Call me a Marxist if you will, but it is perfectly clear that the Social Justice Warrior movement for “safe spaces” and suchlike is a naked grab for power and domination, using modes of discourse that work within those communities, and to which wibbly-wobbly campus administrators, teachers, and diversocrats are especially susceptible. Liberalism in this case is nothing but a pseudo-benign mask over will to power.
The rise of safe spaces has also deeply encroached upon open dialogue and free expression. It is ironic that while the origins of the term safe space can be found in the 20th century women’s movement, where it “implies a certain license to speak and act freely,” today the term has come to be associated with precisely the opposite: the inability to speak freely. Journalists have been silenced in the name of safe spaces and debates have been barred. Books have been banned and conversation topics prohibited.
In a class I attended earlier this semester, a large portion of the first meeting was devoted to compiling a list of rules for class discussion. A student contended that as a woman, she would be unable to sit across from a student who declared that he was strongly against abortion, and the other students in the seminar vigorously defended this declaration. The professor remained silent. In a recent conversation with peers, I posed a question about a verse from the Bible. A Harvard employee in the room immediately interjected, informing me that we were in a safe space and I was thus not permitted to discuss the controversial biblical passage. And these are just stories from the past three months.
The assaults on free expression have dire consequences. The rise of the microagression movement has been reported to be detrimental to mental health on campus. Students’ emotional distress is increasing as educators presume that fragile undergraduates need to be protected from any form of dissent. Administrators must recognize that the current restrictions are incompatible with the very premise and goal of an education.
It is time to stop focusing on feelings as the criteria for speech and actions on the college campus.
Here’s an e-mail I received over the weekend from Amelia Sims, head of the College Republicans at Emory University, and a Catholic. I share it with her permission:
First, I just wanted to say I love reading your blog, and I can’t wait for your Benedict Option book. Recent events on campus have really made manifest to me how needed it is right now. Campus environments have become suffocating crucibles for Christian kids, and most of them come into college without the resources or basic arguments to defend their beliefs. I’m a senior at Emory, and it’s been quite a circus these past few days with all the media coverage on the chalkings and such. I wrote an op ed in the Washington Post about it, but I also wanted to share a little more info with you.
At this point, it’s all pretty embarrassing for the school, and most people just want all of it to blow over as fast as possible. Emory is a pretty liberal school, but most people here, even the more radical liberal students and professors, agree the protesters response was radical and overblown. The protesters really are a small, loud minority. On campus, everyone kind of knew the chalkings were a joke, and most people didn’t take them seriously. The protesters demands were silly and I loathe the histrionic excess of this kind of mob mentality, however, it’s also been kind of sad to see the media exploit them.
The people quoted in the article told reporters they wished to remain anonymous and yet the reporters disclosed their identity. They’ve now received numerous death threats and floods of person attacks on social media and in their emails, as have the president and Vice President of SGA. I’ve seen them, and they are truly horrifying. These more radical groups have received more fodder from this overblown media reaction than from anything else in years.
This is also true for Trump followers. Though Trump supporters may as well be alien invaders on this campus, there are a few of them. I’ve met five people, just over the past few days, who have decided to support Trump in reaction to the radical nature of the protests. Most people on campus, however, have never met a Trump supporter and can’t conceive that anyone would vote for Trump, but for some feelings of bigotry, xenophobia, or white supremacism. They speak of his followers as if they are a breed of people that need to be exterminated. It’s sick. They know so little of real immigration policy that they see any demand for increased border security as a personal attack, and they fail to acknowledge that both Sanders and Cruz are pretty staunch defenders of border security too. (not to mention the secure fence act Clinton and Obama signed in 2006)
A lot of “talking” has resulted from all this upheaval, but it’s also worth noting how little back and forth there has really been. There are a lot of emotions on both sides and no trust or dialogue or argument. Instead of discussion or argument, groups have issued blanket statements which students identifying/sympathizing with them have monolithically posted on Facebook. This kind of parroting, on both sides, makes any kind of discussion about free speech, Trump, or border security/immigration impossible. Feelings are used to end discussions, not further them, and people have insulated themselves so well they have a really hard time conceiving of suffering outside of their own interest group. There has definitely been a mounting tension on campus since the Ferguson riots last year, but now more than ever, I feel like I’m witnessing a lot of what you have been discussing in your blog for the past year. I really shouldn’t be surprised at all, but It’s like it’s all unfolding as a Euripidean tragedy and it’s just really depressing to watch. Kyrie eleison
One of two things is going to happen:
1. Students sick and tired of being mau-mau’d and having their speech stifled and educations ruined are going to organize and start pushing back, hard, and campuses will be turned into a battleground, or
2. Students will go gently into that good progressive night, and surrender without protest because they just want to conform and get a good job.
I think No. 2 is far worse than No. 1, but No. 1 means trouble ahead. Conservatives — especially religious conservatives — should understand that the SJW mentality is not going to be limited only to campus, but is taking hold in the business world too. You can fight it now, or you can fight it later, but you are definitely going to have to fight it … unless you choose to conform.