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Why the Campuses Matter

Conservative and center-left criticism of the illiberal mischief of anti-free speech college students is often dismissed as overblown and sensationalized. And surely it sometimes is. But the efforts by left-wing protesters to shut down Donald Trump’s peaceful rally in San Jose show that the beliefs and tactics that were first put into practice on college campuses are not contained there. As Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine:

A liberal sees Trump’s ability to deliver a speech before supporters as a fundamental political right worth defending. A radical sees this “right” as coming at the expense of subordinate classes, and thus not worth protecting.

I started writing about this resurgent phenomenon at the beginning of last year. The pushback on the left has evolved from an outright denial that any such trend exists to an acknowledgement that it may exist, but it’s just the antics of some goofy college kids. But the campus was merely the staging ground for most displays of left-wing ideological repression because it is one of the few places the illiberal left has the power to block speakers and writers deemed oppressive.

Liberal norms are fragile, and once they start to fray anywhere in our society there is a risk that the decay will spread. This is especially true when the institutions under threat are responsible for molding the minds of the next generation of norm-setting elites.

And it’s not just about free speech: As we’ve noted before, some of the authoritarian sex codes first pioneered on campuses a generation ago have suddenly come roaring into the mainstream. If a generation from now we find ourselves living in a world where shouting down speakers is a widely accepted strategy of political engagement, small-l liberals of all political stripes will have wished that they engaged the campus problem earlier and more forcefully.

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  • solstice

    The American Left is more insane, totalitarian, and violent than ever. This is due to their feeling empowered by illegal and legal mass immigration, the two-term presidency of the narcissistic megalomaniac Obama, the left-leaning Supreme Court, the increasing encroachment of political correctness in public life, the open disparagement of white men, and King Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders. Times like these are when the 2nd Amendment is most vital and when all patriotic, liberty-loving Americans should arm themselves to the teeth.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    With the exception of the STEM fields of study, leftist political dogma has taken over University campuses. While half of the American Population holds Right wing positions on the issues, there are entire fields of study where Professors with similar right wing opinions are non-existent. This means that leftist propaganda and indoctrination have nearly complete control, and “Reason” has no place.

  • Andrew Allison

    Odd that, while all-too-frequently bleating about the “far-right” TAI fails to call the fascist left what it is. Lest we forget, the 1930s fascist regimes in Germany and Italy were, like that in the USSR, socialists. Today, free speech is under violent attack, not just on campuses but, for example, in calls for climate skeptics to be prosecuted.

    • Jim__L

      Also let’s not forget that National Socialists and Soviet Socialists clashed in the streets in Germany in the 1930s.

      If enough Trump rallies get attacked, we may actually see that happen in this country.

  • Boritz

    “a world where shouting down speakers is a widely accepted strategy of political engagement”

    Dr. Frankenstein believes he can keep the destructive force of his monster directed outward this time. And the way things are going why wouldn’t he be confident.

  • Beauceron

    “Liberal norms are fragile, and once they start to fray anywhere in our society there is a risk that the decay will spread.”

    The problem for liberals (in the old sense of the word) is that what you call “decay” is being framed by the Left as progress. For them this is a battle against hatred and bigotry, or at least that’s what they tell the public. The Left pretends it is for equality and fairness, but the truth is it is against both. The people attacking Trump supporters (mostly white) in CA are largely members of La Raza and Mecha, who can only be honestly defined as racial supremacist groups.

  • ljgude

    Maybe campuses don’t matter. Maybe we have to invent entirely new institutions to provide the institutional support for STEM and serious research work. I’m just finishing a personal research project and am amazed at how different the research process is since I retired from Academia. I can get more done in less time as a superannuated old gasbag with just my computer than when I had access to a very expensive research library. George Bernard Shaw said give him a good library and he would become the second most learned man on any subject. Or so I recall, but can’t find easily on the Internet. 😉

    • Jim__L

      Google curates. Try another search engine.

