About Critical Mass [dot] Writing [dot] Reviews [dot] Contact
« previous entry | return home | next entry »

May 6, 2003 [feather]
Bypassing the Tunnel of Oppression

Readers of Critical Mass will be familiar with the Tunnel of Oppression, the grassroots campus diversity initiative that aims to shock complacent, bourgeois undergraduates out of their racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic ways. Readers will also recall the disturbingly illiterate defense of the tunnel posted here by a student coordinator at SUNY Cortland. Now another tunnel coordinator, this one from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, writes with an earnest question for Critical Mass readers:

I am intrigued.

I have helped in the organization and facilitation of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire version of the Tunnel of Oppression for three years. I agree that it is probably a very unintelligent and mindless method of educating the general student population. However, life in Eau Claire consists of a mostly white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society. Most of the students that attend the University come from backgrounds that follow this same societal structure/pattern.

The Tunnel is aimed at the students that don't realize that life elsewhere is any different from the Suburbia that they grew up in. Ignorance is dangerous. The goal of any baccalaureate is the irradication of the ignorance that they still harbor, though in most cases the targeted ignorance is solely "book knowledge." Unfortunately the opening of a can of beer occurs far more often than the opening of any book.

The goal of the Tunnel is to inspire the opening of history and diversity oriented books when students realize that they don't know what they don't know. It is intended to be an eye-opener, not a book-closer.

I realize that, in many cases, this is not the end result of the Tunnel. Students walk through and appear uninspired and apathetic to the situations that they've just encountered. I'd like to say we do it all for just "that one" that we help, but, the fact is, we're always looking for new methods to encourage students to find the books that all of you discovered during your days at University.

The point of my post is to help you see things from the side of the programmers and to ask for your help. If you can think of way to create a program that is eye-opening and inspiring, please help all of us by sharing it. Being reactive to a bad program helps no one, being proactive helps everyone.

Post a comment to let him know what you think.

posted on May 6, 2003 7:21 AM


Why is a visual and audio display of shocking images helpful? I think a well written essay and good discussion groups can accomplish a lot. I know many may say that the written word doesn't have as much power as shocking images, but I think that's wrong. I don't recall Upton Sinclair's descriptions having or needing illustrations.

If the oppression that needs to described is really as bad as the "programmers" say it is, then I don't think visual imagery is necessary.

Also, "programmers," is an eery and scary name for the organizers.

Posted by: BerkeleySurvivor at May 6, 2003 7:34 AM

The oppression that counts is the poor secondary school education that has made the letter writer and his/her fellow programmers unable to reason and unable to spell simple words. And the only thing you can do about that is to start reading serious books seriously. Put away your tunnel toys and get the best education for yourself in college that you possibly can. That's the kindest thing you can do for yourself. As for your fellow students - leave them alone. Let them similarly spend their precious time in college working on their tunnel vision in the only way that counts: serious encounters with ideas.

Posted by: purcell at May 6, 2003 7:51 AM

First, take yourself seriously as a scholar. Read Richard Light's book, Making the Most of College: you have for these few years time to do amazing things. Read seriously, and from primary texts as much as possible, not from theory-mapping interpretations.

Posted by: Jack at May 6, 2003 10:14 AM

I don't believe people can truly understand "oppression" until they've been through it themselves, and even then some people will try very hard to reject their experiences. That seems to be human nature, that while we can intellectually appreciate something we can't really understand what it means unless it happens to us. It's especially a problem if we're spoon-fed an entire chain of reasoning.

I also don't believe that straightforward methods such as telling people "oppression is bad" or using "shocking images" will help. In fact, such tactics will often have the reverse effect, resulting in such effects as "holocaust denial" or more simply "nah, things were never really that bad".

A more effective way to get people to believe something is to take the opposite belief to its absurd extreme. An exhibit absurdly glorifying Nazi Germany's behavior towards Jews, slavery in the South, etc. would result in far more sincere conversions, because people will internally argue against such things and reach their own conclusions. At the very least it'll get them thinking about the issues, which should be the fundamental goal.

Posted by: 42nd SSD at May 6, 2003 11:00 AM

This may be a bit too radical a method by which students could discover the same books "we" did: Perhaps professors could assign them? Nah...

Posted by: Erica at May 6, 2003 12:14 PM

Your targetted students might find it a turn-off if you make it clear that you regard them as ignorant of things outside surburbia. They may wonder where you got your special knowledge. The apathy you see in students who come through your tunnel may be a defense against your missionary fervor more than their actual attitude about oppression.

Posted by: Laura at May 6, 2003 12:29 PM

Let's list some of the major fallacies contained here.

1. The "programmer" confuses the role of the university with the role of the therapy group. In universities we try to educate people, not to raise their consciousness. The lack of an education revealed by the writer goes far past grammar and language--there is a fatal confusion of categories here.

2. Mind control is mind control, regardless of how noble the motives are. Why not simply subject the students to electric shocks until they abjure their old ways? Or the school could rehabilitate students with negative thoughts by incarcerating them and making them serve four years sentences at the school's forced labor camp--this would also reduce costs and enable the school to spend more money on larger tunnels.

3. The letter writer's most serious delusion is the idea that since Wisconsin is, well, Wisconsin, stern measures are called for so that the yokels will emerge with the right political orientation. The problem is that the advances in tolerance that the writer prizes above all else did not come from sensitivity training or even an exposure to "diversity." I didn't have to go through a tunnel of droodle to come to the belief that it was wrong to beat homosexual males to death, own slaves, and so forth.

4. A more serious delusion is the idea that education--some sort of education--automatically leads to a certain mind set. If only Hitler had seen the French and the English firsthand, if only he had experienced the richness of Jewish culture . . . . Yeah right.

Posted by: jdrax at May 6, 2003 12:30 PM

"Programmers??" What else needs to be said about this matter?

Unbelievable ignorance and hubris.

Posted by: Katya at May 6, 2003 12:35 PM

It seems more than a little condescending of you to suggest that these kids don't know that there is life outside the suburbs. Even so, I don't see how supposed ignorance of this is "dangerous". I have no idea what a "diversity oriented" book is; perhaps a reading list is on offer. In any case, I find it hard to believe they are not exposed to the same concepts during K-12. The apathetic reaction you describe may have more to do with the sanctimonious, preachy, and absurdly contrived nature of the whole experience -- it must be very hard to take seriously -- than with what you wish to achieve (whatever that is). Based on their own observations, they probably also don't buy what seems to be the overarching theme: that "oppression" is the dominant factor in the lives of non-whites around them (some might even see this as ideologically offensive). At least you are honest enough to express your own doubts, and I believe you are well-meaning. My advice: Just drop the whole thing. I came from the same sort of background you describe, and no one needed to tell me that others lead very different lives. Right now I'm still not sure what beating me over the head (literally) with this reality is supposed to accomplish, or what -- exactly -- I'm supposed to do about it.

Posted by: EH at May 6, 2003 12:56 PM

For heaven's sake, lay off the grammar and spelling criticism. This person is asking for the opinion of Critical Mass readers. Smug and condescending remarks are most unproductive, in my opinion.

I tend to concur with the substantive comments above. The concept of "programmers" is just creepy. You state that most of these students harbor ignorance because of their narrow background. The same could be said of any number of people that grew up outside of "Suburbia." These people are paying good money to get the education which they choose. It is not up to the University to choose an individual's educational goals (except for the core curriculum). Stop trying to teach the "right" way to think about life. The University should not be a reeducation camp oriented toward saving those who think the wrong way.

Posted by: md at May 6, 2003 1:33 PM

I think that you should seriously rethink your opinion of the people you serve. Since I was born in the conservative, Christian small town midwest, I think that I can speak with some authority.

The condescension that you express toward your students is quite annoying. I'd be willing to bet you don't really know anything about them. My church life took me far beyond my community by the time I was in my teens. Playing on athletic teams resulted in trips to every town and city of any size in the state of Illinois. And, your students are not about to tell you about their sexual lives, particularly their walks to the other side. You'll be surprised to hear that what is often called gang activity is just a group of white boys taking a trip to a black town and vice versa.

So, my suggestion is to quit entirely your efforts to fix these kids. Leave them alone. Change your attitude and try learning from them for a change.

Posted by: Stephen at May 6, 2003 2:03 PM

"Programmers" (relating to those trying to teach people) is as appropriate a word for a democratic society as ideology.

Repeat the following many times:

Ideas, not ideology.
Student programs, not student programmers.

Brought to you by the Sensible Party (TM).

Posted by: Scipio at May 6, 2003 2:10 PM

I was going to write a detailed post but I believe that previous posters have done a nice job of laying out the key issues. But I do think that one of the points could use a little more stress. The "Programmer" really needs to take a step back and consider his/her own ignorance. This (typically) leftist contempt for the middle class or the suburbs is incredibly silly when its just students and very dangerous and offensive when it become institutionalized.

I teach at a major research university and I see this type of student all the time. Very little understanding of history (everything seen through today's standards) and economics (no understanding of how markets work and why everyone can't have everything) but they have read a little Chomsky and are ready to pronounce judgment on their "ignorant" peers and parents.

I think the programmer should think about how he/she would feel if they were forced to spead a weekend being preached to by evangelical christians as a requirement for getting a degree. The tunnel of oppression is the same sort of thing - dogmatic beliefs being inflicted on the ignorant suburban savages.

Posted by: M at May 6, 2003 2:27 PM

This is a serious response to what I believe is a heartfelt request.

One of the first factors that needs to be looked at is how is this tunnel presented to the participants? Is it mandatory to attend this tunnel, or is it a voluntary event at a diversity fair of some sort? That in it may dictate how this event is perceived. If you ever try to force your opinion on someone else, you are going to encounter defensiveness and denial more often than not.

The second issue pertains to how well do you know your audience? You have stated that they are from upper-middle class society, but does that make them sheltered to oppression or the hardship that others face? To assume that someone has a set viewpoint due to their background has just made you into what you are accusing them of.

A problem arises in the fact that I do not personally know the actual attitude of the students at that campus. So any suggestions for improvement on this diversity training may not be effective. To really help both sides, I would think that setting up an opportunity to have people volunteer at shelters, or any other appropriate site, might be the best way to get someone new to realize what happens outside of their environment.

Good luck with your efforts.

Posted by: Nyx at May 6, 2003 2:30 PM

md - I think you're right that we should couch our remarks to this student as sensitively as possible. But you're wrong that we should "lay off" even rather challenging remarks about grammar, spelling, and expression. The student should understand how ridiculous he looks when, with a a very basic ability to understand things and to communicate, he and his cohorts take it upon themselves to indoctrinate people in the most profound and complicated moral matters. It is not we on this list who are smug and condescending - it is young Americans, stuffed with self-esteem and devoid of knowledge, who think, at the age of eighteen, that they can be moral and intellectual arbiters.

As this particular student snakes his way through the tunnel of oppression that is our honest response to his misdirected energies, I know (because his comment indicates that he has plenty of integrity and thoughtfulness) he will also begin working his way free of the barriers that exist between him and clear thinking.

