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Officials stand silent as Brownshirt tactics make a campus comeback
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Officials stand silent as Brownshirt tactics make a campus comeback

Federal and state elected officials need to use their authority to withhold taxpayer funding and tax endowments to compel colleges and universities to restore and protect freedom of speech.

The situation on campus is becoming more dire with each passing day. Conduct considered acceptable now would have been met with swift reprisals just several years ago. Such is the power of habituation — or, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan aptly put it, “defining deviancy down.” Students are being chased, surrounded, barricaded, verbally abused, spit on, and even physically assaulted.

Of course, the victims are not just any students. The targets are those who don’t conform to the radical left-wing agenda now monopolizing most of American higher education. That means, practically speaking, students who are politically conservative, Christian, Jewish, pro-Western civilization, and/or pro-Israel.

It’s time to stop relying on educational administrators, campus police, and local law enforcement. Citizens need to take matters into their own hands.

Today’s script has become a parody. A student group announces that it will hold an event on campus. Left-wing students and their allies launch online and in-person harassment campaigns in the lead-up to the event. Even though the event was made known weeks if not months earlier, the security presence is inadequate. Left-wing students and their allies, using mob tactics, manage to disrupt the event, force it to end early, or prevent it from happening at all.

One of the authors here (Hammer) experienced this firsthand in November when he delivered a Young America’s Foundation lecture at the University of Michigan on the Israel-Hamas war. He was shouted down for over half an hour. Campus police and university administrators stood silently on the sidelines.

Adding insult to injury, the day after the lecture, anti-Semitic student protesters stormed the office of University of Michigan President Santa Ono, shoving their way past campus police. All this because a Jewish-American sought to deliver a pro-Israel talk shortly after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

'By any means necessary'?

The left excels at spin and manipulation. Consider that these radicals in the quad are supposed “snowflakes,” deeply triggered by even the slightest offenses. They’re the same young people who require emotional support animals, crayons, and freshly baked cookies to deal with the trauma of, for example, a Republican being elected democratically.

When it comes to pursuing power, however, tactics that they would consider “fascistic” are the very ones they adopt. Any and all tactics — “By any means necessary!” — are considered acceptable, even admirable and noble. Ultimately, higher education is churning out scores of nihilistic ingrates.

These left-wing students and their allies are today’s Brownshirts. That’s because they’re not merely silencing speech by preventing people from taking the podium; they’re exterminating ideas wholesale by threatening and harming people who merely want to listen to others speak. That is tyrannical conduct, pure and simple, and it must be treated as such.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Wokeism has many Marxist elements, but on campus it trends more toward fascism.

Yet too many on the right do nothing other than take to social media and the airwaves to gripe about the radicalism and malevolence of the left, often by pointing to horrific videos taken on smartphones. Those videos are captured and disseminated by intrepid investigative journalists, not so the right can merely play the victim but to spur concrete action.

We propose one such concrete action: Hold the ultimate sources of authority responsible for their failure to safeguard not just freedom of expression on campus, but also physical safety.

The reality is that most campus administrators are left-wing ideologues who egg on, endorse, and often quite literally stand alongside the culprits. Unfortunately, campus police and local law enforcement have too often proven themselves woefully unprepared or understaffed for the task. That is certainly what happened at the University of Michigan in November and most recently at the University of Memphis with the appearance of Kyle Rittenhouse.

The solution is to apply pressure to all pertinent elected officials — from mayors and city council members to state representatives and senators to U.S. representatives and senators. Public colleges and universities are, after all, squarely within their domain.

Elected officials must no longer be allowed to pass the buck when egregious offenses occur on campus, especially repeatedly. The common good, which institutions of higher education once existed to promote, demands nothing less.

It is also worth emphasizing that the act of suppressing or silencing another person’s speech — “the heckler’s veto” — does not qualify as protected “free speech” in the Anglo-American legal tradition. Neither does advancing any belief or behavior, for that matter, that is manifestly contrary to the most rudimentary principles of our constitutional republic.

The English common law tradition and the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, who decisively inspired the Founding Fathers, were neither libertarians nor free-speech absolutists. They understood perfectly well that institutions — namely markets, whether of ideas or goods and services — require reasonable guardrails and boundaries.

New speech litmus tests

Expression on campus is uniquely valuable. Thus, efforts to protect it should receive particular attention and extra resources.

First, the campus is an exceptional space in that it was fashioned to facilitate education — meaning the acquisition of knowledge, development of skills, and formation of intellect — through the exchange of ideas.

Second, campus is where young minds and personal character are shaped. Allowing expression to be damaged and destroyed sets a very dangerous precedent for the next generation of citizens who will soon assume control of business, government, and entertainment. At our current trajectory, we are mass-producing conniving radicals, not patriotic citizens.

One way to goad elected officials into to rehabilitating the state of speech on campus is to establish litmus tests for actions we must expect when incidents occur on campus.

Legislators at the state and federal levels must use their subpoena power to call in educational administrators and make them answer for their dereliction of duty — akin to the clown-show triumvirate of Claudine Gay, Liz Magill, and Sally Kornbluth we witnessed on Capitol Hill in December.

Legislators and governors must also wield their power and leverage their influence over state boards of governors and university boards of trustees by either firing culpable actors or forcing them to resign in disgrace.

Additionally, representatives and senators must cut off all federal funding for any college or university that tolerates such shenanigans, singling them out by name for unsavory treatment in appropriations bills so that the message cannot be misconstrued.

Perhaps even more enticing, representatives and senators could enact a confiscatory tax on the endowments of offending institutions and redistribute the proceeds to colleges and universities that protect the constitutional rights of students.

The litmus tests have been outlined. It’s now simple. Elected officials, proceed — or concerned parents and citizens will turn up the temperature with the aim of voting you out of office.

The situation on campus is a crisis. It’s time to stop relying on educational administrators, campus police, and local law enforcement. Citizens need to take matters into their own hands. That means using our remarkable influence in the public square and at the ballot box to remove those who twiddle their thumbs while Brownshirts desecrate American higher education.

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