Recorded on June 3, 2019
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In this episode of Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson is joined by author and columnist Douglas Murray to discuss his new book The Madness of Crowds: Race, Gender and Identity. Murray examines the most divisive issues today, including sexuality, gender, and technology, and how new culture wars are playing out everywhere in the name of social justice, identity politics, and intersectionality. Is European culture and society in a death spiral caused by immigration and assimilation? Robinson and Murray also discuss the roles that Brexit and the rise of populism in European politics play in writing immigration laws across the European Union.
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A former dean of the Yale Law School sounds a warning.
Anyone who has followed the news from college campuses over the past few years knows they are experiencing forms of unrest unseen since the late 1960s.
Now, as then, campuses have become an arena for political combat. Now, as then, race is a central issue. Now, as then, students rail against an unpopular president and an ostensibly rigged system. Now, as then, liberal professors are being bullied, denounced, demoted, threatened, sued and sometimes even assaulted by radical students.
But there are some important differences, too. None of today’s students risk being drafted into an unpopular, distant war. Unlike the campus rebels of the ’60s, today’s student activists don’t want more freedom to act, speak, and think as they please. Usually they want less.
Most strange: Today’s students are not chafing under some bow-tied patriarchal WASP dispensation. Instead, they are the beneficiaries of a system put in place by professors and administrators whose political views are almost uniformly left-wing and whose campus policies indulge nearly every progressive orthodoxy.
So why all the rage?
The answer lies in the title of Anthony Kronman’s necessary, humane and brave new book: “The Assault on American Excellence.” Kronman’s academic credentials are impeccable — he has taught at Yale for 40 years and spent a decade as dean of its law school — and his politics, so far as I can tell, are to the left of mine.
But Yale has been ground zero for recent campus unrest, including a Maoist-style struggle session against a distinguished professor, fights about “cultural appropriation,” the renaming of Calhoun (as in, John C.) College, and the decision to drop the term “master” because, to some, it carried “a painful and unwelcome connotation.”
It’s this last decision that seems to have triggered Kronman’s alarm. The word “master” may remind some students of slavery. What it really means is a person who embodies achievement, refinement, distinction — masterliness — and whose spirit is fundamentally aristocratic. Great universities are meant to nurture that spirit, not only for its own sake, but also as an essential counterweight to the leveling and conformist tendencies of democratic politics that Alexis de Tocqueville diagnosed as the most insidious threats to American civilization.
What’s happening on campuses today isn’t a reaction to Trump or some alleged systemic injustice, at least not really. Fundamentally, Kronman argues, it’s a reaction against this aristocratic spirit — of being, as H.L. Mencken wrote, “beyond responsibility to the general masses of men, and hence superior to both their degraded longings and their no less degraded aversions.” It’s a revolt of the mediocre many against the excellent few. And it is being undertaken for the sake of a radical egalitarianism in which all are included, all are equal, all are special.
“In endless pronouncements of tiresome sweetness, the faculty and administrators of America’s colleges and universities today insist on the overriding importance of creating a culture of inclusion on campus,” Kronman writes.
This is a bracing, even brutal, assessment. But it’s true. And it explains why every successive capitulation by universities to the shibboleths of diversity and inclusion has not had the desired effect of mollifying campus radicals. On the contrary, it has tended to generate new grievances while debasing the quality of intellectual engagement.
Hence the new campus mores. Before an idea can be evaluated on its intrinsic merits, it must first be considered in light of its political ramifications. Before a speaker can be invited to campus for the potential interest of what he might have to say, he must first pass the test of inoffensiveness. Before a student can think and talk for himself, he must first announce and represent his purported identity. Before a historical figure can be judged by the standards of his time, he must first be judged by the standards of our time.
All this is meant to make students “safe.” In fact, it leaves them fatally exposed. It emboldens offense-takers, promotes doublethink, coddles ignorance. It gets in the way of the muscular exchange of honest views in the service of seeking truth. Above all, it deprives the young of the training for independent mindedness that schools like Yale are supposed to provide.
I said earlier that Kronman’s book is brave, but in that respect I may be giving him too much credit. Much of his illustrious career is now safely behind him; he can write as he pleases. Would an untenured professor have the guts to say what he does? The answer to the question underscores the urgency of his warning.
