Nothing Nuanced

Academic “diversity” speak gives pass to jihad, anti-Semitism and censorship.

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

Hats off to the UC Riverside College Republicans. They recently hosted a program that contrasted the sort of vile anti-Semitic slander that saturates the Muslim media, with the cartoons of Mohammed that sparked riots throughout with Muslim world. Of course this exercise in constitutionally protected free speech was noisily protested by the campus Muslim group, the same people who when they’re not squealing about “hate speech” are hosting speakers like Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who recycles the standard catalogue of anti-Semitic lunacy repackaged as “pro-Palestinianism” and  “anti-Zionism.”

You know how that slight-of-hand works: instead of decrying the sinister Jewish control of the media, just substitute “Zionist.” Rather than complain about Jewish control of U.S. foreign policy, mutter darkly about “neocons.” You don’t have to advocate the destruction of Jews: just champion a “one-state” final solution and rationalize Arab murder of Jews as “resistance” to imperialist stooges. In the end, though, the goal is the same: the elimination of Israel and the reduction of Israelis to a beaten-down minority that will eventually disappear and leave the region what Hitler tried to leave Germany — Judenrein, free of Jews.

Hate speech indeed. But don’t expect college administrators to do anything about it. Their loudly asserted devotion to free speech and “diversity” ends at the borders of political correctness, the boundaries set by the left-wing faculty and students who know how to intimidate bureaucratic functionaries with guilt and threats of demonstrations. Nothing more terrifies a university administrator on the make than a mob of protestors “of color” accusing him of “insensitivity” and a questionable commitment to “diversity,” all in front of the evening news cameras summoned in advance. Just look at what happened to Harvard’s Larry Summers, a presumably tough veteran of D.C. politics who was run whimpering out of Cambridge on a rail for unexceptional remarks deemed “sexist” by the faculty feminist Brown Shirts. Even several groveling apologies and $50 million in guilt-money couldn’t save Larry.

Given the craven careerism of the typical college provost, dean, and president, then, and given the left-wing prejudices or lazy indifference of most of the faculty, it’s up to students to make their university live up to its role as protected space for what Matthew Arnold called “the free play of the mind on all subjects.” This doesn’t mean that university officials should censor or limit any speech, but rather that they should encourage and insure through their control of facilities and funds that speech is balanced, that as many points of view as possible are available, and that no point of view is allowed to be intimidated or in turn to silence others.

This balance is what the Riverside College Republicans were trying to provide by offering a larger context for the cartoon controversy and pointing out the hypocritical double standard that many Muslims in the West take for granted. For here is an important lesson in political philosophy: if you are going to enjoy the right to free expression and expect that right to be protected, as the Muslim students do, then you must acknowledge and respect someone else’s right to do the same. You cannot carve out an exception and call it “hate speech,” a dishonest term created by the diversity commissars to criminalize and stigmatize whatever speech they find politically or ideologically distasteful. And you cannot be allowed to intimidate those others who are exercising their own free-speech rights.

Many Muslims living in the West, however, have blatantly asserted their right to this double standard, and many Westerners have docilely accepted this challenge to the integrity of a fundamental political good. After the cartoon scandal, many politicians in Europe and the United States countenanced a Muslim exception to free-speech rights, dressing this cowardice up in “sensitivity” or  “respect” — a transparent hypocrisy given the lack of respect for and sensitivity to Christian or Jewish belief that can be found on most college campuses, in the mainstream media, and in popular culture.

Yet this hypocrisy is not the handiwork of Muslims, who have simply mastered the tools long used by the identity politics hacks to silence speech they deem unacceptable. We had an example of this technique not long ago on my campus of the California State University. A firebrand evangelical preacher, who used the “free-speech area” (itself an illegal restriction of free speech, by the way) to hector students about the immorality of homosexuality, was run off campus by a flashy protest organized by the women’s studies department. No one seemed bothered by the irony of one group using its right to free speech to make sure someone else stopped using his.

This double standard has become standard operating procedure on college campuses, where unpopular speakers, if they manage to get invited in the first place, will be shouted down and protested while university officials sit on their hands and praise the “dialogue.” Having raised “sensitivity to diversity” and  “tolerance of the other” into a fetish, the university is incapable of acting in defense of its own beliefs.

The willingness of our colleges to sacrifice their defining ideals of free speech on the altar of  “sensitivity to diversity,” however, has ramifications beyond the campus culture wars. To our jihadist enemies, these desperate assertions of “tolerance” and “respect” and “sensitivity” in the face of jihadist aggressive intolerance are seen as nothing more than the cowering fear of the dhimmi, the conquered infidel whose behavior must daily acknowledge his inferiority. So even as we preach the value of freedom, in our own countries we shrink from actions that prove our commitment. We refuse to insist that Muslim immigrants who choose to live in the West, who accept social welfare payments, and who enjoy the benefits and freedom of our way of life embrace and respect the values that make all those goods possible in the first place.

To a true believer willing to kill innocents for his belief, this fear is testimony to the fatal weakness of our beliefs and the divinely sanctioned superiority of his own. We may be richer, more technologically advanced, and militarily more powerful, but these material advantages mean nothing in the long run when a people no longer will fight for the values that have created these goods. It’s only a matter of time.

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