A bunch of well-known public intellectuals, mostly "moderate Democrats", are trying to establish
The University of Austin:See Google News. So far so good. I know some of the founders well, like Summers and Pinker. Others have been funny, like Boghossian who co-produced all the Sokal-style hoaxes. The description of the problem is clearly correct (although you may easily find psychopaths claiming that there is no problem with the freedom of thought at the U.S. universities today) and the goal is noble. But will the project lead to a fix of the fatal problem with the Academia?
dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth.
Well, I am skeptical, mainly for the following reasons:
- It looks like another project (similar to "Gab") that is destined to remain limited.
- Even though many of the people were often symbols as victims of the suppression of free speech on the campuses, and I have admired them for their defense of the academic freedoms (in which they trumped most Republicans who should know better!), I don't really believe that they're the people who may guarantee a different trajectory.
The first problem involves a similar criticism that I often mention when it comes to servers like Gab, Parler, and maybe Bitchute, Rumble... as the ultimate solutions to the censorship by the Silicon Valley. The chance that "the University of Austin will overshadow the Ivy League in its influence" looks about as remote to me as the chance that "Gab will supersede Twitter". I just don't believe this scenario because such a theory seems to be based on a complete misunderstanding of the depth and primary causes of the deterioration of the universities and the whole Western civilization.
The people who tell us "just switch from Twitter to Gab or Parler and everything will be fine" simply pretend that the takeover of the Internet communication by the unhinged extreme leftists is just a minor technical glitch that has a simple technical solution. In reality, the takeover of the Internet communication and pretty much the whole West by these sick loons is just a symptom of a very profound political disease of the whole nations. This disease simply can't be fixed easily, e.g. by your switching from one Internet domain to another.
My Twitter account has been suppressed in various ways for years but I still had 2,700 followers when they deleted it. Posting on that Twitter account had a low efficacy because the reach was limited. But it would be much worse with Gab and Parler. One would need a long time to get above 1,000 at Gab or Parler. On top of that, the followers over there would be an echo chamber of a sort because the bulk of the society has been pre-programmed to avoid servers like Gab and Parler. They are politically incorrect, they are told by their "trusted sources", and that is enough for them to avoid it. I just don't want to constantly preach to the choir. I mostly find it a waste of time and I always did.
The influence of one hour of hard work simply drops by orders of magnitude if you had an influential account at the Silicon Valley servers; and you were pushed to the small "alternatives". This decrease is usually enough for the far left masterminds to know that "they are winning". If and when you shrink by orders of magnitude because of their tricks and powers, you become harmless for them! Of course, some people are doing seemingly well and earning money, like Alex Jones with Infowars, Joe Rogan, and so on. I am often worried that some of these people are only doing these things because they were accidentally pushed to this position and they realized that it can be a good source of income because there is still a huge demand e.g. for non-woke content. But the primary problems are that
- some demographics or kinds of viewers and readers are just absent in these alternative places which makes some topics (including many intellectually demanding ones: of course, string theory would be just an extreme example) impossible to survive at the alternatives (and that means that these alternative platforms just don't preserve the freedom or balance in many or most of the fields)
- the very survival of these alternatives as wholes is always at stake.
For the same reason, it is just a complete nonsense that the "split of Facebook/Meta to several companies solves the problem". The problem isn't that the number of these Internet communication companies is too small. It isn't really so small today. The problem is that all of the truly powerful ones are dominated by a certain political species of employees who decide. And that would almost certainly be the case of the hypothetical three mini-Facebooks, too. We may say that a big primary problem is that the coders as a community – who have a totally undeserved yet understandable disproportionate influence over the content spread by the Internet – have become way too left-wing as a community. The real problems started to emerge decades ago, when most of us largely ignored the developments, when the university campuses started to be overtaken by extreme leftists. Schools aren't important, many conservatives believed, but they were proven wrong. The dominance of the far left loons at the U.S. universities got gradually generalized to their dominance in universities of the West as well as a big portion of the cultural, political, and corporate worlds, aside from other worlds. It happened simply because the university space has been kicking above its weight when it comes to the power of the people as opinionmakers or ideologues. The U.S. universities just turned out to be environments where certain extreme ideas were allowed to exponentially grow already when they were small and once they captured a majority, they could extend or leverage this power to many other types of institutions.
