Missing link Friday – diversity, anonymity and libertarian train spotting

In this week’s Missing Link Friday: Are conservative Christians the only oppressed minority not protected by university diversity policies? Bill Muehlenberg thinks so. An anonymous poster to Menzies House risks a Joe Klein experience. And Ayn Rand’s sacred text, Atlas Shrugged, finally makes it to the big screen raising an obvious question — will train spotters pay to see it? Plus a list of other interesting stuff I stumbled across this week.

Tolerating intolerance?

Universities "have now become a hot house for secular left ideology" where Christians and conservatives are "becoming the target of official campaigns of anti-Christian bigotry", writes Bill Muehlenberg. At his blog he shares the latest outrage — a university ‘diversity dictionary’ that he claims portrays Christianity as an oppressive religion.

The trouble starts at the UC Davis Office of Campus Community Relations which published a glossary defining religious/spiritual discrimination as:

The loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.

Some students took this to mean that Christianity was the only religion not protected on campus. They contacted the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) whose lawyers wrote to the university. They argued that this definition of religious discrimination was unconstitutional and a violation of the right to free speech. The University’s Associate Executive Vice Chancellor, Rahim Reed, wrote back saying he saw their point and shared their concern. He stated that the glossary was not intended as a statement of university policy and advised that the web page had been taken down.

Muehlenberg claims that university authorities are oppressing Christians and discriminating against them. "They are the ones who make clear their contempt of opposing viewpoints" he writes. And while that might sound over the top, it’s obvious that the authors of ‘diversity dictionaries’ in places like UC Davis, Texas A&M and UCLA really don’t think it’s acceptable for conservative Christians to openly express their views about sexual morality on campus. It’s not a kind of diversity of opinion they want to encourage. For example, here’s part of the UC Davis glossary’s definition of heterosexism:

Belief that heterosexuality is the only "natural" sexuality and that it is inherently healthier or superior to other types of sexuality; an ideological system that denies, denigrates and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior; condones discriminatory practices and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals and creates unique developmental challenges otherwise not present such as overcoming internalized homophobia and coming out.

Not surprisingly, some conservative Christians read this as an attack on moral teachings they believe are an integral part of their religious and philosophical tradition. And for some, being unable to publicly condemn practices they believe are immoral is experienced as a painful "loss of power and privilege".

Many of our posts are not well written, admits Tim Andrews

Menzies House is also having trouble with people who express their opinions too freely. Watching shadow treasurer Joe Hockey express compassion for the relatives of asylum seekers killed off Christmas Island last December, was too much for one Liberal Party staffer. He or she bashed out an anonymous post for Menzies House complaining about "Joe Hockey’s decision to undermine his Liberal colleague Scott Morrison, and contradict official party policy on the issue of taxpayer funds being used to ferry asylum seekers across the country." The post went on to claim:

Hockey attempted to manipulate this and grandstand for his own personal advantage. And that is unacceptable. To take advantage of an event such as this to advance your own personal agenda is simply beyond the pale.

Before long, panic had set in as party members and supporters aired suspicions about who wrote the post. The editors at Menzies House eventually decided to pull it explaining that: "it unfairly places suspicion on a very small number of people who were not responsible for writing the article."

At Catallaxy, commenter Terje Petersen complains that the Menzies House post was badly written and was "something of a pointless rant". Tim Andrews of Menzies House admits that many MH posts are badly written but claims this is the fault of Catallaxy readers: "if you aren’t willing to send us anything, I think you abrogate your right to complain about the quality of posts."

Atlas Shrugged: It’s like Lord of the Rings for libertarians

Also at Menzies House, a recent post links to the trailer for Atlas Shrugged Part I, the first of a movie trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s sprawling 1957 novel. Terje Petersen is the first to respond: "Thank god! Now I don’t have to read that damn book " (for those who are not familiar with the book, Atlas Shrugged is 1069 pages long and printed in type so small no one over 50 can read it).

At Hoyden About Town, tigtog wonders whether the film "will finally bring randroids the level of mockery from the general public that they have always richly deserved".

At Shakesville, some commenters are distracted by footage of trains in the film clip. decco82 writes: "I am conflicted between my love of trains and my dislike of strawman politicals in films. Looks surprisingly well funded too. Reminds me of Battlefield Earth in that respect. "

Rand herself was fascinated by trains. Like many Russians of her era (she was born in 1905) she thought of them as symbols of progress. American blogger TBogg writes:

Trains. Who in America doesn’t want to see more movies with lots and lots of trains in them? And industrialists talking about money and profits. And trains …

As we can see from the preview, Dagny is going to shut down her train business and that will make America fail. Because America’s trains …. well, I guess they power iPhones or make porn or something. And we all know that America cannot live without those things.