Posted by: purcell at May 6, 2003 3:24 PM

I think the only thing I can add to the above comments is about the style of the Tunnels. I work in meida, and I've seen a number of these Tunnels (along with Christain Tours of Hell, popular around Halloween). Face it--these things look home-made and tacky. The production value is nil.

If you want to impress your audience with the horrors of the Holocaust--rent Schindler's List. Or The Killing Fields, to show them Cambodia. These are big budget, carefully crafted recreations of historical events--unlike your cheap little tunnel.

There are dozens of films, in many languages and styles, that can show your classmates a view of the world that they haven't directly experiernced. YOu could have a film festival and invite the filmmaker, the writer, and even people who've lived through such events. That would have more impact than wandering thru some little tunnel you've dreamed up and built in the basement.

I think that "programming" these things is more of an exercise in resume building than anything else.

Posted by: Kate at May 6, 2003 3:32 PM

"white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society"

That would be the people who've fought WWI and WWII and abolished slavery, promoted free public education, universal sufferage and the Bill of Rights.

YOu don't need a Tunnel of Opression, you need a Tunnel of Gratitude.

Posted by: Rachel COhen at May 6, 2003 3:35 PM

My reaction? It's a paternalistic, insulting explanation. I grew up white, Christian, and suburban, and to suggest that I had no idea that life was different elsewhere is totally preposterous. It suggests I had never been anywhere but my home or my school, and that I had never watched television, read a book, or listened to the radio. It is also logically inconsistent with the charge that suburbanites have an unfair leg up on education, a huge part of which is learning about other places. Incidentally, this particular white Christian suburbanite had no easy ride in life, and somebody ought in the interest of fairness devote equal time to breaking minority stereotypes about how monolithic and uniformly idyllic life really is for other people. Sorry, but real understanding is a two-way street.

I'm also unconvinced that walking through the Tunnel will actually give someone any kind of real glimpse into life in someone else's shoes. It is , however, likely to make them wonder why their univeristy president has lodged a formal grievance with the state government over budget cuts in higher education, when completely superfluous, sermonizing theatrics like this are devouring time and money that could be invested in the classroom, and are furthermore being used as grist for another tuition hike.

It seems like your post basically admits that the Tunnel doesn't work. It also sounds like instead of searching for new methods, you're paying people to apologize and advocate for the ones that you know don't work, and to blame that failure on the stubborn ignorance of your students. You may want to consider that your methods aren't working, not because of some flaw in the psyche or social conditioning of the students, but because rather of a fundamental error in your chosen method of communication--which, really, amounts to shouting at the students, since it is assumed that they're not supposed to actually talk to or engage the participants in the Tunnel itself. It is by pathologizing students in response to their unreceptive disposition that you in the diversity industry earn the reputation for being totalitarian, moralizing snobs. If what you're doing isn't working, then change what you're doing rather than blaming the students' "Whiteness" or assumed home environment, which only makes you look Orwellian and presumptuous.

Posted by: Sage at May 6, 2003 4:36 PM


A Tunnel of Gratitude? Not to be too precise, but I don't think affluent white Christians have a monopoly on military service or activism.

I can't help but laugh at the list of things that you claim white, heterosexual, upper-middle class Christians accomplished on their own (abolishing slavery, universal suffrage, the Bill of Rights, winning WWI and WWII).

And maybe I'm incorrect, but weren't these all victories over, well, other white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, upper-middle class groups? Slavery, check. Suffrage, check. The Bill of Rights, check. WWI and WWII, check.

I'm sure no poor people, no minorities, no atheists who ever did anything for the United States. Spineless wimps.

The attitude you displayed is the exact reason why "programmers" believe they must resort to misguided and illiberal tactics such as tunnels of oppression to expand people's vision.

Or maybe I'm the crazy one. Maybe, Rachel, I owe you a debt, a debt of gratitude for reminding me that if wasn't for white, hetero, rich Christians, we would still be a backwards colony. Thank you so much masta.

Posted by: Dakota Loomis at May 6, 2003 4:41 PM

Dear Programmer: Here are my comments.

I will begin on the positive side.

You wrote to Erin with a serious question. Having obviously read this blog you were familiar with the ideological slant of most of the posters. The willingness to engage in dialogue with a group that is not predisposed to agree with you is commendable and evidences more courage on your part than most. (Be mindful though of Orwell’s aside that “one cannot judge the value of an opinion simply by the amount of courage that is required in holding it.”)

You also acknowledge frankly that your tunnel might very well represent an unintelligent and mindless approach to the achievement of your goals. Again, this indicates a certain amount of self-critical awareness often lacking in true believers of any political stripe.

In that same spirit of promoting more critical self-examination of the tunnel project I ask you the following:

You state that “most of the students that attend the University” come from white, suburban backgrounds. Does that include the programmers? Are you from this same background and, if so, did you manage to increase your level of the ‘outside’ world without benefit of a tunnel? My point here is that the prospect of a 20 year old white middle class student inculcating a similarly situated 18 year old might strike those 18 year olds as being a bit condescending and futile. Do you think a tunnel of oppression created for the most part by non-oppressed people can ever be perceived as anything but mindless (as you yourself suggest) to any student with any capacity for critical thought?

You assert that the Tunnel is aimed at students that do not realize that life is different from their suburbs? Heck, all they have to do is watch the WB, UPN, MTV or Fox (probably the staple of 17 year old t.v. viewing in any event) to realize that. I do not mean this to be facile. I simply point this out to rebut the presumption that middle class students in 2003 are oblivious to the world beyond their small towns. In other words, you might be trying to teach them something they already know and resent the implication that they are mindless oppressors simply by virtue of their status as middle class white youths. Is it any wonder that they appear uninspired and apathetic?

I would suggest that the use of the word programmers is an immediate turn off to many. It carries with it the implication that you are trying to teach students what to think instead of how. Although changing the name won’t change your substance - window dressing does count sometimes.

Lastly, as far as being proactive is concerned, I ask you this. As you walk around your campus, particularly in dining areas, common rooms, and lounges, do you see evidence of self-segregation? The 1960s and 1970s were years of desegregation and it strikes me that the 90s witnessed the resegregation of campus life. Do white frat boys sit by themselves. How about blacks, Asians, women, Latinos, etc.? If you really want to promote cross-cultural awareness - why not try starting in the cafeteria?

Posted by: stolypin at May 6, 2003 5:05 PM


I understand your point and agree to an extent. Perhaps I should have said that, in my experience, when someone tries to express their opinion to me about something I've written or said, I will generally tune him out if he begins with a criticism of my spelling or grammar. It was less a comment about the right or wrong of the matter, and rather more a comment about the effect on the listener. As you pointed out, the condescension inherent in the presentation of the Tunnel of Oppression certainly turned you off.

Posted by: md at May 6, 2003 5:05 PM

To the "tunnel coordinator"--I appreciate your willingness to enter this forum (which is basically unfriendly to things like "tunnels of oppression") to seek dialogue and ideas. However, I think there are some serious flaws in your conceptual model of education. You say:

"..life in Eau Claire consists of a mostly white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society. Most of the students that attend the University come from backgrounds that follow this same societal structure/pattern..
The Tunnel is aimed at the students that don't realize that life elsewhere is any different from the Suburbia that they grew up in."

Many professors seem to share this view..students come from an "American Gothic" environment in which Dad is a rock-ribbed Republican and member of the Rotary, while Mom is a full-time housewife and a stalwart in the Methodist Church.

In actuality, Dad may well be a school principal and Mom a lawyer. They attend a new-age church featuring folk singing and sermons about social justice. Our student has throughout his upbringing never been seriously exposed to any political or philosophical viewpoints other than "progressivism."

And professors such as yourself think that they are opening the student's mind...and showing great courage..by exposing them to more of the same ideas to which they have been exposed throughout their lifetimes.

Now what might *really* be mind-opening and even a bit courageous would be to have them read Burke and Chesterton...

Posted by: David Foster at May 6, 2003 5:35 PM

I totally agree with Kate's posting on May 6. These Tunnels of oppression are just leftist, whiny ideological propoganda machines. They have no intellectual value at all and only provoke visceral reactions rather than any kind of well developed thought. I've seen several of these and they are useless and insulting.

Also, they ALWAYS have an anti-white male, Christian, middle class, surburban, heterosexual agenda. The attitude is always "Well, you're (see aforementioned category) you can't possibly understand us and you're so obviously racist! Weep, weep!". Well, who's the bigot now? If you want to know real racism see what is being published in so-called academic and student affairs journals about white christians, especially those in Catholic schools. It assumes that we're all closed-minded, red-neck morons who don't even know that black people exist. It's about time people realize the contributions that dead white men have made the society that gives them the right to spit on it. Let's see them try that in pre-war Iraq, Cuba, China, any country in Africa, or the rest of the non-western countries. Just be sure to leave a DNA sample so we can identify the body.

Posted by: Mark at May 6, 2003 5:47 PM

"I owe you a debt, a debt of gratitude for reminding me that if wasn't for white, hetero, rich Christians, we would still be a backwards colony. Thank you so much masta."

Nothing in Rachel's post suggests that she thinks that only white, hetero Christians contributed to the social struggles enumerated. But, I can tell you as a fact that a lot of white, hetero Christians (including this one) did. So did my father.

The snide, hectoring tone has become a favorite weapon. And, yes, it is true that something truly significant and particular was contributed to the development of this country by those said white, hetero Christians -- the Anglo/American concepts of self-government and a Bill of Rights to name a couple.

Having lived in all sorts of communities, I'll tell you something that I find in the white, hetero Christian community that I seldom find elsewhere -- a willingness to consider that their group might be wrong and a willingness to correct those wrongs. In almost every other group I've encountered, circling the wagons, suppressing any internal discussion about responsibility and accountability and censuring anybody who dares to criticize is more common. It is my opinion that white, hetero men have gone too far in the direction of being understanding and fair, and that it's time to fight back in self-interest with the same ferocity of any other group.

About the only thing years of playing the apologetic white man taught me is that it's probably a mistake to apologize for anything. No other group does. Apologizing is taken for weakness, and only begs for further accusations and demands for revenge. I refuse to play the guilty white man and I fight for what is mine. I'd suggest that others do the same.

Posted by: Stephen at May 6, 2003 5:50 PM

Mark hits the nail on the head. The point of the Tunnels is to provoke a negative emotional response, not to inspire real contemplation. The hope is that students will come to feel sick over the plight of others, and carry that emotive predjudice into their studies. Anthony Burgess' estate should sue for copyright infringement.

Posted by: Sage at May 6, 2003 6:01 PM

You who pride yourselves on these oh-so-dramatic tunnels of oppression, tell me why one reading of the Gulag Archipelago isn't a better way to demonstrate what oppression really means. And why doesn't your Tunnel include dramatic re-enactions of Ukraine 1930, or Cambodia 1972, or several other occasions where progressive collectivists demonstrated their tender concerns for humanity?

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive` at May 6, 2003 7:05 PM


If you agree that it is "very unintelligent" and "mindless method" of educating the general student population, why do you do it? Why do you support it?

