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Oct 24, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com
They prefer fists and fires over words, but to what end?
Recently, the University of California at Berkeley paid approximately $600,000 for security so their chapter of Young Americans for Freedom could host conservative pundit Ben Shapiro without riots breaking out. Similarly, Reed College was forced to cancel the first meeting of its core "Introduction to Humanities: Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean" class -- which has been mandatory for freshman since 1943 -- after students objected that the course was Eurocentric and racist, and disrupted its classes. These protests are increasingly common on college campuses. They're almost always carried out in the name of denying alleged oppressors a platform to spew "hateful" rhetoric.
But it's a recent incident at the College of William and Mary that provides the best window into the disruptors' way of thinking. A speech by a representative of the ACLU was interrupted by protesters who objected to the group's defense of First Amendment rights for everyone -- including white supremacists -- and demanded zero tolerance for views they deem unacceptable. If one sorts through their various chants and screams, it becomes readily apparent why they reject free speech: they view it as an inherently conservative institution that stands in the way of "progress."
The best label for these students is "Jacobin," even if it's unlikely many of them would refer to themselves that way. Historically, the Jacobins were a faction in the French Revolution that carried out the Reign of Terror and orchestrated the genocidal suppression of the reactionary Catholic and Monarchist counter-revolutionaries. While the original Jacobins are long gone, the spirit of their revolutionary ideology lingers, seeking nothing less than to end evil itself by sweeping away the status quo and replacing it with a new and just order.
Campus Jacobins, like many of their fellow students, see ills like racism, sexism, and bigotry, and desire to end them. However, to the Jacobin mind, anything short of immediate and radical reform is tantamount to colluding with evil. With that in mind, it becomes clear why these students are opposed to free speech and open inquiry: trying to fix things by working out differences through words is a very slow process that allows injustices to continue existing in the short term. In the words of one student, trying to right wrongs through debate merely " tricks you into thinking social problems can be resolved if only people tolerate their oppression just a LITTLE while longer ."
The Jacobins would rather embrace revolutionary violence and tear society apart than tolerate injustices and oppression temporarily while changes are made. In the end that leaves everyone, including the oppressed, worse off. Slow positive change is much preferable to rapid and revolutionary upheaval. As Edmund Burke, the 18th-century political theorist and staunch opponent of the French Revolution, said in his Reflections on the Revolution in France , "mind must conspire with mind. Time is required to produce that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at. Our patience will achieve more than our force."
Burke argues for caution, reflection, and restraint when seeking to make necessary changes, rather than revolutions that lead to more problems that before. This requires humility and the acknowledgement that one might not possess the ultimate answer to a problem. The open and free exchange of ideas is the best way of accomplishing such a task because it allows the aggregation of knowledge and perspectives to arrive together at a general conclusion, rather than violently enforcing one conclusion on everyone. Campus Jacobins have no patience for that; despite their youth and inexperience, they've concluded that they already possess all the information they need, and therefore there is no need for discussion, only compliance with their demands.
Unfortunately, the oft unsaid -- and perhaps unrealized -- implication of the rejection of free expression is that force and violence are the only alternatives to bring about change. If one is so supremely self-assured in one's conclusions that one sees those who hold differing views not as acting in good faith but rather perpetrating evil, then it follows that dissent should not be reasoned or compromised with but rather eradicated. When everyone does not carry out their demands merely because they demand them, the morally absolute are left only with upheaval.
Hopefully, the majority of college students see the destructive path that the campus Jacobins are heading down and choose to defend free speech and open inquiry, which has provided the basis for so much social harmony, despite our differences. If not, the future of civil coexistence looks bleak.
Zachary Yost is a Young Voices Advocate who lives and works in the Pittsburgh area. Hide 20 comments 20 Responses to Neo-Jacobins Demand Zero Tolerance, Or Else
John , says: October 23, 2017 at 10:12 pmI have a relative who marches with these clowns, or at least is a fellow traveler. He lamented a few years ago that there was no great protest movement like the sixties to take part in, so he became a campus agitator himself.Harold Helbock , says: October 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm
Likewise, why do the pampered Hollywood elite go out and march against Trump? It is surely not because he threatens their way of life or freedom to hit the casting couch.
The reality is that our country has become so divorced from anything real and meaningful in the lives of most people, particularly sheltered coastal elites and snowflake students, that they are desperately looking for something to gives their lives meaning. It just so happens that the imminent Nazi takeover of the local independent coffee house gives them the lightning rod they need.
