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Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

 

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We are justifiably appalled by the events at Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Princeton, Berkeley, UCLA, etc. It is disheartening to see the extent to which baleful policies have wrecked our system of higher education and turned a small but noisy minority within a generation of college students into contemptible lemmings.  One can only hope that the events will trigger a backlash resulting in transformed admissions policies; abolition of DEI programs and administrators; reexamination of curricula to restore emphasis on western civilization and STEM; the demise of noxious and spurious foolishness like intersectional gender and queer studies; and reevaluation of faculty, including a wholesale rejection of the tenure policies that have foisted the present generation of imbeciles upon us.

But hand-wringing over the horrors that poor policies have wrought should not be overdone. For, while one can hardly disregard the tragedy and horror reflected in the chowderheaded and uninformed student and outside agitator activities on campuses, one should also not be deluded into the despair that would be justified if this were indeed a movement with the power to transform, or even influence, society at large.

What the solipsistic “students” do not understand is that no one outside the confines of their insular makeshift communities respects or likes them, is likely to follow or be influenced by them, or will extend themselves to defend them.  They will have the support of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and Jamaal Bowman, the most detestable and detested politicians in the land.  And because America has not yet allowed itself to become Paris or France or Brussels, community support outside Dearborn will be minimal.

Why?  Just look at them.

They are not burning draft cards and bras. They are making common cause with rapists and kidnappers. They justify infanticide. And they hate America.

They are not wearing flowers in their hair, beads, and granny gowns, proclaiming peace and love. They are wearing keffiyehs, synonymous in the American mind with plane hijackings,  and explosions on buses and in pizza shops.  Their heroes are terrorists and savages who pledge their fealty to genocidal policies.

They are not young men with their lives on the line, facing conscription into an army fighting a war of dubious merit defending a corrupt government in battles thousands of miles away.  They are spoiled, entitled whiners, sloths, bullies and bigots, who appear, remarkably, to be making even antisemitism unpopular.  A bunch of rich kids wasting Mommy’s money, and a bunch of perennial outside agitators.

These people will not capture the hearts and minds of the American people, which views them with disdain. Americans support Israel over Hamas by an 80-20 margin. As Americans become more familiar with the students allied with Hamas, as they make themselves more and more obnoxious, support for Israel will grow, not diminish.

The protestors at Columbia took over a building and immediately sent out a whiny spokeswoman to demand humanitarian aid. God forbid that the freedom fighters should miss a meal while violently breaking the law. The Princeton Gaza Solidarity Encampment has a schedule of courses, between lectures by such luminaries as Linda Sarsour:  drum circle, latinx solidarity speeches, abolition letter writing, talking to cops 101, water rituals.  If they weren’t such sociopathic, ignorant, hateful idiots, one might be tempted to feel sorry for their tone deaf absurdity.

If I recall correctly, I was once young.  I participated in rallies opposing the war in Vietnam.  I was enthusiastically involved in protests demanding the release of Soviet Jewry. I was moved by the suffering in Biafra and sympathized with attempts to relieve it. I supported the civil rights movement. Equal pay for equal work.  I thought that affirmative action was a bad policy because of the attached stigma, but I understood the reasoning of its supporters.  Same with judicial reform in Israel.

Black Lives Matter? Occupy Wall Street? A bridge too far for me, but at least there was some ideological underpinning that had a rationale, even if not sufficiently persuasive to get my support and even if guided by corrupt and self-serving leaders.

I note all of this because I am struck by the enormous gap between student protests of the past and what I see happening at elite (and other) universities around the US.

Who are these people?  What is wrong with them?  Where is their humanity, their reason, their judgment?

I am reminded of the Evelyn Waugh character who embraced religion because “I never had the courage to believe in nothing.”

These people believe in nothing.  Not out of courage, but out of the void in their souls, out of the emptiness that comes from indoctrination in hate.  When one witnesses them covering their faces, declining to discuss the horrors of October 7, tearing down posters of kidnaped babies, one is struck by the soulless anomie that emanates from them, the futility that flows from being trained to do nothing but sow discord and dissatisfaction. And they are so smug and self-righteous in their ignorance.

