WSJ: Tolerance ain't what it used to be, folks

No kidding. Merriam-Webster defines tolerance thusly: “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.” For many years, that was the definition used by progressives in their demands — a live-and-let-live environment, one in which people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures could live together and hold honest and open discussions about differences.


For the past several years, however, tolerance — especially but not limited to university campuses — more resemble this clip from South Park from a few seasons back (mildly NSFW):

The unsubtle references to fascism were no accident then, and are even clearer now. “Tolerance” on campuses now means enforced groupthink and removal of anyone who dares to challenge the Received Wisdom of progressive activists. If you think that’s an exaggeration, check out the demands from the activists of Amherst, captured by AoSHQDD’s Jeff B:

Welcome to Tolerance Camp, the Wall Street Journal says today:

Universities are struggling to balance the free exchange of ideas with students’ growing desire to be shielded from offensive views, a philosophical divide at the heart of recent protests that have roiled campuses around the country.

From Missouri to Yale to Wesleyan to the University of California, public and private schools have become embroiled in controversies that have some faculty concerned about the stifling of free speech, and many students upset that their appeals to rid campuses of intolerance and racial insensitivity are being given short shrift.


Not all administrations are caving to the childish demands to force everyone but themselves into silence, though their responses are not exactly robust. Wesleyan’s administration politely told the proto-fascists to deal with dissent like adults, but did little else:

Last month, Wesleyan University’s student government voted to consider slashing funds for the student paper after it published an opinion piece criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

That led Wesleyan President Michael Roth and two other administrators to write a letter titled “Black Lives Matter and So Does Free Speech.” They wrote: “Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable.”

In an interview, Mr. Roth said disagreements, no matter how upsetting, were part of the collegiate learning process.

“There has always been a challenge on college campuses to figure out how to make space for views that maybe sit outside the mainstream or outside of the campus mainstream, while also preserving the ability to continue the conversation the next day,” he said.

It’s not all students either. Ian Paris, a Mizzou undergrad, wrote earlier this week about what it felt to live in a proto-fascist environment:

Those of us who want to support on some level the protesters’ pain bristle at their disregard for the First Amendment and freedom of the press and willingness to listen to others.

The “safe space” built at Mizzou means dissenting voices are decried as “racist,” “offensive” or “hurtful.” Students face diversity reeducation, pending expulsion.

Speech on my campus has become limited, not just on the quad. Grad students refuse to dissent from the opinions of liberal professors lest they lose their position, for example.

This is not an Orwellian dystopian novel – this is the climate of the University of Missouri, and it’s the reality that I, and my fellow students, face every day.


Tolerance! Today’s university environment has been curdled and perverted from education to indoctrination, a process exacerbated by feckless or outright malicious administration of these institutions — many of them public campuses, as I wrote yesterday at The Fiscal Times:

To paraphrase an old Monty Python routine, come and see the violence inherent in campus progressivism. Academia no longer values an open and robust exchange of ideas, a pursuit of truth, and adherence to actual tolerance. Actual commitment to learning would have prompted scrutiny of extraordinary claims and discussion of differing points of view.

Instead, campuses have become overrun by proto-fascists who want submission to groupthink and are not afraid to call out for “some muscle” to enforce it. In most of these cases, the proto-fascists can find muscle in one form or another to shut down dissent and impose their narrow-minded demands for power. University administrators either shrink from their responsibilities out of fear for their own positions, or have long before joined the cadre of petty martinets patrolling their ivy-covered walls to enforce the groupthink rather than enlighten young minds.

Yale is a private university, but the University of Missouri gets its funding from the state legislature, along with hefty federal grants. At the very least, those faculty members who incited violence to enforce “safe spaces” on public property should cease drawing a state-funded paycheck. …

The demise of free speech as a cultural value has accelerated on college campuses, because the elites in Academia and the media are uninterested in preserving the values of individual liberty and want to control the culture rather than inform and educate it. Now that the media has become a victim of the proto-fascists, one might hope that they would understand the existential risk to their own standing. But their lack of curiosity about the origins of the supposed incidents on both campuses prior to reporting them bodes very ill for the prospects of an awakening to the threat to liberty.


The solution to this nonsense is simple, especially at public universities. State legislatures need to intervene with the power of the purse to cut funding for schools who allow fascists to shut down speech. Administrators need to be fired, and teachers who incite violence prosecuted. If students aren’t in school to learn, then they need to be shown the door so these institutions can get back to their core mission of education in an environment that values free speech and an open exchange of ideas. Those who cannot handle hearing differing opinions should be encouraged to find something else to do with their lives. It’s time we stop coddling the perpetually aggrieved and focus our attention on the Ian Parises of the world, whose potential looks like a much better investment.

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