Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal? Part 2 – Maajid Nawaz Calls Out The Illiberal British Left

maajid-nawaz-lbc-liberalism-left-authoritarianism

Maajid Nawaz warns about the rise of the “Control Left”, an authoritarian tendency which has left liberalism and liberal values far behind

Recently, this blog took to task those on the authoritarian Left who have reacted to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by falsely draping themselves in the clothes of liberalism and hysterically mourning an idealised liberal past which they did as much as anybody else to knife in the back.

In that piece, I made the point that people who only weeks ago could be found arguing for greater censorship, the expansion of “hate crime” legislation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, national ID cards, longer pre-trial detention periods and even more intrusive government surveillance have absolutely no business calling themselves “liberal”.

Though the authoritarian Right are by no means innocent in this regard, it must be acknowledged that most of the recent assaults on liberty and liberalism have come from the Left, in America as well as Britain.

Picking up on this thread, Maajid Nawaz hits the nail on the head on his LBC talk radio show yesterday:

I suspect that the most vocal elements of the Left – and I don’t mean every single person who sympathises with left-wing views, let me make that very clear, I’m talking about the organised left, the most vocal elements of our Left, and the Left in the form of Momentum who have taken over the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – my view is that that Left, today’s Left, today’s active, organised Left is no longer liberal.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s look at a few things that I don’t consider to be liberal. Let’s look at censorship, let’s look at being “post-factual”, let’s look at violence being seen as an option, let’s look at prioritising group identity over individual rights. None of these four traits are liberal.

Censorship is not liberal, so when today’s organised Left begins organising in campuses and across colleges across the nation, across the world, and says things like “you cannot say that here, this is a safe space, we will exclude you from speaking because your views offend us”, when they choose to take offence, when they become more sensitive, and so sensitive in fact that they want to shut debate down simply because they don’t like what somebody is saying, that’s not a liberal approach. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.

What about being post-factual? Well I remember – and I hope many of you remember – at the beginning of this year, the way in which mass sex attacks were reported in the German city of Cologne. And what was known then as the liberal press actively conspired to cover up that news. Facts were known and they were not reported because they didn’t want to be accused of being racist. The German state television station had to come out and openly apologise, days later, when they realised that this story was not one that they could cover up. So being post-factual is also not being liberal.

What about considering violence as an option? When you have the Shadow Chancellor of the UK Labour Party, John McDonnell, being caught on video saying that it’s okay to riot, it’s okay to destroy property and to ruin people’s lives and their private property, that’s not liberal. That may be anarchist, it may be revolutionary hard-left socialist, as John McTernan suggested, but it isn’t liberal.

When people are prioritising group identity over individual rights, saying things like “kill all white men”, saying things like “black people can’t be racist because racism is about power and only white men have power” – Diane Abbott says that. Well I’m sorry Diane Abbott MP, go and walk into any council estate and speak to a white working class lad and try and have a rational, reasonable conversation with that young white working class lad and tell him that he has more power than you, and that’s why you can’t be racist towards him. Complete and utter rubbish. But when group identity is prioritised over individual rights in that way, when leftist activists think it’s okay to say “kill all white men” and that that’s somehow an empowering statement, when they think it’s okay to be racist to all white people as a group, and think somehow that’s what it means to be progressive, erasing the individual, stereotyping entire groups, that is not liberal.

So I have taken the view that this behaviour – censorship on the organised Left, post-factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights, that isn’t liberal. And like the alt-right has emerged, we’ve now got this new group – it’s called the Control Left. They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we behave, control how we even feel. And control what we think. That is not liberal. That is the Control Left.

So my message to you, Control Left, is stop telling us you are liberal. My message to the press: stop describing them as the liberal Left, they are no longer liberal. Call them for what they are – Control Left.

A devastating excoriation of the modern Left. And while I’m not sure that Nawaz’s preferred phrase “the Control Left” will catch on, it does describe quite plainly their new strategy of bringing about change not through persuasion but by coercion and force.

Maajid Nawaz has cause to be particularly aware of the new illiberalism gripping the Left, having recently been singled out by the fabled Southern Poverty Law Center in America for supposedly promoting anti-Islamic extremism, a ludicrous accusation given that Nawaz is himself a Muslim. (Nawaz’s real sin was to call for moderate Islam to take more responsibility for its violent, fundamentalist offshoots at a time when much of the Left is furiously pretending that “there is nothing Islamic about ISIS”).

