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I find this piece fascinating. To honor it I offer a tl; dr

1. Author recounts experiences of people lying about their class/wealth at Yale, often feigning less wealth.

2. Explains behavior 1 as style, safety, loss-of-perspective, and avoiding social responsibility

3. Retells several incidents where a vocal minority of students at Yale picked and won battles over verbiage (e.g. emails, Calhoun, "Master of college").

4. Interprets the battles in 3 as at best insignificant and at worst a distraction from real problems of class disparity in America. Contrasts these protests against Vietnam protests.

5. Proposes "American Elites" have no idea what they stand for anymore, are shirking their responsibility, and have no capability to be self-critical for fear of losing belonging in the in-group.

6. Rejects these Yale social movements: "This ideology is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions, because it is not really about ideological rigor. Among other things, it is an elaborate containment system for the theoretical and practical discontent generated by the failures of the system, an absolution from guilt, and a new form of class signaling."

7. Interprets the "inconsistent" Yale protests as an unproductive way for students to avoid guilt of their privilege and distance themselves from failing "legacy institutions."

8. Holds the Yale administration accountable for siding against a "vacuous" student cause instead of their own faculty. Demands more from "an institution older than the Republic"

9. Asks what it means if "Yale dies" and why this matters. Proposes it speaks to a more universal problem.

[All that said, I recommend reading the whole thing if you can find the time. This distillation has only a fraction of the value of the whole piece. Many tangential points are very interesting.]

 help




> All that said, I recommend reading the whole thing if you can find the time. This distillation has only a fraction of the value of the whole piece. Many tangential points are very interesting.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate all of the little things that get left out of summaries like this to the point that I wonder if they might be harmful. In the time it takes to read a summary, it is also possible to read the first few paragraphs of the article, which should be enough for someone to tell if the writing connects with them.

Fundamentally, this is a persuasive piece and its power comes from providing a vicarious experience to the reader of the author’s experiences at Yale. Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, reading this will help you understand the fundamentals of her position much more than a summary. I worry that, by spoiling the ending, this kind of summarization encourages people to only read the piece if they already agree with the conclusion it ultimately reaches. Thus, the people that would gain the most insight avoid exposing themselves to arguments counter to their beliefs and the echo-chamber is perpetuated a little bit more.

(Side note to ‘alexandercrohde: I don’t really intend to single you out; I applaud the effort you put into writing this summary, and you achieved what you set out to do. I’ve just had this particular rant growing inside me for a while, and this was the first place it made sense to put it.)


I'm returning to this discussion having read (well, most of) the essay, and finding it far better than the HN discussion was at the time I'd first encountered it.

There's a cost to informational complexity, but also a value. The problem is that complex ideas require complex exposition, but complex exposition discourages exploration.

There are a few classic ways around this. One is the Hollywood Film / Bestselling Book blurb, often a brief sentence, if not a single word, supposedly capturing the gist of a work (or at least enticing someone to drop a dime on seeing/reading it).

Another is the in-depth review. See various London / New York / Los Angeles book review articles, some of which have graced HN. These can give an entry point, but are often themselves complex.

There's offering a few choice samples of quoted text from the work. If there's a concise and sufficient lede 'graph, that can work, though much contemporary writing seems to actively avoid this. Otherwise, a few exemplary sentences pulled from the piece may work (I'm curating a few for posting to Mastodon as I write this).

Or you can highlight the key structure of the article. alexandercrohde's comment is of this sort.

I liken this to the barker ("See the Amazing Thing!"), cracking the coconut -- making the hard-to-get-at bits immediately available, sampling, much as a grocer might provide tastes of fruit or cheese to give a preview of wares, and of providing a roadmap -- not revealing all the delights of a trip, but at least preparing the reader for the journey ahead. That's what the parent comment of this thread does, and pretty well.

There's a place for each of these, and a value in matching the appropriate preview mechanism to the corresponding form of content. Given the complexity of marketing information, it's a necessity. The sample is not the product, but it can help in deciding which products you choose to spend time on.

I'm finding the article fascinating, myself.


Having read the article first I found the summary to be helpful. You are suggesting we remove the summary to prevent people coming to false conclusions? I think actually these summaries help us to have more structured discussions?

It’s not so much about false conclusions as it is enabling tribalism by helping people avoid opposing viewpoints. It’s certainly a trap I’ve fallen into myself a few times: commenting on the general topic without reading the article and arguing against the usual counterpoint instead of the one that was actually made.

I haven’t come to any firm conclusions on this matter, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend banning or removing summaries yet. I did, however, want to point out a potential downside of them that I hadn’t seen anyone talking about, so that can inform people’s future decisions to write and post such things.


