Students Act like Little Fascists Because They Refuse to Grow Up

It’s no secret that elite university campuses are hostile to a broad swathe of ideas and that many enrolled at them often reject with a zealous fanaticism any ideas that are even slightly to the right of those of Bernie “I Have Three Houses But You Need To Pay More In Taxes” Sanders. The latest victim of the now all-too-common displays of intolerance by campus progressives is Heather Mac Donald, a leading authority on race and policing. Mac Donald was slated to speak at both UCLA and Claremont McKenna College in the last several days about her recent book, The War on Cops, in which she carefully defends the thesis that “There is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police.

It’s critically important to note, partisan politics and ideologies aside, that it’s not at all obvious if that key contention of Mac Donald’s (or the many others she makes) is correct. No person can possibly conclude that she’s wrong by merely thinking about the matter in isolation—let alone by surrendering their critical thinking skills as the price of admission to join a wannabe jackbooted mob. To refute her requires evidence, logic, and open discussion to test out alternative theories. At minimum, it requires reading her book and listening to her talk.

But the students at these two elite colleges, bless them, were not in the mood to do either thing.  No. They cared only to smear Mac Donald (wholly without argument) as a “notorious white supremacist fascist”—all in the name of  “social justice.” What is needed in response to these lawless individuals’ dangerous foolishness is for consequences to be meted out so that universities, little by little, can be restored to their essential purpose: the pursuit of truth. But that appears very unlikely to happen, unfortunately.

By now, sadly, this is a familiar pattern. Right-leaning groups invite a speaker who may or may be situated on the political Right but who, the campus Left alleges, espouses some ostensibly “conservative” positions (read: positions intolerable to the political Left’s sensibilities); social justice activists (sometimes infiltrated by outside forces, sometimes not) do everything in their power to shut down the expression of those views; university administrations give mealy-mouthed defenses of what should be universally acknowledged as a sacrosanct commitment for a free society: free speech. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.

Because of this spinelessness on the part of college officials, there is another dangerous mindset on campuses that gets far too little attention but which is equally pernicious and which I have seen firsthand. Students don’t have to gather together in a mob and shout down or even physically assault those with whom they disagree—as some did in the Charles Murray/Allison Stanger case at Middlebury—for there to be a chilling effect on speech. Such a chilling occurs whenever there is an unwillingness to boldly and explicitly assert, at an institutional level, an ironclad commitment to free inquiry. The absence of this kind of affirmative declaration and commitment to free speech is just as  detrimental—albeit in a more subtle way—to campus life and to students’ intellectual growth.

I attempted to rectify that glaring weakness at my own University of Michigan in recent days by putting forward a resolution to bolster our institutional commitment to free speech, at least at the student leadership-level. It was defeated by an embarrassingly wide margin when it was put before the Central Student Government.

I won’t spend significant space recapitulating the arguments I proffered in defense of free speech, other than to say, briefly, why it’s important to protect it. It’s necessary if we want to find out what is really true, actually understand the why of what we believe, protect ourselves against rigid and dangerous group-think, and have any hope at all of combating bad ideas. I want to now focus on the central question: Why are my peers are so resistant to affirming their commitment to free speech, a concept which protects all persons’ right to speak, engage, and learn from one another—a concept which ought to be non-partisan?

For a while I believed them to be too fragile—too delicate emotionally, psychologically, and maybe even physically—to handle hearing opposing viewpoints articulately stated. I was forced to abandon this view after I watched in horror as young adults at Berkeley rioted and destroyed property to prevent a scheduled speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, from sharing his message.

Even then I assumed the progressive students were simply unaware of the many powerful arguments in favor of free speech and were also unaware of why free speech is critical to the maintenance of a free society. Again, I was forced to rethink this view when I realized, at least in the case of Berkeley, that some were comfortable justifying the suppression of words with thuggish (in this case, anti-Milo) brutality in a series entitled “Violence as self-defense.”

I have concluded that what explains students’ reliable recourse to these quasi-fascist tactics (to be frank, there’s really no other way to describe these sorts of inexcusable behaviors) is simple. They refuse to be molded and to grow into mature citizens.

Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government at Harvard University, has said, “Conservatism is more tolerant than liberalism.” Why? “Because conservatives don’t expect that liberalism is going to disappear; whereas liberals expect that conservatism will disappear.” I think this is exactly right. Progressives are so certain of their moral righteousness and of the unassailability of their intellectual postures that they feel supremely comfortable resorting to force to stamp out or suppress those who think differently from them. They do not feel compelled to articulate their worldview, and anyone who even just dares to question its premises is instantly branded a bigot and cast out of polite society. Theirs is simply the smug position that progress is inevitable, interspersed with nonsensical don’t-you-know-that-the-arc-of-History-bends-toward-justice-and-that-you’re-on-the-wrong-side-of-said-History-if-you-disagree-with-us-type platitudes.  Those who see the world with different eyes are retrograde and backward. Shaking them up—even physically, if necessary—is viewed as a public service and a personal kindness. Better beaten and bloodied than to think cops are actually essential to a well-ordered and free society!

Deep down, they are convinced that if they just deny conservatives enough intellectual, moral, and social “oxygen”—that is, places to speak and disseminate their ideas—we will just disappear. We conservatives might have pity on them and their almost child-like naïveté, except they want to bash our heads in with rocks and light businesses on fire—visiting anarchy and dissolution upon our beloved Western civilization.

They fail to see or to comprehend what I believe is the most important pro-free speech argument: That, by continuously availing oneself of the marketplace of ideas, one learns to think for oneself and to be one’s own person—not merely the puppet of those with great wealth, authority, or influence. As William F. Buckley pithily noted: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” It is simply impossible to become a responsible and upright citizen if one categorically rejects the expression of any views that do not perfectly align with one’s own or deludes oneself into thinking that the pluralistic, wider world is an intellectual and moral monoculture in just the same way as one’s campus is.

Fascists are not people who have been duped into committing horrible atrocities; they are, instead, people who obstinately refuse to grow up and for that reason insist—with brutal violence if need be—that the world parrot back to them their own narrow prejudices and idiotic ideas. Our universities have to do better—for all our sakes.


About Deion A. Kathawa

Deion A. Kathawa is an attorney who hails from America’s heartland. He holds a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a 2021 alumnus of the Claremont Institute’s John Marshall Fellowship. Subscribe to his “Sed Kontra” newsletter.

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26 responses to “Students Act like Little Fascists Because They Refuse to Grow Up”

  1. Universities could end this problem really quickly by enforcing or updating Honor Codes, Academic Codes, or policies to require actual civil discourse on campus and disallow violent and disruptive behavior. Expulsion is appropriate for anyone who creates a violent or threatening atmosphere on campus. Anyone who denies others their rights to present ideas or attend a talk or creates a violent or threatening atmosphere should be subject to immediate discipline, up to and including permanent expulsion and academic misconduct on their transcript.

    It would only take this being enforced a few times to end this non-sense once and for all. But it will not happen as long as staff and faculty fully support this type of behavior, this so-called “activism” or “right to protest” while denying basic rights to others.

  2. All I can say about these little brats is that they haven’t paid any dues in life and don’t have the right to complain about anything. God help them if / when they graduate and have to experience the REAL WORLD. They are going to be in for the shock of their lives !!

  3. Nicely articulated! It’s astonishing to me that a college would see fit not to affirm freedom of speech. How embarrassing for them! A truly free press would take them to task for it.

    • We shouldn’t be surprised.

      Free speech is of little importance when compared to Right Speech. And the Best Speech, like the Best Books: “.. are those that tell you what you know already.”

  4. Doubtful premise. Fascists (which the college hoods are) are not merely reluctant adults; they are members of a movement that, yes, believes in its righteousness, but more, is absolutely intolerant of other viewpoints and believes in the holy writ of violence in furtherance of its cause because they have lost, or never held, any faith in the liberal idea.

  5. Sorry, but that’s completely wrong. It’s not about college
    student fascists, simply because every child grows up wanting to be a fascist. In
    charge. The boss. King. It’s adult society that breaks them of that illusion. And
    it happens all over the world, even here in the US. Just not on our college

    Can you imagine this pitiful, immature behavior taking place
    in our warehouses, manufacturing plants, in trucking, on police, fire or
    ambulance departments? If we can have a mature 21 year old at a big box store
    engaging a customer as an adult, why do we blame similar 21 year old college
    students for “refusing to grow up”.

    The answer of course is not immature students, it’s incompetent,
    flaccid, incapable, and greedy college administrators who won’t act like
    responsible adults. All they need to do is require students who act like
    pre-schoolers to simply behave within cultural norms, or face suspension or expulsion.

