Condoleezza Rice, our former secretary of state, is the latest public figure to be chased off a university campus by the bullies, formally known as student protesters. She had been scheduled to deliver this year's commencement address at Rutgers, but decided to call it off rather than face the mob. So she gets to join the ranks of heroines who have been sacrificed to the type of "thinkers" whose response to any idea they don't like is not to debate it but censor it.
The academy, which ought to be the last refuge of free expression, has now become the first place where it's shut down in 2014 America. This contemporary version of the trahison des clercs, the treason of the intellectuals, is now in full and odious flower on our most prestigious campuses. For another example, see Brandeis University. It has just rescinded its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose whole life has been a struggle for the values that ought to mark a real university. Values like respect for human dignity and the free exchange of ideas.
Biographical sketch: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, born in Somalia, evaded the usual arranged marriage with a stranger, and began speaking out against the suppression of women in general in that traditionally Islamic society. She had to flee to Holland, where she was elected to parliament and worked with Theo van Gogh (yes, a descendant of the famous painter) on "Submission," a film exposing the treatment of women in Islamic societies.
Theo van Gogh's reward for his art and courage was to be shot down on the street, and then almost decapitated by an Islamic fanatic wielding a butcher knife, who plunged another knife into his bullet-riddled body. Attached to it was a five-page screed that threatened Ms. Hirsi Ali, who had to be put into police custody for her own protection -- until the Dutch took away her safe house.
That's when she fled to this country, formerly the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, became an American citizen, and continued to speak her mind unafraid and unintimidated. Like any true American. For more details see her autobiography, "Infidel."
No wonder any American university would honor the lady. But then the thought police went after her. Her crime? Telling some inconvenient truths about Islamic societies, and Brandeis decided to rescind its offer of an honorary degree to someone whose honor has impressed freedom-loving people everywhere.
To appreciate, and apprehend, the full extent and irony of Brandeis' capitulation to the worst sort of "intellectuals" on American campuses, it might help to recall whom that university was named for, and when and why it was founded. Louis Dembitz Brandeis was a fighting lawyer and visionary advocate of human rights out of Louisville, Ky., who gave his name to a reliance on facts and statistics in legal argument: the "Brandeis Brief." He would go on to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by Woodrow Wilson, and become one of the great justices in modern American history thanks to his combination of eloquence, logic and independence.
For example, Mr. Justice Brandeis joined both the court's conservatives and liberals when, in a unanimous decision, all of them, from left to right, struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act as unconstitutional in 1935. By then the National Recovery Administration's ubiquitous Blue Eagle had become the symbol of the New Deal's ambitious attempt to remake the American economy in the image of Mussolini's corporate state, complete with price-fixing trusts for every industry and trade. That's right: for every sector of the American economy. Not just medical care, which is what Obamacare has set out to take over.
So it was only natural that, in the post-World War II years, when a new, instantly great university was founded by largely Jewish donors, that it would be named for Mr. Justice Brandeis, for its founders had finally grown tired of watching the Ivy League set quotas on Jewish admissions.
But now that same university has caved in to the kind of intimidation Louis D. Brandeis fought all his life. An honorable historian and once proud Brandeis alumnus, Jeffrey Herf, wrote an open letter in response to its president's "cowardice and appeasement" in snubbing Ayaan Hirsi Ali, another great crusader for human rights. It's a letter worth quoting on this sordid occasion:
"That the president of a university founded by Jews in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust should have rescinded an honor to a woman who has had the courage to attack the most important source of Jew-hatred in the world today is a disgraceful act and a failure of leadership." To say the least.
This kind of suppression of any idea that doesn't fit into today's lockstep liberalism is all too typical of an attitude that isn't liberal at all. No wonder those intent on foisting their own prejudices on the rest of us would prefer some other name to go under -- like progressives. Although there's a better, simpler name for them that might sum up their whole approach to the issues of the day: the illiberals.