“What if Trump triggers a few hundred thousand liberal totalitarians to jump out of their dorm windows? one can only hope. #TriggerWarning.”
This tweet, among others sent from an anonymous Twitter account using the name “Deplorable NYU Prof,” led to Michael Rectenwald, an untenured professor of liberal studies at New York University, being placed on paid leave and lambasted in the campus newspaper.
Rectenwald created the account in September and revealed himself as the man behind the profile picture of Nietzsche late last month.
Some of his early tweets describe campus identity politics as “mental illness posing as politics” and promise to open the “flood gates” and reveal “EXPLOSIVE proof of uni admins’ malfeasance hiring, promoting & protecting #frauds solely bc of identity,” though it seems that such revelations never materialized. Instead, his recent tweets have mostly been retweets of pro-Trump, anti-PC, anti-Hillary, and pro-Rectenwald content.
Among these retweets are such gems as birther conspiracy theories about Obama, a photo calling Jeb Bush a pussy, and unadulterated praise of alt-right firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos.
This is the same Yiannopoulos who, just last month, acted as a contributing artist for #DaddyWillSaveUs, a pro-Trump art show that not only has a creepily totalitarian name but equally creepy pretensions of being avant-garde. If you’re thinking that Yiannopoulos isn’t an artist, you’re right. His contribution consisted of writhing around in a bathtub full of cow’s blood while making faces at photographs of people murdered by illegal immigrants.
Also contributing to #DaddyWillSaveUs was Martin Shkreli, the much-reviled “pharma-bro,” who is just as little of an artist as Yiannopoulos. This was not a collection of artists, but rather a gathering of professional contrarians.
The New Yorker’s review of the show noted that it primarily succeeded in conveying “the childish excitement of saying exactly the wrong thing, the weird thrill of total negation.”
And it is this exact negation that’s the primary problem with the Trumpist reaction to PC culture.
Instead of parodying the decadent absurdity of progressive postmodern art by creating equally bad art with an opposite message, #DaddyWillSaveUs (in addition to changing its name and having nothing to do with Trump) should have created good art.
Instead of throwing tantrums in tubs of pig’s blood or on anonymous Twitter accounts, thoughtful people who have legitimate concerns about the spread of safe spaces and trigger warnings and the breakdown of open dialogue should attempt to preserve and widen that dialogue.
If you feel you’re being shouted down, speak — don’t scream.
The proper response to an insane, panoptical (to use Rectenwald’s term) system is not the development of an equally insane persecution complex.
Whittaker Chambers said that “a man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something.” As far as I can tell, Rectenwald, Yiannopoulos, Trump, and their ilk stand against PC culture, but what they stand for, if anything, is terrifyingly childish.
These men are no more heroic than a five-year-old boy running around the house yelling curse words to scandalize his religious parents.