What’s Oozing out of Campuses Is Polluting Society

In a 1989 article in New Republic, Andrew Sullivan made what he called “a (conservative) case for gay marriage.” Today same-sex marriage is legal everywhere in America, supported by majorities of voters and accepted as a part of American life.

Now Sullivan has cast his gaze on what he regards as a disturbing aspect of American life — the extension of speech suppression and “identity politics” from colleges and universities into the larger society. The hothouse plants of campus mores have become invasive species undermining and crowding out the beneficent flora of the larger free democratic society.

Sullivan can be seen as a kind of undercover spy on campuses, to which he is invited often to speak — because of his bona fides as a cultural reformer — by those probably ignorant of the parenthetical “conservative” in his 1989 article. As Jonathan Rauch did in his 2004 book, “Gay Marriage,” Sullivan argued that same-sex marriage, by including those previously excluded, would strengthen rather than undermine family values and bourgeois domesticity. That now seems to be happening.

The spread of campus values to the larger society would — and is intended to — have the opposite effect.

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Take the proliferation of campus speech codes. Americans of a certain age have trouble believing that colleges and universities have rules banning supposedly hurtful speech. They can remember when campuses were the part of America most open to dissent. Now students are disciplined for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution outside a tiny isolated “free speech zone.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known as FIRE, keeps a tally of campus speech restrictions and challenges codes and actions that violate the First Amendment (in public institutions) or private schools’ own commitments. Its 2018 list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech includes Harvard, Northwestern, Fordham and the University of California, Berkeley.

Campus administrators have infamously declined to restrain or rebuke mobs of student “social justice warriors” who press to block conservative speakers and violently protest if they dare to appear. Examples include Charles Murray at Middlebury and Ben Shapiro at Berkeley. Students at Brown asserted that conservative columnist Guy Benson isn’t covered by the First Amendment.

The result, says Sullivan, is that “silence on any controversial social issue is endemic on college campuses” and, he adds ominously, “now everywhere.” Last year, Google fired engineer James Damore for writing an internal memo that the CEO, with pathetic dishonesty, characterized as bigoted.

There is increasing evidence that Google, Facebook, and Twitter — whose leaders flatter themselves as enablers of free communication and neutral disseminators of information — are suppressing conservative opinions as “fake news.” Those aware of campus life will not be comforted with the knowledge that the decisions about what gets downplayed or deleted are being made by “social justice warriors” recently hired from campuses.

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Corporate human resources departments are doing their part, as well. Anti-harassment rules are used to punish those uttering speech deemed politically incorrect, and actions of even the most anodyne nature are considered sexually improper.

Companies may have the legal right to do this. But their practices, amplified by bureaucratic empire building, tend to undermine what Sullivan calls “norms of liberal behavior,” including “robust public debate, free from intimidation.”

The campuses’ encouragement of identity politics is seeping out into the wider society, too. Selective colleges and universities have long violated (and lied about violating) civil rights laws with racial quotas and preferences in admissions. And they routinely encourage blatant segregation — separate dormitories and orientations for black students, for example.

This fosters the habit of treating individuals as, in Sullivan’s words, “representatives of designated groups” rather than individuals. It assumes that everyone with a certain genetic ancestry or gender has the same views and that no one who shares that characteristic can ever understand the group — especially someone born with “white privilege” or into “the patriarchy.”

As one who has made a living for decades trying to understand the political views of people unlike me, I take umbrage. The more important points surely are that we are not prisoners of our genetic heritage and that as citizens of a democracy, it behooves us to try to understand others of all backgrounds and situations.

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Sullivan is right; what is oozing out of campuses are creating a less free, less civil, less tolerant society. Can we reverse that as rapidly as — or more rapidly than — Sullivan, Rauch, and others reversed opinion on same-sex marriage?