We now need many more people to summon the courage and willingness to tell truth to power exhibited by Maajid Nawaz. It’s all very well having dyed-in-the-wool conservative, libertarian or conservatarian journalists and bloggers such as myself ranting on about the many ways that the modern Left has left liberalism behind. But we can only carry the message so far – since it is we who are most often the targets of this censorship and identity politics, it is too easy for the Control Left to accuse us of acting in our own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Therefore it is vital that more left-wing liberals like Maajid Nawaz stand up and call out these authoritarian tendencies, declaring “not in my name” to the censorship, bullying and control freakery of the modern Left. This is in their interest as much as anyone else’s – with the election of Donald Trump in America, we have seen that peddling a constant diet of authoritarian identity politics eventually provokes a similar identity politics backlash among those groups not marked out for special favour by the Left.

So for the country’s sake as much as their own, those on the Left must learn to renounce authoritarianism and seek to achieve their political agenda through persuasion rather than coercion. To continue on their present course is to plant the seeds of their own destruction, as well as ours.

 

liberalism

Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

Advertisements

Meet Donald Trump, Special Snowflake

Donald Trump’s reputation as a brave warrior against political correctness is a big fat lie – he has always been happy to use free speech-busting, SJW tactics to attack and silence his critics

In a move which perfectly illustrates the yawning chasm between the “two Americas”, the cast of hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” saw fit to deliver a rather patronising end-of-show lecture on equality, diversity and tolerance to vice president-elect Mike Pence, who was sitting in the audience.

Telling the audience that there was “nothing to boo” (many of them seemed to disagree, and heartily booed Mike Pence when he first took his seat in the theatre and again when the cast addressed him as he was leaving), cast member Brandon Victor Dixon said:

Vice-president elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do.

We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir.

But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds, and orientations.

It is actually not a bad speech, and was certainly delivered with an eloquence and dignity which has been largely missing from both sides of this dismal presidential election.

One can take issue with the idea that people need to be constantly nurtured by successive presidential administrations and “protected” by government, but Donald Trump has said enough inflammatory and offensive things on his path to the White House that nobody can say that all of the trepidation is unjustified, or that some people are not in legitimate need of reassurance – either because of things that the president-elect himself has said, or by irresponsible scaremongering by those opposed to Donald Trump.

And yes, one could also rightly point out that it doesn’t say much for America’s social cohesion and inclusivity when the producer of Hamilton: An American Musical could authorise such a speech in the sure knowledge that the words addressed to Mike Pence would speak for every single one of the cast and crew (as they almost certainly did). How many Trump voters or conservatives in general work in musical theatre, or dare to admit their political preferences if they do?

As Brandon Victor Dixon boasted, there was indeed every kind of diversity standing on that stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. Every kind of diversity apart from intellectual and political diversity.

But of more interest than the cast’s speech itself, though, is the response it provoked from president-elect Donald Trump, who now seems to have been given back full control of his Twitter account after anxious aides confiscated his devices in the closing days of the campaign to prevent any final day gaffes or Twitter wars.

Trump clearly did not take kindly to seeing his future vice president lectured on American values by a cast of musical theatre actors, and fired off this angry tweet:

And then this one, when the rage had still not subsided eight minutes later:

The theatre must always be a safe and special place? Really? I can think of at least one American president in history who had a decidedly unpleasant experience in a theatre, 151 years ago. And during his pivotal and historic presidency, Abraham Lincoln withstood insults and diatribes far worse than anything ever levelled at Donald Trump, and did so with infinitely more grace.

But mark what we are witnessing here: Donald Trump, slayer of political correctness, fighter of censorship, champion of free speech and supposed scourge of the Identity Politics Left, now using exactly the same language of grievance and victimhood to portray himself as a victim in a bid for the moral high ground.

Jonah Goldberg warned months ago that while Donald Trump is quite happy to profit from being seen as an anti-PC warrior, he is also ruthless in using PC tactics himself when he feels under attack:

This idea that Donald Trump is against political correctness is just a fiction. He’s against being held accountable to people to political correctness for himself but he is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes of political correctness against other people. He’s done it against me when he tried to get me fired from National Review, saying I was insulting to women and that I have to apologise or resign or be fired because I was so insulting to women. What did I do that was so insulting to women? I said that Donald Trump is staying up late into the night like a teenage girl, tweeting. Which was A, accurate, and B, accurate.

