Monday, April 10, 2017

Mob Tactics

It seems that on at least some American campuses giving one's political or ideological opponents the courtesy of a respectful hearing is an obsolete virtue. Free speech and respect for others is evidently passé.

The rule today seems to be that when the other fellow has facts and you don't, or your facts aren't very convincing, then you should scream louder than the other guy and drown him out so that others can't hear that his position is stronger than your own or that your own position is intellectually vacuous. Another useful tactic to hide the weakness of your own position from others is to demonize your opponent so that people are apriori disinclined to give him a hearing.

At any rate that seems to be the strategy being adopted by leftists on campuses across the country from Berkeley to Middlebury to, lately, Claremont McKenna.

One amusing aspect of the Claremont affair is that the protestors probably don't even know who the woman whose speech they were protesting is and almost certainly never read her book. They just know that they can't allow an intelligent, articulate and accomplished woman whose work undermines some of their most cherished beliefs to be allowed to expose her audience to facts. Facts, after all, are dangerous things which may actually influence the people who hear them.

Here are some of the details of what happened at Claremont from an article at HeatStreet:
An “angry mob” of protesters effective shut down a speech by a pro-law enforcement scholar at Claremont McKenna College on Friday, surrounding the building, screaming obscenities and banging on windows. Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, who is promoting a book called The War on Cops about the Black Lives Matter movement, was forced to give her speech on livestream – to a largely empty room — and then to flee the University building under the protection of campus security when things got really scary.

Black Lives Matter activists had planned the protest ahead of time, posting on Facebook that they intended to shut down the “anti-black” “fascist” Mac Donald. Their event called Mac Donald’s work “fascist ideologies and blatant anti-Blackness and white supremacy,” and claimed that “together, we can hold CMC accountable and prevent Mac Donald from spewing her racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, fascist agenda.”

Mac Donald’s book, released amidst heightened tensions between the black community and the police, argues that better community policing, and familiarity with neighborhoods could reduce crime. She suggests that law enforcement officials actually believe that “black lives matter” more than activists do, and that the narrative that police are “racist” is making minority communities less safe.

The nuances of her argument, however, fell on deaf ears at liberal Claremont McKenna college, and when the time came for Mac Donald to give her speech, protesters (who included what appear to be middle aged activists alongside college students) ringed the building, chanting a range of slogans including, “From Oakland to Greece, f– the police” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Mac Donald then moved her speech to a livestream, but when the chants turned into threats, and protesters began banging on the windows, campus police had to escort Mac Donald out of the building, escaping through a kitchen and into an unmarked police van outside.

Student journalists covering the event told Campus Reform that they, too, were under attack, particularly one writer who tried to interview protesters about Mac Donald’s book. When it became clear they weren’t familiar with her work, the mob got violent.

“Protesters tried to prevent me from conducting interviews by pushing me, grabbing me, and blocking my camera. Several protesters followed me around for almost an hour and formed a wall around me,” the student said.
It's a pretty good rule of thumb that when a group tries to shout down ideas they don't like, when people resort to attacking the speaker with slurs and name-calling rather than addressing the speaker's ideas, it's because they know that they don't have reason and logic on their side. They realize, if only intuitively, that their opponent's arguments are stronger than their own and to mask their own inadequacies they must prevent those arguments from being heard.

This is the sort of behavior that arises in an environment in which truth is no longer considered to be an objective reality but is instead thought to be nothing more than a strongly held set of beliefs or prejudices. Students who opt for the tactics of the mob can't defend their "truth", apparently, but they're fervently convinced that they're right and that anyone who disagrees must be wrong. And when you're right why allow false views to spread and contaminate others? Such is the reasoning of mobs and of ignorant fanatics.