When a picture is worth a thousand nervous breakdowns
Students at Middlebury college woke up on February 28 to a jarring sight in their campus newspaper: a full-color photograph of Satan – or, since they don't believe in stuff like that, controversial political scientist Charles Murray.
Also displayed in the photo was Professor Allison Stanger. Murray and Stanger were walking out of a lecture the former had just given at Middlebury last year when the two were assaulted by some woke students. Stanger received a concussion and had to wear a neck brace.
The editor of the newspaper was terrified that the mere sight of Murray would be a traumatic, triggering event for many students and felt compelled to explain himself in an editorial:
I wish to explain the photograph on page A1 to the readers. I recognize that it may be especially jarring, particularly for students of color who feel that Charles Murray's rhetoric poses a threat to their very humanity. I also recognize that Murray's visit to campus last March is an open wound for a campus trying desperately to move forward from it.
During a heated debate in the newsroom on Tuesday night, most of the section editors, and the managing editor, said that running this photograph would be inappropriate. Though I deeply respect the input of my editors, I decided to run the photograph anyway. I take full responsibility for this decision. It was mine alone, and any criticism should be directed at me alone.
This photograph is not meant to troll, or to cause pain, but to ask how that protest still lives with us today, one year later. For many, this image is burned in our collective memory. As much as we try to distance ourselves from that moment, we are made from it.
I recognize that running this photograph is a political act. Yet I see no way to comprehend this institution without seeing ourselves as part of American society, which is itself political.
I also believe moving forward requires looking inside, however unpleasant that may be. We cannot escape our history. We can only confront it.
Ethan Brady is the editor in chief.
Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, had a choice tweet in response:
How about confronting that the woman in the photograph you can't bring yourself to name suffered a concussion and a neck injury that she still lives with? https://t.co/Xs8ZpxfkEk pic.twitter.com/iNxNiGKE7W
– Charles Murray (@charlesmurray) March 4, 2018
Just another example of mind-blowing stupidity on campus? More proof that many college students will be unable to function in a society that doesn't care how woke they are?
Yes, and more. Hit and Run's Robby Soave explains:
Even if one accepts the claim that Murray's rhetoric somehow constitutes a literal attack on marginalized students – a ridiculous claim, to be sure – a mere picture of him is not an expression of violence. Wouldn't it be useful to show a photo of Murray, even if the only point was to criticize him? This is verging into He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named territory.
It's worth keeping in mind that the people who think Murray's words are violence were the ones who physically assaulted him and Stanger while they fled the chaos last year. Stanger ended up in the hospital with a neck brace. You might say that makes the students hypocrites – they're against violence, and yet they engage in it – but I know from speaking to leftist students that the most radical activists would say there's no tension here. They do not recognize a difference between words and actions, so when Murray and his problematic racial views came to campus, he essentially threw the first punch. The students' violence was an act of self-defense, in their opinion.
The college-students-are-all-delicate-snowflakes charge is often leveled unfairly. But a bunch of young newspaper editors cowering in fear of printing a picture of Charles Murray is a reminder that there's at least a kernel of truth to it.
Students are terrified of a picture because someone told them to be. "Marginalized" students may not give a crap if a picture of Murray is shoved in their faces – until those who feed off the power it gives them to manipulate emotions say they should be. Minorities, feminists, gays – any group told they are "marginalized" – are, in fact, in complete control of campus thought. They are not snowflakes or marginalized in any way. They are dominant.
We all know that few if any students are bothered by a picture of Charles Murray. What they're terrified of is not "feeling" the correct amount of outrage at what they're told to be outraged about. If they don't hate the target of the day enough, their own place in the community of the oppressed may be questioned.
This is not about social activism. It is a classic exercise in how to wield power.