During the primaries when Jeb Bush had a completely understandable and forgivable gaffe about women’s health issues, for weeks Donald Trump was talking about how horrible Jeb Bush was on women’s issues, playing these politically correct cards. He’s a nearest weapon to hand arguer in all things because he does have no philosophy, he has no intellectual grounding whatsoever.

And again here:

Nor is he the enemy of political correctness they make him out to be. Trump is perfectly happy to invoke and deploy PC arguments and standards against his opponents, he just wants to be immune from their sting himself.

And now, perhaps, people will start to realise that the man they just elected to the White House is not actually for free speech and against censorship and thin-skinned intolerance in principle, but only when those behaviours stand in his way or threaten to make him look foolish.

In this way and so many others (like the laughable idea that he is a conservative, and that his miraculous Damascene conversion from being a stereotypical wealthy New York liberal is in any way sincere), Donald Trump has conned his way to the White House. And as we have seen, his impulsive nature means that President Trump will inevitably react to events before his aides can restrain him or urge him to rise above minor slights and insults to portray a presidential calmness. Therefore, it will not be long until Trump is exposed as the thin-skinned, criticism averse, dissent silencing authoritarian that he is.

Inauguration Day itself will be one of the first big challenges – there are plans afoot for millions of protesters to descend on Washington D.C. and numerous other cities to voice their opposition to the supposed Trump agenda. Will Trump be seen tweeting responses and insults to the protesters from the presidential platform now being built on the steps of the Capitol, as he watches the inauguration festivities taking place? Will he demand that the National Mall be made a “safe space” free of political dissent as he and Melania take the limousine drive down to the inauguration site?

For those who have so far been willing to overlook them, Donald Trump’s grave character defects were always going to be exposed by events. And now it seems that we didn’t even have to wait until he placed his hand on the Bible and gave the oath before the portrayal of Trump as a happy warrior against censorship was exposed as a sham.

This probably will not bother Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters just now. While the president-elect demands safe spaces for himself, he at least continues to throw rhetorical bombs at all of the “right” people to keep his base happy. But one day that will change.

In a couple of years, when Donald Trump’s political agenda is quite possibly mired in gridlock and the Republican Party faces a difficult set of midterm elections, some of those Trump supporters, unhappy with the slow delivery of Trump’s promised land of milk and honey, may wish to register their anger at the president. And if they do so, the president will attack them too, just as he attacked the hated SJWs and college snowflakes and identity politics zealots during the campaign. But it will not feel so good when the president is demanding a safe space free from the criticism of his own one-time supporters.

Funny. I wonder how many Trump voters realised that they were electing the biggest and most precious snowflake of them all to the most powerful job in the world.

 

mike-pence-hamilton-an-american-musical-theatre-new-york-cast-speech-donald-trump-safe-space

Safe Space Notice - 2

Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

Tales From The Safe Space, Part 45 – Puppy Therapy Session Arranged For Stressed Cambridge University Students

cambridge-union-puppy-therapy-therapets-mental-health-stress-infantilisation

Et tu, Cantabrigia?

It is sad to see Cambridge University, my first alma mater, playing host to one of these infantilising “student puppy therapy” sessions. But after the Rhodes Must Fall nonsense at Oxford, it was only a matter of time before Cambridge started displaying more symptoms of the Adult Infantilisation Virus rapidly tearing through academia.

The advertisement reads:

Whether you have a deadline looming, are worried about your workload or are stressing over the number of societies’ you signed up to at the Freshers’ Fair, what better way to take a break than with a puppy therapy session, organised with the kind help of volunteers at Guide Dogs UK. The Union welcomes the volunteers and their canine counterparts for a relaxed afternoon of socialising which forms part of the puppies’ Guide Dog training. Donations for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association welcomed.

Now, to be fair: this is a slightly more laudable event than some other puppy therapy sessions we have seen on other university campuses. In many cases, the puppy therapy has been presented entirely as a student service (like a dining plan or library facilities) but at least in this case there is a clear and worthy charitable connection. Any harm that attending students may do to their own future emotional resilience will at least be balanced by a well trained new generation of Guide Dogs for the visually impaired.