But the glib and fashionable double standard against traditionalists and orthodox Christians isn’t what I have in mind. It’s the far more widespread and fashionable bigotry against the past.
If a visitor from Sudan comes to your house for dinner, it’s simply good manners to make allowances for the cultural differences. If you go to a foreign country, it’s understood by most decent people that you should be making the lion’s share of adjustments to how people do things. The quintessential ugly American refuses to bend to — or even respect — the norms of foreign cultures, norms that can sometimes be ugly, nasty, or backward by a lot of Western standards.
The arguments in favor of deferring to foreign cultures ranges from Emily Post bromides about etiquette to swirling torrents of words about colonial this, patriarchal that, and imperial the other thing. Fine.
The Iowa congressman has been saying offensive things for years but many of his supporters don’t seem concerned.
The Republicans in Des Moines and Washington are doing what they can to run away from and run off Representative Steve King, the Republican from my district, for yet more of his outlandish remarks over white supremacy, nationalism and western civilization — remarks that simply echo things he has said many times over the past two decades in my paper, The Storm Lake Times.
.. A Republican State Senator, Randy Feenstra, a professor at Dordt College with solid Christian conservative credentials, has said he will challenge Mr. King in the 2020 primary. Mr. Feenstra said he stands with President Trump but is not as “caustic” as Mr. King and will not embarrass ever-polite Iowans. Other Republicans are pondering primary runs, too, thinking that condemnation at the hands of the party elite may give them a rare opening.
Not so fast. Mr. King may be wounded, but he remains popular here.
.. “They can’t change my mind about him,” said Cathy Greenfield, a dog groomer adamantly opposed to abortion who lives with her husband, Larry, a teacher and auto body mechanic, in the village of Fonda just east of Storm Lake. “The left has been after him forever. I don’t think he’s a racist. I think he will be successful.”
.. She is not even prepared to consider Mr. Feenstra or anyone else. Ms. Greenfield trusts Steve King, now serving his ninth term.
The same goes for Sue Guntren of Storm Lake, who with her husband, Robert, proudly plants a huge red “KING” sign every two years in her yard along Lake Avenue, the main drag. “We’re sticking with him,” she said. “I’ve never really heard what he did was that bad.”
.. Eric Mosbo took a break from his Snapper dealership to reflect on his support for Mr. King. “I don’t care what the topic is, you have to be able to have an honest discussion about it. King was trying to defend the merits of Western Civilization, not white supremacy. Since only a snippet of his comments were used and the interview wasn’t recorded, the message was twisted around to project an incorrect quote. Reporting events and comments are hard work and the need to be correct is huge.”
.. The congressman has made lots of outrageous remarks over the years. He joked about immigrants being “dirt.” Like Mr. Trump, hebroadly describes Latinos as drug runners and criminals. He said he doesn’t expect to meet any gay people in heaven.
.. Most supporters write it off as “Steve being Steve,” or as the media unfairly being on his case. His son banned or ejected reporters, including from The Des Moines Register, The Storm Lake Times and other publications, from the congressman’s election-night rally, calling them left-wing propagandists.
President Trump does not believe that people — that white men like himself — should have to apologize for their public displays of misogyny or racism. But this isn’t simply because he doesn’t want to give ground to critics out of stubbornness or a fear of displaying weakness.
Rather, the refusal to apologize for these things is itself a political statement, even a statement of values. And you can bet that many of his supporters hear it in precisely this way.
.. This once again displays Trump’s seething contempt for his own voters’ intelligence.
.. He has also complained that aides publicly admitted mistakes earlier this year over their handling of allegations that former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was emotionally and physically abusive toward his two ex-wives. “You should have never apologized,” he told a group of communications aides, according to two people. “You don’t ever apologize.”
You don’t ever apologize, even for failing to perform due diligence on a very senior administration official’s repeated alleged incidents of domestic abuse. But why don’t you ever apologize?
.. Trump and his advisers debated whether he should do a TV interview and reiterate his apology. His advisers handed him language in which he would admit that his vile language (which included boasting about grabbing women by the “p—y”) was “not acceptable for a president.”
But Trump exploded. “I can’t do this,” he raged. “This is weak. You guys are weak.” Once elected, Trump even took to suggesting that the voice on the tape wasn’t his.
.. Trump refused to admit error, and even doubled down, after falsely claiming that “thousands and thousands” of U.S. Muslims had celebrated 9/11.
