She’s a bad ass motha functor

Move over, Queen Izabella. Like, literally, move your cishet white ass da fuck over. You’re the rear guard now, and the POCs are more deserving of your position. Sez who? Sez Piper Harron, a “temporary assistant professor” of mathematics at the University of Hawaii. You can check out her blog, theliberatedmathematician. It’s pretty much a run-of-the-mill cargo cult demand, so common among a certain, ahem, demographic (warning, last link NSFW). She also maintains a prolific blog over at AMS (really, AMS, really?), which is actually not entirely devoid of wit.

I liked the blog title itself, as well as some post titles (no, I did not actually read the posts — just scanning the titles provided more than enough masochistic frisson). Hey, Piper — if you’re looking for new post ideas, how about “Intersection/Union” or even the title of this ‘umble post?

Now PTT’s mandate is most emphatically not to engage with various random kooks on the internet. The kooks must have some minimal standing in the intellectual community. Fortunately, we at PTT are pretty adept at sizing up a fellow academic’s standing. This Piper Harron has a PhD in math from Princeton, advised by the Fields medalist Manjul Bhargava. On the other hand, it did take her 10 years and it’s the only thing she ever published (though her CV includes such gems as “survived external and internalized misogyny”, “survived external and internalized racism”,
“grew human in own body”, “created milk with own body to sustain new human”).

Reading between the lines, I would guess the department was either pressured or guilt-tripped into accepting a WOC and when she didn’t get the hint after ten years, it was less of a hassle to just write the thesis for her (certainly for someone of Bhargava’s caliber) than to deal with her histrionics. I cannot know for sure what Dr. Harron’s mathematical contribution was, but judging from her own description of her work (Prologue: “Respected research math is dominated by men of a certain attitude.”) you’re invited to make your own (no doubt biased, racist, cissexist) conclusions.

Update. None of the above is to be construed in any way as the faintest implication of malfeasance on the part of Prof. Bhargava. By “write the thesis for her” we certainly do not literally mean that he did the writing. In math, solving the actual problem is the heart of the work; faithfully transcribing the solution from blackboard to paper is routine (one can even do this without fully understanding the solution!). And again, we have no hard evidence that Piper Harron is not, in fact, a brilliant mathematician whose Princeton PhD thesis is the product of her own original problem-solving prowess. As for soft evidence, Dr. Harron’s writing strongly indicates that she herself doesn’t place all that much value on mathematical problem-solving skills:

If you are on a hiring committee, and you are looking at applicants and you see a stellar white male applicant, think long and hard about whether your department needs another white man. You are not hiring a researching robot who will output papers from a dark closet. You are hiring an educator, a role model, a spokesperson, an advisor, a committee person.

Trifonov understood cultural marxism

Yury Trifonov was a famous (Nobel-caliber) Soviet writer. Consider this post our third installment in the series on Russian classics uncannily anticipating various aspects of modern American culture.

Now you might retort, Of course Trifonov understood Marxism, he lived in it! But let’s give the man his due. In his masterpiece The House on the Embankment, Trifonov describes, among other things, an academic couple. The man teaches something akin to literary criticism and the woman teaches German, and happens to be a native speaker. These people don’t have a subversive or dissident bone in their body. They are true believers, who in full earnestness chide each other over vestigial petite bourgeoisie — over dinner, in the privacy of their home. [I imagine this is exactly how high-brow SJW couples urge each other, even in private, to come clean on their implicit racism.]

Trifonov’s couple’s only transgression is that, with time, they have inevitably transitioned from the vanguard to the rear guard. Playing out the quintessential leftist self-cannibalism paradigm, the fogeys are being hounded out of their academic positions to make room for the newer, more progressive generation. The German teacher tried to protest that her German proficiency is and forever will be far above that of the other teacher — regardless of how many margin notes the latter might scribble in the writings of Engels. To which the powers-that-be respond, “surely you can’t be denying the fact that language is a class phenomenon”! Just change that to “language is a social construct” and the sentiment will not be out of place in any respectable –studies course.

[Logic, however, would be out of place. If both race and gender are social
constructs, and we take a person’s feelings on the latter at face value,
why not on the former? Because shut up, they explained — that’s why.]

