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LSU cancels Middleton, its intellectual honesty

The gagging stench of craven hypocrisy emanating from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, and LSU administrators simply overwhelms.

Last week, the Board, with nearly all of its members Edwards appointees, voted to strip former LSU Pres. Troy Middleton’s name from the campus library. Middleton had served with great distinction in the military and had shepherded LSU through difficult times during nearly a dozen years at the helm, but left a contradictory record regarding race relations. At one time writing that he would do what he could to discourage the presence of black students on campus, after leaving the university he made public efforts to bring about racial reconciliation.

The whole episode represents a mix between a circus and the fatalism of Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon, where the Bolshevik protagonist accepts death at the hands of the regime he created because he insufficiently acted obediently to the mob that had taken power of the party apparatus that he once served. None of this was on the radar a month ago.

Then, in Minneapolis a black ex-felon named George Floyd died from a heart condition aggravated in all likelihood by a white police officer constricting his neck for several minutes while another white officer and two Asiatic officers assisted in restraining him. Floyd, just prior to his death had ingested in some form cannabinoids, fentanyl, and methamphetamine, had become agitated during a traffic stop under an accusation that he had passed counterfeit money.

A tragic incident such as this properly should prompt reflection, potentially uncomfortable, about one’s own attitudes and views, with an eye towards resolving issues such as the limits to use of force in law enforcement and whether you do unto those not sharing your ethnic background as you would have them do unto you. Except a mob that has seized control over the interpretation of the event, led in large part by political opportunists, ideological intransigents, and tinpot totalitarians, who don’t want genuine circumspection but instead bullies and bludgeons those who don’t signal entire obeisance to its preferred agenda, thereby supplanting critical thinking with simple sloganeering.

This tsunami that tries to bury the objective facts — such as data showing law enforcement less likely to kill blacks than whites in the course of an attempted arrest, and black officers more likely than whites to shoot unarmed blacks — baptizes the Drew Breeses of the world into new, re-educated versions while prompting others to accept its narrative of racism so thoroughly permeating the institutions of government and the governed themselves that only by following the enlightened vanguard's prescriptions can the previously unwashed perform the expiations that magically make its guilt and complicity go away. Now properly “woke” to realize their calumnies, public performance of their cleansing must proceed.

So, like a cuckoo clock, Edwards pops out to warble “Black lives matter” as his justification to support removing the Middleton name, thus relieving his obligation to cogitate further on the validity of the narrative and on the implications of its demanded absolution that stray beyond the confines of its constricted and questionable worldview. Similarly, the supervisors — who, along with their predecessors, never acted even with public knowledge of Middleton’s views for over a decade — substitute leadership with following a fashionable trend and leaving it at that. Both led to this point by LSU administrators, unable or unwilling to buck trendiness.

For to actually critically appraise what they did would lead to the realization of the stunning intellectual dishonesty behind it all, a tolerance of which is cancerous in the academy. If they are to cancel Middleton because of a letter he wrote, what are we to do with, for example, the annual weekly celebration LSU conducts over the life and impact of the Rev. Martin Luther King?

Because, as revealed around this time last year, Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance tape transcripts caught King in serial philandering and group sex but, worst of all, claimed King was present at a rape during which he offered advice to the attacker. The actual tapes will be released in 2027, while historians who reviewed the transcripts have deemed their contents credible.

By their own logic, if you are woke about race to cancel Middleton despite his numerous public contributions over a letter, then you must be woke to cancel King over his extracurricular activities despite his prodigious public service. Yet this time last year Edwards didn’t chirp a “#MeToo” on this matter, nor did the supervisors pass a resolution ending the King festivities, and university administrators went ahead and held them earlier this year. Using the same logic they applied regarding Middleton, doesn’t all this inaction make them complicit in validating violent misogyny?

Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, but, in the world of politics, political cowardice and/or agenda-driven sanctimony far more often comes to the fore. Sensible decision-makers would have assessed holistically the career of Middleton on the matter. Instead, the state saw gutless hypocrisy on display that canceled not just Middleton, but the idea of the university as a refuge encouraging the search for knowledge, intellectual inquiry, and reasoned discourse.

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