Having made ourselves into a self-censoring society, I explained to the students at tea, we now find ourselves confronting an Islamic system that demands such censorship as a point of law. Look what happened to Silvio Berlusconi when, as prime minister of Italy after 9/11, he mounted a heartfelt defense of Western civilization for having enshrined liberty, freedom of conscience, equality before the law and the like -- which, he also pointed out, Islam most certainly did not.
The voluble Italian was dumped upon by the world, Western and Islamic. He swiftly recanted to satisfy both the censoring dictates of PC, which outlaws non-Western critiques, and the censoring dictates of Islam, which outlaws criticism of Islam. Berlusconi's example shows how easily an adolescent, PC society can slip under Islamic law into the hush of dhimmitude.
At this point in the presentation, I expected to hear that Islam wasn't all bad; that I oversimplified. What emerged instead was that the West wasn't all good; that I oversimplified. As the Yale Daily News later put it, "Some students said West blamed Americans for censoring themselves in thought but ignored the censorship she employs in her own speech by concentrating only on the positive aspects of Western civilization."
Sounds like "some students" believe that the freedoms existing here -- which don't exist in Islam -- are somehow voided by "negative" Western aspects. Or maybe that the negatives, which apparently loom larger than any Islamic threat, simply invalidate any positive conception of the West, and maybe any conception of the West as an identifiable, defensible culture, period. Little wonder the Yale newspaper used quotation marks to set off the West as "The West." It's good; it's bad -- whatever.
I hope I'm wrong. But all of sudden the campus renovations that had scrubbed away Yale's past seemed to be all too apt a metaphor.