University of Chicago student harassed for expressing anti-socialist political opinion characterized as “racism”; University official defends her right of free speech

March 10, 2020 • 12:30 pm

Not long ago, the Institute of Politics of the University of Chicago, which is headed by David Axelrod, held an event in which our students were invited to submit pictures explaining “Why I Vote.” (Axelrod, you may recall, is a political consultant who was the architect of both of Barack Obama’s Presidential campaigns and, for a time, was Senior Advisor to Obama.)  Unfortunately, one student, Evita Duffy, a conservative who’s also the daughter of former Republican Representative Sean Duffy, submitted this response:

She was excoriated on social media.

Now why would that be offensive to other students? You’re probably guessing because it’s a conservative viewpoint as well as an implicit dig at Bernie Sanders. That’s what Axelrod himself guessed in his letter below. And you’d be partly right—but mostly wrong. Nope, it’s racism, stupid! Why? Because the mention of coronavirus as a dangerous plague is an implicit and racist dig at Asians—but only to the Woke.

As Ms. Duffy reports in her piece below, she was subject to the usual social-media pile-on, one that she wasn’t expecting (but given the increasing wokeness of students, even here, I would). Here’s her story from the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon (click on screenshot):

A few quotes (she also castigates Axelrod for not defending her right to speak, but he’s since done so). First, the pile-on:

As a conservative Hispanic woman, I am accustomed to being in the minority opinion, especially on a liberal college campus. I am a proponent of free speech, and I hoped my white board message might even encourage a lively and robust debate on economics. However, I was naïvely unprepared for the onslaught of online hate and threats of violence I received.

Fellow students attacked my character, my intellect, my family, my appearance, and even threatened me with physical violence, using foul and offensive language. I was called a racist and a xenophobe. Some compared me to animals. Others declared that they would personally stop me from voting, and many defended the personal attacks, saying I deserved to be bullied and that I don’t belong at the University of Chicago on account of my beliefs. I was told by many that I was the most hated person on campus. It was frightening. It was also hurtful, since some of the attacks came from people I considered friends.

Here we see that racism predominated in the attack, something another student makes clear (see below).  And although I disagree with Ms. Duffy’s politics, she seems like a rational person who, though conservative, welcomes criticism and encourages discourse.

When a young Hispanic woman joins a fun “get out and vote” initiative and receives this level of social shaming, deeply personal attacks, and threats of violence, conservative students get the message: There is a price to pay for daring to speak your mind or questioning the liberal orthodoxy on campus. This University-endorsed intolerance is why so many students self-censor and some, sadly, simply give up questioning and thinking for themselves. The path of least resistance is to join the campus groupthink. I believe our university is poorer for this. When I applied to the University of Chicago, I knew it was a liberal place, but I honestly believed our University president, Robert Zimmer, when he said our school was committed to the Chicago Principles, which protect free speech and encourage open debate. Right now, that claim feels like false advertising.

If faculty and fellow students disagree with any of my opinions, I am happy to hear it. In fact, I encourage it. My hope is that this sad episode leads to serious reflection on the value of civility when we do debate and disagree. I hope it will also draw attention to the importance of intellectual and political diversity on campus and in classrooms. Hiding behind accusations of “xenophobia” and “racism” to silence a discussion on the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism is unproductive and intellectually dishonest. Shaming or socially ostracizing people who have sincere but different points of view is the opposite of tolerance. Our country and our politics are already so polarized. The University of Chicago needs to live up to its own standards and set an example of civility, diversity, and tolerance during these hyper-partisan times.

That’s pretty eloquent. Indeed, students with conservative viewpoints, when they aren’t silenced, silence themselves because the atmosphere on campus is overwhelmingly Leftist, and nearly all our professors are of that stripe. Duffy is merely articulating what everybody knows, and has the courage to do so. I would be glad to have a discussion with her.

Not so with one of her critics, undergraduate Darcy Kuang, also writing in the Maroon (click on screenshot below). From the rude title (“Hey IOP Whiteboard Girl”) to its angry and unbalanced accusations, Ms. Kuang, who also happens to be a deputy editor of the Maroon and got a lot of space to rant, shows the kind of kneejerk offense and hatred that characterizes woke students, as well as an immediate jump to accusations of racism.

Although nothing about Duffy’s “whiteboard” suggests that she’s a racist, that’s basically all that Kuang calls her out for. Why? Because Kuang is of Chinese ancestry and happens to have relatives in Wuhan, where Covid-19 is pervasive. I urge you to read Ms. Kuang’s piece, which includes the following bits:

In your op-ed, you defended your message by saying, “The fact is, as awful as the coronavirus is…its number of victims pales in comparison to the tens of millions of people who have died at the hands of socialism and communism.”

