Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ivy League Oppression

It seems like déjà vu all over again.

Radical students occupy an administration building, forcing it to shut down.  Radical students present a list of non-negotiable demands. Pusillanimous administrators try to placate the student radicals.

It happened in the 1960s, as part of the anti-Vietnam war movement and the counterculture. It’s happening today at no less an institution than Dartmouth College.

The Wall Street Journal describes the scene in an editorial:

On Tuesday Dartmouth's finest seized the main administration building and disrupted college business. The squatters were allowed to remain until Thursday night, when the dean of the college negotiated and signed an exit settlement assuring them the non-dialogue would continue.

The demonstrators had a 72-point manifesto instructing the college to establish pre-set racial admission quotas and a mandatory ethnic studies curriculum for all students. Their other inspirations are for more "womyn or people of color" faculty; covering sex change operations on the college health plan ("we demand body and gender self-determination"); censoring the library catalog for offensive terms; and installing "gender-neutral bathrooms" in every campus facility, specifically including sports locker rooms.

The demands read like a pot pourri of today’s radical cultural politics. And, it is fair to say, the list makes you wonder how these students ever got accepted into an Ivy League college. If they feel that they are out of place at Dartmouth, perhaps they have a point.

It used to be that radical students wanted to end the Vietnam War… because it was preferable to being drafted into the military.

Nowadays, coddled college students are manning the barricades to fight for gender-neutral bathrooms in sports locker rooms. And, they will not negotiate their demand that insurance cover sex-change operations.

After all, if Brown can do it, shouldn’t Dartmouth follow suit?

And let’s not forget the “micro-aggressions,” a new and trendy term for offensive behavior that no one can see without, the Journal says, a microscope. Something is seriously wrong with the minds of these students.

Dartmouth’s president essayed to have a conversation with the fired-up young radicals. They were having none of it:

They responded in a statement that conversations—to be clear, talking—will lead to "further physical and emotional violence enacted against us by the racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, xenophobic, and ableist structures at Dartmouth." They added: "Our bodies are already on the line, in danger, and under attack."

In one sense, the student radicals are right. There is nothing to negotiate. They should, as the Journal suggests, all be expelled.

Mr. Hanlon [the college president] might have told the kids occupying his office that most of mankind—forgive the micro-aggression—would love to be as oppressed as they are. Few young men and women in the world are more "privileged" than those admitted to the Ivy League. The takeover's benefit to Dartmouth is that it might inspire the small minority of like-minded high schoolers to find another college to terrorize. Most elite U.S. students are well adjusted and grateful for their opportunity.

Dartmouth and any other school in this position should tell the students they have an hour to leave the premises, and if they don't they will be arrested for trespassing and expelled. Since Mr. Hanlon missed that chance, he and the school's trustees should now tell the students that if they are so unhappy they should transfer. Surely the occupiers would be welcomed by at least one of the other 4,431 universities or colleges in the U.S. But they may discover the problem is their own sense of privilege, not Dartmouth's.

It’s tempting to see this as a joke. Unfortunately, it isn’t. As the case of Mozilla CEO Brendon Eich showed well, and as the many other instances of political bullying of Prop 8 supporters showed, the night riders of the radical left are just getting started.

They have discovered that terrorism works. They have learned that threats and intimidation against people who do not think the right thoughts can have an effect.

In the Citizens’ United case Justice Clarence Thomas asserted that the tactics of same-sex marriage activists in California were a threat to liberty. He wrote:

The director of the nonprofit California Musical Theater gave $1,000 to support the initiative; he was forced to resign after artists complained to his employer. Lott & Smith, Donor Disclosure Has Its Downsides, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2008, p. A13. The director of the Los Angeles Film Festival was forced to resign after giving $1,500 because opponents threatened to boycott and picket the next festival. Ibid. And a woman who had managed her popular, family-owned restaurant for 26 years was forced to resign after she gave $100, because “throngs of [angry] protesters” repeatedly arrived at the restaurant and “shout[ed] ‘shame on you’ at customers.” Lopez, Prop. 8 Stance Upends Her Life, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 2008, p. B1. The police even had to “arriv[e] in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob” at the restaurant. Ibid. 

