Whole books have been written about the disturbing trend on the nation’s college campuses to shield students from dissenting points of view and speakers who question the progressive orthodoxy of the moment.
Conservatives have found themselves the primary targets of a vocal minority of students and influential professors who demand that colleges disinvite the divergent from speaking to students lest the matriculated engage in some unwanted critical thinking.
With conservative figures effectively banished from America’s most famously leftwing campuses, the left’s Montagnards have turned on the reactionaries and deviationists within their ranks. The focus of the progressive has shifted from fighting for social justice to protecting the practitioners of injustice in the name of inclusivity and open mindedness. With headlines today dominated by tales of gross acts of barbarism and efforts to exterminate ancient minorities from the face of the Earth performed in the name of one religion, the far-left has embraced the beleaguered premise that Islam is under siege and needs defending.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali experienced this discrimination by those who perceive themselves to be the most tolerant in the spring. This Somali-born women’s rights activist, a genuine victim of religious oppression with a harrowing and inspiring life’s story, was disinvited to address the student body at Brandeis University after a vocal minority demanded she be shunned. Her crime, in the eyes of her detractors, was that she was victimized by a group that the left views as repressed itself and is, thus, deserving of a little bloody vengeance.
Ali is not alone in calling out the Islamic world’s shift away from the values of the enlightenment. Even Fareed Zakaria, no subscriber to Huntington’s belief in a pending Clash of Civilizations, recently conceded that the Muslim world has a problem.
“There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today,” Zakaria wrote. “A small minority of Muslims celebrates violence and intolerance and harbors deeply reactionary attitudes toward women and minorities. While some confront these extremists, not enough do so, and the protests are not loud enough.”
He was defending remarks made by famously liberal comedian and noted critic of organized religion, Bill Maher. The host of HBO’s Real Time, a formerly celebrated figure on the left, has found himself the target of shaming for noting that the Islamic world is too accommodating to those who engage in illiberal practices like violence against women or the beheading of kafir. He further made the unimpeachable observation that wayward young people have taken to executing attacks on civilians in places like Ottawa, London, and New York City in the name of this religion. For this, over 2,500 students at the University of California, Berkeley, have demanded that the heretic Maher not be allowed to address the campus’s students.
“Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for,” read a petition on Change.org demanding Maher’s ostracism. “In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment.”
One ponders why exposure to heterodoxy might create a “dangerous learning environment.” Perhaps there would be actual “learning” rather than the routinized reinforcement of preexisting beliefs, and we cannot have that.
A fascinating example of moral equivalency occurred this morning during a segment on MSNBC in which a campus speech advocate was forced to defend Maher against a spokesman for the Council on American–Islamic Relations who equated him with a ranking member of the Klu Klux Klan spewing “Anti-Muslim hate.”
Fortunately for this CAIR spokesman, MSNBC’s Tamron Hall came to his rescue and insisted that he did not mean it when he directly compared UC Berkeley’s invitation of Maher to speak with extending the same invitation to “the Grand Dragon of the KKK.” Hall said she found Maher’s remarks a little bigoted, too, but only because of his recent blanket condemnation of Muslim men as violent.
That is a fair critique, but Hall is making the free speech advocate’s point: criticizing speech deemed inaccurate or offensive is far more powerful than banishing it from the public forum. Hall’s determination to put her thumb on the scale in favor of the advocates of censorship here, however, indicates that she might not have as firm a faith in her convictions as she suggests.
The revolution eats its own. Robespierre met his end under the same blade to which he had condemned hundreds of others. Zinoviev and Kamenev became victims of the very terror they endorsed when they stood alongside Stalin at the 13th Congress. An ideology which draws its authority from its supposed victimization cannot exist without a victimizer, and such an ideology inevitably turns to purging its allies. Bill Maher was, and likely remains, an ally of the left which will continue to be suspicious of organized religion. But, after being targeted for censorship only for displaying intellectual consistency, he is certainly a bit more wary of his erstwhile friends.
This post has been updated since its original publication.