Attack of the Leftist Snowflakes

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“History assures us that civilizations decay quite leisurely,” Will and Ariel Durant wrote in 1968’s “The Lessons of History.” Even as ancient Greece and Rome faced serious “moral weakening” and societal decay, for instance, both continued to produce “masterpieces of literature and art” and a steady flow of “great statesmen, philosophers, poets, and artists” for hundreds of years.

“May we take as long to fall,” the Durants exhort in their book, “as Imperial Rome!”

If the couple were alive today, one wonders if they could have retained their trademark pluck. On college campuses across America, an army of leftist snowflakes — a generation long told they’re special, fragile, and never, ever wrong — is on the march, aiming to squelch any threatening idea that “triggers” uncomfortable thoughts. On the downside, these marauding bands have sparked an epidemic of protests, hysteria, and Nathaniel Hawthorne-style banishings. On the upside, they’re doing a heck of a job alerting the nation that a significant portion of the “leaders of tomorrow” might be one tick short of a working cuckoo clock.

Witness Christina Hoff Sommers, a well-known author, former philosophy professor, and, most recently, a YouTube star. Sommers, who describes her approach as “equity feminism,” is a refreshing change from mainstream modern feminism, which long ago click-clacked aboard the crazy train, ripped up all return tickets, and then hit the bar in the club car hard — not in a fun way, alas, but rather to weep and mutter various bad words over low-grade apple martini knockoffs garnished with mascara smears. Partnering with the American Enterprise Institute, Sommers has made a splash with her “Factual Feminist” video series, in which she calmly challenges and debunks oft-accepted and frequently absurd feminist talking points.

A few examples: No, it is not true, as is often repeated, that one in five college women will be the victim of sexual assault. (The number, according to the Department of Justice, is more like 6 in 1,000.) No, the male-to-female “wage gap” is not solely based on insidious gender discrimination, helmed by an evil network of sexy Don Draper look-alikes. (Many women choose lower-paying jobs, for instance, or take more time off to have children. If you wanted to blame a man for this, I suppose, you could blame God. But, come on, silly: GOD IS NOT A MAN! As many radical feminists and readers of “The Da Vinci Code” know, God is clearly the essence of the “divine feminine.” Oh, wait. Oh, shoot. If that’s true, who’s oppressing whom? Never mind.)

Sommers’ approach, in other words, is straightforward, fact-based, and lucid. But this, as the zealous, easily wounded students at Oberlin College and Georgetown University demonstrated over the past week, simply will not do. Faced with a speaker who thinks outside the box, campus groups lit up in protest. Students taped their mouths shut. Others heckled and jeered Sommers as a “rape apologist.” Still others advertised alternate “safe spaces” for students “traumatized” by a speech.

“The students were so carried away with the idea that I was a threat to their safety,” Sommers told the website Campus Reform, that Oberlin officials “arranged for security guards to escort me to and from the lecture to protect me from the safe spacers.” This sounds sane, if it’s Opposite Day.

Oberlin and Georgetown are not alone. Campus panic over “unsafe” speakers — and the subsequent tendency of universities to chicken out and disinvite guests like Charles Murray, Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — has grown to the extent that an official “Disinvitation Dinner” was launched in New York last week with keynote speaker George Will.

“Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively, and dangerously threatened than it is now,” Will, who’s had his fair share of protests, panics, and bans, told the audience.  Today’s attack isn’t just about process, he noted: It’s “an attack on the theory of freedom of speech,” with a belief “that the First Amendment is a mistake.”

Many human beings, apparently, never quite get over an innate totalitarian impulse. Power is an intoxicant, and shutting down and banishing an opponent—along with any cognitive dissonance they might cause — might be the power equivalent of chugging six beers. But what can we make of the growing campus fetish for “safe spaces”? Like it or not, the world is not a cocoon. How could such cowardice possibly be any fun?

If you’ve ever been to a junior high slumber party, you might recognize the following scenario: In the midst of high jinks and general good times, suddenly one girl will drift off to a corner. Her feelings, somehow, have been hurt. Slowly, a few sympathizers, clear suckers for drama, make their way into her corner. They rub her back, ask why she’s crying, and, even if the answer is absurd, spend the rest of the evening casting baleful looks at the rest of the girls, who are oblivious, living large, sucking down Mountain Dew, and gleefully watching movies their parents would never allow them to watch. (In my case, this was almost always “Dirty Dancing.”)

Cowardice might not be fun, but for some, self-pity — cowardice's common companion — certainly is. This is especially true if someone else is egging you on. Sadly, huge swaths of today’s college campuses, supposedly pinnacles of higher learning, have morphed into a giant preteen slumber party with an alarming population of sulking corner girls.

“Civilization,” “The Lessons of History” declares as it closes, “is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.” With the goal of saving civilization, college students, here’s a tip: Lighten up. Watch the movie. Don’t get “offended” every five minutes. And don’t waste your evening rubbing some silly girl’s back.

Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin,Texas. Her work can be found at  http://www.heatherwilhelm.com/ and her Twitter handle is @heatherwilhelm.

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