Intersectionality

Prof. Ellenberg was last seen here being (mostly) extolled for writing a delightful and useful book. In his latest post, he elevates the notion of intersectionality from its natural habitat of academic feminist jargon to a noble, pristine status of nonlinear operators:

the condition of being queer and disabled isn’t the sum of the condition of being queer and the condition of being disabled, or even some linear combination of those, it’s just its own thing, which draws input from each of those conditions in some more complicated way and which has features of its own particular to the intersection

We’re not 100% sure that Ellenberg is not channeling Alan Sokal‘s
“Transgressing the Boundaries” — but we’ll take our chances.

With apologies to Prof. Ellenberg (and with none whatsoever to the feminist
establishment), we’ll try our hand harmless drudgery:

intersectionality is a rent-seeking multiplayer zero-sum game of who can score the most pokemon grievance points, to be claimed at the bean-counter. In its coalition of the fringes manifestation it got Obama elected twice, but did not work out so well for Hillary.

Unlike the 2-player variant of such games — whose Nash equilibrium is efficiently computable — the multiplayer version is computationally intractable. Perhaps that is why we as a society still haven’t developed a reliable routine for determining the outcomes of intersectional battles.

This intractability is illustrated by the constant uncertainty about which grievance faction will prevail in a given conflict. Gay vs. black? Gays win (better organized, richer, smarter). Trans vs. TERF? The trannies won hands down: a guy really can “shake his hairy nutsack” at your daughter — or pin her on her back in a wrestling competition.

For the most recent example, witness the kerfuffle at Hypatia. There are few things so entertaining as feminist infighting, and say what you will about Sailer, but he sure did call this one.

On the gay vs. trans fault line, a clear winner has yet to emerge. My money is on the trannies, who are already putting lesbians on the defensive for having the temerity to prefer women with vaginas.

However, you can sell a castrated black African slave on your break between stoning a homosexual and beheading a transsexual and still get a get-out-of-jail free card. Can you guess how?

Abortion

I saw it said somewhere that few things are as cringe-worthy as seeing a position you support argued badly. So for the record, this blog is pro-abortion. (Not pro-choice, mind you — pro-abortion.) Still, putting out a children’s book where a kid thanks his parents for aborting his sister is sickening. Thanks for ruining abortion for us, leftists!

Annals of hilarious ambiguity

When reading a post titled “‘Feminist’ Study: Objective Truth, Scientific Method Are Sexist”, if you encounter a link labeled, “Black students fight against integration,” what is your default interpretation? The replicability issues surrounding priming effects notwithstanding, the post primed me to imagine a militant group of black students who for some reason oppose a certain class of positive linear functionals. It turns out that the link is to a story of POCs “not want[ing] to live with any white folks” — something we’ve covered in the past. Riesz and Markov have been saved from defenestration this time, and Kakutani might even be able to cash in some minority points.

The whore pipes up again

— and if you think we’re being too harsh on P. J. O’Rourke, recall that this once-funny man himself used to stigmatize sex-work in a “scathing critique of the American system of governance from a conservative perspective”. We won’t get into the semantics of whether O’Rourke has become a loathsome perverter of true conservative principles or whether Conservatism Inc. has been whoring itself out in lockstep with PJ, so that he can still legitimately claim to be a spokesmanthing for the movement.

What prompted this post was the Reason podcast interview with O’Rourke — and in particular, his use of (a variant of) the phrase “We are a nation of immigrants” (henceforth: WAANOI). Now PJ is certainly not the first or last tool to parrot that tired cliche, nor are we the first to point out its sheer inanity. Charles Cooke did a decent job of that, but he was too gentle. His piece was titled “The Trouble with the ‘Nation of Immigrants’ Argument”, but calling WAANOI an ‘argument’ is already being exceedingly charitable. It’s not an argument any more than “Hitler did that too” is. Look: in some vacuous sense, all nations are nations of immigrants, unless you arbitrarily fix some historical year zero. Second, what else are we a nation of? Mammals, featherless bipedals, hairless apes?  And what profound insight follows from that observation? Indeed, as Cooke pointedly asks: fine, WAANOI, but “So what?”.

An argument would be a claim along the lines of “We must accept some/many/all refugees because it is the decent thing to do” — in which case WAANOI is completely irrelevant. A different argument might examine the effects of massive third-world immigration on jobs and the economy. After all, an elected government’s main responsibility is the welfare of the citizens who voted it into power. The two arguments might even engage in a wrestling match, acknowledging each other’s basic validity while vying for victory. WAANOI has no place in that arena!

So if you find yourself spouting boilerplate or quoting poems or invoking zeroth amendments, remember this: P. J. O’Rourke did that. Do you really want to end up like P. J. O’Rourke?