In 2017, when then-president Donald Trump responded to the ongoing fever of far-left iconoclasm by predicting that radicals would soon be toppling statues of the Founding Fathers, mainstream commentators responded with mockery. Then, sure enough, the statues of our greatest presidents started coming down.
And it’s still happening – not just to political leaders, and not just to statues. It’s happening in every field, including astronomy. Which brings us to the case of the James Webb Space Telescope, launched on Christmas Day 2021. Articles published in Scientific American last July, when it began sending back images, make it sound like the marvel of marvels:
* “The most powerful observatory ever made promises to produce some of the most incredible discoveries of our lifetime and beyond.”
* “This is the picture we’ve all been waiting for[:] the deepest image of the cosmos ever captured. Humanity has never seen so far back and so clearly into the depths of the universe’s history.”
* “The next great era of astronomy truly began this morning….the James Webb Space Telescope has at last delivered a complete set of first full-color images.”
Who was James Webb? As administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968, he oversaw the development of the Apollo program – which in 1969, of course, in one of the great triumphs of human history, landed a man on the moon. In his time (he died in 1992), Webb was a revered figure at NASA, and the naming of the telescope after him seemed, at first, entirely reasonable and certainly uncontroversial.
But in March 2021, just over a year before the above-cited articles appeared, Scientific American ran a very different piece about Webb and the telescope named after him. Carrying the bylines of no fewer than four scientists – Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, “an assistant professor of physics and a core faculty member in women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire”; Sarah Tuttle, a University of Washington astronomer; Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium; and Brian Nord, “a scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Chicago” – it was headlined “The James Webb Space Telescope Needs to Be Renamed.”
Why renamed? Because Webb – who before his years at NASA was a State Department official, serving as Undersecretary of State under Truman – is, like Washington and Jefferson, guilty of having lived in a time when homosexuality was illegal. “When he arrived at NASA in 1961,” write Prescod-Weinstein and her coauthors, “his leadership role meant he was in part responsible for implementing what was by then federal policy: the purging of LGBT individuals from the workforce.”
What to comment on here? First, there’s the glaring anachronism: in 1961 no one had ever heard the term “LGBT.” Back then, the current delusion that homosexuals and men who want to be women (or vice-versa) somehow belong to the same category would have been considered ridiculous (because it is). The term “transgender” didn’t exist. Gender dysphoria was not yet mentioned in the DSM. (It didn’t appear until the 1980 edition.) To conflate gays with trans people is to ignore the fact that the Nazis sent gays to death camps while leaving cross-dressers alone. Similarly, during the Lavender Scare, beginning in 1950, thousands of gays were fired from U.S. government positions, while cross-dressers, again, weren’t affected.
Second, there’s the contention that Webb played a role in purging gays from the workforce. Specifically, Prescod-Weinstein and her coauthors accuse Webb of acting as “a facilitator of homophobic policy discussions with members of the Senate” and of having “handed over homophobic material,” apparently to those senators. Before being leveled in Prescod-Weinstein’s article, these charges had been floating around the astronomical community for years: they’d been aired in a 2015 piece for Forbes (which accused Webb of leading “State Department witchhunts”), in a 2015 article for The Stranger (which blamed Webb for the entire Lavender Scare), and on a closed online message board frequented by high-level scientists.
But while the same accusations kept being repeated, there was little if anything in the way of substantiation. So Hakeem Oluseyi, a highly respected figure who is president of the National Society of Black Physicists, did some actual research – a great deal of it, in fact – and published his findings at the website Medium in January 2021, two months before the Scientific American attack on Webb.
In brief, Oluseyi found “zero evidence that Webb is guilty of the allegations against him.” On the contrary, Webb was “a hero of diversity and inclusion in American government” who “worked with Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy to use NASA facilities in America’s southern states to promote racial integration and equal opportunity in employment.” As James Kirchick wrote in Politico last February, NASA, during Webb’s tenure, was “the leading federal agency to promote racial integration, aggressively recruiting and promoting Black scientists. In 1964, when Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace attempted to block the hiring of African-Americans at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Webb threatened to remove personnel from the facility. That same year, he declined to speak at the Jackson, Mississippi Chamber of Commerce after two Black activists were denied entry to the event.”
How striking is it that scientists – purportedly devoted to the scientific method – had repeated vile calumnies about Webb without bothering to check them out? How much more striking is it that, after Oluseyi cleared Webb of the charge that he’d had contact with the Senate in relation to antigay policies, Prescod-Weinstein et al. repeated this allegation?
