A number of liberals have voiced alarm about the authoritarian tendencies of “political correctness.” But others have mocked those concerns as trivial and counterproductive—especially since the start of the Trump era. Why, they ask, worry about “students signing petitions or people being mean to racists on Facebook” when we have Nazis on the march, an administration hostile to civil rights, and a President who calls the free press “enemies of the people”?
But illiberal leftism goes far beyond petition-signing and racist-shaming on social media. And there is no reason one cannot worry about authoritarianism on both the left and the right, especially since the two feed off each other.
Even if the excesses of “PC culture” were limited to college campuses, this would be a problem, given how central the free exchange of ideas is to the purpose of the university. Feminist lawyer and author Wendy Kaminer warns that “soft authoritarianism” on campus has consequences outside, “teaching future generations of leaders the ‘virtues’ of autocracy.”