How is one "Judeo-Christian"? You're Jewish or Christian (or some other religion) not both.

Why are you so intolerant as to ignore the rich cultural diversity that white heterosexual Christians from the suburbs can bring to such a flourishing campus as Eau Claire? (I'm a UW-Madison alumnus who left the "diversity" seminar after about 1 minute to go to the Union and enjoy the gorgeous late summer day--a far more productive use of my time. I met a very pretty girl there.).

After all, the sons and daughters of dairy farmers might appreciate the suburban viewpoint on farm subsidies in an agricultural economics class.

Trying to convince these students that life "elsewhere" is different from where they grew up is pretty pointless in Eau Claire, don't you think? What do you do, take them on field trips to Minneapolis?

As to opening a can of beer more often than a book....Do you really think your "Tunnel" changes this behavior? Your first paragraph indicates you don't. So why bother?

Ok, you're looking for suggestions.

First, stop trying to convince them they're the root of all evil. Stop telling them that they're ignorant. Stop saying that the suburbs are festering swamps of ignorance. Anything left in your program?

How about pointing out relevant "diverse" history classes? Anthropology? Sociology? Maybe a little talk by your most entertaining Sociology professor (advertising his class and department) that doesn't demonize anyone--just points out the history of African drumming and it's relation to Jazz or something. Or the economics of dairy farms in Kenya. Or Nicaragua.

I'll guarantee you something fun like that will create a lot more interest in "diverse" cultures than you hectoring them about their background (over which they have no control).


Posted by: David at May 6, 2003 7:41 PM

Prof. O'Connor's "disturbingly illiterate" comment is, I must say, disturbingly and hypocritically snide, considering that she rails against posters here for "ad hominem" attacks and that her own instincts concerning mechanics and usage are not flawless.

And for those of you using your own ad hominem attacks against the letter-writer, consider that "irradiate" could very well have been the word meant. I think "irradiation of ignorance" is a fine metaphor for education.

On to the Tunnel of Love: using positive reinforcement may help spread the message more effectively. Rather concentrating on the horrors of oppression, decorate the tunnel with images of the achievements of progressivism: the 40-hour (and less, in more advanced countries) work-week, universal suffrage, women's reproductive rights, welfare, social security, universal health care (all sufficiently rich civilized countries but here), and good public education, for starters.

An opposing Tunnel of Hate would, no matter how small the sample, stretch to unwiedly lengths, I'm afraid.

Rachel Cohen--thanks for the post, one of the reasons I'm a fan. Our Indian and Chinese audiences would be especially pleased by it, I suspect.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 6, 2003 7:58 PM

What in the world is this progressivism that is responsible for all these great works? It doesn't exist. It's an imagined philosophy.

Just what Infect means is anybody's guess. Currently, "progressivism" is a code word for those who want to disguise their communist/ socialist tendencies.

For instance, the 40 hour week wasn't invented by "progressivism," it was invented by Henry Ford, as an incentive to keep workers. The liberation of women owes a lot to white men who invented washers and dryers, not to mention birth control pills. Ideology had just about nothing to do with the social advancements Infect cites.

Here's a good substitute for the word: backwardism. The good Infect, who knows that all Americans are dumb rubes, is an advocate of the most backward ideology of the 20th century, the discarded, disgraced ideology of the socialist.

Hard for you to accept, Infect, but it was good old-fashioned capitalist Americans who are responsible for the social advancements you cite. That laundry list is a great advertisement for the beneficient effects of free markets, free speech and good old American engineering know-how. We American capitalists and inventors are responsible for all these great advancements.

Amazing what stupid rubes can do when they put their minds to it.

Posted by: Stephen at May 6, 2003 8:16 PM


I suspect you already know this but, on the off-chance that there may be some confusion here, the disturbingly illiterate remark was not directed at the current letter writer but from an earlier writer. I respectfully suggest you go back to that letter (March Archives) and read it. If you come back and assert that the referenced letter is not disturbing to you or is relevant solely to mechanics and usage. . . so be it.

[Apart from tht I will leave the little spat between you and Erin over ad hominmen usage between the two of you. You neither one need me for support.]

Alas for poor Rachel Cohen (not to be confused with the martyred Rachel Corrie, who clearly took her tunnel training very seriously) - she has become a diversionary lighting rod. I guess it is convenient to accuse her of being ethnocentrically challenged. It facilitates throwing around a few wise cracks (not bad as far as they went - although I do wonder why all those people in Bombay and Calcutta would be offedned by her remarks) rather than responding substantively.

You might perhaps think or assert that there is nothing of substance to respond to in the 25 previous posts. That wouldn't be a novel assertion but it would be a shame for the letter writer to miss out on your substantive input. (By the way if your Tunnel of Love idea was serious - I appologise - on all levels.

Posted by: stolypin at May 6, 2003 8:35 PM

Stoly--I'm not a very "pc" person, whatever in the hell that means, but your remark about Rachel Corrie is obscene.

The "Tunnel of Love" comment was a serious suggestion.

Stephen, I'd suggest looking into the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

And finally, Rachel Cohen's remark suggests that only whites fought the good fight in previous century's world wars, which comes as a great surprise to many peoples across the globe, but perhaps most especially to the Indians and Chinese. "A million and a half Indians died of starvation for the sake of a white man's quarrel in North Africa" (A.J.P. Taylor English History: 1914-1945. Oxford: 1965, p. 563).

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 6, 2003 8:58 PM

You know, this sort of reminds of that Koran thing in NC. What would the freshman do with a bit of honest advertising--that this diversity event is in no way mandatory?

Like I said, I showed up for mine, was promptly turned off by it, and then the magic light went off in my head--"What in hell are they going to do to me if I just leave?"

Answer: Nothing.

It was a beautiful realization to match the lovely day.

Posted by: David at May 6, 2003 9:16 PM

The extension of the 8 hour day to all workers was by federal statute. My statement stands. The inventor of the 8 hour day was none other than Henry Ford. Near the turn of the century he offered workers $5 a day with part of the pay deferred as a bonus as a reward for staying for a year. He also instituted the 8 hour day.

What is it about the success of America that so moves this man to scolding and hatred? And how did he become the guardian of Native Americans and Chinese? Did they elect you? You've deliberately and willfully distorted Rachel's post.

Let's see, 20 million murdered by the Stalinists, 60 million murdered by the Maoists, 3 million murdered by the Khmer Rouge. The murderers were all progressives. And these people were not killed in warfare, they were simply exterminated.

What accounts for the reflexive hatred of Americans that so excites Infect? The Indian wars were a tragedy, no doubt. I worked at the University of Illinois library while Dee Brown was employed there and he was writing Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The white men who fought the Indian wars were in just the same quandary as my great-grandfathers. They were fleeing starvation (literally) and serfdom. America offered them a shot at independence and self-reliance. What happened was not an evil conspiracy but the conflict between two tragically opposed groups. And Infect wouldn't know it, but intermarriage between these two groups was common.

One can only conclude that Infect suffers from a massive sense of guilt. What are you guilty of? From my vantage point, it appears that your failure to acknowledge the goodness and wonder of the great American experiment may be the cause. In other words, the source of your guilt is this infantile carping against the U.S. That is truly something to be very guilty about.

The solution is to stop. The next time you encounter any idea and feel compelled to state that American is a nation of thieves and murderers, take a deep breath and remind yourself that those ideas are breathtakingly stupid and offensive. Then, you won't have to feel guilty for fouling yourself.

Posted by: Stephen at May 6, 2003 9:21 PM


The Rachel Corrie comment was obscene and was meant to be so. It was meant to be shocking and hurtful and in fact is exactly the type (if not ideologically appropriate) of hurtful comment that might be found in a tunnel of hate or tunnel of oppression.

Yes, she was martyred, some would say killed, and her death is both untimely and tragic. But look at the college atmosphere and the socialization process that helped her evolve into the person she became. Was she an 'obedient girl' as that term has been used by you in an earlier thread? No - or if she was - her college helped her grow out of it.

Did she 'question authority"? Yes and if she didn't before she arrived at coillege - her college helped her grow out of it.. Did she buy into the world view enunciated by her campus programmers? I don't know.

So - yes, the Rachel Corrie crack was obscene, and it very well may have hit you in the manner intended by programmers on colege campuses across the country. Did it have the effect I intended? I doubt it - these shock and awe programs don't really work - do they?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the potential end-results of college programs that focus on teaching our children what to think instead of how to think are as obscene as my remark about Rachel Corrie. Time will tell.

As to Rachel Cohen's

Posted by: stolypin at May 6, 2003 9:33 PM

For all the imperfections of the "white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society," (WHJCSU) Rachel is right to point out that the philosophical foundation for modern human rights owes its invention to that society. And yes, as it has been pointed out, both sides in the struggle for these rights have mostly been from that same society. But while slavery, racism, sexism and every other sin aren't unique to the WHJCSU society, the triumph over these institutions remains its unique achievement. Its internal struggle, in fact, merely underscores the modernity and radicalism of its conscience, unparalleled in any other society which lacked the internal struggle to mount an intellectual challenge to these oppressive institutions within the same time period.

For better or for worse, the adventurousness and social experimentation that laid the groundwork for the invention of human rights were, almost exclusively, contributions of the WHJCSU society. Its philosophy of revolt is simply unmatched in clarity, force, organization, and urgency. And it is also original in the scale of its ambition. Long after the infrastractures for oppressions were heavily undermined in the West, they remained unchallenged elsewhere, even to this day. And where human rights have succeeded, they were inspired by the WHJCSU society. In fact, my own non-WHJCSU country's revolutions have drawn inspiration from Western philosophy on liberalism and human rights - a philosophy simply not indigenous to our political and cultural history.

This is not to say that the WHJCSU society is perfect. The point is the programmers have built an entire program based on the assumption that ignorance is a distinctive quality of the WHJCSU society, and geared towards curing their ignorance. If the program isn't widely-accepted, it's because not only is its premise unacceptable: it's also a very race-specific reward/punishment program built on top of crimes that may not have been directly endured or committed by its participants.

Posted by: pok at May 6, 2003 9:50 PM

Stoly--I didn't have an emotional reaction to your remark; I was just pointing out that it was obscene. I do not understand how the Tunnel of Love would be comparably obscene. Could you explain further?

Stephen--let's say that you're correct about Ford and the origin of the 40-hour work-week: if this was so good for business and labor, why did it take a bitterly disputed federal law to extend the same benefit to all workers decades later?

Also, "I'm proud to be a socialist/and at least I know I'm not free/And I won't forget the philosophers/Who pointed this out to me/And I'll gladly stand up/And march in a rally still today/'Cause there ain't no doubt I hate this land/the God-chidden U.S.A." Was thinking about "capitalist" as the penultimate word; what do you think?

I'll save for another post my theory about Churchill's plan to starve the Navajo, foiled by Roosevelt because of some cryptographic concerns.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 6, 2003 9:56 PM

Infect, you've admitted to absolute ignorance.

I agree. You are barely sentient. Missed the 20th century in toto.

The question is, why are you so proud of it?

