If you pay any attention to the ways in which radicalism dominates the culture of the university these days, you're likely to feel as though you've gone through the looking glass. "White privilege." "Trigger warnings." "Rape culture." All of this (and much else) has turned academia into a bizarre, Orwellian simulacrum of itself. And not only that, but the radicalism has migrated outward into the broader culture, too. It's the kind of insanity we haven't seen in America since the bad old days of the early 1970s.
The good news is that these sorts of perversions always burn themselves out-they're too untethered to reality. Eventually people realize that the radicalism is really about just one thing: power. And once people begin to challenge the dogmas, they collapse in a cascade. Because as they lose their power to exact a price for criticism, they attract more of it.
The bad news is that these radical revolutions can deal out a great amount of harm before they are discredited.
But in any case, we may be witnessing the first dawning realization on the left about the problems inherent in their movement. Allow me to present three pieces, each from a liberal looking at contemporary campus politics.
The first is an essay in McGill University's student newspaper from last year. (Thanks to Rod Dreher for finding it.) It's by a student radical who has become disenchanted not with leftist political ideas but with the insanity of radical culture. Some highlights:
I'll be graduating soon, and I've been thinking about my years in Montreal with both nostalgia and regret. Something has been nagging at me for a long time. There's something I need to say out loud, to everyone before I leave. It's something that I've wanted to say for a long time, but I've struggled to find the right words. I need to tell people what was wrong with the activism I was engaged in, and why I bailed out. I have many fond memories from that time, but all in all, it was the darkest chapter of my life.
I used to endorse a particular brand of politics that is prevalent at McGill and in Montreal more widely. It is a fusion of a certain kind of anti-oppressive politics and a certain kind of radical leftist politics. This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. . . .
There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I've thought a lot about what exactly that is. I've pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. I'll go into detail about each one of these. The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.
First, dogmatism. One way to define the difference between a regular belief and a sacred belief is that people who hold sacred beliefs think it is morally wrong for anyone to question those beliefs. If someone does question those beliefs, they're not just being stupid or even depraved, they're actively doing violence. They might as well be kicking a puppy. When people hold sacred beliefs, there is no disagreement without animosity. In this mindset, people who disagreed with my views weren't just wrong, they were awful people. I watched what people said closely, scanning for objectionable content. Any infraction reflected badly on your character, and too many might put you on my blacklist. Calling them 'sacred beliefs' is a nice way to put it. What I mean to say is that they are dogmas.
Thinking this way quickly divides the world into an ingroup and an outgroup - believers and heathens, the righteous and the wrong-teous. "I hate being around un-rad people," a friend once texted me, infuriated with their liberal roommates. Members of the ingroup are held to the same stringent standards. Every minor heresy inches you further away from the group. People are reluctant to say that anything is too radical for fear of being been seen as too un-radical. Conversely, showing your devotion to the cause earns you respect. Groupthink becomes the modus operandi. When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues. Internal disagreement was rare. The insular community served as an incubator of extreme, irrational views.