Saying Nothing: The Latest Hate Speech

It’s a sad day for free speech.  The pandemic of anti-free speech attitudes on university campuses is getting out of control.  Some university students are demanding to be coddled and protected from anything that they don’t personally like, which, as someone who isn’t certifiably insane, I find baffling.  I mean, how do you expect to get through life like that?  Are these people so sheltered that they have never before encountered something that hurts their feelings?  I suppose this is a product of the “self-esteem at all costs” mindset of modern education, which is something I encountered as a kid, but I seemed to have managed to avoid its toxic effects for whatever reason.

The situation at the University of Missouri is particularly ridiculous.

Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri, is resigning his post, an act of extraordinary cowardice on the part of the university. The University of Missouri is purported to be convulsed by racism. How so? A drunk white student walking down the street used a racial slur in reference to a group of black students; he has been exiled from the campus and probably will be expelled when the disciplinary process comes to its conclusion. … [T]he university administration was silent on the matter of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a year ago. Multiple investigations of the Brown shooting, including the one conducted by Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, have concluded that there was no criminal conduct by police in the case. But even if there had been, what business is it of the University of Missouri? … A student says he was twice described with a racial slur, and a swastika was found applied to a dormitory wall with feces.

To summarize, the hysterical protests that led the university president to resign were caused by the racial slurs of a single drunk guy that has since been disciplined, a swastika, and the failure of the university to say anything about an incident it had nothing to do with.  That sure sounds like an assload of systemic racism, indeed.

Considering the modern left seems to believe that everyone is filled with caustic racism that is at all times this close to bubbling to the surface and incite riots and violent assaults on racial minorities, unless all speech conforms to their strict yet undecipherable codes, these things start to make sense.  Of course, that premise is abjectly absurd.  Society is filled with prejudice and general ugliness, which is exactly why it is necessary to develop a somewhat thick skin if you have any hope of succeeding in it.  And the best way to do that is to become secure enough in your own intellect that you are not afraid of being challenged, and in order to do that, you have to accept that maybe you are not completely right about everything.  That is a hard lesson to learn, especially for someone who grew up constantly hearing how special and smart they are, but it’s true for everyone.  Even people like Albert Einstein aren’t smart enough to know everything.  Even though his Nobel prize was won for a discovery he made that resulted in the field’s early development, Einstein was a critic of quantum  mechanics right up until he died, and he even invoked God in his arguments against it (which is doesn’t typically pass for scientific evidence nowadays).  Of course, quantum mechanics is consistent with what is observed, so he was most likely completely wrong about it.   Humility is incredibly liberating, as is the realization that you’re not important enough to be outraged at every slight, and certainly not important enough to demand everyone else heed to your every fragile sensibility.

Of course, the left isn’t the only side that is at fault.  The right has its share of people who would limit free speech if they had their way as well (of course, I would argue that such people are inherently leftist, but that is a matter of semantics and is therefore irrelevant).  The fundamental difference is that the right is far more willing to self-police (not that there aren’t leftists, such as Bill Maher, who are critical of the left’s frighteningly despotic fantasies, but they seem to be a relative minority), and I actually have yet to see any example of what I am about to say is something that happened.  But according to this, it is, and I tend to tune out the crazy people anyway.

What I am referring to here is Starbucks’ use of cups that do not feature the word “Christmas.”  So therefore, they are waging war on Christmas, and therefore Christians, and therefore America and all that is good and holy.  Frankly, these people (assuming they exist, and they almost certainly do on the bowels of Twitter, and they’re probably also all your relatives on Facebook) are pretty much the same as the people at the University of Missouri complaining about the systemic racism that haunts every corner of their campus.  Their personal feelings aren’t constantly validated, and therefore they are outraged.  This isn’t the only example of this kind of thing happening on the right, either.  Christians don’t like being mocked (or discriminated against) any more than any other group.  The actual discrimination against Christians that occurs is worthy of attention, but putting in the context of a “War on Christianity” not only misses the point, but is engaging in identity politics.  The very same identity politics the various constituencies of the left like to engage in.  The salient issues here can all be solved if you treat people as individuals and not members of some arbitrary identity-based group, and if you respect the rights of those individuals.

I mean, it does annoy me that some people are afraid of saying “Merry Christmas” because it might offend some people who don’t celebrate Christmas (although it probably wouldn’t since they would most likely be mature enough to realize they live in a country where the vast majority of people celebrate Christmas, either as a religious or  secularized and commercial holiday.  And if it did offend them, they would be just as ridiculous as everyone else here).  But is that seriously that big of an issue?  Firstly, it is well within people’s right to free speech to say whatever they want, even if it is something as demonic as “Happy Holidays.”  Secondly, we’re living in a time when people are losing their jobs for failing to manoeuvre the Kafkaesque rules of allowed speech (or lack of speech) that is arbitrarily devised and re-devised by a group of self-righteous, litigious millennials on a seemingly hourly basis.

Actually, come to think of it, the outrage has persuaded me that the phrase “Happy Holidays” is a much bigger threat to society than that, so disregard everything I’ve said here.

ADDENDUM: I didn’t mention the situation at Yale because the situation at the University of Missouri is more absurd, but the stuff going down at Yale is ridiculous as well.  Professor Erika Christakis and her husband got in trouble for criticizing an e-mail that suggested students avoid potentially offensive Halloween costumes, saying hurtful things like “free expression is important” and “Halloween is supposed to be fun” (paraphrasing).  Of course, that kind of thing is beyond the pale, and activists at Yale have been out for blood since.

The activists at Yale have been rightly mocked, but, of course, that is problematic because pointing out that the e-mail Professor Christakis sent was a silly thing to get worked up about ignores the context of why people are upset.

Of course, the context doesn’t make all this any less absurd, and it hasn’t been ignored either.  The context being that minority students feel unwelcome and unsupported at the university.  Now, I’m not saying that that wouldn’t be important to address, if there was more evidence than a couple swastikas drawn on the wall or drunk people acting stupid.  That that seems to be the crux of the problem leads me to beleive that these people are just way too sensitive and need to stop putting so much stock in their feelings.  It’s not like the swastikas are going to climb off the wall and start beating you up.  And if you do feel that threatened, take a self-defense class.  If you’re that sensitive and emotional that you can’t tolerate these minor things, that’s your problem, not everyone else’s.  Everyone has some kind of adversity in their lives; you aren’t anything special.

Of course, there is also the issue that racial minorities often grow up believing they are second-class citizens.  I can only assume the root of the problem here is viewing people as members of groups in the first place, as opposed to individuals.  We need to stop doing that or no progress is ever going to be made.