Due process is not the strong suit of mobs. Neither is nuance, open discussion, or disagreement. These inherent defects should be painfully obvious as mobs pull down statues, seize sections of cities, and demand the public approach them on bended knee, literally. Anyone who dares push back, perhaps with a mild tweet saying “All lives matter,” faces immediate censure. If the mob is successful, any offenders will lose their jobs. Feckless employers are all too eager to appease the mob and hope it turns on another target.
In this perilous environment, the most frenzied voices do more than dominate the public square. They monopolize it by silencing dissent. They have received full-throated support from the tech giants that control electronic discussion and the media giants determined to shape the narrative rather than report the news. Twitter and NBC are the poster children for this assault on free and open discussion. Their suppression in the name of “social justice” betrays the idea, best articulated in John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” that competing, divergent views lead to greater understanding and better decisions.
The idea of an open forum, so basic to democracies, already lies a-moldering in the grave of academia, at least in the humanities and social sciences. Imagine applying for a job in Gender Studies and saying you oppose abortions after, say, Week 38. The term for such a person is “unemployed.” Imagine merely calling for a discussion on the pros and cons of affirmative action, taking the negative side, and hoping to win tenure in political science, sociology, anthropology, or history. Bad career move. There is more robust political debate at the Academy Awards.
University administrations are equally rigid. Rejecting affirmative action, questioning the implementation of Title 9, or opposing Black Lives Matter would end your chances of being hired by the admissions office or dean of students at nearly every American university. Yet all of them proudly tout, with no sense of irony, their “office of diversity and inclusion,” fully staffed and generously funded. For them, of course, diversity never includes diverse viewpoints. It’s all about DNA and gender identity. Modern universities are now well-oiled machines to stamp out dissenting views. That’s been true for decades. What’s new, and disturbing, is seeing this orthodoxy spread to K-12 education, corporate HR departments, mainline churches, and newsrooms. The “thought police” are on patrol and ever-vigilant, twirling the twin batons of guilt and moral superiority.
Dissent from their approved views is not just considered an error, much less an innocent one. It is considered immoral, illegitimate, and unworthy of a public hearing. Although both left and right have moved steadily toward this abyss, the worst excesses today come from the left, just as they came from the right in the 1950s. Opponents are seen in religious terms, as dangerous apostates who deserve to be burned at the stake, at least [ … ]