As it currently stands, university campuses across the Western world are being eaten from the inside out – this is just an undeniable reality.
Just when you thought that universities could not do anything more extraordinarily fascistic, they do. Yes, the campus thought police are on the march once more. This time, it is more than a protest or a de-platforming or whatever else has been going on in our once great centers of higher learning. Two separate incidents on both sides of the Atlantic illustrate how pathological the attitudes towards freedom of thought and expression have become across the Anglo-sphere.
Firstly – consider Britain. King’s College London has made impressive new strides in its efforts to be crowned “social justice warrior college of the year.” As of this term, the King’s College London Student’s Union is paying what it calls “safe space marshals” to attend speaking events and sit in the audience to protect the attendees from speech that might prove offensive or uncomfortable, instructed to intervene at the first sign of wrongthink. The safe space marshals are required to put up posters declaring the location a “safe space,” and record instances of offensive behaviour towards minorities reported to them by audience members.
The first speaker to enjoy this new form of policing was the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is, of course, considered a dire threat to student safety and wellbeing given his orthodox religious views and his conservative politics. As he describes it, there were three “heavies” at his talk, waiting to jump in and save the day, mobiles presumably ready to call in heavy emotional support if they found Rees-Mogg’s words too difficult to bear themselves. Of this stuff are heroes made.
This begs to question whether or not these “safe space marshals” would have intervened when the KCL Islamic Society hosted a speaker who failed to condemn stoning for adultery, calling it as merciful as euthanasia earlier this year.
There are signs that this level of totalitarian thought policing isn’t exactly popular – see the attendees of Rees-Mogg’s talk holding up safe space signs to protest the policy. The college’s Libertarian Society also claims “substantial” support from the student body, mainly because they are specifically against the KCLSU’s policies on safe spaces and speech suppression.
This lack of faith in the psychological resilience of students and the impact that safe space orthodoxy can have on students and civil liberties has been most recently demonstrated in Canada. A teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier named Lindsay Shepherd was forced to confront a tribunal of university officials who accused her of violating the college’s “Gendered and Sexual Violence policy.” Her crime was to show a TVOntario debate about transgender issues – specifically gender pronouns – featuring Jordan B. Peterson, a professor who rose to prominence for speaking out last year against the proposed amendments to the Canadian human rights code contained Bill C-16. The discussion was perfectly civil, and featured a range of voices from both sides of the debate.
Shepherd had used this debate to inspire discussion about grammar and other methods of expression and the potential for controversy surrounding these in her communications class. She claims to have not even had a position on Jordan Peterson either way; however, an anonymous student complained and she was accused of creating a “toxic” and “problematic” environment for her students. Of course, presenting both sides of this particular issue is an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the university’s officials.
The upshot of this petty totalitarianism is that Shepherd has now been censured for her actions, for exercising what should be the cardinal virtue on a university campus – the freedom of expression in order to properly articulate ideas, so that the best ideas may be victorious. While the university has now apologised for the handling of the situation, the fact is that cases like this are occurring far too often, and with increasing frequency. College campuses are meant to be bastions of academic inquiry and fertile ground for developing critical thinking. Needless to say, this is not the case.
All this points to something that has been of growing concern for quite some time. In 2015, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff wrote “The Coddling of the American Mind” in The Atlantic about the dangers of universities’ safe space policies and speech codes, both to students’ mental wellbeing and to societal cohesion. Recently, there has been further research done by Scott Lilienfeld which found that there “are many claims about psychological harm done by such microaggressions,” but “there is little to no empirical evidence to support such claims.”
Despite these new findings, we continue to see censorship on campuses designed to “protect” students from “harmful” opinions. To date, we have seen repeated riots and protests when colleges have hosted speakers opposed by small subsections of the student body. Often times it is not because they even know who the speakers are, but just because they’ve heard that the speaker breaks some sort of Leftist political taboos.
There was a near riot when Ben Shapiro tried to give a lecture at CSULA in 2016, and he has been further protested this year at the University of Wisconsin – Madison; Milo Yiannopoulos was prevented from speaking at Berkeley in February this year after the campus erupted in violence and Antifa showed up; Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury was violently shut down, with his academic host assaulted and left with concussion; Heather Mac Donald was shut down at Claremont McKenna College and was forced to speak to her audience via live-stream. In Britain, Richard Dawkins was protested at UCL and the police were called.
Most recently, Bret Weinstein – a Bernie Sanders supporter – was forced off the campus of Evergreen State College and out of his job as a professor after he refused to comply with the “Day of Absence,” which usually involves the students of colour voluntarily absenting themselves from the college precincts as a form of annual protest. This year, white students were required to leave the college grounds. Mr. Weinstein protested this on the grounds that it was coercive. He was serially harassed by large groups of students, who ran riot on the campus in gangs armed with bats and sticks, took faculty and the college president hostage, and forced concessions out of them. The New York Times later released a piece titled “When the Left Turns on Its Own,” discussing the incident.
Despite what these examples may suggest, universities are by no means completely full of identity politics-playing far-Left students; however, these ideologues have a loud voice and Leftist-endorsed mainstream platforms to voice their puritanical ideological opinions and shove it down the throats of everyone else. The identity politics of immutable characteristics negate the individual in favour of the collective, and place the individual in the hierarchy of oppression.
The politics of identity have been stamped down upon the face of those who attend the modern university with the full weight of the postmodern and neo-Marxist mind virus undergirding it and with the aid of modern social media to spread the contagion and punish those who deviate from the orthodoxy. As it currently stands, university campuses across the Western world are being eaten from the inside out – this is just an undeniable reality.
All of this effort to restrict freedom of speech stems from an inability to cope with different points of view. The Left has become so riven by their own demons that they wish to deprive everyone else of their right to free thought and expression because it could undermine their fragile worldview and ever more fragile egos.
In order to preserve the sense of importance that comes from their sense of perpetual victimhood, they wish to disable everyone else as much as possible in order to level the playing field, to make sure that no one can excel or fail upon their own merits. In order to maintain a stifling environment of non-judgmentalism that relieves them of the need to conform to some external measure of objective excellence or competence, the identity politics ideologues have been attempting to remove or neutralise all methods for assessing and differentiating between people based on talent, competence and skill.
On a personal note, my disability is not my single defining characteristic. It alone does not dictate my ideas, politics or worldview. None of us should be defined by dint of skin colour, sexual orientation, gender identity, biological sex or disability/ability. Campus ideologues must stop policing the world, and stop policing people for wrongthink. In the end, none of this will help anyone. All it does is fracture society into divisions based on victimhood and resentment for others who don’t prostrate themselves before the altar of coerced empathy in quick enough fashion.
In the end, all that will be achieved is a crippled society, made up of crippled individuals who can’t speak or act freely, fearful of causing offence and living under a tyranny of silence for fear of stepping outside the ever-constricting bounds of acceptable discourse, at risk of severe social censure. A crippled society cannot last long; either it will collapse under the weight of its own decay, or it will tear itself apart when those who still value freedom finally snap at the repression of their ability to act and speak freely in the world. If the identity politics ideologues and their allies in the faculty and administration of the universities want a war of all against all, they should keep doing what they’re doing; however, it would be better if this nightmare could be avoided, if we as a society err on the side of liberty and freedom for all.