American Campus Diary: Progspeak Crib-Sheet

Charles Mackay is a British academic with a visiting fellowship at an elite American university. They are strange places, but through America’s soft power, they tend to spread their strangeness abroad, with English-speaking countries most susceptible. But forewarned is forearmed, so here are your warnings. His previous entries are here, here, here, and here. His next is here.


American universities are undergoing a slow-burning cultural revolution.

Unfortunately, I don’t find the battle between Equality/Social Justice and Free Speech/Academic Freedom very interesting. I’m a decelerationist neo-Fordist. As far as I’m concerned, the proper role of the university is to train the next generation of the bourgeoisie in the technical skills and class loyalty necessary for them to effectively administrate the late-capitalist regime.

We have pornography and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to keep the proletarian deer chewing the cud. For our fledgling pack wolves, however, we must continue to serve up ideological red meat: the slogans and platitudes of progressivism/neoliberalism, which have become the one fashionable source of social unity in a society that rejects sexual difference, religious commitment and tribal loyalty. But America’s jeunesse dorée think of themselves as sensitive and intellectually independent, so the meat must be rolled in fine spices. That’s why it’s worth paying for the humanities and social sciences – why it’s worth capital and its captive governments subsidising polyclausal hucksters like me. We’re just making sure the Krypteia have the skills and resolve necessary to keep the Helots in line, without breaking ranks when they notice the blood on their hands.

With this in mind, I decided that I would not narrate my own run-down of recent instances of chilling speech via condemnation, pearl-clutching or outright censorship by administrators and student leaders.

Nor will I draw readers’ attention to defences of intellectual bigotry by progressive academics who have been charged, at least officially, with keeping an open mind.

Nor will I narrate the violence committed at UC Berkeley in February by professional paramilitaries and subsequently endorsed by progressive students, activists, and politicians.

Nor will I narrate similar violence committed by the students themselves at Middlebury College when a distinguished sociologist came to give a lecture on his new book critiquing the origins and likely consequences of increasing inequality in America, violence that was effectively endorsed by their professors and their audience in progressive journalism.

Instead, what I will do is offer a ‘crib sheet’ for British students who wish to join, or just understand, America’s emerging Red Guard. I’ve modelled it on nearby equivalents: this one is for Chinese propaganda during the 1960s, and this is La Wik’s own glossary for the jargon used by the military junta that governed Greece from ’67-74. You can make whatever you will of the implicit comparison. I disavow any intentions more significant than my own amusement.

Jargon: meaning

sexist: advocate of regulations on abortion

intolerant: anyone politically to my right

xenophobe: advocate of any immigration reforms other than blanket amnesty, followed by unconditional citizenship, followed by open borders

homophobe: advocate of  traditional marriage

islamophobe: someone who quotes the Quran, but is not theirself a Muslim

transphobe: someone who believes that both sex body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria hurt their sufferers and should be treated as best as medical and psychological research can provide for; or, who believes that one’s biological sex can have normative consequences for which gender one should perform; or, who believes that society will do better if sex-associated gender norms are handed on rather than forgotten; or a feminist activist who is more famous than me

racist: either a xenophobe; or, an advocate of applying the law equally to citizens/subjects regardless of their skin colour

bigot: anyone politically to my right, but ‘intolerant’ does not scan so well in the sentence or fit on the banner

fascist: a bigot influential or persuasive enough that I need to raise the heat on them

Nazi: a fascist whose popularity or persuasiveness merits one degree more heat

Neo-Nazi: a Nazi

white nationalist: a racist fascist

white supremacist: a racist Nazi

hate speech: a lecture or article with which I disagree, and which is sufficiently well-written or accessible to the general public that it might persuade someone

vile hate speech: witty hate speech

real violence: words which cause butterflies in my tummy as a result of putting me in a situation of genuine, passionate political disagreement with strangers

real people: me and my classmates

alt-right: a bigot with whom I had an argument on the internet, but did not renounce their views and apologise when I used words from this crib-sheet

safety: consensus

privilege: difference

justice: power.

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