The poor children in Gaza have been indoctrinated to hate Jews and Israel by their UNRWA teachers and their reactionary Mullahs. The rich children at Columbia have been indoctrinated in their hatred of Jews, Israel, and America (and themselves) by their DEI educators and their Marxist professors.

What human elements can we share with people who call for “more October 7s” and actually would welcome more butchery of innocent civilians, more mutilation of people attending a concert devoted to peace, more kidnapping, more rape, more murder? Do they really imagine that they will win the hearts and minds of the American people with that agenda?

Even the Nazis had an ideology–their hate was based on a deformed nationalism cultivated by a wicked, but persuasive, politician.  But these people want to do nothing but tear down a society that coddled them, educated them, fed them, protected them. Many of them see no future for themselves in enlightened Western civilization or in a competitive capitalist society.  They have majored in Gender Studies, Marxist Analysis and Intersectionality, White Fragility, Lesbian Dance Theory, Queer Studies . . .  How could they be anything but messed up?

There are 18 names emblazoned on the frieze at Columbia’s Butler Library.  The names were chosen by University President Nicholas Murray Butler:  Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Vergil, Horace, Tacitus, St. Augustine, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, and Goethe.  The benighted students who sit in the shadow of the frieze, to the extent that they know anything beyond mindless slogans, worship Fanon, Marcuse, Alinsky, Sinwar, Meshal, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, Nikole Hannah-Jones.

On the one hand, people who built a culture and civilization. On the other hand, people who want to destroy the culture and civilization that enabled them, nourished them, coddled them, and, ultimately, will reject them.

The truly troubling thing is that they don’t even support anything to replace it.  Banan Abdelrahman, co-founder of the Graduate Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California–Berkeley, proclaimed, “This is a national movement to take back our campuses.”

“Take back.”  “Our campuses.”  What unmitigated gall.  These selfish oafs who arrogate to themselves the ability to deny the proper use of the campus to those who deserve and have the right to be there.

What would the campuses look like under the control of the murderers and rapists they support and extol?  Jew-free?  Gay-free?  Christian-free? Women-free? Would they truly welcome a Hamas government?  It is already a cliche to point out that the gays, and agnostic/atheists, and feminists, and civil libertarians, and anti-colonialists, and anarchists among them would be the first victims of such a society.

Spoiled.  Stupid. Ungrateful. Thoughtless.  Inconsiderate.  Insensitive. At times, vicious and hateful.  Rude.

And they will fail.  They will fail, because no matter how hard they try to make their movement and their actions consistent with successful mobilizations of the past, they are on the wrong side of history and morality, for so many reasons, the most salient of which are as follows:

