Political philosopher to speak about far-right

Political philosopher to speak about far-right

Jackie Jahfetson

In a world that threatens democracy in the United States and Europe, it’s not only timely but it’s a chance for people to speak freely and “explore controversial ideas,” according to NMU English professor Gabriel Brahm. Tonight’s lecture, featuring political philosopher and University of Toronto professor Ronald Beiner, will address these new totalitarian tactics and the philosophy behind them.

The talk will take place at 7 p.m. in the Ontario Room of the University Center where NMU political science professor Jonathan Allen will respond to Beiner’s lecture. The event, co-sponsored by the Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom (CAIF) and NMU’s Jewish Student Union, is free and will also feature a question and answer session following the

“I am excited about putting these two geniuses in dialogue,” Brahm said in an email about Allen and Beiner. “It should be fun as well as informative, in spite of the gloomy subject matter, as they are both excellent speakers too.”

Brahm was introduced to Beiner a few months ago when Allen gave him one of Beiner’s books. The book was a page-turner for Brahm and so intrigued by it that Allen suggested to contact the author and ask him to be a guest speaker for the CAIF. Brahm established the CAIF as a response to the 2016 presidential election and to bring more viewpoint diversity to campus. He hopes to continue the conversation this year.

“This event in particular, and this kind of thing in general, matters. Along with media and government today, our system of education is in jeopardy,” Brahm said, adding, “I want to help make the study of literature and culture truly inclusive and inviting for those of us in the middle, rather than a base for some to attack the rest of society from.”

Today’s democracy is going through a societal crisis where extremists of the far-right and far-left are threatening the “American social fabric,” Brahm said. With Beiner’s new book “Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right,” Beiner talks about the devastating events such as last summer’s Charlottesville violent white supremacist protest and the Oct. 27 synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, and how they escalated.
“These new totalitarians want to shut us up with scare tactics, in order to impose their vision of utopia. From the PC ‘call out culture’ that routinely terrorizes conservative and traditional students in classrooms across the country, to the army of Internet trolls spewing racism and misogyny on platforms like 4Chan and Gab, our public discourse has lost its bearings,” Brahm said.

Beiner’s lecture is not designed like a “workshop” where an
expert tells you how to become a better individual, this is about people assembling their right to free speech and allowing for different ideas to be heard without it being “trampled” on by dogmatism, Brahm said. Today’s world is an interesting thing to analyze, and events like this will only “survive and flourish” if people are willing to step forward and begin these conversations, he added.

“As a Jew, I worry on one hand about the undereducated, miseducated right-wing populist conspiracy theories circulating in the nation’s underbelly now…On the other hand, I worry equally about the violent hatred of Israel coming from the overeducated, maleducated, academic left, who know very little about Israel but yet are drawn to demonize the Jewish state out of concern for ‘intersectionality,’ and who circulate their venom on American college campuses,” he said.

These are both not only harmful for Jews, but democracy as well, Brahm said, explaining, this way of thinking only gets people killed from the Midwest to the Middle East.

“So I ain’t shutting up, wherever the intimidation comes from,” he said.