As a recent college graduate and a current grad student at a public university, I’ve lived the “college conservative experience” with one soaring takeaway: actual definitions of terms pale in comparison to the emotion that can be driven up out of them. Few students know the real goals motivating groups like Antifa and others like them, but they have no problem voicing their support for folks who wear masks and beat people who disagree with their ideology.
The Brookings Institute released a new survey last week that showed just how accepting undergrads are becoming of violent behavior and censorship: one in five want to silence speakers who make “offensive and hurtful statements” and half said it was acceptable to shout over a speaker whose message they deem inappropriate. The places that should be our factories of ideas are quickly becoming emotionally-charged cages for those who fear a differing thought, and incorrect definitions of ideas and groups go unquestioned and, in some cases, defended. Campus Reform released a video yesterday of students at American University in Washington, D.C. defending Antifa and offering their support for the group that, as one student put it, is “marching next to me and standing for what I believe in”:
I asked Cabot Phillips, Media Director for Campus Reform and one of the interviewers in the video, about his reaction to the students’ responses: “It’s shocking to see how many students view violence as a legitimate means of shutting down those with whom they disagree. Sadly though, this shouldn’t surprise us given what we’ve seen from the Left. A recent poll showed that nearly 20% of college students think violence is okay when it means shutting down a controversial speaker. This sort of thinking is antithetical to what college is all about.”
It truly is terrifying to hear my generation justifying use of violence to shut down a speaker they disagree with. Education in these situations is everything, though, and we can’t give up on this. Antifa is being portrayed on campuses as the antidote to the white supremacist movement, and we absolutely must continue to confront such assertions and replace them with truth. If we don’t, we can kiss that nifty little First Amendment right goodbye.