In Impromptus today, I touch on Donald Trump, Joe McCarthy, Vladimir Putin, Kirsten Flagstad, and the Flippin’ Birds. (I learned who they were — the Birds — just recently.) But I begin with Middlebury College, where Charles Murray and a professor at his side, Allison Stanger, were subject to a mob attack.
Just now, I have looked up something I wrote 15 years ago. It is called “The Conservative on Campus: Some memories, some points.” This is a written version of a speech I gave at the 20th-anniversary dinner of the Harvard Salient (which is the conservative newspaper on that campus).
I’ve not bothered to re-read this speech, and I wonder whether I would endorse it all now. I suspect I would. But I did home in on a line I remembered. I was talking about my own experience in college.
“. . . there was a whiff of violence in the air, on that campus of mine. There really was. Of course, you have to be careful whom you talk to this way, because you could be marked off as an exaggerator or paranoid or worse. But, again, I remember, I was there. You got the clear sense that, if you weren’t careful in what you said or did, things could turn out very badly for you.”
At Middlebury last week, there was more than a whiff. Violence actually broke out.
I have always hated bullying in politics, no matter what side it comes from. Bullying is equally detestable in other areas of life. The liberal spirit, I find — I’m talking about a genuinely liberal spirit — is rare. Toleration seems unnatural, to a great many people. I suspect it has to be inculcated early, and re-inculcated.
“Teach the children well,” went the old hippie song.
I hope the Middlebury attackers will be ashamed, one day, of what they did. Maybe not.
In my column today, I attempt an analogy. Many people say that the jihad — the violent jihad, worldwide — has to be stopped, ultimately, by Muslims: by decent Muslims who say, “No, not in our name.” Similarly, the extremism and goonery of the Left on campus may have to be stopped by progressives: who say, “No way.” There is only so much that conservative blogposts and speeches and whatnot can do.