political correctness

The College Fix and sites like it are chock full of anecdotes about how radical progressivism is actually the very antithesis of what it purports to be: tolerant, understanding and pro-diversity.

Today’s “snowflake” college students need “safe spaces” in which to take refuge from things like “microaggressions,” and while screaming about how delightfully “tolerant” they are, the slightest bit of intellectual, academic, and even comedic discomfort will suddenly send them into a paroxysm of self-righteous indignation and hurt.

This trend has infected even the geekiest of the cultural landscape.

The Weekly Standard notes how social justice warriors — SJWs — have attempted to “cleanse” … science fiction literature:

For more than 50 years, the Hugo Awards have been handed out at the annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) to honor the best science fiction and fantasy writing of the previous year. But when the nominees for this year’s Hugos were announced, it touched off a firestorm unlike any in the awards’ history.

That’s because so many of this year’s nominees are perceived (not always correctly) to be conservative or libertarian. A group of right-leaning science fiction authors organized a campaign to stuff this year’s Hugo Awards ballot with writers they felt had been overlooked.

There are other science fiction awards, but the Hugos hold a special place among fans. Anyone who pays the $40 to attend Worldcon can nominate an author. The awards thus have a special legitimacy because they are seen as being selected by the most dedicated readers.

The fact that Hugos are voted on by readers means that authors and publishers have engaged in various levels of politicking over the years to try to win. Big-name writers are not above posting lists of their favorite works on their websites or popular science fiction message boards in an attempt to whip votes.

However, among certain elements of the science fiction community, there had long been a suspicion that campaigns to gather Hugo votes were more coordinated and less reflective of the fan base than they might appear.

The schism over the Hugo Awards is aesthetic as well as political. For some time now, a handful of stars in the science fiction firmament—notably popular author John Scalzi and some polarizing editors associated with Tor, arguably the most influential publisher—have been pushing to elevate the genre by embracing certain literary and political themes. Critics contend that in practice this means an overabundance of “message fiction” where, say, encounters with an alien civilization become leaden metaphors for gay rights and other politically correct themes. The fans opposed to this want science fiction to stay focused on story-telling and adventure—and they are annoyed by the attempt to banish cherished genre conventions, such as book covers with buxom babes and musclebound heroes.

The progressive faction has been much more successful of late; last year the Hugos “were swept by a younger group of women and people of color” despite their work, according to sales figures, not being read widely by the general public.

Sci-fi author Brad Torgersen says the Hugos have become “an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.”

Torgersen has assumed command of the “Sad Puppies” campaign in which conservative-leaning sci-fi writers and fans began openly clamoring for their own slate of Hugo nominees. This year the effort was quite successful; however, with such success inevitably comes the progressive backlash — the usual litany of “-isms” thrown about, in particular racism and sexism.

Torgersen, who’s married to a black woman, wasn’t even immune; a Salon and Daily Beast columnist accused his wife and (biracial) child of being a “shield” for his “latent racism.”


What SJWs wanted the first issue of  The Avengers to look like.

In addition, Entertainment Weekly used the headline “Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign.” Amazingly (and thankfully), it did offer up an eventual correction to the story noting that the Sad Puppies nominees “include[d] many women and writers of color.”

The field of comic books hasn’t been immune to this sort of nonsense, either.

Last year, writer Chuck Dixon and artist Paul Rivoche lamented in the Wall Street Journal  how “How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman”:

The industry weakened and eventually threw out the CCA, and editors began to resist hiring conservative artists. One of us, Chuck, expressed the opinion that a frank story line about AIDS was not right for comics marketed to children. His editors rejected the idea and asked him to apologize to colleagues for even expressing it. Soon enough, Chuck got less work.

The superheroes also changed. Batman became dark and ambiguous, a kind of brooding monster. Superman became less patriotic, culminating in his decision to renounce his citizenship so he wouldn’t be seen as an extension of U.S. foreign policy. A new code, less explicit but far stronger, replaced the old: a code of political correctness and moral ambiguity. If you disagreed with mostly left-leaning editors, you stayed silent.

Many of the contemporary cadre of comic book creators are brazenly open about their politics on social media, one even going so far as to tell people who disagree with him not to buy his products. This amazing … “business model” is quite head-scratching; one would think companies that rely on people to purchase their goods might have a better sense of customer service.

That is one of the more extreme examples of the open tweeting/Facebooking/Instagramming etc. by creators of the progressive politics du jour, where outright disdain and incivility directed at right-leaning fans is quite commonplace.

