Campus politics and the State of the Union address

Cathy Young, writing in the Boston Herald, has some pithy comments about “How campus politics hijacked American politics“.

For some time, a fixation on identity politics, a culture of reflexive outrage, and a scorched-earth approach to trivial transgressions have been all hallmarks of student activism and academic radicalism. They are now becoming increasingly evident in American life as a whole. In the name of defending women and ethnic and sexual minorities — all reasonable goals — progressives on and off campus are taking illiberal stances that polarize society, put a chill on free speech, and erode respect for due process.

Not long ago, tropes such as “white privilege” or “rape culture,” which reduce a vast range of social dynamics to racism and misogyny, were seldom heard outside the radical wing of the academy; today, they’ve joined the mainstream. The term “microaggression,” describing statements and acts deemed unintentionally prejudiced, now shows up without explanation even in business publications.

Opposing bigotry and injustice are noble goals; but the social justice movement, on and off campus, goes far beyond that. It labels people by identity, creating a hierarchy in which being “marginalized” confers status while being “privileged” brings shame. Moreover, given its focus on changing “wrong” attitudes, is almost by definition hostile to free speech: dissent, even counterargument, becomes “microaggression” or “discursive violence.”

. . .

Yet the assault on “bad” speech is not just a campus matter. Especially after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville that turned violent last August, the idea that free speech protections should be reconsidered has been gaining currency on the left … For now, the First Amendment seems safe. But the campus-bred identitarian left is leaving its mark on society in other ways, especially in areas directly connected to culture: media, publishing, and entertainment, which in turn help shape the social climate … Often, the effect is a chilling one … Recent graduates, and the cultural politics they bring, also influence corporations that want to maintain a progressive image — including the tech giants that set the tone for much of the social media.

. . .

What’s more, left-wing campus politics also feed and empower the right. Stories of political correctness run amok, gleefully picked up by conservative media (and in some cases overblown), boost the perception of rampant hypersensitivity, speech policing, and anti-male and/or anti-white bias. New research by Georgia State University Ph.D. candidate Zack Goldberg confirms anecdotal reports that many Trump voters were at least partly motivated by concerns about political correctness.

Perhaps the real danger is that “social justice warriors” on the left are propping up Trumpism on the right, and vice versa. With each side spurring the other to action in a feedback loop, there will soon be little room left for anyone else.

There’s more at the link.

I think many of us would agree with many of her points.  I think the proof of them is likely to be found in reactions to last night’s State of the Union address by President Trump.  I’m already noting that various left-of-center and far-left analyses of the speech have focused on “fact-checking” by providing “context” – in other words, not so much checking the actual facts themselves as by putting them within a political framework that allows them to be criticized more or less heavily.  They’re not allowing the facts to speak for themselves.  What’s more, some of the President’s claims are being “fact-checked” to a ridiculous degree, particularly by media adding “context and analysis” (from their own ideological perspectives, rather than factually) to his words.  An example from the Guardian:

The Empire State Building

“America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year – isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take ten years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?”

The Empire State Building was built in one year and 45 days.

I think a minor discrepancy of about 12%, in order to make a rhetorical point, is hardly worthy of comment.  I’d give any president a pass on that, Democrat or Republican.  However, it’s yet another convenient stick with which to beat the anti-Trump drum, so it’s “fact-checked”.  Yawn.  Big fat hairy deal.  It doesn’t take anything away from the President’s point, given in the text in italics.

I think a lot of the vituperation directed at President Trump from the left of US politics is simply a reflection of their despair that he’s not listening to them.  They’re living in their own echo chamber, where everyone parrots the same party line, and they can’t understand how he’s not intimidated into following their wishes.  They have no conception that anyone can – or should be allowed to – differ from their opinions.  The trouble is, they’ve now turned to trying to impose their opinions through corporate censorship and social ostracism of anyone with different views.  That’s dangerous – and it needs to be stopped.



  1. the problem with her article is the false equivalency — SJW with Trump supporters. Not equivalent. SJW sows discord, spreads untruths, has no logic or reason to positions.

  2. Columbia University students were protesting the contents of the SOU speech last weekend – days before the speech was given.

    Democrats and other Leftists are protesting as falsehoods the contents of the House Intelligence Committee memo, before it has been released.

    Our enemies don't care about the truth. It doesn't matter what we say or do. We will always be devils in their eyes. The Leftists living among us have been waging a cultural and political jihad against us for 85 years – and now that we have finally noticed, they object to this being pointed out, much less fought against.

  3. Cathy Young is way off base on this one. Victor Davis Hanson made critical point in his column on what Strzok, Page, McCabe and others thought they were doing:

    "Another, more helpful, exegesis, however, is to understand that if we’d seen a Hillary Clinton victory in November 2016, which was supposed to be a sure thing, there would now be no scandals at all. That is, the current players probably broke laws and committed ethical violations not just because they were assured there would be no consequences but also because they thought they’d be rewarded for their laxity."

    The only word I disagree with is "laxity." "Malfeasance" would be better.

    Along similar lines, maybe the increasing violence from the Left in 2016 was prematurely spiking the ball. Or maybe beginning a new reign of terror on the presumption that Hillary was going to win and plenty of winks and nods would be had going forward so long as the real enemy – conservatives – were the targets.

  4. they've now turned to trying to impose their opinions through corporate censorship and social ostracism of anyone with different views.

    Hardly news. They, the Lunatic Left, have been doing this for years. It started with imposing PC rules within corporations of all sizes and passing enforcement to the Personnel Department. If I am in upper management and need to hire a half-dozen programmer/analysts, I'm supposed to pass along the requirements to some PMS witch in Personnel, who places the ad, collects the resumes, and weeds out the unsuitable candidates. What she's looking for and what I'm looking for are two vastly different people.

    And censorship? Corporate censorship has existed for years.

    I agree that the imposed hallucination is that if Hillary Clinton would have been elected President, then our government would run smoothly and we wouldn't have these problems. That scenario didn't happen, and a true disaster was averted. If anyone actually sees ex-president Obama for the narcissistic, truly evil man that he is, know that Hillary Clinton would have been much worse.

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