JONATHAN SWIFT is the world's most well-known practitioner of satire, trailed by Mark Twain and then, unintentionally, the Kardashian women.
Swift wrote about eating Irish babies to reduce the devastating effects of the famine in his classic essay "A Modest Proposal." His intent was clear, and he did not need to tell anyone he was joking because his brilliant interplay of words and implication was the work of a genius.
Genius, it seems, is at a high premium these days, particularly in the halls of academe and particularly in the city of Philadelphia. In fact, such mediocrity is evident on our local campuses that it is difficult to determine where the ivy is most poisonous (that was a pun, not satire, and you are not required to appreciate it).
I could talk about the schools that have decided to label themselves "sanctuaries" without checking on the legal significance of defying federal law, regardless of their good intentions.
I could talk about my alma mater and the despicable little fascists at Bryn Mawr who wielded social media posts as flaming torches and forced a student to withdraw from campus simply because she wanted a ride to a Trump rally. The irony in this is that Andi Moritz had described herself as a social liberal, but the Main Line brown shirts heard only "Trump supporter" and chose the nuclear option.
But since I started out on a riff about satire, I think we will focus on the amusing tale of George Ciccariello-Maher. George is an associate professor of politics and, until fairly recently, had an active social media presence. I tried to access his Twitter feed, but unless you ask very nicely, he will not let you into the inner sanctum of his brilliance. This must be a recent development, because George does not strike me as the shy and retiring sort. He has his own website, which is not unusual, filled with the usual puffery of the self-important academic, which is also not unusual, and, even though he styles himself as a "radical political theorist," nothing he seems to have written is all that radical for a liberal.
In other words, he thinks revolution is dandy, communists are grand, and white people are evil oppressors. That's the Cliff Notes version, but it's fairly accurate.
George has a soul patch, a bunch of books about how wonderful Latin American dictators are, and he wept when Castro croaked, tweeting "Rest in Power, Fidel Castro, History absolved you." The only way I know this is because there is an archive of his virtual eulogy, which goes to show that, as Santayana once said, "Those who erase their past are doomed to retweet it."
If George had limited himself to dead Latinos such as Fidel and his buddy Hugo Chavez, capitalist rubes such as me who operate outside of his trendy leftist bubble would have no idea who he actually is. But George decided to branch out on Christmas Eve and tweeted this joyful tiding: "All I want for Christmas is White Genocide." I suppose we should all be happy he isn't one of secular humanist types who think "Christmas" is a just a really long four-letter word and refuse to use it. I mean, he didn't tweet "All I want for that Mythical Night When Right Wing Idiots Actually Believe A Woman Who Never Had Sex Gave Birth To A Kid . . . is White Genocide." Give thanks for small blessings.
The problem is that a lot of people were really offended by the tweet, and made their opinions known to George's employer. Drexel did the right thing and put tire tracks all over the professor's pedigreed head, issuing the following statement: ""While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher's comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University."
This is exactly the correct tone, and kudos to Drexel for calling George's comments "utterly reprehensible." I'd add that the person who made them is also utterly reprehensible, as would many of the readers of this newspaper and some annoyed Drexel alums. But the statement is not enough. There is no First Amendment or academic freedom issue here. Drexel is not a governmental entity. George was not prevented from speaking (although anyone who really loved him would have broken his tweeting fingers to protect him from himself), so there was no prior restraint.
He expressed himself. Bully for him. Now, he pays the consequences for his interesting beliefs, which at the very least should include a suspension without pay. Many of us would love to see him fired, but that's not likely to happen and we wouldn't want to create a trendy little martyr for the Donald Trump "resistance." I mean, he might believe in white genocide, but we don't.
But, you say, George didn't really mean what he said about killing white people. It's just satire, like Jonathan Swift and his digestible Irish babies.
Um, sorry, I don't buy that, and neither do you. First off, when you have to tell someone it was all a joke, it's an epic fail. Second, the context of the tweet removes all ambiguity because the follow-up to the white genocide post was one that applauded the murder of whites by black Haitians. Either George's eggnog had more than just nutmeg or he really meant to say that the death of white people was a very good thing indeed. Somehow, I don't think it was the drink.
As reprehensible as I find the professor's comments, I would almost respect him (almost) if he'd had the courage of his convictions and owned his comments. That's the beauty of free expression: I detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. I will then demand that you be relegated to sitting at Starbucks using their free Wi-Fi for an entire semester while your former students are exposed to a course on the status of political prisoners in Latin America.
But the little coward couldn't even defend himself without whining about the hundreds of unsubstantiated death threats he'd received, or the "coordinated smear campaign" against him. I doubt that anyone needed to coordinate those tweets and emails that asked for his dismissal. I'm pretty certain that the average white person who doesn't like to be told he should be exterminated (ha-ha-ha, so funny!) was able to send those messages all by himself.
The ultimate point is this: When you say something controversial, put on your big-boy pants and deal with the repercussions. I do it. Other people who work at this paper do it. Don't make up half-baked excuses about satire when you don't have the talent of Jonathan Swift. Take the punches like a grown up.
And stop whining. Castro would be ashamed of you.