Marvel god-man Stan Lee would be aghast at all this if knew about it. (Maybe he is and does; however, he’s no longer in a position to do anything about it.) Fans who disagreed with anything the company did back in his day (on the old comic book letters pages) were dealt with respectfully and with the goal of maintaining fans as (paying) readers.

To be sure, one can be a progressive and a good creator whose work is purchased by conservatives. Many of comicdom’s great creators of lore were liberals, and their work remains held in high esteem by folks across the political spectrum. Big-time liberal Steve Englehart, for example, scripted some of Marvel’s greatest stories, including the Captain America “Secret Empire” tale where it is highly implied that the head of the villainous organization was none other than Richard Nixon.

A big difference today is today is that, unlike Englehart’s “Empire” yarn, writers don’t much bother with analogies or comparisons — they just use conservative politicians as the explicit, de facto bad guys with little or no discussion of the issues.

I’ve often wondered if the reason current creators act as they do is because their (print) medium is dying. Monthly sales numbers are but a fraction of what they were decades ago; dollar figures keep apace by recycling a lot of what has come before (like from Englehart’s era) via trade paperbacks and collections.

Perhaps comics haven’t seen a push-back like that of science fiction’s Sad Puppies due to this eventual demise. (Comic book movies are the real money makers now).

As the Standard’s Mark Hemingway concludes, “… the fact that the genre had previously welcomed extremes is partly what made it so wild, imaginative, and beloved. Sacrificing ideological diversity for more superficial measures of diversity isn’t a recipe for producing great writing.”

Demanding that science fiction stories contain quotas for “historically disenfranchised populations” (or something), and demanding apologies for making completely innocent queries is as stupidly “progressive” as college types mandating race/gender/diversity/tolerance workshops where “conversations” are advertised, but (liberal) lectures are the reality.

Put your actions where your words are, progressives. Embrace all diversity, which, believe it or not, means diversity of viewpoint. If you don’t, everything you touch will decay … like a cotton candy-coated, never-brushed tooth.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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The editorial board of Ohio University’s The Post is chastising the mayor of its town (Athens, Ohio) Paul Wiehl, for having the gall to suggest that people not act in a careless manner and to be aware of their surroundings … in order to help thwart sexual assault.

“[H]e seemed to place the blame on survivors of such crimes,” the Post writes.

He did?

“We can only put so many officers on the street,” Wiehl told the Post reporter. “It’s not a case of lighting; it’s not a case of behavior; it’s usually a case of a lot of people running around and not paying attention (to their surroundings) for the most part.”

To which the board responds,

We vehemently disagree with that logic.

It’s the classic “don’t walk late at night alone; it’s your fault for being dumb,” argument. We’re especially discouraged to hear that our city’s top government official harbors that opinion about a topic that is so important to many of his constituents.

No survivor of sexual assault is to blame for what happened to him or her.

Well, technically no victim of any crime is to blame for what happened to him or her. But why should people get irritated because someone offers some common sense advice like “Don’t be stupid” when you’re on your way to, say, a party?

As College Fix Editor Jennifer Kabbany wrote back in September,

As a mother of a young girl and as a former college student who attended more parties than she should have, and drank more than she should have, I can say advice I’d give my daughter when she heads off to college is: Don’t get wasted!

Now, I’d say that for any number of reasons, including health and safety. But the main reason I’d give it to her is because women are apt to make stupid decisions when they’re inebriated. Does that excuse rape or sexual assault? No. Is it advice that blames the victim? No. Is it good, honest guidance? Yes!

Jennifer notes how, just like Mayor Wiehl, the president of George Washington University and a (male) University of Arizona student newspaper writer were excoriated by feminists and ideologically rigid college students alike for daring to offer the same advice she did.

Maybe if/when one of the Post editors gets something stolen, say, from his (or her) car — because he failed to lock the doors — someone can inform him that it was rather dumb to leave the doors unlocked.

I wonder if his response will be “No victim of theft is to blame for what happened to him or her.”

Read the full editorial.

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Not that this sort of stuff is really all that surprising anymore, but a teacher in Seattle, a one Moses Rifkin of University Prep, is teaching about the dreaded “white privilege” in, of all classes, physics.

Rifkin says that he “was jealous of [his] colleagues in English and History who got to talk every day in class” about society and morality, etc. Teaching at a private school “only made matters worse” for Rifkin — his students “weren’t learning about their own privilege.”