Are they dangerous? Sure. Are they potentially going to be a long term problem? Maybe, especially if America begins to split apart at the seams. They're not much different from ISIS, outside of a lack of religion. I don't think they are going to effect the widespread social change they want, other than hastening the collapse of the higher ed bubble as parents begin to hesitate sending their kids to these schools.The German National Socialists were just like the Jacobins. They had different ideas about what they wanted but their methods were identical. We need to be much less "understanding" of the current crop of fascists.Siarlys Jenkins , says: October 23, 2017 at 11:03 pmA modest contribution from a Burkean Bolshevik:Bill Johnson , says: October 23, 2017 at 11:07 pm
The Jacobins would rather embrace revolutionary violence and tear society apart than tolerate injustices and oppression temporarily while changes are made.
Unlike the original Jacobins, who were a product rather than the progenitors of a revolution that followed nobody's plan or principles, these "infantile disorders" as Lenin would have called them are puffed up fish in a very small pond. They have no mass base to support any kind of upsurge, peaceful or violent, and they wouldn't last long outside their campus cocoons. They wouldn't last long there if, e.g., Reed College would simply expel any student who disrupted a scheduled class. Think John Reed would have a problem with that? Joseph Stalin wouldn't.Classic moron conservatism. Left's war on "bigotry" and "hate" is legit, just needs to be slowed down a littleEliteCommInc. , says: October 23, 2017 at 11:27 pmI take it then that you reject the violence of the founder's revolution.Fran Macadam , says: October 23, 2017 at 11:50 pm
Which i why i take the poition that the founders were not conservatives or conservatives who temporarily threw off reason . . . a temporary losing of their rational selves.
s you say according to Edmund Burke,
" . . . mind meets mind . . ."We'll find out if it has to play out unto Thermidor.cka2nd , says: October 24, 2017 at 2:45 amI've dealt with a lot of progressives and radicals over the years who dismissed the need for long-term thinking and planning and demanded immediate action and immediate responses from those in power, and I've often been critical of such thinking and of activism that seemed to be more about you making yourself feel useful than about really changing things. I can't say I've been right every time, but overall, I'm comfortable with that perspective.cka2nd , says: October 24, 2017 at 3:29 am
However, Mr. Yost, you make some very broad generalizations when you say that "revolutionary violence In the end leaves everyone, including the oppressed, worse off." Revolutionary violence contributed to the raising up of the French peasantry that left it, as a class, far better off than it was under the Old Regime. The French Revolution was also defended by mobilized masses who defeated virtually every army that the European monarchies threw at them, and inspired the eventual replacement of monarchy by republican forms of governance, which begs the question whether many Frenchmen thought that revolutionary violence had been, on balance, worse for everyone.
I could make similar arguments about the American, Russian and Chinese revolutions – as horrible as the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-61 was, Maoist China still increased lifespans and improved overall quality of life more than India did in the same period – but let's move on to your argument that "Slow positive change is much preferable to rapid and revolutionary upheaval."
Generally speaking, I would agree with you, but if the change is snail-paced or virtually non-existent, and if the powers that be have proved resistant to Edmund Burke's "union of minds," then patience is just a fool's game. I've had friends argue that chattel slavery would have died out within two or three generations of the American Civil War, so the enormous waste of the war was unjustifiable. Yet the slaveowners were working actively against that fate, expanding the practice to Texas and looking to extend it further west and south, including into a conquered Mexico. Nor were they afraid of violating free speech rights or bending the Constitution and laws of the Republic to their benefit.
I, too, appreciate caution, reflection, restraint and humility, and the open and free exchange of ideas, but I also recognize that consensus does not always happen, no matter the quality of the debate and the mutual regard of the debaters. Most orthodox Trotskyists I know do not support shouting down or "no platforming" political opponents, even ones we may consider racist, homophobic or just bat-sh*t crazy (Ann Coulter, come on down!). But right-wingers with a history or current practice of violence are another story, which is why you'll see Trotskyists and other Marxists organizing for a MASS response when the Klan or the neo-Nazis are in town, ready and willing to help the masses drive them from the streets.
My problem with so many young "social justice warriors" today, and their mentors, is that they refuse to make the necessary distinctions between the ACLU – which has defended us, too, you know! – Ann Coulter and the KKK. You need to deepen your ability to make distinctions, too, I think.
By the way, the article on Reed College was very interesting and actually somewhat heartening. Thank you for the link.By the way, I read your Op-Ed piece at the Washington Examiner about unions. Sigh.cka2nd , says: October 24, 2017 at 3:30 am
Using seniority as the basis for awarding shifts or making seniority-based pay increases is not the perfect system, but it is the least imperfect one (that's usually an argument that appeals to conservatives, by the way). Along with across-the-board and cost-of-living wage increases, seniority pay can stabilize a workforce, reducing wasteful turnover and staff churning, and leave a better trained and more competent and knowledgeable staff in place. In an ideal world, merit pay would actually reward merit, but in the real world, it usually rewards friends and sycophants. And while any union shop steward can tell you tales of employees they wish they didn't have to defend and who should lose their jobs, due process means that the bosses have rules to follow when they want to fire anyone, including the excellent employee who somehow got under someone's bonnet.
