Memoirs of a Dissident Student in Postmodern Academia
April 6, 2009
completing my university education in 1992, I quickly discovered that my degree
was not especially useful in the “real world.” It was not until twelve years
later, after having founded and grown a successful business, and after having
become aware of the cultural pathologies of our times, that I decided that a
degree in Cultural Studies was what I required.
My business catered (and still caters) to a sector within the anti-liberal, anti-egalitarian counterculture through the production, distribution, and sale of Black Metal and related forms of underground music.
Alex Kurtagic's cover art for Supernal Music's Anti-Geldof Compilation. The CD comes with "a vast 28-page booklet with information and a polemic exposing the repugnant ideology that lurks beneath [Bob] Geldof's foul-mouthed diatribes and the high-flown universalism associated with the self-righteous poverty campaign."
From the beginning, it was always much more than a record label, as the various aspects and elements of its operation provided me with a vehicle for the expression of my skills, thoughts, and sensibilities. My reviews and editorials had already become infused with cultural criticism, and I reasoned that by obtaining an advanced degree from an elite university, I would be able to further develop this aspect of my existing activity into a secondary career.
My aim was to obtain a Ph.D. and establish myself as a (dissident) cultural critic. From this position I hoped to influence public discourse and thus contribute to the intellectual and spiritual conditions necessary to bring about a change in the current malaise that grips the West. Given my extended absence from formal education, however, I thought it advisable to first enroll in a Masters program in Cultural Studies.
I entertained no illusions as to what I would find inside modern academia. By the time of my enrolment I had already spent considerable time researching the topic, with some of my reading including Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West (2002) and Kevin MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique (1998). I was aware, therefore, that, short of suspending my intellectual integrity, my survival in a hostile environment would necessitate a great deal of sensitivity and a very careful use of language. I tailored my application letter accordingly and, after a successful interview, I entered the program.
For the first semester I signed up for a module called Postcolonial Theory. A correspondent had advised me a year previously that the discipline was essentially “a completely anti-White, anti-Western, Euro-bashing fest” — obviously an obligatory choice for me, since it could not possibly get any worse.
Postcolonial Theory proved more interesting than I had anticipated, although perhaps not in the way the academic staff would have liked or expected. While we were being taught about Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak, I found my mind simultaneously operating on two different levels:
On the one level, I was absorbing the data set associated with each theorist — their arguments, their theories, their terminology. On the other level, I was analyzing how these arguments, theories, and terminologies, were being used to alter the consciousness of students — students who, as far as I knew, had neither done, nor had ever been given the opportunity to do, any reading outside the self-contained alternative universe generated by these theorists and the other Freudo-Marxist intellectuals whose incestuously self-referring writings had served as the raw materials for the construction of that universe.
It's interesting that within this alternate universe it was possible to refute these theories, but the refutations invariably originated from within a part of the same universe — usually a more radical faction. And any thinking originating outside of this universe was not only never mentioned, but was simply not available as a legitimate analytical framework.
In fact, even discredited studies from the left, such as Adorno et al’s The Authoritarian Personality (1950), found space on the shelves in the college library. But I found not one text from any of scholars that regularly appear, or are relied upon as authorities, in publications that should ordinarily be considered highly relevant to a college known for its top-rated Cultural Studies department: The Occidental Quarterly, The Occidental Observer, Mankind Quarterly, or The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies.
Early on I mentioned to one of my fellow students (one of the two brightest in the class) that I found that the theorists we were required to study had some very astute and pertinent insights. But I told him that I aspired to elaborate an alternative analytical framework that would integrate these insights with insights from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. He immediately recoiled — initially with discomfort, eventually with some agitation — and amicably advised me to “not go there.”
Classes were followed by two-hour-long seminars, where instructors encouraged students to discuss the topic of the preceding lesson. On one occasion, while studying Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth (1961), I noticed that Fanon was guilty of some of the sins attributed to the system imposed by Whites that he so robustly criticized. I decided to stimulate debate with personal commentary on the text from a White European perspective. At one point I used the word 'we' in reference to white people. Our instructor stopped me asked “Who is ‘we’?” I said, quite matter-of-factly, “White people.” The instructor turned her face towards me, wide-eyed, and stared, completely speechless.