National Review Online’s Katherine Timpf reports:

During one section of the course, Rifkin’s post explains, students study black physicists. For a homework assignment, he instructs students to learn about a pre-1950s black physicist and also a modern black physicist.

Rifkin explains that he expects finding information about black physicists will be tough, which “points to the big question of this project: why is this? Why, percentage-wise, are there dramatically fewer black physicists than black Americans?”

“Is it because black students are not interested in physics? Not capable? Something else?” the homework assignment asks.

Yes — the physicist has to be black specifically and the assignment “will not cover any other minority groups that may not be as involved in science.”

“We do this because it’s a particularly illustrative example; we aren’t going to directly address other scientific minorities, and there are many: women, other races, the economically disadvantaged, the physically disabled, etc.” the course description clarifies.

Timpf notes how Rifkin wrote a guest post at fellow physics teacher John Burk’s blog. Apparently, Burk loves the “privilege” subject matter as much as Rifkin.

Oddly enough, like Rifkin (whose University Prep costs $29,500 per year at the high school level), Burk teaches at an elite private school. In fact, elite private schools appear to be the only places at which Mr. Burk has taught; previous sites of employment include Washington DC’s Sidwell Friends (where President Obama’s daughters attend), and Atlanta’s Westminster Schools.

If these gents are so acutely concerned about “white privilege,” why do they constantly surround themselves with it?

UPDATE: Timpf notes that the head of Rifkin’s school, University Prep, is “fully aware” and “supports” the teacher’s lessons on “white privilege.”

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As a conservative student, have you ever wondered why fighting intellectual battles on campus is like banging your head against a wall? No one wants to debate the merits, just call you a bunch of names.

Right-winger. Fascist. Extremist. Hate-monger.

It’s important to understand how and why you get shut down with ad hominem attacks every time you attempt to defend your beliefs, because it’s the first step toward equipping yourself with the proper debate tools to successfully battle your campus antagonists.

One of the brightest minds to offer such understanding is bestselling author and nationally syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, a contributing editor to National Review and the founding editor of National Review Online whose two New York Times bestsellers, “The Tyranny of Clichés” and “Liberal Fascism,” frequently delve into the rot eating away at the soul of American universities.

Goldberg, who often gives speeches on college campuses, is lauded for his ability to bridge media savvy conservatism with academic scholarship to unmask much of the idols of statist politics inJonahGoldberg.GageSkidmore.Flickr America.

In this exclusive Q&A with The College Fix, Goldberg explains how American progressivism was born of the same intellectual and political climate that gave rise to various European collectivist, statist and nationalistic movements – and how those mindsets are currently in control of higher education discourse today.

What’s more – with advice such as “nothing pisses off the left more than a conservative who’s enjoying himself,” “be careful not to internalize the left’s terms,” and “conservatives need to get better at convincing people that we believe what we believe not just because it is good for us but because it’s good for everybody” – Goldberg offers numerous tips to students on how to fight the good fight on campus.

Important advice, because what you are up against is nothing less than those who would control everything you think, say and do.

“Political correctness, speech codes, hate-crime hoaxes: these are all efforts by a very small number of people to control what is said and how it is said,” Goldberg explains. “I don’t think any women’s studies professors are looking to Mussolini or Georges Sorel for inspiration. But what they are doing is trying to manufacture crises that give them more authority and power.”

While you rightly point out that the word “fascist” is exhausted in its use, do you think the fascist connections with American progressivism carry on in any of the clichés (i.e. those buzz phrases that stop an argument) you find when you speak at different campuses?

Goldberg: A big point of my book was an attempt to “deflate” the idea of fascism. It wasn’t an outlier in the earlier 20th century; it was a very mainstream movement (particularly before the rise of Nazism) that was part of the fad for “experimental” social engineers. The key issue is power.

Today, the power of fascism is in using the label to silence your opponents. No one gets called a fascist for wanting more “public-private partnerships” between the feds and big business, even though that sort of thing is central to fascist economics. No, people get called “fascist” for disagreeing with feminist radicals or supporting free speech or refusing to conform. The most fascistic things routinely said on college campuses today is “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem” or “the time for debate is over.”

There’s no safe-harbor for disagreement. You have to get with the program or you’re a “problem” that needs to be fixed. The best working definition of fascist for the left is simply a “conservative who’s winning an argument.” Because all you have to do to get called a fascist is to disagree with a leftist. Rightwing on college campuses is just another word for “non-compliant.”

