February 2, 2017
Against, perhaps, my better judgement, I recently attended a talk given by Kim Strassel, author of the book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech. I didn’t read the book ahead of time, but I had a general idea of how this was going to go just from the title alone.
The beginning of the event featured a Hamilton student introducing Strassel who claimed that Republicans are harassed for their views, ridiculed when speaking in public and blocked from taking part in debates. Additionally, the student said that these fears and accusations take place not only in the world at large, but also on Hamilton’s campus. Frankly, this blew my mind. By silencing homophobic, racist and intolerant speech from the right, the left is trying to protect marginalized communities from this very ridicule and harassment to which Strassel refers. If you’re looking for a conservative support system that condones this rhetoric, perhaps a liberal arts school wasn’t the decision for you.
Alternatively, you can travel to literally anywhere else in the world and find a safe space for conservative thought. The same is not by any means true for marginalized communities, who are constantly made to feel their exclusion wherever they may be. The left has a duty to restrict speech that perpetuates this exclusion.
After that introduction (and with fundamental confusion already in mind), Strassel started her talk. She told a brief story about her children, which she used to lay out the differences in political opinions within her family, and then gave concrete examples of how the left was silencing free speech. All two of them.
Strassel said that in politics, money is a fill-in for free speech. As I understood it, she believes the “mean and cruel” political left wants to keep the money out of politics, which silences the right, who want to do well by their shareholders and corporations. I would ask: doesn’t it seem suspicious that money needs to go into government by way of large donations from specific organizations?
What got me the most, however, was two points she made. She said campuses are now afraid of “intellectual diversity” on campus and try to shut it down. I agree with the notion that if we all thought the same thing, the world would be a much, much more boring place. However, when your “intellectual diversity” hinges on the historical and modern oppression and harassment (to put it lightly) of anyone who doesn’t share your skin color, your sexual preferences and your gender, it’s really not wanted.
Strassel brought up the protests held across campuses with regards to Trump’s election. She pointed out that Tom Steyer, a billionaire Democrat, gives a ton of money towards environmental research and science programs to campuses across the country, including Stanford University, where he serves on the Board of Trustees. When she created the hypothetical point that no one could protest him because of a “fear of intellectual diversity,” I think I audibly snorted.
The “violence” levelled against conservatives that Strassel cited pales in comparison to the real violence faced by those oppressed every day. I’m sorry for the loss of property from keyed cars and smashed windows of those who were brave enough to come out with misogynistic, homophobic and racist comments, but perhaps taking a walk through any history book will put your loss into perspective. The foundation of democracy in this country hinges on the silencing of true minority groups through gerrymandering, voter suppression, the school-to-prison pipeline and even murder.
So let’s take this back to Hamilton’s campus. When the children of those historically and modernly oppressed work as hard as they did to get here, academically, athletically or both, they are coming to a platform to discover themselves and find their own voice. They will be silenced once they leave the Hill, and they’re even silenced while they are here as students. I am one of those people. So, sorry not sorry if you feel like you’re oppressed, but I would genuinely be interested in finding some examples of true oppression of the right on this campus, because as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t exist.
If you want to stop feeling personally attacked, perhaps look to yourself and wonder if maybe your ideals could stand to change (the answer is most likely yes). But that’s the difference: your “oppression” is more about your ideals, something you can change, while ours is based on inherent attributes that we cannot change. And, it should be noted, when we do try to have civil conversations about what’s going on, the well known “sea-lioning” tactic comes out—infuriatingly playing stupid and asking you to explain even the smallest of details. It’s designed to anger you, and that anger is the biggest delegitimization tool they have. Because, apparently, anger negates the validity of your points.
So for those of us who don’t play along with this little “Instigation Game,” we’re obviously the irrational angry feminists who aren’t willing to see reason. And that makes us the oppressors.
Maybe it’s just “alternative oppression,” as Kellyanne Conway might put it. But that’s okay, Strassel told us that freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you can’t lie! So go on with your bad selves. Just know that a) none of us believe you, and b) freedom of speech also means we can call you on your nonsense.