Then there’s Trump’s birtherism. After spending years spreading the racist conspiracy theory that the nation’s first black president didn’t belong in the White House because he isn’t American, Trump finally admitted the truth. But he falsely blamed Hillary Clinton for hatching the claim and took credit for forcing Obama to reveal his birth certificate, like a sheriff who had thrown a perp against the wall and shaken loose his papers.
.. Trump views racial discord as a positive — the more of it, the better. The whole point is deliberate provocation, both out of genuine racist conviction and the belief that it tightens his political bond with his supporters. Trump pardoned racist Joe Arpaio as “a way of pleasing his political base.” He revived his attacks on football players for protesting racism because this “revs up his political base.” After Trump deliberately stoked racial discord after Charlottesville, Stephen K. Bannon subsequently said it would be a political winner for the president.
A semantic debate is raging over what to call the pens where migrant kids are being held after separation from their parents.
editor Joel B. Pollak wrote a post devoted to criticizing the AP’s word choice. “The AP’s choice of words is only the latest in what appears to be a series of politically-charged word choices by the wire service,” he said, and contrasted the AP dispatch with a story in the Los Angeles Times that described “chain-link fenced holding areas.”
.. Pollak insisted that the correct terminology is “chain-link partition.”.. The Border Patrol, CBS reported, took issue with that description, not because they felt it was inaccurate, but because they were “very uncomfortable” with the implication that the children were being treated like animals... Refusal to call a cage a cage merely because it makes someone uneasy—or, perhaps more importantly, because it is politically toxic—does not transform a cage into a “chain-link partition.”.. Then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said unaccompanied minors would be deported, labeling the practice a deterrent. There was outcry at the time, especially from immigration groups, and the Obama White House was forced to stop detaining families by a court. What is different now is that the children being held are being forcibly separated from their parents at the border. So is the scale of the issue—the Washington Examiner reports that there could be 30,000 such children in custody by August... The administration knew full well that the result would be separations. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions said in May... White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also said in May that the goal was to dissuade unauthorized immigrants from entering. “The laws are the laws. But a big name of the game is deterrence,” he told NPR. “It could be a tough deterrent—would be a tough deterrent.”.. By Monday, she was defending the same policy she claimed didn’t exist, saying in New Orleans, “It’s important to understand that these minors are very well taken care of. Don’t believe the press.”.. This, too, plays games with the truth, suggesting that the reason for the policy is that both parties won’t simply come together to pass immigration reform. But the battle in Congress over reform right now is mostly within the Republican Party, as moderates, conservatives, and leadership in the House fight over how to proceed on immigration... In theory, the falsehoods in these statements ought to be plain—the representations by Donald and Melania Trump and Nielsen are simply wrong, while Sessions and Kelly are more honest, if politically reckless, in their comments.
(By Ben Shapiro)
Young Americans are moving to the left. On virtually every issue, they support the Democratic party.
.. among likely American voters aged 18-29, fully 65 percent supported Democratic control of Congress. Polls consistently show greater warmth for socialism among millennials than their elders, greater sympathy for regulation, and less interest in protecting core constitutional liberties ranging from freedom of speech to freedom of religion
.. “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 40, you have no brain.” We tell ourselves that as Americans age, get married, have children, and pay taxes, they’ll inevitably move to the right.
.. Older conservatives, clutching the Trump presidency like a security blanket, sound less like steady advocates for calm and more like the man questioned about how things are going just after jumping off the top of the Empire State Building: “So far, so good.”
.. among Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), 29 percent considered themselves liberal in 1994; today, that number has shot up to 43 percent.
..Typically, conservatives combat this sort of broad-based political change by pointing out the extremism of the left. During the Carter era, things certainly looked dark for the GOP, but conservatives were able to point out Carter’s incompetence; after Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory, Republicans ran against Hillarycare and higher taxes; after Barack Obama’s landslide 2008 election, conservatives made war on Democrats’ overspending and regulatory overreach.
.. Thought leaders like Ta-Nehisi Coates have sought to replace the blue-collar base of Bill Clinton with the intersectional coalition of Barack Obama, using identity politics as a club against Americans who refuse to admit their “white privilege.”
.. Instead of looking at young Americans vs. older Americans, let’s look at young conservatives vs. older conservatives. The data show that young conservatives tend toward libertarianism on issues like drugs and sex but share the same priorities as older conservatives on fiscal and economic issues.