Your statement is factually true, and judging by the comments under your op-ed, many agree with you. But the question is, regardless of what ideologies you do and don’t believe in, why do you feel the need to compare the casualties of the coronavirus to those of socialism and communism? Why is this comparison relevant or necessary?

. . . And that is what’s wrong with your message. You did not respond to an ongoing public health crisis, a tragedy that has killed over 3,000, and a collective trauma for Chinese people, with sympathy, empathy, or concern. Instead, you thought: Aha, what a great opportunity for me to express my dislike for Bernie Sanders.

. . .Since you are so quick to harp on your identity as a Hispanic woman, I am sure you don’t need me to explain to you why it is racist to treat the sufferings of marginalized communities as trivial, especially when that suffering is ongoing.

As for why your message was xenophobic, it’s even more obvious: You made Chinese students feel like our trauma is unrecognized and unimportant at this school. Your message suggests that our trauma is only worthy of being the backdrop of “important” discussions like capitalism vs. socialism.

Chinese students at this school don’t have to have any personal connections to Wuhan like I do to feel the pain. We see the death toll rising. We see how this virus has torn apart families. We witness the fear of our family members and friends, not knowing how much longer their lives will be put on hold.

Even though we don’t currently live in China, we are not shielded from the influence of the outbreak. The coronavirus outbreak has amplified racism toward Asians around the globe.

. . . We are still mourning our dead and figuring out how to process our trauma.

“Trauma” is a repeated theme here, familiar from those marinated in identity politics. In fact, coronavirus is sweeping the globe, and many people are scared and mourning loved ones, not least the Italians. Families have been torn apart everywhere, and Chinese students have no special claim to victim status: they are neither in China, many don’t have suffering relatives, and they are not “minoritized”, at least not at the University of Chicago and certainly not in China. Kuang’s excess of venom doesn’t even have a clearly empirical origin: I strongly suspect that Duffy used the virus simply as a current trope of something that’s hurting America, as it’s hurting many countries. Huang chooses to use it as an attack on Asians in particular, and I can only speculate that she’s engaging in identity politics to flaunt her own supposed status as a minority and to call out her opponent as a racist.

As I said, Axelrod took the animus against Duffy as a sign of anger by Sander supporters. Ms. Kuang lets us know, in a p.s. (after all, she gets to do that because she’s an editor of the paper), emphasizing again that her anger is based not on criticism of socialism, but on Duffy’s supposed racism. Kuang’s addendum:

P.S. Since the IOP came to your defense [JAC: see letter below], here is a brief message for Mr. David Axelrod as well. You contend that people’s sharp responses are mainly aimed at the second half of Evita’s message about socialism, and maybe that is true for some people. But the statement that the minimization of coronavirus alone isn’t sufficient to elicit sharp responses from the student body is dismissive in itself. So if you can’t fathom that anyone is more outraged by the first part rather than the second part of her message, you are hearing one right now. Feel my anger.

Yes, yes, I feel her anger. But I have no sympathy for it. Curiously, while the conservative student is trying to effect conciliation, the liberal one (Kuang) is deliberately fostering division. But that’s what identity politics does, and what those who practice it intend to do. While I’m on the Left, I feel more kinship to the rational and conciliatory Duffy than to the livid and outraged Kuang.  Accusations of racism should not be tossed around so easily, and with so little evidence.

Finally, Axelrod himself weighed in, and, while not fully understanding the reasons why Duffy was attacked, at least he defends free speech at the University of Chicago. His statement is in the tweet below, which has the same content as does his letter to the Maroon (click on screenshot):

Axelrod condemns the threats that Duffy got, insists that her message was not one of hate speech (indeed!), and implicitly defends the Chicago Principles. Just a brief quote:

Standing up for free expression in fraught and polarized times is difficult and sometimes deeply uncomfortable. Yet it is precisely in moments like this that it is most important that we hold fast to this principle. Because if this student’s freedom of expression is abridged today, everyone’s is at risk.

We welcome any student who has a point of view on this or any post to respond but to do so without personally impugning or threatening its author. At the same time, any student who offers an intentionally provocative idea can expect a strong response.

The IOP has a strong record of bringing speakers and visiting fellows from left, right, and center to campus to rigorously discuss and debate different visions for our country. The IOP cannot and should not refuse to air a controversial view simply because many, or even the majority, object to it.

The rationality of Duffy and of Axelrod make me proud of this University, but the rages of Kuang drive me to despair. No, racism is not everywhere at the University of Chicago, and it wasn’t on Duffy’s whiteboard.


