'Dangerous' new trend: Angry mobs of U.S. students shut down speech
Liberal groupthink is nothing new on college campuses, but resorting to violence and intimidation to stifle views contrary to the progressive orthodoxy is a dangerous escalation, according to a prominent scholar who was recently targeted by an angry mob of students and warns free speech is under fierce assault in the U.S.
Earlier this month, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald experienced the hostility first-hand while visiting the West Coast, first at UCLA and then at Claremont-McKenna College. Her visit to Claremont-McKenna was the most harrowing, with protesters blocking access to the auditorium where Mac Donald was to give her presentation. Organizers then tried to have her speak via video before the event was finally canceled over security concerns.
“The day before Claremont-McKenna, I had an effort to storm the stage. That was at UCLA. At Claremont-McKenna was a blockade around the building where I was supposed to speak to prevent anyone from entering to be able to listen to me in person and interact with me,” Mac Donald told WND and Radio America. “That’s certainly the most extreme that I’ve experienced.”
Protesters targeted Mac Donald in response to her book “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe,” accusing her of being a racist and a fascist.
It’s the latest in a series of campus unrest in response to a speaker who does not subscribe to standard liberal views. Riots broke out at the University of California at Berkeley when Milo Yiannapoulos was scheduled to speak. A professor at Middlebury College in Vermont suffered a concussion while trying to protect American Enterprise Institute scholar Dr. Charles Murray.
Mac Donald said the intolerance of the left is reaching new heights.
“I had a direct experience of how a student body reacts to a non-conforming opinion. It basically reacts like an immune system does, surrounding the alien virus with corpuscles to try to expel it from the body politic,” Mac Donald said.
“There is now an increasing insistence that everybody hew to the same line, and that line is something very, very dangerous for the future of America,” she said. “It holds that this country is rife with oppression, that minorities in particular are the victims of non-stop bigotry, and anybody who dares propose facts to the contrary is simply not to be tolerated.”
Colleges are often billed as places to explore and compare different ideas, yet administrators appear to do little or nothing to punish students who stoke violence or prevent the exercise of free speech.
Mac Donald is not surprised.
“College administrators are reluctant to discipline students for clear violations of their rules for fear of alienating the parents, alienating the student darlings,” she said. “That’s a purely economic self-interest explanation for the passivity of administrators in the face of this.”
But she sees another factor at work as well.
“The campus bureaucracies are being colonized now by people of the left who believe in identity politics and have a stake in students thinking of themselves as victims because that necessitates, allegedly, an ever-growing student service and diversity bureaucracy,” Mac Donald explained.
One of the great ironies of this campus groupthink for Mac Donald is the insistence the students are fighting fascism by forbidding alternative viewpoints to be expressed.
“I’m amazed anybody has the sheer gall to label themselves anti-fascist, who then says [they] are shutting down me, or Charles Murray or Ann Coulter and nobody else gets to hear that person without anybody taking a vote,” she said. “I mean, it’s the very definition of at least soft totalitarianism.”
Mac Donald said liberal academics are succeeding in their mission to groom the next generation to consider only the ideas of the far left.
“The brainwashing is very effective,” she said. “Students are told that the police are racist and that mass incarceration is a reality aimed at re-enslaving blacks. If you’re hit with that enough, you do start to believe it.”
As intimidation and violence become more common on campus, where does this kind of development ultimately lead our society?
“It ends badly,” Mac Donald said. “These students graduate. They take levers of power in government, in corporate HR departments. They are absolutely committed to the view that America is profoundly racist, sexist, misogynist, you name it. They will put in policies to support that view.”
But in addition to the impact on the culture and the workplace, Mac Donald fears for the future of free speech.
“Traditionally, America has had the greatest degree of freedom of speech of any Western, industrialized country,” she said. “There’s much stronger speech codes in Europe. I think we could be moving in that direction, and that means less and less possibility for correcting the errors that guide so many members of the cultural and political elite.”
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