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We will find you

May 13, 2015

My last post alluded to attempts to shut down free speech on campus and smear the reputations of people who don’t toe the strident PC line. If you aren’t aware of what’s going on, a good place to start is to look at the recent experiences of Christina Hoff Sommers on campuses as she has been making a case for equity feminism as opposed to gender feminism (this report in Washington Post is a good place to start).

This attitude isn’t confined to campuses. I found a post on Facebook that illustrates the general idea as clearly as anywhere I’ve seen (I don’t know the person who posted this, so no names). The writer calls on his friends to engage in a “new Facebook game” of calling out people of a certain type summed up as “the genuine internet crazies.” He explains:

“I am talking racist and proud, sexist and confident, homophobic, transphobic, religious extremists, who think that all problems could be solved by a judicious application of extreme violence.

“You know, the people who advocate using nuclear weapons…without any trace of irony.

“The rules: check your friends [sic] feeds till you find a meme or a post that suits the profile I listed above, ( it has to be something they shared or posted originally, comments and reshares do not count). If you can’t find anything then select one of your friends [sic] friends and do the same. Keep going down the layers of the internet till your [sic] find the mad ones.

“Post or not, after all they are my/your friends. Maybe just make a note of it for your own edification.”

This isn’t the open-minded classical liberalism of the 19th C. or even the liberalism of the 1960s that believed in the open sharing of ideas. This is the newer “if you don’t agree with us we’ll call you out” liberalism of today. Sometimes this takes an angry tone, as Sommers witnessed it. Some of it is in a superior, mocking tone, as in this example. But the attitude is the same. Find the crazy people and just point at them. Don’t try to reason with them because they’re nuts (never mind the fact that this project has nothing to do with reasoning and all to do with childish making fun).

What got my attention most about this, more so even than the unthinking arrogance, is the tone of a witch hunt. That’s a label usually hung on judgmental conservatives who want to root out those nasty “libruls.” Now it characterizes the other side, at least some of its exemplars. How long before this begins to look like fundamentalist separatism, if it doesn’t already in some places? “We don’t fraternize with those transphobic types.” Wouldn’t that be ironic? Liberals cast as fundamentalist separatists on a witch hunt.

Nietzsche was right. When there are no transcendent moral standards to which we all are subject, what remains is power. The right of free speech implies (or at least hopes) that some ideas are true and some false, and that open discussion can bring the truth to light and persuade people of it. Today’s more extreme liberals, especially those who find a safe haven with like-minded people in our universities, can’t have such free expression, but instead use the power of name-calling and social pressure to attempt to force people to either conform or shut up. What scarlet letter would they have dissenters wear on their clothes? “C” for “crazy”? So much for “live and let live.”

You may think this doesn’t affect you (if you aren’t on a college campus), but it does. Think, for example, about what happens to a conversation when a person is called “homophobic.” The target doesn’t want to be labeled with such a nasty term, so he or she gets quiet. Name-calling and put-downs played a large role in swaying public opinion on gay rights and now same-sex marriage (liberals accuse us conservatives of fixating on sexual matters, but they illustrate the problem so well). We don’t like to be called nasty names, so we shut down.

Many people look back to the late ’60s with sadness because of some of the social changes that took root. I look back on those times with a little envy; the playing field was open for all ideas. Is it possible to get that openness back without resorting to the stifling methods of today’s silencers?

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From → American society

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