75 thoughts on “University of Chicago student harassed for expressing anti-socialist political opinion characterized as “racism”; University official defends her right of free speech

  1. While the response to Duffy’s sign is definitely over the top and unreasonable, I find that Duffy’s motives aren’t at all as pure as she pretends them to be.

    “I am a proponent of free speech, and I hoped my white board message might even encourage a lively and robust debate on economics.”

    Comparing coronavirus and socialism is not a good way to start an economics debate, as she found out. A virus and a political/economic position are not comparable or at least she never identified any dimension on which they can be compared. Instead, it is all about leveraging the virus to attack socialism in a mindless way. She knew what she was doing when she made the sign and now comes the phase where she slams those who responded to it. She’s being divisive in a very Trumpian way. It doesn’t justify the response but her surprise at the response was planned.

    1. My suspicions align with yours.

      But I do also think that the Kuangs of the world are worse than the Duffy’s of the world, and it doesn’t bother me too much to see them baited like this.

      And I entirely agree with Axelrod even though, like you, I suspect that Duffy was quite aware that the response she in fact received was likely and that it was her intention to instigate just such a response.

      If I’m wrong, my apologies to Ms. Duffy.

    2. I feel the accusations of racism are over the top, and of course am alarmed at the actual threats against Duffy — in that, Axelrod’s response is good. That said, the initial whiteboard display was intentionally obnoxious, incendiary, tone-deaf, and bandwagon-y. I really don’t feel that either Duffy or Kuang can claim any sort of high ground here.

      1. Duffy didn’t accuse anybody of being a racist, now did she? Doesn’t that help resolve the debate a bit?

        And I don’t see why it’s tone-deaf or obnoxious, unless you are a defender of socialism and can’t stand to see it criticized. The rest seems pretty innocuous to me.

        1. Maybe. I find the smug, apples-to-oranges comparison of two aggressively “hot button” catch-phrase topics — only one of which has anything to do with politics (and which is almost always misused in that context) — to be intensely annoying. (But not censorship-worthy, to be sure — on that we certainly agree.)

        2. You don’t see anything tone-deaf in claiming that the prospect of socialism, as currently personified by Bernie Sanders, is worse than a virus that is currently killing thousands
          of people across the world?

          I think it’s an idiotic, crass whiteboard message that was dreamt up explicitly to piss people off , and it did its job. Trigger the libs, that’s the focus at all times.

        3. Sophomoric might be more descriptive than tone deaf. Her whiteboard was poorly conceived rhetorically, and yes was clearly intended to goad.
          Ms Kuang’s response was even more sophomoric, to the point of being off the rails. You have to really squint hard to see racism in that whiteboard.
          Sophomoric. Are you surprised coming from students?
          Axelrod, now, is certainly the adult in the room.

      2. The whole idea of a whiteboard campaign is that it solicits slogans and clever aphorisms.

        Kuang did succeed in changing the subject of the conversation from socialism to whether or not Duffy is a racist. That is a fairly normal occurrence when one is in a discussion with a committed leftist.

    3. Ms Duffy made an analogy between two things she obviously considers destructive. Like all analogies, it is imperfect. Since socialism in its communist variant has been extremely lethal, it is at least a defensible analogy.

      If the debate is about economics, it is worth noting that Coronavirus is causing economic problems and Scandinavian countries, often held up as successful examples of democratic socialism, have for some time embraced capitalism as more productive and better able to sustain a welfare state than socialist economic policies.

      Of course, capitalism and socialism are such elastic terms that broad generalisations first need to be pinned down when making any comparison.

      1. “Of course, capitalism and socialism are such elastic terms that broad generalisations first need to be pinned down when making any comparison.”

        Yes, absolutely. Her silly sign was the opposite of that. Not only was it completely general, it was presented in a way that was not very conducive to being pinned down.

    4. I don’t think her attack on socialism was “mindless.” Of course she knew that she was likely to stir up a hornet’s nest given the far leftist leanings of many of her fellow students. She managed to get her point across pithily and with a bit of humor.

      1. I didn’t find anything humorous in her message and it not lead to any “economic discussion”. Perhaps she should have added “Please discuss” at the end. Now that would have been funnier.

    5. I agree with you that Ms. Duffy seemed to know what she was doing when you she attempted to compare the coronavirus to socialism. She knew how to push the buttons of the easily offended. It seems to be very easy to do that. She managed to make the offended look like they fools they are. As a result, she made them self-would and only hurt their cause. In this sense, Ms. Duffy’s sign was brilliant.

        1. ‘Own the libs’. In the total dissolution of American conservative thought under Trump, that seems to be the only surviving philosophy they have.

