Lords of the Flies: Wokism and the University

Let’s begin with the understanding that there is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment. That has been settled law since the Founders first signed the Constitution of the United States in 1787. Yet, on college campuses all across the United States, the First Amendment rights of commencement speakers have been repeatedly violated by those who think they have a First Amendment right to forcefully silence any speech they don’t like.

To demonstrate the absurdity of this response, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel cites her five-year-old daughter’s definition of the First Amendment: “Free speech is that you can say what you want -- as long as I like it” How have we arrived at the point where so many of our college-educated citizens now have the perspective of a five-year-old?

This trend became downright embarrassing during the spring of 2014 when such prestigious institutions as Brandeis University, Rutgers University, Smith College, and Haverford College all failed to protect the First Amendment rights of their invited commencement speakers, especially since each guest speaker represented some allegedly persecuted minority -- religion, race, gender or gender preference. In other words, these incidents had nothing to do with identity politics.

What, then, is this all about? What do these distressed college students and pusillanimous administrators really want? Do they want everybody else just to sit down and shut up? That’s what one flummoxed Midwestern mom must have thought when she wrote this letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in 2014:

“Due to the rash of powerful, accomplished women being disinvited from commencement activities at notable U.S. universities, I wanted to offer my services to speak in their stead. As an anonymous middle-aged suburban mother, I have absolutely nothing to offer. I promise to say nothing of import, offend no one, challenge no collective wisdom or create any controversy. Like all (desirable?) commencement speakers, I promise to be utterly forgettable.”

When even the benign voices of Charles Murray, Betsy De Vos, and Mike Pence became triggers for barbaric outrage in the spring of 2017, it was obvious this trend was getting completely out of control. Writing about her own experience at Claremont-McKenna College, Heather Mac Donald warned that others should always “expect ‘traumatized’ students to try to disinvite any remotely conservative speaker… This soft totalitarianism,” she explains, “is routinely misdiagnosed as primarily a psychological disorder.” Instead, she argues, it is “at root” ideological.

But this diagnosis may be too generous, for it attributes some level of rationality to such primitive responses. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson may have identified the nature of this problem more accurately when he recently observed, "Violence is what separates politics from war… It's when hurt feelings become dead bodies, the point at which countries become ungovernable."

Those who have seen the video of Betsy De Vos’ futile attempt to address the graduating class at Bethune-Cookman University in May of 2017 will understand how scary this level of tribal behavior really is. It’s like watching a snuff film rendering of Lord of the Flies. In witnessing such an event, one can’t help asking, “Who stole the conch?” 

Writing of this event, also in May of 2017, Wall Street Journal, African-American columnist Jason Riley has provided a chilling account of the deliberate planning behind this incident: “The petition that garnered more than 50,000 signatures opposing Mrs. DeVos’s commencement address wasn’t started by students and alumni but by the Florida affiliate of the National Education Association, the nation’s biggest and richest teachers union. And it was a state chapter of the NAACP that hired lawyers for the effort and actively helped organize the protests. Both the teachers union and the civil-rights organization oppose Mrs. DeVos because she supports school choice. Never mind that large majorities of black families have long sided with the secretary on this matter, according to polls.”

Meanwhile, President Trump toured the Middle East to enlist the Muslim world’s support in the war against terrorism. In the minds of the sore loser Democrats here at home, it is President Trump who has stolen the conch.

But let’s remember how Golding’s novel ends when adult conceptions of law and order prevailed and, yes, the good guys won!

During his CPAC speech in Orlando on February 28, 2021, President Trump said we can do it again in 2024 because “We’ve become the Party of Love.”

That’s good enough for the millions of us who voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020. We all just have to remind ourselves of what Pope John-Paul told us more than 40 years ago: “Be not afraid.”

Image: Montecruz foto