Orwell noticed this a long time ago, which is why he said that fascism had simply come to mean “anything not desirable” or something like that.

You write in your latest book, The Tyranny of Clichés, that clichés are tyrannical in that they are “the use of allegedly non-ideological insights to advance starkly ideological understandings of the world.” Is academic freedom now a tyrannical cliché, and how so?

Goldberg: Sure. Let’s start with the word ideology. Few words have a worse reputation these days. It has become synonymous with “closed-minded” and “dogmatic,” even “brainwashed.” This is nonsense. An ideology is merely a checklist of your principles. Hopefully your principles are derived from empiricism and experience, though they needn’t always be. (I have never murdered anyone, never committed incest etc., yet I am ideologically, even dogmatically, opposed to them.)

There’s nothing wrong with being ideological or dogmatic. When people tell me they hate dogma or certainty and brag about how open-minded they are, I tell them that I am dogmatically opposed to setting orphanages on fire. I am also dogmatically opposed to slavery, genocide and the consumption of flan. Save for that last bit, does that make me more or less enlightened?

Again, it all comes back to power. The Progressives borrowed this neat trick from Napoleon and Marx (which sounds like a fine haberdashery). They unilaterally declared all competing ideologies to be closed-mindedly “ideological” while claiming for themselves an open-minded pragmatism. So liberalism doesn’t have to defend itself as an ideology while it can accuse all of its competing ideologies of being cult-like and other-worldly. We hear this in Obama all of the time. His opponents are “ideologues” who put their “ideology” ahead of the American people, while he is merely a “problem-solver” who only wants to do “what works.” I’m sure he believes it.

Which points to one of the big problems with liberalism; its staggering lack of self-awareness.
Liberals simply take it as a given that they are open-minded, morally superior free thinkers. At least conservatives acknowledge our dogma. Liberals have become so dogmatic they can’t even see theirs.

Are there other ways you find the tyranny of clichés functioning in the university today, as in what are the biggest ones you find when you visit a college?

Goldberg: My single biggest complaint about the majority of college campuses is the widespread myth that being liberal is rebellious somehow. I always like to ask students something like: “So, let me get this straight. Your professors are liberal. The administration here is liberal. Your high school teachers were liberal. The mainstream media is liberal. The music industry is liberal. Hollywood is liberal. The art community is liberal. The fashion and publishing industries are liberal. And yet you people think you’re sticking it to the Man by agreeing with them?”

Being liberal is just about the least rebellious thing you can do on an elite college campus. At least libertarians rebel against bad economics and speech codes. But if you really want to break with the herd at an Ivy League school, do something unpredictable: be a Christian conservative.

Can young students take the clichés at the university and redefine them to suit their own picture of politics?

Goldberg: I’m sure they can. That’s standard operating procedure in politics. My only caution is that when you turn the tables on your opponents you should be careful not to internalize the left’s terms. You don’t fight a double standard by accepting your opponent’s standard.

For instance, take diversity (which I write about a lot in Tyranny of Clichés). Diversity can be bad or good, it all depends on what you’re diversifying and how you’re doing it.

At some campuses I’ve been to, conservatives have successfully gotten student activity money by appealing to the “diversity fund” or whatever they call it. That’s great. Intellectual diversity can be more important than many of the kinds of diversity celebrated on college campuses. But there’s a real danger of being coopted by that kind of arrangement as well.

You recount in The Tyranny of Clichés the legend that William F. Buckley Jr. once told George Will in the 1970s how to write two columns in a week: “At least two things a week will annoy you, and you’ll write about them.” Conservative writers easily find more than two things a week at college to annoy them. But being annoyed is not sufficient. One has to be funny and have a point with ridicule. What is the best tactic to make sure one’s ridicule invites possibly sympathetic readers rather than pushes them away?

Goldberg: I don’t know that that is true. Don’t get me wrong, ridicule is great for the things ridicule is great at, and I often pay my mortgage with the proceeds from ridicule. But it’s also really important to show concern and compassion. Conservatives are great at ridicule, largely because liberals make such easy targets of themselves. But liberals have an advantage when it comes to convincing people their hearts are in the right place. Their ideas are often stupid, but you know what they care about.

Conservatives need to get better at convincing people that we believe what we believe not just because it is good for us but because it’s good for everybody. Capitalism is the greatest anti-poverty program in human history. Yet conservatives rarely emphasize that. Why?