    6. Ms. Duffy’s whiteboard message on why she votes is a non-sequitur — one that seems to have been presented as such to be purposefully provocative.

      That being the case, then like Antoine Rockamorra giving Marsellus Wallace’s new bride a foot massage, she had to expect a reaction, even if the reaction she got was way out of proportion to the provocation given.

      In her piece in The Maroon, Ms. Duffy states that:

      Fellow students attacked my character, my intellect, my family, my appearance, and even threatened me with physical violence, using foul and offensive language. I was called a racist and a xenophobe. Some compared me to animals. Others declared that they would personally stop me from voting, and many defended the personal attacks, saying I deserved to be bullied and that I don’t belong at the University of Chicago on account of my beliefs.

      If this is accurate, it is detestable, as well as inimical to the principles of free expression. No doubt about it.

      But is there evidence that a reaction of such ugliness and magnitude actually occurred? (The reason I ask is that the response to Duffy’s whiteboard message by Darcy Kuang in The Maroon — while wrongheaded and high-handed — is nowhere near as intemperate as the reactions Ms. Duffy describes above, and because the comments following both Ms. Kuang’s piece and Ms. Duffy’s response to it in The Maroon seem almost uniformly to support both Ms. Duffy personally and her right to express the opinions set forth.)

      I have no basis beyond this to question Ms. Duffy’s candor, and I’m willing to accept her assertions at face value for purposes of free-speech analysis. But I do note that students (and users of social media more generally) — both Left and Right — have shown a tendency to exaggerate the vitriol with which they’ve been attacked, since everyone involved in such exchanges these days seems to be vying to claim the mantle of victimhood.

        1. Look, you’ve made your point; you think Ms. Duffy is more odious than her nasty and woke critic. Is that the point you’re trying to make here? Or is it that you just want to demonize a conservative who didn’t like socialism?

          I don’t recall you suspecting hoaxes when lefties mention the hatred and death threats they received. . .

  2. Wow! There is a lot of discussion right now about the Covid 19 virus and what are sensible precautions and what is hysterical over-reaction (here in the UK for example there has been panic buying of toilet paper, leading to shortages in some stores). I would certainly have taken Ms Duffy’s original statement in the context of that discussion and it would never have occurred to me that it was in any sense intended as a slur on the Chinese.

    It seems pretty likely that in time the number of people outside of China who die from the virus will outnumber those in China so it seems absurd to lay claim to the outbreak as a uniquely Chinese tribulation.

    I hate racism (like most readers here I presume) but on the evidence presented in this case I am sure that Ms Duffy is not racist. The Maroon would do well to have a serious think about what racism really is, what free speech is and, having done so, apologise publicly and fulsomely to Ms Duffy and call off the morons who apparently believe that by targeting her with on-line abuse, vitriol and character assassination they are somehow advancing the cause of social justice. They are not.

  3. I think Paul (above) makes some good points, because it’s a stretch to compare a virus we don’t choose to an economic policy we do choose. But I truly hope that Ms. Duffy and others at the U of Chicago are alerted to Professor Coyne’s blog post, and that Ms. Duffy accepts the offer of a conversation. It would be both interesting and enlightening, I’m sure.

      1. That’s a wonderful thing to do professor! I sincerely hope that she responds, Ms Duffy, if you do read this, I can assure you from my own personal experience that this is a congenial forum of well informed people across a wide political spectrum. Here, I am sure, you will find much to agree with, as well as much that will exasperate.

  4. I remember when the internet first started to become something an everyday average person could take part in. I was really excited. HTML allowed interconnections in a way I’d never thought of, and it looked like a lot of useful information was going to be freely accessible to everyone who cared to join in. International dialogue would result in more understanding between cultures! Government could become more responsive, and more quickly aware of, problems that needed solved! People could share their art, their music, their poetry, their very lives, and we’d all become more appreciative of what it is to be human!

    Hahahahaha. And to think I wasn’t even on drugs. Every day, I see something that reminds me how basically horrible a lot of people are, usually from a social media context. I guess the internet isn’t going to fix that after all. That gives me a sad.

  5. What does this mean: “a collective trauma for Chinese people”. Do Chinese people fell something like a “disturbance in the force” when other Chinese people die from a virus?

    It seems a strange collective way to think.

    1. A variation on the standard CCP response to criticism of China, which is to claim that the Chinese are grossly offended. Aside from the usual mob of “wu mao” trolls, the Chinese don’t give much of a cr*p. At least some of the claims of offense from Chinese students in Western Universities come from CCP agents who are dotted all over Chinese communities in the West.

      It is a tactic which unfortunately works to dictate the behaviour of Western companies given the size of the Chinese market and the massive investments the Chinese have made.

