January
21st 2011
A Modest Proposal

Posted under: American history, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, jobs, race, students, unhappy endings

Reader Swamp Ape brought this to my attention earlier this week:  Jon Wiener, a History professor at the University of California, Irvine, has a modest proposal to make our classrooms safe from gun violence.  “The Arizona legislature is considering a proposal to authorize the carrying of weapons on campus by faculty members. The idea is simple—in case of trouble in the classroom, somebody needs to be able to blast away at problem students. But the question arises, should all faculty members be armed?”

Wiener thinks this might be dangerous–adjuncts are understandably disgruntled, the untenured regular faculty might be unstable, and “then there are the women, the minorities, and the gays—always complaining about ‘underrepresentation’ and ‘equity issues,’ always whining about pay differentials. Guns must be kept out of their hands, too.” 

The lesson is clear: guns on campus should be restricted to the hands of the senior professors—the old white men. They know the importance of preserving order.

Fortunately the legislature in Arizona is dominated by old white men. I am confident that, when it comes to deciding which faculty should carry guns on campus, they will do the right thing.

Then again, arming the adjuncts, untenured, and under-represented faculty would be a speedy remedy for our grievances, wouldn’t it?  Isn’t that why some folks call handguns peacemakers?

As I’ve written here before:  I don’t want a gun, but I wouldn’t say no to a high-fashion Kevlar vest, since Colorado is right behind Arizona in its macho fetishization of shootouts at the Crazed Maniac Corral.

N.B.:  The random pseudonymous commenters at The Nation appear to be just as dumb as those on every other national newspaper or magazine!  Why do newspapers and periodicals bother with comments sections, when they just dumb down the whole enterprise?  Like online journalism needs to further discredit itself. . . with comments sections like that, why not just stick to blogs?

14 Comments »

14 Responses to “A Modest Proposal”

  1. Dr. Koshary on 21 Jan 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Wiener is wise. No doubt this will get a great reception in the state legislature. Keep your eyes open for irony-free citations of the idea in public discourse.

    Also, I agree about the pseudonymous/anonymous comments sections. I have yet to read one of them anywhere, in any forum, that added anything useful to a discussion. Periodicals seem so desperate to make readers feel like their emotional reactions and thoughtless opinions are valid that they have practically put them on equal footing with the reporting itself. Once newsreaders on CNN lowered themselves to reading out loud people’s response emails and twitters, for the love of all things holy, why should online journalists try any harder to maintain professionalism?

  2. Shane in Utah on 21 Jan 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Colorado is right behind Arizona in its macho fetishization of shootouts at the Crazed Maniac Corral

    You might have to stand in line behind Utah, where the state Supreme Court has ruled that the State Constitution gives students the absolute right to carry concealed weapons to class. Fun!

  3. Historiann on 21 Jan 2011 at 8:36 am #

    True enough, Shane! I defer to the infinite stupidity of your state lege compared to mine. (Mine is just now in the business of taking food out of the mouths of hungry grade-schoolers, because manly men feed their own damn children, or something like that.)

    And Dr. Koshary: you’re right. Instead of looking relevant and interactive, newspapers and magazines with unmoderated comments sections look just as dumb as blogs. (Most blogs, anyway.) Why would they give up the few things they offer (peer review and editorial control) in order to “compete” with blogs, which aren’t exactly raking in the cash?

  4. Feminist Avatar on 21 Jan 2011 at 9:22 am #

    On the comments on news outlets- I think it has something to do with legitimacy. So, they think ‘people are not just reading, but responding to our news- so what we are saying has relevance, it reaches people, so we have political power’- which in a perverse way is seen as giving their news more validity- a greater claim to truth. The comments are the visible signification of that.

    Plus, if we apply what we learned from yesterday’s post, we see that emotion is becoming (? well this might not be new) increasingly central to how we distinguish fact from fiction; to how we determine ‘truth’. So, in a sense, these news outlets are reflecting a wider social trend, reflecting the greater legitimacy given by the general public to ‘emotional truths’- I feel it so it must be true. And this probably ties into things like broader anti-intellectualism etc that we have discussed before.

