republicans?
I see the first two as legitimate, and the third as very problematic, especially in a college prof. At the University of Oregon, I knew conservative students who were afraid to speak up in class. In one of my classes, curious about how vocal liberal students were on the issue of censorship and the lack of any voices arguing censorship might sometimes be justified, I had the students complete an anonymous survey: nearly half of them supported censorship in some cases.
Students commonly believed faculty graded based on political agreement/disagreement, and while I can’t say whether that’s true or not, I was aware of a few faculty of whom it would no surprise me. During a series of anti-Nike protests, one Sociology prof offered students extra credit for participating in the protests. One the students in her class told me this and joked about whether he could get extra credit for participating in the counter–pro-Nike–protest. I encouraged him to ask her, but he was afraid just asking would get him penalized on his grade–he preferred simply to not be on her radar as someone with differing political views.
That’s problematic, even if the students are completely wrong. They should be able to have confidence that their prof isn’t grading them on a partisan basis. I know from evaluations that students have occasionally thought I was partisan, but in most cases I’ve had equal numbers accusing me of liberal and of conservative bias. I remember one day some years back when two students started arguing about it in class.
“Dr. Hanley, you’re so liberal.”
“What, are you kidding? He’s a total young Republican!”
[Note: I was about 40 at the time; my youthful good looks are a curse I’ve had to bear for many many years.]
It can be rough knowing your professor shares strong political views at odds with your own, given that they are in a position of power, but to some extent that’s just tough. That’s how life’s going to be, unless you’re a Young Republican who goes to work for the National Review. But professor should strive to not only be even-handed and non-partisan in the classroom, but to take reasonable steps to persuade students that they are so.
Against that, of course, faculty have free speech rights. It is possible to use those speech rights to criticize what the Republican Party has become without painting oneself as wholly politically opposed to them. I do it in my American Government class most terms. When talking about political parties I discuss how the major parties in America have changed not just over time, not just in my lifetime, but in the students’ own lifetime. In part this is to give them an awareness that our political system is not just a thing that it as it is, but a dynamic process that is changing–in substantive and important ways–right here, right now. Also, it is in part to discuss the dynamics of two-party systems, and the likely consequences of puritan purges in terms of squirreling together enough votes to win elections. That’s my implicit warning to right-wing and left-wing students, but what I don’t do is tell my tea party sympathizing students they’re bad people and I hate them.
But that’s in the classroom, and free speech rights apply more strongly outside the classroom than in, and Dr. Douglas has the right to be less objective outside the classroom than I am in the classroom. And keep in mind, we have no idea how she talks about such things, or even if she talks about them, in the classroom–she could be a consummate professional in class.
So in all the criticism of her essay, what I’m left not knowing is 1) whether she’s partisan or non-partisan in the classroom, and 2) whether her essay was as partisan as it’s being reported to be.
But the fact that it was apparently pulled from the website makes me suspect it might have been just as bad as described, and I think if so it was very unwise on her part. In her professional capacity she will have power over those she (allegedly) claims to hate, and that’s not good.
The response of UM Trustee Andrea Fischer Newman strikes the right tone, I think (again, assuming the original essay has been accurately described).
As a Republican and a Member of the Board of Regents, I find Professor Douglass’s column extremely troubling and offensive. The University of Michigan ommunity rightly supports and defends a wide variety of viewpoints and a diversity of opinion on all subjects. But this particular column, which expresses and condones hatred toward an entire segment of individuals in our society based solely on their political views, fails to observe an equally important value of our University — respect for the right of others to hold views contrary to our own. Professor Douglass’s column ill-serves the most basic values of a University community.
Kudos. That’s the way to represent the university.
Not so good–surprise, surprise–is the response of the chair of the state Republican Party, Bobby Schostak.
The piece by Professor Susan J. Douglas is ugly and full of hatred, and it should not be tolerated by the University of Michigan.
Not. Be. Tolerated. That’s a brilliant response to someone who says you’re intolerant, saying their words should not be tolerated. Way to walk right into the blindingly obvious trap, Mr. Schostak. And of course UM has to tolerate it–it’s a First Amendent issue. I teach at a private college, so my employer isn’t constitutionally required to tolerate what I might have to say, but UM is an organ of the state government. Mr. Schostak, like too many political types, might want to brush up on the First Amendment.
The University’s spokesperson also drew the lines properly.
The views expressed are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan. Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institution.
At the same time, the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal. The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.
In other words, “we don’t endorse her statement, but we respect her freedom of speech, but she’d better be fair in the classroom.” And all of that is exactly right.
Now, if only certain students would take their cues from the UM Trustee and spokesperson, instead of from the party leaders. This is UM’s president of Young Americans for Freedom, a group that in my experience tends to be filled with sloganeering types, rather than your more thoughtful conservatives. They come off to me as the right’s answer to campus Marxists.
This is blatant intolerance, and the University should take action on the behalf of intellectual diversity and all of the students who are intimidated into silence
There’s little irony more delicious than a person loudly announcing that they’re too intimidated to speak.
But to give credit where it’s due, the response of student Gabriel Leaf, former chair of the UM College Republicans, is measured and appropriate.
While students support Douglas’ right to express her opinion, “It’s kind of frustrating being on a college campus where we have teachers who are upfront about their hatred of certain views,” said Gabriel Leaf, 21, a senior and chairman of the College Republicans at the University of Michigan.
On a college campus where students from many backgrounds have a chance to share various views, he said, such a position could “push the parties away from each other and not really allow that open discussion to happen.
Based on that comment, at least, it’s kind of hard to hate that particular Republican. I hope Dr. Douglas thinks so, too.