Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Brendan O'Neill: Boomers (And Liberals) Share The Blame For Today's Censorship-Happy Students

At Reason:
How did British liberals respond to these bans? Not well. They either turned a blind eye to them, or supported them. Indeed, in a February letter to The Guardian decrying the new No Platforming of radical feminists, various academics said No Platforming was supposed to be "a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust deniers." So even as they bemoan the No Platforming of radfems, they green-light the No Platforming of right-wingers. 
This sums up the problem with the middle-aged backlash against P.C: It’s too late, and it still isn’t consistently challenging censorship. Its main concern is that "people like us" are now falling victim to P.C. student intolerance. 
In the U.S., too, many liberals seem to have become concerned with P.C. only when their friends fell victim to it. When Jonathan Chait, in his New York essay in January, said P.C. "has returned," you had to wonder where he’d been for the past 20 years. From the Brown University students who stormed their newspaper’s offices after it published a piece criticizing reparations for slavery, to the Dartmouth students who burnt their newspaper after they thought it had made light of date rape, throughout the 2000s this attitude had been running riot on campus, following on from its explosion in the 80s and 90s. Perhaps liberals didn’t notice because its main targets back then were right-wingers, Christian evangelists, and Israel supporters, rather than liberals. 
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, too many liberals failed to stand up to the censorship of scoundrels. And as H.L. Mencken said: "The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." 
Liberals’ complacency in the face of a 30-year tide of intolerance, fuelled by identity politics, the therapeutic culture, and the politics of victimhood, allowed P.C. to take root among a new generation. I mean, if an Islamist can be banned for being homophobic, why not Eminem? And if a neo-fascist can be banned because his ideas "harm" ethnic minorities, why not a radfem whose ideas "harm" trans people? The students of today aren't super-weird, they're just following the logic of censorship that earlier liberals either helped to set in motion or shrugged their shoulders at


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