New York University liberal studies professor Michael Rectenwald, the man behind the @DeplorableNYUProf Twitter account, has gone public about being placed on paid leave by the University after publicly criticizing its campus culture of political correctness and “safe spaces”.
But NYU has since claimed that the leave was voluntary and has nothing to do with Professor Rectenwald’s Tweets. And a recent article in New York magazine titled “A Communist NYU Professor Says He Was Ousted for Mocking Political Correctness. Was He? by the liberal writer Jesse Singal questions Rectenwald’s arguments, portraying him as an embellishing attention-seeker who is only trying to impress Breitbart commentators.
As the controversy raged, Heat Street reached out to Rectenwald for a comment:
“My DeplorableNYUProfessor account was just an experiment to illustrate the point that the SJW left is producing the alt right that they hate so much. They are actually producing that what they despise by virtue of their idiocy and their totalitarianism,” he says. “But I never thought much of it, I didn’t even expect it to be noticed.”
Rectenwald contends that his leave was strongly suggested by NYU officials and he felt compelled to hang up his hat: “No, I wasn’t asking to go on leave. I was having a good semester, I had a good bunch of students, I liked them all and they seemed to be liking me. It was going really well. Once I made my statements public, all these developments started. I was denounced by several colleagues and two deans in an open letter. As if I can’t have a political view about academia independent of theirs. It has to be opposed officially.”
In one of his tweets, Rectenwald had claimed “the identity politics left: they need a safe space that is at once a hall of mirrors and a rubber room.” In another, he suggested that “social justice warriors should go to a safe space and attend to obvious physic wounds.”
— Deplorable NYU Prof (@antipcnyuprof) September 27, 2016
University of Florida offers counseling for students troubled by 'offensive' Halloween costumes https://t.co/9NCPmajrwX
— Deplorable NYU Prof (@antipcnyuprof) October 14, 2016
The trouble began with an interview with the Washington Square News in which Rectenwald said: “My contention is that the trigger warning, safe spaces and bias hotline reporting is not politically correct. It is insane. This stuff is producing a culture of hypervigilance, self-surveillance and panopticism.”
Following the interview with the Washington Square News, Rectenwald says he received an open letter from the Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group of NYU, signed by twelve people, including professors and two deans. The letter claimed in a somewhat Kafkaesque fashion that Rectenwald is “guilty of illogic and incivility”.
“He seeks to discredit many of us who are committed to social justice by calling us insane and suggesting that some of our concerns are crazy,” the letter says. It also suggests that Rectenwald “gaslights” those who disagree with him and “silences” responses to “his rhetoric”.
(The use of the word “gaslight”–a technique used to make people feel like they are going crazy– is an obvious malapropism.)
Rectenwald contains that his views haven’t changed and that the open letter was an illustration of totalitarian censorship by the social justice warrior left. “I thought it was very un-collegial and very Orwellian in a sense that it was telling me I should feel guilty for having a certain perspective,” he says.
He also explains that his Tweets weren’t an attack on anyone personally, but rather a critique of an idea itself:
“I am not saying they are insane. I am saying some of the mechanisms of social justice warrior left are insane, yes. The underlining politics are crazy, the trigger warning, the safe spaces, the bias report line. If they find my criticism of those things to be indicting of themselves– what can I do? I am sorry.”