It’s not mass insanity, but rather mass infantilism, that necessitated the “unprecedented” security measures taken Thursday at the University of California, Berkeley so that mild-mannered conservative pundit Ben Shapiro might speak there safely. Worse, the whole campus seems to be having a spoiled-toddler meltdown not just about Shapiro but about the whole idea of free speech. An embarrassing 132 faculty members have lost their faculties, signing a letter demanding a total cessation of classes and organized campus activities due to abject fear of “Free Speech Week” later this month.
No word yet on how many lollipops the faculty will demand. Or crying pillows. Or stuffed teddy bears for those who need a safe space to recover from the trauma of hearing ideas they don’t like or probably don’t even understand.
(Brown University actually set the standard for this in 2015, with coloring books, Play-Doh, and videos of puppies.)
The Los Angeles Times reports that, for Shapiro alone, Berkeley “has told students that counseling is available to those stressed by all the commotion. A large swath of the campus will be closed off, including the plaza where the free speech movement began in the 1960s. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on security, and police now can use pepper spray on protesters after a 20-year-old ban was lifted by the City Council this week.”
Shapiro isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a right-wing radical. He’s polite, thoughtful, and a strong critic of both President Trump and of the “alt-right” movement that does harbor racists and provocateurs.
But he also belittles (quite rightly) the idea that campuses need “safe spaces” where unwanted ideas are unwelcome, and he holds to other conservative views as well. For half-wits who can’t tell the difference between a conservative and a fascist, Shapiro’s ideological sins are something like Binkley’s Closet of Anxieties emerging from the Bloom County comic strip and galumphing all over campus.
Lefty professors and crybaby students fully believe that a giant spotted snorklewacker is still a giant spotted snorklewacker even if it is, like Shapiro, a courteous one.
Oh, the horror, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Next thing you know, Shapiro might say something nice about supply-side economics, or advocate (Lord forbid) an expansion of health savings accounts.
The hand-wringers all warn of right-wing “violence” incited by right-wing speakers – but on campuses these days, almost all the violence comes from leftists protesting, or rather rioting, against conservative speakers’ right to be heard. Of course, Berkeley itself was awash in left-wing violence early this year in response to a speech by the loathsome but hardly threatening Milo Yiannopoulos, and again just last month against what even the Washington Post labeled as “peaceful” demonstrators. The left also used physical force, shouted down speakers, and even injured people in incidents at Middlebury College, Evergreen State College, Claremont McKenna College, and Auburn University in the past year.
But the Left, using verbal jujitsu, tries to claim that unwanted speech itself is violence. Even The Atlantic, far from a hotbed of conservative thought, ran an article earlier this making mincemeat of that dangerous notion. The false equation of speech with violence is dangerous because “it tells the members of a generation already beset by anxiety and depression that the world is a far more violent and threatening place than it really is.”
The tolerance for, or even encouragement of, radicalized thumb-sucking in response to opposing ideas is seriously retarding the emotional development of a large cohort of collegians, and ill-equipping them to cope with the real world beyond college walls.
To her credit, Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ is insisting that free speech is a fundamental right and a cherished value. To respond to speech one finds offensive, she wrote, “the right response is not the heckler’s veto, or what some call platform denial. Call toxic speech out for what it is, [but] don’t shout it down. … [We must] develop inner resilience, which is the surest form of safe space.”
The rock group The Eagles, well known for liberal politics (before liberals lost their minds), put it more bluntly in a 1994 song:
“[People] point their crooked little fingers at everybody else/ Spend all their time feelin’ sorry for themselves/ Victim of this, victim of that/ Your momma’s too thin; your daddy’s too fat: Get over it, Get over it. All this whinin’ and cryin’ and pitchin’ a fit/ Get over it, get over it.”
Words to the wise – and to the whiners.