      The coronavirus has raised another issue which is being largely ignored, which is the huge percentage of the medical supplies market the Chinese have captured. I think more than 80% of US antibiotics come from China. China could cripple the US healthcare system if it wanted to. Given the nature of the CCP this is a giant scandal. So many people in the political and industrial establishment have been taking Chinese money that this has been allowed to happen almost unimpeded. The fact that Trump has identified the glaring problem and that Obama, along with the rest of the establishment, were asleep at the wheel appears to motivate many Americans to continue to downplay the problem.

    1. I couldn’t see it either. Did you use a pseudonym or did they deep six it? (They do that sometimes.) Next time, save the comment after you post it so you can repost it. In the meantime, please tell us roughly what you said.

      1. It’s still there. A Douglas E response to Peter: “Agreed Peter. Not much to add other than this left-wing tripe is not unique to the University of Chicago and can be found on many campuses across the country. And sadly, the real world that you mention also offers many safe harbors for blindered ideologues such as Kuang; media and politics come to mind.”

  6. Pathetic. I’m pretty sure Evita can handle the pressure. With the school at her back. I certainly hope so.

  7. I’m sure there was no intention to relate the voting thing to the outbreak in China, in particular. Just to the outbreak in general, and only to compare voting for a socialist to Something Thing of Great Concern Right Now.
    But a woke person can be expected to jump the shark.
    If this all was happening a few months ago, the whiteboard might have just as innocently related the possible harm of socialism to the impeachment trial.

  8. For the most part my view of socialism is that it is a scary word used to put people off of policies which they would otherwise consider good ideas. It is what a conservative calls something when they can’t think of a real reason why it would be bad, much like “fascist” is for the left.

    It reminds me of Apartheid South Africa,we had a state broadcaster, state airline, state power grid and a state which told you who you could hire and for how much, where you could go on holiday and where you and your employees could live. The people who opposed this were of course, “communists”.

    One should always be suspicious of people who say a vague term is going to destroy your country.

    That said, that’s pretty much exact how the word “racist” was used to respond to her. They have slowly over time rendered the word “racist” as meaningless as the terms “socialist”, “fascist” or “neoliberal”, made it into a word for “thing I don’t like”.

    It doesn’t help anyone to do that.

    As to the threats – you can say she baited the response, but that just makes the people who took the bait stupid.

    And the stupid aren’t generally the ones we want to consult for how to run countries, whatever sociopolitical system we decide to try.

    Every system requires, first and foremost, people to run it. Put in shit people, and the system will fail, thus not being shit people should be the first goal of any political movement.

    1. Yeah, it’s hard to think of a political term that doesn’t suffer from obfuscation. The ones that most rankle me are “conservative”, which is somehow consistent with a blasé attitude toward environmental devastation, and “liberal”, which is apparently consistent with denying the civil liberties of the far right and their fellow travelers.

      1. The demonetization of terms in our discourse and sliding perceptions of their meanings is present on both the left and right as EM notes above. It’s sad that no one seems to remember Hegelian dialectics anymore, which is ironic since it was a major foundation of Marxism. Systems and ideologies merge by an evolution of sorts and the best ideas survive into the synthesis. Command economy socialism was a failure. Robber baron capitalism is an existential threat. I found it interesting that two democratic candidates epitomized different flavored syntheses: Buttigieg for “Enlightened democratic capitalism,” and Sanders for “Enlightened democratic socialism.”

    2. So much the same as present day South Africa, the difference being that those state owned entities have been mis-managed to the point of collapse and plundered to the tune of trillions. Make no mistake, the ANC are committed Marxists. Having personally enriched themselves with the fruits of capitalism, like all good Marxists, they are now ready to take control of private assets. What many people don’t understand about the policy of land appropriation is that ownership is not being transferred between private citizens, the state is taking ownership. The govt has plundered the state employees pension fund now. There is a policy document from way back in which the ANC laid out their plan, which is to implement their Marxist policies very covertly and gradually as they knew the resistance they were likely to face if they went ahead openly.

  9. More politicization of the coronavirus epidemic. I do not think it would have been politicized were it not for Trump’s idiocy and willful ignorance.

    1. Ironically, addressing the coronavirus epidemic requires policies which could be described as socialist. We must spend public money to provide immunization for all, or we must take steps to limit individual freedoms for the public good of containing the spread of the virus. Socialism is not intrinsically bad if it is used to address problems which require social solutions.

      1. That’s an excellent point. The gut-level fear of socialism is ridiculous. If someone wants to make a point against socialism, they really need to specify precisely which policy they don’t like.