    What drives this incompetence? The answer is simple: money.
    Expel students, and the university will lose tuition dollars. Get tough, and
    many high school children and parents will choose another school. Wealthy
    alumni, especially in the ivy leagues, will pull back on their donations,
    shrinking the huge endowment funds these universities have. THAT will reduce
    administrator’s salaries and bonuses. In some cases it will result in loss of lower
    level administrator’s jobs.

    Follow the money. You’ll find the problem has nothing to do with the kids.

  6. At the very least, Heather MacDonald is a collectivist. Claiming that because black people commit lots of crimes makes it fine for police to shoot people who are black really seems to be the extent of her work. She completely ignores the vast numbers of innocents and unarmed people who are killed by police by repeating the number of times that they are exonerated by the system for which they work. Tamir Rice? No problem the grand jury didn’t indict. Sure he was just a child with a toy gun, but he was black and they are really, really bad, m’kay.

    The police in America shoot and kill three times as many people as police officers die on the job. So that includes every time an officer dies in a traffic accident, too. Yet out of these numbers Heather concludes that it is the police being attacked. Every time that police “accidentally” kill someone, they can point to Heather’s work and claim exoneration. “I had to shoot like crazy there is a war on police!” She had better hope that Karma doesn’t exist.

    It doesn’t have to be about race. The BLM movement is wrong because the issue is police accountability, of which there is little. Let’s see if the Oklahoma affirmative action hire suffers any for killing a man because she was “scared”.

    • Who kills more blacks, the police or other Blacks? How many Blacks have already killed someone or are threatening others with death at the time they are killed by the police? Is it an accident, no quotes needed, when a Black is killed by a policeman for self defense? How many Blacks murderers have illegal guns bought by straw buyers which the progressives refuse to enforce? How many Black killers are gang members which progressives refuse to eliminate?

      • Your counting of the melanin content of victims versus killers has noting to do with holding police accountable for their actions. Even if 99.9999999% of all bad things ever done were by “blacks” that wouldn’t make it ok for police to shoot first and ask questions later. Now, I am certain that would be cool in Nazi Germany.

    • No, Ms. McDonald is not saying that because Blacks commit a lot of crimes that it’s fine for police to shoot people who are Black. Rather a twisted reading of her work, wouldn’t you say?

      What she is saying is that because Blacks commit crimes (in particular violent crimes ) at a rate well in excess of what might be expected by normal demographic proportion, it is not surprising that there are more violent encounters between Blacks and Police than a simple 13% demographic ratio would indicate. It also explains the demographic imbalance we find in the prison populations.

      But are you seriously advancing the case that there SHOULD be as many police killings as criminals being killed by police? Would you be happier with a 1:1 ratio? Would that seem, somehow, more righteous to you?

      Please consider: we have ~ 1.1M full-time, law enforcement employees. Of that total, ~ 850K have arrest capabilities. As a group they invest ~ 1.8M police labor hours annually, protecting & serving the other 300M of us, 365 days/year. Within that environment, they encounter approximately 3000 violent crimes every single day.

      So how many annual killings by police in a world in which 1M violent crimes are being committed? Approximately 1200, most of which are deemed ‘justified’ upon mandatory review. Even if we classify every single incident as “questionable”, that still means only .1% of all violent crimes result in the killing of a suspect by police. In other words, we are experiencing only ~.0001% police shooting per police labor hour.

      Of course even one wrong killing is one killing too many, but surely you can recognize that the vast majority of police officer hours are invested without that kind of violence, especially considering that ~ 1300 crimes are committed daily which involve the use of a firearm.

      As for police accountability — absolutely, they should be..and, in fact, they are. That we can all find those highlighted instances of what would appear to be clear abuse by police tells us nothing, really, about the other 850K police officers out there who are NOT being headlined on the nightly news. And most typically we’d also have to conclude, statistics being what they are, that the police officers who are being assassinated are NOT from among those very few who do, in fact, abuse their authority.

    • You know, what would be helpful would be you & your friends considering careers as cops. Why not repair the system from the inside?

      • Because individual officers set police and government policy? I realize that you were just being an idiot but WTF? Either you must be a pig yourself or you can’t complain when they go on a spree that ends up killing innocents?

        Truly repulsive.

      • What a convincing argument. Calling strangers pigs, resorting to WTF, and decrying the “killing of innocents” as one’s final point are all marks of intellectual smugness. Guess you really don’t want to be a cop or know anyone who is. Cops going on “killing sprees” sounds like the Cossacks riding through the shtels. One happened. One didn’t.