An investing analogy. Warren Buffett doesn't read analyst reports. He reads each company's own reports (primary sources) instead to make up his own mind.

Summary here = analyst report Article from author = primary source


> 4. Interprets the battles in 3 as at best insignificant and at worst a distraction from real problems of class disparity in America. Contrasts these protests against Vietnam protests.

I tend to agree. I view the "tempest in a teapot" protests that go after some academic functionary in the same light as I view most of the animal rights protesters--deeply hypocritical.

You don't see these college students go after someone with actual power just like you don't see the animal rights advocates throw paint on Hell's Angels for wearing leather.

Protest is good--until you you might actually face consequences for your protest. Sorry, protest without consequences isn't a real protest.

If the Yale students want to protest, we have an oversupply of things that need to be protested--feel free to join us. But, these might upset people with real power, they might get arrested, they might wind up with a criminal record like the plebeians and that might upset their getting that cushy Goldman-Sachs position in a couple years.


> You don't see these college students go after someone with actual power just like you don't see the animal rights advocates throw paint on Hell's Angels for wearing leather.

This is a strange example of inconsequential protest, as the movement against furs was highly successful.


You’re kind of illustrating GP’s point. Throwing paint on a fashionista wearing fur poses very little risk- compare the risk to a Hell’s Angels biker who might literally kill you. And furs were always expensive which kept the quantity relatively low- compare the number of fur animals killed to the number that are killed for their hides to make car interiors, house furniture, clothing, and more.

If the fur protesters want to make a big impact they should protest leather, but you don’t see that. Instead they took their smaller symbolic victory because the meaningful fight is too hard and too risky.


No one raises and kills cows for the leather; the leather is a byproduct.

The leather is a product, not a byproduct, just not the sole product. I fail to see the logic that killing a mink for its fur is wrong, but killing a cow is okay because we get meat along with the leather. You can also make arguments about how it’s okay because cows are raised specifically to be killed, but the fact remains that we kill orders of magnitude more cows than we ever have minks. My previous argument stands unchanged about how protesting mink is a small victory and most animal rights protesters stopped short of going for a big one.

Btw, I’m not an animal rights protester, I eat meat and have leather furniture. I’m just backing up the top level argument that Yale students aren’t protesting the big stuff.


Part of activism is picking the right battles you can win and where you can be effective.

The main focus of animal rights protesters consequently are industrial meat production and animal cruelty, not the fucking Hell’s Angels. That’s absurdity to the highest degree.


So you're not really protesting unless you light yourself on fire? You understand that if everybody who protested the "big stuff" did so by doing extremely risky things, you're going to end up with nobody left with the will to protest?

Not to mention cows are a major contribution to global warming.

So are datacenters. And cows were here first.

The interesting question that follows is:

What would the critics have said, if they had done just that?

Probably something among the lines of: ”see, this proofs they are unreasonable lunatics! Nobody in their right mind would protest against the Hells Angels. How does that even further thwir goals? They should go against $TARGET”

The key to understanding a lot of criticism is that it happens often in defense of the critics sense of superiority and is therefore not necessarily an rational argument against a certain movement, but a justifiction from the critics why they aren’t part of it. And the answer equates usually roughly: ”because they don’t go far enough, are not brave enough, not clever enough, not efficient enough, not radical enough, not consequent enough, taking on the wrong target, ...”

The interesting aspect: this kind of criticism rarely brings to light any valid argument against the underlying motivations of the movement. So as an example you rarely see critics go: “The idea that we shouldn’t wear fur is wrong - we totally should for the following reasons ...” ¹

This makes clear that the critics realize they can’t make a moral argument here — yet they want to maintain a feeling of superiority over those who question the status quo and so they aim for the character of those they criticize.

Critic: ”If only I were part of that movement, I would protest even more than they do, by going for the dangerous Hells Angels.”

B: ”Yeah but you aren’t. As it stands now you do less than those who you criticise for not doing enough — what does that make you?”

Critic: ”I am still better than them because ...”

If I ever feel I need to criticise a movement for not doing enough, I stop and think about what I am in the process of doing and whether I am really in the position to phrase that criticism.

--- ¹: Usual arguments like “We always did it like that and it was no problem” just proof the critic didn’t really think about the topic.


> You don't see these college students go after someone with actual power

What a bizarre claim.

Protesting their own college administration, and getting arrested for it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/05/08/arrests-...

Hunger strike, football team strike, and many other protests resulting in university president resignation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015%E2%80%9316_University_of_...

Protesting the CIA director, who I hope counts as someone "with actual power" - https://upennstatesman.org/2016/04/01/violent-protests-end-t...

I imagine almost every college in the country has had protests against the president: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/11/0...

Arrested protesting at their state government: https://www.concordmonitor.com/UNH-students-protesting-votin...