I quickly carried on, not acknowledging the gesture, and elaborating on my initial statement. Very politely, one of the Black students took me to task with a counter-argument about “pseudosciences” like ethnology[!]. Again we see that a critical weapon for the intellectual left is the ability to assert that scientific data that conflicts with their theories can be safely rejected. 'Pseudoscience' is one of the favorite words of the activist left (along with 'hate' and 'racist'). The hermetically sealed alternate universe speeds onward with nary a ripple.
Somewhat mischievously, shortly thereafter I made another intervention where I argued that the claim of Whites to Zimbabwe might be just as legitimate as that of the Blacks in the region, on the basis that the latter had been under the control of different tribes at different times, depending on who had conquered whom. Another Black student interrupted me to say “I don’t know what you are saying.” I asked her to please clarify, but she simply repeated her statement irritably and without further elaboration. I finished my point and the discussion was quickly diverted elsewhere by our instructor, but I remember that weeks later I realized that this Black student had never returned. At the end of this subsequent seminar, I also overheard some of the colored students express irritation among themselves with the points I had made, although they never talked to me or confronted me in any way.
At this college, students were evaluated entirely on the basis of a 6,000-word essay that was to be handed in at the end of the semester. I was not willing to suspend my intellectual integrity for the sake of good mark — even though I did aspire to get the highest possible accolade. I decided that I would write an essay on a topic that was important to me, yet presented my thesis and my arguments in a manner that even academics with far-left affiliations would find useful.
Taking a cue from Spivak’s "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988), and relying on Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and Said’s Orientalism (1978), I set about identifying discursive similarities between these two theorists and William Pierce and Kevin MacDonald, respectively. I also proposed an explanation as to why those similarities existed.
My basic argument was that all had adopted the voice of disprivileged people outside the hegemonic power structure (what Spivak calls “the subaltern”). The reason such radically opposing factions engaged in structurally similar discourse was that, while the Fanon-Said faction had already gained the ascendancy in terms of social and academic status, its members had not yet altered their language to reflect this.
On the other hand, the Pierce-MacDonald faction, although still belonging to a wealthy and demographically dominant group, had already altered their language in the direction of the subaltern, because they realized that their racial group’s ability to shape the culture was rapidly on the decline.
In essence, both factions were temporarily coincident in their discourse out of fear of either regressing or progressing towards subaltern status. As evidence, I cited texts documenting the decline in European-descended peoples’ demographic presence, social status, cultural influence, economic power, and political representation that has been ongoing since the Great War, and accelerating since World War II.
After working hard over the Christmas holiday period, I submitted the essay. Inevitably, I was ambivalent about my prospects: On the one hand, I knew my thesis was original and my arguments well supported by evidence. (In fact, although with a more polished and consistent literary style, I would still write and submit the same essay today.) On the other hand, I knew that my not having represented either William Pierce of Kevin MacDonald as delusional White Supremacists, and that my implicit treatment of their arguments on the eclipse of European-descended peoples as legitimate, opened my essay to criticism. I waited patiently, hoping for the best (distinction), and preparing myself for the worst (expulsion).
When the essay was finally returned to me, it came with a sheet containing my grade and feedback. At that college, essays were read and marked by the course lecturer, another lecturer, and a third party. My course lecturer found my essay rather useful and encouraged me to continue researching the topic. She had not awarded me with a distinction because I had not discussed poststructuralist theorists. (This was a conscious decision on my part, as their inclusion would have doubled the word count and there had been insufficient time for such an extended treatment).