You might also want to brush up on your understanding of "basic economics" as many studies have called into doubt the idea that increased minimum wages decrease job creation, even in those municipalities competing directly with lower minimum wage neighbors. And at some point, yielding to captial's demand for ever lower wages becomes a zero sum game and demands restrictions on capital's power, not on labor's price.
Moving on, if you think workers in highly skilled jobs or unions do not have to fear technological unemployment, I suggest you read about the automation of brokerage jobs on Wall Street and Amazon's on-going effort to automate human responses to language, grammar and thought.
Back to your appeal to "basic economics" – a favorite trope of libertarians, by the way, as if there are not different schools of economic thought, including within capitalist economic theory – if productivity and not unions were responsible for increased wages, why have wages fallen or remained stagnant for the last nearly 40 years even though productivity has gone through the roof while unions have been busted and capital deregulated?
The naivete of you arguing that "learning more skills and gaining workplace experience" is the best way to secure one's future might be charming in a post-Great Recession "gig" economy if you weren't also so insulting as to say that supporting unions means that you "are comfortable with stasis, enjoy having underachieving colleagues, and are largely lacking in ambition." My ambition is for workers, in general, to have a weekend, an annual vacation, paid sick time and personal time off, paid parental leave and wages enough to afford a home, car (and private school if I so choose), which would be a radical break from the employment trends of the last 40 years (so no stasis there).
And if all that and due process rights and solidarity come at the cost of living with the occasional underachieving colleague, so be it. It's not as if the ranks of management aren't filled with incompetents, or that being non-union ensures that all of one's colleagues will know what the hell they are doing. But I'll take the trade-offs that come with unions, thank you, and so would most American workers if they didn't face constant anti-union harassment or the threat of closing down the workplace and losing their jobs if they vote to unionize.Welcome to TAC, Mr. Yost!Thaomas , says: October 24, 2017 at 9:04 amColleges just need to stand firm, hire the extra security if necessary and prosecute those who disrupt if they break the law.KD , says: October 24, 2017 at 9:24 amUnfortunately, as Taleb Nassim has pointed out, in a democracy, the most intolerant groups always win in the end:Stephen , says: October 24, 2017 at 10:16 am
Thinking that we are okay because there is a more tolerant majority is not true. The only way that there will be a balance is if members of the Right exert equal or greater intolerance than the Left.
The irony of the American politics is that the Right is always caricatured as "intolerant" and "bigots" when in fact they are clearly more tolerant and less bigoted than the Left, hence the increasing Leftward turn towards pervasive political correctness.
Further, these folks aren't Jacobins, they are revolutionary throat-slitting Communists in the image of Stalin and Lenin. If they win, there will be mass executions, gulags, and unimaginable state repression.Reading about our privileged "radicals," I'm reminded of Morgan Earp's remark in Tombstone: "They're bugs, Wyatt. There's no live-and-let-live with bugs." It's sad that college administrators are so spineless.Valley Virginian , says: October 24, 2017 at 10:38 amI take it then that you reject the violence of the founder's revolution.Colonel Bogey , says: October 24, 2017 at 11:18 am
"Which i why i take the poition that the founders were not conservatives or conservatives who temporarily threw off reason . . . a temporary losing of their rational selves.
s you say according to Edmund Burke,
" . . . mind meets mind . . .""
They actually were conservatives/traditionalists. If you know history from the beginning of English settlement in America until and through the War for Independence, it is clear that they are. By the time of the Revolution, there were different American ways. Also, the Revolution was sparked by a Constitutional crisis (one of the British constitution). Parliament and King were subverting the British constitution, and interfering in the American ways that had developed since 1607. As M.E. Bradford said, it was a revolution prevented, not made. Essentially, it was a "revolution" to preserve the existing social and political ways of the different colonies."They wouldn't last long if . . . Reed College would simply expel any student who disrupted a scheduled class. Think John Reed would have a problem with that? Joseph Stalin wouldn't."Siarlys Jenkins , says: October 24, 2017 at 11:48 am
I had to check to see whether Reed College could actually have been named for John Reed, but it wasn't, and I don't think Mr Jenkins was implying that it was. But that would have been wonderful irony along the lines of chickens coming home to roost. Now, William and Mary, on the other hand. . . . Name a college after illegitimate usurpers, and see what eventually happens!What cka2nd said.Colm J , says: October 24, 2017 at 12:26 pm
Darn, Colonel Bogey, we've agree twice this month, and now you go trashing the Glorious Revolution. Very much in character though.