Posted by: Stephen at May 6, 2003 10:01 PM

I_P_O, your tunnel of love would not be obscene in any way. I was referring to Tunnels of Hate and/or Opression.

I did not respond seriously to your Tunnel of Love statement because I thought you were being sarcastic. (You do have a certain track record re. sarcasm - but I should not have presumed same in this instance - my mistake.)

Tunnel of Love does sound a bit 60-ish. If I had the naming rights - perhaps a Tunnel of Progress. To the extent that presentation is everything - lip service could be paid to progress already made and progress still to be made (the proverbial light at the end of the Tunnel). Certainly, the former would facilitate a non-defensive discussion of the latter and might just be more inclusive (assuming that is a shared goal).

Posted by: stolypin at May 6, 2003 10:11 PM

what was so obscene about the Corrie crack?

She did take her "tunnel" training seriously. She hated America and Israel with a passion as evidenced by the photographs of her burning the flags of both countries.

She was killed by her own stupidity. I do not mourn her.

Posted by: David at May 6, 2003 10:25 PM

Stephen--I have failed several Turing tests recently, so you might be right.

Stoly--what kind of Tunnel is more likely to draw a college student: Love or Oppression? You could ask the local bands to cover the relevant song for promo-value and have it softly waft its tune across campus on soft spring days. Unlike Dominus Blicero, today's college students prefer Life over Death.

Pok--I think Jared Diamond has a good explanation of why certain types of political organizations originally appeared in the West; it has little to do with racial consciousness but much to do with geography.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 6, 2003 10:29 PM

(Please note that for purposes of this response I am depending on Erin's earlier post regarding the content of Oppression Tunnels)

There have been a lot of insightful comments put up in response to your request for assistance. Something that I think hasn't been addressed quite as directly as it needs to be is the purpose of the Tunnels of Oppression.

"The goal of the Tunnel is to inspire the opening of history and diversity oriented books when students realize that they don't know what they don't know. It is intended to be an eye-opener, not a book-closer."

I think this is a little too vague and general to serve as a "mission statement" for your tunnels. It's not really what you're after. What you're after is to force those who may not realize (thanks to an insular upbringing) that there are serious oppresive forces at work in the world to acknowledge that not everyone is going to have the privilege of living in the suburban bubble... and that it is ignorant and perhaps irresponsible to continue life as if the world was a sterile and safe grouping of isolated, predominantly WASPy tract homes.

The details are everything, really. It's not enough to say that you're fighting against Ignorance. That's too big a battle. You're fighting against a particular type of ignorance, and you're trying to raise a very particular type of awareness. You can't evaluate your methods with any clarity until you know exactly what you're trying to do.

That said, I think the Tunnels probably don't accomplish your goals as efficiently as you might want them to.

In the first place, I suspect that the majority of the "mostly white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society" that you describe aren't actually as ignorant as you think they are. It's quite possible that they are simply more self-absorbed than you'd feel comfortable admitting. Just because I know that women are ritually mutilated in Africa doesn't mean I really *care*. It is, to a great extent, not my problem.

In the second place, there's nothing in the Tunnels to provide an argument as to why the things portrayed within are bad. Why is it such a bad thing that women starve themselves to look good? Do they not have the freedom to do so? May they not make themselves as fat as they'd like?

Or with racism, or intolerance towards homosexuals.... who is to say that gays are not a menace to the nation's integrity, deserving of scorn and derision? Why shouldn't blacks and Latinos be driven from their homes? Why is oppression wrong?

The Tunnels don't provide an answer. They provide a caricature of the situation, ill-defined and non-specific. The details are everything.

What specifically is it about a KKK member screaming racial epithets that is oppressive? Is it the language? The uniform? Does location and time context do anything to change the oppressiveness of the conduct?

Or is it simply the existence of certain feelings that themselves are oppressive? Again, the Tunnels do not have an answer to these questions, because they are not designed to engage the problems, but merely to highlight the effects.

The problem is that there's a lot of signal noise. Sure, there's something tragic about girls throwing up everything they eat. But there are a lot of things that come across in a presentation like the Tunnels that aren't actually indicative of oppression, a number of arguments that aren't addressed. Is anorexia the problem? Is it advertising? Something genetic? Or for racism, is it attitudes, conduct, beliefs? Where lies the problem? Without specific definitions of the problem, a solution can never be found.

So, in response to your request for ideas on how to do something that is eye-opening and inspiring, I would suggest that you dispense with these goals entirely. Your object shouldn't be to impress and awe... to batter through the insensitivity and apathy of the unenlightened through spectacle.

It won't *feel* as rewarding to you, and it won't give your ego as big a boost as having a grand demonstration to save the populace from itself, but you might want to consider sitting down in the campus cafe with people and discussing what the problems facing society are, and what sorts of change are needed to solve them. I think you'll find that this won't cheapen your message the way the Tunnels do.

I think that you'll find these discussions infinitely more rewarding -- and that you'll also discover that those who participate in the discussions with you will take more away from an hour and a latte than they ever would from the Tunnel. Plus, you're in college. There will never be a finer opportunity in your life to act like a serious student.

It is said, "Ask and ye shall receive." You asked. I have done what I can to offer what little help I may.


Michael E. Lopez, Esq.

Posted by: Michael E. Lopez at May 6, 2003 10:31 PM

I was taken aback by the monolithic sentiment Rachel expressed in her post. I do not appreciate her demand that I genuflect at the altar of Dead White Guys. I can pick the people I celebrate, rather than celebrate an entire group.

And this is what bothers me about Rachel's comments as well as the "programmers" comments. They both are coming from positions where differentiation within the WHJCSU group is impossible. For the programmer this group is the problem, for Rachel this group is the solution. The truth lies some place in between because such a vast diversity exists within this massive group, even in Wisconsin.

I still stand by my former comments, this is just the politer, calmer version.

Posted by: dakota loomis at May 6, 2003 11:16 PM

Dakota Loomis--As I Read Rachel Cohen's original post, she was not launching some Pat Buchannenesque jeremiad against non-whites, but merely acknowledging a rather evident historical fact to refute the Tunnel-of-Opression programmers charge: that for all their faults, white Christian guys have done some damm impressive things under the American flag.

To wit: World War I-II were waged and won largely by Ofay God Fearers who were fond of heterosexual intercourse. Ditto: the cold war. Oh--and let's be clear on the civil war--there was a rationalist secular critique against slavery, but please understand that it did not exactly compel the legions into the breech at Antitiem. That was done by the likes of Uber white guy Abe Lincoln.

Her tone was derisive because the attachment of "original sin" to white male Christian hetero's--and let's be clear, I am one--is absurd and insulting. People like me have pulled off a few cool things over the past several centuries.

I fully acknowledge the manifest contributions of Jews, gays, Blacks and thousands of other people to our wonderful, occasionally troubled American history. Thankd God for it, and them.

No one is forcing you to acknowledge or read or worship or think in any one style, unlike this tunnel of oppression crap. I-We are asking only that you get it right when you argue. the next time you see a white male hetero type, maybe you should think of this.

Posted by: rod boyd at May 6, 2003 11:57 PM

Rod--No one did as much to win WWII as the godless Soviets. I believe even Stephen Ambrose would have copied a passage from a more energetic historian in support of this.

I do appreciate your description of Lincoln as an "Uber white guy," however. My Log Cabin Republican friends appreciate it in a different way, God bless 'em.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 12:04 AM

IPO, even with the most generous understanding of your assertion that political thoughts are functions of geographies more than political consciousness, I am not entirely sure how that changes the ultimate effect - that it was the WHJCSU that ultimately succeeded in confronting slavery, sexism, racism, etc. Whether that success was independent of consciousness and more inspired by oceans and mountains, or whether oceans and mountains inspired the political consciousness which in turn fueled revolt, one thing is obvious from these - neither the geography nor the political consciousness of non-WHJCSU mounted any substantial resistance against injustice that parallels that of WHJCSU's in the same timeframe. The real issue however is how geography fits within the logical framework of the Tunnel of Oppression. I am curious whether the programmers attribute white prejudice to geography or to white consciousness. Not that either one actually makes the Tunnel even remotely valid. At any rate, I still can't find the whole concept of programmers and sensitivity training appealing.

Posted by: pok at May 7, 2003 12:18 AM

I_P_O: You write as though declaring a state officially atheistic and persecuting religious belief guarantee that it no longer exists among the people. The Soviet soldiers who (as you correctly say) did more than any one else to win WWII were mainly Communists by duress, and "godless" ditto. You can't change the inside of a man's head by fiat; the best you can do is forbid him to say what he thinks, and enforce that strictly over a couple generations. Then you may be able to control what his grandchildren think.

It's as well to remember, incidentally, that when WWII started, Hitler and Stalin were on the same side, and the falling-out was not on Stalin's initiative.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak at May 7, 2003 12:23 AM

Michelle--the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was dropped down the memory hole by many apologists for Stalin, but this fact has no bearing on the Soviet Union's eventual defeat of the Germans, nor on the incredible sacrifice it took, which vastly exceeded that of the other Allies's.

The Soviets did engage in religious persecution, but the larger point is that the original poster was exaggerating so-called White American heterochristian influence in the conflict. The alleged paganism of the Nazis is very often equally exaggerated by those who wish to deny their essentially Christian volkish ideology, or apologize for the Catholic Church's abysmal record in opposing them.

Pok--though I didn't explain it, Diamond's argument is considerably more sophisticated than "oceans and mountains." It has to do with continental axes, and how east-west orientation (such as Eurasia) is more suitable to the development of widespread agricultural civilizations because of climatic stability. I believe that economic development causes social change, as a general principle, and the contigent (not genetic) economic development in Western Europe spurred the growth of its social institutions.

I'd also suggest that anti-colonial resistance has shown that whites are not the only people capable of fighting slavery and oppression. No one can say how Africa, India, or China, to take just a few prominent examples, would have developed were they not subject to Western colonialism.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 12:41 AM

Those who would sincerely ask for guidance--whatever their present level of ignorance--should not be abused.

Judging by some of the above responses, Erin's noble mission to defend the integrity of academia is not shared by many of her readers, who would rather nitpick than elucidate.

... Although I do feel a tinge of indignation at the quite telling use of "programmers."

Posted by: J_W_M at May 7, 2003 2:06 AM

It is not just the non-agression pact that has fallen down the memory hole. The German invasion would never have taken place, or would have not come so close to success but for Stalin's complete purge of the Soviet officer corp beginning with Marshal Tukachevsky and wending its way through the ranks. The result, by 1941 the Soviet military was in complete dissaray, was leaderless and incaple of mounting even the slightest resistance to the invasion.

Fully 65-70% of the USSR's extraordinary losses, both military and civilian (and if memory serves my sources would include both Volkognov's Stalin and Bullock's Hitler & Stalin) occurred between the invasion and the conclusion of the battles of Leningrad and Stalingrad. This fact is significant when one considers that the sheer magnitude of those losses is the cornerstone of most arguments asserting the the USSR was the dominant piece of the victory puzzle.

