Here’s an anonymous commenter’s snark-filled response to the same essay in The New York Times (titled “I Am a Dangerous Professor“) that brought to my attention the insidiously moronic website “Professor Watchlist.” (Which, grrr, hasn’t yet added me to its list of outlaws! What an outrage!)
Last December, that professor, Emory University philosopher George Yancy, wrote “Dear White America.” In it, he called for “a form of love that enables you to see the role that you play (even despite your anti-racist actions) in a system that continues to value black lives on the cheap.”
Before I continue, allow me to note that in response to that earlier column, Yancy received emails, voicemail messages, and letters which began “Dear Nigger Professor,” which described him as an animal which should go back to Africa, and which included a threat that he might be “beheaded ISIS style.”
That’s some heavy stuff. For the moment, though, I want to focus on something seemingly trivial in comparison: SCA’s boast that he or she reads the Times “for free.” As if we’re expected to feel admiration, even while we subscribers and advertisers pay the salaries of its editors and reporters.
Now, I’ve touched on the problem of free-riders repeatedly at Traces. Here’s one definition:
Originally: a person who rides a train, bus, etc., without having paid for it (when others have). Now chiefly: a person who, or organization which, benefits (or seeks to benefit) in some way from the effort of others, without making a similar contribution.
As we watch what unfolds in our country over the months and years to come, I urge you to spend some time framing those events as an object lesson in the problem of free riding.
Beginning in 1980, Ronald Reagan sold us the lie that anyone and everyone can be a free rider: that is, you can have your civilization without having to pay for it. Greed is good! Then in 1994, Newt Gingrich took the Reagan Free-Rider Doctrine a step further: in essence, he sold America the lie that we can have good governance while undertaking to destroy government.
Now the Republican Party is the dog that caught the car. It was never supposed to happen. The scam depended on having us continue to pay (in dollars, in hard work, in support for the institutions of democracy, in trust, in the belief that most people will ultimately do the right thing) while they jeered and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
Now they’re standing with their chainsaws in the orchard that we planted and have tended for more than 250 years. We’re on the other side of the fence, looking on. They’re faced with this choice: ‘fess up to the scam or cut the trees down and starve.