Middlebury College, Vermont, March 2, 2017. Dr. Charles Murray, author of the classic treatise The Bell Curve and holder of an MIT doctorate, recently spoke at Middlebury College. As has become the default response to a conservative speaker of any stripe, protests shut down his speech, and the “peaceful student protestors” turned violent, even assaulting a Middlebury female professor. Steven Hayward at Powerline noted:
The shameful episode involving Charles Murray at Middlebury sends me back to several things. First, The Bell Curve itself, which virtually none of Murray’s critics have bothered to read—certainly not the six-figure-salary hacks at the direct-mail-hysteria-dependent Southern Poverty Law Center who call Charles a ‘white nationalist,’ ignorant that he is the father of mixed-race children, which rather disqualifies him for the white supremacy club I should think.
Scott Johnson, also of Powerline, reported:
I was in the audience when William Rusher and William Shockley took the stage of an auditorium to debate at Yale in the spring of 1974. I arrived early knowing it would be difficult to get a seat and waited patiently for the event to begin. My patience was not rewarded, however, as the event was shouted down. The fascist aura in the auditorium and on the street among the protesters visible on the sidewalk outside was like nothing I had ever experienced.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has become a more or less Progressive/Communist propaganda center dedicated to the destruction of America. Perhaps it always was. By all means, take the links and read the rest of the cited articles. As you’ll see shortly, striking among those protesting Murray’s appearance is that fact that virtually none of them have read Murray’s work—which to thoughtful people is certainly not in the least racist or “white nationalist”—and particularly not The Bell Curve. That work’s careful research and conclusions merely reflect more or less unassailable science.
The focus of this article, however, is the Facebook post of Dr. Allison Stanger of Middlebury. Dr. Stanger is, by her own admission, of the left, however, she is apparently among the rarest of those: an honorable person who believes in free speech, and is willing to act to help secure it. She wrote:
I agreed to participate in the event with Charles Murray, because several of my students asked me to do so. They are smart and good people, all of them, and this was their big event of the year. I actually welcomed the opportunity to be involved, because while my students may know I am a Democrat, all of my courses are nonpartisan, and this was a chance to demonstrate publicly my commitment to a free and fair exchange of views in my classroom. As the campus uproar about his visit built, I was genuinely surprised and troubled to learn that some of my faculty colleagues had rendered judgment on Dr. Murray’s work and character, while openly admitting that they had not read anything he had written. With the best of intentions, they offered their leadership to enraged students, and we all now know what the results were.
Dr. Stanger’s trusting nature does her credit, but is obviously not terribly realistic. Obviously, the colleagues about whom she speaks share her political inclinations, so she automatically ascribes to them good will and good intentions. Attacking the beliefs of someone whose works one knows nothing about might be the very definition of bad will. Encouraging students to protest, to destroy free speech and debate, and to engage in violence might be the very definition of bad intentions. These are people with doctorates. Surely they would never accept a paper from a student who had not done the reading, that knew nothing about what they were writing? Surely they are smart enough to know that such “protests” inevitably result in violence? Surely they understand their obligation to uphold the highest standards of free inquiry, debate and scholarship? Obviously, not so much.
I want you to know what it feels like to look out at a sea of students yelling obscenities at other members of my beloved community.
I suspect Dr. Stanger is omitting what it also feels like to see her fellow faculty do the same. She later admits they were there and involved, but doesn’t take them to task as harshly as she should. This is understandable. Perhaps she understood she was seeing the true nature of people with whom she had, to that point, closely identified, kindred spirits.
There were students and faculty who wanted to hear the exchange, but were unable to do so, either because of the screaming and chanting and chair-pounding in the room, or because their seats were occupied by those who refused to listen, and they were stranded outside the doors. I saw some of my faculty colleagues who had publicly acknowledged that they had not read anything Dr. Murray had written join the effort to shut down the lecture. All of this was deeply unsettling to me. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in student eyes from up on that stage. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn’t look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being. There is a lot to be angry about in America today, but nothing good ever comes from demonizing our brothers and sisters.
Notice Dr. Stanger’s reflexive use of progressive terms, such as “dehumanized,” and “demonizing.” What she is describing is not honest and honorable, but misguided people, anti-intellectual, anti-American thugs– faculty, student and outside, paid agitator versions—at least some of which have a vestigial conscience.
Things deteriorated from there as we went to another location in an attempt to salvage the event via live-stream for those who were still interested in engaging. I want you to know how hard it was for us to continue with fire alarms going off and enraged students and outside agitators banging on the windows. I thought they were going to break through, and I then wondered what would happen next. It is hard to think and listen in such an environment. I am proud that we somehow continued the conversation. Listen to the video and judge for yourself whether this was an event that should take place on a college campus.
Oh, I don’t think any rational person need view the video to know that. An obvious question, however, would be: where were the police, and not just campus police, but municipal police, sheriff’s deputies, the highway patrol, and perhaps even federal officers? The college knew this was going to happen. Their own faculty incited it.
