Whether it’s Amy Schumer denying that there can be any legitimate opposition to her candidate or Nicolas Kristof “discovering” that left-wing academics agitate to exclude opposing voices, a dramatic shift has occurred. Left-leaning thinkers heavily rely on a creating public perception monopolies to preserve their dominance.
Just look at Kristof’s recent pieces. An initial one suggested it was bad to exclude conservative thought from academia. Another soon followed, covering the reaction to his first: “It’s rare for a column to inspire widespread agreement, but that one led to a consensus: Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.”
What got Kristoff’s attention wasn’t so much campuses’ well-documented exclusion of conservative thought, but this new development: “On campuses at this point, illiberalism is led by liberals. The knee jerk impulse to protest campus speakers from the right has grown so much that even Democrats like Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, have been targeted.”
So some Democrats are a little upset at the friendly fire situation they’ve created. But face it. The left-wingers criticizing Kristof’s column are right. If you didn’t systematically exclude conservative, moderate, or slightly pragmatic common sense from their atmosphere, illiberal ideas wouldn’t succeed. One can applaud Kristoff’s late-to-the-game call for a free market of ideas, but the people on the ground pushing back on Kristoff recognize that if they tolerated dissent they would relinquish their power, have to work harder, and lose more often.
Insanity Happens when Bad Ideas Don’t Get Challenged
The systematic exclusion of competition and uncomfortable facts that is pervasive at schools like Oberlin College is necessary, else these ideas would never have become dominant. As The New Yorker recently reported, liberal ideas going unquestioned have resulted in shocking demands from students that would normally be considered laughable if there had been an opposing voice.
Oberlin students last December demanded to be paid $8.20 per hour for protesting. Later, they increased their demands, as if unaware that college coursework is perhaps a fundamental part of why they are at Oberlin, not protesting. Oberlin modified its grading standards to accommodate activism in the 1960s and 1970s, and today’s student activists had hoped for something similar. More than 1,300 students signed a petition calling for the college to eliminate any grade lower than a C for the semester, but to no avail.
“Students felt really unsupported in their endeavors to engage with the world outside Oberlin,” a student activist told the New Yorker writer. As Reason’s Robby Soave put it succinctly, “The students Heller interviewed seem to think they’re not at college to be educated: they are at college to educate everyone else.” The behavior has gotten this bad because they have systematically cut themselves off from “triggering” points of view. The only way to keep bad ideas dominant is to prevent the introduction of any alternatives.
While Kristoff rightly is horrified by this development in academia, there hasn’t been much criticism for the same isolated thinking in prominent Democrat politicians. Hillary Clinton trafficked in the same nonsensical language of academic intersectionality Oberlin students use, citing it as the reason for toxic levels of lead in the water supply in Flint, Michigan.
Flint's water crisis is an example of the combined effects of intersecting issues that impact communities of color. pic.twitter.com/PMc9CfeoJj
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 7, 2016
Statements like “Flint’s water crisis is an example of the combined effects of intersecting issues that impact communities of color” are a great way to prevent people from actually thinking. Nowhere on that diagram is the suggestion that government caused the problem. The simplest explanation being the correct one is no longer a realistic approach when there’s an opportunity to feature food deserts as part of the Flint crisis.
Furthermore, if you don’t accept the ridiculous frames our politicians present, you are mean, racist, or selling guns to ISIS. These tactics appear to be wholly invented to obfuscate where accountability lies and to perpetuate victimhood with no end in sight.
This Sort of Illiberal Liberalism Is Endemic
This illiberalism doesn’t end with the liberals in college or Hillary’s awkward attempts to court them. As for Uber and Lyft in Austin, the best way for liberals to eliminate competition is to systematically ban it. When taxi companies were losing out to a better service, instead of competing to win, like typical liberals they went to City Hall to ban the other team.
Our own president consistently excludes other points of view or invents opposition to paint his point of view as more positive. Shadi Hamid in The Atlantic, reflecting on a thoughtful piece on the Obama Doctrine by Jeffery Goldberg, highlights this particular penchant of Obama’s to dismiss critics: “The colorfully rendered Obama doctrine of ‘don’t do stupid shit,’ itself a phrase dripping with disdain, is little more than a reaction to critics who Obama thinks, presumably, support doing stupid shit.”
Debating which came first — the left-wing academic practice of banning opposing viewpoints or the politicians who do it — is like the chicken and egg scenario. This is especially true when considering that Hillary (and other Democratic politicians) was steeped in left-wing academic practices well before she came to hold high offices.
Even while writing a diatribe on why it’s bad that a bubble has formed around liberal ideas, Kristof implies there are certain ideas not worth questioning. This makes his observations more of a journaling of what the air inside the bubble tastes like rather than it being particularly revolutionary or even approaching an olive branch.
Take the Need for Critiquing Darwin’s Theory
While imploring for some effort to hire conservatives in academia, Kristof says some things should still disqualify an academic hire. For example, “we don’t want people who don’t believe in evolution.” Even when attempting to be open-minded, the Left falls right back into their close-minded trap. Darwinian evolution isn’t a fact, it’s a hypothesis. This isn’t to say it’s not valid. But it’s neither a fact, nor a way to disqualify people as being “stupid.”
Evolution isn’t particularly decided in all its minute details, from a scientific point of view. Imagine if there were people who dared to question Darwinian truth and hypothesized that people passed down experiences to their offspring. That might even make it possible to suggest that nurturing—that is, the parent’s experiences—can affect children. Shouldn’t everyone laugh at this hypothesis because it’s a fact that Darwin was right, and nature means far more than nurture?
In fact, current research is indeed pointing to a bit of Lamarckian resurgence. There is building evidence that parents’ life experiences can affect their offspring. It’s called epigenetics. The epigenome is the pack of proteins that surround the DNA. It plays a crucial role in determining what genes get expressed and at what frequency. There are multiple studies demonstrating environmental influences that directly impact offspring, even though this contradicts a core tenet of Darwinianism.
People forget an important fact about Darwin. He “went to his deathbed protesting that he’d been misinterpreted: there was no reason, he said, to assume that natural selection was the only imaginable mechanism of evolution. Darwin, writing before the discovery of DNA, knew very well that his work heralded the beginning of a journey to understand the origins and development of life.”
In other words, while liberals will mindlessly affix a Darwin Fish to their car to mock Christians, they miss that their own personal deity never wanted his theory to be the end of thinking of how we came to be on this planet. But that seems to be what the Left wants in order to operate freely—on their terms.
The power of learning new yet suppressed facts becomes evident when watching abortion advocates become acquainted with the actual abortion procedure—that is, facts—and dramatically change their assumptions.
Things like this make it clear that many liberal ideas can’t survive competition. That’s why they won’t allow it.