I guess I kind of agree with Cass Sunstein that students shouldn’t hound racist jerkoffs from speaking on their campuses. We need to stand up for principles, in this case that of freedom of expression, etc. etc. etc. Such arguments please me in the same way that hearing the Senators are up against the Bruins. Good, I guess. Yay?
But I can’t help thinking that this milquetoast liberal commitment to “principles” misses what is actually going on right now and that the youth may actually have a better bead on what the priorities are.
Have you noticed that the principles have a way of changing with the seasons and with the interests of those in power? We used to be so concerned about the respecting the Constitution until Trump came along. And now we need to be flexible and “respect” those who disagree. It would be elitist and condescending otherwise, apparently.
Remember free trade? Majority rule? The validity of the electoral college, as a deliberative body? Opposition to prior restraint? Universal human rights? Fiscal sustainability? Free markets? Limited government? Emoluments? Self-dealing? Blind justice?
The list of principles that benefited those already in power and have since been jettisoned in favor of those newly in power is getting a bit long, and the youth may be having trouble sustaining their suspension of disbelief that this is about principles. I would not blame them. Um, it is seldom about principles.
Here is another possible interpretation of what motivates the young left, not willing to lay down and think of America. The other side is in it to win it in a game that might well not be repeat round.
Ridiculous faith in American exceptionalism sometimes makes even game theorists forget that the game itself is at stake. Think about Lincoln, the guy at the west end of the Mall. He did not pussyfoot around with tender principles during the crisis. He did what it took, and is now widely considered the greatest president in American history.
Similarly, the youth can passively accept the paleosplaining why they need to just sit there and take it, or they might decide that they have a longer time left here than these old guys, that they don’t need to accept their “principles” and that they mean to protect their future.
Cass Sunstein clearly disagrees, insisting, as if it were self-evident, that:
It should go without saying that at colleges and universities, free speech is indispensable, and interferences with it are deplorable.
Really? It is great to see the principled defender of free enquiry let us know what goes without saying! But another take might be that I (and my parents) invested quite a bit to come here to study in peace. I don’t need hate mongers roaming around the campus telling people I am a second class citizen and thereby threatening me. I don’t think it necessarily goes without saying that this is an unacceptable position to have or to act upon.
Also, why should universities be privileged as bastions of free expression? They now resemble businesses like a newspaper or bank, so why so special? Have you noticed that university professors seem most inclined to assert their specialness? This must be because university professors are so uniquely smart and principled.
Apparently, they know how self-evidently stupid the students at Pomona are:
In a subsequent letter, students from the adjoining Pomona College explained that Mac Donald “is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live.”
Oh my God! That sounds so sophomoric and self-aggrandizing, just as you would expect from privileged little brats at an overpriced liberal arts school. It almost reminds me of this group of privileged brats advocating violence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Fine words signed by* mostly privileged mostly-old white guys, so they are probably right.
* The actual author was a young slave holder.