The greatest advancement of Western culture was not electricity or antibiotics or the computer, but the movement to which the discoverers of each owed a great debt: the Enlightenment. To oversimplify a bit, this was a grouping of philosophies that rejected magical thinking, encouraged debate, celebrated reason, and promoted individualism as a check on mindless religious or royal authority.
It was THE key to the modern age, and was instrumental to Europe turning its back on ruinous religious wars and embracing the science that led to the Industrial Revolution. True, there’s no cure for war entirely, as the period from 1914-1945 proved… but on the other hand, Western and Central Europe did have a remarkably peaceful century after the final defeat of Napoleon.
And as long as there has been an Enlightenment, there has been a backlash to it as well. Not just among the religious extremists, but also those who cannot accept debate or logic being applied to their most cherished beliefs, and celebrate the irrational passions of our baser brains. This Romanticism harks back to the usual, primitive nature of the tribal beast known as “human,” rejecting the modernity, science and industry of the Enlightenment. This movement yielded the great works of Wagner and Byron… but it also yielded its dark and savage child: anti-intellectualism.
This force was used by the great totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century to silence dissent. Debate and reason became not just wrong, but criminal. Anyone who questioned the tenants of Marxism, or National Socialism, or Islamism, was automatically suspect and probably belonged in the gulag — because to question is to sow discord, and since these ideological dictatorships were founded on the assumption that they knew all the answers, any dissenter was therefore automatically a heretic bent on evil.
And as we all know, this spirit of anti-intellectualism is alive in well in the rabid anarcho-communist far left. Your typical leftist extremist throwing Molotovs and wanting nothing but to see the world burn, descended to this state from the noblest of ideals: wanting to fix all the wrongs in society for once and for all. All of the monsters of ideological dictatorships started from this first step of wanting to create a perfect utopia, from Stalin to Hitler to Pol Pot to the vile scum running ISIS and al Qaeda (and can be contrasted with your more garden-variety despot or military strongman who was just in it for himself since day 1).
But anti-intellectualism isn’t confined to the dusty bomb-making basement of the anarchist or the killing fields of the ideological tyrant. It continues to flourish in the very temples of Enlightenment, the institutions that were supposed to nurture Enlightenment ideals and fight against the always-encroaching night: the universities.
Due primarily to the nihilism of the Baby Boomers that now run the academy, all the old rules were torn asunder, letting the primitive evil of anti-intellectualism pervert this once-hallowed institution with its speech codes and its no-platforming. No better example can be found than this recent editorial from Georgetown’s student newspaper, The Hoya, outraged that a conservative was allowed to even speak on campus. And in the course of this piece, the student journalists found themselves advocating of the censorship of viewpoints that they did not like.
Because, after all, it’s not like censorship could ever harm journalism.
Some choice quotes (emphasis mine):
“By giving Sommers a platform, GUCR has knowingly endorsed a harmful conversation on the serious topic of sexual assault…
“Giving voice to someone who argues that statistics on sexual assault exaggerate the problem and condemns reputable studies for engaging in “statistical hijinks” serves only to trigger obstructive dialogue and impede the progress of the university’s commitment to providing increased resources to survivors…
“It is necessary and valuable to promote the free expression of a plurality of views, but this back-and-forth about whether or not certain statistics are valid is not the conversation that students should be having.”
That’s just from the first few paragraphs. It only gets worse from there.
Most telling of all is this piece’s title: NO MORE DISTRACTIONS. This is the general way totalitarian regimes view dissenting opinion, or democracy in general. Hitler, for instance, was adamant that the German people not be “distracted” by other opinions — and this is key — because the Nazis already knew all the right answers. Therefore, any other expressed opinion is not only wrong, but deeply immoral. This is the same attitude of the Islamists, and is the foundation of anti-intellectualism: You just magically know all the answers, and so therefore anyone who disagrees with you is not just in error, but evil.
So it is with the students of Georgetown’s newspaper. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the ideals of the Enlightenment, and why not? Such things as free debate and rational thinking should obviously come with a trigger warning.
But they don’t stop there — they uncritically accept the (incredibly arrogant) presumption that they can dictate what “conversation that students should be having.” Note the cowardly use of the passive voice there, but make no mistake: not only do these people want to punish dissent, but they relish the opportunity to do so.
This is particularly offensive to me because I graduated from the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, a program that I might add makes Gtown’s sorry excuse of a J-school look like a poorly funded community college by comparison. Free speech, free debate, and the First Amendment are the fundamental guiding lights of the press, and I hope that any Mizzou grad who considers, in the future, employing one of the people (see below) in an editorial position, give a good hard look at what they really think about a free press.
Note that none of this counts as any sort of endorsement of Sommers, or the College Republicans that hosted her. I have deep objections to Republicans’ anti-woman politics, as well as their obsessive mission to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. But because I know that I don’t know everything — one of the fundamental humilities of Enlightenment thought — I absolutely believe that conservatives and the Republican Party must exist, and I regularly read conservative websites in order to challenge my own beliefs.
After all, if my beliefs can’t survive reading a couple articles from National Review, then my beliefs must kind of suck, right?
Perhaps that is the deeper fear of the would-be tyrants of the college campus. Maybe they know that they might not win a debate… which is why debate must be banned, and dissent silenced.
Georgetown, to its credit, appears to be thinking about protecting free speech through its Student Advocacy Office. Would you be terribly surprised to hear that this exact same editorial board is opposed to this as well?
Disclaimer: While I find these people abhorrent, I give my absolute support to their freedom to express their viewpoints and would fight any attempt to censor them. I also give my absolute support to my own freedom to ridicule them.
Now, these students pusillanimously choose to hide behind their paper’s masthead rather than put their names to this appalling piece. So in order to foster the Enlightenment ideals of free expression, authorship, individualism, and accountability, it is my honor to name The Hoya’s editorial board and associate them with the editorial from above. Helpful links to their FB pages are included. (It should be noted that the newspaper states the editorial board does not represent the opinions of the Hoya, which is sort of like saying the communications department of Apple does not represent Apple, but whatever.)
Mallika Sen, Editor-in-Chief
Daniel Almeida, opinion editor and chair of editorial board
The above people state that they know better than you, and want to regulate your speech. And they work for the newspaper of a university.