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“One responded, actually calling for a boycott of Professor Jacobson”

“One responded, actually calling for a boycott of Professor Jacobson”

“I propose that we boycott his appearance at [Vassar] College”

On May 5, 2014, I gave a lecture at Vassar College against the academic boycott of Israel. Originally I had challenged the 39 professors who signed a letter defending the academic boycott of Israel to debate, but none accepted the challenge.

During the Q&A, I learned for the first time from student organizer Luka Ladan that one of the professors had called for a boycott of my lecture.

The full video is here. The two anti-Israel speakers I referenced were Max Blumenthal and Ali Abunimah, who appeared in an event sponsored by several academic departments, the week before. Those same academic departments were asked to sponsor my appearance, but none did.

I had not made a big deal about it, although it troubled me that a professor would call for a boycott of a lecture simply because of a difference of opinion.

When I saw a Wall Street Journal column posted late this afternoon, I remembered that statement about boycotting me. Ruth Wisse, professor at Harvard, writes, The Closing of the Collegiate Mind:

There was a time when people looking for intellectual debate turned away from politics to the university. Political backrooms bred slogans and bagmen; universities fostered educated discussion. But when students in the 1960s began occupying university property like the thugs of regimes America was fighting abroad, the venues gradually reversed. Open debate is now protected only in the polity: In universities, muggers prevail….

In 1995 I participated in a campus debate on affirmative action that drew so much student interest it had to be rerouted to Harvard’s largest auditorium. This year I was asked by a student group to participate in a debate on modern feminism. Though I am not hotly engaged in the subject, I agreed and waited for confirmation, thinking it might be fun to consider a women’s movement that has never graduated from sisterhood to motherhood. There followed several emails apologizing for the delay and finally a message acknowledging that no one could be found to take the pro-feminist side. Evidently, one of those asked had responded: “What is there to debate?” No wonder those who admit no legitimate opposition to their ideas feel duty-bound to shut down unwelcome speakers.

Here’s the email, which I obtained after my appearance, sent to the 38 other professors and one of the student organizers of my appearance, Luka Ladan:

Dear colleagues (and Mr Ladan):

Since Prof Jacobson so stubbornly and willfully insists on misunderstanding the nature and content of our letter and has offered a tantrum-like meet-me-in-the-back-of-the-school-after-class challenge I propose that we boycott his appearance at the College.

Lisa Paravisini

Once upon a time, the reaction would be to appear on stage with me and enlighten me and the audience as to how I allegedly misunderstood the letter defending the anti-Israel academic boycott.

If the case that I was wrong could have been made, it should have been. If it couldn’t be made, and if I didn’t misconstrue the letter, then I guess a group boycott was the only option.


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Vapid cowards.

    Musson in reply to windbag. | May 12, 2014 at 9:48 am

    They could just put their fingers in the ears and chant, “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.”

franciscodanconia | May 11, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Academic brownshirts.

LukeHandCool | May 11, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Vapid brownshirt academic cowards.

…although it troubled me that a professor would call for a boycott of a lecture simply because of a dif-ference of opinion.”

Professor: They’re just teachers, not gods, not geniuses. They went to college and obtained advanced degrees. In many many cases it just means they could memorize enough subject matter to graduate. Remember, once the military draft ended back in 1973, people stopped applying to college for the purpose of avoiding military service. The subsequent result was fewer college attendees and therefore less tuition dollars flowing into colleges. Then the lowering of grade standards began in order to keep people in attendance – something that continues today. Being a college teacher meant something once. Not so much anymore. Don’t be troubled by moves to boycott you by those who cannot back up their stances on issues. They are not Einsteins.

    Ragspierre in reply to McAllister. | May 12, 2014 at 12:03 am

    The part I LOVE…

    Prof. beat them by just showing up.

    Like a herd of white-tail deer, they were showing their asses, running for the tall grass.

    healthguyfsu in reply to McAllister. | May 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    I disagree. It still means something to those of us who care enough to try and do the right thing. Also, attendance has spiked because of ridiculous over-funding of the “right to a college education” that politicians have championed in collusion with profiteering, “non-profit” institutions. The inflation of grades, at least in the modern era, has come as a result of a customer-service mentality towards unqualified students, not a decline in enrollment. It is sickening.

