Laughter in the Face of Hatred: Remembering Mike Adams

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University of North Carolina professor and Townhall columnist Mike Adams was found dead in his home Thursday from a single gunshot wound to the head. Authorities have ruled it a suicide. Adams was described by his neighbors as a quiet, easy-going, affable person who kept to himself. Those of us who knew him would describe him similarly except to add that he was also one of the loudest and unapologetic defenders of free speech in America.

Writers are an interesting bunch. We write columns about how things are and how we want them to be. All writers are philosophers. The keyboard is the only way we get these ideas that swirl around endlessly in our heads out into the world and so we write columns and books. But the truth is, we think for a living and the writing is just a way to put those thoughts into something concrete to be discussed. Adams was a great thinker, a criminology professor, and provocateur. What he did best was goading the left into fits of hysteria that left them writhing in anger and the rest of us laughing at the joke they missed.

Take for instance the description on the back of his book, Feminists Say the Darndest Things.

The four most common words a feminist uses are “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine.” Feminists are the only people who actually use these words more in adulthood than they did when they were two years old.

Mike Adams-like P. J. O’Rourke and Christopher Buckley-understands that the best way to fight humorless liberals is to poke fun at them. And no liberal group is more humorless, or more in need of poking, than feminists on college campuses.

It might seem like professional suicide for a conservative male professor to ridicule feminists for their antics on campus. But Adams does just that, with hilarious results. In Feminists Say the Darndest Things, he writes to feminists around the country with many thoughtful questions, such as:

  • Why did they build a sex toy museum in the middle of a campus and then file sexual harassment charges against those who criticized their indiscretion?
  • Why do they write “scholarly” articles like the one suggesting that deer hunters are simply acting out fantasies of raping underage women?
  • And why, after his column said that feminists are intolerant of free speech, did they respond by trying to get him fired?

When the author’s pen pals take the bait, they do a better job of making feminism look silly than any critic ever could.

It’s hard to believe that the man who for years stuck it straight in the eye of leftism with good humor, always laughing, would have finally succumbed to the mob. It doesn’t make sense. But in the final days of his life, after winning a huge victory against UNCW for discriminating against him, and forcing them to give him back-pay and give him the promotion he was due, he agreed to resign over a cheeky tweet that some people called racist and the rest of us saw as a joke (perhaps poorly timed, but obviously a joke). You can read about the details in David French’s piece here.

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Adams was the kind of person who said the things you wished you could say. He stood up to the mob as if it were part of his religion, and in a way it was. He embodied the bold Christianity of a time long past where a believer would walk into the fire before he’d betray his faith. He was one of the greatest voices for the unborn this country has ever known.

We used to value the sentiment in America that we defend even the most abhorrent speech and would die to preserve it so that others may use their free speech rights for higher purposes. That America no longer exists. Even conservatives equivocate about this or that nuance or sentiment that is doubleplusungood and therefore worthy of silencing and censorship. But Mike didn’t play that game. He said what he thought. Some of it offended. Some of it pierced the hearts of the guilty. Most of it brought unbidden laughter bubbling up and out into this crazy world.

Most important, Mike Adams was never boring.

Life is an illusion, a vapor, a drama. It’s a play and we all have our parts. Mike had a starring role. To some, he appeared as the villain. But no great tale can be told without the introduction of a bad guy. There would be no Luke Skywalker without Vader. Mike’s enemies should be thanking God, or whoever they believe in, for sending them a villain as formidable as Mike Adams.

Without him, how could they be them? How would they know what their convictions were about feminism or race if Adams hadn’t been there to challenge them? When Jesus said “love your enemies,” perhaps he meant because, without them, you could not be you! How would you have solidified your positions on anything without a foil to give another point of view? All philosophers know that polar opposites need each other for balance. This is true in every facet of life. There is no day without night. You cannot have a Gloria Steinem without a Mike Adams.

In my version of reality, Mike was a hero in a cape coming to the rescue of college students like me who were being oppressed by college professors. We were being silenced, punished with lower grades than we deserved, and publicly castigated for opening our mouths if it wasn’t in line with the accepted leftist dogma.

I had picked up Mike’s book, Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel, and read it twice, laughing the whole way through. Is there a better scam on the left than entering one of their vaunted sanctuaries as a progressive atheist and then converting to conservative Christianity AFTER getting tenure? They couldn’t fire him! What a gag!

When I first began my activism, I decided that young Republicans on campus needed the most support. I reached out to Mike on behalf of the Monmouth College Republicans to come and speak on their campus. They had similar issues as I did with professors who refused to hear any dissent.

Mike came for very little pay (I think they just covered his travel expenses). He gave a rowdy and boisterous speech full of humor and goodwill. There was so much laughter that night. These kids who had previously felt alone and marginalized finally had a champion.

After his speech, a woman stood up (who turned out to be professor Farhat Haq–whom Mike immediately took to calling Farleft Hack) and tried to argue with him. It didn’t go well for her. He wrote a column about it (which I’m not able to find on Google anymore) called “Loudmouth at Monmouth.” I had been in the audience recording and so he had a full transcript of her meltdown which he printed.

Mike was jovial. He seemed to have as a philosophy of life to laugh as often as possible. Laughter in the face of hatred is the way I will always remember Mike. No matter what they did, he laughed. And they did some horrible things to him. One of his co-workers accused him of breaking into her office and spraying poison gas to kill her. They organized campaigns to have him fired at least a dozen times. They never succeeded.

But somehow 2020 broke him. This last time was one time too many, I guess. If Mike Adams, caped defender of free speech, bowed to the speech police, gave up his job that he had fought so hard for, what did he know that we do not?

Hatred was nothing new for Mike. He faced it every day. And when news of his death became public, his own co-workers couldn’t control their bile even for one day, tweeting out disgusting defamation–“racist!” “bigot!” “misogynist!” But as they rejoice in the death of their enemy, they give up their own humanity. For without recognizing that spark in Adams that also resides in them, they deny themselves and fail to recognize how much he gave to them.

Mark Steyn commented that Adams’s cheerfulness in the face of the constant onslaught was a sign of his courage because he was utterly alone. He’s correct. Most of conservative America has been cowed into silence, content to let a few of us stick our necks out there. Steyn wrote:

Pushing back can be initially exhilarating-and then just awfully wearing and soul-crushing: “I’m with you one hundred per cent, of course. But please don’t mention I said so…”

And yet, if the facts are as they appear, a tireless and apparently “happy warrior” – exhausted by a decade of litigation, threats, boycotts, ostracization and more- found himself sitting alone–and all he heard in the deafening silence of the “silent majority” was his own isolation and despair. A terrible end for a brave man. Rest in peace.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that same sentiment directed to me. It leaves the person being complimented wondering, “If everyone agrees, why can’t they put some skin in the game?” It is exhausting to be a constant target of hatred. More often than not lately, I’ve thought I’d be happier working waiting tables than continuing to share ideas that are increasingly viewed as criminal. This is not a sustainable way of life for anyone. What will the silent majority that claims to be out there do about it? It’s up to you to stop the mob. So far, you’re all just watching it.

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