Liberals Who Give Liberals a Bad Name: College Kids Edition

Conservatives like to point out when liberals try to squash speech that they (the liberals) don't like. And, you know what, some times they (the conservatives) have a point.

Just last week, Brown University students forced a halt to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's speech on their campus. The students were outraged about NYPD's racial profiling tactics (stop and frisk). So, they drowned out Kelly's attempt to engage them in a dialogue. (For their part, the faculty and administration at Brown voiced their frustration with the protestors).

While Brown is known for its progressivism, this is hardly an isolated example. Students at the University of North Carolina muzzled a speech by Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) who is known for his anti-immigration views. Ann Coulter (who is admittedly despicable), speaking at the University of Connecticut, just two days after Cindy Sheehan, well-known anti-war activist, spoke (without interruption), was continually interrupted by jeers from the crowd. A University of Chicago student interrupted ex-Isareli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech, calling him a war criminal.

Peter Beinart, as smart a progressive as they come, rationalizes the students' behavior this way:

Convinced that freedom of speech is an illusion denied them outside the university gates, they take revenge in the one arena where the balance of forces tilt their way. And they thus inject into their own campuses the totalitarian spirit they believe characterizes society at large.

Do these students really believe that a totalitarian spirit characterizes the United States at large? If they are engaged enough with current events to protest, I find it hard to believe that they believe society, for all its ills, is totalitarian "outside the university gates."

Beinart is also giving these students far too much credit: I doubt they've spent half of the time Beinart did thinking about the subject of student protest. They're young, idealistic to a fault, and mostly reacting in a visceral, "I don't like what you stand for" way. If in fact these students thought deeply about the subject, they would realize that their revenge taking, to paraphrase Beinart, is completely counterproductive.

Being a liberal is in large part about being tolerant. It is the "radical center" -- "white, middle class, primarily from the South and Southwest (including Southern California) and parts of the Midwest" -- who are the truly intolerant. So, liberal college kids, stop pretending like you're sowing your progressive oats by conjuring up the late 1960s. In the end, you show your narcissism by making the issue you allegedly care so much about more about your "protest" than the facts. You're adults now. Act like it.

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