Part of the answer to this question is that, in Prescod-Weinstein’s view, the specifics of Webb’s antigay actions (if any) don’t matter, since he “was in leadership as the lavender scare unfolded” and “bore responsibility for policies enacted under his leadership.” Apropos of the contention, by some, “that if Webb was complicit, so was everyone working in the agency’s administration at the time,” Prescod-Weinstein comments: “We agree. But NASA is not launching a telescope named after its entire administration.”
Prescod-Weinstein is forty. The degree to which she really does believe in canceling pretty much everybody who lived before she was born becomes clear in a New York Times article by Michael Powell, published last December 19, about the Webb brouhaha. When it comes to naming things after people in the past, wrote Powell, “Dr. Prescod-Weinstein said she would draw an exacting line and memorialize no government leader of that era. ‘Rename the Kennedy Center for Harriet Tubman,’ she said.”
This kind of stuff is, of course, right out of the French Revolution: rename the months of the year and the days of the week. Or, if you will, the Stalinist era: either radically rewrite the roles of now-disfavored historical figures or banish them from history entirely. Your call! “This is about who we canonize and who are our real saints,” Prescod-Weinstein told Powell. We can’t just exonerate a dead white guy who was in the thick of a repressive government.” Saints? Canonize? Apparently, Prescod-Weinstein is one more devotee of woke ideology for whom it’s nothing less than a religion. And hey, while we’re canceling imperfect “dead white guys,” why not go after Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, too? (One more detail about Prescod-Weinstein, by the way: according to a HuffPo profile, she’s “agender,” i.e. genderless – a ridiculous label for a supposedly serious scientist to attach to herself.)
As for Webb’s civil-rights record, Prescod-Weinstein was unimpressed. “The civil rights versus gay people schtick is marginalizing and pathetic,” she told Powell. “It’s straight people arguing about the straight canon. As a Black queer Jewish person, I’m not interested.” What about Oluseyi’s meticulous article clearing Webb’s name? In her view, Oluseyi was guilty of writing “hit pieces on me,” of “going out of his way to justify historic homophobia,” and of attacking “a junior queer Black woman professor” – i.e., her.
Powell’s Times article, to his credit, makes it clear what’s going on here: Prescod-Weinstein, like many other contemporary academics who belong to multiple so-called victim groups at once, is using that status to don the cloak of virtue while flailing people of earlier generations for failing to live up to the standards set by today’s social-justice warriors. She faults Webb for not being part of a gay-rights movement that didn’t even exist when his career began. She doesn’t seem to comprehend that without the civil-rights movement, in which Webb played a noble part, it would be hard to imagine the subsequent movements for women’s rights and gay rights. In short, absolutely everything she says about Webb is a cheap shot, served up by a woman with extraordinary privilege (her B.A. is from Harvard) who loves posing as oppressed on several fronts.
When my attention was first drawn to the Webb controversy, I immediately thought of Frank Kameny, a Harvard-trained astronomer whom I was honored to know for many years (although our contact was almost entirely online). Kameny was described by the author Caleb Crain as a “square” and by the historian Douglas Shand-Tucci as “the most conventional of men”; but after being fired in 1958 by the U.S. Army Map Service for being gay, he became the first victim of this brand of injustice to take his case to the courts (unsuccessfully, alas). In 1961 he formed an early gay-rights organization called the Mattachine Society, which, unlike many later gay groups that were little more than Marxist fronts, was rooted in American values. In 1965, outside the White House, he led nine other gay men wearing jackets and ties in the very first gay-rights march ever.
Living alone all his life, and never holding down another regular job, Frank spent the next several decades fighting tirelessly for gay equality and winning numerous victories, big and small, along the way. Finally, at a formal ceremony in 2009, the director of the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management – an openly gay man named John Berry – officially apologized to Kameny for his firing fifty-two years earlier. Kameny is reported to have “cheerfully accepted” the apology.
Yes, cheerfully accepted.
Kameny died in 2011, aged eighty-five. If not for unjust government policies, he could have had a remarkable career in astronomy – and a far more rewarding personal life. He was a true victim of antigay prejudice. Prescod-Weinstein never has been. Yet what a remarkable contrast there is between his generosity of spirit and her petty, preening narcissism – between his extraordinary forgiveness and her calculated grudge-holding.
I’ve read through some of Prescod-Weinstein’s writings on race and politics and it turns out that this woman is a first-class whiner, drenched in self-pity and in anti-white, anti-male, anti-straight, and anti-“cis” animus: she’s complained that the physics department at Harvard wasn’t a “fun place to be a Black woman”; she’s called academia “a hierarchical system of abuse” that favors “a chosen few,” who are primarily “white cis men”; she supports BLM and buys into Robin DiAngelo’s fatuous “white fragility” thesis; and she’s maintained that when she was a child in East Los Angeles, “I understood…that police would shoot on sight people of my skin tone and darker.”
