Friday, December 3, 2010

Canadian University Administrators Teach a Dangerous Lesson: Violence Works

I missed this excellent editorial by Charles Lewis in The National Post about 10 days ago entitled "Mob Rule on Campus." He notes the decline of the liberal commitment to free speech on Canadian university campuses:

If a mob disrupted a pro-choice speaker at a Canadian university, chances are the protesters would be removed. If a mob disrupted a pro-life speaker at a Canadian university, chances are the speech would be cancelled.

One kind of speech is free in Canada; another kind isn't. Speech broadly characterized as "left-wing" a.k.a. "progressive"--e. g., pro-choice, anti-Israeli, anti-capitalist -- is protected even at its extreme. Speech broadly characterized as "right-wing" a.k.a. "reactionary" -- pro-life, pro-Western, pro-Israel--isn't protected, even when it's moderate.

That "left-wing" speech is protected more rigorously than "right-wing" speech is hardly in dispute. David Frum noted it recently by contrasting York University's warm reception of suspended U.K. parliamentarian George Galloway with its cool reception of the scholar Dr. Daniel Pipes. From pro-life university students arrested (Carleton) to Israeli speakers de-invited (Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu), examples abound. University of Ottawa provost Francois Houle became a bit of a joke for lecturing Ann Coulter, the outspoken American commentator, about visitors needing to conform to the superior civility of law-abiding Canadians, just before a mob prevented Coulter from speaking, while the Ottawa police looked on. . . .

Protecting free expression on the left but allowing its suppression on the right would be unacceptable even if "left" were, in fact, "progressive" and "right" were, in fact, "reactionary," for the Charter guarantees free speech, not progressive speech, and any society that allows the disruption of reactionary speech is no longer free. The equation isn't even accurate, though, for nowadays the right tends to be "progressive" and the left "regressive." But never mind. This only adds insult to injury.
All this is old news, although we should never get used to Leftist violence against conservatives on university campuses. It is a sign of the decline of civility and, indeed, of civilization itself. But what I want to focus on is Lewis's explanation of how this works:

Why are we doing it? First, because these days the left is violent, the right isn't, and it's easier to protect free speech against peaceful protests than violent ones. Second, because the centre-left, in charge of both universities and the justice system, has a soft spot for the far-left from which free-speech deniers are launching their forays. Centrists and extremists of the left are kin under the skin. Left-centrists embrace illiberal institutions from "human rights" tribunals to affirmative discrimination, just like the far-left. While the centre-right is embarrassed by its far-right cousins and disowns them, the centre-left tries to find excuses for the black sheep of its own ideological family.

True-blue conservatives have no trouble arresting neo-Nazis who threaten violence, but lib-left peace-mongers find it hard to arrest neo-Red Guards. It's simpler to silence protested speakers. No wonder the left's book burners are emboldened. When they riot, their opponents are read the riot act. Fertilized by the warm manure of left-wing culture, flowers of hideous hues bloom in the groves of academia, from anarcho-terrorist black to eco-fascist and Islamist green, while helpless taxpayers and hoodwinked philanthropists fork over fortunes to the gardeners.

Lewis has put his finger on two key issues here, besides the hypocrisy of the Left in not policing its extremists. First, the lesson that has been publicly demonstrated very clearly before the world is that "violence works." Violence works in the decadent, late modern West because the political class no longer believes in anything - not even liberalism. To call Allan Rock a political liberal is a joke. He will not stand for individual liberty if it costs him anything.

This leads to the second point, "the center-left is complicit in the actions of the far left." Now, it must be pointed out that given the craven left-wing tendency to bow to the demands of jihadists, it is clear that the center-left is willing to give in to whomever employs violence relentlessly. But it likes giving in to socialists/anarchists, whom they openly admire and with whom they share many ideological affinities.

The spiritual emptiness at the heart of the ruling class in today's decadent West is the root cause of the decline in free speech in Canada. There is a void there just waiting to be filled by something. The Marxists sense it. The Islamofascists sense it. The actions of university administrators make it obvious.

We Christians must make filling that void with a personal commitment to Jesus Christ through evangelism, apologetics and public witness our highest priority. In so doing we can serve our Lord and benefit our family, our country and our civilization. The alternative to revival is a descent into chaos, violence, war and continued cultural decline.

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