    Lastly, I agree with the professor’s sentiment because, above all else, professors are supposed to support academic freedom for all. They are supposed to take an objective point of view and to trust individuals to “use their heads” and carefully consider gray lines between right and wrong. However, it is unsurprising because the modern academic climate is very stifling for conservatives asking even a balanced presentation of views.

LukeHandCool | May 11, 2014 at 10:23 pm

I dunno. 39 professors boycotting a civil debate challenge by a single professor on the other side of an issue smacks of academic/intellectual apartheid to me.

    Musson in reply to LukeHandCool. | May 12, 2014 at 9:51 am

    But – it’s settled science. 97% of all social scientists agree that Israel oppresses Palastinians. Just look at this Hockey Stick chart I made up that shows Israeli oppression over the last 5000 years!

Well now there wouldn’t be a problem if people like Lisa Paravisini just boycotted everything and shut up and stayed home.

(No way would she or any of them debate you, Prof. Just like law. When you have a losing case, and you know it, you don’t go to trial.)

Doug Wright Old Grouchy | May 11, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Another way to look at that “childcott” is that the 39 were very much afraid of the argument of that one person in opposition to them.

Might that be the result of an intellectual weakness on the part of the 39?

LukeHandCool | May 11, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Only boycott Willful Willie the Back o’ School Bully?

No sanction or divestment?

It’s not necessarily cowardice. It’s more likely a Fabian strategy. It’s the deliberate avoidance of anything which might puncture the intellectually indefensible Christmas wrapping of modern leftism. They have nothing to offer in a debate. Fact, science, history, logic – all spell intellectual defeat. So they dodge – perhaps their only option in some cases. They’re not all stupid; some are manipulative or even evil, even when they act like they’re stupid. For an example, see that childish e-mail quoted above, in which the writer pretends to mistake a very public challenge for “back of the school” shenanigans. I’m sure Ms Paravisini would never pass for one of the 21st century’s major intellects, but she simply can’t be the lamebrain she’s pretending to be. So why does she do it? Probably because she’s trying to appeal to a rather simple-minded audience.

    Sanddog in reply to tom swift. | May 12, 2014 at 3:15 am

    I think cowardice is a good explanation. They’re just a bunch of thugs and bullies who are afraid of facing anyone they have no power over. A coward will always refuse to appear on a level playing field.

      tom swift in reply to Sanddog. | May 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

      I believe that you are grossly underestimating the problem. But it doesn’t much matter. In either case, theirs is not a losing tactic. Their goal is not a display of bravado or prowess, their goal is victory.

Too many in academia can’t hold their own in a discussion with anyone whose future they cannot torpedo for dissent.

I pity the idiot who pays (or worse, goes into debt) for a non-science/ non-medical or non-law degree—- ie any fields where college is not a direct pipeline to a career. Wait….No I don’t. anyone listens to the drivel spewed by the likes of these people for 4-6 years deserves to start their adult life 50k in debt. It’s what I refer to as social if not cosmic justice.

LukeHandCool | May 12, 2014 at 1:08 am

Dear Professor Paravisini,

I challenged myself to a debate over this. (Gave myself a beaut of a shiner in the back of the closet. I deserved it. No more epistemological closure for me. Not as long as I still got my right uppercut.)

You are right. That’s the unanimous decision.

Professor Jacobson’s debate challenge was like a challenge by a bully to fight 39 of you in the back of the school after class.

And a debate team is nothing but a dangerous gang.

Won’t you join me in a crusade to stamp out dangerous debate gangs? Before someone gets their ego broken or their arrogant ignorance slashed?

I used to think of you all as fascists. Then I gave myself a whoopin’ out back behind the kitchen, and now I think of y’all as guardian angels patrolling the campus. Nice berets.

Let’s wage a war on those debate team gangs. Call me!


Juba Doobai! | May 12, 2014 at 2:36 am

I saw some black guys in the upper left hand corner. Is black the new white? SJP folks would say so, huh?

Maybe Vassar should lose their accreditation. Maybe the accrediting committees should lost THEIR accreditation. I wonder if some future President/Sec. of Ed. would dare to take them on.

DINORightMarie | May 12, 2014 at 7:31 am

From the video clip, you note, Professor, that meeting to discuss something is “a valuable thing.”

It’s only valuable if you have an open mind. Once, not long ago, the left (including professors) shouted that “there’s nothing more dangerous than a closed mind.” However, they have become what they decried. It would appear they were projecting all along.

The university today (with notable exceptions like yourself) is made up of close-minded professors, who see themselves as demi-gods.

