Breaking Through a Ring of Motivated Ignorance – Zach Wood

“When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.”

These words were posted on Facebook Thursday evening, shortly after I began inviting people to an Uncomfortable Learning event, entitled One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back: Why Feminism Fails. The speaker, scheduled to come to Williams on Tuesday, October 20th, was Suzanne Venker, author of The Flipside of Feminism. Owing to the vehement reactions of students diametrically opposed to bringing Venker, a staunch antifeminist, to campus, the event has been cancelled.

To claim that bringing Venker to Williams is an attack on what this college stands for and the women who work here is unfounded. At Williams, learning (theoretically anyway) begins with confronting challenging ideas. Tens of millions of Americans espouse Venker’s views–and I am not one of them. I am, in fact, of the opinion that her arguments deserve trenchant criticism, but to challenge her intellectually and critique her arguments substantively, we must first understand her views. Each of us has the license to engage Venker’s ideas, or to ignore them, but energetic intellectual engagement is not synonymous with ideological endorsement. Those who protested viewed this event through a lens of motivated ignorance.

It is lamentable, yet also perversely predictable, that this lens is a blurred one through which only the most suspicious eye can honestly claim to see clearly. Through this lens, the culprit of all unjust human suffering is ‘imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.’ To critique that argument is to hurt the oppressed. To deepen said argument is to honorably bear witness to injustice and admirably speak truth to power. Through this lens, writing this article is shameful precisely because it lacerates those who speak so much of their bleeding that I wonder what they would do with their time if their wounds ever healed and the culprit vanished from the face of the earth.

Put crudely, what contaminates this lens is not its focus; rather, it is the myopia of those who look through it. This myopia breeds a searing aversion to fruitful intellectual exchange that challenges politically progressive students at Williams to reexamine their sacred beliefs. Evincing said myopia, the ad hominem diatribe in this article’s opening quotation criminalizes freedom of thought, typifies progressive ideological absolutism, fuels motivated ignorance, and corrodes intellectual humility. This is to say:

1) When an individual goes so far as to describe someone as having blood on their hands for supporting the idea of bringing a highly controversial speaker to Williams, they are advancing the belief that what offends them should not be allowed on this campus precisely because it offends them and people who agree with them.

2) In an attempt to subvert antifeminism, this argument descends immediately to ideological absolutism by charging Venker’s political views with “actual mental, social, psychological, and physical” violence, absent any analysis or corroboration.

3) By assassinating Venker’s character (without presenting a shred of evidence), the argument implicitly characterizes any level of intellectual engagement with her work as futile, even immoral, thereby invalidating alternative understandings of feminism and antifeminism. In fact, such remarks unwittingly disparage scholarly efforts to scrutinize Venker’s work, which might engender sharp critiques that offer a pat on the back to the righteous activists leading the revolution.

I find it frustrating that some of our peers prefer demonization to thoughtful discussion. I understand that people are connected to various political issues in different ways, and that, for some, the stakes feel more personal. That, however, does not mean our political differences prevent mutual understanding. Whether we agree or disagree with her, each of us can learn from the work of Suzanne Venker, if we commit ourselves to doing so. I relish the fact that I can learn something from every student at this school about how they understand various facets of the world we live in.

At America’s top liberal arts college, we should not settle for petty personal attacks, unchecked confirmation bias, and Taco 6-like verbal harassments when we deeply disagree with people. We can come to terms with meaningful disagreements without making presumptions of guilt. We can critique each other intellectually and challenge people effectively without snidely suggesting that they are sexist, racist, anti-black, anti-feminist, or xenophobic. Fact is: All of us are biased. So before we discount what someone has to say because we think that they are biased or prejudiced, we should ask ourselves, as Socrates asked Plato, whose bias do we seek?

Too often, it seems, student activists who view the world through the blurred lens of motivated ignorance tend to accent the expression of existential catharsis without seriously confronting conservative arguments on political issues of significant interest to them. This willful disregard of uncomfortable learning, at times, results in insulated world-views.