There’s more. For instance, she’s stated that “business as usual in America means death, mass incarceration, and living, constantly, under totally fearful conditions — if you’re Black. If you’re not Black it means choosing whether to care about the fact that we, Black people in America, live under these terrorizing conditions.” Repeatedly, Prescod-Weinstein makes it clear that she’s one of these people who think that the tough parts of her life happen because of the identity groups she belongs to and not, quite simply, because life is occasionally tough for everybody.
I don’t ordinarily presume to speak for the dead, but I believe I knew Frank well enough to say, with a good degree of confidence, that despite everything the U.S. government put him through, and despite the career in astronomy he never had, he’d have had no problem with the naming of the James Webb Space Telescope. And one more thing: James Kirchick – who is the author of Secret City, the definitive history of gay Washington, and who was a longtime friend of mine and of Frank’s – proposed in his Politico piece that nothing would be more fitting than to name the next great telescope after Frank Kameny. I’d suggest that, instead of waiting for that big leap forward, Kameny be awarded a posthumous Medal of Freedom for devoting his life to genuinely selfless, truly productive activism of a sort that the jumped-up likes of Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who apparently can understand all kinds of remarkable things about the cosmos, could never grasp in a million years.
“…the jumped-up likes of Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who apparently can understand all kinds of remarkable things about the cosmos…”
I would not be so quick to assume that Chandra Prescod-Weinstein understands anything about anything except for her own whining and anger. She is an embarrassment to blacks, Jews, and astronomers alike and ought to be summarily drummed out of the rolls of all three categories.
Lightbringer – She does indeed sound like a typical woke lefty fanatic.
Prescod-Weinstein sounds like a casebook iconoclast, someone whose sole purpose in life is to destroy the reputations of the genuinely accomplished, and for trivial reasons. Mostly because she, looking deeply into her own soul, cannot accept her own mediocrity. No matter her academic standing, irreguardless of her publications, she will never put anyone on the moon. And, of course, she justifies her loser position with the race card. I’m impressed… (not!)
Miranda Rose Smith says
How did Frank Kamemy eat and pay the remt without holding down a regular job?
Kynarion Hellenis says
All parasites eat their hosts.
Mo de Profit says
This article demonstrates that these people have zero tolerance and therefore zero community. They are people who describe themselves with what sexual practices they perform period.
Do whatever sick thing you want in the privacy of your own home and leave the normal people alone.
“Back then, the current delusion that homosexuals and men who want
to be women (or vice-versa) somehow belong to the same category
would have been considered ridiculous (because it is).”
Current delusion? Homosexuality and transgenders (cross dressers,
transvestites) are intrinsically linked. Fully intact males appearing
as women and enticing men with their feminized charms – while the
men will be met head on, so to speak, with male genitalia in any
encounters – sounds gay to me.
The way current society is bombarded with gay-oriented TV
commercials and demands for acceptance of homosexuality or
bisexuality as normal – is a similar way transgenders demand
acceptance through use of specialized pronouns with penalties
to pay if they’re not correctly used.
Also, if thousands of gays were fired from government positions
decades ago but not cross dressers – I doubt that back in the
day anyone appearing as a woman or man in everyday life
would have dared tell anyone they were really the opposite sex –
the way the disturbed individuals do today by announcing that
they are ‘transgender’.
Kynarion Hellenis says
Cross-dressers were not always homosexual. Cross-dressers were sometimes married men with wives and children. Many of these were, in fact, sodomites, but not all. But sodomy and cross dressing are both sexually dysfunctional and, I think, related illnesses.
As for being bombarded on TV with sexually repugnant relationships and practices, I disagree somewhat with your diagnosis that it is a demand for acceptance. First it was acceptance and out of the closet. Then it was equality / sameness and marriage. Now, it is most definitely a demand for celebration – even worship. The failure to do so offends their reality and thus must be punished as blasphemy.
The progression you mention an important point, Anything less than full acceptance, and perhaps a personal desire to experiment on their side of the fence results in a “phobia” label.
The Left that participates in this delusion know that it is ridiculous, and are simply spreading mass formation. As Mattias Desmet suggests, speaking out against it is the only way to avoid a totalitarian future full of this nonsense.
Wow Kinaryon Hellenis, that was a good post, using correct (and currently unfashionable) language to say what we all need to say and think again. Thanks for bring back reality in place of false courtesy to those who would have us worship them as gods and call their deviant practices by cute names.