The third party, the head of the Anthropology department, was less generous and market me down. He wrote:
Interesting, but ultimately one-dimensional paper. Its difficult to understand how you can say that the ‘white world’ is no longer in the ascendant (loss of Empire etc): if increasing polarization, supremacist Christian leaders with massive military-corporate imperialist projects (Bush, Blair + Australia’s Howard, etc). In this context, the dexterous juxtaposition of selective similarities among scholars seems to overlook core facts, forces a suspect racial binarism onto a more complex oppositional dynamic (postcolonial theory also entails a postrace ontology — of Paul Gilroy) & mocks scholarship.
The tone of some passages in this paper is contemptuous (of Ignatiev + Clinton for example) [but no doubt, in the latter case, with some reason]. But it’s a ‘straw man’ argument — even when discussing Robert … Mugabe.
The essay is well written and though clearly sympathetic to right wing and self-proclaimed white supremacists, is not on the whole a rant. It does however misunderstand the notion of subaltern and displays limited understanding of key postcolonial theorists’ concepts as compared to the questionable perspectives of the racist Pierce. From this one-sided position we then are subject to what amounts to an unbalanced rewriting of debate that distorts rather than clarifies.
I immediately resolved to compose a detailed rebuttal and scheduled a meeting with the gentleman in question. My intentions were to refute his criticism — together any arguments in its support that emerged during the meeting — and to incorporate my refutation into an extended version of the essay. The revised version would include a section discussing poststructuralist theorists, like Bhabba and Spivak. The meeting, therefore, was meant purely as a data-gathering expedition: Since department head is an adamant Marxist, I was not expecting to change his opinions or to reconsider my mark. My proposal was agreed and a meeting was duly scheduled.
Unfortunately, however, I was to be disappointed even in my modest expectations. On the appointed day, I entered the department head’s office. As he bid me to sit down and wait while he finished dealing with correspondence, I took time to survey the décor. It included, prominently displayed, sympathetic images of Karl Marx and symbols from the Soviet era. The bookshelves offered a uniform diet of far-Left literature (Spivak, Jameson, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari), as well as multiple copies of his own monographs, dealing with various subjects involving race, culture, and politics.
Eventually, he turned to me, at which point I re-stated the purpose of the meeting. Our dialogue began as follows:
DEPARTMENT HEAD: You seemed rather enamored with the Right.
ALEX KURTAGIC: Well, I wanted to be as neutral as possible.
DEPARTMENT HEAD (interrupting): Oh, I couldn’t do that!
From this point onward, the conversation quickly dissipated into frivolity. Instead of a dissection of my essay, my interlocutor wiled away the time with amiable chitchat, before finally treating me to an impromptu screening of Walt Disney’s 1943 anti-Nazi film, Der Fuehrer’s Face, which he played on his computer.
I neither challenged him nor attempted to bring the meeting back on track: His behavior was instructive in itself. And, after all, I was there primarily as an observer — as a student of enemy strategies and tactics.
I wondered whether the department head sought, in this oblique and unthreatening way, to use the meeting to evaluate my proclivities, not really deeming my thesis worthy of a genuine discussion and having already resolved (very intelligently, perhaps) to simply let me pass through the system’s bowels undigested, without causing belly-aches. The fact that it was he who waved me through during my application process might have contributed to his opting for dealing with me in such a subtle fashion.
At the end of the degree program students were expected to submit a 12,000-word dissertation, which was to comprise 25% of their total mark. Students were assigned a supervisor, whose role was to approve the students’ dissertation proposals and to make himself available in case of questions or difficulties. My assigned supervisor was the head of the Anthropology department, the same person who had marked down my essay.
I did not expect much from him, so I was not surprised when I submitted my proposal and I only received a very general email recounting an amusing anecdote involving Jean Baudrillard and recommending that I examine Paul Gilroy’s Against Race (2000).
Largely in jest, I replied by describing Gilroy’s proposal of a “planetary humanity” as monstrous and “totalitarian.” I also availed myself of the overblown phraseology usually employed by radical leftists when criticizing their opponents. His reply was: Yes, Gilroy “has some flaws, but is worth a careful reading.”