When one only, or mostly, talks politics with people they agree with, they tend to receive a round of applause, but this ring of motivated ignorance, grounded on tribal insularity, suffocates the potential for uncomfortable learning and dynamic intellectual exchange. This ring of motivated ignorance, in fact, becomes the refuge of those who, in the face of intellectual challenges, avoid critical reexamination of their sacred beliefs at all costs.

To break through this ring of motivated ignorance, I suggest: make an effort, individually, to understand the very best counterarguments on the issues that you care about most. Mention should be made of the fact that the BSU made one such effort in their first general meeting this year. Intellectual integrity does not necessarily entail changing one’s mind. Rather, intellectual integrity consists of the willingness to be self-critical and think as hard as one can about counterarguments out of the understanding that each of us can and should try to learn from those with whom we vociferously disagree.

69 thoughts on “Breaking Through a Ring of Motivated Ignorance – Zach Wood

  1. It’s a sad state of affairs at Williams College. Thanks for so perfectly capturing everything that’s wrong with what’s happened in the last week. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it.

    • Agreed. Your classmates cheering at the event’s cancellation are disappointing to see as an alum who donates generously to the college to support free speech and real grappling with “uncomfortable” opinions and ideas.

  2. What I think is misunderstood in this article is that fact that female students must be subjected to listening to a person who doesn’t agree with equal rights for women. The event was cancelled because students should have say in who they choose to have as speakers. I don’t understand how inviting a antifeminist is not endorsing at least some of their views. Are you not paying for them to speak at this school? In addition, what would happen if Williams invited a white supremacist? Should we really identify this as uncomfortable learning? The opinions of students should be respected. It is not, in fact, ignorance. I vehemently disagree with you. We are already under a system of patriarchy, how many times do we have to hear the same views constantly of why feminism is “bad” for society? Do you really consider Williams students, especially female students ignorant? How could we be ignorant of a system that discriminates us?

    • No one has to attend the event. No one has to pay attention to the controversy surrounding it. Needless to say, no one should be coerced to entertain ideas and views they find repulsive. It is everyone’s license to ignore the event. To pay Venker to speak would not be to endorse her views. Venker would be compensated for the work (time, effort, and thought) that goes into giving a lecture. That is a standard economic transaction observed in our society. To your question about ignorance, I do not consider female students at Williams ignorant. That is a sweeping a statement that I do not make in my article and one that I would never make. I think certain student activists on this campus, male and female, exhibit motivated ignorance in that they are averse to anything that challenges their sacred beliefs and tend to criticize others without being self-critical.

    • No student is “subjected to listening” to any speaker who is brought to Williams college. You can just sit in your dorm room and continue being the valorous member of the phantom 500 that you are.

    • The fact that you believe that she doesn’t represent equal rights for women, suggests that you actually need to listen to her. Because those of us who have heard her, know that that idea is absolutely absurd.

      It’s much better to listen to critics of feminism first-hand, than through the delusions of hysterical-type feminists (and no, I am not saying that’s you – or all feminists) who have extreme Daddy issues coming from serious child abuse.

  3. Assassinating her character without any shred of evidence? I believe you’re the one who is down on their research. Dissenters have explicitly cited their reasons for opposing her.

  4. Point taken, Zach, and I agree that intellectual exchange is good and insularity is bad.

    But the strategy taken by the Uncomfortable Learning initiative to combat “progressive ideological absolutism” is to troll your peers by inviting an ideologue from the opposite end of the spectrum. I have difficulty believing that this stimulates fruitful intellectual exchange.

    I understand that you “find it frustrating that some of our peers prefer demonization to thoughtful discussion.” But it is disingenuous to bait disagreement and then to condescend to the people whose intention, by all accounts, was to respectfully protest and engage with the speaker.

    If William F. Buckley hit a hippie with a stick, wouldn’t it be his responsibility to hear the cry of pain without being smug about it?

    • Gideon,

      I see where you’re coming from. I disagree: I think that bringing speakers from the opposite side of the spectrum does have significant intellectual benefits. One is the intellectual endeavor of trying to understand how one such individual arrives at their conclusions. Another is figuring out how said individual responds to trenchant criticisms. One can also use an understanding of provocative counterarguments to strengthen their own. We should remember that Norman Finkelstein and Randall Kennedy were brought to Williams by UL and neither of them were republicans.