      • Your response to “the police should be held accountable for their actions” was “do you want to be a cop?” and then you criticize MY lack of argument? Public school teacher?

  7. Take away the student ID cards. And if they are receiving “free tuition assistance” cut it off. Make them repay all the assistance they received.

  8. More and more it seems Democrats are completely unhinged, irrational beings. They can no longer be trusted to behave rationally in society. We have an entire generation of perpetual bedwetters. I can’t imagine any of these people growing up and having normal lives.

  9. There is no shortage of ignorant fools. Just the fact that people support someone as ridiculous as Bernie Sanders is enough to prove that point beyond a shadow of a doubt!

  10. Where are all the POS liberal trolls calling us Hitlers for even agreeing with this article?

  11. Beyond the students, in all of these recent incidents there have been outside agitators involved who didn’t go to the school. Why are non-students allowed to riot with impunity on campuses? Why are faculty participating without being fired?

  12. I don’t support shutting down speech. I think students should have some control over the speakers that come on to their campuses. The stupid statement that Heather makes regarding police as a government agency being the most dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter should be challenged.

  13. The problem is not today’s but yesterday’s. Those who refused to grow up in the sixties are now in charge. They should have been ejected from the universities back then, for which there was ample cause. But the provosts of the day were too kind, a fault you will never encounter in the Leftist.

  14. Yeah, but…

    As JackHeismann has already noted, “every child wants to be a fascist”. Even more truthfully, every child IS a fascist, a totalitarian, by their very nature, wanting what they want when they want it and they want it NOW, Mom — you got the wrong cereal; what’s wrong with YOU!!

    So yes, you can point at childish fascists — or New Red Guard thugs — who should have — by the time they’re in college — been broken of that totalitarian urge. But if they’ve somehow missed that opportunity, if they’ve been insulated, swaddled, bundled, and protected from life’s countless slings & arrows — if no one, to Jack’s point, has never told them NO, then what you see is not at all unexpected. Big boy & big girl tantrums make a lot more noise.

    But it goes beyond this extended & indulgent childhood totalitarianism.

    You say, ” Universities, little by little, can be restored to their essential purpose: the pursuit of truth.” But is that really, still, the essential purpose of most of our institutions of higher learning, particularly when it comes to the Social Justice agenda? Or have we, instead, adopted NOT the pursuit of truth but rather the indoctrination of truth as our raison d’etre? And if, in fact, we are dealing not with an aborted pursuit of truth but rather the fact of indoctrination, does not that explain much about the ‘childish’ refusal to acknowledge the overwhelming importance of Free Speech?

    Harvard’s Sandra Korn put it thusly in her 2014 paper, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom”: “No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with (anything) that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”? Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes (anything) promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this … does not continue.”

    And though she, specifically, is addressing “academic research”, the sentiment is unmistakable. She concludes: “The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.” Mao himself would be proud.

    Clearly “the pursuit of truth” plays a distant second fiddle to the job of “making our universities look as we want them to look”. Free speech, in that world, is , best case, a distraction from this holy quest — at worst, as with Heather McDonald, Jordan Peterson, and Charles Murray, it stands in stark opposition to “academic justice” and obviously must be shut-down.

    We live in dangerous times.

  15. I like the proposition that today’s liberal university students are simply refusing to grow up. It fits with what I’ve noted – that today’s parents focus almost relentlessly on their offspring, giving them little time or incentive to develop into mature adults. I mean, really, at that point they would lose all their special privileges. Instead of being the objects of adoration, they would be expecting to do the adoring. And the sacrificing, and the total involvement … in someone else. I’m old. My parents maintained their own lives, socialized on their own, joined clubs we weren’t invited to, went out to restaurants without us. We learned that being an adult came with special privileges, and we were eager to gain those for ourselves. Now, I think that is all turned around. Snowflakes, indeed.

  16. I was going to comment on this article about the need for free speech on Facebook, as is my custom…

    …but unless I’m mistaken, I’ve been blocked from commenting on AmGreatness’s FB site.

    So. Yes. I agree. “It is simply impossible to become a responsible and upright citizen if one categorically rejects the expression of any views that do not perfectly align with one’s own or deludes oneself into thinking that the pluralistic, wider world is an intellectual and moral monoculture in just the same way as one’s campus is.”

    Well said.