I have been wondering for a long time just when and how my academic discipline of sociology was going to hit bottom, to cross over from being merely deeply troubled and cognitively impaired to enter fully into a state of true madness. Maybe I will be able to date that decisive moment to Oct. 22 or 23, 2023, when a group of sociologists released an open letter entitled “Sociologists in Solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian People.” This document is in equal parts vicious anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and moronically lopsided “analysis” of facts and events.
LinkedIn saw numerous sociologists sharing the letter, encouraging peers to sign, or “liking” it. The organizers have stopped taking signatures, but not before 1,921 signed it. And not just no-name faculty and grad students. Full professors from universities like Arizona State, California-Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, Brown, and Michigan. Texas A&M’s Joe Feagin, the 91st president of the American Sociological Association, was the 25th person to sign this open letter (and the ASA’s response? Dead silence). We could say this dung emanated from the bowels of some of our top sociology programs.
The writers agonize over the “genocide” being committed by Israel against the citizens of Gaza. No mention of why they are stuck there to be used as human shields. The so-called inhumane evacuation Israel has ordered is described as the vicious actions of an “apartheid” regime. Apparently, Israel is begging Palestinians to flee the anticipated points of invasion because it wants to kill more of them. Hamas facts and figures are treated as fully reliable; Israeli assertions are ignored no matter how solid their receipts. These open-letter sociologists do not like the “mean” ways Israeli officials talk about the Hamas butchers (not about Palestinians in general): “Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, remarked, ‘We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.’” Apparently, this is “racist and dehumanizing” — but not the Hamas atrocities that led to Gallant’s statement in the first place: filming the killing an elderly woman with her own phone, then uploading the video to her Facebook page; chopping off arms and feet; beheading children; torturing, murdering, and mutilating a man, his wife, and their two young children while consuming their holiday meal; rapes so violent they broke their victims’ pelvises; filmed executions of civilian hostages. The sociologists who signed the open letter did not even seem bothered by a baby being cut out of a pregnant woman before both were beheaded.
I cannot think of any clearer, more visible sign that the discipline of sociology is in serious trouble than this letter. When you can register this many useful idiots this quickly, something is terribly wrong. They would have easily hit 4,000 or more if they had left it open longer. Do I know there are still lots of good folk studying sociology? Yes. Are those who wrote and signed this the norm among sociologists? Probably not, but between those who signed and those who are silent, or even supporting — well, Houston, we have a problem.
So, what to do?
First, any university and academic department that has faculty, especially prominent ones, who signed this open letter should denounce it. If they do not, we should treat these departments as pariahs. We should not recommend them to any aspiring graduate students. We should not invite their “experts” to speak. This is not about denying anyone’s academic freedom. This is about calling out stupidity and hate. This is about using freedom of choice (you know, “pro-choice”) to choose something other than promoting places that harbor anti-Semitic craziness. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, recently issued a strong statement condemning conservative group Turning Point USA when two of its members “harassed, pushed and injured” an English professor. Yet just in the first 30 signatures alone on this ugly open letter, there are three distinguished ASU professors. So far, no statement from Crow. How is that for a balanced threat assessment?
Second, write department heads, deans, and presidents in your natural circles and tell them what you think. Don’t we all have free expression? Both of my graduate alma maters are represented on this list. American University had four signers, three of them sociologists at the prestigious School of International Service as faculty or fellows. New York University had a whopping 12 — thankfully only one faculty member, but 10 Ph.D. students and one post-doc. They are about to hear from me.
Third, let donors and trustees of these places know what you think. Do they really want their time and treasure invested in promoting cognitively vacuous bigotry? Do they really want to subsidize people who defend murderous, genocidal butchery and cruelty? Consider the donor revolts at places like the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard over those schools’ refusals to stand up to pro-Hamas protesters, hiding behind platitudes that suggest donors keep writing big checks and let administrators defend the academic freedom of those calling for Jewish blood. Purse strings are powerful. Make sure that those who hold them know what is going on.
Fourth, check out those graduate students, post-docs, and non-tenured professors who signed. If you are an academic looking to hire a sociologist or two, those should be off your list. Forever.
In the past, I have argued that sociology is worth saving. Heck, I did so again just a few weeks ago in a Kirkwood Center podcast interview, even as I described the problems that have led to this awful open letter. I still believe this, even as the cancer of fact-averse leftist indoctrination, radicalism, and activism has metastasized throughout the body of academic sociology. There is a lot of good work done by solid, well-trained, and objective sociologists across the ideological spectrum. I read and use their work constantly and am thankful for it.
But this cannot go on. It is not just the people who believe and defend monstrosities like this open letter but also those who look the other way or even support them doing so. Like most predominantly progressive academics, sociologists claim to be obsessed with “safe spaces.” But not “safe” for conservatives. Not “safe” for Christians with traditional religious convictions. And now, apparently, not “safe” for Jews.