In case you missed it, there was another violent physical attack on a conservative speaker on an American college campus. This time, it was at Middlebury College. Allison Stanger, the female faculty sponsor of the controversial, scheduled speaker, Charles Murray, was viciously attacked by protestors and had to seek medical treatment for a neck injury she sustained in the melee (see here). Until this incident, most polite academics simply feigned ignorance, downplayed, or spoke in hushed tones about growing radical leftist intolerance toward campus conservatives. But now, a time of choosing sides has emerged. What's new in all of this is the growing chorus of leftist intellectuals that have begun to publicly support the use of physical violence to silence conservatives. How did we get here?
Part of the answer can be found in the radicalization of campus activists. Over the course of the last decade, student activists (a.k.a. Social Justice Warriors, or SJWs) have been using "crybullying" tactics and and disturbed emotional thinking in an attempt to impose irrational, puritanical, and New Left-inspired concepts of "social justice" on all facets of campus life (for the nefarious influence of milk, see here). Their objective -- to purge campuses of anything that could cause subjective discomfort (according to the New Left's enhanced definitions of racism, misogyny, and bigotry) to anyone they identify as having a legitimate claim to "victim" status. This has included concerted campaigns to purge campuses of the American flag, former (progressive!) presidents, words, movies, statues, building names, gender specific pronouns, Mr. and Ms., classic works of literature, earrings, Halloween costumes, professors, guest speakers, foreign dignitaries, and most importantly -- ideas.
Accordingly, opposing "hateful" conservative ideas has emerged as a hallmark of SJW protests. Speakers who have have faced classic SJW tactics range from esteemed Professor Christina Hoff Summers (see an example here), to the flamboyant Brit, Milo Yiannopoulos. These tactics have become all too familiar -- claim the status of a victim that needs protection from "hate speech," demand "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings," attempt to have conservative speakers disinvited through petition and protest, and, when all else fails, show up to the event and use Trigglypuff tactics (see here) to disrupt and prevent speeches and debates. Kids will be kids, right? But it's not just students.
The occasional whacky professor calling for "muscle," or attacking conservatives directly, is also not new. Consider the case of the UC Santa-Barbara feminist studies professor, Mireille Miller-Young, who, in July of 2014, physically assaulted pro-life students during a pro-life campus event (see here). Miller-Young screamed obscenities at the teens for holding pro-life posters. The professor's hysterics then gave way to aggression and violence, as she proceeded to knock the posters from their hands, push the teens to the ground, and steal their poster. Despite pleading no contest to theft, vandalism, and battery, neither the professor nor the university expressed regret for Miller-Young's behavior. In fact, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs engaged in classic victim-blaming by stating that the teens were "hawking intolerance in the name of religious belief." The university never took disciplinary action against the professor, essentially sanctioning Miller-Young's violent attack.
Taken in isolation, this incident can be, and has been, dismissed as anecdotal -- not representative of the tolerant liberal atmosphere of today's campuses. But consider the following collection of examples, which seem to be the tip of a much larger iceberg of normalized discrimination and calls for violence against libertarians and conservatives.
Bucknell professor calls campus conservative group "fascists and racists" and insists that they should pay a "steep and lasting price" for a conservative speaker they invited to campus. http://www.westernfreepress.com/2017/02/18/outrageous-bucknell-professor-calls-for-violence-against-conservative-students/
NYU professor calls for police and protestors to engage in "anti-Fascist" violence against former Fox News personality Gavin McGinnis.
Drexell University professor calls for "white genocide."
Ohio SSCC anti-gun professor calls for anti-gun activists to arm themselves and storm the National Rifle Association's headquarters, and to leave "no survivors."
Perhaps no other speaker has faced more sustained vitriol from the regressive left than Yiannopoulos. While Yiannopoulos faced every SJW tactic in the book, he was concerned about his personal safety enough to hire a serious security team. His concerns proved justified at a speech he attempted to give at UC Berkeley, when an SJW protest turned into a violent riot. Responses on the political left varied widely, with most expressing horror and blaming agents provocateur. However, the close listener noticed murmurings on the left -- Yiannopoulos brought this upon himself. The premise behind these grumblings sounded eerily familiar to the official justifications of violence at UC Santa Barbara -- "hate speech" can "trigger" righteous indignation and a violent response (see here). Therefore, this type of speech should not be allowed. This is classic victim-blaming (see a compilation of journalists, actors, directors, and professor who justified the use of violence to shut down Yiannopoulos' speech, here). The viscousness of some of these attacks can not be overstated. Even comedians are refusing to perform on campuses (see here).