      To clarify, UL does not aim to bait disagreement. Rather, UL aims to expose students to views that thoroughly unsettle them. Why? Because UL believes that uncomfortable learning should challenge people to consider perspectives that question their sacred beliefs, tacit assumptions, and unarticulated presuppositions.

      As for Buckley ha, it would indeed be his responsibility to hear the cry of pain just as it would be that hippie’s responsibility to hear Buckley respond to being called a white-supremacist for opposing welfare and affirmative action.

      • > Rather, UL aims to expose students to views that thoroughly unsettle them

        Uncomfortable learning is not an end; it is a means to an end – that being a strong, rich, education. I have invited a racist to campus to speak about Phrenology and it certainly would have been unsettling – but not helpful. Phrenology is pseudoscience and I’m thankful that there’s no more meaningful debate about it.

        • Hi Will,

          I’m not sure that’s the best analogy to use. Phrenology is a dead science which has limited impact in the world. Antifeminism is very much alive and well; one only needs to glance at the news in the morning to see its effects. By inviting Venker, students gain the opportunity to see the arguments that we’re up against in this world.

          Bottom line: bravo to Zach for inviting her, and shame on people who believe that we should insulate ourselves from real-world “views that thoroughly upset” but also greatly impact us.

  5. What concerned me most about the prospect of Venker speaking for Uncomfortable Learning is that her ideas are only “uncomfortable” for those that are working to subvert a system of oppression. In fact, her ideas are quite “comfortable” for those who refuse to acknowledge this imbalance. As a feminist I have found myself having to justify my views to many of the men (and even some women) in my life. Venker’s work validates all those who have told me that I am “overreacting” or need to “lighten up” and invalidates women who speak against the injustice and abuse that they experience regularly. Plain and simple, she advocates for perpetuating a long-standing system of oppression. I agree that we should be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, but Venker’s is one that harms half of our community and is, in my opinion, simply wrong.

    • Put simply, I agree with your take on Venker. But I do think that bringing Venker to Williams could be valuable in that it would give feminists the opportunity to face the counterargument and in a Q&A session, vigorously take it to task.

      • Zach, feminists don’t like having to confront people with dissenting viewpoints because let’s face it, they have no counter arguments. Feminists rely on emotion to get people to join their movement, not facts and reasoning, and they deal with dissenters by trying their hardest to silence them. If Suzanne had shown up she’d have tore their so called arguments apart with ease.

    • It boggles my mind that people like you who are so very privileged believe that you’re oppressed but I have a question for you. If you and your other feminist buddies see yourselves as oppressed why don’t you round each other up and move to some deserted island somewhere without any men around to bother you?

  6. I second the idea that Venker’s viewpoint is wrong (put forth as an opinion by ‘tired feminist,’ above). If I had more room and time I’d argue that Venker is objectively wrong – at least from an enlightened, rational standpoint. The fact that the tired feminist feels she has to couch her claim in opinion is a very clear sign that there’s some oppression at work here.

    I second (and applaud) Gideon’s accusation that you picked Venker just to troll progressives. You could probably defend yourself adamantly on this front, and I’ll bet you genuinely believe you were doing a good thing by making some people uncomfortable. I’m not saying that making people uncomfortable is a bad thing. I’m saying that, in some cases, it’s obnoxious. In this case, it’s obnoxious and harmful. The Facebook comment about you supporting the “dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters” is spot-on. I know you see that WGSS-type lingo and your eyes just glaze over and you stop paying attention – believe me, I know where you’re coming from – but the sentiment there is right.
    Imagine a conservative campus, with outspoken conservative activists. You bring some black queer feminist on as part of your ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ series. People are up in arms. Why? Because that black queer feminist is a fucking queer. Because they look and talk funny. Because their views, if they weren’t so marginalized and easy to ignore, might threaten people’s values. Anyway, the event is cancelled, and you probably don’t even have to think about black queer feminism for the rest of your life.
    Okay, now on a liberal campus, when you bring in a white misogynist, people are up in arms just the same. Why? Because Venker’s views are the views of the mainstream. Because, even now that the event is cancelled, the protesters here still have to live in a world where, if things don’t change, their quality of life will always be discounted.
    The kids on the conservative campus have their values threatened, momentarily. The kids on our campus have their lives and livelihoods threatened, always.
    The big question is: what is actually at stake for each group?

