“Men without chests” is C.S. Lewis’s great description in The Abolition of Man of the type of human soul that modern relativism would produce. The complete quote is: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” Right now this applies to the increasing number of liberals who are wringing their hands over the fact that we have a problem on college campuses. Do tell!
Our first witness is Bari Weiss, an editorial writer for the New York Times, who wrote a piece on June 1 entitled “When the Left Turns On Its Own,” noting with dismay how the crybullies of Evergreen State College had turned so viciously on Bret Weinstein, a Bernie Sanders-supporting professor. Weiss even admits that Allan Bloom was right about the fecklessness of college administrators (which merely makes Weiss a very slow learner):
Watching the way George Bridges, the president of Evergreen, has handled this situation put me in mind of a line from Allan Bloom’s book “The Closing of the American Mind.” Mr. Bloom was writing about administrators’ reaction to student radicals in the 1960s, but he might as well be writing about Evergreen: “A few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.”
Now administrations have become passive adjuncts to the student and faculty jackals, who will always be able to run circles around the lumbering administration bears.
Liberals shouldn’t cede the responsibility to defend free speech on college campuses to conservatives. After all, without free speech, what’s liberalism about?
Apparently, liberalism is not about doing anything serious to remedy the sorry state of affairs on campus. Weiss nowhere makes any suggestion about disciplining or expelling students who act to stifle free speech or constrict academic inquiry, or shutting down the politicized departments that breed leftist intolerance, or closing administrative offices that incubate the entitled victim mentality. (That’s what Ohio State did last year when it threatened to expel students occupying an administration office. It worked, and I haven’t heard of subsequent nonsense occurring in Columbus.) Weiss seems to think that a hard-hitting op-ed in the Times will suffice. This’ll show ’em!
Our second witness of another Timesman, Frank Bruni, who offered up his own handwringing on Friday in “These Campus Inquisitions Must Stop.” Here, finally I thought, we’ll hear some suggestions for how to stop his madness, which Bruni correctly decries. But nope, Bruni offers nothing beyond his headline. His conclusion is as equally inconclusive as Weiss:
I asked [Evergreen president] Bridges about the epithets hung on Weinstein. He said that such terms are being deployed too readily and casually.
“Using the word ‘racist’ halts the conversation,” he said. “It just ends it. It doesn’t explore the beliefs, the values, the behaviors that comprise individuals.”
Isn’t he, too, being characterized as racist?
“Of course,” he said. “It’s just the way discourse goes these days.”
Of course? What a sad state of affairs. And what a retreat from anything that we could really call “discourse.”
A sad state of affairs that Bruni, like Weiss, offers no remedy for, because they lack the stomach, let alone a chest, to take any serious steps.