How did we ever get to “safe spaces, micro-aggressions and trigger words”??

My last post was about the larger context of the London Bridge attack, June 5, 2017. It featured Douglas Wilson, my favorite practioner of truly deep critical thinking. Oh yeah, he’s a prolific writer, and also the pastor of Christ Church, Moscow Idaho. This piece doesn’t go as deep but it’s useful for understanding some of the dynamics of how “western” nations (while Britain is the focus, the U.S. is following them into the pit. I believe France, Italy, Spain and Australia are already lost). The following are stories culled from various mainstream news sources, mainly NBC News and the NY Times (so no one can accuse me of conservative bias):

Regarding the most recent London jihadi rampage, “Many people ran but some stood their ground and put up a fight, throwing things at the attackers to try to halt or at least slow their pitiless rampage. ‘People were throwing bottles at them, pint glasses, whatever they could pick up obviously,’ Vowls said. ‘I went, ‘Oi, oi, cowards!’ I remember shouting something like that to them. And then I started picking up bottles, I threw a chair at them a stool, glasses, anything I could get my hands on.’ All of this was happening in the space of just a few minutes.

“By this point, the surrounding area was being flooded by gun-toting police — who make up a small fraction of London’s largely unarmed force.” (MY INSERT Out of every 100 people in Britain, fewer than four of them owns a firearm,  in the U.S. there is more than one gun per person.) “Specialist officers equipped with helmets, body armor and large rifles were seen filling into the Borough Market area and shouting at anyone still around to run away as fast as they could.

“Perhaps believing that the attackers were potentially strapped with explosives, eight different police officers unleashed a hail of 46 bullets. This is in a British policing culture where even firing one round is a big deal, and arrests rarely involve the use of lethal force. Those caught up in the melee didn’t know whether this gunfire was coming from the officers or the attackers themselves.’

LONDON — “Three deadly terror attacks in just 10 weeks have left many Britons wondering what’s suddenly changed and what can be done to reverse the trend. Until March, the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in a London street four years ago had been the country’s most serious Islamist incident since the 7/7 attack on the capital’s transport network that left 52 dead in 2005.

“A total of 33 people have since been killed in vehicle-and-knife rampages on London Bridge and Westminster Bridge in the capital as well as in a suicide bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley told reporters late Monday that five plots had been foiled in recent weeks — in addition to the successful attacks.

‘That is completely different to anything we have seen for a long time,’ he said. ‘As the prime minister has indicated, we’re going to need to do some things differently.’ Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that ‘terrorism breeds terrorism’ and that extremists are ‘copying one another.’ In a speech hours after Saturday’s incident in London Bridge and nearby Borough Market, May vowed to work with ‘allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace’ and prevent propaganda from spreading and attacks from being planned online. She added: ‘We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change … There is — to be frank — far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.’

“NBC News security analyst Duncan Gardham said that while Britain has ‘always had a problem’ with radicalization, ‘the change in tempo [of attacks] is palpable.’ He blamed both the ‘copycat’ mentality and ISIS’ propaganda push, but also said the number of extremists in the U.K. was increasing. ‘When terrorists see one person launch an attack or commit suicide it emboldens them to do the same thing,’ Gardham said. ‘It does seem to give people toying with the idea a sense of bravado to go through with it.”

“He added: ‘The increase in the number of extremists is largely driven by easy access to homegrown preachers and ISIS propaganda on the internet, particularly YouTube. There are very few cases I deal with in which they have not consumed a huge diet of extremist material from mainstream commercial websites.’

“Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, believes the prime minister is ‘flogging a dead horse’ by attempting to crack down on the internet. While social media plays a role, Maher said the online eco-system is very different from what it was even just a few years ago. ‘Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, are acting far more proactively to remove this content, to disrupt it and to make sure it disappears in a very rapid way,’ he said.

Maher had more sympathy for May’s commitment to tackling extremist preaching and ideology within the U.K. “We’ve tolerated really radical speech from all kinds of people who fundamentally preach a message of separateness,” Maher said. “We’ve been far too tolerant in allowing people to simply opt out of being British, to opt out of our society, and to opt out of our way of life.”

“Our way of life.” What is that? Part of it is “tolerance”, for almost anything, but as Doug Wilson said in my last post, “So a culture that does not stand for something will fall to anything. And this is because somebody else with a different brand of ‘shared values’ will come along and say that they like blowing up little girls at concerts.”

NBC news goes on about their “way of life.” “While shootings involving police are relatively common in the U.S., authorities in Britain say they review each one with painstaking diligence. Every time a British police officer shoots and injures or kills someone, it is automatically referred to an separate watchdog called the Independent Police Complaints Commission, or IPCC. Although the officer who shot Wednesday’s assailant has been branded a hero, they too will likely be referred to the IPCC, although that doesn’t mean there will be a full investigation. This process is not without its critics.

Some police have complained that officers are reluctant to sign up for firearms training because they fear being dragged through years of lengthy investigations in the unlikely event they have to use their weapon. “Officers have seen what happens to their colleagues who have had to use lethal force to protect the public,” outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told reporters last month. “Increasingly, they seem to be portrayed as suspects, based, I can only assume, on an underlying belief that they must have acted in a criminal fashion if someone has died.”

