Political correctness watchers have had a field day so far in the year 2000, as events from the media flaying of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker to the public vilification of Bob Jones University aptly testify. Clearly, this mindset is now everywhere. However, the most troubling cases are still occurring on university campuses (both public and private), and a disturbing pattern is emerging.
Case One: at Georgetown University, “token conservative” Robert Swope writes a column for the campus’s biweekly student paper The Hoya which denounces a now-infamous radical feminist play, Vagina Monologues, and criticizes Georgetown for sponsoring the play, as it features an alcohol-induced lesbian rape of a 13-year-old girl. Swope’s editor-in-chief, David Wong, pulls the column and gives Swope five hours to produce a replacement. When Swope cries foul, Wong summarily removes him as a The Hoya columnist.
It is worth noting, in passing, that we are talking about a play, produced on the most prestigious campus in the capitol city of our nation, which sends the message that forced sexual contact is acceptable so long as lesbians do it.
Swope had a history of columns critical of affirmative action, diversity engineering, postmodernism, and other mainstays of the politically correct left. Most of those denouncing his columns in letters to the editor were his fellow students. It was a fellow student who threw him off the staff of the student paper.
Case Two: Wendy McElroy recently reported a “university-sanctioned campaign of discrimination” against straight white males which went into effect for a period last October at Michigan State University. White males were told they should not be allowed to use elevators or appear in various other public areas. There were “blacks only” and “gays only” signs posted on cafeteria tables, for example, or on the doors of some of the restrooms. The exercise was voluntary, but enforced through a campaign of intimidation by militant minority students. One student with libertarian leanings, Jason Van Dyke, filed a complaint with the university’s Judicial Affairs Office on the grounds that it violated the university’s own anti-discrimination code.
While the university administration did basically ignore Van Dyke’s complaint, again his most hostile attackers were his fellow undergraduates. McElroy reported how one female student responded to an article of his in the student newspaper denouncing political correctness at Michigan State by telling him to “stop whining about how hard it is to get respect for being a white, Christian man. If you can’t, please do the rest of us a favor and find another place to receive your education.”
In other words, Politically Correct U: Love It or Leave It!
These are just two cases, but I have no doubt there are others, or that others will emerge during the course of this year. No doubt many cases of this sort of thing are never reported, because the lone “conservative” student is either intimidated or decides that swimming against the tide isn’t worth the trouble. What I would draw attention to is the fact that it was neither administrators nor radical-left faculty that took the lead in persecuting lone dissidents from the new campus orthodoxies. Rather, conforming students, whether in positions of some authority like David Wong or simply members of a “protected group,” are acting on their own. They generally have free reign in expressing their views in campus newspapers.
The situation, as I see it, is roughly as follows. The youngest of those who entered colleges or universities last fall were born in or around 1981. These students have few meaningful memories of the Reagan years. They were still basically children when political correctness began its encirclement of the campuses. They are essentially products of the 1990s, the era of the Clinton Regime and the era when PC took over the campuses. Those now moving through high schools and nearing college age have even fewer memories of days when what we aging Baby Boomers thought of as free speech was still acceptable.
We are rapidly approaching a time of generation that will be politically correct by default, because it has never known anything else. The Robert Swopes and Jason Van Dykes of the world will simply be unable to get educations in most colleges and universities. Their fellow students will see to that, and the intellectual cowards that populate most university faculty and administrations will never come to their rescue.
To date, the handful of organizations opposing the spread of political correctness whether in universities or elsewhere in society seem to this writer to have made very little headway. It is true that there are a few identifiably conservative institutions, including a number of Christian colleges. However, with rare exceptions such as Bob Jones University they are invisible, at least as of this writing. When they become visible, they face the usual denunciations: racist, bigot, homophobe, etc., ad nauseam. So far, hardly anyone has handled these denunciations particularly well. The typical “respectable conservative” tends to tuck his tail between his legs and cower like a scared dog before a fearsome master. Naturally, in this environment, the PC left does what it wants, and the students pick up the lesson: power is what matters, and intimidation is the way to wield it.
We had better figure out a new strategy before we witness the coming of age of a Brave New Generation: a generation not just unfamiliar with this country’s founding principles but with anything except Orwellian “right think.” These kids will willingly help institute totalitarian conditions akin to those which held sway in the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Lest this seem alarmist, let me point out that when some of us warned back in the early 1990s that political correctness would run roughshod over read education if not opposed, we were mostly ignored — at least by those who had the power to do something. Now, it is probably too late for the more visible colleges and universities in America. They have not simply become bastions of intellectual totalitarianism, they are filling up with student cheerleaders for the totalitarian mindset.
Intellectual fascism taking over America? Do not say it can’t happen here, because we are getting closer all the time, and not even by stealth. Its advocates are operating right out in the open, and on their home territory — the campus — they are practically unopposed.
April 21, 2000
Steven Yates has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1994). He lives in Columbia, South Carolina and works as a freelance writer and researcher.