Those doing the marking did not enjoy my dissertation. The feedback I received consisted of not a word from one quarter and an irritated — but brief and very general — telling-off from the other. Both parties remained anonymous.
I did not enjoy my experiences as mature postgraduate student. Despite knowing full well what to expect, and being on cordial terms with all my lecturers (they were often my age and sometimes younger), I found it impossible to relate to them on any level. Accordingly, I found it very difficult to write an honest essay while being forced to employ analytical frameworks that, notwithstanding some shrewd insights and useful methodological approaches, I deemed either deeply flawed or altogether fraudulent.
I found myself expending more energy on lexicological subterfuges in order to pass through the censors than on actually analyzing culture. I was also eventually demoralized by the arbitrary marks and sometimes factually incorrect feedback I received on my essays.
In one case, for example, my lecturer praised my “original” and “intelligent treatment” of my chosen topic, but marked me down on for two reasons: (1) I had used Whiteness as a category in a manner that was “almost wholly unproblematized”; (2) I had (according to him) relied on “Kevin MacDonald’s profoundly dubious evolutionary psychology of anti-Semitism." This was despite the fact that the essay in question never mentioned Kevin MacDonald’s theory of anti-Semitism, did not include any of Kevin MacDonald’s writings on Judaism in its reference list, and only cited an article on immigration that he had contributed to VDARE.com. (In a subsequent email exchange, where I pointed this out, my lecturer confessed to never having previously heard of Kevin MacDonald, and having only superficially read about him before marking my essay.)
As to my fellow students, most were fairly clueless: overflowing with pretentious verbiage, yet unable to summarize their main essay thesis in a single sentence. At least one lecturer I spoke to also failed to meet this latter challenge - he laughed nervously and looked away. I did manage to strike a couple of friendships. But, with no common values, these evaporated as soon as the course ended.
Eventually, although I obtained a recommendation from one of my lecturers and drafted a formal Ph.D. proposal, I realized that I was no longer inclined to subject myself to more of the same for an additional four years. The highly politicized nature of the field caused the qualification itself to lose its legitimacy in my mind, in as much as it indicated not so much a high level of technical competence as a researcher but a high level of conformity to the cognitive structures of Freudo-Marxist scholasticism.
for me more profitable ways to spend the time. Therefore, I decided to write an
honest study on my chosen Ph.D. topic and publish it in book form, and to
postpone the degree until better times allowed.
I did, however, walk away with two valuable insights. Firstly, I came to understand why and how leftist intellectuals came to write so abstrusely: As dissident minorities facing a hostile cultural hegemony, in the many decades prior to their achieving the status of orthodoxy their ideas were subjected to the same type of censorship I had experienced. Abstruseness was a method of sailing past the censors. Whatever else one might say about these people, they have a high verbal IQ.
Secondly, I discovered it is technically possible — and potentially a powerful strategy — to utilize the left’s own language, analytical frameworks, and methodological tools to subject their intellectual edifices and their liberal culture to radical critiques. Because the latter are founded on first principles that they accept wholeheartedly, the logic behind such critiques is inescapable. This precipitates the same type of debilitating soul-searching that eventually caused European-descended peoples to actively participate in the dismantling of their own culture.
Like all power structures, the modern academic establishment is designed to perpetuate its existence. Adherents are rewarded and critics are purged. Changing it requires skilful penetration, patience, equanimity, intellectual detachment, and adeptness at negotiating the barriers that are erected in order to discourage dissidence, delegitimize opposing arguments, and exclude opponents from mainstream discourse.
Dissidents seeking to carve a niche for themselves inside academia at this point in time should expect to live as spies deep in enemy territory at the height of a Cold War. Surviving higher education has become, nowadays, more an exercise in covert tactics than about academic learning.
For now, it is extremely unpleasant for those it seeks to disprivilege. Yet, to paraphrase a comment attributed to a Persian statesman of some renown, the same way that the Soviet Communist regime once passed, the Freudo-Marxist regime in modern academia will eventually vanish from the pages of time.