Required reading: Niall Ferguson on leftist intolerance

Niall Ferguson nails it.

Ockham’s Razor put to very good use, brilliantly.

Should be required reading for everyone in the United States.

The slippery slope to tyranny keeps getting ever more slippery, but very few seem aware of it, and even fewer seem willing or eager to correct the situation.

From The Boston Globe:

The biggest threat to free speech? It’s the left

by Niall Ferguson

With every passing week, those who predicted the tyranny of President Trump look sillier. Blocked by the courts, frustrated by Congress, assailed by the press, under mounting pressure from a special counsel, and reduced to reenacting “The Apprentice” within the White House, the president has passed from tyranny to trumpery to tomfoolery with the speed of a fat man stepping on a banana skin.

So does that mean we can all stop worrying about tyranny in America? No. For the worst thing about the Trump presidency is that its failure risks opening the door for the equal and opposite but much more ruthless populism of the left. Call me an unreconstructed Cold Warrior, but I find their tyranny a far more alarming — and more likely — prospect.

With few exceptions, American conservatives respect the Constitution. The modern American left, by contrast, thirsts to get rid of one of the most fundamental protections that the Constitution enshrines: free speech. If you want to see where that freedom is currently under attack in the United States, accompany me to some institutions where you might expect free expression to be revered.

Almost every month this year has seen at least one assault on free speech on an American college campus. In February the University of California, Berkeley, canceled a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos, the British “alt-right” journalist and provocateur, after a violent demonstration. In March students at Middlebury College in Vermont shouted down the sociologist Charles Murray and assaulted his faculty host. In April, it was the turn of conservative writer Heather MacDonald at Claremont McKenna and pro-Trump journalist Ann Coulter at Berkeley.

Nor is it only right-wing speakers who have been targeted. Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen State College in Washington state, always thought of himself as “deeply progressive.” In May, however, it was his turn to fall victim to the unfree speech vigilantes. Weinstein refused to acquiesce when “white students, staff, and faculty” were “invited to leave campus” for a day. In response, a group of about 50 students confronted him outside his classroom, shrilly accusing him of “supporting white supremacy” and refusing to listen to his counter-arguments.

No one could accuse the great Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins of being right-wing. Yet last month it was his turn to be silenced. A public radio station in — you guessed it — Berkeley canceled a discussion of his latest book because (in the words of a spokesman) “he has said things that I know have hurt people,” a misleading allusion to the atheist Dawkins’s forthright criticism of Islam. The station’s general manager declared: “We believe that it is our free speech right not to participate with anyone who uses hateful or hurtful language against a community that is already under attack.”

 

Potential despot Ulrich Baer

These are weasel words similar to those published in The New York Times back in April by Ulrich Baer, a professor of comparative literature at New York University who also glories in the title of “vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity.” “The idea of freedom of speech,” wrote Baer, “does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.”

Freedom of expression is not an unchanging absolute,” Baer went on. “It requires the vigilant and continuing examination of its parameters.”

Sorry, mate. Freedom of expression is an unchanging absolute and, as a free speech absolutist, I am here (a) to defend to the death your right to publish such drivel and (b) to explain to as many people as possible why it is so dangerous.

Freedom is rarely killed off by people chanting “Down with Freedom!” It is killed off by people claiming that the greater good/the general will/the community/the proletariat requires “examination of the parameters” (or some such cant phrase) of individual liberty. If the criterion for censorship is that nobody’s feelings can be hurt, we are finished as a free society.

Where such arguments lead is just a long-haul flight away.

The regime of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, in Venezuela, used to be the toast of such darlings of the American Left as Naomi Klein, whose 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine” praised Venezuela as “a zone of relative economic calm” in a world dominated by marauding free market economists. Today (as was eminently foreseeable 10 years back), Venezuela is in a state of economic collapse, its opposition leaders are in jail, and its constitution is about to be rewritten yet again to keep the Chavista dictatorship in power. Another regime where those who speak freely land in jail is Saudi Arabia, a regime lauded by Women’s March leader and sharia law enthusiast Linda Sarsour.

Mark my words, while I can still publish them with impunity: The real tyrants, when they come, will be for diversity (except of opinion) and against hate speech (except their own).

2 thoughts on “Required reading: Niall Ferguson on leftist intolerance”

  1. Ferguson’s final paragraph brings to mind something Roger Scruton, Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Oxford, says in his book, “Fools, Frauds and Firebrands” about the effect of the political correctness on public discourse: “Truths, meanings, facts and values are now regarded as negotiable. The curious thing, however, is that this woolly-minded subjectivism goes with a vigorous censorship.”

  2. I LOVE this post.

    I despise the left’s effort to stifle my words.

    Watch what words you use; you could hurt someone’s feelings. Setting aside that some people deserve to have their feelings hurt, if I want to say a word that has been used for my whole life as part of ordinary speech, don’t suddenly make it not allowed and look down on me because I haven’t yet gotten with the program. If I want to say something unpopular, so be it; it’s good for people to be made uncomfortable once in a while.

    The thing is the same people who talk about choice all the time are those who want to restrict my choices all the time, in food, in language, in attitudes. They babble about a woman’s right to choose, but watch out if you choose to say or do something that is not okay with them.. They force their prejudices on us – global warming is terrible, socialism is good, capitalism is bad and if I try to offer another opinion, how shocking I am.

    So it is okay to support black lives matter and their disrupting any forum because they think they are right. It is okay to support rioters who destroy others’ property because they think they are right and call them protesters instead of thugs, which they are.
    It is so marvelous to support sanctuary cities despite the obvious pitfalls of allowing criminals to be protected and citizens to be harmed by repeat offenders who happen to be illegals. But look how caring we are. Look how empathetic. But don’t put an illegal who is a repeat offender in the house of anyone who supports sanctuary cities. And don’t ask for any money from those empathetic supporters.. Let the government take care of it.

    I am going far afield. But so much i s upside down in what’s going on today. And we had better stand up to those who want to ruin the good thing Americans have in our Constitutional Republic before the left destroys our freedom completely. We have to end this business of not allowing people to speak at universities because they might upset someone. Egad. And people get away with this crap.

    The left today in America is the enemy of the good. It wasn’t always that way, but today it is.

    And don’t you just love these professors of “diversity” who do not tolerate anything except what follows what they think?

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