[WSMDiscuss] Nimesh Patel shouted down and out at Columbia: we have a problem
Brian K. Murphy
brian at radicalroad.com
Thu Dec 13 03:03:11 CET 2018
Hmmmmm…this cautionary tale about humour and the mob is almost funny…except...it’s not funny (although Nimesh Patel is). A tiny cohort of young Neo-Jacobins is being empowered to tell everyone else when to grin and when to grimace, what to celebrate and who to incriminate, what to bash and who to bully. And they are entirely unaccountable, to anyone, or anything; they inhabit their own self-referential cocoon, emerging now and again to stamp their feet with impunity and immunity. It is almost a crime: acquiescing to the commandeering of social discourse by this self-selected ‘thought swat squad’ only complicates the challenge of confronting the very real underlying structural injustices—of race, gender, class, and psyche—that these narcissists only manage to caricature.
> The treatment of Nimesh Patel at Columbia proves campuses have a serious free-speech problem
> By Cathy Young
> It’s fashionable on the left these days to mock concerns that political correctness on college campuses is a threat to free expression in America. Progressive commentators from Canadian academic Jeffrey Sachs to American journalist Mari Uyehara <https://www.gq.com/story/free-speech-grifting> have argued that the campus “free-speech crisis” is a pernicious myth, exploited by the right to silence criticism. According to these skeptics, students who protest what they regard as attacks on vulnerable groups — racial or religious minorities, immigrants, transgender people, sexual assault survivors — are simply exercising their own freedom of speech and taking a stand for justice, even if some of them can be immature and overzealous.
> One can cite plenty of examples to the contrary, such as the aggressive, physically intimidating attempt <https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/cuny-law-students-heckled-talk-campus-free-speech-article-1.3947583> to disrupt a talk by legal scholar Josh Blackman at the City University of New York School of Law in April. But it’s hard to think of a more dramatic rebuttal to claims that campus PC is a myth than what happened at Columbia University on Friday night.
> This time, the alleged offender was not a far-right provocateur like the infamous Milo Yiannopoulos or even a controversial “dissident feminist” like Christina Hoff Sommers. It was a progressive Indian-American comedian and comedy writer, Nimesh Patel, the Emmy-nominated former writer for “Saturday Night Live.” He had been invited by the Columbia Asian American Alliance to perform at a charity event called CultureSHOCK: Reclaim.
> Apparently, Patel was too shocking for CultureSHOCK. According to a report <https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2018/12/01/student-organizers-boot-snl-writer-from-stage-during-standup-routine-for-jokes-deemed-offensive-2/> in the Columbia Daily Spectator, after about half an hour, the organizers interrupted him, informed him that his jokes about ethnicity and sexuality were offensive, and told him to wrap up. Patel tried to stand his ground, asserting that he was simply exposing the audience to ideas found “in the real world.” The organizers responded by cutting his mic. (Shut up, they explained.) Then, Patel left.
> So, what did Patel say that was so terrible? Asian American Alliance officials, who have profusely apologized <https://www.facebook.com/ColumbiaAAA/posts/10157013190847658?__tn__=-R> for “the hurt his words caused,” have remained cagey on the subject. The main issue seems to have been a joke about a gay black man in Patel’s diverse neighborhood. Patel quipped that being gay is obviously not a choice because “no one looks in the mirror and thinks, ‘this black thing is too easy, let me just add another thing to it.’”
> It’s safe to say that the vast majority of people, including those who are gay and black, would not find this joke offensive. Patel’s clearly wasn’t mocking blacks or gays; his entirely progressive point was that both blacks and gays suffer prejudice and discrimination in our society and those who belong to both groups are doubly hit. But presumably to some, Patel had violated the “stay in your lane” taboos of identity politics.
> “[I]f you’re black and gay, you don’t need a straight South Asian guy to point out that your life is hard because you’re Black and gay,” wrote <https://www.columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2018/12/04/spilling-the-tea-on-nimesh-patel-2/> Columbia sophomore Liberty Martin in a Spectator op-ed. “I watched a brown man use the experiences of black people to make white people ponder and laugh while two of my gay Black friends cringed.” While Martin allows that “comedians should be allowed to tell jokes about different communities,” it’s hard to see under what circumstances such jokes would pass her purity test. In Patel’s case, she complains that the humor was “unoriginal”; why she thinks it was addressed solely to white people is unclear.
> Martin also claims that Patel got kicked out not because a “sensitive, snowflake audience” got upset, but because he “sucked the energy out” of the room and “soiled” an uplifting event. (Translation: We’re not hypersensitive, we just felt that a problematic joke ruined our whole evening.)
> An even more revealing comment was made <https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2018/12/01/student-organizers-boot-snl-writer-from-stage-during-standup-routine-for-jokes-deemed-offensive-2/> to the Spectator by first-year student Sofia Jao, who bristled at Patel’s comment about facing the “real world.” Accepting that the world is not a “safe space,” said Jao, means “continuing to perpetuate the un-safeness of it” and “undermining what our generation is trying to do” to change it.
> These snowflakes don’t just want a safe space, they want a revolution — one that would make the whole world safe from provocative jokes and wrong ideas. Will they grow out of it? One hears plenty of stories of aggressive speech and thought policing by recent college grads working in media, nonprofits, and other organizations with a progressive culture. One thing that definitely isn’t safe in this climate: free speech.
> Thinks the PC alarm is overblown? When they come for Nimesh Patel, it’s time to be alarmed.
> Young is a writer in New York.
> Columbia University <https://www.nydailynews.com/tags/columbia-university/>
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