    There is nothing particularly ‘uncomfortable’ about Venker, in that there’s no getting away from her. She’s pushing what the majority of human beings in the past thousand years have been pushing – women’s dependence on men. She’s not even original! We already know that we want no part of what Venker is trying to foist on us – it would make for an objectively worse style of life, for a lot of people here. As for the others – they’re just hearing more of what they want to hear.
    Venker probably doesn’t even understand the implications of what she’s doing; she was born and raised in a backwards society in 20th century America. You could actually make a case for feeling bad for her. She’s, at best, a mouthpiece, and at worst a propagandist. There’s nothing to be gained from inviting her here. If you were really to stand by your premise of ‘Uncomfortable Learning,’ and I hope you would want to, you should make everybody uncomfortable (on both sides) and invite somebody like Janice Raymond.

    Since I’m starting to devolve anyway, I might as well mention that this piece is full of some pretty poor writing. Nobody wants to read something like “evincing said myopia,” especially not in an essay by an undergraduate peer. It’s annoying. To be honest, I had to stop reading at that point (you had already made your argument clear), though in scrolling I noticed something about Plato and Socrates too… that, together with said statement about myopia, makes me think that you should put down the course packets and pick up some literature once in a while.

    • ^THIS! Thank youuuu. Like, the first time I had to defend feminism to someone, it was prob really productive. The second time, less so. The THOUSANDth time?

      For someone to have motivated ignorance, she has to look at something at a really surface level and shut it down without ever engaging with it. The arguments presented by Venker have reached me on the deepest level. They’ve made me question my worth as a human being. I’ve had to wonder what my place in society is. It has made me extremely uncomfortable (looks like the whole world has beaten you to the punch, dude). I feel like I’ll NEVER be free from these arguments; evidently they’re still considered opinions worthy of being examined and debated at Williams fucking College (that’s what this event would signify). I have 100% engaged w/ them as fully as I possibly could. Trust me.

      Let them die. Stop making me deal with this bullshit.

      • So because you are tired of defending your ideals, an entire community of young people at an institution of learning should be denied the opportunity? The feminism that I believe in, that which is greatly admired throughout the modern world for promoting equality, never shied from argument, nor used righteousness as a gag to silence its opposition.

        Your discomfort with a subject shouldn’t preclude its discussion in the public sphere. If you think that canceling this event effectively buries what you consider backwards thinking, you are wrong: much of the popular coverage of this event now showcases Venker as a martyr for unpopular speech in the American university, and once again feminism is burdened by association with political bullies and intellectual insularity.

    • “To be honest, I had to stop reading at that point […]” How can you bring yourself to criticize a piece of writing if you didn’t read the whole text? “It’s annoying” when people think they can understand a person’s opinion when they have read only parts of their writing on a subject.

    • You accuse Mr. Wood of trolling, then you conclude with a paragraph attacking his style? The irony of that probably won’t escape anyone coming to this discussion with an open mind.

      • If you think that this piece was well-written you need to have your head examined. Haughty and overwrought, regardless of your politics.

  7. Although it is clearly important to give a broad range of opinions the opportunity to be heard, picking out those whose views are not even in the mainstream of conservative thought and presenting them as legitimate just because they are wildly different does a disservice to both the right and the left. Conservatives deserve better than hearing a caricature of their ideas presented as their orthodoxy, and liberals deserve better than being presented with a false impression of the other side of the argument. This particular speaker would not have contributed to a productive, open discussion; even many conseratives would find her views too extreme to be taken seriously. Surely there are better choices for potential speakers and alternative viewpoints.

  8. Not only does the speaker misrepresent mainstream conservative views on sex and gender, but the author himself misrepresents Socrates, who never asked, “Whose bias do we seek?” and who certainly never asked Plato any question in any dialogue.