But this could have been sold to students just as effectively by calling it “puppy socialisation training”. This being Cambridge, they probably still would have had a line out the door had they named it “Canine-Human Familiarisation and Interaction Practice in a Social Setting.” But they didn’t, because puppy therapy is now all the rage on college campuses, and because the prevailing culture tells us that we are all only one unexpected bad grade or nasty personal remark away from a nervous breakdown, and so are in constant need of institutional hand-holding.

It is the same corrosive worldview which gave us “Inner Child Day” at Cardiff University earlier this year, and the introduction of “Therapets” sessions at Edinburgh University. Therapy animals have traditionally been used to help PTSD sufferers such as returning armed forces veterans, children with severe autism and hospice patients undergoing palliative care for terminal conditions. Are we really now including “two essays due on the same day” or “signed up to too many societies” in this list of severe mental stresses?

The danger of doing so is that we wrongly exceptionalise the normal stress of everyday life, putting relatively pedestrian problems on a pedestal and making it seem as though the sufferer is truly benighted and in need of external aid. This just about works so long as the student remains within the infantilising university setting and part of the noxious Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. But when these links are severed and the real world beckons, students who have been encouraged for years to celebrate and exaggerate their own fragility are opening themselves to incurring real trauma when they have their first less-than-pleasant contact with an indifferent world.

Most employers – excepting some of the large or wealthy technology companies, who were some of the first to be infected by the virus raging through academia – will not provide a puppy room for harried employees under tight deadlines. And while HR departments are scrambling as they (rightly) respond more positively and proactively to mental health issues among their employees, they will never be able to be the overbearing, protecting, auxiliary parent in the same way that universities are now becoming.

If universities are to have a pastoral role beyond pure academia, surely they should see the nurturing of anti-fragility (the quality of absorbing negative impacts and becoming stronger as a result of them) among their students as far more valuable in the long term than pandering to students’ largely imagined sense of vulnerability.

Throughout their storied histories, Cambridge University has provided Britain with 14 prime ministers while Oxford has supplied 27, including Theresa May. These illustrious records will likely soon begin to wither if future Oxbridge graduates are conditioned to reach for the puppy videos every time there is a crisis.

The Cambridge Union – of which I am a disappointed life member – should strongly look at rebranding their puppy therapy event, now and for any future events. The time has come for the university and its associated institutions to take a brave stand and become part of the solution to the rise in victimhood culture, rather than a collaborator in feeding the problem.

 

puppy

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: Pixabay

Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

Tales From The Safe Space, Part 42 – Universities Hunker Down For Halloween

halloween-costume-university-of-florida-free-speech

As the nightmare of confected Social Justice Warrior outrage about Halloween costumes comes round once again, spineless university administrators pre-emptively roll over, warning students not to wear “harmful” costumes and preparing lavish contingency plans to flatter and placate anyone who is triggered or traumatised by the annual celebration

Can you believe it has been a year since spoiled and hysterical Yale undergrad Jerelyn Luther achieved her dismal moment in the media sunlight for her on-campus meltdown at a professor who refused to echo the tiresome SJW pre-emptive condemnation of “offensive” Halloween costumes?

A brief reminder:

Some context: the university administrator in question is Nicholas Christakis, the Master of Silliman College. When the university sent a campus-wide notice asking people to be “culturally sensitive” when choosing Halloween costumes this year, Christakis’s wife (repeat: not Christakis, his wife) – who also works for the university – had the temerity to send an email saying that as an educator, what her students choose to wear is none of her damn business.

This didn’t go down at all well with Yale’s coddled population of Stepford Students, for reasons which are now depressingly familiar to many of us. And so it led to a confrontation between some angry young protesters – indignant that the safety of their Safe Space had been compromised – and a harried Nicholas Christakis.

That incident did not end well. The toxic atmosphere churned up by the entitled and oversensitive student protesters led to Professor Christakis having to give up his pastoral position as Master of Silliam College at Yale, while the students themselves shamed themselves in front of the entire world by weeping and rending their garments about Halloween costumes while enjoying the immense privilege of receiving one of the finest educations that money can buy while young people in less fortunate parts of the world are starving, being unjustly imprisoned or having their limbs blown off.

