And it’s hard not to say he has a point:
Here’s the latest in the assault on liberal democracy. It happened more than a week ago, but I cannot get it out of my consciousness. A group of conservative students at Middlebury College in Vermont invited the highly controversial author Charles Murray to speak on campus about his latest book, Coming Apart. His talk was shut down by organized chanting in its original venue, and disrupted when it was shifted to a nearby room and livestreamed. When Murray and his faculty interlocutor, Allison Stanger, then left to go to their car, they were surrounded by a mob, which tried to stop them leaving the campus. Someone in the melee grabbed Stanger by the hair and twisted her neck so badly she had to go to the emergency room (she is still suffering from a concussion). After they escaped, their dinner at a local restaurant was crashed by the same mob, and they had to go out of town to eat.
Murray may never live down the controversy over his book, The Bell Curve, which included a few stats showing IQ differences between racial groups. And maybe he shouldn’t. Sullivan actually helped bring The Bell Curve to a wider audience at The New Republic, but he agrees that protests against Murray are “completely legitimate.” From what I recall reading TNR at the time, I thought Murray’s work was typical of social scientists who are so enamored of their statistical tools that they have no clue how to put them in context. Or they’re simply trying to make a few friends among the small but well-funded band of obnoxious right-wingnut academics.
But what Sullivan sees here is someone who has been labeled all sort of things he is not, particularly “anti-gay.” And Sullivan sees a stark raving mob (like the one in the Rush song Witch Hunt, which I recently posited as a warning against today’s anti-immigrant mobs but can also apply to this situation) that simply won’t let people speak.
And it gets worse. Faculty member Allison Stanger was assaulted and taken to the emergency room. She’s not exactly an ignorant hate-monger herself. She was a Democratic delegate in 1984. She has spent a good part of her academic life researching Eastern Europe, and she worked during the Obama administration as a consultant to the State Department.
Her crime? Participating in the forum with Murray.
I’ll let her say the rest:
I want you to know what it feels like to look out at a sea of students yelling obscenities at other members of my beloved community. There were students and faculty who wanted to hear the exchange but were unable to do so, either because of the screaming and chanting and chair pounding in the room, or because their seats were occupied by those who refused to listen and they were stranded outside the doors.
I saw some of my faculty colleagues who had publicly acknowledged that they had not read anything Dr. Murray had written join the effort to shut down the lecture. All of this was deeply unsettling to me. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in student eyes from up on that stage. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn’t look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being. There is a lot to be angry about in America today, but nothing good ever comes from demonizing our brothers and sisters.
Congratulations, Middlebury students and faculty. Now, whenever we point to the braying, fact-challenged mobs at Trump rallies (and yes, Sullivan spends the rest of his column summing up the week in Trump’s assault on reason and facts), they’ll be able to point to incidents like this, in which an intelligent, progressive woman was physically attacked for daring to listen.
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