  10. Someone explain this to me please:

    From the States to Spain to Belgium, many voters are so weary of the “Socialist Peril” they they actively vote against their own interests and the interests of their own society to combat an enemy that doesn’t even exist.

    As I see the situation, they are confusing Socialism with Social Democracy and they think, for instance, that public healthcare is on the slippery slope to their country becoming the New USSR.

    So, who is confused here? Them or me?

    Are they too lazy to whip out their smartphones and ask Wikipedia what Socialism actually means?

    Also, are they too stupid to realise that just because “socialism” and “social democracy” start with the word “social” they do not necessarily have anything all in common?

    Help me with the answer to those three questions as I feel as if I am losing my sanity.

    1. In the current climate, we have a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president who identifies as a socialist. People are simply taking him at his word.

      1. OK. But does this mean that they intend to (and could ever get support for) ditching Capitalism in favour of Socialism?

        Or is it so that even political candidates have no idea what they are talking about?

        1. If you spend some time on the DSA webpage, you pretty quickly start noticing that they oppose capitalism, and follow a generally Marxist/Leninist line. It is not spelled out on their “about us” page, but when you read their publications, they sort of ease you into it.

          I think Bernie is a realist, but his election would bring his followers who support old time socialism closer to power. That may well be a tiny percentage of his supporters, but they are dangerous.
          I saw an interview with one of Bernie’s paid field organizers who discussed the existence and views of many “truly radical” followers,a topic which is “obviously not outward-facing.”

          It is conflicting for me.

  11. While no one deserves the hysterical backlash Duffy got, I find her statement dishonest in the extreme. Why is it that the conservatives always start talking about Nazis and the Soviet Union when criticizing Bernie Sanders? Sanders does not want to turn the US into Soviet Russia, he wants America to become more like Denmark. Just how many deaths is Danish socialism responsible for?

    Also, as others have pointed out, the comparison to the Coronavirus is terribly insensitive – particularly at a time when there are people all around us who have family and friends directly impacted by this.

    It seems to me that she was obviously trolling in order to incite such a reaction. A good response to her trolling would be to point out her dishonesty and insensitivity in a calm measured manner. Of course, the “woke” would much rather resort to crude attacks.

  12. If she had posted a message in favor of socialism and was attacked like this, the same students attacking her now would say she was being harassed and threatened for being a person of color who dared to share her opinion.

    These people don’t care about racism, harassment, minorities, or anything else but suppressing the opinions and activity of anyone they don’t like.

    1. Not only that, but they wouldn’t question at all the pro-socialist’s claim of harassment and attacks. They’ll only do that to someone like Duffy. And that attitude, manifested on this thread, is both telling and disappointing.

      1. Yes, I’ve found reading this thread rather disquieting. I thought people here would be more rational or at least more compassionate about this, but, alas, when it comes to politics…

  13. Also, I think all the people here saying she “compared the coronavirus to socialism” and was therefore somehow partially “asking for it” or being intellectually dishonest are being intellectually dishonest themselves. People are panicking severely over the coronavirus, and what she was saying is that socialism poses more of a danger and she finds people who are more panicked by the cornovirus than the possibility of socialism to be in the wrong. I might not agree with her, but her point was clear and she was in no way being intellectually dishonest.

    1. The fact that you need to explain her point in your own words suggests that her point was not clear. I don’t see anything ‘precise’ about it. It’s just incredibly silly and inflammatory.

      And yes, of course we at WEIT defend her right to say whatever she likes, and yes of course any criticism that was OTT is abhorrent. That does not mean that she’s some kind of heroic guardian of free-speech, or that her initial message wasn’t pointless and inane.

      1. “…or that her initial message wasn’t pointless and inane”.

        But was it racist or offensive and insensitive towards Chinese people? That is what she has been taken to task for by Kuang. I don’t think it can be shown to be so, not least because Covid-19 is far from being a uniquely Chinese problem: every country in the World is threatened by it and the virus certainly could not give a toss about the ethnic group with which any potential infectee identifies.

        The reason that Ms Duffy’s statement has been brought to the wider world’s attention is not because it is inane and pointless (I daresay we could dig out a whole heap of inane and pointless student statements about all manner of things and hold them up to hostile scrutiny if we wished, but what would be the point?) but because it is alleged to be racist. In my opinion (though I absolutely do not share her views about the presumed threat from socialism) there is no evidence at all that it is racist.

        1. I agree. I don’t think it’s racist either. I think that’s gibberish.

          But I disagree with the idea that her whiteboard message was insightful and/or intelligent. It was more ‘own the libs’ provocation.

