The triggered campus tyrants

Last Thursday, American Enterprise Institute scholar and author of “Who Stole Feminism?” Christina Hoff Summers spoke at Georgetown University, at the invitation of a campus conservative group. She was greeted by GU students who held up signs warning that Ms. Sommers’ speech may “contain discussions of sexual assault and may deny the experiences of survivors” and other such “trigger warnings” — you know, for those with an insufficient tolerance for differing ideas.

What’s interesting is that, for all the talk of the American college campus as being an open marketplace for competing ideas, well, it’s not, and these last two years have been pretty noteworthy for it. Around this time last year, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided to decline an invitation to speak at the Rutgers University commencement following student protests.

An open letter to the school’s president in the student paper, The Daily Targum, cited her connection to the Iraq War as reason to rescind her invitation.

“Iraq is not a land confined within our imaginations, but a country of millions whose destruction came at the hands of the Bush administration and was enabled by our tax dollars,” the students wrote.

Never mind the fact that a majority of Democrats voted for the Iraq War, too — Hillary Clinton certainly did and, more than likely, she can count on the vote of the habitually “triggered.”

What matters is that Rice identifies as a Republican, likely has conservative views, and thus doesn’t belong in the most sensitive, “trigger”-prone, posh enclave representing America’s greatest client of the 19th century fainting couch and obligatory smelling salts — the college campus.

Feminist champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali was similarly snubbed, as well, by the perpetually offended of Brandeis in April of last year, and Bill Maher was almost disinvited by the fragile faithful at UC Berkeley in October.

These are just a few examples of the anti-thought bigotry that, so far as I could tell — because it doesn’t really exist much at UVM — was solely a phenomenon of Tumblr, where, somewhat paradoxically along the lines of social justice warrior ideology, the validitity of one’s argument can and will be judged on the basis of one’s race.

But now that same aversion to contrary thoughts finds itself deeply embedded in one of the only places it was never supposed to be. The supposed domain of a smorgasbord of diverse worldviews — we still like diversity, right? — is starting to look eerily similar to a Soviet newspaper.

Take, for example, the case of Thrin Short who, back in March of last year, claimed she was assaulted by UC Santa Barbara feminist studies professor (because, really, there was no way she was teaching anything else), Mireille Miller-Young, for staging — in a “free-speech” zone, no less — an anti-abortion protest.

Professor Miller-Young, presumably unacquainted with the concept of free speech, or intellectual diversity or, really, any of the cornerstones of democratic societies, stole Ms. Short’s sign, allegedly pushing her out of her way several times, took the sign back to her office and, with all the deliberate speed of any good Soviet anti-sedition officer, destroyed it.

And out-of-state Santa Barbara students pay around $36,000 per year to ensure that this sort of PTSD-inducing sedition can be torn up — quickly, efficiently, but perhaps not so safely — in the office of “professors” like Miller-Young. On a broader level, there is something very illiberal about what is happening on college campuses. Liberals, even their critics will admit, stand for freedom of speech and conscience as much as conservatives.

Indeed, a conservative and a liberal might very well engage in a meaningful debate regarding the proper province of government, or the limits of military aggression and some fruitful compromise may even be achieved — but the illiberal campus totalitarian isn’t capable of such intellectual feats.

Someone will get triggered, or another’s “personal truth” — as if truth were specific to the individual — will be under fire. As long those sorts of campus radicals dominate democratic conversation, well, you won’t  really have a campus anymore, and new ideas will come sold with trigger warnings printed writ-large on the labeling, as if as hazardous to one’s health as a pack of cigarettes.

What you’ll be left with is a day-care, not a school.