Protests designed to get universities to disinvite speakers the protestors don’t like are a growing problem across academia. It’s an intimidation tactic, and it works way too often–even if “public safety” is the official reason the administration gives for the cancellation to cover up its capitulation. (The very fact that this is the reason often given should tell us something about the intimidating effect of the “protests.”) People so disinvited in recent years aren’t just inflammatory hacks like Milo. They include people like Henry Kissinger, Ben Carson, Laura Bush, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Condoleeza Rice, for goodness’ sake! However much you may dislike Kissinger, if you prevent students at your school from hearing his view of world events and issues, from the horse’s mouth, as it were, you prevent your university from functioning as the clearinghouse of ideas it was designed to be.
The problem is no just limited to people who get disinvited. It extends to those who never get invited in the first place because of their conservative views, and to those who never get hired or promoted to tenure-track position for the same reason. The “protests” we hear about in the news are only the tip of the politically correct iceberg, the visible part of a larger movement that is destroying the intellectual integrity of higher education. Such protests, the people in them, the people who encourage them, and the administrators who capitulate to them, are anti-intellectual, anti-freedom of speech, unconstitutional, and just plain wrong. They do real injury to the students who were actually at university to learn, to the institutions, and to the Western Civilization such protesters despise even as it makes their sheltered academic lives, and their own freedom of speech, possible.
Am I then wanting to violate the free speech rights of the protestors? No. They have every right to make their views known, to engage or to be speakers who promote them, to argue rationally for them, to publish them. I will myself go to the wall to defend those rights, including of people who disagree with me. They do not have the right to try to prevent their opponents from doing the very same things. There is no symmetry here.
I say these “protests” are an intimidation tactic. That is exactly what they have proved to be, and their success as such is the reason why we continue to see them. Intimidation is by its very nature proto-violent, something on its way to violence. I refrain from using the buzzword “micro-aggressive” because there is nothing small or petty about this. Intimidation as such is but one small step away from actual violence and destruction. We mustn’t be surprised or shocked when it spills over into it.
Students, you have way too much time on your hands. Put down your signs and go study something other than Alinskyite leftist propaganda!
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About The Author
Donald T. Williams (BA Taylor University, MDiv Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, PhD University of Georgia) is R. A. Forrest Scholar and Professor of English at Toccoa Falls College in the Hills of NE Georgia. A dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth, he is a border dweller, permanently camped out on the borders between serious scholarship and pastoral ministry, theology and literature, preaching and teaching, Christianity and culture. He is best known as an Inklings scholar and Christian apologist. He is the author of nine books and many articles and would love to come to your church or school to preach or conduct an apologetics or Inklings seminar. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.