“Many people think that universities,” writes Université du Québec professor Eve Seguin, “are unique places of freedom that stimulate intelligence, foster independence, value originality, promote collegiality, encourage pluralism and treat their members with respect.” Unfortunately, she finds, “The severity of mobbing in academic settings destroys that fantasy.” As in the Soviet Union’s version of distributive justice, “targets are first convicted and evidence is later fabricated to justify the conviction.” Seguin points out how contemporary mobbers like to use “negative communication” – gossip, lies, hateful messages, disciplinary meetings, public shaming – as a “powerful weapon of elimination,” thus “transform[ing] aggression into mock justice” and, as an added benefit, facilitating the recruitment of those “who would otherwise stay on the sidelines.”
Or would they? Peer pressure leavened by threat is a potent persuader, which issues in a cataract of predictable puppetry. The target of the mob’s denunciations is systematically unpersoned, while the academic rabble bray in triumph. Seguin concludes that “we must ask ourselves: ‘Did I really choose this career in order to become an academic tormentor?’” Perhaps none do, at least initially, but that is what happens to many in the parietal hothouse.
Their quarry is always vulnerable to insult and persecution. To mention only a few of the more prominent names, just ask Sir Tim Hunt, Jordan Peterson, Michael Rectenwald, Rachel Fulton Brown, Bret Weinstein, Paul Griffiths, Nicholas and Erika Christakis, Jeffrey Ketland, Rick Mehta, Jeff Muehlbaur, Allen Frantzen, Richard Ted Lebow, Mark Silinsky, Nigel Biggar, Noah Carl, Alessandro Strumia and Rebecca Tuvel. These are researchers, scholars and scientists in multiple countries who have offended the arbiters of academic groupthink and suffered censure, social ostracism or expulsion from the ranks.
Among the most recent targets of professional assassination is Professor Ricardo Duchense of the University of New Brunswick. Duchesne is the author of three major volumes, Canada in Decay, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization and Faustian Man in a Multicultural Age. These works focus on the historical trajectory of Western civilization, in particular its critical difference from other world civilizations in its unique impulse toward scientific discovery, medical advancement, individual rights, democratic politics, religious freedom, habeus corpus and the amenities of ordinary life we all take for granted today. As Duschesne writes in The Uniqueness of Western Civilization: “The West, I believe, has always embodied a reflective sense of self-doubt about what it knows and what remains to be known, a kind of restlessness that has been both destructive and productive of new literary style, musical trends, visual motifs, and novel ideas.”
While such a statement would have been considered anodyne even one generation ago, today it counts as controversial inside the university. Even more inflammatory to modern-day academe is Duchesne’s analysis of the tectonic fissures appearing in the cultural and political landscape of the West owing to an unrestrained and aggressive multicultural experiment. This is a movement whose insistence on forced diversification envisages the replacement of light-skinned citizens of European origin by immigrants and refugees from other races, ethnicities and cultures, particularly North African and Muslim countries. “[M]ulticulturalism,” Duchesne writes in The Faustian Man in a Multicultural Age, is “an asymmetrical system in which Europeans, and only Europeans, [are] expected to celebrate other cultures, feel guilty about their own ethnic identity, and behave as universal altruists; while at the same time non-Europeans inside the European homelands [are] being encouraged to practice their I-group ethnic interests.”
The result was predictable. Duchesne has been called a racist, a Nazi, a hater and a white supremacist. The media wasted no time getting into the act, branding Duchesne a far-right ideologue animated by racist convictions. Perhaps the greatest damage to Duchesne’s reputation, ideas and prospects was caused by The Huffington Post, which last month published a scandalous and festering heap of lies, misrepresentations, fabrications, and erroneous attributions designed to eliminate him from the circle of respectability. As recently as 2012, Duchesne’s work received a respectful and balanced review in academic literature (in the linked instance, from an apparently non-white reviewer).
The Huffpo article made no such attempt at fairness, claiming that Duchesne is a white supremacist disseminating conspiracy theories against minority and marginalized peoples gradually. It does not mention the declared policy of the United Nations in its report, Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? The UN report envisions, among various scenarios, the transformation of Europe by up to 700 million immigrants, eventually reducing the native European population to a minority, or nearly so. Among the several scenarios envisioned for France, for example, the report provides one stating, “By 2050, out of a total population of 187 million, 128 million, or 68.3 per cent, would be post-1995 immigrants or their descendants.”