But nobody can say that last Halloween was not an instructive experience – for those currently working or studying at university as well as many other people who became aware of the madness infecting our campuses for the first time. But sadly, it appears that many universities have not learned the right lesson.

Now that Halloween is about to roll around again, the University of Florida is attempting to head off any costume-related hysteria from their student population of adult babies by sending a memo reminding them that wearing the wrong item of clothing could potentially cause “harm” to a completely unrelated third party, and that university authorities will be watching them closely.

From the International Business Times:

Certain Halloween costumes related to race, religion or culture are often deemed offensive. Now, the University of Florida is offering counselling to students who have been troubled by such costumes.

The university sent out a memo to students urging them to make appropriate costume choices for the upcoming holiday. It has also asked students to report incidents of bias to the university’s support team.

“Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions. Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people,” the university said in the memo earlier this week. “Also, keep in mind that social media posts can have a long-term impact on your personal and professional reputation.”

Its Bias Education and Response Team will “respond to any reported incident of bias,” the university added. It will also “educate those that were involved, and to provide support by connecting those that were impacted to the appropriate services and resources.”

So standard practice, basically. Students are encouraged to self-censor their own personal expression, with the bar of “acceptable” behaviour set at the triggering level of the most oversensitive and feeble-minded of student crybabies.

That wobbly-lipped little SJW who spends their life hopping from safe space to safe space, and who thinks that encountering the occasional conservative opinion is tantamount to being the victim of “hate crime”? That’s the person who effectively now sits in judgement of all University of Florida students and the costumes that they decide to wear to their own private social engagements. Everyone must limit their own self-expression to avoid triggering the most easily-triggered of souls on campus.

And what if they don’t? What if some awful student, some shameful subhuman, some latter-day Nazi decides to wear whatever they damn well please to a Halloween party, whether it is a white girl wearing a sombrero or some other piece of “culturally appropriative” garb? Well never fear, because the University of Florida’s hilariously named Bias Education and Response Team (the acronym BERT belying its totalitarian mission) is on hand to “educate those that were involved”.

So while students technically keep their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression, in reality the ever-watchful university authorities will be holding them to infantilising yet maddeningly opaque standards of behaviour, and stand ready to send students who cause “offence” to re-education classes.

And what then? What if the student refuses to be re-educated? What if they refuse to be put on “social probation”, as other paternalistic and authoritarian universities are now doing to students who commit speech, thought or clothing crime? Are they to be expelled for

Even the local newspaper, which bends over backwards to be reasonable to the insane people usurping the local university, thinks that they go too far by treating the approach of Halloween as though it as potentially harmful as an incoming hurricane:

We don’t necessarily intend to mock UF. The advisory speaks for itself. But the wording suggests that the current crop of UF students bears no resemblance to the university’s fierce, fearless and armor-skinned mascot. Their collective shells, like their capacity for mirth, seem thin.

It should be noted that UF is not trying to ban Halloween festivities, as far as we can tell. But it would not be surprising to learn that a wayward fraternity prankster who dons The Donald mask would invite chants of “Lock him up!”

[..] One might think mounting debt and a shrinking job market would be more intimidating to these students than a politically incorrect costume. But yes, that’s what we want our next generation of leaders to be: sheltered from controversy, aggrieved by contrary opinions yet critical of, if not revengeful against, those who express them, steeped in identity politics, and adjoined at the hip with some ego-stroking “counselor” so hurt feelings don’t linger. To borrow a phrase popular at the moment, feeding such an attitude at UF and beyond is definitely not how we’ll make America great again.

The behaviour of University of Florida administrators is so far beyond the traditional or reasonable remit of custodians of a place of learning that it quite simply beggars belief. These are young adults, not kindergarten students. These are people old enough to join the military and open lines of credit whom the university does not trust to successfully manage their own interpersonal relationships and any conflicts which arise on their own, without heavy-handed paternalistic intervention?

But to be fair, the students have created the university that they deserve. The minority (and one hopes that it is still a minority) who shriek for the authorities to adjudicate their every social encounter and nurse them back to good mental health in the event of a “bias incident” force university administrators to behave in this way. For as we have all seen over the past couple of years, even bleeding heart leftist professors and administrators with impeccable Social Justice credentials have found themselves vilified and hounded out of their jobs for failing to be sufficiently proactive in anticipating the unique needs of the snowflake generation.