.. It makes sense, then, that liberal social values have resonated with younger Americans. They believe that the case for religious freedom is actually a case for religious bigotry and think that opposition to same-sex marriage reflects a hackneyed version of Old Testament sexual repression. Millennials were raised on the gospel of diversity and tolerance, not the Judeo-Christian moral standards of their grandparents.
.. But the leftward shift on social issues has infused even young religious conservatives. Forty-five percent of millennial evangelicals said they supported same-sex marriage as of 2014; the numbers are undoubtedly higher now
.. Young conservatives in general are far more likely to support gay rights and marijuana decriminalization as well as openness to immigration. But they’re not embracing gay rights and marijuana decriminalization for the same reasons as liberals. Young liberals embrace the LGBTQ agenda because they believe that the strictures of traditional sexual lifestyles are damaging and intolerant; some even embrace marijuana decriminalization because they think that broadening one’s experiences by smoking pot is a necessary precondition to maturity. Young conservatives are far more likely to support same-sex marriage and marijuana decriminalization because they believe that the government should leave everyone alone.
.. Young liberals call for tolerance because they want to promulgate a lifestyle, in other words; young conservatives call for tolerance because they actually believe in tolerance, even of lifestyle choices with which they disagree.
.. Tolerance is a moral touchstone, then, for young Americans on both the left and the right, but for different reasons.
.. All of which suggests young conservatives have a shot at winning over their friends and classmates: They’re operating in the same moral universe as many of their peers.
.. They’re small government, leave-everyone-alone libertarians. Young conservatives may not care about same-sex marriage, but they’re deeply pro-life and pro-gun.
.. They militantly oppose the myth of a racist, sexist America, even as they condemn individual cases of racism and sexism.
.. An incredible 82 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters between the ages of 18 and 24 say they “want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.”
.. Why don’t young conservatives like Trump? It’s a question that baffles older conservatives. To older conservatives, Trump has been a savior.
.. Yes, he’s rough around the edges and impolitic; he’s crude about women and ignorant about policy. But he’s politically incorrect, and he speaks the language of the average American. What’s not to like?
.. Young conservatives, however, are more likely to see Trump as an obstacle to progress.
.. they see him mainly as a club the left can wield against the right in perpetuity—a political monster living under the bed that Democrats can dredge up every time conservatives seem to be making headway. They cite his egregious response to the Charlottesville alt-right march and subsequent terror attack and his willingness to wink and nod at the alt-right during the campaign; they point to his nasty comments regarding women, as well as his penchant for bedding porn stars; they cringe at his reported comments about immigrants and balk at his nearly endless list of prevarications.
.. Older conservatives judge Trump on his politics; younger conservatives judge Trump on his values.
.. older conservatives already fought the character battle over Bill Clinton, and they carry the scars from that ordeal. They remember arguing that Bill Clinton was unfit for office based on his treatment of women and his perjury, and they remember losing that argument. They remember arguing that character counts, even as Democrats held aloft the banner of “Lion of the Senate” Teddy Kennedy, who left a woman to drown in his car and made waitress sandwiches with fellow Democratic senator Chris Dodd.
.. Older conservatives remember Mitt Romney, the cleanest candidate for high office in modern American history, being destroyed by the media over pure nonsense. Older conservatives weren’t looking for character in 2016. They were looking for a hammer.
.. Younger conservatives, however, still feel that the battle over character is unfolding, which it is—among young Americans. Young Americans are still trying to decipher which party best reflects their moral values. Trump presents a serious problem for young conservatives trying to make the character argument in favor of the Republican party. Young conservatives didn’t see the battle of 2016 as a battle in which character had already lost. They saw it as presenting a question about their own character.
.. Young conservatives want to be able to tell their friends—all future voters, by the way—that they didn’t stand by silently when a candidate of their party said he could grab women by their private parts.
.. Second, older conservatives saw the 2016 election as a cataclysmic event, perhaps, indeed, the end of the republic. Hillary Clinton posed an existential threat to the future of the country.
.. They believed that Hillary, if elected, would usher in a generation-long rule of the hard left.
.. Donald Trump’s victory, in that view, was a miracle of biblical proportions, the hand of God reaching down and plucking a reality TV star out of the realms of cornball theatrics and plopping him into the Oval Office in the biggest upset in political history.
