Culture

University Warns Students Against Thoughtcrime

(Dreamstime image: Anetlanda)
Expressing genuine surprise can be an aggressive act of marginalization.

American universities have crossed a new threshold in the progressive war on independent thought: Clark University has told its students that “showing surprise” can now constitute an act of aggression against another student.

Last week, the New York Times ran a piece titled “Campuses Cautiously Train Freshmen against Subtle Insults.” It opens by recounting a question-and-answer session with Clark’s microaggressions czar, chief diversity officer Sheree Marlowe. A student — who begins by saying she’s “really scared to ask this” — asks Miss Marlowe if, when she’s in her car, or with a group of white friends, its “okay” to sing along with music that uses the “N word.”

Miss Marlowe’s answer, says the New York Times, is an “unequivocal ‘no.’”

Also verboten: asking Asians students whom “you don’t know” for help with math homework; asking a black student if he plays basketball; asking a student whose race you’re unsure of about his race. This is all pretty standard stuff on the modern campus. But Clark has entered new territory by expanding the category of forbidden aggressions to include thought crimes: “Showing surprise when a ‘feminine’ woman says she is a lesbian” is, according to Clark, an aggressive act.

There’s a famous scene in Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus Pulp Fiction in which two characters are getting to know each other:

“Actually, there’s something I’ve wanted to ask you about, but you seem like a nice person, and I didn’t want to offend you,” says Vincent Vega to his boss’s new wife, Mia.

“Oh,” says Mia, “this doesn’t sound like mindless, boring, getting-to-know-you chit-chat. This sounds like you actually have something to say.”

“Only if you promise not to get offended,” says Vega.

Surprise is a fundamental part of human nature, but according to Clark University, when it contravenes dogma, it has to be stamped out.

“You can’t promise something like that,” says Mia. “I have no idea what you’re going to ask. You could ask me what you’re going to ask me, and my natural response could be to be offended. Then, through no fault of my own, I would’ve broken my promise.”

This sums up the new conundrum of Clark University students. They can’t promise not to be surprised by something, if that something provokes the natural response of being surprised. No matter how tolerant society becomes, there will never be a time when people aren’t surprised to learn that something they had assumed to be true is in fact false. That’s what surprise is; it’s a fundamental part of human nature. But according to Clark, when it contravenes dogma, it has to be stamped out.

The only way not to be surprised in issues of progressive decorum is to train yourself to sincerely believe the party line. If you don’t, if you think wrong, you can be found guilty of microaggressing.

Thoughtful conservatives wonder how an ideologically unsound, anti-free trade, anti-entitlement-reform, anti-NATO, vulgar loudmouth buffoon like Trump could have become so popular with rightists. This is why. The Ann Coulters of the world think that the only thing that matters to Trump supporters is stopping illegal immigration. They’re wrong; many conservatives are supporting Trump because, in spite of his obvious wrongness on any number of issues, they believe that what this country needs most is a repudiation of political correctness.

It’s news stories like the Clark microaggressions that make responsible people think they might be right.

Josh Gelernter — Josh Gelernter is a former columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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