Controversial NMSU government professor Gregory Butler issues response in letter titled “the MadFarmer responds”

Controversial NMSU government professor Gregory Butler issues response in letter titled the MadFarmer responds

I want to thank all of my students, former and current, who have expressed their support for me over the course of the past week. It is gratifying to see so many standing up for the free speech rights of faculty. Along the way, some have asked me to respond publicly so as to put to rest the absurd accusations that have been leveled against me. I am pleased that the Round-Uphas seen fit to allow me to do so here.

I created the MadFarmer persona on Twitter several years ago, along with a now defunct iteration of the same character on YouTube. I did so as a means of articulating and defending my political views, which can be more or less accurately described as traditionally conservative. Unlike many professors, I have never considered the classroom to be an appropriate vehicle for political proselytizing.

I have too much respect for a traditional liberal arts education to abuse my authority in that fashion, perhaps to a fault. I resist divulging my personal political opinions in class, often to the frustration of curious students. I prefer that they arrive at their own conclusions independent of what any authority figure has to say. I hold my views as strongly as any of my liberal colleagues; but in order to protect the integrity of my pedagogy, I guard them closely. For this reason I felt it was important to keep the MadFarmer account anonymous.

One option, of course, would have been to keep my mouth shut entirely. This I could not do, however. In recent years conservatives have found themselves increasingly marginalized by the most powerful institutions in American society: the mainstream (legacy) media; Hollywood and the entertainment industry; the organizations of both major political parties; corporate America; the public schools; and of course higher education.

I find this alarming. I find it alarming not because I am a conservative, but because I believe that free and honest discussion of alternative points of view is an indispensible feature of any society that wishes to call itself civilized. The marginalization of conservative ideas has become so thoroughgoing that reasoned political discussion is now nearlyimpossible.

The “Orange Man Bad” hysteria is but one instance of a phenomenon that is all around us. Many on the Left are mired deep in a smug and self-righteous worldview that is held with such relentless conviction that it is impervious to argument. Those who dare to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy are dismissed as either ignorant fools or amoral Machiavellsclinging to power, privilege, and wealth. Sloganeering and name-calling are the stock-in-trade of the Establishment, and testament to their mindlessness.

They all bleat the same warning cry as they cling desperately to their dogmas, as though breaking from the herd would bring on some sort of fatal existential crisis. In my view, this is not only symptomatic of a false ideology and a false account of reality, but it is exceedingly dangerous. So I decided to push back against the bullies.

Some have asked me (and rightly so) why the MadFarmer was such a vulgar and grotesque character, standing in stark contrast to the demeanor of his creator. The answer stems from the nature of the cultural conflict before us – what Alistair MacIntyre has called “a civil war carried on my other means.”  One of the mechanisms by which dissenting voices are marginalized is the a priori delegitimization of certain questions or lines of inquiry, particularly in higher education and the mass media. I care far less about finding “conservative” answers than I do about the full range of possibilities that inhere in the questions themselves. Let me cite a few prominent examples:

The possibility that gutting and dismembering near full-term babies in the name of “choice” is a moral evil;

The possibility that affirmative action and other so-called “diversity” efforts are tainted by the “soft bigotry” of low expectations;

The possibility that the blanket condemnation of “white people” is itself a form of bigotry and racism just like any other;

The possibility that the experiment in economic and cultural globalism is a dangerous one that will lead to increased violence around the world;

The possibility that Islam is a false and dangerous religion that ought to be prohibited from gaining a foothold in any civilized country;

The possibility that arming citizens to the teeth might prevent far more gun deaths than gun control ever could;

The possibility that the recent global warming scare is a hoax, and that the planet is actually entering a significant cooling period due to the onset of the solar minimum;

The possibility that modern anti-Semitism stems from no quarter but the contemporary Left;

The possibility that traditional gender roles might have a basis in evolutionary biology and psychology;

The possibility that the “Patriarchy” is a myth perpetrated by feminists as a power play dependent upon the cooperation of weak men and envious women.

I will not pretend to have answers to any of these questions. But I will insist upon my right to ask them without being harassed, threatened, and called childish names. As in any battle, the strategy used must be attuned to the battlefield environment. When honest discussion is rendered impossible by ideological blindness, the only viable response is an aesthetic shock to the system.

This is the key to understanding the efficacy of the Meme, and why it is the exclusive possession of the Right. The Left can’t Meme because the Left has no need to deploy an aesthetic pathos to assert its legitimacy; it has the cultural power to define legitimacy itself. While the Meme was part of MadFarmer’s repertoire, his shock value inhered more in his grotesque rhetoric. The vulgarity carried the message, but it also was the message.

This is not the kind of vulgarity that destroys morality; it is the kind that reveals it. As the novelist Flannery O’Connor once said, “their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work…When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”

My intent with MadFarmer was not to persuade with reason, but to provoke such an eye-opening moment. A rhetorically grotesque, visceral reaction has a way of exposing the humanity of the subject, displacing all caricature and undermining the opponent’s sense of moral superiority. This is the first step in creating civilized discourse. I suspect this is why there is so much pearl-clutching on the Left – they instinctively know that a sufficiently brazen push-back from the Right will force them into a form of engagement for which they are woefully unprepared.

Two examples should suffice to illustrate the point. The first is the unsettling cognitive dissonance created by the right-wing Los Angeles street artist who goes by the name of Sabo. His method is to be as “dirty, ground level, and mean as any liberal artist out there, more so if I can.” The idea was to reach out to the millennial generation “with a message they never hear in a style they own.” He proved impervious to the predictable barrage of name-calling, innuendo, and ad hominem attacks, and simply kept on with the grotesque billboards around Los Angeles and elsewhere.

The response from most was stunned silence; Twitter’s response was to de-platform him (a nice Progressive euphemism for censoring). The second example is better known: the election of a President prepared to push back against the Left-wing establishment in a way that certainly appeared grotesque in the eyes of his enemies. The response? An attempted coup by propaganda, orchestrated by the Democratic party and their co-conspirators at CNN and WaPo. If you have to go to such lengths to silence your political opponents, you are unprepared, unable, or unwilling to meet them on civilized ground.

In some ways the views of MadFarmer are contrived and fictionalized, but in all cases based on what I perceive to be an increasingly corrupt culture of public discourse that demands a response. I make no claim to any kind of equivalence with O’Connor, and it should go without saying that I do not consider the MadFarmer to be on a par with the likes of Sabo – a creative genius. In comparison the tweets were timid, unsophisticated, and lacking in imagination. But I can say this about them. Remember those students who saw fit to expose my account and bring me before the Inquisitors? I was never able to get their attention in class. But I have it now.

Gregory Butler, Department of Government

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