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We have unfortunately developed a climate in this nation where seething anger and intimidation, including threats of violence, are becoming the hallmark of our discourse. It is as if we are sitting on a mass of churning lava, that erupts in one place or another every day. Waking up to view the news is almost always dismaying.
What particularly concerns me about this is the successful attempts to gag the speech or intimidate conservatives, particularly social conservatives whose views on family and gender are seen as bigoted, sexist and hateful. With the Proclamation on the Family clutched firmly in our hands, that’s us, folks.
Those who want to see those like us nullified or stamped out of existence go to no end to shame and ridicule and ultimately to shut up. The First Amendment, with its free speech and religious freedom protections, is looking a little threadbare.
Just last week a survey released from the William F. Buckley Jr. program at Yale University indicated that:
An overwhelming majority of American college students say they support the First Amendment, yet more than 4 in 10 think it’s OK to disrupt a speaker on campus….
The survey also found that one-third of undergraduates justified physical violence to stop a speaker from using so-called ‘hate speech’…Nearly 6 in 10 college students said their school should forbid speakers from campus who have used ‘hate speech’ in the past. In addition, 62 percent of students said social media companies should censor ‘hate speech’ by deleting users who have engaged in it.
Spencer Brown, spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative nonprofit youth outreach organization, said the survey results confirmed what the foundation has been arguing has been happening on college campuses for years. There is an “institutionalized anti-conservative bias” taking over the country’s academic institutions.
The finding that more than 50 percent of students are afraid to share ideas that contradict or challenge a professor shows the damage wrought by the left’s decision to abandon colleges as sites of learning,” he said.
In another campus survey, we see this: “Sixty-six percent of students define hate speech in broad terms, responding that it can be anything one particular person believes is harmful and that hate speech means something different to everyone. Thirty-one percent of students think that hate speech is not protected under the First Amendment.
In addition, “A large majority of students, 81 percent, think that words can be a form of violence, and 30 percent think that physical violence can be justified to prevent someone from using hate speech.”
Read that and weep. Any speech can be defined as hate speech and in many places social conservatives are intimidated into silence. See how it plays out in the lives of real people. Dennis Prager reported this sad tale:
In August 2017, University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax wrote a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer in defense of middle-class values. She and her co-author cited a list of behavioral norms that as Wax put it, “was almost universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960’s.
They were, “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”
She later wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “The fact that the ‘bourgeois culture’ these norms embodied has broken down since the 1960’s large explains today’s social pathologies—and re-embracing that culture would go a long way toward addressing those pathologies.”
For her left-wing colleagues at Penn Law School, this list was beyond the pale. About half of her fellow professors of law—33 of them—condemned her in an open letter. And Wax wrote in the Journal, “My law school dean recently asked me to take a leave of absence next year and to cease teaching a mandatory first-year course.”
The Pennsylvania chapter of the left-wing National Lawyers Guild condemned her for espousing bourgeois values and questioned ‘whether it is appropriate for her to continue to teach a required first-year course.’
Then there is Professor Sam Abrams, who teaches politics at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He wrote:
To get to the truth we have to have disagreement, and we’re not doing that now. The role of education is to elevate us, not necessarily to have solutions but to know how to think, to know how to have discourse, and to know how to debate. That’s why I’m so preoccupied with making sure students get a rounded experience.
Then there’s this:
In mid-October, Abrams penned an op-ed for The New York Times entitled “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators.” In it, he shared new research of his that surveyed 900 “student-facing” administrators (defined as “those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus”) and found that on average, “liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one.” He also related his concern that on his own campus, the Office of Student Affairs “was organizing many overtly progressive events . . . without offering any programming that offered a meaningful ideological alternative.”
This ideological imbalance among the administrators developing student programming, Abrams argued, “threatens the free and open exchange of ideas, which is precisely what we need to protect in higher education in these politically polarized times.”
At Sarah Lawrence, the backlash to his conclusion was fast and furious. By the evening of the day his op-ed was published, his door had been plastered with signs saying things like “QUIT” and “Go teach somewhere else you racist [expletive deleted]. (maybe Charlottesville?).” Personal items that Abrams had posted on his door, including a photo of his newborn son, had been stolen.
