Can Ideological Derangement in America’s Higher Educational Institutions Be Tamed?
Bill Becker, Esq., Freedom X, President/CEO/General Counsel
I originally proposed to the editors an examination of Trump Derangement Syndrome (“TDS”) on college campuses based on an incident that occurred at a community college in Orange County. Administrators at Orange Coast College threatened a conservative student with academic suspension for secretly videotaping his college instructor’s anti-Trump political rant. Although the instructor violated her own course’s policy denouncing intolerance, she nevertheless felt so broken by Trump’s election win exempting herself from it was an ineluctable outcome. Though she was certainly aware of students taking her course who had worn message-bearing clothing advertising their support for Donald Trump during the fall semester, she devoted a good half-hour of time in a course on “Human Sexuality” to lament the election and to ostracize anyone – even her own family – from her life. Trump supporters would not be tolerated, she informed the students in her class, referring to them as “haters.”
That the instructor felt obliged to set aside substantial time at a publicly-supported college to perform an ideological colonic on a subject unrelated to the coursework is nothing new. Lars Maischak, a Fresno State University professor is being investigated for posting on his Twitter account, “To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better,” and asking “Has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?” And at Harvard University, Resistance School – a 4-week course in anti-Trump activism created by progressive students at the university's Kennedy School of Government – is being taught.
Policies of tolerance never apply to people one has adjudged to be intolerant. For left-wing activists, toleration is reserved for only those they tolerate. Just as free speech is only free to those whose ideas they accept.
TDS is certainly prevalent on college campuses, but it is only one thriving strand of social justice activism that is morphing into collective primal scream therapy for millennials, a derangement syndrome extending beyond hatred directed at Donald Trump. It goes by the name of anti-fascism but it is really nothing more than good old-fashioned anarchy. For sake of ease, I will adopt Wikipedia’s definition: “Anarchy is the condition of a society, entity, group of people, or a single person that rejects hierarchy…. [It] advocates stateless societies based on voluntary associations. In practical terms, anarchy can refer to the curtailment or abolition of traditional forms of government.”
Cop-hatred is another strand of this collective derangement. Last week, I observed the disruption of an address by Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald at UCLA by Black Lives Matter student agitators attacking her as a “white supremacist,” a term once applied to white racists but which now identifies any white person in disagreement with the BLM anti-law enforcement agenda. You see, Mac Donald’s crime was writing a book called The War on Cops.
The BLM SJWs recalled for me the street thugs from West Side Story, snapping their fingers and snarling at the Officer Krupkes of America. “My supposed fascism,” Mac Donald writes at City Journal, “consists in trying to give voice to the thousands of law-abiding minority residents of high-crime areas who support the police and are desperate for more law-enforcement protection.”
A website, The College Fix, recorded some of the things I witnessed:
A black female asked whether “black victims killed by cops” mattered.
“Yes,” Mac Donald replied. “And do black children that are killed by other blacks matter to you?”
At that the room erupted in gasps and angry moans and furious snaps, and the young lady who asked the original question began to yell at Mac Donald, pointing her finger and repeating the original question. . . .
“Of course I care [that black victims are killed by cops], and do you know what,” Mac Donald said. “There is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police.”
Again, gasps and moans filled the auditorium.
“Bull*h*t! Bull*h*t!” a young woman off camera could be heard screaming. Mac Donald continued: “The crime drop of the last 20 years that came to a screeching halt in August 2014 has saved tens of thousands of minority lives. Because cops went to those neighborhoods and they got the dealers off the street and they got the gang-bangers off the street.”
Mac Donald took more questions and at times was able to articulate her points during the Q&A, but was also often interrupted by angry audience members shouting out things such as:
“I don’t trust your numbers.”
“Why do white lives always need to be put above everybody else? Can we talk about black lives for one second?”
“The same system that sent police to murder black lives . . . ”
“You have no right to speak!”
“What about white terrorism?!”
The following evening, Mac Donald faced even larger protests at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA, where a protest organizer announced their purpose: “We are here to shut down the f**k**g fascist.” Clear enough. To some extent the mob of about 300 students did just that. Mac Donald had to be moved from the auditorium to an isolated room where she delivered her message over live-streaming Internet.
As Peter Thiel (yes, that Peter Thiel) and David O. Sacks remind us in their 1996 examination of political correctness in higher education, The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, campus protests signaling an undiluted hatred of western values are hardly the invention of millennials. In the late 1980s, they recount, Stanford students pushed a multicultural agenda chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture’s got to go! Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture’s got to go!” reminiscent of Teheran or Tripoli. “Even at the time,” they note, “campus observers were struck by the strange spectacle of some of America’s elite students and faculty engaged in an unqualified denunciation of the West – the very civilization, after all, that had established universities like Stanford in the first place.”
Campuses are now frequently the setting of protests staged by organized outsiders. Black-hooded anarchists who generally organize around a loose-knit group of radicals known as “antifa” (short for “anti-fascism”) severely injured clients of ours who sought to attend a Milo Yiannopolous talk at the University of California, Berkeley, last February, and in March injured other clients taking part in a patriotic pro-Trump rally in Orange County, CA. In a recent Washington Times opinion piece, my colleague, attorney Shawn Steel, noted that “[o]ne common antifa tactic, black bloc, involves launching mob violence against people and property while dressed in black hoodies and ski masks. Their all-black uniforms serve a dual purpose: to intimidate their victims and hide their identities.”