Ironically, Stalin, after recovering from his initial week of total panic in which he huddled in his room waiting to be arrested or shot, was forced to rely on such non-Soviet concepts as Mother Russia and the Holy Russian Church to help motivate the troops. That and the row of troops ordered to shoot any retreating front line soldiers helped stem the tide - which leads me to conclude those poor troops died too young to enjoy Pynchon.

So, yes, it is fair to say that the USSR contributed mightily to the war effort. It would be disingenuous to suggest they won the war. At the same time, it would also be fair to say that it was Stalin himself who created the disastrous scenario that opened the door for Hitler's invasion and required the sacrifice of 20 to 50 million of his citizens - many of them needless - to beat it back.

Posted by: stolypin at May 7, 2003 2:34 AM

IPO, your elaboration on Diamond's argument unfortunately fails to add anything new to the debate. To the contrary, it merely clarifies Rachel's original point - that WHJCSU way of life has been largely responsible for the decline of global tyranny. Indeed, based on your interpretation of Diamond, it seems even him argues that WHJCSU traditions (i.e. economic, religious, political etc) have an enlarging and modernizing effect on WHJCSU consciousness. That these traditions did not exist in non-WHJCSU as a result of their differing geography only reinforces the significance of WHJCSU traditions to the invention of human rights, not undermine its significance. Don't you think?

Of course, it's impossible to determine how Africa, India, or China would have responded to the challenges of slavery and oppression outside the influences of Western colonialism. But you've missed the point. Slavery and oppression in these regions predate Western colonialism. It's possible that these regions would have eventually formulated an intellectual response to slavery and oppression on their own. But that possibility neither undoes the point that Western iniative beat all other possibilities by decades in some regions, at least a century in others, while that possibility is yet to begin still in some others.

For the record, I am a gay Filipino male born in post-colonial Philippines. I was Catholic, then agnostic, then atheist, finally just unsure. I am by no means a part of the WHJCSU society. Moreover, I do not think there is a genetic component to organized opposition to oppression. And as you have rightly pointed out, and as I personally witnessed, non-White cultures have indeed fought for human rights too, but only after the WHJCSU invented the Bill of Rights. Again, the whole point of this is not to say that WHJCSU is genetically predisposed to be morally and intellectually superior to non-WHJCSU, but that it isn't the source of bigotry and hatred as inculcated by the Tunnel of Oppression. If anything, the WHJCSU is the source of the most effective and coherent criticism against bigotry and hatred.

Posted by: pok at May 7, 2003 2:43 AM

"Those who would sincerely ask for guidance--whatever their present level of ignorance--should not be abused."

A fair point. I personally find the "tunnel of oppression" concept offensive and silly, on many different levels. But we have been asked for suggestions by an individual who sounds well-meaning, and I think it's important to take every opportunity for genuine dialogue rather than retreating into our ideological shells at every opportunity.

My time is limited right now, but I'll try to post some thoughts tomorrow.

Posted by: David Foster at May 7, 2003 3:03 AM

Is there any solid scientific basis for believeing that sensitivity training of the "tunnel sort" actually works?

(Solid science - to incorporate such things as a formal hypothesis and an unambiguous end point for having falsified it; a randomized, prospective double blind design; inclusion and exclusion criteria for establishing cohorts; sample size determination; definitions of data categories; proper controls; statistical analysis; etc.)


Posted by: Loren at May 7, 2003 3:48 AM

IPO--I hear you on the Soviets---I couldn't imagine a more Godless bunch of white hetero sexuals, a number of whom harbored secret Deist thoughts, if truth be told. To be fair, there were some non-whites in the Soviet armies as well--almost always cannon fodder. Sad.

To the original questioner:

Your project is your own. You do not need, or I suspect, even particularly care for our input.

Our constitution protects this speech fully. I wish you the best with it. I whole-heartedly despise what you are doing, but you have the right to do it.

The only thing I think I--or any respondent here, for that matter--could impart to you is something I have learned from a career in business and journalism is that any enterprise entered into that does not fully respect the customer (in this case the honky DVD owning, opposite sex ogling Godders at UWEC), is doomed to fail. You assume they are notionally inferior--"ignorant" is a word you use, and it suffuses your description throughout--so this is bound to inform the final design of the tunnel.

I think most of them will think the tunnel is stupid or patronizing because you think they are stupid and need to be taught a lesson. See any red threads here, champ?

If you respected your fellow students, regardless of what background they are from, you would strive to do something that informed them of others in a way that did not demean who they are. They are, as you say, white, middle class and from Wisconsin---they had nothing to do with any of this, being a result of genetics, cultural background or chance.

Good Luck at coping with what is almost certain to be a life of cruel marginalization, busted dreams, lost elections and irrelevancy. Nothing to do with your politics, which appear mainstream hard left, but everything to do with your embrace of exclusionary group think. Us versus them. Them is bigger, smarter and more right than you and those like you. You will lose more than you will win.

Pity though--you seem the bright sort.

Posted by: Rod at May 7, 2003 4:00 AM

Stoly--whatever the reasons for the fact that the Soviets broke the Germans, they still broke them--a miraculous feat when you compare the war-fighting abilities of the two countries. Without forced collectivization and the increase in industrial capacity it brought, the Soviet Union would have been annihilated. This doesn't justify it, mind you, but I don't see how this is arguable.

I don't like counterfactual historical speculation, but I also don't like the Allies's chances with Tsarist Russia.

On the Christian front, remember that a million more Indians starved to death because of British actions in WWII than the British lost in toto. Granted, these were mainly Hindus and Muslims, but it's worth considering. Christians don't have a monopoly on just wars, though they're closer on indefensible ones.

Rod--I would like to bring the Log Cabin Republicans and "Uber" Lincoln to your attention once more.

Pok--as a Filipino, do you find the notion of Americans taking the moral high road to be a bit frightening, even ridiculous, considering their near-destruction of your country? Do you view it as a necessary progression of the World-Spirit?

Loren--two things: 1) your starry-eyed Bacon cum Popperite description of the scientific method bears little resemblance to what people in the "hard" sciences actually do, and 2) it has only a fanciful connection to the social sciences which arguably don't have any theories with explanatory adequacy at all. Chomsky has written extensively about this (a note: if you have a reactionary urge when you hear the name I just mentioned, recall that no one, whatever she thinks of his politics, disputes that he's one of the most important philosophers alive).

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 5:11 AM

Well, I turn my back for a minute....

Last I checked, widows weren't being burned to death nor female infants exposed under British or American law or custom. No one from a foreign land is rushing in to adopt excess American babies. People aren't dying on rafts to escape to the paradise of China.

My original post was to counter the very dull Tunnel view that all the ills of the world were caued by white male, Judeo- Christian oppressors. Of course they've done bad things. But they've also done good, noble things. Women, blacks, Jews, queers, etc. too, under this banner.

Maybe people should just think about the society they live in and be grateful to those who came before. And plan how to make the world better, rather than wasting their time and talents on silly expos of horror.

Posted by: Rachel Cohen at May 7, 2003 5:22 AM

Loren: No, there's no scientific evidence here, nor can I imagine how there could be. But there's a suggestive article in a recent New York Times ("Repress Yourself," by Lauren Slater, NYTimes Magazine, February 23, 2003) citing a couple of influential recent studies that point to the destructive effects of expressivity-based psychotherapy and to the larger non-utility of similar modes of guided dramatic attitude adjustment like programmed tunnels. Nothing like empirical science, I think, will ever be possible in the mushy realm of psychology, but there's no need for empirical proof here. Intuitively it's clear from the contempt and the flight of students from these absurdities, as well as from the nature of the many comments on this list and elsewhere, that people resent primitive fiddling with their heads and will reliably ridicule and resist it.

Posted by: purcell at May 7, 2003 5:34 AM

I'd avoid using this blog as a representative cross section of college freshmen.

I'm glad to see others beyond white Christians included in the group of people who have accomplished good. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that your original post didn't mean to exclude these groups, but instead was merely attempting to highlight the group most often attacked by tunnelers. Still, around here one often gets the impression that the most unappreciated, oppressed group is rich white Christian males, which I find tiring and incorrect. Lets say a combination of my touchiness and your sloppiness led me to the incomplete conclusion that you only thought this aforementioned group worthy of praise.

Finally, as for a suggestion on the tunnels of oppression or tolerance or propaganda: GET RID OF THEM.

I've always found discussion and debate a much healthier way to begin understanding other people opposed to poorly designed tunnels filled with clichÈs and half-truths. While I also dislike freshmen assigned reading and discussions, maybe the best way to increase learning opportunities would be to offer students a wider variety of speakers and viewpoints especially forums in which people with starkly contrasting views are both present.

Second, I'd demand that all students be required to fulfill a certain number of community service hours to graduate. Get out of the classroom and into the community where people and opinions aren't so homogenous. I don't care where you volunteer (Parks and Rec to Halfway Houses) just so long as a variety of opportunities exist. Moving people out of their bubbles (or tunnels) is a simple way to begin actual critical thinking.

Posted by: Dakota Loomis at May 7, 2003 6:58 AM

Firstly, Iíd like to say that any such attempt at indoctrination should not be compulsory in any way. Political ideologies should be placed beside religion as something that students should not be forcibly indoctrinated into, no matter that their proponents think that *their* particular message is so valuable that it should be force-fed to people for their own good.

The essence of the problem with the tunnel (and similar promotions of ìdiversityî) is this: it does not oppose oppression, discrimination, racism, sexism, etc in an across-the-board fashion; rather, its approach is biased itself, where one groupís faults are exaggerated/focused on almost exclusively (typically white males) and their achievements denied or minimized--while other groups' (typically non-whites/women) achievements are highlighted and their wrongdoings denied or rationalized away.

The majority of students are not so ìignorantî as to not see this bias; it will make many of them resentful, even angry--and will ultimately cause some of them to turn off to the message entirely--including any valid points you are trying to make.

A fairer approach that condemns oppression, discrimination, etc on an abstract basis and includes some examples, both positive and negative, from a variety of cultures/groups would yield better results, as the students would not feel they are being attacked personally and so become defensive/reject the message. This does not mean that the faults and historical wrongdoings of the studentsí demographic shouldnít be analyzed--just that itís whatís wrong with discrimination, bigotry, etc as concepts (no matter who holds these views or who is the target of them) that should be the focus--not just one groupís history of discrimination and bigotry.

I dare say that many students are amenable to messages opposing discrimination and bigotry, but not to messages which are actually biased and bigoted themselves.

Posted by: Fitz at May 7, 2003 8:51 AM

I escaped from my personal Tunnel of Suburbia by reading literature and history, and using my imagination.

College is for people who want to learn. If they have to be tricked or shocked or manipulated into wanting to learn, to hell with them. Close UW and give the land back to the cows. The beer drinkers can find somewhere else to hang out.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at May 7, 2003 8:58 AM

Hear, hear. Joanne Jacobs's comment takes us back to my initial one: serious education is a matter of serious reading, listening, discourse, and thought. The programmer/student poses the question to us: Okay, given that the tunnel's not working, what other sort of mechanism should we adopt to get messages across? The answer is that education is not about messages; advertising is about messages. Education is about thought at its most free, nuanced, exploratory, and individual, and everything about that tunnel is antithetical to it.