It’s cyclical. Woke hysterical accusatory hateful childish behavior evokes negative reactions which can then be labeled racism, misgendering or micro aggressions.
It’s never ending until you give in, take a knee and donate all you own to Marxist, anti-Semitic, anti American BLM (or whatever it is this year) at which point the ante is raised and more whiney outrage begins again.
So, the true civil rights supporters of the past become todays demons.
I will just be their demon now and avoid the cycle,
They (pick the “they” of your choice) will not be satisfied until they have confiscated everything you have ever or will ever own and then, when they have seen you grovel appropriately to show how sorry you are to be yourself, eventually take your life when their entertainment with you is over. Just like the Cultural Revolution and any number of other, similar phenomena since the French Revolution.
By the way, I love your cat avatar. Looks like the best pet I’ve ever had, Arthur, the King of Cats. Alas, he was mortal and no ladies came to row him out to Avalon and put him into a magical sleep; he just died, at a great age.
Jason P says
That these malcontents get any consideration at all is a testament to the cowardliness of academics to stand up to race-baiting gender-baiting hucksters. “The only thing for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Craig Austin says
We are not far from the point where the assumption that everyone except straight white able bodied males are hired or put in positions for reasons other than merit. Dangerous times, the pendulum always swings both ways.
Kynarion Hellenis says
Those white able bodied men will be still bear the burden of paying for it all, too.
May it swing the other way soon. Sometimes my husband and I reminisce about growing up in the ’50’s and coming of age in the ’60, when America was run by predominately straight white men and life was great. At the end of those halcyon days we saw an American walk on the Moon. And then the Bad Things started happening. The cancer that had been seeded into Western civilization by the Soviet Union starting with Lenin in the 1920’s metastasized and took over the host organism. By the time the USSR “fell” two decades later, it hardly mattered anymore, since it had been replicated here,
But as you say, the pendulum swings both ways. It would be nice to see my grandchildren coming of age when America is great again.
When a land-rover touched down on planet Mars a decade ago the command center on planet earth erupted in jubilation. Even Yahoo News displayed the celebratory photo– once. It was a triumph for American scientists. So why was the representative photo not broadcasted over and over? Because the picture was not “:woke.” There was not a single black face to be found… anywhere.
Ugly Sid says
Actually, that was the “legend”.
What they found was a drive in theatre where cars were full of Martian skeletons, and the projector was showing Plan Nine from Outer Space, on endless loop.
The news was buried, kept as secret as the wholesale price of a casket.
Don Kosky says
Webb of lies. Since we faked all the moon landings, I could care less about a deceiver.
Let’s abolish NASA as a start to bring down the deep state.
Ugly Sid says
Electricity is a hoax. TV sets are crammed full of coil springs and elastic bungee cords.
Ugly Sid says
She is to grievance mongering what Carlton Sheets is to real estate investing.
THX 1138 says
“I’d suggest that, instead of waiting for that big leap forward, Kameny be awarded a posthumous Medal of Freedom for devoting his life to genuinely SELFLESS, truly productive activism…”
How is it “SELFLESS” for Frank Kameny to fight for HIS rights? True lack of self would mean that he betrayed his rights, abandoned his values, sacrificed his convictions.
“Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egoist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge or act. These are functions of the self….
If a man dies fighting for his own freedom, it is not a sacrifice: he is not willing to live as a slave; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of man who’s willing. If a man refuses to sell his convictions, it is not a sacrifice, unless he is the sort of man who has no convictions.” – Ayn Rand
Maybe you should get right on that.
Mark Dunn says
I’m old enough to remember the 1964 Civic Rights Act. I remember my dad, and his blue collar friends describing behavior of a character like Prescod-Weinstein. At the time I thought, those guys are dumb, the joke was on me. Prescott-Weinstein diversity hires, of the world, are my reality.
Mark Dunn says
I’m old enough to remember the 1964 Civic Rights Act. I remember my dad, and his blue collar friends describing the behavior, of a character like Prescod-Weinstein. At the time I thought, those guys are dumb, the joke was on me. The Prescott-Weinstein diversity hires, of the world, are my reality.
What a miserable existence it must be to spend your time targeting and defaming people of great accomplishment based solely on their race or sex. No matter what damage this Chandra person does to others her efforts will not be seen as the great accomplishment she thinks it is. I would venture to say her “oppression” will only be shared by other malcontents who truly believe their lack of accomplishment is a direct result of those who succeed. (As if there is only so much success to go around.) Like all shit-disturbers, the only thing that gets them any attention is making a stink. Getting a telescope renamed, out of racism and jealousy, to get your name mentioned in a few articles is not history making.