A summer break from campus muzzling

The attack on free expression is sinister because it asserts that such freedom is not merely unwise but, in a sense, meaningless. Free speech is more comprehensively and aggressively embattled now than ever before in American history, largely because of two 19th-century ideas. One is that history — actually, History, a proper noun — has a mind of its own. The other is that most people do not really have minds of their own.

Progressives frequently disparage this or that person or idea as “on the wrong side of history.” They regard history as an autonomous force with its own laws of unfolding development: Progress is wherever history goes. This belief entails disparagement of human agency — or at least that of most people, who do not understand history’s implacable logic and hence do not get on history’s “right side.” Such people are crippled by “false consciousness.” Fortunately, a saving clerisy, a vanguard composed of the understanding few, know where history is going and how to help it get there.

One way to help is by molding the minds of young people. The molders believe that the sociology of knowledge demonstrates that most people do not make up their minds, “society” does this. But progressive minds can be furnished for them by controlling the promptings from the social environment. This can be done by making campuses into hermetically sealed laboratories.