“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— George Orwell
This is an age of trigger warnings and safe spaces. The notion of free speech is an illusion. This is especially true on college campuses. However, this wasn’t always the case. There was a time, not that long ago, when college students were encouraged to expand their minds further. To do so, students were encouraged to open their minds, to consider and debate controversial opinions. After all, the world is an unpredictable place, full of beliefs that are as divisive as they are varied. College was designed to prepare you for the real world. Please note that I use the word was for a very specific reason.
For millions of Americans, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are inviolable principles. An attack on any of these ideals is an attack on democracy.
On the other hand, millions of others are enamored by the idea of conditional free speech. Those of a sensitive nature must be provided with trigger warnings and safe spaces, maybe even an emotional support animal. Free speech is encouraged… but only if the speaker subscribes to a very specific ideology. Unfortunately, like the worst hostage negotiators in the world, college administrators around the country are acquiescing and giving into the demands of the Social Justice Stasi.
Of all the colleges in the United States, perhaps Middlebury is the most spineless. On the 24th of April, Ryszard Legutko, a Polish philosopher and member of the European Parliament, was scheduled to speak at the invitation of Middlebury’s Alexander Hamilton Forum. Interestingly, the forum’s site states the following:
We seek to offer students an opportunity to think critically about the relevance of political and constitutional theory to a range of contemporary debates in American public life.
Essential to this mission is our aspiration to contribute to a culture of reasoned, civil discussion and debate across political and intellectual differences.
Clearly, these rules didn’t apply last Wednesday. Legutko, a renowned scholar of classical political philosophy, once served as both Minister of Education and Secretary of State in his home country of Poland. Somewhat ironically, Legutko planned to deliver a lecture on the subject of totalitarianism. Little did he know that his talk would be derailed by tantrum throwing tyrants.
Then again, Legutko must have known that the talk was never going to take place. Two years ago, faculty members and students at Middlebury invited Dr. Charles Murray to speak. Leftists protested, arguing that Murray, a right-wing speaker, posed a threat to student safety. The talk was canceled. Murray and his staff were physically threatened. By allowing such despicable behavior, Middlebury opened the doors to totalitarianism.
In a recent piece for Fox, Alexander Kahn noted:
The Legutko cancelation represents the culmination of an anti-free speech agenda which was implemented in the wake of the Murray incident. In an attempt to recover the reputation of the school after the Murray event riot, the administration instituted a new speaker policy which included a provision that the administration would consider canceling an event if it posed a “credible threat to the community.”
Legutko, in their eyes, posed a credible threat. The lunatics are now running the asylum. The normally peaceful campus of Middlebury College, with its mountainous backdrop, once had a pristine reputation. Those days are long gone.
The irony here (yes, even more irony) is that the very people that managed to stop Legutko’s talk are also the same people promoting the idea of diversity on campus.
What does it mean when colleges and universities talk about “diversity”? Those on the left use it to describe the presence of people on a campus who differ in terms of race, culture, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and ability. However, “diversity” also means the presence of people with diverse opinions, political views, and academic passions, including the likes of Charles Murray and Ryszard Legutko.
This brings us on to the paradox of diversity. On college campuses across the land, the very notion of diversity appears to be a moral end in itself. Nevertheless, when a member of the “oppressive” majority comes to town, the doors of diversity are closed quicker than you can say ‘white man bad.’ In the world of social justice warriors, diversity of opinion is forbidden: opposition to the doctrines of social justice is never reasonable opinion, but malevolent “hate speech.” The extreme left’s idea of diversity is narrowly defined; it has only the slightest of connections with the actual definition of the word.
This shouldn’t surprise us. The wheels of madness have been in motion for quite some time.
In 2016, for example, students at the University of Pennsylvania removed a portrait of Shakespeare. Why? Because Willy Shakespeare is not sufficiently diverse. The disgruntled students replaced the portrait with another portrait of a black lesbian poet.
In this age of diversity, an increasing number of third level institutions have committed themselves to dogmatic, all too myopic ideologies. After all, only the most ignorant fails to recognize that structural discrimination against all members of victim categories must be addressed.
Then again, in this age of the Oppression Olympics, everyone appears to be a victim. Ideas such as merit and excellence, clearly white-male constructs, have been discarded. Instead, they have been replaced by “diversity” of everything, including gender, race, sexual inclination, ethnicity, economic class, and religion.
Of course, “diversity of everything” does not include diversity of opinion.
When it comes to college campus opinion, I am reminded of Henry Ford’s utterance, “any color so long as it is black.” College campuses and universities were once bastions of knowledge. They were sanctuaries of sagacity, not sanctuaries of sanctimony. They once subscribed to the belief that it makes sense to try to understand the world before attempting to change it. To understand the world meant listening to different opinions and philosophies. However, such an approach appears to be outdated, instead replaced by postmodernism and emotive calls to action.
The ostensibly liberal take on diversity is wholly illiberal. Reductionist in the extreme, such myopia undermines basic human rights, such as freedom of speech, by silencing any speech that “upsets” anyone of a sensitive/stubborn disposition.
Remember, academia is not a vacuum. These people will graduate and go on to occupy roles of real significance. Maybe they will end up teaching YOUR children, or maybe they will be responsible for implanting policies that will impact YOUR neighborhood. That is why it is more important than ever to not only have a voice, but to use your voice in a constructive manner.