More to the point of your question, the ultimate goal must never be ridicule but persuasion. If you find that mocking your opponents isn’t winning readers over maybe you should try a different approach. When I debate someone on campus, the goal is never to persuade my opponent, at least not on the Big Questions. It’s too persuade the audience. I believe in entertaining the reader – in fact I believe in it more than most, I think – but the question you need to ask yourself when contemplating ridicule is, “Is what I’m writing more or less persuasive with this zinger?”

Also in The Tyranny of Clichés, you mention how the “grotesque higher education price ‘bubble’ inflated over the last generation” due to policies inspired by the liberal dogma “that everyone should go to college.” Your book tries to unmask such dogmas. But how can a young conservative try to play the happy warrior when these dogmas affect them directly?

Goldberg: First of all don’t play a happy warrior, be a happy warrior. Though, I guess if you have to fake it, you still should. Nothing pisses off the left more than a conservative who’s enjoying himself. Also, people are more likely to be persuaded by someone who isn’t bitter and cranky all the time. Nobody wants to listen to someone in dire need of an enema.

Moreover, the reason I am a conservative is that conservatism – like libertarianism – is only a partial philosophy of life. If you make politics your everything then you will ultimately be unhappy because that’s how politics – and life – works.

On a more nonpolitical note, you recently wrote that integrity was not traditionally defined “simply by doing the right thing, but by wanting to do the right thing.” Yet now integrity is seen as “a commitment to self-made principles” rather than consistency of virtue. How can college students avoid the new type of integrity and maintain the old when self-serving clichés are so ubiquitous?

Goldberg: That’s a great question. My short answer is: I don’t know. I am an unlikely candidate to lead a moral revival. But it seems to me one good first step would be to take a serious inventory of yourself. Are you following a principle of right and wrong or have you fabricated a principle to rationalize what you want to do. We humans are very good at lying to ourselves.

But I think deep down we can figure out when we take a position out of convenience rather than morally-informed reason. One way to start that process is to ask yourself, “When was the last time I made a moral decision that was really inconvenient to what I wanted to do?”

Goldberg is set to appear Feb. 12 at the University of Michigan’s Rackham Amphitheater  through Young Americans for Freedom.

College Fix contributor Ryan Shinkel is a student at the University of Michigan.

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Daniel Kort, “Duke University senior, social psychology research fellow, and LGBTQ and health disparities advocate,” writes in Huff Post College about how various Blue Devil athletes are using their clout in the “YouDon’tSayCampaign.”

Of course, some — even most — of the featured words/phrases are those which any person with a modicum of common sense and courtesy would not utter in the presence of others, especially strangers.

In my humble opinion, it should be no-brainers today that terms like “fag,” “dyke,” the N-word, and even “retarded” be persona non grata, so to speak, in polite company.

But, naturally, college kids being who they are, they have to up the ante to the inane.

The College Fix’s Claire E. Healey reported on the (pre-athlete) version of the Duke campaign last April. Then, aside from the words noted above, the campaign also took aim at terms like “bitch,” “pussy,” “bossy,” and phrases like “man up.”

Duke’s athletes have added, among other things, “Run Like a Girl,” and “What Are You?” to the list.

For instance, take a gander at this pic:

YDSC-1

First of all, who actually says “run like a girl” anymore? More significantly, I thought progressives were “about science.” So, why the unscientific statement — that “gender doesn’t limit athletic abilities”? OK sure, saying that makes people (females) feel good, but having two X chromosomes actually does limit one’s athletic abilities … when compared to males.

After all, why do we have gender-separate sporting events? Why are there no females playing football? Baseball? Why are women’s times on the track and swimming pool slower compared to those of men?

Having a particular gender actually does limit one’s athletic abilities, doesn’t it?

Then, there’s another incarnation of this silly expression:

YDSC-2

Regarding this, The College Fix’s Sarah Greek wrote last March:

Girls are more likely to be catty than boys: boys are more likely to be violent than girls. Anyone who works with children knows this. Denying a special vulnerability of one’s gender does not equal confidence, but the lack of it.

A man would not be permitted to ban the word ‘violence’ or ‘bullying’ as it pertained to men, because doing so would be a farce: there are more men in prison for violence than there are women. A society that looks down on spitefulness and violence but values leadership and tact is a society that understands something important about life.

[Facebook bigwig Sheryl] Sandberg suggests a unique response when girls are labeled ‘bossy.’

“That little girl’s not bossy,” she argues. “That little girl has executive leadership skills.”