      • ljgude

        So do libraries curate, but yes that is a good practice to use different search strategies including using a traditional library and alternate search engines. But to repeat, with computer searching – not just Google searching – the process is greatly sped up and the edge where the particular knowledge sought is clearly not readily available is reached more efficiently. i was able to find and read translations of just the Coptic texts I needed on the web in a short time, but it was much harder to determine if my main subject actually had those texts in their personal library at a particular time in the past. .

    • Fat_Man

      There are plenty of non-academic research institution around such a Sandia, Oak Ridge, and Battelle. More could be spun out of existing colleges.

  • Gugliemus

    University administrators, faculty, and boards of trustees are entirely responsible for the current intellectual degradation now on view at many of our colleges and universities. That dissent should be demonized and speech punished is a profound betrayal of the very idea of a university. But the rot goes even deeper. Students at Seattle University, fresh from a recent sit-in, were quoted in a Seattle Times report as urging their classmates to protest “. . . if the believe their professors aren’t teaching them what they need to know.” Savor that little nugget for a minute or two. The ignorant will now be instructing the learned on what constitutes the proper content of an education. Should we laugh or cry?

    • Jim__L

      The trouble is, you will find no one “learned” in academia these days, teachers or students. In fact, you’ve got a better chance of finding someone with an actual education among the students — the faculty have eschewed actual education for decades.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Donald Trump’s mouth is capable of creating “radicals” on the left. If he really was P.T. Barnum “just puttin’ on a show”, the liberals would be as tolerant of him as they were of Archie Bunker—-who was in fact on “a show”. But, alas, Donald is running to be the actual president in an election to have actual “consequences”.

    That’s not an “academic” matter. We tolerant liberals and our less-tolerant cousins all know how serious it is. You really cannot expect our “fringe” to be less agitated than the conservatives’ 1000+ militia groups running around in the woods with their camo and guns.

    • JR

      Left’s speech codes pre-date Trump by decades.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Indeed, the effort to have communication rise above the coarsest common denominator has been going on since Shakespeare and the King James Bible if not before —-and it continues.

        • Jim__L

          His point was that Left-wing crazies with speech codes are not a reaction to Trump — it’s the other way around, in fact. Militia groups insisting on keeping to themselves in the woods are no worry to anyone, compared to urbanista busybodies who want to impose their lunacy on all of us nationally.

          And you’ve chosen a couple of extremely poor examples — the KJV was vernacular (as opposed to far more learned Latin), and Shakespeare wrote far more in prose (some of it VERY coarse) compared to Marlowe before him.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I know what his point was. But we’re running against Trump anyway. And, yes, I’ll take university-speak over that of the fans of Duck Dynasty and Sarah Palin.

          • Jim__L

            I watched a couple of episodes of Duck Dynasty… it seems to me that people who get a kick out of laughing at rednecks are probably big fans of the show. Again, I’m not sure that your examples really support the point you’re trying to make.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I never saw the show because when we moved to a rural area we ditched cable by not buying Dish. (We get four channels of PBS over air (one in Spanish) not to mention perhaps 25 other over-air choices. After the switch to digital, a lot of “cheap channels” opened up playing reruns of old (old) programs. We watch PBS for nearly everything serious, as well as Lester Holt on NBC and reruns of Dick Van Dyke, Lucy, The A-Team, etc. for fun. No Fox News. No MSNBC.
            BUT, I am familiar with Phil Robertson, the family patriarch, and some of his sayings and ideas. From the library, I read Uncle Si’s (Phil’s brother’s) book, “Sicology 101”. I rather liked Si, who admitted that Phil was not really a very nice person for most of his life. All of them are politically nuts, and all of them have made a fortune off of viewers pretending that they too can somehow be duck call manufacturers with beards and independent streaks—–even though most people are employees—–not “independent” anythings. It’s said that 2,000 retail items were branded with Duck Dynasty for redneck shtick. The fans of these people are not laughing at them. The fans are hoping and wishing they are or could somehow consider themselves similar—when they ain’t at all.

          • Tom

            Thus proving that, as with most liberals, you put style over substance.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Sarah Palin believes that she IS substance, HAS substance, SPEAKS substance. I don’t. I’ll stick with the university people.

