Violent leftist mobs driving conservative speakers off campus is a story often sidelined by a liberal media reluctant to make the enemies of their conservative enemies look bad. An exception was made on the Monday, March 6 episode of the PBS talk show Charlie Rose, featuring New York TImes columnist Frank Bruni as a guest discussing the physical attacks committed during conservative scholar Charles Murray’s failed attempt to give a talk at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Fill-in host Dan Senor set the stage for his talk with the former White House correspondent Bruni, who often writes about higher education, and New York University Stern Business School professor Jonathan Haidt:
Good evening, I’m Dan Senor filling in for Charlie Rose. Last Thursday, Middlebury college experienced a scene that’s becoming increasingly familiar. Dr. Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute was invited to speak. A massive protest greeted him. The intent was not to simply express peaceful dissent, but to shut down his speech. Dr. Murray and the Middlebury professor who interviewed him ran into a mob of protestors, several of whom physically assaulted Dr. Murray`s interviewer and forced her to the hospital. The incident and others like it bring into sharp relief a growing tendency on American campuses, an intolerance for freedom of speech and a challenge to intellectual diversity.
Bruni had some criticism for the rising intolerant generation on campus: “....I think it is also important to note that this is the generation that everybody gets a trophy generation, right? So, no one modulates themselves or thinks I should kind of retire in the public space, let other people have their say because everybody is, it`s very individualist sentiments like that. And then lastly, and Jonathan I think speaks to this much better than I can, there is not a lot of ideological diversity on a lot of the campuses where this is happening.
Later in the interview Bruni pointed out: “...It is a minority of students and it is a minority of schools. But they do set the tone. At those schools where this is prevalent, it`s really, really pronounced. We`re producing graduates who have little sense of the true ideological political diversity of American life.”
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He provided an anecdote: “When I was there, the president had a dinner for me at the president`s house. And all these faculty members went around the table and sang the praises of the school. And I heard about the affinity group they had for this group. I heard about XYZ. We got to the end, there were like 20 faculty members. At the end, they said, do you have any questions? They were all boasting about what a diverse environment they had. And I had one question, I said, is there a group for Republican students? And they looked at me like it had never occurred to them. And there was one student there, and she said, I think there is but they maybe have one member. Now schools trip over themselves to get racial diversity. They give a lot of lip service to socioeconomic diversity and some of them do better than others. But what about this whole other kind of diversity? How are we going to move forward as a country if many of our top schools are graduating kids who have no -- who can`t even begin to process how a human being could vote for Donald Trump. They need to understand....who voted for Donald Trump and why and that they’re not monsters.”
The liberal Bruni was smeared on Twitter for daring to defend free speech: “I was forwarded tweets for people who were saying things like I never knew Frank Bruni was such a racist. I was a racist because -- you asked how Jonathan`s colleagues reacted to him? I talk to people on higher education. He is a hero because he is bringing up stuff about free speech and ideological diversity that they know needs to bring -- but they won’t say it in the public square, they won’t say the same things he is saying because they are so worried about a kind of shaming that the left right now sadly seems to specialize in.”
Bruni even sketched out how a Trump vote could be seen as a protest against such malign speech-squelching: “....I know so many people who flirted with voting for Trump, who did vote for Trump, who were responding to his destruction of a kind of political correctness that they find oppressive. And so there is a real relevance to what we are talking about today on campus. And who is governing our country right now. And I don`t think the people on the left have wrestled adequately with that.”
The New York Times also wrote a lead editorial for Tuesday’s paper, “Smothering Speech at Middlebury.” John Sexton at Hot Air gave two cheers to the Times editorial, but pushed back hard on a paragraph “suggesting the whole story is part of a bogus right-wing narrative.” Here’s the paragraph:
It’s an outcome that many on the right seem to be aching for. Though speakers of all ideologies regularly appear at colleges without incident, a few widely publicized disruptions feed a narrative of leftist enclaves of millennial snowflakes refusing to abide ideas they disagree with. From the president to Fox News, right-wing voices wail, through their megaphones, about how put upon they are, like soccer players collapsing to the turf and writhing in pretend agony.
What the Times is describing with this sports analogy is what’s usually called ‘a flop,’ i.e. a player faking an injury in order to draw a foul on the other team. Clearly, that doesn’t apply to the incident at Middlebury College. So where does it apply? Is the Times referring to a similar mob that shut down a speech by Milo Yiannopoulis at Berkeley?