But is the behavior described by the word bossy really the skill set of an executive? A solid work ethic, savvy with assets, the ability to motivate people, a calm head under pressure, the ability to set goals and follow through, strong decision-making skills – it is traits like these that have always been necessary in leaders.

A bossy person is frequently lazy – pushing their own work onto other people, easily angered, predictably selfish, and always demotivating. While bossy tendencies in children can and should be guided into productive energy, perhaps the only one authorized to demonstrate this level of optimism is a mother.

Next, what about this phrase:

YDSC-3
YDSC-4

Saying “man up” signifies … that women can’t be courageous? That masculinity is “superior?” (It is in the physical strength realm; see above.) And as such, shouldn’t be uttered? What about using it as a synonym for “grow up” to high school and/or college (male) students who are not at all acting their age?

Continuing, here’s a head-scratcher for you:

YDSC-5

This is only related to anxiety and depression? What about if a goofy, nasty boyfriend unceremoniously dumped you, and you’re now acting like the world’s come to an end? After constantly whining about it non-stop to your roommate(s), she/they would be out of line to tell you to “get over it?” Really?

But perhaps the most bewildering inclusion is the “What Are You?” phrase, as in asking someone about his/her racial/ethnic identity:

YDSC-6

Seriously? Nowhere else in the country (and maybe the planet) is one more identified by their skin color than at a university. And its representatives now want to claim otherwise? (Political correctness invariably contradicts itself; that, or its “hierarchy” is absolutely impossible to navigate.)

The campaign’s Facebook page has many more examples, some as befuddling and/or ridiculously PC as the examples above: “Illegal alien,” “It’s just a phase,” and “Kill me” are but three.

Look, I get Kort’s ideals when he says “I am proud of my peers for leading by example in challenging marginalizing language and bias both on and off the field, building safer and more inclusive communities, and validating the identities and experiences of people of all backgrounds.” I really do.

But the tendency to go (way) overboard will inevitably come back to bite him and the other speech police for, when taken to its logical end, everyone will take offense to something.

If you don’t believe me, just check this out.

Read the full Huff Post College article.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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Here is what happens when you have the “correct” ideals which neatly fit the prevailing media narrative: You get a lengthy article by a major city’s leading newspaper dedicated to your … “protest.”

Lou Ann Merkle, a 61 year-old teacher among other things, is shaving her head with friend Sylvia Metzler as “a symbol of grievance and mourning that stretches through societies and cultures back to the Old Testament.” For what, you ask?

Because “they are weary of seeing black and brown people die in the nation’s streets.”

And you’ve probably guessed why already: They’re “upset … reading story after story of black men being killed [by police] in the street with no one being prosecuted.”

Here’s a photo of the duo, complete with a “Black Lives Matter” wall sign.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (via Philly.com) reports:

A month ago, news broke of the Senate report on CIA torture, which found that detainees were subjected to far worse treatment than had been known. To Metzler, the findings seemed like one more affront, piled upon the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.

Metzler tossed and turned all night, then awoke at 5 a.m. with one thought: “I’m going to shave my head.”

“It went right to my heart,” Merkle said. “I thought, I have to do this. I’m upset with sitting here and reading story after story of black men being killed in the street with no one being prosecuted. And I was deeply troubled by the information in the Senate report.”

Shaving her head, she thought, would force her to surrender something beautiful and comforting, in its place creating a visual signal of distress and disagreement.

“I’m just an ordinary person,” Merkle said. “When I wake up in the morning and I don’t have a head of hair, I’m uncomfortable – but Eric Garner’s wife and children are more uncomfortable than I’ll ever be.”

Jason Del Gandio, who studies public advocacy at Temple University, says that head shaving “demonstrates, to oneself and others, that the individual is willing to take action.”

St. Joseph’s University Bible scholar Bruce Wells notes that head shaving “could be a sign of changing status,” according the Old Testament. “A captive war bride might shave her head in mourning for her lost family, a parent to grieve the loss of a child,” he says.

Merkle and Metzler will be participating in a march in downtown Philly on Monday, Martin Luther King Day. Organizers of the march say they’ll be “marching for justice, jobs, and education.”

“Specifically, they want an end to ‘stop and frisk’ police practices and creation of a powerful oversight board; a raise to $15 an hour as the minimum wage; and a fully funded, democratically run school system.”

Ah, there we go. Old school “progressive” politics. No wonder this duo got so much ink.

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