  9. Here’s me trying to engage w/ “uncomfortable perspectives” like this one:
    –“Unpopular opinion, I think it really isn’t talked about enough and *hasn’t* been affirmed repeatedly throughout the history of mankind: women belong in the home.”
    >>”K wow that is…that is some interesting stuff, I’ve never considered that… let’s unpack that, I want to engage with that. Ummm… no??? How dare you?”

  10. A few questions and observations:

    This is the type of issue that alums (like myself) are very interested in and we tend to see it as a barometer to give us a reading of “on campus” atmosphere. Because of that, I’m curious about a few facts that I’ve not been able to find in the press and also have a few observations.

    Who, exactly, cancelled the speaker? I have assumed that UL is a student organization and gets college funds for its organization. I also know that the speaker was pulled in response to the protests. But who made the call? The UL student organizers? The College? Falk? The College Council?

    I tend to agree with the general sentiment of UL but isn’t the point of UL to challenge mainstream thinking? I wasn’t under the impression that feminism was mainstream thinking – in fact, the opposite. While the subjective goal (and the invitation) may not be one of trolling, the fact that feminism remains counter-culture, seems to undermine, or at least call into question the good faith of the speaker choice. The identity of this particular person – Schlaffley’s niece and Fox News contributor also seem to bolster someone’s conclusion that this is trolling, not a good faith exchange of views.

    That said, for me, it might be fun to attend the event if only for the chance to take Venker down a peg or two in a Q&A session. I say that, though, as a straight white man, coming from the point of privilege and power (and I am a former Women’s Studies minor and know what I’m talking about) so having Venker as the speaker wouldn’t so much be threatening to me as it would be sport.

    Maybe there is a way for everyone to win – for feminists on campus to be “uncomfortable” without being trolled or threatened. And campus conservatives to have their (locally) minority viewpoint touted. Aren’t there actual scholars on the subject of anti-feminism, or in support of the patriarchy, who have done and published research who would be better fits for the UL project on this topic? Someone more up to Williams standards? Someone who has more than a couple of books and Youtube clips of appearances on Fox News?

    Camille Paglia was there in the early 1990s (albeit just after I left) offering similar viewpoints. She probably still knows the way to campus.

    Michael La Porte ’91
    Chicago, IL

  11. Never mind on the “who” question — I just read your FB page and saw this:

    “let me be clear: the decision to cancel this event was made by three people.”

    Ms. Venker’s piece on the Fox News website makes it sound as if “Williams College” reneged on its invitation. That’s a rather unfortunate mis-characterization.

  12. In all honesty, the most offensive thing about this article is the writing style. I’m sure, however, that your 10th grade English teacher would have been very, very impressed with your vocabulary. Go you!

  13. This is very well said and stated. Isn’t uncomfortable learning about being uncomfortable and learning about things you may not want to hear? If you don’t want to listen, don’t.

    Ignorance is everywhere, especially in the purple bubble

  14. I third Gideon’s comments about this ultimately being a trolling exercise.

    Nothing about this piece suggests that you learned something new about the invited speaker between the issuing of the invitation and the cancellation. Nothing I’ve read has suggested any coercement from any party – not other students, nor the administration, nor alumni. Nothing has provided evidence that anyone is being silenced here. If that did happen, then I will stand up and defend your freedom to invite controversial speakers, in good faith.

    On the contrary, your choice is the worst of all worlds – and displays bad faith. You do a disservice to the invited speaker by rendering her preparation useless with a last-minute change. You do a disservice to your fellow students by inviting a controversy about ideas than preventing them from being aired. You do a disservice to the College and its alumni community by being so vague in your messages to the speaker that you inspire misleading articles like this one:

    If you want to get speakers that challenge students, I think you can do better than this particular person for reasons stated above. Williams’s faculty has more diversity of ideology than you might think, and may have better references for you than I can offer right now.

  15. You canceled the event because the speaker you invited as part of the Uncomfortable Learning series made people uncomfortable. What exactly were you expecting in terms of student response? Should you really be involved with the Uncomfortable Learning series if you cannot deal with the discomfort associated with making people uncomfortable?