As Janice Fiamengo, a professor of English at the University of Ottawa and producer of a video series of social commentary, states in one video, the boundaries of academic discourse have been so narrowly circumscribed that “criticism of the ideology of multiculturalism and mass immigration is now conveniently defined as hate speech.” It is no accident that 100 of Duchesne’s colleagues at the University of New Brunswick (out of about 750 full-time academic staff) signed an open letter attacking his scholarship and denouncing his views. This led the university administration to launch an investigation into Duchesne’s teaching, political positions, philosophical principles and ultimately his tenure.
Among the ragbag of accusations he has had to face, Duchesne’s adversaries also contend that he is a rogue outsider who does not publish in peer-reviewed journals. They do not mention that such journals are dominated by social justice warrior types and committed socialists who would instantly toss his submissions into the garburator. Such has been the fate of his later work. Duchesne knows he is no homedawg. He has had more than his share of experience of the tactics of exclusion practiced by the votaries of inclusion.
A typical example of the campaign against Duchesne is furnished by the leftists who populate the Canadian Historical Association, which advances benign multicultural myths. They have eagerly joined in the blood sport, claiming that Duchesne’s works are “racist and without merit.” This suggests they have little or no familiarity with his world-class trilogy, which is far from surprising. It also suggests they have no interest in learned and impartial, if controversial, dialogue and deliberation.
Similarly, Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network – the title itself gives the game away as a smear factory reminiscent of the far-left U.S. Southern Poverty Law Center – comments: “We consider Duchesne to be part of the alt-right neo-Nazi movement.” Utter nonsense, of course. Balgord sounds like he is part of the alt-left neo-Bolshevik movement for whom any deviation from the party line is proof positive of fascist sympathies. For such fellow-travellers, any expression of dismay at the unravelling of the country’s European heritage can only be a sign of “white supremacy,” “racism” or “hatred.”
As Duchesne writes in an essay responding to the charges against him, “The playbook of the establishment is very simple and very effective: claim that questioners of diversity are driven by plain hatred, that they are poorly-educated hicks who can’t stand losing their white privilege, and are too parochial to understand the progressive cosmopolitanism marvellously spreading through the West.”
Duchesne’s essay examines the cyclical view of human history, citing Enlightenment-era Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico’s theory that “the underlying mechanism behind recurrent cyclical phases was the changing psychological state of human being in response to different realities.” Decline is inevitable because as civilizations grow wealthy and secure, “prolonged comfort, peacefulness, relaxation and a lack of stress and tension weaken the human character.” Duchesne also quotes 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill, who saw a rising tide of “moral effeminacy, an ineptitude for every kind of struggle” overtaking a nation. “This torpidity and cowardice,” Mill writes, “is a natural consequence of the progress of civilization.”
Such is the case with the contemporary West, Duchesne concludes, which has grown “dissolute in luxury and incapable of the discipline and seriousness required to sustain a civilization.” The traditional culture of hard work, respect for law, self-sufficiency, intellectual vitality, scientific rigour and preservation of its traditions has surrendered its patrimony and, as in the signature poem of the Greek-Alexandrian poet Constantine Cafavy, welcomed the barbarians through its gates.
Duchesne’s sweep of reference in the essay is impressively wide-angle, covering the centuries and featuring an informed discussion of Cato the Elder, Plutarch, Polybius, Sallust, Livy, Hume, Hobbes, Marx, Spengler, Adam Smith, Franz Boas and others. He commands a field of view and exhibits an intellectual energy that few academics, mired in their specialties, could ever hope to emulate. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Pro forma, the cabal of social justice warlocks refuses to enter into dialogue and debate. Their scope is limited to the bromides and shibboleths they are comfortable with.
Instead, as mobs do, they will attack the messenger of complex and unpopular ideas and strive to destroy him professionally and personally. And it works. Journalist and author Robert Stacy McCain summarizes the issue as follows: “How odd is it that disciples of Marx and Lenin – advocates of revolutionary socialism – are tolerated in academia, but a professor who makes reference to Plutarch and Livy is condemned as [a] Thought Criminal?” McCain observes that, “There is a totalitarian tendency in academia that now seeks to silence certain perspectives by labelling them ‘hate speech,’ and it’s never the Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries who are silenced.”
The curtain has now come down on this wretched piece of theatre. The university vice-president last week circulated the following smarmy announcement: “I write to advise members of the University community that Dr. Ricardo Duchesne, professor in the department of social science, has provided his notice of early retirement to focus on his own pursuits as an independent scholar. We respectfully accept his decision and thank him for his 24 years of service.” In the animal farm of the modern university, the wolves howl, the weasels take care of things.
David Solway is a Canadian poet, songwriter and essayist.