If you hired a new employee and even before arriving for his first day of work, he wrote an inflammatory tweet that brought a negative reaction so widespread even the president decided to comment on it, how should you handle it?
That’s the question Auburn University faces right now after incoming African American literature lecturer Jesse Goldberg tweeted his feelings about protesters being detained by NYC police last week.
“This is kidnapping. F–k every single cop. Every single one. The only ethical choice for any cop to make at this point is to refuse to do their job and to quit,” he wrote. “The police do not protect people. They protect capital. They are instruments of violence on behalf of capital.”
Dr. Goldberg’s tweet was initially covered by a conservative website and took off from there. Granted, this is a pretty low bar, but it was even condemned by The Donald himself, who offered it as an example of “the liberal, anti-American-values egg heads” who have taken over the Ivy League and are now “gunning for middle America.” You know it’s a threat to Freedom if Trump finds time between insulting Rosie O’Donnell and ruminating upon whether we should push the election back to blast a tweet by an incoming adjunct professor at Auburn as a warning about “egg heads” “gunning for middle America.”
Naturally, Goldberg’s distasteful and childish stance against the people who put their lives on the line each day to protect fellow Americans from criminals didn’t garner much favor with Alabamians or his future employer. Auburn has labeled the comments “hate speech” and alluded to his untenured status. There were quickly calls for Auburn to un-hire Goldberg, and State Rep. Brett Easterbrook quickly threw his cajones on the Facebook table saying Goldberg would be “dealt with at the next ALGOP meeting” if he did not resign.
It would seem “the stage is already set,” as Easterbrook also ominously threatened, for this young, misguided, would-be Auburn professor to be run out of town on a rail, and there’s no doubt in my mind the vast majority of people around here would say he’s getting what he deserves. Even before this, he tweeted that he’d never say “War Eagle” because of, well, the war part. Someone clearly isn’t trying to fit in.
While Goldberg has certainly riled up the troops, aren’t Easterbrook and other conservatives engaging in exactly the kind of “cancel culture” behavior they abhor when it’s aimed at someone like Drew Brees?
Brees was beaten to a pulp verbally by other athletes and media pundits for basically just saying he believes in standing for the national anthem to honor the people who fought and died for our country. He was practically painted as the starting QB for Hitler’s Dream Team and quickly crawfished back to apologize rather than face more of the wrath of liberal cancel culture and having his star receiver hate him.
So yeah, the immediate thought is to say Goldberg shouldn’t be fired for expressing his opinion any more than Brees should be blasted for expressing his. College campuses are supposed to be places where free speech and differing opinions are allowed to open students’ minds to the varied possibilities they may not have been exposed to while chowing down mom’s pot roast every Tuesday night at the kitchen table.
Certainly when I was in college at Spring Hill, we were exposed to all manner of flamboyant thought from professors and priests. Dogmatic Catholic doctrine wasn’t exactly the name of the game when it came to the Jesuits. And it was enlightening to consider possibilities I hadn’t known existed. That didn’t mean mom’s lasagna (she’s Italian) and years of exposure to the teachings of Bob and Judy Holbert were washed away by reading a Noam Chomsky book; it simply meant I could consider things my parents hadn’t taught me and how odd it is someone would name their son Noam.
Let’s look at Goldberg’s tweet. Is it really all that intellectually threatening? Other than the profanity, is it anything but the kind of rant you might expect from a 12-year-old? Do you think your child would walk into his class and hear this skinny guy with a brown ski cap on saying every cop should just resign and that police don’t ever protect people, and suddenly believe that? I’m certain my kids wouldn’t.
Because what he’s saying is so basic and unintellectual. The concept of every officer just resigning is a zealot’s fairytale. Cops are well aware of how often they help people, how often they deal with drunk couples beating each other up, how often they keep burglars from breaking into your house or car, how often they aren’t doing all the awful things Goldberg and other extremists claim they are. They’re not all going to quit because people like Goldberg dishonestly attempt to create an alternate reality in which police go through the academy to learn how to kill Black people while protecting Walmarts.
Unfortunately, the cancel culture on the right is already elevating this goofball professor to hero status on the left. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with a very soft landing at a more openly liberal institution if Auburn does rescind its offer. There are legal issues pertaining to the First Amendment and college professors to navigate as well, and Auburn doesn’t need to be sued over this.
It’s very easy to take pleasure in seeing the cancel culture primarily revved to a fever pitch by leftists come back to bite one of them on the posterior. However, you can’t have it both ways. The mob mentality can’t just be OK when you don’t like the guy getting mobbed.
But what’s more worthy of consideration than whether what Goldberg said should get him fired is whether the political response within the state is at all appropriate. Easterbrook has no business telling Auburn what they should do or throwing his weight around in order to make points with the “constitents,” as Pappy O’Daniel in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” might call them. Nor does ALGOP.
Without political hot air elevating Goldberg’s career path, it probably would have consisted of a number of poor student reviews and his contract quietly not being renewed, and he could spend the downtime finishing up his book, “Abolition Time: Reading Queer Justice in Slavery’s Afterlife.” Can’t wait for the movie.
Presumably, whoever hired him would already be on the hot seat and Jesse would be on a pretty short leash. Untenured screwballs don’t generally have much shelf life.
Auburn hires lots and lots of adjuncts and I’m sure gets rid of many each year who aren’t up to the job. I can’t imagine a Ph.D. whose most well-known intellectual output to date is “F the police, I wish they’d quit!” would be tenure track material.
Goldberg, as we all do, enjoys the protection of police, whether he recognizes it or not. But, no one really needs protection from his simplistic thoughts enough to warrant further empowering the cancel culture.
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