So successful has the campus coup conducted by the Cult Social Justice and Identity Politics been that pre-emptive guidelines about acceptable and unacceptable Halloween costumes (together with stern warnings of punishment and “re-education” for those who transgress) are now all but inevitable.

Spineless university administrators and their thin-skinned, victimhood culture-soaked students are now trapped in a self-reinforcing negative spiral, with each new concession or collaborationist attempt to placate the Social Justice Warriors only serving to validate their actions and encourage them to make ever more egregious demands.

And that’s the real nightmare this Halloween.

 

Postscript: The University of Florida memo in full:

October brings fall weather and Halloween. If you choose to participate in Halloween activities, we encourage you to think about your choices of costumes and themes. Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions. Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people. Also, keep in mind that social media posts can have a long-term impact on your personal and professional reputation. The University of Florida’s Division of Student Affairs Diversity and Social Justice Statement reminds us that UF fosters a community that values and respects diversity. An inclusive definition of diversity recognizes the variety of personal and social experiences that make individuals and communities different from one another.

As a community, we aspire to demonstrate integrity, respect, and compassion that strives to maintain an affirming campus climate for all members of our community. If you are troubled by an incident that does occur, please know that there are many resources available. Please take advantage of the 7 day a week presence of the U Matter, We Care program at the University of Florida by emailing umatter@ufl.edu. Additionally, there is a 24/7 counselor in the Counseling and Wellness Center available to speak by phone at 352-392-1575. Lastly, the Bias Education and Response Team at the University of Florida is able to respond to any reported incidents of bias, to educate those that were involved, and to provide support by connecting those that were impacted to the appropriate services and resources. You may submit a bias incident report at http://www.umatter.ufl.edu/stopbias. Thank you for being mindful of these values, and have a fun and safe Halloween

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: Pixabay

Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

Debating Political Diversity And The Importance Of ‘Brave Spaces’ At The University Of Miami

college-lecture-hall-safe-space

Whether “brave spaces” are any less infantilising than “safe spaces” is a matter for debate, but the University of Miami community’s recognition of the importance of a more politically diverse faculty and campus is an encouraging sign

The editorial board of the University of Miami student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, takes a surprisingly bold stance on the problem of progressive ideological dominance on campus, and – encouragingly for a student publication – calls for greater ideological diversity rather than the fearful conformism demanded by many students.

From the Hurricane’s editorial:

UM leans to the left, as do most universities. A report published earlier in the campaign by The Tab documented that 60 percent of faculty donations were made to Hillary Clinton’s campaign; the other 40 percent was split between the other Republican candidates and Bernie Sanders.

In the classroom, professors can be very vocal about their political opinions, whether that’s a subtle joke woven into a lecture or an actual discussion of their political beliefs.

When professors deride or mock certain political views in their teaching, that only alienates students and undermines the purpose of an educational forum. Part of the reason that conservative students feel so disenfranchised from the media and academia may be because for most of their lives, the intellectual “authorities” in their lives have been liberal and taught in left-leaning ways.

At this point, I actually felt a little uneasy. While it is certainly true that the progressivism and intolerance of conservative ideas shown by many university professors is often off-putting to conservative students and academic peers, the idea of people being disenfranchised or excluded because of the words of other peers and authority figures skates awfully close to the wheedling complaints of Social Justice Warriors that criticism and free speech must be suspended for their own mental health.

This blog has warned before that it is only a matter of time before conservatives, persecuted for their beliefs by fellow students and university administrators alike, begin to use the same language of fragility and vulnerability used by the SJWs – and I think we are now starting to see that prediction come true. None of that detracts from the point made by the Hurricane’s editorial board, which remains valid. But as always, a creeping culture of victimhood is something to watch out for, and guard against.

Fortunately, the editorial soon improves:

Courses like The Election are great because they expose students to professors and guests from both sides of the aisle, which can help break down the barriers of bias.  It is much easier to dismiss the opinions of a peer, a social media troll, or a crazy uncle than it is to automatically dismiss the ideas of an authoritative figure who has a Ph.D. in the relevant discipline. Ideological diversity may also help students recognize the flaws in their own opinions and be more self-critical.