Here’s a story that happened just this week:
A 20-year-old student senator at the University of California Berkeley says she didn’t expect the intense opposition she received for voicing her Christian beliefs on sexual identity and gender.
Although Isabella Chow, a junior, has the support of the school’s College Republicans chapter, her own student party cut ties with her and other students and organizations are demanding that she resign from the Senate or face a recall.
“I didn’t expect it at all, I’ll just put it that way,” Chow told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Tuesday.
“I expected there to be opposition, I expected there to be disagreement,” she said, “but I didn’t expect that a place that claimed to be so inclusive and tolerant would turn its back on me so quickly”…
A piano recital where she was supposed to play was cancelled because professors said, “You can’t perform when we are all afraid of protesters showing up at the door.”
At a protest Wednesday, Chow said, people yelled at her for three hours, swearing and demanding that she resign.
It’s not just on college campuses that conservative speech is slashed. Just ask a conservative performer to tell you how it is to try to make your way in Hollywood. According to Fox News/Entertainment:
Celebrated singer and actor Pat Boone noted in a recent interview that conservative stars in Hollywood are wary of publicly discussing their personal politics for fear of public backlash.
“There used to be more of us,” the 84-year-old told The Hollywood reporter…”Tom Selleck, Jon Voight, Bruce Willis, who were outspoken, but they’ve been browbeaten and ridiculed, which is the main instrument on the left to shut us up”…
In September 2017 ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ actress Julienne Davis told Fox News one of the riskiest decisions of her life was coming out “of the conservative closet.”
“Since then I haven’t fared well,” she said. “My ‘unfriendings’ on social media have been many—from acquaintances and close working associates to good friends—including even my best friend. It is interesting to note that all of them just stopped calling and quietly “ghosted” me, and then later unfriended me. Unfriendings aside, the written and very public insults from Hollywood peers on social media and elsewhere have been numerous. I’ve been attacked with obscenities, called a racist, and had one person tell me he hoped I would die.”
Saul Alinsky—I’d Organize Hell
It is clear from these events that shaming, intimidating, name-calling, labeling and threatening has become a new way of life in America, and that those who participate congratulate themselves for shutting down what they consider hate speech.
It all sounds like it came from the playbook of that community organizer of the far left—Saul Alinsky, who famously once said, “I’d organize Hell.” He wrote a well-known book that impacted a generation called Rules for Radicals, and in that book he outlines the plays that look so familiar today.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” he named as rule number one. “It’s almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.” He said, “Keep the pressure on.” He also reminded his followers, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Create fear in your opposition until they dare not speak up.
These actually do sound like the rules for hell as well as today’s front pages. We will punish you for your viewpoint, shame you for your conscience. We will put pressure on your worldview until it can no longer find a respectable seat at the table. We will make sure you lose your job, your voice, and your reputation. We will sue you, damage you, label you. If you are in a public space, including social media, and say one thing we don’t like, those words will haunt you forever and we will use them to guillotine you.
Some have called this a cold civil war. Certainly the stakes have never been higher as two very opposing views of the country and our future clash like armies in the night. One writer said:
Conservatives ask: “What can I do for myself, my family, my community and my fellow citizens?”
Progressives ask, “What is unfair?” “What am I owed?” “What has offended me today?” “What must my country do for me?”
I titled this article using the word “civility” because that was what I initially hoped to explore, but the more I thought about it, this has gone far beyond incivility toward each other and is more like a break down in democracy.
What worries me about this is what will happen to my children and grandchildren who must negotiate a world where their religious and socially conservative voices will be nullified. Will they be able to withstand shame and intimidation for their viewpoint? Or will their views crush when the fingers of ridicule point at them from the great and spacious building? What doors will be closed to them?
I worry, too, about the future of our society when citizens take sides and express such fury at each other. How can you find truth, if all viewpoints are smashed except one? How can you have harmony and order, when people are at such odds? How can we stay grounded when basic issues like that boys are born as boys and girls as girls ignites such fury?
Perhaps we will all need lessons in courage for these days we are in. Courage to reach out to others with civility even if they differ from you. Courage to stand for the eternal gospel when so many assail its tenets.