Arrested protesting ICE: https://middleburycampus.com/45615/news/two-midd-students-ar...

Yale students arrested protesting their administration: https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/Yale-students-arrest...

Arrested protesting Israel occupation: https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/15-jewish-college-students-a...

You can find many more examples with ~5 minutes of research.


So they're hypocrites because they don't try go out of their way to be physically harmed? That's a unique take.

Ah, obviously anything less than getting the National Guard called to your university to murder you isn't "real protest"?

There are some really interesting ideas floating around in the article and this summary.

But I do wonder if the overall interpretation is a little off - the interesting question to me is 'has anything changed'.

Particularly 3 and 8 - was there ever a time the administrators were not spineless bureaucrats? I'd like to interpret that in light of 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 as the student body is a lot more organised via social media than it used to be, and suddenly students are capable of imprinting an immature, half-formed culture on the university rather than the university imprinting the elite's culture on the students.


>4. Interprets the battles in 3 as at best insignificant and at worst a distraction from real problems of class disparity in America.

Note however that there is nothing in the article describing economic disparity as a problem. There are laments about social position and altering or eliminating traditions but no hint of criticism of economic inequality.

So the claims aren't about inequality, they're about the "wrong" people (in the author's opinion) being rich. In particular, the rich students behavior regarding the culture war.

And the author is annoyed that some of the rich students live austere and ascetic lives. But the implication is they should act rich instead to become more worthy of respect.

Also the article talks about the energy students devote to racial issues as done merely to avoid social responsibility. But this does not make sense for a couple of reasons:

1) The students described believe there are issues around race and are acting in a way they think will help. So what are the other unstated higher responsibilities are they shirking during their time at University?

2) Walking in protests or wearing cheap cloths only works on people who are literally in physical view. Hiding wealth is done through a Cayman island bank account, that is how one would shirk responsibility.

3) The opinions and behaviors of the minority of students described are extremely rare among the super rich so it's obviously not a very good avoidance technique. Or, by implication, the author signals that the behavior of the Koch brothers or Walton family is more appropriate to the responsibilities of the rich.

So honestly, although there is a brief point raised about two wrongful terminations, the article is really just lamenting the culture war and claiming that the students participation in it is wrong minded and fad driven. There is no call that they should be protesting war or helping the poor or anything. Just that they stop taking these stances on culture war issues.


> they should act rich instead to become more worthy of respect

No, the point is that "if you put on a façade for long enough, you end up forgetting that it is a façade"


No, the point is an anti-race equality rant which is intentionally blurring a few anti-elite and anti-dysfunction sounds so it would get published. If it were genuinely anti-dysfunction, it would include much lower hanging fruit like admittance practices focusing on wealth and wrongful terminations. If it were anti-privilege it would focus on that privilege and not on race protest or fads.

So yes, in abstraction, if you put on a facade long enough you forget you're wearing it. But that is not remotely the theme of the article. The one and only theme is that racial equality activism should stop on the grounds that it is being done by rich kids


I agree, I got the impression the author was desperate to find explanations that would distract from the issues of race and gender. Despite its length, there is no sincere consideration of the perspectives of others or attempt to understand them. In fact it's outright dismissive, and attempts to reallocate credit for hard won civil rights progress from minority groups to rich white people.

It should be celebrated that the institution finally- after generations, sees having buildings named after slavers as problematic all on its own. It shouldnt take mass student protests to move such things forward, especially when they are symbolic and represent little to no cost to the university to implement. I would like to think that competent people dont need it explained to them why a person of color might be uncomfortable at an institution that celebrates people who raped and murdered their ancestors. This article reeks of willfull ignorance.


My reading of the essay is the elite are now completely out of touch with reality, and a complete abdication of their responsibilities. Also, the piece ties this prevailing ideological virtue signaling as a class indicator. It's been interesting to read the comments, as there are some serious knee jerk reactions to anything which questions the orthodoxy of prevailing thought in our universities or come to the conclusions I have. Ad reducto Trump, you see this on the other side as well; that's a whole other bag of worms though. We having something incredibly toxic in the air and the zeitgeist's humors are wildly out of balance. I'm going to address this thought below to inform you on why I have a different conclusion and the lens I see things through.

> The one and only theme is that racial equality activism should stop on the grounds that it is being done by rich kids

For right now let's get over the fact there is an elite. We are going to look at how this is playing out. Social hierarchies are pretty much built into all social creatures, and plain as day in human civilizations regardless of political, economic structures or point in history. The powerful have always ensured their progeny have a slot at their standing; it's what people of all societies do. From this axiom we can arrive at this conclusion, there will be a small group with more capital (social, political and economic) which have a heavy hand on the scale of power and structure of society and set the direction it takes. In the future we might figure out a system which mitigates this while preserving individual freedoms, who knows. Right now in 2019, this is the behavior we are seeing from the top echelons, the old guard have been rent seeking, while the new are hung up on de-gendering pronouns and outraged at tactless yelp reviews. We now have those people filling in slots at the top of the food chain now pushing their ideology, while maintaining the status quo.

