The tri­umph of cam­pus politics

The Week Middle East - - News | Best Of The American Columnists - An­drew Sul­li­van

When­ever I be­moan the cul­ture of “safe spa­ces” and “mi­croag­gres­sions” on col­lege cam­puses, says An­drew Sul­li­van, peo­ple say to me: why does it mat­ter? “These are stu­dents, af­ter all.” One day they’ll have to grow up, leave their clois­ters and en­ter the real world. I dis­agree. “Ideas mat­ter.” If elite univer­si­ties shift their world view from lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion to “the im­per­a­tives of an iden­tity-based ‘social jus­tice’ move­ment”, this af­fects the en­tire cul­ture. More and more of our pub­lic dis­course is now shaped by this neo-Marx­ist view­point, in which all in­ter­ac­tions are de­fined as a hi­er­ar­chy of power and op­pres­sion. En­light­en­ment prin­ci­ples – free speech, due process, even ob­jec­tive truth – are now “rou­tinely un­der­stood as mere masks for ‘white male’ power, code words for the op­pres­sion of women and non-whites”. Jour­nal­ists, like stu­dents, now know that one “in­cor­rect” opin­ion on sen­si­tive is­sues can re­sult in Twit­ter bar­rages and “os­tracism”. Re­cently, a cam­paign was launched to pre-emp­tively sup­press an es­say in Harper’s Mag­a­zine crit­i­cis­ing the #MeToo move­ment – a real-world echo of stu­dents shout­ing down speak­ers and “no-plat­form­ing con­ser­va­tives”. On is­sues such as racism or sex­ual ha­rass­ment, there is a grow­ing and very dan­ger­ous gulf be­tween what peo­ple say in pri­vate and what they will de­clare in pub­lic. “You see: we are all on cam­pus now.”

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