Justice Thomas wrote these words in 2010. This week the nation finally took notice when Eich was dismissed from his position for having committed the thought crime of offering some financial support for California’s Proposition 8, the anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative.

Most importantly, an Ivy League education is not the only privilege deserving of respect. So too, is democratic governance. Democracy requires civility. It requires that people respect differing points of view. It even requires that people accept the results of elections, regardless.

In a famous Supreme Court case from 1949, Terminiello vs. Chicago Justice Robert Jackson inveighed against the majority opinion. The Court had overturned a Chicago breach of the peace ordinance because that ordinance had been used to prosecute a priest whose rants had fomented a riot. Thus, the court extended free speech protections to people who were shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

Justice Jackson wrote:

The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional  Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.

Compare this to the principle enunciated by Mozilla Chairwoman, Mitchell Baker:

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

This means that Mozilla does not respect differing points of view. Yet, you cannot have either a democracy or free speech without that respect.


Lastango said...

"They have discovered that terrorism works. They have learned that threats and intimidation against people who do not think the right thoughts can have an effect."

Absolutely. On the statist Left, there is a continuum of terrorism, extending from the highest levels of government to the provocateurs in the President's office at Dartmouth. It includes SWAT-ified police departments, corrupt family courts, abusive social services, and countless others -- perhaps including the President of Dartmouth as well. From what I have seen of college presidents, they are expert in getting along by going along, and this has served their careers well.

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of stuff that brings my blood to a rolling boil. It's the glorification of high nonsense, as practiced by spoiled students and computer programmers.

The Left must be vigorously opposed. Their strategies and tactics embody everything they claim to despise. Their obsessions are others' supposed "phobias." Their concepts of freedom and equality render such terms empty and meaningless. Their needs are insatiable. They possess little emotional range beyond ceaseless anger about affronts, with no distinction between those real nor perceived. Indeed, perceived danger is the clarion call to arms, as facts are unnecessary. They claim to have what it takes to create heaven on earth, and all they leave behind is living hell.

The only way to stop the Left is to deny their fatuous premises and counter directly back with a firm "NO." The only way to stop nonsense like that at Dartmouth is to expel students who refuse to honor the same open environment they demand for all their fringe ideas. Leftist politics is designed to legitimize militant, fringe ideas. It's not about equality, it's not about inclusion, and it's certainly not about freedom. It's about creating chaos, which is the necessary condition for their rise to power.

Mozilla is a private company and can do whatever it wants, as far as I'm concerned. What is most dangerous about their decision to eradicate Eich is that, in doing so, they refuse to honor their purported values. But again, this reflects Leftist ideology that sets feelings as the high intellectual water mark instead of rational discourse. I suspect this is because facts are stubborn things.

On a practical level, these sorts of tactics chill the ideals of "democracy," at least those the Left pretends to be the vanguard of. Amidst all the victimhood, whining and complaining, today's Left claims to be ascending, with a new message of hope for the world. Yet it remains the same-old clandestine, revolutionary tripe glorifying political participation and speech, so long as it's not the kind they disagree with. And lo, we see totalitarianism remains the core operating system. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I offer you as the latest evidence the results of leftist philosophy in action at Dartmouth and Mozilla.


Sam L. said...

One might think the Dartmouth admin and faculty are young enough to have been the '60s-'70s radicals, and therefore are heavily inclined (i.e., flat as makes no nevermind) to agree with today's radicals.

I like non-negotiable demands; I will cooperate in not negotiating, and have them removed from the fury of my wrath.

And I am greatly disturbed by Mozilla's capitulation.

Anonymous said...

My Firefox browser was uninstalled Friday evening... my most effective protest against ideological decision-making at a private company. I have values, too, and I'll stand for them as best I can.


Stuart Schneiderman said...

My Firefox browser suffered the same fate.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

For the record, I use Chrome.

Lastango said...

Do you worry that installing Chrome (a Google product) might amount to installing spyware on your PC?

But if you're ok with chrome, maybe I'll give it a try. Firefox has got to go.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I've been using Chrome for years now, without any problems that I know about.