Read The Anti-Speech Agitators’ Playbook

Read The Anti-Speech Agitators’ Playbook

A movement to get colleges to stop investing in fossil-fuel companies provides a model for the Left's anti-speech tactics in every sphere.
Joy Pullmann
By

One of the most frustrating things about being a conservative education policy fiend is the lack of attention this sector gets on the Right. The Left is all about deliberately occupying more and more things that are the proper domain of families and neighborhoods, all in order to get the citizens of the future starting out with a progressive mental orientation, and the Right sits around talking about “human capital” and tax rates and “bipartisanship” and programs for this or that interest group.

Look, people: If we lose the kids, we lose everything. Everything else is just doomed rear-guard action, or turning the Right into one hopelessly overwhelmed crime-scene cleanup crew. For government of the people, by the people, for the people to work, the people must be in good shape. If they get damaged young, it’s nigh impossible for them to recover.

Ask anyone involved with family policies. It’s hard as hell to get an abused, abandoned child to ever have a meaningful life as a competent, productive citizen. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but the odds are really long. Preventative care on this front (aka healthy families) is the surest way to protect our society from its impending self-destruction. Secure people don’t need or tend to demand government “help.” Undisciplined, unthinking, distracted, and distressed people do.

Generating a Mob Army

The latest in centuries of proof that the Left deliberately targets and enlists young people in its efforts to revolutionize America comes from a huge report recently put out by the National Association of Scholars. It chronicles the seemingly overnight rise of the campus fossil-fuel divestment movement, which is a boring way of saying that leftist groups are stoking and channeling uninformed young people’s hatred of free markets and agitating them into demanding collectivism, most particularly on the campuses that produce American’s leaders of commerce and politics.

Leftist groups are stoking and channeling uninformed young people’s hatred of free markets and agitating them into demanding collectivism.

America’s education institutions not only allow but cultivate ignorance, which furthers the Left’s agenda because it leaves young minds empty and unguarded against propaganda. The report explains in full all the many reasons the divestment movement, to the extent it is based on facts (not much), has got the facts wrong. Not that many students can tell. An empty mind is a highway paved for progressivism.  When someone tells you redistribution is “nice,” if your mind doesn’t immediately go to the law of unintended consequences, the ideas of incentives and tradeoffs, labor camps in Soviet Russia or Communist China, or brownshirts in Fascist Italy, you are more susceptible to being used as a pawn.

And pawns many young people are, even as they believe they’re educated because they went to Swarthmore or Yale, and they got a 4.0 and perfect SAT score. This arrogance this credentialed ignorance engenders is dangerous–and highly useful to dissemblers.

Materials from the report, which contains information from hundreds of documents and interviews, say, “Student activists report that the purpose of divestment is to ‘politicize and radicalize students,’ not to defund the fossil fuel industry.” Note that the latter is the stated purpose, but as the report also points out, this effort does little to actually accomplish its stated goals. That’s because the stated goals are a cover for the real ones, which is mobilizing an army of angry, uninformed college students to pester government officials into progressive policies.

Goal: To Find and Replicate the Agitators

In many ways, the campus organizing the Left has been doing in divestment has helped foster the mentality and infrastructure becoming a contagion on campuses regarding other topics, such as the recent Yale and University of Missouri protests. A 2010 “Swarthmore Mountain Justice” group has become a model for hundreds more agitator cells across the country.

One of several tactics is making a tiny fringe group look a lot bigger and more mainstream than it is. Also recall the test drive this spring: “In Spring 2015, students at 11 campuses held sit-ins for divestment,” the report says. “At Swarthmore, students camped in the finance office for 32 days, envisioning themselves as counterparts to the champions of democracy in the Arab Spring.” Leftist funders and activist organizations are basically working to replicate the campus contagion so it can spread more easily. Or:

It’s also uncanny how the divestment movement uses tactics similar to those of Black Lives Matter activists.

In May 2013, Swarthmore activists hijacked a board meeting with more than a hundred students, grabbing microphones away from board members and ranting about the need for “radical emancipatory change.” When one student rose from the audience and asked the meeting to return to order, the activists clapped her down and told her to leave. In October 2013, board members at another meeting took the precaution to lock their doors; Swarthmore activists filled the hallway and yelled their demands through the door.

Given all the striking similarities between these political-academic agitators, people who want to counter their anti-free-speech and anti-deliberation tactics from obliterating public discourse should read the full report. This isn’t just a campus thing. The Left used similar tactics in, for example, Wisconsin, during the union protests that made Gov. Scott Walker a national figure.

We can expect more of this kind of agitprop, not just on college campuses, but in all of political and public discourse. If you’re used to having your Facebook discussions shut down by that one annoying and really rude guy (or gal) who wants to hurl invective rather than actually sift ideas, even just the short summaries of this report (here) will give you many aha! moments. Realizing that it’s a deliberate tactic, and understanding its particulars, is the first step towards overcoming it.

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of The Federalist and author of "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," out from Encounter Books February 28. Pre-order on Amazon.

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