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The Mob at Middlebury

My latest column at The Week [1] is about the appalling events at Middlebury College:

The violent protests that greeted the conservative political scientist when he tried to speak at Middlebury College last week could be easily dismissed as the latest episode in the by-now tiresome campus speech wars. They shouldn’t be. Murray isn’t just another right-wing gadfly who enjoys provoking left-wing outrage. In a very real sense, if the left thinks he isn’t worth debating, then one has to wonder who they think is.

I probably don’t need to rehash what happened here; if you want to read Murray’s own account of the events, here it is [2].

It should go without saying that violence is completely unjustified, and that so is protesting a speaker in such a fashion that he is unable to speak. But I spent the bulk of the column arguing specifically for the importance of engaging someone like Murray:

Murray is someone students need to hear from. He may be utterly wrong in his explanations for the phenomena he is studying. He may be thoroughly misguided in his proposed solutions. But he is asking questions that must be asked — and that must be asked in particular of a community of higher education which is a primary vehicle for the stratification he worries about.

Moreover, the concerns Murray is airing should be of particular interest to the left, which historically stands against the concentration of economic and political power, and against domination by a ruling class. If meritocracy and equality of opportunity does not increase social mobility and reduce class stratification, but the opposite, that would seem to be at least as powerful an argument for old-school left-wing solutions, like strong labor unions and the redistribution of wealth, as it is for Murray’s own conservative libertarianism.

But that’s why you have a debate.

Left-wingers should want to hear Murray — and hear what answers can be had from his analysis — more than conservatives should, because he is asking precisely the questions they need to answer. By ruling Murray unworthy of consideration, the radicals who protested him have not just traduced important norms related to free speech and civil respect (which would be bad enough), they have traduced those norms in the name of preserving themselves from having to question the institution they attend and its place in our society. A less-radical agenda than theirs is hard to imagine.

I conclude:

At some point in an article like this, the writer typically says that they abjure Murray’s abhorrent views but stand firmly for his right to air them, or that by engaging in violent and disruptive protest you merely turn him into a martyr and thereby enhance his stature rather than silencing him. And if I were writing about an odious troll like Milo Yiannopoulos, and I bothered to write an article about him at all, I might say something like that.

But I’m not going to say that about Charles Murray. He deserves to be debated not only because free speech belongs to everyone, but because he is asking absolutely vital questions. And any left worth its salt would jump at every chance to demonstrate that they have better answers.

Read the whole thing there [1].

10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "The Mob at Middlebury"

#1 Comment By Patrick On March 7, 2017 @ 2:23 pm

I’ll bet ten bucks the activist punks don’t know Charles Murray from Charlie Brown.

#2 Comment By kgasmart On March 7, 2017 @ 3:22 pm

They don’t have better answers, which is why they’re not interested in debate. They have “more moral” answers, and whether those answers are actually correct or not is immaterial to the left.

#3 Comment By Ben Stone On March 7, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

There are more liberals in the state of Alabama than the entire number of college protesters combined from the last 3 years.

#4 Comment By William Dalton On March 7, 2017 @ 5:38 pm

Charles Murray needs paying attention to, not simply because he asks questions which must be answered. He has also grasped important truths which must be studied and learned. He is not the repository of all the truth, but a part of it is to be found in his writings. And those seeking to find and use the truth, for the service of humanity, America and the world community, must incorporate it in their understanding.

#5 Comment By Jones On March 7, 2017 @ 9:11 pm

I completely agree. Murray is no Yiannopoulos. There is no excuse. Anyway liberals seem to be slowly learning to grow some spine and are beginning to stand up to this.

#6 Comment By Uncle Billy On March 8, 2017 @ 8:33 am

The Left does not want to debate Murray because they have no answers. Murray asks questions which should be asked. He does not have all of the answers, but if questions cannot be asked, then we are in trouble.

I think that Murray provokes such outrage among the Left due to many of them suspecting that Murray may have a point. If he is so wrong and misguided, then why all of the outrage?

#7 Comment By pitchfork On March 8, 2017 @ 9:30 am

Great essay. Brilliant conclusion.

If the topic comes up among colleagues, this is where I’ll point them. (To The Week, that is.)

#8 Comment By Bowl of Petunias On March 8, 2017 @ 9:38 am

Rod, you said:

“Moreover, the concerns Murray is airing should be of particular interest to the left, which historically stands against the concentration of economic and political power, and against domination by a ruling class.”

The problem, I think, is that the left has long since gotten a good taste of what it’s like to BE the ruling class.

#9 Comment By Lance Denning On March 9, 2017 @ 10:18 pm

The Left will willingly debate the vital questions you think CM asks, but he doesn’t offer rational, verifiable research for his inferences that blacks/Latinos, women, and the poor are in part genetically inferior. Why then should Murray’s “vital” questions be taken seriously. Millman conflates the idea of open, public discourse with a solipsistic, empty civic society. A society has its principles, and it stands up for them when a racist spouts off to his disaffected minority, no matter how large that minority is. Don’t let the back-slappers here give you any other idea that Millman’s argument is as bereft as Murray’s research.

#10 Comment By Mike C On March 13, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

Denning- Mr Murray has been proving verifiable data of ethnic IQ differences as in median White IQ 100, black IQ 85 and why this matters for several decades. Your obtuse midset does not change this reality.