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Burning Down the House in the Hopes to Vacuum a Phantasmagorical Lint Ball


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/02/04

According to CNN, there was some reportage on the recent work, following in a longer wake of arguments against gender studies, of Viktor Orban and others decrying the work of gender theorists and others.

In the context of an ongoing and Western backlash against critical studies — granted, often, in overly complicated structures and language — of assumed structures and identities, the work to root out what are perceived as radicals, who may ask critical questions, may stage minor protests irregularly, may complain about individual educators or facets of society, and so on, comes tied to an even more extreme radicalism with those harboring much of the power entrusted to them by the public with the outright threats to defund universities, destroy disciplines and not one life but sets of them, construct artificial intelligence programs to find purported threats bound in language mirroring the academic disciplines of those they decry, sue over a mean word, and so on, right into the present case of Orban.

Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, went about banning the gender studies programs because the “Government’s standpoint is that people are born either male or female,” said one governmental spokesperson, “and we do not consider it acceptable for us to talk about socially-constructed genders, rather than biological sexes.”

It amounts to a compounded misunderstanding and then with the real consequences to the lives of a profession, professionals, and trainees inside of an entire nation-state. Who are the radicals and the extremists, exactly? It seems rather clear with moves like this.

As reported, “The Hungarian government issued a decree last Friday to revoke accreditation and funding for gender studies programs at the two universities that offer them in Hungary.” This translates as the ban.

But, even worse, Central European University in Budapest explained that the government gave no formal explanation, except, presumably, the public news statement about the revoking or removal of the accreditation for the gender studies Master’s and Ph.D. programs there.

The Department of Gender Studies at Central European University stated, “In solidarity with Hungarian colleagues, we oppose this latest infringement on academic autonomy in the country… In the face of political moves such as this recent decision that mischaracterize and question the academic legitimacy of Gender Studies, we stress that the concept of gender, as a fundamental component of the human experience, has proven its importance in and across many areas of academic research.”

That seems correct. It was an infringement on academic freedom; even though, those most vocal about single minor instances of academic freedom denial or attenuation seem utterly silent on this case. It is akin to the silence from these self-same individuals on the instances of the likes of Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s denial of tenure at DePaul University, which is simply a textbook extreme case of a singular and formidable individual who had their academic life obliterated in a rapid period.

Here, though, we have a sense of this within the entirety of the country. How many professionals? How many departments? How many budgets in universities? How much time wasted and careers stalled? Why do governmental ideologues, the true ones with life-changing power, work in such a manner when strongman ideologues with a misunderstanding, or none, of a discipline begin to make decisions about the applicability of the field’s theories to the general public?

If a Young Earth Creationist entered into the fray of Hungarian politics, took prime ministerial leadership, and then had the same ignorance, gall, and power, they could cry only Mankind, specifically men from dirt/mud, as the sole pinnacle of God’s good Creation and the heathen evolutionists ought to simply get their socially-constructed ideologies out of the classrooms and, therefore, could ban it, as a governmental decree without formal explanation to any of the departments; this could be done. Should it be done? Is it academically honest? Is it in the line of the Enlightenment for critical inquiry or working to improve the tools of a field rather than staging childish antics trying to undermine them while also breaking standard ethical conduct and norms while also not expecting any consequences — and then having a litany of apologists for brazen academic misconduct, or engaging in political assaults on the public through the banishment of the discipline?

These assaults of academic inquiry could be applied to economic departments with pseudoeconomic philosophies that have destroyed whole economies. Should these be banished entirely or simply improved and rigorously debated in an academic manner? Everyone knows the answer here. Why is there one standard there but not in the former case? It would appear to be ideologues chasing the phantasmagora, for the most part, of their own fears and then projected onto what they deem their opponents for one reason or another to give personal rationale and sway to do as they wish — as, in another case, with the breaking of academic ethical norms and research codes of conduct, work to ban fields, sue opponents without platforms or legal defenses to manage it, and so on, as true ideologues and fundamentalists do. The whole situation is backward; and, I suspect, they know it, at some level.

There may not be a total success, but as recent as January the reportage has not been totally positive on the front of it, from the perspective of many of the students. This is the power of the state assaulting public institutions; this is the imposition of state-based ideology onto academic institutions, often backed by fundamentalist religious ideologies and, in this context, very often fundamentalist Christian patriarchal structures — in a proper definition, with the quiet, likely, attempt to impose traditional values on the culture and roles on men and women , in particular women.

If we look at the mass of strongmen around, we can note the majority, if not all, are men. Those whom power and consumption know no limits, whose lack of consideration for others may know no bottom. It is an assault on postsecondary institutions; also, it is a crackdown on democratic institutions at the same time, of which the European Parliament, to its credit, has voted to punish Orban.

The decree “calls into question the Hungarian government’s commitment to the principles of democracy which are the bedrock of European states,” The Political Studies Association stated, “Gender Studies is an integral part of understanding the complexities of social interaction, the impact of policy, the dynamics of the economy and the extent of abuse of personal and political power.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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