UVa’s Modern-Day Barbarians

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by James A. Bacon

The latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stirred up emotions at the University of Virginia more than any event since the George Floyd riots. Not only are students holding demonstrations and counter-demonstrations; faculty, parents, and alumni are chiming in.

Eighty University of Virginia professors signed an open letter proclaiming themselves to be “unsettled” by the tone of a statement previously issued by President Jim Ryan concerning events stemming from Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks on Israel. Ryan expressed sorrow for the atrocities inflicted upon Israeli citizens, the writers aver, but did not acknowledge the sufferings of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, more than 15o parents and alumni have signed a letter expressing concern for the safety of Jewish students in an atmosphere of increasing antisemitism nationally. The university, they say, needs to create a task force to eradicate antisemitism within the UVa community.

The Jefferson Council members with whom I am in contact — and I have heard from many — are unanimously supportive of Israel. The Jewish state is far from perfect when measured against a utopian ideal of pluralistic, democratic, rights-respecting nations, but Hamas, a terrorist organization masquerading as a state, bears no comparison. It is in the same league as the Huns, Vandals, Goths, Vikings and other ancient barbarians who laid waste to the settled societies around them. Council members have chosen to side with the heirs of Western Civilization and against those who seek to destroy it.

The pro-Palestinian rallies at UVa have driven home a fact that some of us suspected but never fully appreciated. The diverse factions of the far left that have taken root in Charlottesville — the anti-Zionists, the radical feminists, the LGBQT militants, the racial and ethnic identitarians, and the old-fashioned class warriors — have united in a grand intersectional alliance. While their preoccupations may seem splintered and contradictory, they rally around a nihilistic impulse to tear down “structures” erected by colonizers, racists, homophobes, the patriarchy, and other oppressors; that is to say virtually every institution the rest of us hold dear.

The soft, liberal do-good wing of the left at UVa — one might call it the “Great-and-Good” faction — is acutely sensitive to the world’s injustices but is disinclined to violent remedies. It shares many suppositions of the militant left regarding systemic injustice and the flaws of Western Civilization yet maintains a vestigial dedication to democratic process, freedom of speech and the rule of law. Though disapproving of the nihilists, the Great-and-Goods are paralyzed by conflicting moral impulses, thus ill prepared to deal with the challenge the zealots pose.

Indeed, the Great-and-Goods created the intellectual environment that allows modern-day barbarism to thrive. They have fostered the fracturing of the student body into racial, ethnic, sexual-orientation and gender identity groups. They have legitimized the rhetoric of victimhood, grievance, and resentment. They have presided over the intellectual and cultural transition from philosophical and viewpoint diversity into stifling leftist monoculture. The obscene willingness to justify the slaughter of Israeli innocents on the supposed grounds that the state of Israel has done worse to the Palestinians could never have taken root at UVa had such an idea been subject to vigorous fact-checking and moral reasoning in classrooms and dormitories and public fora.

It is no accident that 80 faculty members at UVa express their support for Palestinians while not one faculty member has publicly defended Israel. It is no accident that 15 or more student groups endorse Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) while not one student group (other than Jewish ones) has openly opposed it. It is no accident that the only voices openly siding with the Jews are parents and alumni who are not immersed in UVa’s leftist monoculture and, thus, are capable of thinking for themselves and can speak without fear of retaliation.

The lesson to be learned is not just, as some have suggested, that professors should be chastised for giving students extra credit for attending pro-Palestinian rallies, or that UVa needs to create an antisemitism task force, or even that President Ryan should more forcefully condemn the advocates of Israeli genocide. The lesson is that UVa has become a profoundly diseased place — a hothouse of intolerance and an incubator of hate — arising from an intellectual environment that allows pernicious ideas to run unchecked and unchallenged.

Restoring viewpoint diversity to UVa is the necessary condition for the flourishing of free speech and mutual tolerance. We should never take our eye from that goal.

James A. Bacon is executive director of The Jefferson Council. This column has been republished with permission from the Jefferson Council blog.

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14 responses to “UVa’s Modern-Day Barbarians”

  1. Jim Loving Avatar
    Jim Loving

    One could substitute “UVA” with just about any other university in America, and this article would ring true.

    As a member of the “great and good” faction, I don’t have an answer for this other than there is a need within “my” faction to speak out and address this.

    I say this the same way I have said that it is way past time for those on the libertarian right to speak out about the radicalization from the right with Christian Nationalism and “National Conservatism” overtaking the right wing with a move towards fascism from the right.

    This is the great American crack up and it is difficult to see a way forward.

    Thanks for posting this. Now strike a balance and adress the radicalism from the right as well, and discuss a way forward, if you have a thought about that.

    1. Have there been radical right protests on most campuses and cities calling for the extermination of a nation-state? I guess I missed that…

      1. B. Powell Majors Avatar
        B. Powell Majors

        Or for eradicating a whole ethnic or religious group?

        “Eve bit the apple too!”

  2. Remember that support for Gazans and Palestinian Arabs is SUPPORT for HAMAS —- Hamas was elected by the Gazans as their representatives to the Palestinian Authority — and HAMAS is part of the PA Unity Govt…… this war is PA-supported with Iran’s backing. All are one and and the same….. any question of what these individuals are supporting is answered by this: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a1c485c276620220a956d81e91a858f337825798b023f1fc009677c8371186c1.jpg

    1. Below is a link to the video. Israel’s offence is its existence. He lays it out rather plainly. Israel must be destroyed, and the Palestinians will be martyrs for the cause.

      He does, however try to say that the Israeli civilian deaths were not the intention. That’s a total lie. The fighters were given instructions in writing which was found on them afterward. Additionally, the ones attacking settlements had maps showing where to find Jewish families to kill.


  3. B. Powell Majors Avatar
    B. Powell Majors

    I guess in Charlottesville they still believe there are good people on both sides.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    It could be worse. In March of 1861 a group of students sawed a hole in the roof of the Rotunda and raised the Stars and Bars on the rooftop flagpole. No longer there thankfully. That Rotunda has seen a number of pranks over the years. Cow on the roof. Mickey Mouse face painted on the entire roof. In the 1895 Rotunda fire, dynamite was used to stop the flames from spreading. Epic fail. Completely gutted the interior.

  5. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    Might be time to direct state money to more deserving state schools. Let the Arab billionaires and the Chinese government pick up any funding slack.

  6. Another great work, James Bacon. Thanks for your diligence and convictions. Your wise words reach well beyond the borders of the Commonwealth (to those of us far away with Old Virginia hearts that have not yet made it home).

  7. LesGabriel Avatar

    I would be interested in how many of the student groups who publicly support SJP receive University funds from student activity fees, paid for by every student. For those who argue that to deprive groups of such fees would violate their freedom of speech, they might ask themselves whether the University would allow the creation and funding of groups supporting conservative causes. The approach/avoidance dilemma for university administrations and radical student groups is not a new one, as can be attested by those of us who spent the 1960’s at least partially as an adult.

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