What a frightening thing to think they are shaping the minds of this generation, have shaped the minds of the past two or three decades, and will continue to do so if unchecked.

You are doing yeoman’s work, sir, standing against the closing of the American mind, due to university professor’s “instruction malpractice.” Thank you.

Perhaps it’s time for these fascist close-minded professors (and the rest who fear truth, reason, logic, and openly debating ideas) to embrace and adopt that other well-worn slogan, “A closed mind is a wonderful thing to lose.”

    tom swift in reply to DINORightMarie. | May 12, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Once, not long ago, the left (including professors) shouted that “there’s nothing more dangerous than a closed mind.”

    That was a long time ago. And those people have long since retired.

    Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (which, despite the title, wasn’t about America so much as academia) was published 27 years ago. Leftism has been on its “Long March” for a while now; a generation after Bloom, they’re finally in control of government departments, newrooms, and faculty lounges – not because they’re terribly capable, but because their predecessors are gone.

Prof. Thanks for the work you do. It is important to stand up to the bullies, and you are one with the knowledge and ability to do it.

One HAS to wonder what type of education one would receive at Vassar. Certainly not one that is worth paying for.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | May 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

I don’t agree with the folks who say progressives don’t want to debate because they’re cowards, or have indefensible ideas, or that they are in a position of weakness. I think it is the exact opposite.

They are so totally and completely convinced that their ideas – not just about Israel but progressive ideas generally – are superior that there is no need to even consider an alternative worldview. And allowing an inferior idea to air and possibly take root just sets back “progress”.

Early in Obama’s first term Charles Krauthammer noted how frequently Obama uses the word “illegitimate” to describe criticism of him or his policies. Not surprisingly, Obama often says he’s open to ideas from the other side. On the surface that makes it appear as though he’s pragmatic and calling for open dialogue. But as soon as someone offers an alternative he usually dismisses it as illegitimate. So the whole idea about being open to debate is a sham. It’s why he can’t work with Congress. He is convinced that compromising his superior position may legitimize an inferior position.

It’s a feature of progressivism. They truly believe they have reached their positions using reason and logic (without ideology), and they are guided by altruism and morality. They sometimes falsely claim they’re open to dialogue (as Obama often does), but because they are convinced they start from the morally superior position arrived at by reason and logic, all other positions are “illegitimate” and unworthy of debate. That means the other side MUST be driven by ideology or they are pursing a narrow selfish interest. That makes it easy to label the opposing side as driven by greed, bigotry, hatred, misogyny, racism, homophobia etc. Those are not labels used just to shut down debate. I think many progressives really believe it. Because if a person were not driven by those ugly characteristics, he’d hold the morally superior progressive position arrived at by reason and logic.

In the case of Israel, they have absolutely convinced themselves that the current situation in Israel is a mistake and allowing it to continue is morally wrong. No other position is “legitimate”. And it would be a mistake to debate an inferior, “illegitimate” position and risk it taking root.

    But Obama never says that his opposition’s ideas are “illogical”. His claim that they are “illegitimate” is much weaker, but much safer because he won’t be asked to justify it. If he said “illogical”, somebody might ask him why, and he won’t be able to answer. Not logically, anyway.

    They are so totally and completely convinced that their ideas – not just about Israel but progressive ideas generally – are superior that there is no need to even consider an alternative worldview. And allowing an inferior idea to air and possibly take root just sets back “progress”.

    Hm. I think you might be right. The attitude of why lend credibility to a position that has none by debating it, thereby implying that the conclusion is open to “debate”. Good point.

    I guess this is the result of two generations now of affirmative action. So many people with inferior cognitive skills having been educated beyond their intelligence, and then hired into positions exceeding their abilities.

Henry Hawkins | May 12, 2014 at 10:01 am

Universities like Vassar do not provide education, but indoctrination, and he who never debates cannot lose.

BrianMacker | May 12, 2014 at 10:23 am

If these leftist think discusion isn’t going to make a difference then why do they bother opening their mouths.

It is really important to get the response of these professors on record. This helps communicate the true nature of what is happening in academia with respect to BDS and anti-Semitism.

The 39 professors would actually have to know something about middle eastern history to debate you.

[…] such academics is a refusal to engage in discussion. An example of this is Prof. Jacobson’s recent talk at Vassar. NOT A SINGLE ONE of the 39 Vassar professors who had signed a letter containing egregious slurs […]