.. Younger conservatives were far more sanguine about 2016. In their view, Hillary would certainly have been a rotten president. But would she bar the door to all future conservative victories? Younger conservatives thought such an outcome unlikely.
After all, Republicans were likely to retain control of the Senate and the House.
Furthermore, Hillary was widely disliked, burdened by scandal, and unpopular even with her own base.
Older conservatives looked at young Americans and saw the end of the country; young conservatives looked at other young Americans and saw the possibility of change.
.. Third, because young conservatives and older conservatives disagreed about the consequences of 2016, they also disagreed about the level of risk to the Republican party.
.. Thanks to the crisis mentality of older Americans, the brand damage done by Trump became of secondary concern;
thanks to the lack of a crisis mentality among younger conservatives, the brand damage done by Trump became a crucial problem.
.. Young conservatives simply couldn’t understand how so many older conservatives were willing to dispose of key planks of the Republican platform to back Trump, or why so many older conservatives who had preached to them about personal values were suddenly gushing over a man who bragged about sleeping with other men’s wives.
.. Young conservatives knew that they were constantly being called racist, sexist, and homophobic by their comrades at school; they had always responded by saying that they and their party were being slandered. And they were right. But here was Trump—a man who, during the election cycle, feigned ignorance about David Duke—providing a custom-made caricature for the use of young liberals.
.. fourth area of controversy between older and younger conservatives regarding Trump: Is Trump an asset in the fight against political correctness?
.. 71 percent of Americans “believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have.”
.. Older conservatives resonate to the verbal brickbats thrown by President Trump. They see him as a bull in a china shop, but he is our bull in their china shop. That’s the reason Trump could so easily escape punishment for political snafus that would have crushed any other conservative. He routinely claimed his own blunderings were the result of his willingness to fight political correctness. “Sure, he says dumb stuff sometimes,” the argument goes, “but he’s also willing to label the New York Times fake news. Nobody else fights like Trump fights!”
.. Young conservatives, by contrast, see Trump’s strategy for fighting political correctness as counterproductive. It’s one thing to attack politically correct viewpoints with data —to “destroy,” in the common YouTube parlance, political opposition through superior intellectual heft. But saying innately offensive things and then justifying those offensive statements under the rubric of political incorrectness actually undermines the battle against political correctness.
.. The left wants to make the case that when conservatives say they’re being politically incorrect, they’re actually covering for their own bigotry; lending that case a helping hand by promoting bigotry under the guise of fighting political correctness does the left’s work for it.
.. conservatives must stop promoting the notion that policy victories translate to political victory. Foolishly hopeful Republican legislators keep repeating the tired nostrum that if they simply pursue solid policy, young Americans will follow—if they pass tax cuts, cut regulation, and build up the military, they’ll stave off the impending generational electoral tsunami.
.. That argument did little to stir older Americans who had been through the political wars; it didn’t upset seasoned politics-watchers who knew that Hillary Clinton was more than a little deplorable herself. But it worked among young Americans, and it will continue to work so long as conservatives’ response is “but Hillary.”
.. So, how should conservatives respond?
They should respond by acting morally and arguing morally.
First, and most pressingly, with regard to President Trump this means condemning bad behavior.
.. Young Americans aren’t judging Trump. They’ve already judged him. They’re judging you and determining whether or not they can ever vote for the same candidates you endorse based on whether or not they admire your character.
.. Second, conservatives must argue in moral terms, and they must use moral terminology young Americans understand. This means learning to argue on secular grounds rather than religious grounds and recognizing that tolerance is a key value to young Americans.
.. Arguing in secular terms doesn’t mean arguing without reference to values. It means arguing against the controlling hand of the left. Capitalism is good because you own your own labor and you have the right to exchange that labor for someone else’s labor and no one has the right to steal your labor from you. Socialism is evil because it says that a third party can tell you what your labor is worth.
.. Political correctness and identity politics are evil because they utilize censorship to box you into a group identity that denies your individuality.
.. Most of all, conservatives can’t lose hope. A crisis mentality breeds poor decisions and short-term thinking that sacrifices long-term interests. We’ve seen discouraging trendlines before. But they can be reversed. In 1976, it would have been difficult to imagine the Reagan Revolution that was just four years away.