Like many Americans, my vote for president was strongly influenced by a profound fear of bigotry and intolerance — and such considerations led me to vote for Donald Trump.
This article is not actually about our president-elect. Instead it explains how my vote and even my run for Congress as a Republican in New York City were partly motivated by a growing conviction that we have much more to fear from the intolerance of the political left than that of the extreme right. Both have radical fringes, to be sure, but the intolerance of the left is much more dangerous because it has entered the mainstream, masquerading as a high-minded and sophisticated defense of tolerance. Claiming a moral high ground, it blithely restricts our rights, ostensibly to protect them, and commits injustice in the name of justice.
Of course, radical fringes are frightening too. All decent Americans are appalled by white nationalist bigotry. Chants of "white power," KKK rallies, and pictures of ovens meant to evoke the Holocaust naturally incense and terrify us. As dangerous as this radical fringe is, however, it is at least a fringe. Most importantly, it is in your face. When we see a swastika or find a mosque, church, or synagogue defaced, there is no subtlety about the message. The evil is easy to identify, and therefore easy for us all to condemn and confront.
The left has a nasty fringe too. While campaigning I encountered total strangers who screamed at me about the incivility of Republicans. Sometimes these champions of tolerance even shouted obscenities in front of their young children. If you want to experience the "civility" of the radical left firsthand, go to any university and ask to speak on behalf of Israel or the police.
The intolerance of the left is much more insidious because it is increasingly institutionalized and cloaked in righteousness. Its purveyors often are esteemed faculty who appear to be august champions of "human rights." Indeed, this mainstream intolerance is routinely imposed with the best of intentions by our universities, corrupting the next generation and creating a real threat that it will ultimately dominate our society at large. The intolerance also is much more subtle. Rather than making outrageous claims that would galvanize us all in opposition as a white supremacist would do, the left whittles away at our freedoms gradually. If we are not careful, we will share the fate of the frog in gently warming water, finding that it boils before we recognize the threat.
Universities provide many examples of intolerance expressed proudly in the name of justice and liberty. UConn is creating segregated dorms in order to promote diversity and equality. At Berkeley, students were able to close a bridge and selectively allow students to pass solely based on the color of their skin in the name of racial justice. A majority of universities have safe spaces and speech codes that significantly restrict free expression, even as they pledge their fealty to academic freedom and an open exchange of ideas.
Take the case of the NYU professor who was asked to take leave because he called trigger warnings and safe spaces insane. The "Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group," which included two deans, actually wrote that "as long as he airs his views with so little appeal to evidence and civility, we must find him guilty of illogic and incivility in a community that predicates its work in great part on rational thought and the civil exchange of ideas." There we have it — to protect the civil exchange of ideas, we will censor speech. Anyone who disagrees with us is "guilty of illogic." George Orwell would be so proud.
The anti-Semitism of the left provides another dramatic example. At Berkeley, allegedly one of the best institutions of higher learning in America, blatant anti-Semitism has gone totally mainstream as part of a course offering. The syllabus describes that it will "explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine, one in which justice is realized for all its peoples." It sounds so righteous — what could be better than justice for all peoples — until you consider the meaning of a "decolonized Palestine." In keeping with the liberal narrative that Jews who have lived in "Palestine" or Israel for millennia are actually a recent "colonial incursion," decolonizing is code for expelling millions of Jews from the State of Israel. It is unvarnished ethnic cleansing. If this were espoused on the right, it would be condemned as the height of racism. Coming from the left, it is just a means to pursue justice.
Let’s not forget the story of Rachel Beyda at UCLA. Her appointment to a judicial board was initially rejected because as a Jew she was told she could not "maintain an unbiased view." It seems so civil. There was no violence and the anti-Semites were merely trying to prevent bias. How enlightened. If we oppose them, does that mean we favor bias?
As the water gets warmer and warmer, some on the left are becoming more open about what is going on. Take the Harvard University senior and columnist for the Harvard Crimson, Sandra Korn, who openly declared "Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice." (Who defines justice? I’m sure Ms. Korn will volunteer). An article by a student at Swathmore made the implicit argument of the left explicit: "What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion … I don’t think we should be tolerating [a guest speaker’s] conservative views."
It’s not just the students who are selectively censoring speech. At DePaul, the largest Catholic university in America, the president banned a sign that read, "unborn lives matter" because it might provoke Black Lives Matter. Because the phrase was too provocative — and we all know political speech should never be provocative — it was "inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values." Yes, making a political statement that unborn lives matter at a Catholic school is inconsistent with Catholic values. Such is the state of our Academy.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. I would provide more examples, but the water is getting too hot. I’m jumping out now, and encourage you to join me.
Dr. Philip J. Rosenthal is the co-founder and president of Fastcase, Inc. (www.fastcase.com) and was the 2016 Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party nominee for Congress in the NY 10th, the district that includes Wall Street and Ground Zero (www.rosenthalforcongress.com). To read more of his reports — Go Here Now.
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