  1.  Israel is going to proceed to win the war and destroy Hamas.  This is not VietNam, where the army in the South lacked the will and the expertise, and the supporting US forces were not permitted to win because of domestic unrest.  Israel has the will and the strength, and its military efforts have almost universal domestic support.  It has no alternative but to win, for Hamas has made it quite clear that if it is permitted to survive as a viable military force, it will perpetrate more terrorist attacks.
  2. The U.S. is not going to bail on Israel. The media, which was instrumental in supporting the anti-war movement, once even Walter Cronkite saw the light, is discredited and fragmented.  No matter how much CNN, the BBC, NPR, the New York Times, and MSNBC distort the truth to favor Hamas, the vast majority of Americans have no confidence in their reporting or their opinions.  And there is a strong constituency and alternative media that is getting out Israel’s message.  Hamas itself distributed evidence of its brutality and bestiality.
  3. Hamas and its supporters, as well as the Muslim radical environment from which they spring, are highly unpopular.  Fair or not, they are perceived as enemies and terrorists.  The masses of America will not look kindly on keffiyeh-clad students or protestors.  Aren’t those the people who blew up the twin towers?  Aren’t they the ones who kidnap and rape girls in Africa?  Aren’t they the ones who cut off the heads of journalists?  Perhaps a minority of students on campus support them.  But the American people do not.
  4. Israel has a strong case to be made to those who will listen.  Jews are indigenous to the Middle East.  The State was established by the United Nations.  The Arabs have rejected peace time and time again.  Israel is a democracy.  Its Arab citizens enjoy equal rights.  Its army is fighting in a way to minimize civilian casualties.  Sooner or later, the truth will emerge, maybe not on the Columbia campus, but in general society.  The Jews are not the genocidal party in this dispute.
  5. When the police arrest the privileged students, only the professors object.  The rest of society cheers. No one wants the streets and highways blocked, buildings occupied, or schools shut down. Most people resent the demonstrators who have the leisure time and parental support to cavalierly keep other people from their flights, doctors’ appointments, and childcare.
  6. There is going to be a national uprising against DEI, the source of the hatred and anti-Semitism.  People are starting to realize how malignant it is and how expensive it is ($76 million annually at University of Michigan, mostly for administrators).  People do not want to have their children taught to hate, or to see everything through a prism of racism, or to turn their backs on a society that recognizes merit. Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has correctly pointed out that we shouldn’t be firing the Presidents of the embarrassing elite universities, but the Deans of Admissions.  That will happen. The admission to Stanford and Yale of students like Ziad Ahmed, who in response to the question “What matters to you and why?” wrote “#BlackLivesMatter” 100 times, will ultimately come to be viewed as a momentary aberration.
  7. People are sick of the perpetual adolescent whining from these privileged ignoramuses.  The participants in the civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement, and the ant-Vietnam war movement, were perceived by a large segment of society, ultimately a majority, as having a just cause.  Just causes eventually prevail.  Hamas is not a just cause.  Annihilating Israel is not a just cause.  Terrorism is not a just cause. 
  8. Hatem Abudayyeh, the National Chair of the US Palestine Community network, says that the march on the Democrat National Convention will be the largest mobilization for Palestine in Chicago’s history.  I lived through 1968 and saw what that convention did to the election prospects of Hubert Humphrey and the Democrats.  These people will assure the election of Donald Trump.  No one in their right mind, even the morons in those tents on campus, will occupy college campuses if Trump is president.  And if they do, it will not be for long.
  9. There is no draft. Americans are not shedding blood. To the extent that Americans are being attacked, it is by allies of Hamas.  That will not endear the pro-Hamas protestors to anyone.  If the universities are courageous enough to penalize the students, they can expect support from faculties, but not the general population.  And the demands for amnesty smack of cowardice.
  10. A significant portion of the protestors are foreign students.  They are the reason that these campuses resemble European cities in their politics. Americans do not like being told by ill-mannered, entitled guests what to believe.  They are here as guests of the government and they remain at the pleasure of the government.  One hopes that they have worn out their welcome and will be sent home.
  11. At the end of the day, the feckless students are enabled by tax dollars.  The money is poured into the universities by the federal government.  The well-funded revolutionary cadres behind the demonstrations get money from tax-exempt foundations, from Soros-affiliated entities, and from foreign governments funding propaganda-spewing departments.  The students get loans in anticipation that they will be forgiven by governments eager to buy their votes.  A day of reckoning is coming.  And when the money dries up, the spoiled, entitled revolutionaries will need to find gainful employment.

This is said of every election, but it bears saying again, because this time it may well be true.  The 2024 election will be the most important election since World War II.  As noted above, right now, the “movement” of which the spoiled children of the elite campus believe they are the vanguard is a paper tiger.  In the unlikely event that the progressive wing of the Democrat Party controls the next four years, that could change.

To be sure, the antisemitism is extremely disconcerting and upsetting, the waste of time and money is regrettable, the uselessness of the vocal minority on campus is unfortunate, but, in the words of the Bard, it is a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Those noisy louts on campus are not existential threats.

Let’s focus on winning the war and bringing the hostages home.

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.