Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
My brother recently brought this excerpt from a Wellesley College newspaper to my attention:
Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging…
We have all said problematic claims, the origins of which were ingrained in us by our discriminatory and biased society. Luckily, most of us have been taught by our peers and mentors at Wellesley in a productive way. It is vital that we encourage people to correct and learn from their mistakes rather than berate them for a lack of education they could not control. While it is expected that these lessons will be difficult and often personal, holding difficult conversations for the sake of educating is very different from shaming on the basis of ignorance.
This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted. If people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions. It is important to note that our preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn. Rather, we are not referring to those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so. Paid professional lecturers and politicians are among those who should know better. (Excerpted from here.)
Without getting side-tracked by the syntax and skewed logic, I address what I believe is the bigger picture from my view, a view not likely tolerated within the framework of (politically correct) thinking as suggested in the writer’s view. But WARNING: Readers who subscribe to the brave new world of PC ideology may wish to secure themselves in their intellectual safe spaces before proceeding.
The Wellesley student writer is a foolish youngster with little apparent sense of history, irony, and critical thinking. Hopefully with time and an open mind and heart, she will understand not only what an intellectual trap the campus hive mind (likely influential here) is but also how political correctness truncates freedom of expression–and endangers appropriate challenges.
This piece has PC infused in the “them/us,” “black and white,” and false dichotomy presentation of what used to be classic “differences of opinion” to discuss, debate in civility, and rise above and beyond to heightened levels of awareness and problem solving without the verbal violence that plays out in the kind of “shout downs” and protest-riots now more and more common on college campuses. I refer to situations where anybody with an opposing opinion or mindset (outside the hive mind, that is) is instantly and with little reflection labelled “bad” while the “good” students run them off campus without any further ado.
Making matters even worse–and as seems increasingly the case in such events–in come a few rent-a-vandals from the “black bloc” to smash and burn things. Thus, nobody with an opposing viewpoint dares enter the “free speech platform” to even attempt to offer a truly diverse point of view that challenges the collective and causes youngsters to have to really think through why they do or don’t believe what has been presumed politically (and socially and theoretically) correct.
But to my bigger point:
A divided house simply cannot stand, and when once the real powers-that-be succeed in dividing us by fear and peer-pressure they know they can much more easily conquer us as we cower in our mental safe places, our perspectives narrowing as ever-evolving PC think cinches tighter and tighter around what is acceptable in that ideology to do, say–and even question.
The excerpt is a sad demonstration, artifact, of the state of student thought (or lack thereof) in this era.
It is also dangerous.
Let’s hope there is time for critical thinking to prevail over the dangers of this fascistic iteration of “if they disagree with us, brand them all haters and run them off the stage” mentality or every ideology, left, right, and middle, will be held hostage to hostility and nobody will win.
Except, of course, those who profit by dividing and conquering…(I write, knowing full well there is a new twist in PC policing where self-appointed “hate-speech” minders now track key strokes. But if everybody cowers, who is left to challenge as lock-step think leads another generation down the bloody path of fascism that brooks no true diversity of thought and belief…ironically…).
May the young writer comprehend this fully while there is still time.
At the very least, may she comprehend what, historically, is the true objective of rounding up dissenters and herding them into “re-education centers.”
And may she come to a sense of the supreme irony, in her context, of what she wrote here:
The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.
That might be a good start for her, an “aha moment” that is usually the spark of revolutions to regain true freedom.
One can only hope–for her sake and for ours.