    At the end of the day Zach, you canceled the event. You could not stand being uncomfortable and learning from your peers. You canceled the event because you felt harassed and probably offended, the same feelings the speaker would have evoked in many of the attendees of her talk. You could not tolerate the very feeling of persecution that you expected others to tolerate and learn from. You could have just as easily ignored those voices, as you expected people to when the speaker would have visited. Do you not see this hypocrisy?

    I hope you learned something from this uncomfortable episode my friend.

  16. Here’s a question: who funds the “Uncomfortable Learning” series? A list of donors and the amounts of money they have given would be helpful in understanding the ideological intentions and effects of the program. I suspect rather significant amounts of money are necessary to bring in some of the speakers, but we have no idea where that money is coming from and what the providers of the money are trying to get for their investment. Follow the money.

  17. And to think people often describe modern college students as intellectually infantile fascists who endlessly demand that the world be bubble-wrapped by the Nanny-State lest it rub their hypersensitivities wrong.

    Why, its clearly far worse than that. Anyone with a Williams degree should be embarrassed.


    Do you support the comments attributed to you here, that there were concerns about safety, worries that people would be throwing things, and that there was not enough time to get campus security involved? These are serious accusations that open Williams students up to slanderous claims that we react violently when presented with differing viewpoints. Do you have any evidence that the fear of people throwing things and engaging in destructive behaviors was justified? If not, you owe us all an apology and a retraction.

  19. Every Williams student should watch the video of the talk given by Dr. Cornell West and Dr. Robert George at Swarthmore College in 2014 where they discussed the purpose of a liberal arts education.

    In short, liberal arts students need to have their beliefs challenged and be ready to accept that they may be wrong about some things.
    I whole heartedly agree.

    Williams is the top liberal arts college? I’m not so sure that it even qualifies as a liberal arts college . . .

  20. For every 100 women who earn a bachelor’s degree, 73 American men do.

    Women outnumber men 136 to 100 in graduate school programs.

    More men die on the job yearly, at a death rate approximately 11 times higher than women.

    Men don’t live as long as women, and commit suicide far more often. Men are typically incarcerated for longer sentences for the same crimes as women.

    I share these facts to make a specific point: merely sharing these facts will draw attacks… knowing nothing about me, I can be sure commenters will call me a(n) MRA (not so, the above data points are from the Washington Post and NY Times), or an antifeminist. I reject either label, as I believe in gender equality, and accept that the imbalance in executive roles in government and business is proof that women are disadvantaged at this time. (It does make me wonder why there isn’t more of a push to trade school and blue collar roles–why aren’t activists upset at the gender disparity in construction, sanitation, welding, etc.? But I digress).

    The sharer of facts which support the idea that maybe men don’t all have it universally better than females attracts hostility, nigh unto bloodlust.

    And I know this, because Venker produced a fact-based book, which employs an objective, rational tone. and yet she has been vilified, by those too scared to engage her on a factual basis. True, her title is inflammatory, but that’s a marketing tactic to open press opportunities. The book itself presents its case without rancor.

    Are her facts wrong? Share your data and prove her facts wrong. Attack her analysis, her evidence. To attack her as a person proves intellectual weakness, fragility, and poor ethics. Those that sought to have her removed from this speaking opportunity reveal cowardice, myopia, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and childishness.

  21. It was not the school itself that got rid of her it was the students. Which reflects rather badly on those adult children regardless of your view of the speaker.

  22. I read Venker’s speech on-line yesterday. You can view a copy of it at

    After reading it, I think it is fair to say it offers some standard, common sense advice regarding planning your life if you want to get married and have children. The idea that such wholesome advice would cause “actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students” can only sparks giggles and derision among those of us who do business in the real world.

    I’m afraid that the prestige of being associated with Williams College vanished in the late 1980’s — at about the same time I resigned from its political science department.

  23. Events such as this only echo why Williams returned the gift of my endowed chair in personal ethics and social responsibility five years ago — at the time the College said every student arrives with fully formed ethics and thus the gift was useless. After a bit they changed that to the notion that every student arrives believing they possess fully formed ethics and thus the gift was useless. Perhaps the administration knows its customers better than I was willing to admit.