At the United States Studies Centre blog, Jonathan Bradley re-tells an old joke:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Other interesting stuff

Alternative Lord of the Rings
Legal Eagle, Skepticlawyer

I have a confession to make. My favourite character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is Faramir. I wanted to marry Faramir when I was a teenager, despite him being fictional, and thus Mr Eagle harbours a bizarre jealousy against him, threatening to deface my Faramir bookmark. (Actually Eaglet No. 2 ruined the Faramir bookmark by chewing it into a pulp when he was about 1 year old, much to the joy of Mr Eagle).

‘Daring’ to be Different
DeusExMacintosh, Skepticlawyer

My year nine English class wrote me a joint letter once. It asked me to kill myself in order to improve everyone else’s educational experience (I was disinclined to acquiesce to their request).

A pity
Andrew Elder, Politically Homeless

Hockey was right to stand up for common decency over the funerals, wrong to compromise with Morrison in some faults-on-both-sides exercise. If Hockey is to be the Liberals’ leader he must show us what the Liberal Party led by him might look like: at the moment, it looks like a muddle, an unattractive proposition for Liberals let alone anyone else. Had Hockey stood strong it would have been bracing medicine for the Liberals, no bad place to start in the slow march back.

John Quiggin, Crooked Timber

… birtherism is a shibboleth, that is, an affirmation that marks the speaker as a member of their community or tribe.

American colleges: good at grading, bad at teaching
Fabio Rojas, orgtheory.net

Here’s a puzzle: Why are American college degrees so valuable if the teaching is bad and the grades so inflated? My answer: we, the colleges, are good at evaluating people though we’re horrible at teaching. Little effort to see if we transmit the information, but we can tell if you got it.

Asteroid defense and libertarianism
Sasha Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy

… I think there’s a good case to be made that taxing people to protect the Earth from an asteroid, while within Congress’s powers, is an illegitimate function of government from a moral perspective.

Noah Millman, The American Scene

The government goes around, passing the hat for contributions to stop the asteroid. A certain percentage of people, though, don’t believe in asteroids. Another percentage believe that the asteroid will bring the Rapture and so must not be stopped. These people are crazy, though, and crazy people are not interesting to talk about. Let’s hope there aren’t too many and ignore them.

Lowering unemployment benefits by crook instead of hook
Kim, Larvatus Prodeo

The neo-liberal governments in New Zealand in the 1990s openly cut unemployment benefits to put downward pressure on wages, to create the “incentive” for people to take any job available (while simultaneously ensuring that jobs on offer would be more insecure and much worse paid). We’ve had the same thing happen here over time, via a variety of sneaky measures.

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James A
James A
13 years ago

The climax of Atlas Shrugged, for your pleasure: http://galtse.cx/

Paul Montgomery
13 years ago

I was reading that Volokh thread last night after CT linked it. It started early with the lulz and kept on giving. Volokh seems to want to immerse himself in Poe’s Law so deeply that he can’t even tell himself if he’s joking. Even if he is joking, the fact that so many of his commenters debated the point seriously shows how fundamentally dumb libertarianism is.

13 years ago

And the sequel to Atlas Shrugged for your pleasure.

Andrew Elder
13 years ago

Let’s see if I can apply the Tim Andrews logic to another issue and see how it stands up:

1. I believe that the Australian cricket team played poorly in the 2010-11 Ashes series, relative to their opponents and to the high standards expected of such a team, and deserved to lose that contest.

2. Mind you, I did not bat, bowl, or field in any Ashes fixtures, this summer or at any other time. It is quite possible that Cricket Australia don’t have my number and don’t know I exist.

3. 2. above apparently invalidates 1. above.

Riiiiiiiight. Good luck with waiting around for someone to cast some pearls into your sty, boys. That’s the initiative that made this country great – not like those socialists in Canberra who arrogantly sit around and wait for hard-working Australians to submit to them. Menzies House? More like Cory’s Cubby.

Francis Xavier Holden
13 years ago

I have always taken comfort from the idea that Atlas Shrugged was possibly more painful to write than it is to read.

I have alongside L Ron Hubbard’s works on my bookshelf.

13 years ago

“Also at Menzies House, a recent post links to the trailer for Atlas Shrugged Part I, the first of a movie trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s sprawling 1957 novel.”

It will have to be a very well made film indeed if it is to raise the bar higher than Larry Flynt’s film noir classic, Atlas, Shagged.