It's okay to shun commencement speakers, but please pick better targets

Some of the ideas that have been in circulation during the various speaker controversies this year arose several months ago with a notorious Harvard Crimson op-ed which stated rather bluntly that academic freedom was less important than social justice. (Lefties who are found of pointing out that cracking down on liberty in the name of security often delivers neither liberty nor security might pause to consider whether limiting academic freedom will also end up harming social justice.) But underlying the op-ed was the unappealing thought that ideas deemed reactionary or conservative were unworthy of discussion or even consideration.

And this same idea is popping up again in the more recent protests. As I said, there are all sorts of reasons that could be used to justify the various objections that are greeting the different invitees, and not all of them are inane. Hirsi Ali, for starters, was being offered an honorary degree, and it can certainly be argued that some of her more extreme (and stupid) views meant that she didn’t deserve one. But the current crop? Rice was one of the people who oversaw the Iraq war, and thus the anger is understandable. Lagarde works for an institution that used to be famous for imposing stringent and cruel policies on poor countries, but plays a mostly honorable role today.