BRADLEY R. GITZ: Salem comes to campus

Crazy things are happening at Missouri, Yale, and other colleges these days. And at the heart of the madness is a shocking rejection, even a condemnation, of the once-hallowed principle of free speech; the kind of speech that liberals used to at least pretend to believe in.

The Berkeley "free speech" movement of the 1960s thus comes full circle; now inverted to mean freedom not for, but from, speech, or at least speech that doesn't follow the ever-fluctuating party line. Once you conclude that speech you don't agree with is not just wrong but hurtful, perhaps even criminal, the next step is put those who have uttered it in the stocks, to be pelted by the frenzied mob.

But our campus social-justice warriors don't just want to restrict speech; they also want to restrict any speech criticizing their efforts to restrict speech. People shouldn't be free to believe in the wrong ideas, defined as any that makes the left look bad, including such heretical concepts as "truth," "facts" and "logic."

With this rejection of freedom of speech thus also comes, by definition, a broader rejection of the life of the mind itself, of the idea of reasoned discourse based on facts and logic and evidence in pursuit of elusive truths. Without the capacity to speak, to question and to reason together, we lose the very purpose of the intellectual life and revert to that condition of savagery and primitiveness in which our great, great ancestors knuckle-walked about.

Our precious campus snowflakes don't want to discuss ideas or attempt to use logic and facts to defend their demands; they just want everyone else to be made to shut up so they can talk about how much life hurts, about how having to hear ideas different from the nutty ones pinging about in their otherwise empty heads makes them feel bad.

An inverse relationship thus exists in which those who prattle on the most about "diversity" tend to be those most eager to suppress diversity of thought and ideas. The exaltation of diversity on campus now requires the squashing of the most important expression of it on the grounds that its toleration would prove too hurtful to young, exquisitely fragile sensibilities.

That this retreat into medieval superstition is now occurring on our college campuses, the swath of American society most dominated by leftism, should tell us something--it isn't the conservatives that the mob is going after (they were chased off long ago, in the quest for ideological uniformity); rather it is a case of the revolutionaries, in time-honored fashion, eating themselves.

The radical left is consuming the rest of the left not because they have been "insensitive" on matters of race and gender (let alone actually racist or sexist), but because they haven't been sufficiently offended by such insensitivity. They are being led to the chopping block because of lack of fervor in combatting what Jonah Goldberg calls "the 31 flavors of oppression."

As Goldberg so humorously put it in a column on the Missouri madness, "I almost feel sorry for those decent, sincere career liberals standing there in the quad as the little Maoists scream in their faces and strip off the suede elbow patches on their tweedy jackets like a lieutenant being busted down to a private. As the kids fit lifelong members of the ACLU with their duncecaps, the poor souls can hear the conservatives hooting and laughing off beyond the fence, throwing nerf footballs and telling jokes at the liberals' expense."

Indeed, one suspects that conservatives might be more sympathetic to the victims of the spreading madness if not for the fact that it was the same administrators and faculty who for so long tolerated and even fed the political correctness beast that has now slipped its leash and come back to bite them. And who thought it was all peachy-creamy when it was only conservatives who were on the receiving end of it.

Alas, it is now their turn, as they should have known it would be. Because that's the unavoidable nature of such things; once witch-hunts are unleashed and the accusations are flung, facts and logic become useless in defense. The only question is who gets purged next.

It must be terrifying for the craven progressives on campus these days. As progressivism destroys itself in an orgy of mob hysteria, how do they continually prove their ideological purity, and thereby forestall the day when it becomes their head on the block?

How difficult it must be to have to always be so careful what you say or write, lest you give offense without intending to. And to live in fear that your denunciation of a colleague accused of questioning the mandatory LGBT sensitivity training sessions might be perceived as lacking sufficient gusto. Or that you might even be a bit slow when queuing up in lock-step fashion for the latest demonstration against this or that, which probably wasn't even an offense the day before.

We are seeing the future of the left in all this--hysterical, illogical, and intolerant; in short, hostile to everything that liberalism once claimed to stand for.

And we also get to find out if there are any honest liberals still out there.


Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 11/23/2015

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