There are liberals, and then there are leftists. Liberals, as the name suggests, are open-minded, willing to engage with ideas they might not agree with, appreciative of authentic pluralism, and capable of co-existence alongside individuals with whom they may not necessarily be ideologically, religiously, or morally aligned. Leftists, on the other hand, are rigid ideologues who trade in caricatures, thrive off of close-minded adherence to whatever the zeitgeist of the week is, care less about truth and more about impression or emotion, and reduce everything to simplistic assessments of complex phenomena.
Liberalism and fundamentalism are, well, fundamentally incompatible. Leftism and fundamentalism, however, are quite evidently not. So we have been treated to a fascinating, albeit disconcerting, development in the past few years: as old-school fundamentalists shrink into an ever-smaller sliver of the population, new-school fundamentalists appear to have filled the void. While the old-school fundamentalists were of the puritanical, Bible-believing sort, the new-school fundamentalists are of the progressive, secular-dogma-adhering sort.
This mindset seems to be an epidemic sweeping across institutions of higher education. So Nicholas Kristof wrote last year about the phenomenon of “liberal intolerance” in academia:
We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays, and Muslims at the table – er, so long as they aren’t conservatives. Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.
More recently, Kristof warned of “The Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus“:
When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans. We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. . . . We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us – so long as they think like us. . . . the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.
Well, self-parody is an apt description for what just happened at Villanova Law. Charles Murray, the inexplicably controversial political scientist and sociologist, has somewhat randomly become the target of remarkably hostile protests based upon a patent misunderstanding of a chapter in a twenty-three year-old book of his. Unfortunately, it was no different when he went to speak at the Charles Widger School of Law at Villanova University this past Thursday, where Murray was met with protesters who tried to silence him. FIRE reports:
After some loud, intentional coughing, three protesters marched to the front of the hall with a large banner that read, “FREE HATE SPEECH = THE POWER TO SILENCE DISSENT,” as well as smaller signs with similar messages. Throughout the first seven minutes of the scheduled lecture, protesters shouted criticisms of Villanova University for “giving a platform to hate speech.” They were told that they could stand silently by Murray, and political science professor and event coordinator Colleen Sheehan offered them the first question during the Q & A. Nonetheless, all offers by the hosts were rebuffed by the protesters, who continued to interrupt the lecture. About four minutes into the protest, a Villanova professor stood up and challenged the protesters . . . . A few minutes — and a few more attempts to persuade the protesters — later, Murray left the floor and the protesters were escorted out by security. Murray returned a short time later to finish his speech, despite loud chants from outside the hall and a silent protest by other students off to the side of Murray’s lectern.
The absurdity of this spectacle is best captured in two photos:
I’ll probably never fully understand the mindset of a bunch of white men who choose to protest a speaker they feel has marginalized women and persons of color, while ignoring the requests of women and persons of color to let the speaker continue with his talk. One thing I do understand is that it is a particularly noxious form of fundamentalism, made all the more outrageous in that these individuals undoubtedly think they are just fighting for “justice” and “progress.” As the Apostle Paul said I guess, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”