No matter what side you take on Trump Impeachment Theater, or just about any other topic for that matter — from the politics of chicken sandwiches to climate change — if you dare challenge the views of the reigning political priests, chances are you’ll be called stupid and hateful.
And someone will want to shut you up.
The traditional American response to such silencing has always been: “This is a free country, isn’t it?”
But is it now? Or are we building a new “Animal Farm,” where we are told what to think and how to think it?
These are the central questions in “No Safe Spaces,” a profoundly important new film about free speech and thought by conservative radio host Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla, the libertarian comic and podcast superstar. It could be the finest gift you could give a young person. All of us need to be reminded that we once believed that America was a safe space for free speech.
And we once believed that silencing speech — even if it is deemed “triggering” or hateful by some — is like removing Americans’ tongues.
The film is a great gift to help prepare the young, especially any bright middle schoolers you know, for what awaits in high school, where they will be cleansed of bothersome notions, and at universities, where their place in the great herd awaits them.
Yet lest you think “No Safe Spaces” is some conservative screed, know that it highlights prominent liberals, including former President Barack Obama, who tells of how he’s been appalled at what is happening to free speech at universities.
I’m certain that some conservatives, especially those who’ve been taught by their own thought-minders on the right to recoil in fear from threatening ideas, would be shocked to see Obama or the pundit Van Jones in this film.
But here is Jones, talking common sense: “We’re creating this environment where liberals and leftists and progressives on campuses think that they need to get government authority or university authority to protect their ears from stuff they don’t like, or stuff that’s actually offensive, or stuff that is racist or is sexist or is horrible. And I just think that’s a very dangerous view,” Jones says.
And there is this from Obama, a man of the left, yes, who made his bones in Chicago politics, yet a man who understands the dangers of silence. “I’ve heard there are some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who’s too conservative,” Obama says. “Anybody who comes to speak to you, and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”
The liberal comic Bill Maher understands. The liberal Dave Rubin understands. And every conservative worth talking to understands.
There has always been a distinction between conservatives and the hard right, a distinction ignored by some pundits as they pound tribal drums to gather news clicks.
But Prager and Carolla are careful to also make a distinction between liberals and the hard left. And what is depressing is that liberals are also victims.
Yes, the film depicts mobs attempting to silence conservatives like Ben Shapiro. And yes, even the idiotic alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos is allowed a say.
If you’ve paid even slight attention to the news, you can’t have missed the silencing on campus after campus. Recently at Northwestern University, the editors of the student newspaper felt compelled to beg forgiveness for covering a student protest of a speech by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
There must be something exhilarating about being part of a mob and using force to shout down threatening ideas. Imagine the barbarians at the gates of Rome, or early Christian hordes destroying the great art of antiquity.
Such zeal wasn’t ever remotely American, until now.
The genius of “No Safe Spaces” is that it clinically depicts thoughtful liberals being devoured by the hard left, in the manner of some insects who lay their eggs and are devoured by their young.
Particularly chilling is what happened to Lindsay Shepherd of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. In a class on the use of political language, she dared show a clip from a debate on the use of gender-neutral pronouns.
She was taken before a tribunal of her colleagues, a re-education camp of sorts. Happily, she recorded it. And you can hear the terrifying passive-aggressive voices of the thought police.
And the case of Bret Weinstein, a professor of biology at the liberal Evergreen State College in the state of Washington. He became hated on campus when he dared criticize the “Day of Absence” event.
Traditionally on that day, racial minorities absented themselves from the college in protest of racism. But in 2017 they demanded that white students and faculty be barred from campus.
Weinstein, a liberal, made the mistake of saying that racism, even when practiced by minorities, was not virtue. For this he was threatened.
He and his wife, another liberal professor, resigned and said the college failed to protect them from harassment and possible physical harm.
“Evergreen is a preview of what is coming,” Weinstein warns in the film. “The fact that it is happening on so many campuses means it will spread into every quadrant of society. And things are going to get worse elsewhere. Evergreen is describing a future that is rapidly approaching.”
A future that is approaching? Isn’t it here? Now?