The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is at it again this weekend. Hilariously, the ed board and many of its readers honestly believe that the fate of the republic rests on a few undergraduate students at Berkeley, UCLA, Middlebury and Wellesley Colleges just shutting up.
In a column putatively against the “soft totalitarianism” of “student thuggery against non-leftist viewpoints,” Heather Mac Donald drops the veil of her allegedly principled stand against “campus intolerance” by–wait for it!–complaining that students published articles in campus newspapers and made comments on Facebook that she doesn’t like.
Go ahead: read that again. And tell me who is it who’s really the special snowflake here: the woman with WSJ editorial page real estate, or the writers for college newspapers? This is a woman who is monitoring and complaining about the Facebook pages of undergraduate students whose politics she dislikes. No member of the East German Stasi or Cultural Revolutionary could outdo comrade Mac Donald for her dedication to eradicating decadence and ideological impurities among our young people.
Here’s a catalog of MacDonald’s hatred of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in her own words. She’s clearly hostile to the expression of any ideas on any college campus anywhere with which she disagrees:
- “At UC Berkeley, the Division of Equity and Inclusion has hung banners throughout campus. . . One depicts a black woman and a Hispanic man urging fellow students to ‘create an environment where people other than yourself can exist.'”
- “After the February riots at Berkeley against Mr. Yiannopoulos, a columnist in the student newspaper justified his participation in the anarchy: ‘I can only fight tooth and nail for the right to exist.’ Another opined that physical attacks against supporters of Mr. Yiannopoulos and President Trump were ‘not acts of violence. They were acts of self-defense.'”
- “An editorial in the Wellesley College student newspaper last week defended ‘shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others.’”
- “In November 2015, a Columbia sophomore announced on Facebook that his ‘health and life’ were threatened by a Core Curriculum course taught by a white professor. The comment thread exploded with sympathetic rage.” Yes. How dare college students think they can discuss their educations on Facebook?
- “Another sophomore fulminated: ‘Many of these texts INSPIRED THE RACISM THAT I’M FORCED TO LIVE WITH DAILY, and to expect, or even suggest, that that doesn’t matter, is [obscenity] belittling, insulting, and WAY OUT OF [obscenity] LINE.’ Those ‘racist’ texts include works by Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Rousseau and Mill.” (Mac Donald implies here that it’s a thought crime to criticize these writers, who are in her view off-limits for any kind of critical inquiry. That seems to me to be inimical not just to liberty of speech and of the press, but also inimical to education itself.)
- “A December 2016 report on policing from the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services includes a section on ‘intersectionality.'”
All of the above bullet points are about campus speech, not about student violence, intimidation, or misbehavior. That’s the “student thuggery” Mac Donald actually describes–thought crimes. (What’s the word for regimes that behave as though opinions they dislike are equivalent to violence against the state? I think it begins with an F, but I can’t quite recall. . . )
And now for the punchline: Mac Donald concludes:
Faculty and campus administrators must start defending the Enlightenment legacy of reason and civil debate. But even if dissenting thought were welcome on college campuses, the ideology of victimhood would still wreak havoc on American society and civil harmony. The silencing of speech is a massive problem, but it is a symptom of an even more profound distortion of reality.
Yes, the writer who complains that students express opinions she dislikes in campus newspapers and on Facebook is our great champion of “reason and civil debate” and against the “silencing of speech.” If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Mac Donald was overheating a bit, her crystals beginning to melt, her snowflakiness melting, melting away.
But the readers of the WSJ clearly have a limitless appetite for this kind of hyperventilation about the kids these days. With an eye towards ironic mischief in a section of the letters to the editor headlined “Saying ‘Shut Up’ Isn’t Helping Free Speech,” three letter-writers from San Diego, Sacramento, and Basalt, Colorado worry themselves about what’s happening at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Once again, their target is the students’ temerity in publishing an editorial in their own student newspaper. The letter writers compare Wellesley students to 1) Chairman Mao, 2) call them “fascists” and “cowards,” because like the Wall Street Journal, they publish unsigned editorials, and 3) complain that students need to “realize that learning is the work of a lifetime,” so apparently they have no right to publish a student newspaper until said lifetime runs its course.
In other words, the students should just shut up! SHUT UP ALREADY! STFU!
I can only shake my head in wonder at the astonishing illiberal, anti-intellectual hypocrisy of it all.