Antifa and similar groups such as BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), Refuse Fascism and Its Going Down, are just part of a growing movement of anarchists invading campuses and Trump rallies to shut down conservative expression. It is a variation of socialist behavior, not unlike the original fascists of Mussolini’s Italy. “Fasci” means “leagues” and fascism came about through the political consolidation of various leagues, or political groups, that fancied themselves as revolutionaries, appealing to younger generations desperate to uncover meaning in their lives.
Today’s campus protests, the construct of a multicultural diversity agenda and a climate conducive to identity politics, hew more closely to fascism with their collectivist demands than the objects of their protests. “Yes,” Bruce Bawer observes in The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind, there are many students – alas – who get turned by identity studies into little commissars who see it as their purpose in life to be Thought Police. They don’t know enough about the history of the twentieth century to realize that they are the philosophical progeny of the uninformed thugs who led freethinking people off to the gulag in Stalin’s Russia and to reeducation camps in Mao’s China. They don’t know enough about the history of ideas to understand that the ideas to which they have pledged their loyalty are not ideas at all, in any authentic sense, but fierce, rigid, airless, totalitarian orthodoxies.”
Adds Scott Greer in No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination: “But the kind of diversity envisioned by college administrators doesn’t necessarily broaden minds – it’s more about creating the conditions for group conflict and anti-majority sentiment.” And what is really meant by “diversity,” he suggests is “having fewer whites around.” To which I would add, fewer cisgendered heterosexuals, conservatives and Christians.
However much they fashion themselves as intellectual or sui generis in their sociological and political thought, campus snowflakes – victims like the black students attacking Mac Donald who, though they managed to be admitted to elite institutions yet proclaim their enduring victimhood – are mere throwbacks to Hegelian philosophy, the progeny of Bakunin and Marx, David Strauss, Trotsky and Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, Ho Chi Min and Che, socialists acting more or less against authority – any authority – and to a lesser degree authoritarianism. Yet, argues Thomas DiLorenzo in The Problem with Socialism, “Socialists, of all varieties, tolerate no opposition, allow no competing authorities, and are at continual war with individuals, families, private organizations, churches, businesses, and local and regional authorities that might oppose or interfere with their grand vision for reordering society. Socialists believe in total control. They want to control you.”
And fascists want nothing less than to take control through violence and anarchy. Today’s educational institutions are rewarding their efforts by standing down and seemingly purposefully inviting campus insurrection. They are becoming Orwellian animal farms of academic deconstruction and destruction. At Berkeley, police simply retreated deeper into Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall as the anarchists descended upon it, watching idly in a scene evoking the French Royal Army allowing the Third Estate to storm the Bastille. At UCLA, the police were nowhere to be seen. At Claremont McKenna, president Hiram Chodosh explained the decision to back down from the protesters: “Based on the judgment of the Claremont Police Department, we jointly concluded that any forced interventions or arrests would have created unsafe conditions for students, faculty, staff, and guests. I take full responsibility for the decision to err on the side of these overriding safety considerations.”
History repeatedly instructs that peace is never at hand without a showing of strength to deter disruptions and violence. Nevertheless, the Chamberlains on campuses throughout the country disproportionately outnumber the Reagans.
I’ve mentioned a number of excellent resources in this piece that I hope you will be curious enough to read. To the list I would add David Horowitz’ One Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine our Democracy. Just this week, Horowitz’s invitation to speak before a College Republican-sponsored audience at UC-Berkeley was cancelled at the last minute by campus administration due to security concerns. Evidently, the Milo fiasco was the final straw for allowing conservative speakers a voice on campus. Rather than stand up to anarchy, the administration is all too willing to suffer the ironic ignominy of censoring the very individual who inspired the Berkeley free speech movement in the 1960s! Now, because his views have matured, his free speech rights there have been taken from him. It would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic, but this is how the Left operates. The fascists are on the Left.
Understand that the academy is a virtually monolithic ideological bloc. Tackling TDS, identity victimhood or anarchists ought to be a priority for campus administrators but for the likely backlash by a united complex of socialist educators. Some sanity exists, such as at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, where the university president, Dr. Everett Piper, famously told a snowflake, “This is not a day care. This is a university,” and College of William & Mary President W. Taylor Reveley III, who counseled BLM students, “I don’t deal in demands. I don’t make demands of other people. I don’t expect to receive demands from people. I love to get suggestions, recommendations, strong arguments. … When you approach other people with a demand, instead of their ears opening and their spirit being unusually receptive, you get defensive walls erected. So I think you all need to think about it.”
Power currently lies with the snowflakes. But when the response is firm, authoritative, disciplined and mature, kids learn. Therein lies the solution.
Bill Becker is president, founder and general counsel for Freedom X, a public-interest law firm and advocacy center protecting conservative and religious freedom of expression. Freedom X was counsel for Caleb O’Neil, the Orange Coast College student threatened with suspension, and was successful in reversing the college’s disciplinary action. Its website is www.freedomxlaw.com.
Bill Becker is president, founder and general counsel for Freedom X, a public-interest law firm and advocacy center protecting conservative and religious freedom of expression. Freedom X was counsel for Caleb O’Neil, the Orange Coast College student threatened with suspension, and was successful in reversing the college’s disciplinary action. Its website is www.freedomxlaw.com