A trope making the rounds in much of the media is that there is a certain coddled enclave of college kids who are terrified by certain speeches, and go wacko insane with protests. The examples include the responses of University of California, Berkeley students to Milo Yiannopoulos and Middlebury students to Charles Murray - both trotted out as evidence.
The term "snow flake" has been used disparagingly to refer to those students who apparently demand quarantines from diverse political opinions . Thus, just as a snow flake easily melts so too do these Left- leaning students when confronted by hard right positions that some claim elicit "micro aggressions". But not so fast.
First, there is the massive error of selection bias in the Right's narrative and reporting. No where is it referenced that literally thousands of on campus lectures occur across the ideological spectrum every year with no kerfuffle or controversy. Millions of students from east coast to west go to their classes, participate in various organizations and attend lectures without incident. Imagine then how many times Murray, Coulter or Shapiro have delivered lectures without controversy. This indicates the attention to the few explosive protests - especially by the left - distorts the narrative because it takes no note of the thousands of lectures that went off with no issues. Sadly, conservative columnists (like Holman Jenkins, Marc Thiessen and Michelle Malkin) would have us believe raucous protests are the norm when they are the exception.
Second, the selective focus on the snow flake is even more askew than depicted. Is it really true that all the snow flakes exist on the left? I don't believe so. In fact, the bulk of evidence indicates the Right, including Alt-Right, are even more sensitive about bold political speech than the Left. Any time a call is made for stronger gun regulation - such as after the Vegas massacre- watch their bonkers reactions.
In the wake of the massive town meeting health care protests - during which "Trump Care" and the abolition of the ACA was being vigorously protested- the Right's gnomes, such as in ND, even wanted to pass laws making such protests "illegal assemblies". How snowflake can you get?
Consider also the case of Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker and his rubber stamp lawmakers are considering "campus free speech" legislation to curb the right to free speech on the left. This would be passed in order to protect the tender little ears of conservatives from speech they may not wish to hear. Such as the truth that the denial of contraception access via the ACA will definitely lead to more abortions. Or the truth that there is absolutely no justifiable use for semi-automatic weapons other than to slaughter other humans. Ugh! Can't say that!
Or, consider Donald Trump - perhaps the biggest snow flake of all - understandable given his unstable, fragile and immature temperament combined with his woeful lack of even basic knowledge. For example, after seeing press reports of Sen. Corker's remarks about the White House being an "adult day care center" (see my Oct. 11 post) he blurted out on Twitter that he would consider "repealing licenses for the media". He was totally unaware that no such licenses exist nor could he do that even if they did exist. He is not a dictator, after all, though he appears not to grasp even that.
Then there was Dotard's intolerance at the sight of NFL players exercising their free speech rights by not standing for the anthem. Never mind these protests were not about the flag or anthem per se, they were the vehicle for getting attention to uneven racial treatment in the country. But their use should not have been questioned by a snowflake like the Dotard. (And now even some spineless, wishy- washy owners - like Jerry Jones asserting they will fire or suspend players who refuse to stand.)
So the Right's hurling of the "snow flake" derogatory sounds damned near close to a selective defense of free speech to me. I.e. you either adhere to OUR version of free speech, e.g. being able to carry guns to ACA protests, OR you are a snow flake!
I say, if you can't handle NFL players kneeling for the anthem in a protest you can't bitch about college kids ripping into Coulter, Murray and Yiannopoulos . Also relevant here is what Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber recently conveyed to his entering class:
"The art of disagreement is not only about confrontation, but also about learning. It requires that we defend our views...and, at the same time, consider whether our views might be mistaken."
This is a crucial observation and bears emphasis. It also allows us to question the validity of any speech for which no learning is possible, or speakers who challenge the values that make such learning possible. Such speakers, say like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos tend to use a university's commitment to free exchange to promote positions that threaten the fabric of society as a whole. As an extreme example, one can cite the Nazis marching in Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us!"
Or take Ann Coulter's indefensible remark at the CPAC conference in 2002:
"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed."
The Right media columnists' claim that instead of vigorous protesting (including blocking) we are obliged to "argue" with such hateful dreck is imbecilic. How can I reasonably argue with someone like Coulter who wants to intimidate me with a death threat? It is the intellectual equivalent of saying "Kiss my ass!"
What we have then from Rightist hacks like Marc Thiessen is a rhetorical sleight of hand claiming it is "intolerant" to inveigh aggressively against intolerant speech and essentially disallow it. We are instead expected to put on our numskull caps and graciously extend equal standing and dignity to hateful claptrap issuing from the likes of Coulter or Yiannopoulos. In other words, we are never ever to sanction a callous disregard of democratic norms via callousness. As I pointed out in previous posts this is nonsense given Hitler used this very idiom to secure power in the Reichstag - then proceeded to destroy democracy in the Enabling Act.
Now, it is true not all conservative speech is hateful speech and we owe it to ourselves to make that distinction. Truth be told most conservos aren't like Coulter, Richard Spencer or Yiannopoulos. But if they DO hold toxic views, in whatever guise, they will have to expect passionate displays and protests given those view are antithetic to free speech itself since they are based on intolerant memes. This means students have every right to push back aggressively against hateful speech that is itself self-defeating and worthy of no argument or dignity.
Some conservatives like Thiessen want to proselytize their hate without pushback and exact judgment without themselves being judged - but this is a no go. A non-starter. Why? Because when they are aptly called "racist" or "sexist" or "homophobic" they clutch their pearls and cry 'Foul!' In such an instance one must question who the real snow flakes are.
The new standard clearly is that if you can't handle aggressive pushback when you come out with hateful and ignorant dreck, then maybe you aren't really about actual speech at all.