This is a serious disease, a cancer of a sort, that has plagued the whole environment and the loosely connected ones. This disease has nothing to do with the question whether the number of Facebooks is one or three; and indeed, with the question whether some recently canceled moderate Democrats move to Austin. And the only possible fix involves a totally analogous exponential growth of the healthy cells across a similar set of environments! A new class of people must get excited about a new ideal, namely the elimination of all the dishonest leftists, and simply do it (of course, the removal of the "autonomous" control of the rotten leftists inside over "their" universities must be abolished first). Whoever accepts his limited role in a corner is only helping to highlight and solidify the dominance of the far left loons as the status quo! The fix must really be profoundly political and the extreme leftists, the cancer cells, must be intensely fought against at their very real and current location. You simply can't cure cancer by looking away from the tumor! You must focus at the damn tumors and if you're not breaking them, you need to use more powerful tools.
So in practice, I think that this project of the University of Austin has at most the potential to become a minor university where the tolerance towards critical thinking is a bit higher than in the Ivy League; but that won't change the basic problem that the idiotic and lying loons determine almost everything and claim to be leaders of the intellectual world, too.
The University of Austin recognizes the importance of competition (of universities) for a healthy development of any industry, including the Academia. However, the problem is that if it started to thrive, it would still be just one university that is actually allowing the genuine academic work (at least in the increasing list of topics that have been declared ideologically sensitive and therefore controlled by the far left loons – which is pretty much all of them by now). And one genuine university is not a true competitive landscape. In practice, such a university could hire some moderate Democrats that just barely stepped over the red lines of the increasingly radical left-wing movement. But being fired or pressured from a university is not a real proof of someone's skills or depth.
This brings me to the second problem. While the people behind the project look impressive and I do trust that they believe that they are warriors for the academic freedom and other freedoms, I ultimately don't believe that it would stay so if they ruled the whole university environment. If I look a bit more realistically, I still see people who have often teamed up with the far leftists in their suppression of important truths and patterns of thinking. Some of the people have still suffered from the Trump Derangement Syndrome, for example, and are still unwilling to admit totally basic facts such as that X or Y deteriorated when America switched from Trump to Biden.
So I think that at the end, they are still a bunch of people who have been educated to be censors who eliminate the inconvenient truths, they just preferred to maintain a slightly more moderate image. But what I don't see is that they are immune against the trends and pressures that persistently push the "tolerated interval" increasingly to the left, at an accelerating speed. For this reason, they may be just "another group of leftists whose personal evolution is delayed by some five years relatively to the far left frontier". And those five years are just not enough for anything truly valuable. If they succeeded and the university landscape were reshaped according to their image, which I find unlikely given the near-monopoly of the far left over all "adjacent" institutions and processes, it would mean that we would return from 2022 to 2017 or so. But most things were already pretty much screwed then, too, and I think that they wouldn't change the trend that would bring us back to the "real 2022", perhaps in 2027.
So I am afraid that despite the famous names, something essential is missing. One thing that is missing is that they are unwilling to clearly articulate what were the fatal mistakes that have taken place and that almost unavoidably led to the current mess. A reason why they don't articulate it is that most of them have belonged among the culprits who have supported these pathological trends for decades. With hindsight, we may see that the current mess is a nearly unavoidable result of decades of wrongdoing in the Academia and the Democratic Party. It started with the "innocent" minor forms of affirmative action, a deviation from meritocracy and from honesty that had no reason to stay small and that inevitably exponentially grew and ultimately became dominant. Because they aren't great enough minds to clearly describe the primary reasons (and credibly vow that the mistakes won't be repeated), they are unlikely to avoid similar bad trends in the future, too.
And that's the memo.