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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Comments

  1. UNCLE VLADDI

    Here’s how the so-called “soft” sciences aka “humanities” (anthropology, psychology, sociology, and even criminology) really work: They all started off by examining the various symptoms and EFFECTS of human behavior, thinking, group-thinking behavior, and of criminal free-will CHOICES, respectively, but then self-invalidated by looking for hidden mysterious predestined and predetermined inevitable force “CAUSES” of it all, which degraded them all into only one criminal, excuse-making alibi topic: “VICTIMOLOGY!”

    So we get these two, permanently opposed philosophical poles:

    Law-abiding Conservatives: “Criminal behavior is an effect of free-will choice!”

    Criminal libertines: “But what CAUSED that choice? There’s always a cause!”

    Their implication is that there are no crimes nor criminals because we’re all “victims.”

    In short: they went from studying HOW people CHOOSE to act, to focusing on WHY (ruling out free will choice entirely)!

    And that “why” PRESUMES a fear of pain will ALWAYS trump rationality! “So” we are all really ever only helpless victims! Asking “why” people (‘always’) give in to the fear of pain, presumes that: “SINCE anything CAN go wrong, SO it WILL always go wrong, SO we MUST forgive everyone for their mistakes, as being helpless victims!”

    But in reality, the only reason WHY people commit crimes, is that they still think they can have rights without responsibilities, and so they weigh all the risks and rewards in different situational circumstances first!

    And they only try to do so in each and every separate circumstantial situation, because they haven’t learned that rights ALWAYS only come with responsibilities, causes with effects, and effects with causes, and so they either remain ignorant of, or choose to ignore, the simple Golden Rule of Law moral Principle:
    “Do Not Attack First.”

    BOTTOM LINE:

    These days, PITYING the victims (and the criminals AS “fellow victims,”) is held up as the highest moral virtue, while being ANGRY at, (or “hateful” towards) criminals and crime is deemed to be the most vile sin.

    But what is more useful in solving problems and remedying crime: being angry at criminals for their predatory choices, or encouraging them to commit more crimes, by pitying them as helpless victims too?

    The answer is obvious.

    So it’s high time to educate these higher-learning “educators” of their mistakes!

    In always asking “But WHY?” like perverse little children bedevilling their parents, they can always step back any given answer and exploit it into a whole new and lucrative “specialized” academic field of study! But the focus they pretend to thereby gain in minutae actually loses the focus on the big picture or “unified field” of science itself – by deliberately reducing everything they become absurd, or “reducio ad absurdum,” to the Latins.

    And, while the simple answer IS obvious to us, unfortunately so is their own criminally negligent desire to “fail upwards” by ignoring the simple easy and permanent solutions to any and all problems, in favor of exploiting and selling the almost infinite number of mere symptoms and effects of unsolved problems as causes in them selves, as eternal crises for which only temporary band-aid therapy reliefs can ever be applied.

    After all, the motto of all responsibility-averse and willfully delinquent libertine “liberal” criminals must be: “There’s No Money In Solutions, so Please Give Generously – AGAIN!”

    So their final message these days seems to be:
    “Anyone who doesn’t automatically pity all criminals as fellow victims should be hated!”

  2. UNCLE VLADDI

    Here’s both how and why this latest debacle has developed in our world (and will probably only get worse):

    Snowflakes are being taught to act like perpetual victims, not realizing that in their long march to replace freedom with security, they will all end up being euthanized in gulags!

    All liberal social science/humanities “teach” about (abuse students with) islam (“Submission” to Authority) these days – because they all really only describe victimology, where there is no morality because they insist there is no free-will choice.

    As in islam itself, one must SUBMIT to GOING ALONG (with the criminals’ main lie, that they are really only “fellow victims” – of society/mere products of their environments, and proudly helpless slaves of unknown and unknowable allah) TO GET ALONG (with all the other scary lying criminals)! It’s might-makes-right extortion!

    And perpetual extortion is also know as “slavery!” This is why governments still fund 50% of “higher education!”

    Because both corporations and governments WANT people to be psychopaths – people who are always instinctively willing to compromise and Submit to Authority, who can be guaranteed to always want to go along to get along, and who will never, ever, challenge the status quo by attempting to actually solve any real problems, or accuse any real criminals of their crimes, that’s why!

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