Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Jonathan Chait is declaring once again that political correctness is dangerous and on the rise among the young:
The student protest at the University of Missouri began as a response to a serious problem -- outbursts of vile racism on campus -- and quickly devolved into an expression of a renewed left-wing hostility to freedom of expression. At the protest on Missouri’s campus yesterday, on a space that is expressly open to free expression, protesters barred journalists from covering the demonstrations....

Political correctness is a system of thought that denies the legitimacy of political pluralism on issues of race and gender....

The upsurge of political correctness is ... the expression of a political culture with consistent norms, and philosophical premises that happen to be incompatible with liberalism....

The continuous stream of small-scale outrages it generates is a testament to an illiberalism that runs deep down to its core....
Chait cites several events in addition to what's going on in Missouri. He talks about "jeering student mobs" not just in Missouri but at Yale, where there was anger at a college master whose wife advised students that if they see an offensive Halloween costume, they should just look away. I don't see a mob in the Yale video that made this a cause celebre -- I see one student who's very upset and a lot of people mostly looking on. The master still has his job.

It does upset me that a campus newspaper at Wesleyan has lost a large chunk of its funding because the student government was offended by a wrongheaded but earnest right-wing op-ed about Black Lives Matter. This is the worst of Chait's horror stories, and it's getting very little attention (presumably because there's no video).

Are the kids intolerant of dissenting opinions these days? Some of them seem to be -- but, really, why would they be otherwise? We tout the value of our system, but when in their lifetimes have they seen our system work well?

When have they seen a government in Washington that functions well and in the public interest? How many issues have they seen on which grown-ups -- the people lecturing them now -- have essentially shut down one side of the debate? We can't take serious action on guns because on guns the NRA has the final say. We can't take serious action on climate change because energy interests have persuaded one of our two major political parties to stand athwart history yelling "Stop!" The 1% control our tax policy and have put severe limits on how much of the economic recovery can reach the 99%. When was the last time we raised the federal minimum wage? Is there any realistic chance that we'll be able to raise it in the next few years?

Outside electoral politics, rapists act with impunity. Men's rights advocates threaten violence and ruin lives of those who offend them.

And, of course, cops with itchy trigger fingers still shoot too many unarmed citizens.

Some good fights are fought and won -- well, okay, one: gay marriage. But even that was won mostly in the courts. Government legislative bodies, which are supposed to embody the values of free speech and open debate, largely dropped the ball on this issue.

JFK famously said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." In our times, those who make liberal democracy futile are making illiberal political protest inevitable.


Cajsa Lilliehook said...

It was not even a student, but a professor who actually called for "muscle"


Unknown said...

I suppose it's possible to argue the Missouri state university situation as some slurry of representative samplings of blue & red state conditions respectively. But to the extent that might be so, surely it's limited by the fact that the situations at the outer edges are way too far from the center to make relevant contributions to what if any lessons can be drawn.

Start with this: most of the student body of a state's large college or university schemes are going to be undergrads. Dropping out is a function of time, so undergrad populations skew younger. These days in particular, well more than a quarter more like a third of all undergrads will be frosh, and over half in one or the other of the frosh and sophomore years.

Junior & senior classes are made up of those who are pretty much past all this, maintaining grades, finishing up degrees, heading towards grad school or the job interview grind. Those years really identify more with grad schools & the job market, such as it is.

Look, I got out of all that decades ago, but ti seems to me right now it must be scary as shit, scary as at any time since WWII ended, for those in frosh & sophomore years. Despite the superficially 'good', steadily improving employment numbers since the worst of the most immediate aspects of the threat from the financial crises receded, starting in mid-2010, those measures have been against the Bush the Younger pizza-delivery economy. Prospects are definitely not improving for the kinds of jobs their older siblings and parents were able to realistically pursue, and that largely aren't there for them.

Crikey, they don't even have a Springsteen to level with them in lament that those jobs "ain't comin' back'.

But I don't see how this 'protest' attitude is sustainable. It wasn't so for the Occupy folks, and a much higher percent of them were working class without any job to leave the protests for. The bureaucratic scheme of the college-based American state university scheme compells young undergrad types back to having to attend classse, write papers, sit exams & pass to the next level - & two levels up, they're out of the game regardless & inside some new one.

But, again: from the perspective of someone who was there, here's what COULD be happening: heading towards something like 1968, this time with no Nixon but several budding Nixons as bad or worse, surrounded by more whackobirds than ever, and someone on the Dem side who, we don't know yet, could be Humphrey, could be a transformative type, or, as seems most likely, cold be a hollow symbol of suffrage & the otherwise the D party's Calvin Coolidge.

And that's a choice of poisons.

Palli said...

Read this from Terrell Jermaine Starr is a New York City-based journalist who writes about U.S. and Russian politics.