As for giving the land back to the cows, as Joanne Jacobs suggests - how about just expanding on the fun tunnel concept and turning it into an amusement park?

Posted by: purcell at May 7, 2003 10:17 AM

Two for I_P_O- what's Churchill's plot to wipe out the Navajo?

Second, Chomsky is as important a philosopher as Marx is an economist. Doesn't change the fact that both are disastrously wrong, and the Chomsky is a far more important linguist than philosopher, and Marx a better gardener than an economist.

Posted by: Scipio at May 7, 2003 2:26 PM

A great discussion, starting with Tunnels of Oppression, looping through World War II and Diamondís Guns, Germs, and Steel, then returning to the original topic.

I have little to add to the thoughtful suggestions to Programmer on how he might improve the tunnel transit experience. To adjust the aphorism, if something is not worth doing at all, itís not worth doing right.

Is there a whiff of burlesque about this thread? Does Erinís correspondent inhabit a UWEC dorm room with Cyrillic-lettered Socialist Realist posters decorating its walls? Is he truly dedicated to irradicating the ignorance harbored by his fellow white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class students?

If his request for help was, indeed, earnest--why was it addressed to the readers of this website? Other audiences might deliver even more pointed, articulate, and logical critiques of tunneling, but I canít name them at the moment.

Have three years of clumsy programming been the prelude to a moment of epiphany, or is this a precious exercise of ëbearding the lion in his dení?

UWEC Student, Iíd be interested in your responses to the sixty-two comments that your email has prompted.

Posted by: AMac at May 7, 2003 3:06 PM

Dakota Loomis, I thought your last post was on target. Artificial constructs are not the answer. Real, unscripted dialogue is. I believe that this was an essential componenet of an earlier comment I made about the re-desegregation of college campuses. I see too much emphasis on structured interaction while at the same time there is some kind of tacit acceptance by administrators of some sort of neo de facto segregation. This should not be taken as an attack on student groups or associations driven by gender, ethnicity etc. Rather it is the trend towards keeping these disparate groups socially separate at all times - except for the chance meeting at a tunnel of some sort - that continues to disturb me.

I_P_O. you write that Chomsky is one of the most important philosophers of our time. That may be so, but I suspect that if you ask Chomsky he will tell you that your use of "one of" is unecessary.

As to the Soviets, rapid industrialization certainly did result in their ability to produce tanks, munitions etc. in vast quantities and that certainly was (eventually) outcome determinative. On the other hand, forced collectivization and the butchery of millions of 'kulaks' brought nothing but famine that resulted in millions more dying.

As to historical speculation, I share your distaste for same but will indulge myself with two items.

First, I doubt that the Tsar would have survived the February revolution with or without the events of that October and a Russian or Soviet army of any shape - other than the shell left by Stalin would not have resembled the tsar's army in the closing days of WWI.

Second, if we are going to speculate lets give some credit to the Serbs whose resistance to the Nazis casued Hitler to divert an army to put it down which in turn delayed Barbarosa until mid/late June which in turn allowed the winter weather to avert the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Posted by: stolypin at May 7, 2003 5:00 PM

Cpio--an experiment: I doubt that you would believe what you read in liberal establishment rags such as Mind, but try asking Hilary Putnam or Jerry Fodor (or praying to Quine) if Chomsky is an important philosopher. You could read their published comments on the matter to save yourself some trouble. And yes, an important philosopher is merely one whom other philosophers consider important.

Chomsky is incontrovertibly one of the most important philosophers of mind and language alive, but the context in which I mentioned him had to do with the philosophy of science, in which influence has been more second-order, in terms of his use of the QD thesis to defend his theories against apparently opposing empirical evidence and the KoyrÈ-derived notion of Newton having demolished the mind-body problem by eliminating the "body" as a meaningful concept.

If you have any serious arguments about why either Chomsky or Marx are "disastrously wrong," this is certainly not the place to air them; but such sweeping and aggressive value-judgements do little to persuade anyone who has read them and formed an independent opinion on the matter--if persuasion rather than preaching to a deaf and tuneless choir is in fact your goal.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 5:07 PM

Stoly--the point stands: without the godless revolution and the rapid and horrible modernization that resulted, Mother Russia would have been destroyed, and (putting on my Harry Turtledove act [imagine this in Professor Frink's voice]) Heisenberg's coterie would have certainly had the extra time to develop their own atomic bomb, nyeagh, leading to codominium between U.S. and Pan-Nazi Eurasia, with the monkeys and the scratching and the IG Farben, nyeagh.

And Chomsky is a very modest man, of course.

Furthermore, I'd like to reiterate my point that dialogue is not the answer. Dialogue is always constrained power-relations (themselves artificial constructions), and only the reeducative value of the Tunnel of Love can disinterpellate that which has been interpellated.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 5:44 PM

IPO, I don't think a recognition of American contribution is contingent on American perfection. With that said, I don't find it necessary to explain the details of Philippine-American relations to explain the larger point of a basically Western invention - human rights. At best, it seems to me that your question is irrelevant, and at worst, it seems to me it is an outright misdirection.

So let me get back to the point. White, Western, Judeo-Christian traditions are imperfect, and at times even justified the institutions of slavery, racism, sexism etc. But while Western defense of these institutions is merely part of a global defense of them, there was no global movement outside Western traditions that substantially challenged slavery, racism, sexism etc. In other words, oppression is the West's common trait with the non-West, but the invention of human rights is its distinctive characteristic. And at the heart of this distinction is white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian traditions.

Nothing about equality is inherent or self-evident. To the contrary, all reasonable observations point to the inherent and self-evident inequality of humans in our natural state. Some of us are born ugly, sickly, handicapped and some are not. Power, therefore, is the natural result of intelligence and logic, not ignorance. Inequality is the result of judgment, not of hate. That we can take this for granted now, and in fact believe in the reverse, is the great triumph of Western tradition. But it wasnít always so. Naturally, it is still rational for the strong to rule the weak, for the rich the poor, the educated the ignorant, the parent the child, the mother the fetus.

Thus, inequality is the intelligent position. And the white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian notion of equality of all men was its greatest challenge. It is no small accident that the abolitionists were men of faith (even the black civil rights leaders.) Therefore, equality was both enlightened and anti-intellectual, moral and irrational, radical and primitive. Equality was a matter of faith, and it was a faith that was largely founded on Judeo-Christian traditions of white, heterosexual Judeo-Christians. Ultimately, it wasnít the atheist, the secular humanist, or the pagans that invented human rights: it was the white, heterosexual Judeo-Christians.

That tradition doesnít have to be perfect to have a real and valid contribution. And just as Susan B. Anthony didnít need to be pro-abortion to be a suffragette, I donít need to be white, heterosexual, nor Judeo-Christian to appreciate Western traditions of liberalism.

Posted by: pok at May 7, 2003 5:54 PM

There are many problems with the whole "tunnel" concept, and these have been pointed out by several people. But if you *absolutely must* have a tunnel, let me suggest something akin to the "tunnel of love"..but significantly different from the original proposal.

My tunnel shows how people used to live throughout the world, and how they still live in many instances. It also explains the people, ideas, and institutions that have enabled people to live better.

For example, it shows they backbreaking work of a medieval peasant(and maybe even lets students try it for a while). It then tells about those who have alleviated work of this kind...the medieval monks who improved the water wheel, the developers of the steam engine and the electric motor. (Yes, it also gives credit to the 40-hour law and such..but it helps students to understand that all the laws in the universe would have had no effect without the aforementioned innovations.)

The tunnel then goes on to show that many people are still living in the early medieval environment. There are dramatic photos of 3rd-world women whose backs are permanantly deformed by the age of 30, from carrying heavy containers of water for long distances. The tunnel then branches in several directions, offering alternative explanations of why this condition still persists and what could be done to address it.

The tunnel is very long and intricate, and can probably only be instantiated in virtual space.

The tunnel does not attempt to hide the terrible things that have happened throughout history and those that are still happening; neither does it attempt to hide the good things. It attempts to show students just how rare a thing their lifestyle is in historical and geographical terms, and to be able to ask intelligent questions about the things that make a liveable life possible.

Posted by: David Foster at May 7, 2003 6:22 PM

Pok--though I find myself in substantial disagreement with nearly everything you wrote, I must point out that the Classical Greeks, neither Judaic nor Christian, had something to say on these matters.

Nietzsche has written at length about this.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 6:38 PM

I_P_O- are you seriously arguing that Marx was not disastrously wrong?

If he's right, then point me to an honest-to-God Marxist state that works as Marx believed the inevitable progress of history would make it work, without accomodation of capitalism, a state where the proletarian revolution has created equality. All you need is one example of success of a true Marxist state evolution, and I'll concede that Marx was not disastrously wrong. Influential, no doubt, although I suspect not in the way that he wanted to be.

The level of influence doesn't necessarily correlate to the demonstrable real-world effectiveness of the theory. Unless you think that the vast number of people that believe in a God proves that God exist.

As to Chomsky, I'm only familiar with his work as a linguist. His various linguistic articles that I've read were interesting and beyond me. But I have no trouble with the idea that someone so crippled by ideology as Chomsky is is hardly an effective philosopher.

Posted by: Scipio at May 7, 2003 7:45 PM

Scipio -- If you look back at the last paragraph of IPO's 5:44 post you may be discouraged from receiving a meaningful answer to your question on Marx. Remember, only that which has been interpellated can be disinterpellated! Or something like that.

Posted by: Doug at May 7, 2003 8:17 PM


From Pynchon to Turtledove to Althusser . . . not quite Tinkers to Evans to Chance . . . but what the heck.

I think we've said all we can on the Soviet war effort in the context of a post on Tunnels of Oppression. I do not see where we have any real disagreement about the value of their fight -except for my inclination not to unduly praise Stalin for creating the situation that forced his people to rise to such heroic heights. Almost like an arsonist setting a fire so he can take heroic measures to rescuse those stuck in the building.)

As to the value of dialogue, surely there must be some latent value inherent in dialogue. Why else would either of us bother to post so often?

Of course a desire to tweak the god-fearing reactionary white oppressors, and perhaps some Log Cabin republicans who don't buy into the notion that Abe was gay, that populate this board might overcome any qualms one might have about engaging in dialogues that otherwise have no meaning or value. Fair enough I suppose.

Posted by: stolypin at May 7, 2003 8:28 PM

IPO you are absolutely right. But even Hellenistic period, while neither strictly Judaic had already Judaic influences in ancient Greek laws. And even if it were granted that the period were exclusively Judaic (w/c, I agree, it wasn't) it could still be argued that Judeo-Christian traditions are borrowed from ancient Zoroastrian mythology. I take all those points. And obviously pagan, Judeo-Christian, and other influences had ultimately had some ancient idea of kindness which shaped the modern idea of human rights. But the point remains that it was white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian ethics, philosophy, and action that won the battle against oppression. And it wouldn't be surprising to me if the abolitionists were drawn to other ideas on equality primarily because of their Judeo-Christian faith. For many abolitionists and civil rights leaders, their faith, in fact, was the point of origin of their activism. Surely, there were non-white, non-heterosexual, non-Judeo-Christians who embraced equality, but the major figures and frontliners in the invention of the modern human rights remain the white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christians.

