Sunday, September 05, 2004


Leftists are quite a showcase of psychological defence mechanisms. They need them. Reality is too often uncooperative with their simplistic theories. Take this example from Krugman. Speaking of the recent Republican convention he says: "But the vitriol also reflects the fact that many of the people at that convention, for all their flag-waving, hate America. They want a controlled, monolithic society; they fear and loathe our nation's freedom, diversity and complexity". An example of the old Leftist "projection" strategy: Accusing others of what is in fact true of yourself. But the simplest defence mechanism of all, of course, is denial. You just refuse to see what is there. I can still remember Western Communists dismissing accounts of life under Stalin as "inventions of the capitalist press".

Unsurprisingly, therefore, we find in The Guardian recently a classic example of denial. A column by Polly Toynbee claimed:

" The phrase "political correctness" is a capacious portmanteau into which all modern conservative fears and dislikes are packed. Since no one on the left ever laid claim to it, in itself it is an empty, meaningless suitcase that signifies no more than the speaker's own reactionary political predilections"

I think in the circumstances that an extended look at some examples of that "non-existent" phenomenon is warranted:

"Around the same time that Oklahoma State approved its harassment policy, a controversy erupted at Oregon State University after the student paper, The Daily Barometer, ran an article by staff columnist David Williams titled "A message from a white male to the African American community." Williams argued that one reason for the social ills disproportionately afflicting blacks is that character and accountability in the black community are undermined by a tendency to rally around prominent African-Americans behaving badly, from O.J. Simpson to singer R. Kelly, currently facing child pornography charges on the basis of a videotape allegedly showing him having sex with an underage girl.

Williams went out of his way to qualify his message, saying he realized his article could be seen as "picking on the worst" of the African-American community and that his judgment on the issue might be suspect because he is not black. "I have never been the victim of racism," he wrote. "I am a white male. This all is very easy for me to say." Williams nonetheless concluded that blacks "need to grow beyond the automatic reaction of defending someone because he or she shares the same skin color and is in a dilemma."

Maybe it was a good column making a necessary point, and maybe it was tired and condescending. But the reaction went far beyond criticism of Williams’ arguments or tone. Following a protest rally, The Daily Barometer ran a groveling editorial that repeatedly apologized for printing the column and called its publication "an inexcusable mistake." Williams was fired from his position as columnist. At a campus forum held a few days later, university president Ed Gray called the incident a "teachable moment" -- the teaching in question, of course, being about diversity and institutional racism, not about freedom of the press. The Barometer’s Forum editor, Christina Stewart, offered yet another apology for letting the offending article appear. (In a twist, it was subsequently revealed that Williams’ column had been inspired by an article on a similar subject by the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., who is black.)

This case is one of many recent examples of politically correct censorship of campus journalism. April, apparently, is the cruelest month for student papers: April Fool’s Day editions are especially likely to incur the wrath of the sensitivity police. At Carnegie-Mellon University, a joke edition of The Tartan, which contained admittedly (and intentionally) offensive racial and sexual humor, resulted in the paper suspending publication for the rest of the semester and agreeing to future content review by the administration.

Thanksgiving, it seems, can be risky too. In 2003 the South Missouri State University student daily, The Standard, got in trouble for a cartoon in which a pilgrim on the second Thanksgiving complained to his wife that the Indians "brought corn...again." This joke was deemed offensive to Native Americans. The administration is still investigating The Standard’s editor-in-chief, Mandy Philips, and faculty adviser, Wanda Brandon, with possible sanctions pending. It is worth noting that SMSU, unlike Carnegie-Mellon, is a public institution bound, under current law, by the First Amendment.

Litigation by FIRE and other groups has resulted in some victories for free speech. In February of this year, the University of California at Irvine and the University of Colorado at Boulder reversed their bans on "affirmative action bake sales," protests in which cookies were sold at higher prices to Asians and whites than to blacks and Hispanics in order to illustrate the absurdity of awarding extra points to minority college applicants. In March, Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania revised a student code of conduct under which any speech that "annoyed" or "alarmed" someone became a potential target. FIRE and its legal networks had filed lawsuits in both cases.

But larger problems remain. A survey conducted by FIRE last year found that more than half of college students at both public and private institutions believe that a student club espousing traditional beliefs about women’s roles should not be allowed on campus; this view is also shared by a quarter of administrators at public universities and nearly half the administrators at private ones. Other results from the survey confirm that when it comes to unpopular views on such issues as abortion or homosexuality, many college students and administrators hold freedom of expression in fairly low regard. One recent trend is for Christian student groups to be denied recognition if they "discriminate" by requiring their leadership to subscribe to the Christian faith."

So what do we call all that? Political Correctness, political censorship, denial of free speech, Stalinism? Let Polly Toynbee and her fellow Guardianistas take their choice. Any of those labels will do just fine as I am concerned. You could even call it Polly-Toynbeeism and it would soon get known for the tyrannical monstrosity that it is. It is the underlying and inescapable reality that matters.

Peter Briffa dissects other absurd assertions in the Toynbee sermon


American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.


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