Letter to the Editor: The Belinda Bullies

Editor’s Note: The Editor, Michael Shammas, wrote a response to this piece. You can read his response here.

Dear Editor,

While I have limited objection to the Committee decision to recommend the modification of the HLS shield, I have difficulty treating the decision-making process as legitimate given its broader social context, regardless of (true) protestations to the contrary. But the shield is ultimately not a significant concern of mine. Far more concerning are the broader implications of the insurgency which has essentially forced the Committee’s hand, and the mushrooming[1] of similar insurrections in the haloed halls of this nation’s “academic” institutions.

I am all too familiar with social settings dominated by dogma. The shadowy feeling out for intellectual comrades, the tentative sharing of fringe opinions and careful observance of elicited reactions. The relief when one finds such comrades, and the fear when you’ve misjudged and shared too much. Most of my intellectual development took place in such a dogmatic context. When I came to Harvard, I came expecting an exciting intellectual journey in a more honest environment. But alas, all too frequently I experience myself in a church masquerading as an academic institution. The canon of principles making up church dogma. The certitude of conviction as to what is just and what is good, as if God himself has manifested so in the Wasserstein Revelation. The lip service commitments to ideals like diversity, another naked emperor clothed by a delusion quickly dispelled by one wrong comment in a class. The snickers and smirks of impartial professors and obsequious students describing “other” views condemned by history, willfully ignorant of the likelihood that they too will be condemned by history.

Let me be candid, if unkind. This is no academic institution. This is a first-class sham, a 21st century religion, so paradoxically smug in its conviction of its own irreligiosity, so proud of its superior understanding of justice, and so fooled by this poisoned cup of pride. Hence the oblivious distribution of educational placemats, the High Priest of the Temple of Diversity and Inclusion instructing the young undergrad missionaries on how to educate the uninitiated. The fresh zeal of the adolescent recently informed of the truths of existence by the all-knowing father. And hence the bullies.

The bullies so characteristic of a religious community. Those who scream loudest upon any variance from dogma. Whose screams intimidate the moderate majority, now fearful to voice moderation, lest the accusation of heresy be turned on them in turn. The bullies who most often are themselves the most insecure of the lot, threatened by any perceived challenge to their pure ideology. The bullies who push their leaders to change things just so that the world is aligned with their view of justice. Who decorate the walls of Wasserstein Lounge with paraphernalia reflecting a decidedly leftist array of their dogmatic concerns, and theirs only. Who snoop out your secrets, and post documents shared in mutual confidence on the public walls. Who shamefully vilify faculty and cast aspersions on anyone who disagrees with them in the pages of the Harvard Law Record. Who decide that it’s their right to show movies, host speakers, and generally render the lounge hostile to anyone not cleanly in their camp. The Belinda Bullies.

The Belinda bullies who travel to Brandeis Monastery, to show up a priestess of their own tradition, shaming her in a moment of well-deserved honor. And for what? For the failure to implement their demands immediately. For taking the time to consider what is the best way forward. For establishing a committee to consider their demands, rather than bowing and scraping and promising immediate obedience in the Temple of Belinda. In great irony, these bullies have effectively claimed the sole privilege of free expression in Harvard Law School. The sole right to have their voice dominate the public discourse. The sole right to string people up for heresy in the public forum, attacking them personally when they dare disagree, and shaming responsive students and faculty for any minor misstep from their purist ideologies. And if their past behavior is any indication, they would like to extend this dominance by institutionalizing it with their presence on permanent committees, the establishment of a Diversity Temple within the Law School, and a mandated curriculum of intimidation. (I do not intend to inculpate all those involved in this general activism, but rather the few who set the abusive tenor of these “protests.”)

If there is one thing we learn from this election cycle, it should be the importance of calling things by their name.[2] A bully is a bully. As is the way with religious bullies, they get in the way of real solutions. They create entities that are responsible for problems – the “Harvard institution” is the problem (as if it has some independent ontological existence) – obscuring real causes, impeding solutions, and alienating allies and moderates.  I wonder how much this activism will add to the safety of the innocent child playing in a park in an inner-city community, or more likely, how much it will get in the way.

I do not deny the colored racial history of this country. The egregious rates of incarceration facing the black community, the heart-wrenchingly disparate education and economic outcomes that one can predict merely on the basis of color. I venture that the vast majority of students at the Law School are deeply troubled by these and related phenomena, and moreover, would be happy to participate in real solutions. But there is no way that a candid discussion of the multiplicity of causes and best solutions to these problems will be had in the Belinda Hall echochamber, or with the Bullies who know just where the issue lies. And as the recent Record polls show, I am not the only one who believes this.

Yours,

Winston Syme*

[1] Mushrooms present a good analogy as even the experienced forager finds it difficult to tell the harmless fungi from the dangerous.

[2] Nor is the political correctness, or bullying, so standard in today’s Liberal institutions unconnected to the Trumpkins revolt. Donald Trump was born in the PC culture of our universities.

*Winston Syme is a pen name. The Record has confirmed that this piece was written by a current student and, after considering the student’s request for anonymity, agreed to publish his letter anonymously. We have published other pieces anonymously in the recent past.

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