Cultural Authoritarianism and the Liberal Left’s betrayal of Free Speech

By Alex Carros

Liberals in the United States, particularly on college campuses, have betrayed the very ideology from which their name derives: classical liberalism. Censorship, authoritarianism, and an increasing hostility towards anyone with certain opinions or ideologies has replaced civil liberty, political freedom, and equality under the law. Universities, complacent in this treachery, have allowed a hostile takeover over what should be a guardian of free inquiry and thought. “Safe spaces” are more important than civil discourse, and liberals will decry any voice of dissent as racist/sexist/homophobic. This phenomenon is cultural authoritarianism, wherein authority forbids ‘offensive’ or ‘oppressive’ ideas and forbids their expression.

Take the rampant denouncing of ‘culturally offensive’ costumes, an increasingly common trope of Halloween. Discontented by any sort of fun, many progressive liberals have actively called for the barring of costumes with racial connotations, no matter how innocent: Native American braves, Mexicans with sombreros, geisha. Laci Green, a feminist personality from MTV, argues that it, “further normalizes White America’s tendency to disrespect and mock cultures that are different from our own.” Now, even though she has absolutely no evidence for this (get used to it with these types) she and her ilk posit that these costumes, no matter how innocent the intention, are actively racist and bigoted. One elementary school in Maplewood, New Jersey even banned its Halloween celebration due to a “lack of diversity.”

So where does it end? What good does it do? How does policing Halloween costumes further the cause for racial justice?

Although Halloween is arguably the most infamous example, this form of authoritarianism (you are/aren’t allowed to do X) is rampant across the West, particularly on extreme-left college campuses. Jerry Seinfeld summed it up nicely, “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudiced,’… they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.” College campuses in the West have, with increasing frequency, bought into this petulant whining. For example, feminist protestors have shut down conferences on male suicide simply because they didn’t like the speaker, most notably at the University of Toronto. Milo Yiannopoulus, a conservative writer for Breitbart, was even barred from a debate at his own alma mater. Even here at Binghamton, groups like the Students for Change were trigger-happy during their ‘forum’ with President Stenger, bombarding him with unfounded accusations of institutional racism and bigotry and refusing to let him adequately defend himself and the school he represents. How are we, as young adults, supposed to learn and grow from this unrestrained attack on civil discourse? We, as college academics, should be accepting adversity and challenges, not pushing them away simply because they are disagreeable or offensive. This is why the notion of a ‘safe space’ is absolute nonsense. Disallowing certain words or ideas does nothing to prepare us for the real world. It actively hinders us. We are adults, not children who need to be coddled. The left’s obsession with ‘safety’ is misguided and juvenile. We are meant to explore and criticize different opinions. Any measure taken to hinder discourse counters the freedom of inquiry and speech.

The next time you see something that you disagree with, don’t take the easy route and try to push that opinion out of your academic sphere. College is the best place to argue and debate whatever issues you are passionate about. Debate and civil discourse strengthen us and prepare us for the harsh world that awaits our post-graduate lives. I encourage all forms of conversation, even if that means railing against this article or the Binghamton Review. Take the time to read something you disagree with rather than simply push it out. Conservativism isn’t some evil, ancient conspiracy to keep humanity in the dark ages, but rather a different set of opinions and ideologies. This is the biggest obstacle that the Left needs to face. Allowing conservative voices in a college campus will not destroy liberalism, but will instead allow different points of view to be heard and argued, to all our benefit.

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