Reading the ‘Wrong’ Book Can Get You in Trouble at Stanford

My copy of Mein Kampf.

Have you ever read Mein Kampf? I have, and I even own a copy. I also own copies of The Communist Manifesto, several of Vladlimr Il’ich Lenin’s pre-revolutionary works, the Q’ran, the Book of Mormon, and the old Lancer Books twelve paperback volume set of Conan stories. The fact that I own and have read some wildly contradictory books does not mean that I accept any or some of them as gospel; it means that I have read books.

My copy of Mein Kampf is an English translation by Ralph Manheim, a Jewish-American, copyrighted in 1943 by the Houghton Mifflin Company.

Adolf Hitler did not actually write the book. Rather, he paced around his cell in Landsberg am Lech prison, more making speeches, as oratory was his particular skill, than dictating it, to Rudolf Hess and Emil Maurice. As a result of this, Hitler’s relatively uneducated German, and the difficulties in really translating German into English, it’s a hard slog of a read.

Nevertheless, it was a work of dynamic historical importance. But, history or not, it appears that some on the left are highly, highly! offended that someone would read it.

Report: Stanford student may need to ‘take accountability,’ ‘acknowledge harm’ for reading Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’

It looks to be a case study in how bias reporting systems chill speech. We’re seeking information and accountability from Stanford.

by Graham Piro and Alex Morey Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention. But that’s what’s reportedly happening at Stanford University this week, after a photo of a student reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” circulated on campus last Friday.

The Stanford Daily said over the weekend that administrators were working “swiftly” with the students involved to “address” the incident. Two campus rabbis emailed Jewish students saying administrators “are in ongoing conversation with the individuals involved, who are committed to and actively engaged in a process of reckoning and sincere repair.”

Stanford was reportedly alerted to the book-reading via its Protected Identity Harm reporting system. Effectively a bias response system, Stanford says PIH reports help the university “address incidents where a community member experiences harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.”

In other words, a Special Snowflake™ saw another student reading a copy of Mein Kampf and reported it to the University! His precious little feelings were hurted.

The PIH is “not a judicial or investigative process,” the Office of Student Affairs carefully notes in bold, before (properly) carving out exceptions for hate crimes and unlawful discrimination or harassment. “We hope to provide a path to resolution for the affected individuals or communities who need to heal” by having the students participate in one of a “menu” of exercises like “mediated conversations, restorative justice sessions, or Indigenous circle practices,” to “help move towards resolution.”

Because college students should not have to report to university authorities for merely reading a book — one, by the way, that has been required reading in at least one recent Stanford humanities class and is available to borrow from the university library — FIRE asked Stanford today to provide additional clarity about the way it handles these kinds of “harm” reports on campus.

Stanford defines a PIH Incident as “conduct or an incident that adversely and unfairly targets an individual or group” on the basis of actual or perceived characteristics like race, religion, or marital status. Yet, it acknowledges such conduct does not necessarily violate its harassment or discrimination policies that, quite rightly, already prohibit such unlawful conduct. What purpose does this separate process serve, then?

There’s more at the original.

There is at least a possibility that this was some sort of set-up, to expose the idiocy of Stanford’s system. That two “campus rabbis” were participating in this seems suspect to me, because such a system, if it can punish or intimidate students from reading Mein Kampf, could also be used, on a campus where so many students support the Palestinians, to report a student reading Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State.

But set-up or not, the fact that it has worked to expose the idiocy of the University’s system demonstrates that idiocy.

From The Stanford Daily:

University spokesperson Dee Mostofi confirmed that the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORL) became aware of this incident on Saturday. Mostofi added that the two offices, along with Stanford’s Hillel chapter, are working with the leaders of the residence that the students belong to address the social media post and its impact on the community.

“Swift action was taken by the leadership in the residential community where both the individuals who posted and the one pictured are members,” (Rabbi Jessica) Kirschner and (Rabbi Laurie) Hahn Tapper wrote. Student Affairs and ORL are actively working with students involved to address the issue and mend relationships in the community.

“It can be upsetting to hear about incidents like this,” Kirschner and Hahn Tapper wrote. “Jewish people belong at Stanford, and deserve to be respected by our peers.”

At some point, the students who got their precious little feelings hurt are going to have to leave the University and enter the working world, and won’t that be a shock for them!

Yeah, this still has the hallmarks of a set-up, but if it is, it’s a set-up that revealed real problems.
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1 thought on “Reading the ‘Wrong’ Book Can Get You in Trouble at Stanford”

  1. I wonder how they feel about such books as “Anarchists Cookbook” and Rules For Radicals”?

    I’ll gladly take your word about “Mein Kamph”. I’ve heard it was a rough read.

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