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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Social Justice Warriors on American Campuses

        I was talking with an ex university professor recently who told me that he was very happy to be retired. He said that he was glad to be out of hornet’s nest and away from a world filled with so much political correctness it was hard to get through the day. Life on campus, he said, is rife   with so many non-issue “issues” that life there is like walking bare foot on a sidewalk littered with broken glass. 
       He told me a story about how he once told a fellow professor that she “looked very nice today,” meaning of course that she had selected a particularly nice outfit. Rather than thank him for the gracious human compliment, the female professor took him to task for being a sexist and going out of his way to objectify her as an object (a piece of meat) to be admired.
         “You wouldn’t say the same thing to a male colleague,” she scolded. The male professor was taken aback and told her that she was wrong. “I do say the same thing to male colleagues,” he responded, “I do it all the time.” The male professor also happened to be gay, so in no way was he even thinking about the objectification (or meat quality) of the female body when he said what he said.
      Welcome to university life in 2016, where every word out of your mouth has to be filtered and censored for risk of offending someone, and where even paying a colleague a compliment can get you into hot water.
       The ex-professor told me another story.
        He mentioned the time when his university invited a well known, beloved woman speaker to lecture to students. While the speaker’s presentation was flawless and even held the audience spellbound, during the Q and A a well dressed young man stood up and said that the speaker had disparaged African Americans.

      “I compliment you on a good talk, however you made one gross mistake that is offensive to the African American community,” he began. The speaker asked in a soft voice what the offensive remark was. 
            “In your introduction, you described yourself as being the black sheep of your family,” he said. “The use of the word black in this instance conotates negativity and undesirability and as such it casts a poor light on African American students. It is racist. “
             He was calling the nice woman speaker a racist.


       The speaker swallowed hard, not quite sure what she should say when another woman professor in the audience stood up and complimented her on a stellar lecture and added that she was certainly entitled to express her views anyway she wanted to, including using any word she    felt was appropriate to the lecture.  Common sense won out in this instance because the easily  triggered student who called the speaker a racist became so unpopular on campus that he   eventually transferred to a school outside the United States. But this is a rare scenario. Generally, the triggered student is not reprimanded but is joined by other triggered allies in the audience.
           Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay conservative Senior Editor at Breitbart and self proclaimed Internet troll, was scheduled to speak at Villanova University but his talk was cancelled after protests from left leaning students even though the event was arranged months in advance by campus Republicans.


               Milo’s multi- campus “Dangerous Faggot Tourhas sent many colleges and universities into cosmic tailspins, with left of center students who disagree with him engaging in many forms of protest. Some protesting students have stormed the stage, such as when Black Lives Matter interrupted Milo’s talk at DePaul University. Many of the protests occur outside the auditorium or lecture hall where Milo is scheduled to speak. In these gatherings one can find students with signs and banners, many in full scream mode while others attempt to block students from entering the lecture hall to hear Milo speak.  Some of the more impassioned anti-free speech advocates will block doorways and wedge their bodies between security and the lines of students eager to enter. 
       People attending Milo’s lectures are taunted with epithets like racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, misogynist, xenophobe, fascist and bigot. The words come off student tongues like machine gun bullets. Sometimes the ruckus is so uncontrolled security guards have to escort Milo to the podium. Some protesting students wear face masks, an odd if somewhat adolescent theatrical touch which is supposed invoke revolutionary fervor but which instead raises questions of cowardice, i.e., why are you hiding your face behind a mask?   
        Milo’s fans are generally right of center politically although large numbers of politically progressive students agree with some of his views. Milo’s liberal fans may not like Donald Trump (Milo supports Trump) but they are avid free speech advocates and want to hear what he has to say. Most of Milo’s fans are heterosexual students, especially fraternity types: the male jocks even cheer when Milo makes a “gay pass” at a male in the audience, or when a sexy African American student stands up and asks Milo out for a date. This kind of gay liberation dynamic in a predominately macho male straight audience is about as rare as a moon landing or ice floes in the Delaware. After all, tradition tells us that it is from this generic pool of straight macho types where many gaybashers come from, but instead we find them cheering the faggot and even passing him mash notes. It’s a curious once in a lifetime phenomenon.   


       Milo is not popular with the LGBTQ community because his views don’t match the official slate of beliefs that every good gay man or lesbian is supposed to hold. Since it was the political Left that gave birth (or aided) the modern gay movement, the Left continues to hold the bulk of LGBTQ loyalty. This is understandable even if the Left is changing.   
      We can see that the Left is changing because of the effects of the (left leaning) word policing as described in the first paragraphs of this column. There was a time not so long ago when only the right wing was crazy over censorship. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, it was conservatives who banned books and movies and even speakers (Communists, etc.) from college campuses. Today it is the Left. That’s why the term regressive left has come into vogue. A regressive leftist can be described as someone who has an inability to listen to contrary, uncomfortable viewpoints without throwing out accusations of bigotry, racism and white supremacy. All too frequently these words—racism, bigot-- are thrown out without any accompanying dialogue. Use of the word alone is supposed to shut down all debate. It’s what philosophy professor Christina Hoff means when she says, “In their war against intolerance, they take on the extremes of intolerance.”
      Hoff also adds, “It’s going to be hard for future historians to understand what happened on American campuses in this decade.” This is true because freedom of expression on campus is being replaced by the right to feel comfortable.    
         It is true that sometimes Milo’s narcissism and showmanship can be off putting. It also doesn’t help that he is not always a nice person. He’s unnecessarily hard on fat people but he makes sense when he comes out against the body positivity movement. The body positivity movement teaches that you should love your body type no matter what size it is. Yes, being 300 pounds is beautiful and you don’t have to change a thing, even if weight that high puts you at risk of death. 
             Milo says there’s no such thing as a lesbian because so many lesbians have had affairs with men and seem to be able to move easily from one gender to the other.  This view, I might add, is not that far reaching because I once heard a former editor of the Philadelphia Gay News say the same thing.
               Milo does not believe in gay marriage and says that homosexuality is caused by a mix of nature and nurture. Born that way is crap, he says; it’s a political line invented by the gay lobby.  He has little respect for so called third wave feminism (which seems to obsess on trivial issues like man spreading (when a man sits in a bus or subway with his legs spread far apart) or when a man tells a woman that she “looks nice today.”
            He views Islam as the greatest threat to Western civilization and says that as a gay man he cannot live in any “moderate” Islamic country because he would be subject to the death penalty.
                   Milo has no respect for Black Lives Matter and calls the organization “a bunch of black supremacists.” (Milos’ sexual preference, by the way, is for African American men).
         It’s my belief that Black Lives Matter would be greatly improved if they had a change in leadership.
      Overall, Milo isn’t the issue here, it’s the contagion known as political correctness. The chronic emphasis on political correctness in society has helped create Milo, just as it has propelled so many people to support Donald Trump. The fact is, people do not want to be told what to think or what they can and cannot say.   
            Take the word racist, for instance. ‘Racist’ is so overused that it is beginning to lose its effectiveness. The word should be reserved for true racists, not for polite women speakers who talk about being the black sheep of the family.