The hackneyed response to violent attacks against campus conservatives, as was the case following the attacks at Yiannopoulos' UC Berkeley speech, has been to create a dichotomy between "peaceful protestors" and nefarious "outside forces." Who, then, is responsible for the attacks? Black-bloc anarchists? Or, perhaps it's a right wing plot, as was suggested by Bill Clinton's former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich (see here). There's been no real exercise in reflection from the political left -- no contemplation of how the theoretical foundations of the social justice movement may in fact be the root of the problem.
For years, SJW activists -- professors and students -- have steadily demonized traditional American values, whites, men, Christianity, etc., as the forces of fascism, Nazism, and "oppression." Where did these ideas come from, one might rightfully ask? Part of the answer is that New Left academics in the social sciences have indoctrinated a generation of young professors into the cultural marxism of the Frankfurt School (see here), which prioritizes attacking the "intellectual superstructure" of the "evil capitalist bourgeoisie." The Frankfurt School's theoretical positions have been applied to countless dissertations, monographs, and have come to define textbook narratives (one author prefers the term "pomofascists" -- see here). These ideas -- which are antithetical to Western Civilization and traditional American values -- have become so normalized on today's ideologically homogenized campuses that one does not need to look hard to find the local college or university class or seminar on white privilege or male privilege. These core SJW assumptions provide the critical background for understanding campus responses to the election of Donald Trump.
Trump's election -- taken by the SJWs as "evidence" that at least half of the nation was inhabited by deplorable racists, misogynists, bigots, fascists, and Nazis -- signaled a new phase of "resistance" rhetoric (for my analysis of media-driven Nazi allegations against Trump and Bannon, see here). An Orange County College professor called Trump's election "an act of terrorism," and the student who recorded it was promptly suspended (see here). On campuses across the country, "traumatized" students experiencing "emotional distress" were encouraged to mourn, hold "cry-ins," seek safe spaces, wear safety pins, pet therapy dogs, express their anguish in coloring books, and other absurd, infantilizing exercises. A few professors -- even at Harvard -- called for violence in the streets to oppose the "illegitimate" election results (see here).
Trump's election marked the regressive left's psychological apocalypse. The increasing frequency of violent leftists attacks, coupled with national media coverage of the Yiannopoulos and Stanger attacks, has created a tipping point in the national conversation. Leftists who formerly ignored the problem can no longer do so. They must now either condemn it, or own it. Many have forcefully condemned the violence, and the Cowboy Historian tips his stetson to those who have. Unfortunately, some have chosen to publicly justify and encourage violence as an acceptable method for "resistance."
We can now add The New Republic to the list of "respectable" publications supporting violence to silence conservatives. Aaron R. Hanlon's recent article, "The Myth of the 'Marketplace of Ideas' on Campus (for the full article, see here)," argues against the use of violence to silence the likes of Yiannopoulos and Murray, but not out of any principled defense of free speech. Hanlon's reservation to the use of violence is based on behavioral economics. Simply put -- we are rewarding provocation and performance. According to Hanlon, we -- the market -- are misinterpreting the signals protestors are sending, which is fueling the popularity of speakers like Yiannopoulos and Murray. Hanlon claims that while violence may be strategically inadvisable, it should still be recognized as "an important signal in the marketplace that they [students] don't want these speakers on campus"; to dismiss violent protests as "illiberal" would be to misinterpret "knowledgable, rational opposition."
On the bright side, the recent attack at Middlebury has provoked a vigorous nonpartisan response to promote ideological diversity on campuses, as reflected in Northwestern University's recent student government resolutions (see here). For the University of Chicago's response, see here. The creation of the Heterodox Academy, which boasts over 450 college and university professors from across the ideological spectrum, has made its mission to "advance viewpoint diversity and promote free inquiry in the academy." Finally, professors at Middlebury have expressed their support for free speech and debate by signing a "statement of principles." While many departments expressed warm support for the principles of free and open inquiry, speech, and debate, certain departments have refused to support the statement. Unsurprisingly, they are the very departments that have been utterly infested with the illiberal doctrines of the modern "social justice" movement (see here).
There can be little doubt that the escalation of violence on college campuses represents the logical outcome of the flawed assumptions of the so-called social justice movement. It has been the failure of campus faculty and administrators to recognize the illiberal nature and intellectual roots of these groups, and to respond to escalating criminal violations accordingly. The time has come for those who value free speech to posse up and start rustling!
- The Cowboy Historian