  24. Feminism enslaves women. That’s right it enslaves women to a paranoid delusional belief system that keeps them from finding success and fulfillment. It destroys their love lives by convincing them that men are evil dominating monsters. It turns women into obnoxious people who no one wants to have anything to deal with. It convinces them that murdering unborn women is OK and so leads to the murder of unborn women. Zach when you caved in to the radical femi-nazi extremists you handed a victory to man hating women who promote the murder of unborn women. That is the ultimate violence. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.” Perhaps some day, you as I have will date a nutty feminist and every sign of affection and kindness will be warped in her paranoid feminist mind as a reason to dislike you. My relationship with a feminist was wrecked by feminism and we both lost.

  25. Zach – I hope this episode raises your group’s profile and you see your coffers swell. Below are some suggestions of people to bring to campus. The “A” list would be Paglia, Arthur Brooks, Sowell, and Stephens. They are all highly accomplished and would offer the Williams student body and tremendous learning experience.

    Feminism (Anti-Feminism)
    Camille Paglia, University of Arts, Philadelphia
    Christine Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute

    College Assault “Epidemic
    Judith Shulevitz, New Republic
    Christine Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute
    Sofi Sinozich and Lynn Langton – Department of Justice, Authors of Dec 2014 Special Report on Rape Culture

    Economics and Social Policy
    Arthur Brooks, American Enterprise Institute
    Thomas Sowell, Hoover Institution
    Niall Ferguson, Harvard and Oxford

    African Americans and Culture of Bigotry
    Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal
    Thomas Sowell, Hoover Institution

    International Relations
    Brett Stephens, Pulitzer Prize, Wall Street Journal
    Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations
    Richard Haas, Council on Foreign Relations

    Supreme Court/Legal Matters
    Richard Epstein, NYU and University of Chicago

    College Campus Assault on Free Speech
    Anyone from FIRE

    • Seconded wholeheartedly. This is a really, really excellent list. I’d seriously consider coming back to campus to see a lot of these names.

  26. Dear Uncomfortable Learning,

    I highly encourage you to:

    1. Challenge yourself to operate with the speaker budget that the average student organization at Williams has access to.

    2. Be uncomfortable and sit with the criticisms of your actions. This would mean following through with your events instead of abandoning your principles and rescinding an invitation simply because you received a phone call and social media comments and made you *surprise* uncomfortable.

    3. Collaborate with other students who disagree with the political leanings of your financial backers.

    • On the contrary I would encourage you to apply for grants to bring even more controversial speakers to campus. The bubble of the purple valley is in need of significant disruption. But when you pitch for outside funding you must acknowledge that you royally screwed up with this event and must commit to never cancelling a speaker again.

  27. Zach – I see you are hosting an event with KC Johnson. Great job. I have heard Stuart Taylor, his co-author, speak and he is really impressive.

    Are these events recorded? Is there a way to watch a video?

    Like many interested people, I will be unable to attend.


  28. ““When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters.”

    Damn, that’s a microaggression right there. Hurts my feelz. Not only is that indistinguishable from satire, but if I had written it as satire, I would have gone back and edited it down as too over-the-top to be even remotely plausible.

    On an unrelated note, I don’t think I’ve seen or heard the word “decadent” used in years. I wonder why that is?

    • Zach Wood represents the FINEST of a long Williams tradition — intellectual couriosity coupled with a reflexive nature about his learning — Mark Hopkins on one end of a log …

      The same CANNOT be said about Adam Falk who has over his half decade at the helm made it clear that he believes that Williams students are incapable of dealing with moral questions, ethical dilemmas, or personal responsibility. Instead the present Williams administration wants to coddle the students and protect them from the “dangers” of critical thinking and the notion that they might actually have to be personally accountable for their own actions.

      The Williams I attended would NEVER have cancelled a speaker — boycotted and protested sure — pummelled with well thought out challenging questions would have been our chosen approach. Williams needs another 20-50 students like Zach. It would then have a chance to once again embody the reputation it fought hard to earn and has spent a few decades squandering. Being “highly selective” has little meaning if the college fails to prepare its students to deal with “the real world.” Zach Woods understands this .. it is a shame that Adam falk does not

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