There’s an anecdote I well remember from Solzhenitsyn’s great book The Gulag Archipelago, and one I just verified by a bit of Googling. After a speech either by Stalin or about him, the Russian audience leapt to its feet and began applauding wildly. To not join in was, of course, a serious mistake in those times of Stalinist terror. The problem was that nobody wanted to be the first to stop applauding, as this might be taken as a slur on the Great Leader. Disappearingman.com relates what happened, quoting the book:
“The applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly…Nine minutes! Ten!…Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers.”
At last, after eleven minutes of non-stop clapping, the director of a paper factory finally decided enough was enough. He stopped clapping and sat down—a miracle!
“To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down,” Solzhenitsyn says.
That same night, the director of the paper factory was arrested and sent to prison for ten years. Authorities came up with some official reason for his sentence, but during his interrogation, he was told: “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!”
I was reminded of that incident (do read the book!) when reader Luana sent me this article from the New York Post. Now you may denigrate the paper because it’s a tabloid, but this report seems pretty accurate in view of the petition that’s online. First, read it, clicking on the screenshot. The headline tells the sad tale:
Yes, and the falling asleep during the anti-racist Zoom meeting—truth be told, Zoom meetings are pretty soporific, whatever the topic—led to calls for the professor to be fired. Here’s the whole story:
Students at pricey Marymount Manhattan College are demanding a veteran professor be fired for allegedly falling asleep during an anti-racism Zoom meeting.
Students at the Upper East Side school claim Patricia Simon, a theater arts associate professor, took a snooze during the virtual town hall last month, and have collected 1,800 petition signatures.
Petition organizer Caitlin Gagnon said, “This action has only capitalized on a pattern of negligence and disrespect that Patricia Simon has exhibited over and over again.”
Gagnon included a photo of the 30-year prof, and also accused her of enabling “sizeist” staffers.
Simon told The Post the camera caught her at the wrong angle.“I was at no time asleep or disinterested. My ears were open … My heart was open as well,” she said.
The apology is a bit craven here, but that’s the way these things go. Here’s the photo included with the Change.org petition:
And here’s the accusation and demand for change:
This is a petition that is demanding the removal a faculty member who does not align with the anti-racist views and actions that were promised to be adopted by the department earlier this week at the Town Hall meetings. It has been brought to the attention of the students that Patricia Simon was sleeping during the Town Hall Meeting that took place on June 29th. This action has only capitalized on a pattern of negligence and disrespect that Patricia Simon has exhibited over and over again in her time as an Associate Professor, and Coordinator of the BFA Musical Theater Program. Professor Simon has a history of ignoring instances of racism in the form of racial profiling within the program, and enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction. She has also been known to use her power to intimidate and bully the students in her program who have made efforts to advocate for themselves or for their fellow peers. These actions have proven to the students within the program that she does not have the best interests of all students in mind, and therefore, she should not be an educator any longer.
Now I doubt that Dr. Simon will be fired, because if she is, then virtually everyone in America should be fired. Granted, she’s accused of other charges of impurity, including “enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.” What on earth does that mean? No tangible examples are given, but none are needed for the Offense Brigade. An accusation is the same as a conviction, just as in Stalin’s Russia.
We’re now at the point when falling asleep at the wrong time, like stopping clapping at the wrong time, can injure you, at least potentially. I can’t conceive of a ludicrous accusation like this getting any traction twenty years ago. Yes, Cancel Culture is real, and we’ll have more on it later.