How did it happen?
How did American intellectual life fall prey to the radical actions of ideological extremists? How did the marketplace of ideas become monopolized by those who refuse any deviation from their dogmas?
Many of us have long fought against this tendency, to little avail. Recently, the liberal Kirsten Powers addressed with dismay the encroaching illiberality of American intellectual life.
Powers is horrified at what she sees:
Welcome to the Dark Ages, Part II. We have slipped into an age of un-enlightenment where you fall in line behind the mob or face the consequences.
How ironic that the persecutors this time around are the so-called intellectuals. They claim to be liberal while behaving as anything but. The touchstone of liberalism is tolerance of differing ideas. Yet this mob exists to enforce conformity of thought and to delegitimize any dissent from its sanctioned worldview. Intolerance is its calling card.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.
Powers is too kind to say it, but the past five-and-a-half years has a name: It’s the Age of Obama.
Do you think that electing a president whose attorney general turns a blind eye on the IRS’s efforts to silence Tea Party conservatives has any effect on the cultural atmosphere? Do you think that media disregard of the threat to free expression sends a message? Do you believe that the president’s arrogant calling out the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision helps fosters respect for free and open discussion?
Beyond all that, there is the Islamist war on freedom. Obviously, it is far worse in many other parts of the world, but it has surely established a foothold in America.
Way back in the Bush administration, America was fighting radical Islamist terrorism. At times it did well. At times, it did not do so well. By now, the media has declared the effort to be a calamitous error. America responded by electing a president who pledged to end the war on terror. In fact, the Obama administration consistently self-censors when it comes to Islamic terrorism. The new American policy is to placate and appease the forces of worldwide terror... all the while silencing oneself.
Normally, our constitution protects offensive and even blasphemous speech. In many ways, that’s the point of the first amendment.
And yet, when everyone has been convinced that the least harsh word spoken about Islam will produce riots, murder and mayhem… we have found a way to justify censoring speech.
After all, if Ambassador Stevens was killed because of a video, we believe that we are within our rights to censor artistic expression and to jail the man who made the offending video. As you know, when it happened, the mainstream media said nothing.
Once certain kinds of speech are classified as deadly weapons, it is easier to police speech direct at other groups.
True enough, American leftists have long since asserted a right not to be offended. And yet, radical Islam has set down new predicates, and have convinced us that a sufficiently imminent threat is a good reason to shut down speech.
It’s not about reason. It’s about being terrorized.
How else to understand that while Americans are purging their minds of the least hint of Islamophobia they making common cause with people who are anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynist.
As I have mentioned in the past, those who wish to appease radical Islam by fighting against Islamophobia do not even know what the term means. It does not mean hatred of Islam; it means fear of Islam. People who being driven by their fear of the threat of Islamists are properly called Islamophobics.
So much have they been influenced by their Islamophobia that they believe it’s fine to hate Christians and Jews, but abhorrent to express the least negative sentiment about Islam.
As Powers explains, the contradiction is manifest:
While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as "a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully" and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a "psychotic mass murderer" and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.