  5. Janice on 21 Jan 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Impressions of ads equals revenue so every dumb-ass that clicks and refreshes to see the latest comments, dispute with the article and add their own random BS is revenue. Not a lot but getting a “loyal” flock of visitors is something when the rest of the revenue stream they relied on over the last eighty years is drying up!

    Swiftian humour will go right over the legislators’ heads, I’m afraid. But it doesn’t go far enough, does it? I don’t see anywhere that he’s remembering to keep the hands out of the old, white liberal men and goodness knows that’s the real important worry, here, isn’t it? *facepalms*

  6. Notorious Ph.D. on 21 Jan 2011 at 9:39 am #

    I’m now imagining the OWMs in my college decked out in gunslinger-style belts over their rumpled suits. In fact, that’s the image I’m going to keep in my head throughout today’s core curriculum meeting.

  7. GayProf on 21 Jan 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I am carrying a gun right now.

  8. Comrade PhysioProf on 21 Jan 2011 at 10:24 am #

    What blows my mind is the sheer illiteracy of the reader commentary at mainstream news outlets.

  9. Historiann on 21 Jan 2011 at 10:30 am #

    The illiteracy (or anger, or hatred) isn’t surprising, sadly. What’s surprising is that any legitimate news organizations permit or even encourage feedback from fools. It doesn’t make them look “relevant” or in the swim–it just drags them down into the gutter.

  10. Indyanna on 21 Jan 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Anyone who can figure out how to make a “well-regulated militia” out of any faculty that I’ve ever seen (any level) could just skip the MacArthur “genius” level and move straight into the pantheon. Although I do think some grizzled old longhairs walking around in “Che” bandoliers would add a certain comedic touch to our hallways.

    On the comments and such: the “YOU the Viewer” emo approach to journalism really began in the local news divisions in the 1970s and has continued to bore its way into other media. Even when I’m viewing, I’m more in and of the “SCREW the viewer” demographic; it’s not about the viewer. It’s about what just happened on West Main Street, and we have antenna trucks on the way…

  11. Perpetua on 21 Jan 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Hee! I have nothing witty to add, but wanted to thank you for giving me a laugh this afternoon. Indyana’s comment provoked a mental image of some white haired d00dz in my department that won’t go away soon. Well played, Indyana. Imagine how lively departmental meetings could become! Semi-automatics + academic giants + poor eyesight. . .

    I work on the pre-modern period, so I’m always baffled/horrified/appalled/incredulous that anyone could argue that the solution to violence is violence. Especially extrastate violence! I mean, the whole history of the development of the modern state has been about the state wresting and maintaining control of violence. Do these guys *really* want to go back to a time of private armies and chaos? Just, wow. There were some pretty neat things about the Middle Ages, but the roads, they were not so safe.

  12. Canuck Down South on 21 Jan 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    On what happens when a middle-aged white man is spotted with a gun on campus:

    http://www.ksdk.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=226006

    A friend of mine teaches at UMSL, and she commented that when the alert first went out that the apparent gunman was a middle-aged white man wearing glasses, most of her colleagues started frantically removing their specs….

  13. Historiann on 21 Jan 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Canuck–that TV report is so funny. That’s exactly what happened to a colleague of mine a few years ago. Someone saw him walking into our building with a reproduction of a Civil War-era rifle, and we all got the e-mail and text message alert that the building was in lockdown.

    I’m glad that people were alert and watching and weren’t assuming that it was normal to see a guy walk in with a rifle, but because of that, he no longer brings the gun to class.

  14. andrea on 25 Jan 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Somehow, I doubt that allowing the profs to be armed would neither be as picturesque nor as entertaining as my steampunk-soaked brain is imagining …

    (Although, my leather bomber jacket and fedora is helpful for getting the hallway studentmobs to part before me.)

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