Allison Stranger, the Middlebury College professor injured by protesters opposing Charles Murray’s appearance on campus, has something to say. The New York Times published her comments on the incident in an article titled Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion.
Stranger has some straightforward and well justified criticism of the protesters, the extremely illiberal liberals supposedly fighting against hate (by using hate). And yet she also has an odd attitude about the whole thing. Stranger construes the hateful speech and hateful actions of the progressive protests as “righteous anger” and curiously proceeds to build a case showing the exact opposite.
Nearly half way into her article Stranger admits this “righteous anger” was in fact hate: “Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray…” She proceeds to describe what is unavoidably understood as intimidation and terrorism as she states “I feared for my life.”
The problems only continue to mount. Strange proceeds to describe how the well was poisoned long before Murray even showed up on campus.
Part of the problem was the furor that preceded the talk. This past month, as the campus uproar about Dr. Murray’s visit built, I was genuinely surprised and troubled to learn that some of my faculty colleagues had rendered judgment on Dr. Murray’s work and character without ever having read anything he has written.
Once the propaganda began, college progressives were simply uninterested in intellectual (or any other kind of) honesty.
Intelligent members of the Middlebury community — including some of my own students and advisees — concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. Never mind that Dr. Murray supports same-sex marriage and is a member of the courageous “never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.
There is no excusing what happened at Middlebury, and those who prevented Charles Murray from speaking must be punished for violating college rules. But what the events at Middlebury made clear is that, regardless of political persuasion, Americans today are deeply susceptible to a renunciation of reason and celebration of ignorance. They know what they know without reading, discussing or engaging those who might disagree with them.
It’s true, as Stranger says, “People from both sides of the aisle reject calm logic, eager to embrace the alternative news that supports their prejudices” but we should note it is not the political right who is engaging in and celebrating violent protests: that is the hallmark of the modern political left.
Stranger honorably recommends “We must all be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger, or this pattern of miscommunication will continue on other college campuses.” But it would be good for her to take her own advice. Notice how she seems to have blindly embraced the anti-Trump narrative of the left.
Throughout an ugly campaign and into his presidency, President Trump has demonized Muslims as terrorists and dehumanized many groups of marginalized people. He declared the free press an enemy of the people…, and seems bent on dismantling the separation of powers and 230 years of progress this country has made toward a more perfect union. Much of the free speech he has inspired — or has refused to disavow — is ugly, and has already had ugly real-world consequences.
In an effort to “be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger” let’s take a closer look at Stranger’s allegations.
No one is claiming all Muslims are terrorists, while the vast majority of terrorist actions in the world today are in fact committed by Islamic extremists (or American progressives). To even acknowledge this plain fact garners the label “Islamophobic”. Why? Because over generalizing and making blanket accusations are fine if the target is Christianity or conservatism, but Islam is to be protected at all costs, even the cost of one’s own intellectual credibility.
Ignoring the influx of violent immigrants and imported gang violence (especially among states bordering Mexico) does no good for the American people despite the gains it provides to the political left vilifying those who acknowledge this. No one is claiming all immigrants are a danger. But pretending there is no danger is downright idiotic especially considering ISIS has bragged about infiltrating other countries with operatives posing as refugees (something that has actually happened).
The American “free press” has chosen sides in political conflict and it is absurd to deny this: it has been the case for decades. With very few exceptions they are an enemy of Trump and were nauseatingly fond (and protective) of Obama and Clinton (either of them). As a single piece of evidence: Stranger accuses Trump of being bent on dismantling the separation of powers and over two centuries of progress in the United States when that dishonor could easily be placed on Obama’s shoulders.
Also, it is common place for politicians to portray their agendas as the will of “the American people” so there no point in denying this when Trump brands the press as the enemy. It would be easier to reject his claims if the press weren’t so hell bent on pumping any and all criticisms and accusations Democrats throw at Trump when they worked so hard to refute or dismiss Obama’s critics.
And so what if a lot of the free speech of late has been ugly? Falsely accusing the political right of various forms of bigotry (something that has been done for decades) is also ugly, but that doesn’t stop the political left doing so. Stranger is doing that very thing even here in unquestioningly regurgitating the left’s narrative on Trump. Did you notice how Nazi comparisons were treated as distasteful when Obama was president but were perfectly fine when Bush was president, and are once again in vogue with president Trump?
Intentionally misconstruing the political right’s comments provides an excellent example for Stranger and the rest of the political left to “be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger”. With very few exceptions Stranger’s criticism of hate is an apt description of the common progressive, and even more apt of left wing activists. It looks like Jonathan Haidt is proven right once again.
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