Do you notice the cultural assumptions and the complete lack of real solutions? Every measure suggested is simply a way to manage the carnage, and does nothing to address not only the poisonous ideology behind the crimes BUT THE MORE IMPORTANT FOUNDATIONAL ISSUE: THE BRITISH HAVE NO CLEAR IDEOLOGICAL ANTIDOTE TO THE POISON. Their “way of life” is extreme tolerance, and look where it’s gotten them.

Nor does much of the U.S. populace have an ideological antodote, PARTICULARLY on college campuses. I am going to reference an article from Thefederalist, April 29, 2015 for a description of “safe spaces” and their development. “College campuses have long been on the forefront of this kind of “speech code,” and Judith Shulevitz recently wrote an eye-opening description of the latest innovation: the campus “safe space.” In this case, the safe space was created in response to that most troubling of events: a debate (in this case, between a feminist and a libertarian).”

This description (italics) is from that bastion of conservative right wing thought, the New York Times (sarcasm doesn’t become me?). It reads like satire, but it isn’t–leftists have no sense of irony. It’s long but very informative, and I have only excerpted a small part of it: The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

 Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material. 

Some people trace safe spaces back to the feminist consciousness-raising groups of the 1960s and 1970s, others to the gay and lesbian movement of the early 1990s. In most cases, safe spaces are innocuous gatherings of like-minded people who agree to refrain from ridicule, criticism or what they term microaggressions — subtle displays of racial or sexual bias — so that everyone can relax enough to explore the nuances of, say, a fluid gender identity. As long as all parties consent to such restrictions, these little islands of self-restraint seem like a perfectly fine idea.

But the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer. 

This logic clearly informed a campaign undertaken this fall by a Columbia University student group called Everyone Allied Against Homophobia that consisted of slipping a flier under the door of every dorm room on campus. The headline of the flier stated, “I want this space to be a safer space.” The text below instructed students to tape the fliers to their windows. The group’s vice president then had the flier published in the Columbia Daily Spectator, the student newspaper, along with an editorial asserting that “making spaces safer is about learning how to be kind to each other.”

A junior named Adam Shapiro decided he didn’t want his room to be a safer space. He printed up his own flier calling it a dangerous space and had that, too, published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Kindness alone won’t allow us to gain more insight into truth,” he wrote. In an interview, Mr. Shapiro said, “If the point of a safe space is therapy for people who feel victimized by traumatization, that sounds like a great mission.” But a safe-space mentality has begun infiltrating classrooms, he said, making both professors and students loath to say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. “I don’t see how you can have a therapeutic space that’s also an intellectual space,” he said.

Still, it’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals — mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like. This new bureaucracy may be exacerbating students’ “self-infantilization,” as Judith Shapiro, the former president of Barnard College, suggested in an essay for Inside Higher Ed.

But why are students so eager to self-infantilize? Their parents should probably share the blame. Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, wrote on Slate last month that although universities cosset students more than they used to, that’s what they have to do, because today’s undergraduates are more puerile than their predecessors. “Perhaps overprogrammed children engineered to the specifications of college admissions offices no longer experience the risks and challenges that breed maturity,” he wrote. But “if college students are children, then they should be protected like children.”

“God forbid anyone should have to encounter viewpoints that go against their beliefs. And on a college campus, of all places! Even some lefty college professors are starting to become uncomfortable—and afraid that the new revolutionary tribunals will devour them, too. Posting anonymously, here is how one academic describes it.

“Saying anything that goes against liberal orthodoxy is now grounds for a firin’. Even if you make a reasonable and respectful case, if you so much as cause your liberal students a second of complication or doubt you face the risk of demonstrations, public call-outs, and severe professional consequences. My friends and colleagues might well agree that the student-teacher relationship ban is misguided, but they’re not allowed to say as much in public.

“C-can you guys see the problem, here?

“Personally, liberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction.

“The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.

“Is this paranoid? Yes, of course. But paranoia isn’t uncalled for within the current academic job climate. Jobs are really, really, really, really hard to get. And since no reasonable person wants to put their livelihood in danger, we reasonably do not take any risks vis-a-vis momentarily upsetting liberal students. And so we leave upsetting truths unspoken, uncomfortable texts unread.

“There are literally dozens of articles and books I thought nothing of teaching, 5-6 years ago, that I wouldn’t even reference in passing today. I just re-read a passage of Late Victorian Holocausts, an account of the British genocide against India, and, wow, today I’d be scared if someone saw a copy of it in my office. There’s graphic pictures right on the cover, harsh rhetoric (“genocide”), historical accounts filled with racially insensitive epithets, and a profound, disquieting indictment of capitalism. No way in hell would I assign that today. Not even to grad students.”

The Onion, as usual, manages to encapsulate the whole thing in a headline: “College Encourages Lively Exchange of Idea: Students, Faculty Invited to Freely Express Single Viewpoint.”




Author: iamcurmudgeon

When I began this blog, I was a 70 year old man, with a young mind and a body trying to recover from a stroke, and my purpose for this whole blog thing is to provoke thinking, to ridicule reflex reaction, and provide a legacy to my children.

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