The Root Cause of Campus Authoritarians

Saturday’s clash of Trump supporters in and New New Leftists in Berkeley, CA may be the latest headline.  While this Weimar-as-farce violence is to be condemned, the April 12 Wellesley News editorial defending restrictions of free speech on campus is ultimately more important.

In some ways, the student editorial is no different from past attempts to justify the New New Left authoritarianism growing at America’s colleges and universities.  It relies on at least two common yet bogus propositions.

The first is that whatever these Che wannabes deem to be “hate speech” is not free speech and thus not protected by the Constitution.  Even Politifact has figured out this is false.

The second, equally bogus proposition is that someone engaged in “hate speech,” however defined, somehow infringes on the rights of students in a manner justifying physical violence.  However, as infamous right-wing writer Adam Gopnik once put it in a conservative cesspool called The New Yorker:

It is not merely that an assault on an ideology is different from a threat made to a person; it is that it is the opposite of a threat made to a person.  The whole end of liberal civilization is to substitute the criticism of ideas for assaults on people.”

Gopnik was referring to the Islamist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, but the point is equally applicable here.  As many others have noted, it’s Orwellian for campus Maoists to claim they are creating “safe spaces” when said spaces are created by mob violence or the the threat thereof.

Yet, I noticed — albeit anecdotally via social media — there was much more progressive pushback against the criticism of this editorial than after the prior riot at UC Berkeley or the assault on author Charles Murray and battery of Professor Allison Stanger at Middlebury College.

It would be easy to attribute the difference in pushback on simple cowardice.  Many liberals know what the violence the New New Left promotes is not widely accepted and they are ashamed to be associated with it.  So a few may write against it, but many will simply close their mouths and look the other way, lest they be shunned or targeted by fellow travelers.

But I suspect that one of the reasons more progressives are touchy about the Wellesley editorial is something noticed by Patterico and Allahpundit — the abysmal quality of the student editors’ writing. “We have all said problematic claims?” Well, that phrase is certainly problematic.

And consider this sentence: “Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech.”  That sentence is garbled garbage that almost certainly denotes something close to the opposite of what the authors intended.  If you’re going to make an ridiculous claim, at least try to sound sophisticated.

The awful writing helps put a spotlight on the incoherent “thinking” undertaken by budding totalitarians in our nation’s supposedly elite institutions.  It also draws attention to how deep the rot is at these institutions.

As I’ve previously noted, much of this rot stems from prior successes in eliminating or minimizing Western Civilization in curricula.  The ideological conformity in American education deprives students of an appreciation of the West’s virtues, and left-leaning students of the ability to effectively critique the West’s vices (hence the need to suppress their opponents).

Unfortunately, this is just one particularly pernicious aspect of the overall dumbing down of American education.

So when the poorly-educated but self-righteous staff of the Wellesley News moons the world, progressives feel more obligated to defend what is effectively The Establishment.  The Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, recently asked readers to “Consider The Possibility That We Are Led By Idiots.”  If there’s anything progressives want you to consider less than that, it’s the idea that so-called elite institutions are simply creating another generation of idiots to succeed them in “leadership.”

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