Laura Hollis is a Creators Syndicate columnist and a teacher of business law and entrepreneurship who holds faculty appointments at the Mendoza College of Business and the Law School at the University of Notre Dame.
Academia is under the microscope again, following a thoroughly distressing incident at Middlebury College in Vermont last week. Conservative author Charles Murray had been invited by a student group to speak at the college. When the day arrived for his speech, irate protesters prevented the start of Murray's presentation with chanting, yelling and slamming furniture. Murray, event moderators and guests were forced to move to a second venue (planned, in case of such an occurrence). The protesters followed, setting off the fire alarms and banging on the walls and windows.
Murray's lecture, impeded though it was, did take place. At its conclusion, however, the mob turned violent, blocking the exits and refusing to allow anyone to leave the building. Middlebury professor Allison Stanger — a faculty moderator — was physically attacked as she tried to usher Murray out. Stanger's head was violently jerked by one person who pulled her hair, while another pulled her body in a different direction. She was taken to the hospital for her injuries.
Murray wrote a powerful essay this week in which he warns that the Middlebury incident threatens academic inquiry as we have come to know it. Stanger — a Democrat who does not agree with Charles Murray's writings — published a widely circulated post on her Facebook page in which she, too, decries the descent into violence, and she defends freedom of speech on college campuses.
Stanger was not only willing to defend Murray's right to speak; she put her physical safety on the line doing so. I applaud Stanger's courage, and agree with her remarks — at least until she blames President Trump for "the evils that he has unleashed."
Trump's election may have "unleashed" this fury, but he didn't create it. Stanger was not attacked by Trump supporters. She was not attacked by Murray supporters, or by those who have read his books. Stanger was attacked by people who — at least until recently — she would have considered to be on her side of the political fence.
In her essay, Stanger asks that we not see this incident as a problem with our elite institutions, but with our country. Begging her pardon, but the fact that it is a problem with our country can be laid, in large part, at the feet of our elite institutions. The "fury" Stanger witnessed and the violence she experienced was at the hands of spoiled, indulged, anti-intellectual brats who've been convinced their views are the only ones that matter; who thought they were going to remake the United States to their liking in an insidious, if bloodless, revolution. When Americans who oppose their worldview pushed back — peacefully and nonviolently in an election — it was decided that perhaps the revolution should not be bloodless.
By blaming Trump for the violence she suffered, Stanger echoes the same excuses that have been used to justify violence against Trump supporters. The mayor of San Jose, California, tried to blame Trump for the coordinated, violent mobs last year that attacked innocent people, pelted them with eggs and rocks, slammed them to the ground, ripped their clothing, broke their ribs and their noses, smashed their cars, and terrified them in other ways.
It is worthy of note — again — that people like those who attacked Stanger and Murray warn constantly of the horrors that Trump (and those who voted for him) will inflict on the country. Those have yet to materialize. Meanwhile, opponents of Donald Trump, Republicans or conservatives (they are not the same) are the ones who are threatening, who are violent, who destroy property, infringe others' rights, physically attack them and call for more of the same.
(And it isn't just speech, but even scholarly research and scientific inquiry that are being shut down, as researchers who challenge popular conclusions about anthropogenic climate change or transgender health can attest.)
The real threat to our liberty and our lives is not from Donald Trump, not from Charles Murray, and not from the right. As evidenced by events in San Jose, Washington, Berkeley, Portland, and now Middlebury, riots are increasingly the method of choice for a hysterical segment of the left determined to silence all opinions with which it disagrees. Even if this segment is a minority, as professor Stanger alleges, it is a minority that is increasingly powerful, beyond reasonable controls and willing to destroy its own.
Stanger is in denial. This is understandable, but foolish. Revolutionary ideas are often incubated in universities, but their implementation is inevitably taken over by thugs who have little interest in the niceties of political philosophy, and who quickly realize that the best path to power is brutality. All who oppose them — even their former allies — become the enemy.
Study the history of the left: Stalin's purges. Mao's Cultural Revolution. The "killing fields" of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. The imprisonment and execution of Cuban "dissidents." So many of those who originally believed in the ideals of the revolution say the same thing: It was not supposed to be like this. Professor Stanger, too, insists that it is not supposed to be like this.
To the contrary, the left's revolutions are always like this.