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I'll Burn That Bridge When I Get To It!: Heretical Thoughts on Identity Politics, Cancel Culture, and Academic Freedom

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But John Stuart Mill's On Liberty is the text he primarily grounds his argument in, and he quotes from it liberally in his chapter on the right of even Holocaust deniers to make their case in public forums such as a college campus. People might think they're being "rebellious" or anti-establishmentarian by believing it, and furthermore that they're upholding noble values of free speech against authoritarian censoring leftists (as the reactionary right thinks today).

It should be clear from what has been said here that I'll Burn That Bridge When I Get to It is an unusual book. One might argue that in this chapter Finkelstein's profound contempt for the "Elmer Gantry in blackface" at the head of this gaggle of amoral mediocrities gets the best of his prodigious literary gifts, since the ruthless mockery goes on and on and becomes somewhat tiresome, but it can't be gainsaid that it's all well-deserved. It's ironic that many self-styled anarchists advocate increasing the power of unaccountable bureaucrats to control what is said and what isn't.The first Black president rose to power by having, in Obama's own cynical words, "pulled off a neat trick" by standing for nothing except his skin color. The chapter is tightly argued and has a more disciplined structure than others, consisting of analyses of four academic freedom cases (Bertrand Russell in 1940, Leo Koch in 1960, Angela Davis in 1969, and Steven Salaita in 2014) and then general reflections that conclude in a discussion of his own case.

It consists of two parts: in the first, Finkelstein "deconstructs" identity politics and the cancel culture it has given rise to, focusing on five figures whom he eviscerates: Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X.The strategy of pure suppression is apt to lead many to think there might be something "dangerously truthful" to it—"the establishment doesn't want us to hear this because it's threatened by its truth! He went on in subsequent decades to subject Israel's apologists as well as Holocaust hucksters to withering scrutiny. The book's kaleidoscopic nature and intimidating length might bewilder the reader, so in this review I propose to summarize and comment on several of its main arguments, to facilitate their diffusion. DuBois, and Paul Robeson into a censorious, narcissistic, morbidly navel-gazing culture preoccupied with subjectivist trivialities like personal pronouns at the expense of solidaristic struggle for a better world.

So, when someone says that they will “burn that bridge when [they] get to it”, they expect to deal with an upcoming difficulty badly which will result in permanently cutting ties or alienating other people involved. One problem with Kendi's and our culture's promiscuous, indiscriminate use of the label "racist" is that the concept becomes diluted: "to be a racist ceases to be what it ought to be: a scarlet badge of shame… [W]hat information is conveyed by a label that collapses the distinction between Frederick Douglass [whom Kendi considers a racist] and the Grand Wizard of the K.Yes, whites are a homogeneous master-class: the billionaires and the working class, they're all equally guilty, they're all oppressors. Or, more precisely, that isn't a difficult task—it's so easy that Finkelstein is able to devote huge chunks of these chapters to sheer mockery—but it does require patience and a willingness to wade through endless intellectual muck. S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the author of Worker Cooperatives and Revolution and Popular Radicalism and the Unemployed in Chicago during the Great Depression. But he goes much further and questions whether it should even be seen as a professional obligation that one always use civil language in one's scholarship (which Finkelstein didn't when writing about the Holocaust industry and Alan Dershowitz's lies). He relates an anecdote from when he was a graduate student at Princeton in 1984: his work exposing a bestselling scholarly hoax on the Israel-Palestine conflict had gotten the favorable attention of the editor of the New York Review of Books and his friend (Arthur Hertzberg) at Columbia University, and he sensed that career possibilities were opening up for him.

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