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From City Journal:
Get Up, Stand Up
All who cherish free expression, especially on campuses, must combat the growing zeal for censorship.
Heather Mac Donald
April 9, 2017
Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberty of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand.
I was the target of such silencing tactics two days in a row last week, the more serious incident at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and a less virulent one at UCLA.
The Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna had invited me to meet with students and to give a talk about my book, The War on Cops, on April 6. Several calls went out on Facebook to “shut down” this “notorious white supremacist fascist Heather Mac Donald.” … (My supposed fascism consists in trying to give voice to the thousands of law-abiding minority residents of high-crime areas who support the police and are desperate for more law-enforcement protection.)
… The massive hall, where I was supposed to meet with students for dinner before my talk, was empty—the mob, by then numbering close to 300, had succeeded in preventing anyone from entering. The large plate-glass windows were covered with translucent blinds, so that from the inside one could only see a mass of indistinct bodies pounding on the windows. The administration had decided that I would live-stream my speech in the vacant room in order to preserve some semblance of the original plan. The podium was moved away from a window so that, as night fell and the lights inside came on, I would not be visible to the agitators outside.
I prefaced my speech by observing that I had heard chants for the last two hours that “black lives matter.” I therefore hoped that the protesters were equally fervent in expressing their outrage when five-year-old Aaron Shannon, Jr., was killed on Halloween 2010 in South-Central Los Angeles, while proudly showing off his Spiderman costume. … And though it was doubtful that any of the protesters outside had ever lost a loved one to a drive-by shooting, if such a tragedy ever did happen, the first thing he or she would do is call the police.
I completed my speech to the accompaniment of chants and banging on the windows. I was able to take two questions from students via live-streaming. But by then, the administrators and police officers in the room, who had spent my talk nervously staring at the windows, decided that things were growing too unruly outside to continue. I was given the cue that the presentation was over. Walkie-talkies were used to coordinate my exit from the Athenaeum’s kitchen to the exact moment that a black, unmarked Claremont Police Department van rolled up. … We sped off to the police station.
The previous night, I actually succeeded in delivering a talk on policing to the audience who had come to hear it; such heretofore ordinary circumstances are now noteworthy. My hosts, the UCLA College Republicans, had titled my presentation “Blue Lives Matter,” which campus activists viewed as an unspeakable provocation. …
To my knowledge, the UCLA administration has not addressed the disruption of my presentation and interaction with students. …
Last week’s events should be the final wakeup call to the professoriate, coming on the heels of the more dangerous attacks on Charles Murray at Middlebury College and the riots in Berkeley, California, against Milo Yiannapoulos. When speakers need police escort on and off college campuses, an alarm bell should be going off that something has gone seriously awry. …
It is not enough for professors to sign statements in support of free speech (and surprisingly few have actually done so). When word goes out of a plan to “shut down” non-conforming political views, that plan must be taken deadly seriously. Claremont McKenna took obvious pains to protect my talk, but they were not enough. I will not second-guess president Chodosh’s decision not to arrest the mob blocking access to the Athenaeum. Administrators and campus police are loathe to do anything that might necessitate the use of force against student darlings, as the deplorable passivity of the UC Berkeley campus (and Berkeley city) police during the anti-Milo riots on February 1 revealed. But if arrests are all but foreclosed, enough police manpower must be summoned to maintain open access through sheer command presence.
Before a planned blockade, the faculty must reaffirm in their classes the campus’s belief in free expression. And the faculty must show up to the threatened event itself to give meaning to the ideal of free speech; they must shame the students trying to prevent their fellow students from hearing ideas that challenge campus orthodoxies. …
Retroactive punishment for violating school rules is necessary, as Charles Murray has persuasively written. President Chodosh should follow through on his promise to hold the censors accountable; if he does, it will be a first, since punishment violates the consumerist ethos of American higher education.
… The resort to brute force in the face of disagreement is particularly disturbing in a university, which should provide a model of civil discourse.
But the students currently stewing in delusional resentments and self-pity will eventually graduate, and some will seize levers of power more far-reaching than those they currently wield over toadying campus bureaucrats and spineless faculty. Unless the campus zest for censorship is combatted now, what we have always regarded as a precious inheritance could be eroded beyond recognition, and a soft totalitarianism could become the new American norm.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of The War on Cops.