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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Mark Steyn on Mike Adams - RIP

At the time of his death Mike Adams was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington - although not a very popular one with the administration. You will generally see him described in the media as "Controversial Professor Mike Adams", as if it's the subject he teaches: Mike Adams, Head of the Department of Controversy. It wasn't always so. A two-time "Faculty Member of the Year" winner at the turn of the century, Adams grew more "controversial" as the university got more "woke". He got a book deal with Regnery (publishers of America Alone), and was quoted favorably by Rush:

What American university wants a prof who's published by Regnery and getting raves on the Rush Limbaugh show? The Deputy Assistant Under-Deans of Diversity all frosted him out, and Adams spent seven years in a lawsuit with UNCW - which he won, but it's still seven years of your life you'll never get back.

Then came the Covid. He Tweeted energetically through the lockdown, including at his governor:
Massa Cooper, let my people go!

And on the education lockdown in particular:
Don't shut down the universities. Shut down the non-essential majors. Like Women's studies.

The latter is surely unexceptional as an opinion. The former is stronger meat, but likening lockdown states to plantations with the governor as massa would have been regarded as metaphorically viable at almost any other time in public discourse: As listeners to my serialization of Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year know well, London in 1665 did not attempt to quarantine the general population ...because they wouldn't have put up with it.

Nevertheless, the university administration felt obliged to rouse itself from its locked-down torpor and denounce the Tweets as "vile" and "expressions of hatred". The celebrated actor and comedian Orlando Jones called for him to be fired, as did almost three hundred of Adams' fellow professors. Two actresses from a TV show called "One Tree Hill" urged a boycott of UNCW unless it got rid of Adams. There was a "Fire Mike Adams" rock installed on campus. He was used to this kind of pressure: As the new millennium settled in, calls for his termination were like swallows returning to Capistrano in novel forms of transportation - first old-school pieces of paper signed by real people; then a Facebook group dedicated to his sacking; then multiple petitions...

It was all scheduled to come to an end on Friday with Adams' painfully negotiated departure and a $504,702.76 settlement. Half-a-mil sounds a lot, but it was to be paid out over five years, if the university stuck to it, and it's not really a lot, is it, for the obliteration of any trace of your presence at the school to which you devoted your entire teaching career.

On Thursday a neighbor called 911 because Mike Adams' car hadn't been moved for several days and there was no answer on the telephone. Inside police found the body of a 55-year-old man with, in cop lingo, a "gsw" - gunshot wound.

I was struck by these lines - an aside in a piece on Nick Sandmann:
[Mike Adams] wrote with verve and humor. He seemed like a happy warrior. He didn't cave at false charges, or wallow in synthetic guilt. Nor twist himself into pretzels, as timid 'conservatives' do, who are eager to placate the crocodiles by feeding them someone else.

He "seemed like" a happy warrior, but who knows? It's a miserable, unrelenting, stressful life, as the friends fall away and the colleagues, who were socially distant years before Covid, turn openly hostile. There are teachers who agree with Mike Adams at UNCW and other universities - not a lot, but some - and there are others who don't agree but retain a certain queasiness about the tightening bounds of acceptable opinion ...and they all keep their heads down. So the burthen borne by a man with his head up, such as Adams, is a lonely one, and it can drag you down and the compensations (an invitation to discuss your latest TownHall column on the radio or cable news) are very fleeting.

The American academy is bonkers and has reared monsters - so that we now have a "black liberation movement" staffed almost entirely by college-educated white women (including a remarkable number of angry trans-women) from the over-undergraduated permanent-varsity Class of Whenever. We are assured that out in "the real world" there is a soi-disant "silent majority" whose voices will resound around the world on November 3rd. For what it's worth, I don't believe in the existence of this "silent majority", and a political party that has won the popular vote only once in the last thirty years (2004) ought to be chary about over-investing in it.

But either way, if you're doing the heavy lifting on an otherwise abandoned front of the culture war, what you mostly hear, as Mike Adams did, is the silent majority's silence - month in, month out.

Andrew Sullivan, the man who did more than anyone to overturn the millennia-old definition of marriage, discovered nevertheless that he was insufficiently woke for his colleagues at New York magazine, and so got canceled. Bari Weiss, a bisexual Jewess, found that the former did not compensate for the latter at a New York Times whose young staffers are openly sneering of Jews, and so she self-canceled. Barbara Kay at my old home The National Post has just done something similar, exhausted by the battle to say things that offend against the insipid yet totalitarian pieties. Newspapers have turned into colleges. Boardrooms have turned into colleges. Graceless corporate pseudo-macho American sports have turned into colleges.

Pushing back can be initially exhilarating - and then just awfully wearing and soul-crushing: "I'm with you one hundred per cent, of course. But please don't mention I said so..." "Oh, we had a lovely time at the Smiths'. Surprised not to see you there..." It is possible, I suppose, that Mike Adams was the victim of a homicide rather than the ultimate self-cancelation: Certainly there are plenty on Twitter and Facebook who would like to kill him, or at least cheer on any chap who would. As I write, the first comment under that YouTube video above is from a fellow called Don P:

Mike Adams is with Satan, and Rush will be joining him soon.

And yet, if the facts are as they appear, a tireless and apparently "happy warrior" - exhausted by a decade of litigation, threats, boycotts, ostracization and more - found himself sitting alone - and all he heard in the deafening silence of the "silent majority" was his own isolation and despair. A terrible end for a brave man. Rest in peace.