            A few months ago I got stuck in a line of cars and trucks waiting to get into a dump (a real dump—-getting rid of some trash items.) We had to wait about 45 minutes and got out of our cars. I stood around and talked with a man who was trying to be “nice”, but decided to have a rant about how poorly the dump was run, proceeding to how poorly the county government was run, proceeding to complete disapproval of Obama and even Bible prophecy and living in the last days.

            I let him run and did not argue—-mostly just listened. He even complained that he has a sister with a PhD. who he described as now “a bigtime liberal” who tries to influence him leftward.

            As we got moving, he said, “you know, I probably should not have vented so much—-hope you’ll forgive me for carrying on” or such,
            whereupon I told him it was fine, that we all need to vent—and we parted happy—-no argument at all. I went away saying to myself,
            “Gee, I wish I could meet his sister.”

          • Tom

            I’d like to meet them both.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Met them both….trust me, you aren’t missing much.

          • f1b0nacc1

            sorry, forgot to add the /s at the end…

          • Nate Whilk

            Sarah Palin has more substance than all of the ivory-tower academics put together.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Only to duped people. She is an opportunist and a flat-liar.

          • Nate Whilk

            Like Obama, Hillary, Pelosi, Warren, etc.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have the conservative view. I don’t.

        • Tom

          Heh. Heh. Heh. You really think those codes were about rising above the LCD?

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yes, what is derisively called “political correctness” by some (who want to make fun of sense) is actually just manners and due consideration to the views and interests of other people. It’s done a lot in the college atmospheres——maybe a little “faux highbrow” from time to time, but better than retaining pride of being a caveman.

          • Tom

            Yeah…no. Those speech codes have always been about going after people that university administrations want to get rid of.
            It’s long past time that you realized that your side is as capable of malfeasance and double-dealing as the other.

          • seattleoutcast

            Written by someone truly out of touch with the realities of campus living. A quick google search will bring up hundreds of articles showing the intimidation of those against pc thought.

            I guess if you are on the side of the politically correct, then you don’t see a problem and call thought restriction “manners.” Of course, you thought collaring young boys for fear of what they might do was just dandy.

          • seattleoutcast

            Gosh, it’s almost as if some people just want to shield their eyes from the evil taking place.


            But let’s just call evil, “bad manners.”

          • Nate Whilk

            That, sir, is almost totally incorrect. It only *starts* as politeness. It quickly devolves into a tool of control.

            The USA Communist Party used it internally around 1950 in its campaign against “white chauvinism” (read: “white privilege” and “racism”). “Whitewash” and “black sheep” were considered racist. Soon it descended into a witch hunt. The sainted Dalton Trumbo came in for severe criticism. One of his sins was describing a Negro boy in one of his writings as “polished and dressed in his very best” because this implied he was “clean only on special occasions”!

            In 1992, Doris Lessing wrote in the NY Times, “Raising Consciousness, like Commitment, like Political Correctness, is a continuation of that old bully, the Party Line.”

            For more info, see this blog post I ran across.

          • FriendlyGoat

            One does not need to be a communist to know that not all or even most of the Mexicans are rapists, or that transgender people belong in the restrooms of the gender they are living in, or that Hillary Clinton is not out to repeal the 2nd Amendment.

          • Nate Whilk

            “all or even most of the Mexicans are rapists” Who said that?

            “Hillary Clinton is not out to repeal the 2nd Amendment.” Save that one for the truly gullible Democrats.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton is trying to repeal the second amendment—-which is not factual. He also said people coming over the Mexican border are rapists—-implying that they all are. The voters will decide whether these statements were credible or called for.

  • Rodney

    Two decades ago when I was an undergraduate nuclear engineering student at the University of Tennessee, unit 1 of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant was being finished. Because TVA is headquartered in Knoxville, there were regular protests downtown. One day, four nuclear engineering students, myself included, decided to hold a counter-protest in Market Square. So, the four of us stood together with our pro-nuclear signs while surrounded by up to a hundred or more anti-nuclear protesters. Although the anti-nukes strongly disagreed with us, we were able to mutually disagree respectfully. Given the current nature of activism, I have to wonder if a similar counter-protest today would result in bloodshed because of protesters attacking the counter-protesters for their heinous crime of disagreeing with them.

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