Safetyism doesn’t belong on campus: Conservatives have adopted social-justice tactics (Kathleen Stock, MAY 10, 2024, UnHerd)

In short, then, the past week served up ample material for riotous mirth or contemptuous eye rolls. Though many students are sincere and well-intentioned in their objections to what is unfolding in Gaza, watching self-appointed leaders role-playing at Left-wing radicalism in the hope of future glittering career prizes will never not be ludicrous. Equally, approaching a bloody war like a rabidly partisan football fan on matchday, as Taal seemingly does — automatically primed to deny atrocities committed by your favoured side, and to downplay the devastating effects on opponents — is hardly a sign of moral sainthood, albeit that the phenomenon is now near-ubiquitous.

But there are more alarming aspects to this situation other than the presence of narcissistic millennials. Scorn should also be reserved for those supine university bosses who — having spent years positively incentivising an entire generation to think of themselves as pleasingly disruptive social radicals, acting on behalf of a variety of oppressed victim classes — have now swung to the other extreme without missing a beat, and are cracking down excessively on behaviour they used to tolerate or even encourage. At Columbia, university president and member of the House of Lords Minouche Shafik eventually gave up on negotiation and brought in police against protestors, resulting in more than 100 arrests. At the University of Texas in Austin, riot gear and pepper spray were employed against those camping out; the encampment at UCLA was also flattened by law enforcement, with 200 arrested there. There have also been large-scale arrests at Dartmouth, George Washington University, Massachusetts Amherst, Wisconsin-Madison, and other places too.

It is often remarked that the modern liberal quest to free both self and society from traditional cultural norms and boundaries tends to coincide with increased acceptance of state surveillance and authoritarian social control. Even so, it is rare to see institutions openly inciting both liberation and repression at the very same time. Small wonder that susceptible young people are confused. “I thought that this university accepted me because I am an advocate, because I am someone who will fight for what they believe in, no matter what,” mournfully recounted one Vanderbilt alumnus, originally lauded by faculty and administrators for making a stand against perceived oppression, but now expelled for the very same thing. You can laugh with enjoyable schadenfreude at the naivety; but you should probably also be horrified at the unprincipled ease with which Frankenstein has set the dogs upon the pious, guilt-ridden young monster he had a hand in creating.

Equally depressing has been the way that many conservative commentators, normally professional scourges of wokeness, have become apparent fans of safetyism for Jewish students (please note — not safety, but safetyism). Just as the modern Left either tends to cheer or stay silent as Right-coded views are eliminated from the academy either by stealth or by force, many on the supposedly freedom-loving modern Right apparently have little to say about the violation of the basic right to peaceful speech and assembly, when it comes to defending the perceived interests of Palestinians.

Separate out the rest of the nonsense certain students are saying: the call for self-determination is conservative.