Posted by: pok at May 7, 2003 8:33 PM

Marx wasn't just wrong. He's criminal. His ideology is criminal. Marxism should be driven from public discourse by sheer disgust at the moral depravity of those who will foul themselves with this ideology of hatred and envy.

Those who believe that power relationship are the sum total of human relationships will make that a reality, thus denying the spiritual, the sexual, etc. That the results of Marx's ideas was criminal is self-evident.

Marx's ideas were challenged without intent by Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment. The central question is: "Without God, why not murder my neighbor and steal his goods?" The answer is that there is no reason to refrain from these crimes. The history of the 20th century is a testament to the criminal nature of Marxism.

Marxism is Nazism in all its central features. The Soviets even launched their own pogroms. The reason that Marxism isn't viewed as criminal is the same reason that adherents to his views now call themselves "progressives" -- a continued attempt to distance Marxism in the ideal from the reality of what happens in its implementation. Marxists keep renaming their ideology in order to distance themselves from the history of genocide, poverty and famine.

The utter failure of Marxism hasn't stopped people like Infect from embracing it. Infect is a member of what is now a fundamentalist religion. You'll notice how his argument carries the conviction of the fundamentalist. Marxism has truly become the opiate of the intellectual fascist.

Dakota's continued insistence that all white hetero men grow up in wealth is just another form of racist, sexist hatred. I was born into poverty. Most white hetero men were also born either into the middle class or poverty. I'd be willing to bet the Dakota was born into a better position in society than I was. Fess up, Dakota.

So, Infect, you've got a lot of explaining to do. You want to indict capitalist America? I'd keep my head down if I were you. You are espousing the criminal ideals of the Marxists.

Posted by: Stephen at May 7, 2003 8:34 PM

Scipio--I am seriously arguing that Marx was not disastrously wrong, and your proposed criteria for making such a judgement are deficient. Marx was primarily an analyst of 19th C capitalism, and serious committed enemies of 20th C communism--economists such as Schumpeter and Hayek, for example--concede that nothing of its time surpasses Capital in depth, insight, or predictive capacity.

Judging Marx based upon the legacy of a revolution in the most backwards nation in Europe is as sensible as judging Milton Friedman based on Pinochet's "free-market" utopia, though of course he--unlike Marx in the former case--was around to see and approve of it.

And please don't uncritically mention Cambodia, China, or Cuba here unless you're willing to explain the stage-of-development issue.

If you're willing to admit that Chomsky's linguistics is beyond you (as it is most non-specialists), why is it difficult to admit that his technical work in philosophy (which you haven't read) is also equally beyond your ability to judge? Because you don't like his (perfectly rational) political writings?

And finally, the only plausible argument for God's existence is that people believe. Well, that and Goedel's ontological proof.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 8:35 PM

IPO, one last comment.

I'm married to a Filipina woman. She spent her first 8 years on Luzon.

Once again, I wonder how in the hell you got elected a representative of the suffering of the Filipino people. My wife loves America. She would find your statements about American influence in the Philippines repugnant. In fact, I'd suggest that if you ever do meet her, you might be well advised not to talk so damned stupid.

One has to wonder exactly why IPO likes to dress himself so frequently in the clothing of the revolutionary crying over the plight of the people. Are you actually doing anything besides gassing?

Posted by: Stephen at May 7, 2003 8:37 PM


"Loren--two things: 1) your starry-eyed Bacon cum Popperite description of the scientific method"

Gratuitous slur noted.

"bears little resemblance to what people in the "hard" sciences actually do,"

I thought "hard" science used the elements I outlined all the time. Controls ... hypothesis ... end-points ... falsification ... stuff like that ... blinding ... . Am I wrong? Are you as sure about this as you were about what constitutes libel?

"2) and it has only a fanciful connection to the social sciences which arguably don't have any theories with explanatory adequacy at all."

Yeah ... well ... my original question was simply to find out if sensitivity of the "tunnel sort" works.

I am unclear from your response whether or not it does. Are you saying we can't know? Because if so, that opens up all sorts of questions.

"Chomsky has written extensively about this (a note: if you have a reactionary urge when you hear the name I just mentioned, recall that no one, whatever she thinks of his politics, disputes that he's one of the most important philosophers alive)."

This sounds almost like 'an appeal to authority' (a logical fallacy). Is Chomsky infallible? Are you suggesting that Chomsky has philosophosized science out of existence?


Posted by: Loren at May 7, 2003 9:08 PM

Correction: Zoroastrianism predates Judaism by at least 1000 years, but the point remains that even if Judeo-Christian traditions are tremselves attributable to much earlier traditions, the end result remains the same.

Posted by: pok at May 7, 2003 9:25 PM

Loren--first of all, the "appeal to authority" is an informal, rhetorical fallacy. It is not a logical fallacy. Furthermore, my comment is simply that important philosophers are those believed by philosophers to be important, and Chomsky is among them and that his comments on the lack of actual theories in the social sciences are well-worth exploring.

I intended "starry-eyed" to suggest that I found your description of the SM touching, not as a slur. I would bet what money I have that no court will ever consider O'Malley's comments libel, and thus I think that was hyperbole for the reasons I've explained. Hard science is far more theory-laden than your description suggests, and consensus plays as strong as role as testing procedures. I have no doubt that many working scientists believe that what you describe is what they actually are doing, and I also have no doubt that they cannot actually understand their collective interactions and theory-testing behavior from their own vantagepoint.

Social sciences, such as the effects of the Tunnel of Love would fall under, are completely powerless to answer these kinds of questions. It's beyond our cognitive ability to devise workable theories about them.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 9:30 PM

Since everything is now off-topic...did Kurt Goedel really do an ontological proof on the existence of God? The ontological proof usually referred to is by Anselm...

Anything by Goedel is certainly worthy of attention.

Posted by: David Foster at May 7, 2003 10:44 PM

David--that's a remarkably uncritical attitude, and what it is about Goedel that inspires such devotion among the cyber-Randian set? Early bonding with the Hofstadter book?

Anyway, a quick web search will show the way to truth and light.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 7, 2003 10:54 PM

Not to stray from the matter being currently debated, but I'd like to challenge the assertion that UWEC students are mostly "suburban" and "upper to middle class". UWEC is not UW Madison, its students are, for the most part, kids from Wisconsin. There's maybe 20 towns in Wisconsin that would be considered "suburbs", and I guarantee that virtually none of those send kids to Eau Claire regularly. Eau Claire students tend to come from rural, working class backgrounds, quite a few of them (including a few friends of mine) are the first college students in their families.

Whether or not these students need a "tunnel of oppression" to free them from whatever prejudices they may have picked up in the course of their lives I'll leave to the rest of you. I just wanted to correct a misconception that seems to have been used as one of the premises for the debate in general.

Posted by: Grrar at May 7, 2003 11:18 PM

Following the lead of a few other commenters, this is a fairly lengthy and off-topic post. Apologies in advance; I won't make this a habit! Hyperlinks are offset with asterisks for visibility.

I_P_O_ (8:35pm)

>I am seriously arguing that Marx was not disastrously wrongÖ

UmmÖ right, then. Your faith is your own.
Other readers can judge Karl by his own standards, as a Scientist and Historian. **The record is not good.** Or, by the legacies of his disciples: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Kim, Ho, Castro, and Pol Pot among them. Again--not good. Or, by the morality and clarity of **his writing.** Or, by his present-day followers: compare Dean Esmayís spare prose with the turgid remarks of the Marxist commenters in **this lengthy thread.**

>and please don't uncritically mention Cambodia, China, or Cuba here unless you're willing to explain the stage-of-development issue.

Or Russia, Eastern Europe, Korea, Viet Nam, or Laos, I suppose. Pre-emption notwithstanding, Marxism--any variant--has failed to offer a decent way to organize a society.

>If you're willing to admit that Chomsky's linguistics is beyond you, why is it difficult to admit that his technical work in philosophy Ö is also equally beyond your ability to judge? Because you don't like his (perfectly rational) political writings?

Obscure writing isnít a feature, itís a bug. Other philosophers can write lucidly to a lay audience; even Chomsky can. His political screeds, while **hypocritical and dishonest**, are nothing if not clear.

Loren (9:08pm)

>"Loren--two things: 1) your starry-eyed Bacon cum Popperite description of the scientific method"
>Gratuitous slur noted.
>"bears little resemblance to what people in the "hard" sciences actually do,"

and I_P_O (9:30pm):

>I intended "starry-eyed" to suggest that I found your description of the SM touching, not as a slur.

I_P_O, your condescending attitude is also touching, though Iím not sure if itís directed at Loren, at working scientists, or both.

>Hard science is far more theory-laden than your description suggests,

Her description didnít suggest anything one way or another

>and consensus plays as strong as role as testing procedures.


>I have no doubt that many working scientists believe that what you describe is what they actually are doing, and I also have no doubt that they cannot actually understand their collective interactions and theory-testing behavior from their own vantagepoint.

I have no doubt that what you say you think is what you really think. I also have no doubt that your attitude is shared by, at most, a tiny minority of people working in the hard sciences. The absurdity of this hot-house perspective ought to be self-evident, though obviously it isnít, entirely. Consider the respective merits of ìconsensusî and ìtesting proceduresî in designing a working radio or an effective cancer therapy. Readers may wish to browse **Alan Sokalís website**, as his foray into postmodernism touches on this issue.

I will also nominate myself as an ìauthorityî (see below) on this point, as a biologist who has first-author publications in the peer-reviewed literature. To see this output, search my name on **PubMed**

>Loren--first of all, the "appeal to authority" is an informal, rhetorical fallacy. It is not a logical fallacy.

I_P_O, Loren called you on your ìappeal to authority;î all readers know what she meant. You respond, patronizingly, that this is an informal, rhetorical fallacy, not a logical one. What should readers make of your uber-ivory-tower distinction? Whatever--it doesnít diminish her point.

Once again, I_P_O (weíve ëmetí on this board under other noms de plume), Iím not writing for you--your perspectives give every appearance of being cast in concrete. Perhaps more open-minded readers will be interested in the conversations here, and follow a few of the links to source material.

Posted by: AM Mackay at May 8, 2003 12:00 AM

For the love of Christ, you'd think that people who are so adamant about being logical and intelligent and using terms correctly and getting your history right and being on the right side og philosophy and making sure they impress everyone with their intellectual credentials and proving proving proving that they are right....

(deep breath)

... could stay on topic for five freakin' minutes?

I had to wade through ten minutes of absolute Crap to find out what people thought about Tunnels of Oppression, and all I discovered is that Marx is the savoir of the White Western Judeo-Christian Communist Hegemony in the Soviet Union For Popperite Pseudo-Scientific Fallacies in Rhetoric Because Customer Service is a VERY IMPORTANT PART of business and American Perfection to Bring the Third World to its Programmers so that the Allies have a Chance to Defeat the Axis of Navajo Zoroastrianism.