When the event ended, and it was time to leave the building, I breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it. I was ready for dinner and conversation with faculty and students in a tranquil setting. What transpired instead felt like a scene from Homeland rather than an evening at an institution of higher learning. We confronted an angry mob as we tried to exit the building. Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray, but when I took his right arm both to shield him from attack and to make sure we stayed together so I could reach the car too, that’s when the hatred turned on me. One thug grabbed me by the hair and another shoved me in a different direction. I noticed signs with expletives and my name on them. There was also an angry human on crutches, and I remember thinking to myself, “What are you doing? That’s so dangerous!” For those of you who marched in Washington the day after the inauguration, imagine being in a crowd like that, only being surrounded by hatred rather than love. I feared for my life.
Again, where were the police? Dr. Stanger appears not, even after injury and adequate time for reflection, to have made the logical connections. The signs with “expletives,” the anger, the hate, the violence, those are all the same people, the same philosophy, the same inevitable tactics of the supposedly loving people who “marched in Washington the day after the inauguration.” These are the same people who called the Tea Party violent extremists, yet their violent extremism was characterized by politeness, civilized behavior, non-violence and by leaving their venues cleaner than they were before their protests. It was these people, not Dr. Stanger’s fellow faculty, students, and co-marchers, who honor democracy and democratic debate. She has been so blinded for so long by progressivism she remains, despite being attacked and injured by the very thugs she still obviously supports, unable to see reality.
Once we got into the car, the intimidation escalated. That story has already been told well. What I want you to know is how it felt to land safely at Kirk Alumni Center after taking a decoy route. I was so happy to see my students there to greet me. I took off my coat and realized I was hungry. I told a colleague in my department that I felt proud of myself for not having slugged someone. Then Bill Burger charged back into the room (he is my hero) and told Dr. Murray and I to get our coats and leave—NOW. The protestors knew where the dinner was. We raced back to the car, driving over the curb and sidewalk to escape quickly. It was then we decided that it was probably best to leave town.
Let’s review: Dr. Stanger and her guest(s) had to flee for their lives, actually leave town. They had to flee from her fellow faculty, her students, and the kinds of people who marched in Washington after the Inauguration, and she still isn’t making the connection.
After the adrenaline and a martini (full disclosure; you would have needed a martini too) wore off, I realized that there was something wrong with my neck. My husband took me to the ER, and President Patton, God bless her, showed up there, despite my insistence that it was unnecessary. I have a soft brace that allowed me, after cancelling my Friday class, resting up all day, and taking painkillers, to attend our son’s district jazz festival. He’s a high school senior who plays tenor sax, and I cried when I realized that these events had not prevented me from hearing him play his last district concert.
I’m afraid what Dr. Stanger was actually crying about was the realization they people she formerly thought comrades might have seriously injured, even killed her, and merely because she was with someone they were told they should oppose, but she is not able to admit it to herself or anyone else.
To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray. But as we find a way to move forward, we should also hold fast to the wisdom of James Baldwin, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced
Your fellow citizen and Middlebury community member,
None are so blind as they that will not see. This is what happens when teachers begin to see themselves as just another member of the “community” rather than adults with a solemn responsibility, and when colleges see themselves as social petri dishes rather than schools. This is indeed a metaphor for what is wrong with our supposedly “elite colleges and universities,” though it applies to the country as well.
President Trump has unleashed nothing except respect for the Constitution and rule of law, and an ardent desire to restrain the worst excesses of big government. It is the very party and the people with which Dr. Stanger continues to identify that have unleashed hatred, not only for our democratic republic and the peaceful transition of political power, but for most Americans. Mr. Trump sees the evils of which Dr. Stanger speaks clearly indeed, which is why he is working to restore the rule of law and to restrain the administrative state.
The Federalist notes Dr. Stanger appeared to be something less than a pure victim:
But there are deeper layers of irony here. If you examine the video carefully, Stanger makes several appearances before she goes on stage. At one point (29:08), Stanger is to be found grinning at the chant, ‘Hey hey, ho, ho, Charles Murray has got to go.’ At another (30:05) Stanger is broadly smiling as the crowd chants, ‘Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away.’ Still later, as the crowd chants, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Stanger raises her hands above her head (33:20) and claps along. Soon after, the camera pans across her again (33:34) and she is chanting the slogan as well as clapping.
It is the Democrat Party that supports, defends, and indeed, now comprises, the enemies of America, foreign and domestic, and Dr. Stanger got to experience the domestic version first hand. Her choice of Baldwin’s aphorism is apt, but particularly ironic. She has gazed into the faces, the very ideology, of the people she always thought embodied conservatism and found the faces of progressives/democrats averting their eyes instead.
One wonders what it will take Dr. Stanger to understand? Broken bones? A broken neck? Will a searching look into the eyes of the people surrounding her who attacked her, and who incited those who did, reflect reality?
In this case, I rather favor Pogo (Walt Kelly), who said:
We have met the enemy, and he is us.