One narrow anecdotal example (I know, I know, this is to illustrate how this behavior manifests itself) is the Advertising Club of New York. They give presentations on promoting women in advertising, it used to be a mens only club and how they are fundamentally changing the nature of the industry. Though, advertising still works as it ever did and showing no signs of stopping, but now women make up all executive positions of this group. Ambitious women should be allowed to succeed in their pursuits, there is no argument there, and I'm not saying it's an even playing field. The issue is we have this elite pat themselves on the back for promoting diversity, but none of the fundamental issues are addressed. The moral hazard of the pharmaceutical industry, payday loans, junk food, liquor or whatever social ill which gets your goat are still kicking hard and our 24/7 media outrage cycle are completely dependent on revenue from advertising. Basically, the money is too damn good, but our navel gazing makes this ok.

It's easier to create empty symbolic gestures, rather than actually address the issues. For the majority of Americans these are the real issues which impact millions on a daily basis: lack of economic opportunities, lack of social cohesion, decay of infrastructure, by age 23 49% of black males, 44% of Hispanic males, and 38% of white males have been arrested, living in a dangerous environment and the few options out there force crap decisions which nearly guarantee no social mobility. Just because we now have a few more rich (insert minority group) women at the top of the heap doesn't change the fact childhood diabetes is alarming high. The elite feign moral outrage on the inconsequential, while people are literally dying from their inaction. It's tone deaf, and comes across like a slide show of Christian missionaries in Africa painting a chapel.

Yale produces, whether you agree with it or not, the future elite of this country. They are not proposing real solutions to the problems above. Instead it's witch hunts, getting caught up in language we use, and the highest stakes seems to be throwing bike locks at each other. Do you think poor black single moms working working two jobs to support her kids are out there risking arrest to protest the proud boys? No, it's wealthy kids on both sides playing a really stupid game. What we want and desperately need is for our leaders to look at what's going on, stick their necks out there and take some real risks with the power they wield. 2 cent idea, setting up business centers with ability to loan money in impoverished neighborhoods with the goal of setting up local small businesses with tools to give them a solid shot. Here's another, ease the crazy zoning and approval laws in place to develop housing for working people in urban areas. How about this, implement the German system of unions on corporate boards. How about creating a new dealesque army corp of engineers? The fact there is no real risk taken on unsexy problems shows a lack of responsibility.

So yeah, I don't really have an issue with protesting anything. It's your right, and I firmly believe in the 1st amendment. The issue is these elite are squandering the opportunities they have, and lost the plot. Out of many countless people who don't have the opportunity, countless others which tried their hardest at the mere chance and failed, these select few which got in have a very real shot at improving society, and what are we getting? Can't use the word freshman anymore.


I agree that a focus on economic opportunity might be more effective. And Universities need to stand behind their staff. But the article is not remotely suggesting that students should focus on economic reform. And if there were any doubt on that issue, it is made clear by the authors other articles. Indeed, the author went to Yale, we know she did not participate in any protests. What exactly did she do as her responsibility?

Those students _are_ focused on wide reform in _every_ field. The article and those like it are cynically composed to describe only racial reform efforts in order to drive a wedge between white and non-white working class voters and to demonize the few wealthy who are actually on the side of reform.

Indeed it is the very group doing the anti-racist protests that are the ones _allied_ with economic reform. That's where the Bernie Sanders supporters are. The problem would be the polar opposite students in Yale solely there to learn how to increase hereditary wealth and power.

These exact same techniques and even words were used in the 60s to demonize economic reforms by railing against the "extreme" behaviors of student then. Portrayal of universities as Communist (still a common theme on Fox), focusing solely on pro-integration and anti-war protests to falsely portray disregard for white poor and national disloyalty. They kept two out of three today.

And they found they same audience to stoke the same unjustified resentment then as now by falsely convincing working class whites that powerful liberal economic reformers are only interested in non-whites. And so drove a wedge between working class whites and non-whites. And so Nixon and Trump.

The catastrophic rent seeking and inequality is certainly _not_ coming from those few privileged students who publicly disapprove of that. The one involved in dramatic reform protests (that includes but are not limited to racial items). There are zero students in those protests who oppose dramatic economic reform. The problem is from the actual people causing it: the Koch brothers, the Waltons, Murdoch, people who don't get remotely as many outraged articles as these students.




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