I believe that John Reed was related to the family that gave Reed College its name, but no, he wasn't a founder nor was it named after him.
Further, these folks aren't Jacobins, they are revolutionary throat-slitting Communists in the image of Stalin and Lenin.
Most of them are anarchists, and not particularly ideological anarchists at that. They have some commonality with the Red Guards in China -- which the communist party eventually had to forcibly dislodge from their roost on the campuseses, but they lack the administrative ability to maintain a Guglag. And they also lack a mass base.
(Captcha is going crazy again. Rein it in.)This piece gives Antifa way too much credit for sincerity. Antifa never attack the rallies of Neocon politicians, or those of Democrat liberal interventionists – even though these folks' wars kill more non-whites in a day than the the various Klan groups managed in 150 years. And they never attack the meetings of the Israel first politicians in both parties – even though Israel is an open andMM , says: October 24, 2017 at 1:33 pm
It's quite clear therefore that Antifa are not an anti-racist group, but rather the street enforcers of the global super-capitalist class – whatever their ludicrous jargon ridden manifestoes may claim to the contrarySome more recent developments:oath keeper , says: October 24, 2017 at 2:14 pm
09/29/17: Berkeley Antifa stalks Republican students at dinner
09/27/17: Antifa Leader to White Ally: "If You're White, You're Inherently Racist It's In Your DNA"
09/14/17: Criminal Justice Professor Justifies Antifa Violence And Jokes About Dead Cops
08/28/17: Dartmouth professor calls Antifa violence "vital" form of "collective self defense"
08/25/17: Black Trump Supporter Sucker Punched By Antifa: If Situation Were Reversed, "I Would Be In The Spotlight On CNN"
08/17/17: Antifa Injures Reporter, Blames Him: "You Do Not Have the Right to Treat Us This Way"
Leaving aside the delicious irony that a self-described anti-authoritarian and anti-racist movement is itself explicitly authoritarian and racist, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Professor Robert Reich, formerly of the Clinton Administration and strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, considers this whole pheonomenon, all of it, to be nothing more than a right-wing false flag operation:
Absolutely gorgeous"The reality is that our country has become so divorced from anything real and meaningful in the lives of most people, particularly sheltered coastal elites and snowflake students, that they are desperately looking for something to gives their lives meaning."PR Doucette , says: October 24, 2017 at 2:23 pm
True enough. Sadly, there's a conservative version of this which is just as sick, un-American, and divorced from reality. And you can find it in certain places in the "heartland". For example, this law in Texas that you can't get hurricane relief unless you sign a document swearing not to (wait for it) boycott Israel . Whoever thought that one up ought to be deported to Tel Aviv and have their US citizenship revoked.We all need to stop and take a breath and remember back to when we were in school. As a member of the so-called Boomer generation I can well recall the protests over everything from civil rights, the war in Vietnam, and whether somebody with socialist/communist sympathies should be allowed to speak on campus and how parents, the press and politicians of that time were sure that all these protests a sure sign that America was going to hell in a hand basket. Well guess what? The vast majority of those young Boomers who directly or indirectly supported all those protests have become the biggest defenders of the status quo and now bemoan that their children or grand children are protesting against the status quo.TheIdiot , says: October 24, 2017 at 3:21 pm
Instead of bemoaning that some of the protesters consider a course on democracy to be euro-centric as a sign of the decay of youth perhaps the better response would be to admit that yes the course is euro-centric but ask for examples of any other culture that has made any significant contribution to our understanding of what democracy means today. Just as the concept of the zero in math was developed by Arab mathematicians, many cultures have made contributions to society but in the case of democracy, for better or worse it was European thinkers who developed the concept of democracy.
Instead of worrying what the demands of today's protesters mean for the future we would be wise to remember that in youth all issues have hard edges and that just like we Boomers today's protesters will become the next generation to face the protests of their children and they will be just a perplexed by some of their protests.cda2nd, you speak well for the left. As a Burkean conservative, I'm glad to hear your voice. While we likely disagree on solutions, we likely agree on the problems.
The real reason for all this craziness is our federal reserve. It has allowed this rampant crony capitalism that keeps the government from reining in monopolies. It allows governments and corporations to live beyond their means while holding the average Joe down. Not having real money has kept wages stagnant while financial assets and political contributions have continued to rise. It is the Feds fault. They have insulated us from a realistic risk-reward environment.
In order to make the world safer, first you need to make it more dangerous.
We try to keep everyone safe by eliminating the consequences of unsafe behavior. Better for there to be consequences for acting unsafely. In Pittsburgh for instance, Mr Yost will recognize, people don't text and drive. It's too dangerous; they might die.
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