  14. I support Ms. Duffy (though I think her rather calculatingly purposeful in the wording of her poster). However, she says:

    “When I applied to the University of Chicago, I knew it was a liberal place, but I honestly believed our University president, Robert Zimmer, when he said our school was committed to the Chicago Principles, which protect free speech and encourage open debate. Right now, that claim feels like false advertising.”

    ” . . . feels like false advertising”?!? Sorry, but that is a fatuous statement. (Though it is rightly directed at, e.g., the likes of Evergreen State and the hair-tuggers and neck-wringers at Middlebury.)

    Anyone (can claim to) “feel” any way about anything, and who is to dispute them? There is a difference between the University itself supporting the Principles and students who do not. Zimmer cannot control what Maroon omniscients and their ilk say. Does Ms. Duffy expect the University and President Zimmer (much like an anti-socialist corporate tyranny) to show his support of the Principles by vetting/rejecting/expelling any student who do not subscribe to the Principles?

    Re: socialism: I would like to know Ms. Duffy’s view of what I think properly called “corporate socialism.” Does she support the socialization of cost (taxpayer money) and privatization of profit which results? Does she support a Fortune 500 corporation not having to pay income tax, while the serf paid a pittance to clean up the messes in the executive washroom has to so pay? Does she view the children of others as “human resources” and “human capital”? Will she view her own children in those terms?

    Does she support OSHA, or does she worship at the shrine of U. of Chicago professor Milton [“Tort-Law-Solves-All-Employee Permanent Injury-Problems”] Friedman?

    I’m reminded of Hitch quoting Oscar Wilde to the effect that socialism would relieve us of the burden of having to live for others. The noble, admirable “Neutron Jacks” and “Chainsaw Als” of the world are not going to do that in any event.

  15. It appears several GOP Congressman have started calling it the “Chinese Coronavirus” in an obvious attempt to spread hate.

    This does NOT excuse Kuang’s attack on Duffy. But it appears Kuang was not wrong in claiming that (some, other, conservative like Duffy) Americans are using the disease as an excuse for racism and nativism.

    Duffy is a tempest in a teapot. That elected and appointed officials of the U.S. government, would use the opportunity to spread hate is appalling, shameful, but unfortunately for this administration, unsurprising.

    1. It appears several GOP Congressman have started calling it the “Chinese Coronavirus” in an obvious attempt to spread hate.

      Yes, and this also appears to be the line that’s being pushed more and more by Trump propaganda tv (aka Fox News). Originally, the network tried to follow the Trump line that any danger posed to the US by COVID-19 was a Democrat hoax meant to damage Donald Trump politically since the Stable Genius had, in his magisterial wisdom, squelched the coronavirus risk before it could gain a foothold on our shores.

      When that story-line rapidly became untenable, the Fox News talking-heads — all of whom probably own Chinese-made iPhones and have portfolios larded with the stocks of companies that do big business with mainland China — began subtly (by their standards, anyway) to shift the shank of the responsibility for the spread of COVID-19 to the Chinese, ever careful to place all the blame on the Chinese communist government and its Party apparatchiks.

      They’ve stressed the communist angle because self-styled socialist Bernie Sander was still very much a viable candidate, and It served as means of connecting him, and anyone else anywhere to the Left of the Junior League, to the dreaded “communist” label.

      Now that it looks like Biden is all but a lock to win the Democratic nomination, Trump and his minions will simply shift this strategy on Biden. The politically prudent move for old Uncle Joe now is to consolidate the Democratic Party behind him ahead of the general election. To do so, he will need to make at least some minor policy concessions toward Bernie supporters, probably regarding things like the green new deal or some form of student-debt relief, and by likely naming a running mate somewhat more progressive than himself.

      Trump and Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine (including its foreign malign-interference allies) will seize upon this leftward swerve as an excuse to turn the “socialist” label against Biden himself — just as the Tea Partiers and the Birthers and the other ur-deplorables did with Barack Obama a decade ago. Or has everyone here forgotten this?:

  16. The last phrase of Duffy’s whiteboard should say “Socialism would.” not “Socialism will.” I assume she does not see socialism as inevitable for the USA.

    I think both Duffy and Kuang have had a say, and neither one’s free speech has been infringed. Neither one had anything very interesting to say. That people get shouty sometimes is not really news anymore.

  17. According to woke/intersectional catechism, a person of color can’t be racist. Yet, here we are, with the peanut butter of “racism” being spread out again.

    However, I doubt that the deeper reason for the rage at Ms. Duffy had much to do with her comparison of socialism to corona-virus, or racism. I think that’s pretext in much of the way that religious fundamentalist who would deny rights to gays would cite the Bible, ignoring its far more resolute condemnations of divorce.

