Victor Davis Hanson

If you were a Jewish student organization asking to ensure free speech at the University of Michigan, you would probably be cursed at with racial epithets, as happened recently.

If you were a faculty member organizing a scholarly trip to Israel, you would be harassed at Vassar College.

What if you were a professor at Oberlin College or the University of California, Santa Barbara, who wished to teach literature that sometimes dealt with class, race, gender and sex?

If the ensuing class discussions did not meet left-wing dogma, you might soon be asked by student groups to offer "trigger warnings" on your syllabus -- as if your class were a toxic cigarette or pesticide in need of warning labels.

We are in a new Inquisition. Self-appointed censors try to stamp out any idea or word that they don't wish to be aired -- in the pursuit of a new race, class, gender and environment orthodoxy.

Hounding out people with different views is seen by the Left as a necessary means to achieve its supposedly noble goals -- just like the Spanish Inquisitioners who claimed God was on their side as they went after religiously "incorrect" Jews, Muslims and heretics.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has been part of the problem, not part of the solution. Its appointees used the once-impartial IRS against conservatives. They monitored Associated Press reporters. They denied that the NSA was eavesdropping on average citizens. They arbitrarily chose not to enforce laws they didn't like.

The president bragged of using "a pen and phone" to circumvent the legislative branch, and urged his supporters to "punish our enemies." The attorney general calls Americans who have different views from his own on matters of affirmative action "cowards."

All of that them/us rhetoric has given a top-down green light to radical thought police to harass anyone who is open-minded about man-caused global warming, or believes that gay marriage needs more debate, or that supporting Israel is a legitimate cause, or that breaking federal immigration law is still a crime and therefore "illegal."

Our civil liberties will not be lost to crude fascists in jackboots. More likely, the death of free speech will be the work of the new medieval Torquemadas who claim they destroyed freedom of expression for the sake of "equality" and "fairness" and "saving the planet."


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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