Thursday, June 13, 2024

SELLERS: What to Do When Cancel-Culture Speech Nazis Become the Victims?

'Far from being the great liberal savior of free speech on campus, Camp has been an agent in its undermining and eventual destruction...'

(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) A year and a half ago, I encountered an opinion so appalling, so egregious, that it spurred me not only to write in response, but ultimately to renounce my longstanding relationship with the outlet that published it—my own former college newspaper, the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily.

Emma Camp
Emma Camp / IMAGE: Virginia Players via YouTube

The piece, by third-year opinion columnist Emma Camp, was titled “Stand up to your racist family.”

At the height of post-election tension, with cancel culture having reached a fevered frenzy in the months that preceded it, Camp encouraged entitled students to incite political arguments at the Thanksgiving dinner table and, in essence, to force a reckoning upon their pro-Trump relatives.

“Yes, a proto-facist leader has been defeated, but the hateful rhetoric, conspiratorial thinking and virulent racism, xenophobia and sexism he espoused during his tenure remain deeply entrenched in American political discourse,” she declared.

It was the duty of every social-justice warrior to continue the fight, she insisted.

“This holiday season, white progressives should not continue to favor their own comfort and familial peace over the tangible suffering of vulnerable people,” Camp asserted.

“In failing to stand up to their families and friends—whether their statements are ‘meant well’ or not—white liberals show a distinct complacency with white supremacy, sexism, xenophobia and the countless other ways in which bigotry rears its ugly head,” she continued. “Thus, when we sit silent over our uncle’s QAnon rants or our high school friends’ xenophobic comments, it shows that we value our own comfort over what we know to be our ethical duty.”

It wasn’t that I objected to the decision by the Cavalier Daily to run it, per se, as its decision to do so unflinchingly while dragging its feet on publishing any effort to rebut the specious and outlandish claims with a more rational counterargument.

After having been an active member of the paper’s alumni board for some seven years prior, I could no longer, in good conscience, endorse or support the student leaders’ alarmingly woke editorial mission.

Camp’s groupthink spoke to everything that has gone wrong with the brainwashing indoctrination on America’s college campuses—not to mention that which is incubating in our mainstream-media ecosystem.

As a former journalism instructor, I experienced firsthand the way radicalism had supplanted the values of objectivity and fairness, and how leftist virtue-signaling and newsroom activism were subsequently rewarded with access to the best internships and so forth.

Camp’s November 2020 column drew some attention from conservative media after it was exposed by Campus Reform, prompting the Cavalier Daily eventually to publish a carefully measured rebuttal that indirectly addressed such bigoted notions of intolerance.

I doubted, however, that the student activists involved had gained any sort of comeuppance from the affair, other than to entrench their own biases by casting themselves as the victims of the backlash.

Much to my surprise, Camp’s name resurfaced this week following a New York Times op-ed she wrote, in which she complained that campus cancel-culture was forcing her and many others to self-censor their views … because they weren’t radical enough.

“I went to college to learn from my professors and peers. I welcomed an environment that champions intellectual diversity and rigorous disagreement,” Camp claimed.

“Instead, my college experience has been defined by strict ideological conformity,” she whined. “Students of all political persuasions hold back—in class discussions, in friendly conversations, on social media—from saying what we really think.”

Her rant garnered the attention of Fox News, where she was heralded, as many red-pilled liberals have been, for the sudden realization that a diversity of viewpoints is important.

“Universities must do more than make public statements supporting free expression,” Camp said. “We need a campus culture that prioritizes ideological diversity and strong policies that protect expression in the classroom.”

Meanwhile, Camp’s high-profile complaint was savaged in the far-left blogosphere, which painted her as an alt-right neo-Nazi apologist.

Others mocked—and rightfully so—the pretense that Camp’s viewpoints were ever oppressed to begin with.

Correct though she may be about college censorship—a year and a half wiser, and with an internship from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education under her belt—Camp’s exclusion of context (her Times article referenced and linked to the earlier Cavalier Daily piece but made no earnest mention of its substance) and her own lack of self-awareness invite a much bigger question:

To what extent must those who have recklessly, wantonly and self-indulgently led us to the brink of global catastrophe via their firebrand leftist rhetoric—and those who were complicit by indulging them in it—be held accountable for their words and actions?

Far from being the great liberal savior of free speech on campus, Camp has been an agent in its undermining and eventual destruction.

Many of the allegations of vote fraud and manipulation that Trump supporters sought to raise awareness of have been wholly validated through deeper investigation, although they’re still suppressed by the powerful institutions that initially conspired to effect regime change.

Yet, we now face a world in which gaslighting and censorship are so overwhelming that even former adherents of the radical leftist ideology cannot help but to double-back.

Such was the case for Camp’s one-time champion, President* Joe Biden. With his own public approval in precipitous decline, Biden purported in his State of the Union address to be pursuing to a more moderate agenda—one that embraced Trumpian demands for border security and law enforcement that the Left once deemed “racist.”

Moreover, leftist lemmings have quicky pivoted from insisting upon authoritarian COVID mandates to pretending that the pandemic was all a bad dream—not because of a change of actual circumstances, but because political imperatives, fueled by public discontent, led pseudoscientific health officials to change what data they cherrypicked.

And the Left’s sudden drumbeat for war against Russia points to a hypocrisy even farther back—before many of today’s college students were politically aware—when fierce, left-wing antiwar protestors clamored for the head of imperialist American “cowboy–president” George W. Bush.

With the benefit of wisdom, experience and hindsight, I have since questioned my own blind support for the post-9/11 neocon movement that controlled institutional power when I, myself, was walking the U.Va. Grounds as a student.

I am baffled, however, to see that even as my thinking has shifted away from the corrupt Establishment, those who hyperbolically decried Bush’s fascism are continuing now to engage in the same cycle of propaganda and manipulation via Ukraine, but from the opposite direction.

When the chickens come home to roost—be it through revolutionary protest, free and fair democratic elections, or merely the public outrage and suffering wrought by bad policies—those most directly responsible for the antecedent atrocities often find it easy to deflect, first by pointing fingers at others, then blaming the “system” or the “fog of war” that they conveniently were swept up in.

Conservatives—the keepers of democracy and occupants of the proverbial Big Tent—are quick to forgive and forget when the pendulum swings back in their favor. But we must not, when all is said and done, allow these purveyors of partisan poison to dodge accountability for the problems they created.

I predict that young Ms. Camp, having already succeeded twice in provoking national controversy, will have a bright future ahead after graduating.

She has figured out the system and how to game it—egging on both sides in the existential fight for America’s intellectual freedom, then quietly slipping away to act as a neutral bystander.

Others pay the price as she plays the hero. They will continue to drown in the cesspool of censorship while she coasts into a cushy career pretending to be the voice of reason and moderation at some fake-news cable outlet, her own extremism having long since been memory-holed.

But eventually, the toxic culture she helped to foster will come to collect its due, leaving her with only her “xenophobic” ex-friends and Q’Anon-spouting uncle to defend her.

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