Many thanks to David Foster, Loren, Fitz, J_W_M and others who have made my little sidetrip here interesting.

-Michael E. Lopez, Esq.

Posted by: Michael E. Lopez, Esq. at May 8, 2003 12:26 AM

Am--would have been glad to follow your links, had you posted them correctly.

Had I mentioned some particularly esoteric approriation of scientific concepts, preferably French in origin, the Sokal reference might have been relevant. As it was, however, I just brought up a rather uncontroversial, mostly scientific realist perspective on the limits of scientific induction, esp. as applied to the social sciences.

Again, I couldn't follow the links, but I regret the opportunity to compare Marx's writing with postings on a weblog.

How do you know what "all readers" know? I think that's what they call "hasty generalization."

Chomsky's linguistic and philosophic work is technical. This means that you have to know the field and the vocabulary to understand it. It has nothing to do with the clarity of writing (his prose is uniformly straightforward).

Do you think that everything about oncology or the behavior of electronics is understood? All applied science is pragmatic by necessity and highly compartmentalized. Knowledge progresses at such a rate that people in closely allied fields cannot follow each other's research. I don't see how it's controversial to state that consensus must rule and that the shape of future theory is unpredictable at any given moment.

I find that funny as well, but perhaps in a different way than you.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 8, 2003 12:33 AM

"..that's a remarkably uncritical attitude, and what it is about Goedel that inspires such devotion among the cyber-Randian set? Early bonding with the Hofstadter book?"--says Infect-Polo_Opus

What on earth are you talking about? I didn't express an attitude toward the proof one way or other, merely asked if it existed. I see now that it is a more formalized version of Anselm's proof via Leibnitz.

What is it about you that inspires you to make such a snide response to a simple and courteous question?

Posted by: David Foster at May 8, 2003 2:32 AM

David--you'll remember that you wrote that anything by Goedel was worth paying attention to, which is a rather over-strong endorsement.

And why is it that you and others here can say the most demeaning ("the tunnel of love is both offensive and silly" or your condescending assumption that they haven't read Burke or Chesterton) things about people whose politics you dislike and yet manage to be so sensitive yourselves?

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 8, 2003 2:55 AM

Michael E. Lopez - Ditto.

Posted by: Laura at May 8, 2003 3:04 AM

I_P_O_ (12:33am), thanks for noticing my bad hyperlinks (12:00am post).

**The record is not good.** Lee Harris essay on Marx.
**Marxís writing.** Link to Das Kapital.
**this lengthy thread.** Blogger Dean Esmay and his Marxist commenters.
**hypocritical and dishonest** Keith Windschuttle essay on Chomskyís politics.
**Alan Sokalís website.**
**PubMed** Medical literature search engine.

>I just brought up a rather uncontroversial, mostly scientific realist perspective on the limits of scientific induction
Nope, re-read what you wrote.

>How do you know what "all readers" know?
My meaningís clear in context.

>Chomsky's Ö prose is uniformly straightforward.
We disagree.

>I don't see how it's controversial to state that consensus must rule...
Explain how "consensus" would improve experiments?
>...and that the shape of future theory is unpredictable.
True, but not what youíd said.

Michael E. Lopez (12:16am) and Laura (3:04am):

Thanks for saying your piece, henceforth this guilty party will try for more brevity, and stay closer to the topic at hand.

Posted by: AM Mackay at May 8, 2003 4:08 AM


"Loren--first of all, the "appeal to authority" is an informal, rhetorical fallacy. It is not a logical fallacy."

I disagree ... an "appeal to authority" is a logical fallacy, of the subtype rhetorical fallacy, which is a fallacy of distraction of the sort known as "changing the subject." You can brush up on your fallacies here: http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm

"Furthermore, my comment is simply that important philosophers are those believed by philosophers to be important, and Chomsky is among them and that his comments on the lack of actual theories in the social sciences are well-worth exploring."

Chomsky is a linguist, and to the extent he is a cognitive linguist, he is something of a social scientist - one who enjoys a fine reputation within his field for utilizing some of those same elements of disinterested scientific inquiry that you feel don't apply to the social sciences.

He gets himself in trouble when he steps outside of his field, which is a textbook example of the fallacy of appeal to authority (see above).

"I intended "starry-eyed" to suggest that I found your description of the SM touching, not as a slur."

Your entire phrase read: 'your starry-eyed Bacon cum Popperite description of the scientific method.' I'll leave it to others to decide for themselves whether or not you intended your original comment as a slur, and to wonder why you omitted in this post the phrase in its entirety.

"Hard science is far more theory-laden than your description suggests, and consensus plays as strong as role as testing procedures."

This is another logical fallacy ... it is "argument by assertion." (see the link above).

"I have no doubt that many working scientists believe that what you describe is what they actually are doing, and I also have no doubt that they cannot actually understand their collective interactions and theory-testing behavior from their own vantagepoint."

And yet more argument by assertion (see link above), from one who seems to know better what lurks (or doesn't!) in people's minds than they themselves do! You're on a roll!

Are you open to the possibility that your own insight might be flawed?

"Social sciences, such as the effects of the Tunnel of Love would fall under, are completely powerless to answer these kinds of questions. It's beyond our cognitive ability to devise workable theories about them."

Sounds to me like this is a theory ... the theory that theories in social science don't exist ... Is this Chomsky's theory, or your own?

Now I personally don't believe that social sciences lack theories (the theory that social sciences lack theories is itself a theory) ... I think you are painting with much too broad a brush. But let's say, for argument's sake, that you are correct - viz., that we cannot answer questions about the effectiveness of the "Tunnel of Love" (sic - that would be "Tunnel of Oppression", no?).

If we can't know whether the Tunnel of Oppression is effective, ineffective or downright harmful, on what basis (other than wishful thinking and good intentions) are we justified in committing time, treasure and human intellectual and political resources to the Tunnel's perpetuation?

Might there be other enterprises whose effectiveness we cannot judge but that ought to be supported?


Posted by: Loren at May 8, 2003 5:02 AM

Polo--Since Goedel was an acknowledged founder of the field of metamathematics, I indeed believe that his thoughts are worth paying attention to..whether one winds up agreeing with them or not.

My statement about Burke and Chesterton was that it would be mind-opening for more students to be exposed to them.

Posted by: David Foster at May 8, 2003 5:06 AM

Lauren--I'll begin with your comments. First, rhetorical fallacies are not subsets of logical fallacies; they are something different entirely. Logical fallacies are errors in formal reasoning, and they can be proven to be deductively wrong. The types of fallacies you describe can only be detected through analysis of the content of the argument, which is an entirely different (and far more subjective) matter.

The various descriptions of rhetorical fallacies derive mostly from scholasticism, and their assumptions about what makes a cogent argument are by no means universally valid. A popular logic textbook gives the following example:

Bill Gates has argued at length that the Microsoft Corporation does not have a monopoly on computer disc operating systems. But Gates is chief executive officer of Microsoft, and he desperately wants to avoid antitrust action against his company. Therefore, we should ignore Gates's arguments.
This is cited as an ad hominem circumstantial fallacy, and the justification offered is that the circumstances which affect Gates do not affect his argument. I can't imagine why anyone would place such a foolhardy bit of pedantry on the same level as the undistributed middle; and, having read Aristotle and Aquinas (argumentum ad verecundiam, indeed) on the subject, I'm not particularly optimistic that your website is going to reveal to me the error of my ways.

On Chomsky: "cognitive linguistics" is what Lakoff and his followers term what they do, which is entirely based on not being what Chomsky does.

Social science has nothing to do with linguistics as Chomsky defines it. This is controversial as a matter of definition of the field, but not controversial as a description of his work.

As for him getting in trouble, etc., I'd counsel humility here. When you make comments about a dio di color che sanno such as this, your ethos suffers.

The mysterianism developed in most detail by Colin McGinn is an analytic philosophical argument, as equidistant from economics as the Goldbach conjecture.

The Tunnel of Love is a bit of social theater which helps the social consciousness of its participants grow in healthy ways. Because we can observe something doesn't mean that we can (or should) devise a GUT for it. Our judgement of what is good and true is separate whole and entire from our theory-forming ability.

AM--you're merely throwing sand against the wind, and the wind blows it back again.

DFW--it's just as easy to argue that students are overexposed to such as Chesterton and Burke. Burke would certainly blush at the travesties committed in his name by soi-disant 'conservatives,' and we have Chesterton to thank for the X-Files.

Posted by: Infect_polo_opus at May 8, 2003 7:03 AM

This unmoderated web-log thread has a lot in common with a late-night dorm room bull session. People come by, catch up with the debate, perhaps comment, and leave.

Readers of this thread have been presented with a diverse and discordant set of opinions. To the extent that they become engaged in the questions under discussion, readers have to evaluate the validity and the applicability of the arguments that are made.

Different opinions are based on different interpretations of history and of reality. Which factors were responsible for the Nazi defeat in World War 2? Is Noam Chomsky a luminary philosopher or a tainted hypocrite (or both)? How much of the ideal college education is an individual exploration of ideas, and how much ought to be guided by faculty and fellow students?

Which positions are logical? To what extent do they jibe with the readerís personal experience and common sense? How important is that?

How do advocates present their positions? Is the writing respectful of the audience? Is the style clear or obscure? Are sources cited; are they trustworthy? How much do these things matter?

Even with its obvious flaws and lack of rigor, the web-log discussion can provoke the questions that college students should be learning to ask, and answer for themselves.

Until the Tunnel of Oppression can foster at least this level of open-ended intellectual inquiry, its pedagogical value will be akin to that of a campus-wide toga party.

Posted by: AM Mackay at May 8, 2003 2:29 PM

Geez, I take the evening off to go to an inside-the-beltway power dinner with the power elite and look what I come back to.

Dear Mr. Lopez,Esq. (nice credential that), your points about off-topic posts are well-taken even if delivered with just a whiff of well-deserved condescension.

There is undoubtedly a good deal of self-referential, masturbatory posts on this thread (my opening sentence being an intentional example of same) in which each tries to outdo the other in flexing their esoteric arcane pedantry. I do not know who we are trying to impress more - the other posters or ourselves. I suspect the latter.

On the other hand, to paraphrase Jocelyn Elders, is intellectual self-stimulation (even if pseudo) a bad thing? I agree with AMMackay who likened this to a late-night college bull session. I remember those sessions well. I thought they would help me help change the world.

I have taken something of value from many of the posts on this thread, including those of IPO who does seem to revel in his status as a lightning rod. (The fact that this taking of value may not be mutual does not really concern me overly much.)

At last count there were 92 posts on this thread. Many, if not all, did address the issue raised. Even those that did not contained some pretty interesting, if irrelevant 'stuff'.

I do not know how Erin feels about this thread but I for one found it entertaining. Based upon Erin's troll post above, I suspect she is concerned that the thread has gotten a bit out of control and that this result may not be accidental.

Erin, if we have gone a bit too far afield - I do offer my appologies and I will refrain in future from using your blog to engage in this type of off topic self-referential posing.

Posted by: stolypin at May 8, 2003 5:02 PM