    Personally, I stand at the intersection of various oppressed identities. And I can tell you from personal experience that progressives loathe anyone who belongs to one these “oppressed” groups, who holds views which they consider antithetical to oppressed identity, such as that of what an “Hispanic woman” should hold.

    (If this is terra incognita to you, do a semi-deep dive on how Pete Buttigieg was hated and loathed by the gay, and not so gay, left.)

    What you are seeing in action here is Essentialism, starkly articulated by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, which Ms. Duffy traduces and reaps the fury:

    “We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice,” she said. “We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice. If you’re worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don’t even show up because we need you to represent that voice.”

    1. I appreciated your reference to the Biblical writings of divorce and same sex relationships. I have had this conversation several times with my ‘Bible-believing’ relatives, including my thrice married, gay bashing, Southern Baptist cousin. He presents some tortured theology to argue that his divorces and remarriages are a-ok because he was not the guilty party in the divorces. I don’t remember Jesus talking about that.

  18. “She knew how to push the buttons of the easily offended.”

    Isn’t this one of the classic right wing tactics used today to infuriate and unravel the left? It’s like a debating tactic that has little to do with truth. I think it’s in their handbook. While we defend free speech, an an undisputed good, we should not ever lose sight of how easily weaponized it is.

    Dispassionately: Socialism more deadly than a killer plague? I would love to debate her on that topic.

    1. To be fair, for decades now liberals and the liberal media has sneered at and laughed at the right, which infuriated them, and we are now reaping the whirlwind. It’s hard to stop now, though, since they have become such self caricatures.

    1. Has everyone forgotten about Axelrod’s past? Looking at the comments here, he has a clean slate.

    1. Rational and conciliatory? This is all part of the act:

      1. Create outrageous sign.

      2. Display it where lots of libs can read it.

      3. Wait for extreme libs to overreact. Some will always do it in any online crowd.

      4. Act all innocent and play the victim.

      1. Look, Paul, you’ve said this over and over again, and you have NO evidence that Duffy planned all this. She may have intended to irritate liberals, but you don’t even know that; she merely could be expressing her sentiment. Indeed, you show no disapprobation at all for the over the top rants of Kuang, which are reprehensible with their accusations of racism. Are you willing to give Kuang a pass but go after Duffy, which seems to be the case? If so, why?

        And you even suggested that her threats were confected; you wouldn’t do that if Kuang complained. That’s a double standard, and I think you’ve said enough on this issue.

        You have no basis for saying that what Duffy did is an act. You simply don’t like her message and are trying to discredit her any way you can. That’s what Kuang did with her accusations of racism. But your claim is that it’s all an act and that she’s making up the threats she said she’s received.

        1. My very first comment:

          “While the response to Duffy’s sign is definitely over the top and unreasonable, I find that Duffy’s motives aren’t at all as pure as she pretends them to be.”

          I could have said something stronger about the response but I thought that was well covered by your post and its other comments.

          “If you are suggesting Ms. Duffy is lying about the attacks she’s received, it wouldn’t surprise me. Have the threats against her been verified?”

          I thought another commenter was calling her a liar. I don’t find it outside the realm of possibility that she lied about the responses but how would I know?

          I do think she purposely meant to incite the response she got and, ugly as it was, I doubt it surprised her.

          I stand by what I said but I’ve said all I need to say.

  19. Slightly tangential? But an observation from here in UK.

    The notion (?) of collective trauma (sic) to events that would have until fairly recently be regarded as of local significance is leveraged – demanded even – by 24 hour news channels arriving on scene and thrusting microphones into the faces of passersby and asking
    “How does this make you feel?”
    “What are your thoughts on this event?”

    As they hand back to the studio
    “..this community is still in a state of shock”

    Terrorist attack in Manchester, a murder, a racist attack…

    Through evolutionary processes grief + trauma cannot be spread too wide from these local (tragic) events – if true then collective inertia would have destroyed society by now!

    We have the ability to empathise. We can donate, give first-aid, clear the rubble, make a cuppa…. and we can have a healthy self-interest in the wider implications… but trauma..?

    The death of my mother has to mean more (trauma wise) than the death of your mother….or a mother in Wuhan.

    Sorry to be trite: but – in the round, on the whole, looking at the big picture – trauma is near the extreme end of the spectrum of our reactions to events we experience – even the secondhand experience of TV or the internet.

    But now, to some, true equality has been reached….In reactions at least! No spectrum, no shades of grey..
    Physically attack a Black Man? “Racist!”
    Call a Person of Colour a Black Man? “Racist!”
    Invoke science to disagree with a Black woman? “Racist!”
    Feelings trump all – and not to show extreme feelings to someone’s pet subject is itself racist… imperialist… colonialism white privilege…callous.

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