When conversations focus on sweeping platitudes rather than individual reasons, our personal networks suffer as well. Too many students have given up Facebook friends or real-life acquaintances over political differences. It’s easy to generalize a whole group of people just based on one or two beliefs that they voice, but these generalizations create many false assumptions, especially in this election when few people are completely behind their candidate.

Restrain from automatically assuming that another student is racist, sexist, elitist or corrupt due to a few of their demonstrated ideological beliefs. People have reasons for holding their beliefs, and if they’re willing to talk about it in a respectful way, then take the opportunity to respond with dialogue rather than a diatribe. Identity politics has made political opinions just as personal as ethnicity and religion, making it hard to separate feelings from ideas.

This is good. Most of us can at times be too quick to pigeonhole and condemn people based on a few assumptions and extrapolations about their political leanings, and the board’s point that many people are not strongly behind their candidate this time (either disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters reluctantly supporting Hillary Clinton or Republicans holding their nose while supporting Donald Trump) should warn us of the sweeping range of variety and nuance which is lost when we simply label people as Trump or Clinton supporters.

The editorial board is also quite right to observe that the rise of identity politics has made it much harder to separate feelings from ideas. A self-aggrandising worldview which places the individual at the centre of everything is an atrocious way to discuss ideas, as it makes rejection of an idea seem like a personal attack. That’s why weepy young students now talk about their identities being “invalidated” when people do not accept the new orthodoxies around sexuality and gender, as though they might simply vanish in a puff of smoke unless everyone on campus is forced to approve of everyone else’s life choices.

And then comes an unusual suggestion:

A healthier alternative for a “safe space” is a “brave space.” A “brave space” encourages people to freely explore different questions and issues – still trying to respect other people, but not restricted by the fear that certain ideas make others feel uncomfortable.

The goal of a diverse college campus is not to create comfortable spaces, but to be caught a little off guard by all of the different types of people and ideas that might not be found in East Portland or a small town in South Dakota. That’s okay. If we embrace that vision, we can create a more tolerant, educated and cooperative community.

Well, a brave space is certainly an improvement on a space where the First Amendment is suspended in order to prevent glass-jawed snowflakes from colliding with reality. The rejection of the notion that uncomfortable ideas should be avoided is, in these depressing times for free speech and academic freedom, a positive step forward.

But surely it would be better still to simply cease talking about “spaces” at all? The term is now ubiquitous – even news articles totally unrelated to the Social Justice agenda talk about the need for public bathrooms to have a “safe space” for parents to change their baby’s diapers. As opposed to what, an unsafe space like a gun range or a demolition site?

Why, when the term “a convenient place” would have sufficed a decade ago, must we now describe everything as a “safe space“? Welcome to my home; here’s a safe space for you to hang your coat, and over there is a safe space for you to sit and watch television. It’s puerile and infantilising.

Is the whole world really so riddled with danger that we need to mark out those places which are actually safe for human foot to tread? The journey from my dorm room to my Ivy League college classroom is fraught with many dangers, but at least the gender neutral restroom offers me a safe place to pee, the shuttle bus provides a safe space for me to ride across campus, the students’ union is a safe place for me to relax between classes and the lecture hall itself is a place where no idea that I deem central to my identity can ever be challenged.

Flippant, yes, but also an accurate transcription of how the contemporary student mind seems to work. And of course it is utterly offensive – there are people in benighted parts of the world where daily physical safety cannot be taken for granted and is routinely violated, yet here are some of the most privileged youths of any generation in history trembling in fear that they may encounter disapproval or mean comments while walking between buildings at their $40,000-a-year degree factory.

(As Malcolm Gladwell explains, this is a result of a shift in the way which we describe actions or behaviours which are undesirable. Whereas once we would have condemned sexism, racism or homophobia as simply being wrong, today we talk spuriously of the “harm” that these words and encounters visit upon us. And when every single human interaction is viewed as having the ability to physically or emotionally harm us, calls for network of safe spaces to act as stepping stones through the world inevitably follow).

Brave spaces are marginally better, perhaps, but it is depressing indeed that we now have to pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves a lollipop for being “brave” and subjecting ourselves to the mere possibility of hearing contradictory viewpoints or unpleasant ideas.

This used to simply be called “being an adult”. Is it really too much to ask that we return to that bygone age of resilience and maturity?

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: Pixabay

Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.