Academic intolerance is the product of ideological aggression, not a psychological disorder.
I have commented previously that when you have students rioting to prevent a gay Jewish man from speaking on campus, one is forced to question exactly who are the “Nazis” and the “fascists” (and clearly I am not the only one who feels that way).
But it is not just Milo Yiannopoulos, whose flamboyant attitude and provocative, often controversial, lifestyle make him (not without justification) a lightning rod for criticism. But any and all conservative commentators are meeting increased agitation and resistance if they dare to step onto today’s college and university campuses.
And even some who are not, themselves, conservative at all: one thinks, for example, of Professor Allison Stanger of Middlebury College in Vermont, who ended up in the emergency room after protests against controversial American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray – invited to campus for a presentation Professor Stanger had agreed to moderate, out of her belief in fairness and the free exchange of ideas – turned violent.
But while this incident was sufficiently troubling to cause even some left-leaning academics to examine both their own assumptions and the actions of some of their fellow-travelers, it was not unique. Unfortunately, exposure to ideas with which one may not agree – once a staple of higher education – is being actively protested and suppressed in all too many colleges and universities: at least, if those ideas come from the conservative end of the political spectrum.
This essay, by one victim of such aggression – Heather MacDonald – addresses the popular view that this is simply a psychological disorder, a symptom of an excessively-coddled upbringing:
“Campus intolerance is at root not a psychological phenomenon but an ideological one. At its center is a worldview that sees Western culture as endemically racist and sexist. The overriding goal of the educational establishment is to teach young people within the ever-growing list of official victim classifications to view themselves as existentially oppressed. One outcome of that teaching is the forceful silencing of contrarian speech…
“Many observers dismiss such ignorant tantrums as a phase that will end once the ‘snowflakes’ encounter the real world. But the graduates of the academic victimology complex are remaking the world in their image. The assumption of inevitable discrimination against women and minorities plagues every nonacademic institution today, resulting in hiring and promotion based on sex and race at the expense of merit…
“Faculty and campus administrators must start defending the Enlightenment legacy of reason and civil debate. But even if dissenting thought were welcome on college campuses, the ideology of victimhood would still wreak havoc on American society and civil harmony. The silencing of speech is a massive problem, but it is a symptom of an even more profound distortion of reality.”
To which I can only respond, indeed.