The Portland Public School Board recently voted to ban from all its schools any book, magazine, pamphlet or other material that expresses any doubt about climate change. Students at DePaul University invaded a speech by conservative speaker, Milo Yiannopolous, threatened violence and shut the event down, claiming that they simply should not be subjected to such outlandish ideas as his nor should he be allowed to speak on the campus.
When I think of American neo-fascists, I envision semi-literate, camo-clad thugs at secret forest camps training toddlers to shoot uzis. Certainly they do exist. Nutcase skin heads are certainly out there and they are dangerous. I do not deny that. However, as sad as they are, they are hardly surprising.
The real shocker, is finding fascists in respectable colleges, in libraries and on boards of education. I rather expect neo-fascists to be jack-booted neanderthals who cannot spell. I am surprised to discover that in modern America they are more likely to be 19-year-old sophomores studying the humanities at some of America’s most liberal universities. I am hardly shocked when I read of neo-fascists who are bearded ex-cons toting automatic weapons around clandestine guerrilla training camps. I am amazed to behold the modern phenomenon of professorial fascists toting Ph. D’s around Ivy League campuses.
This new tributary of fascism has arisen in the unlikeliest of quarters — liberalism, specifically university liberalism. Historically speaking, this is an absolutely shocking development. The academy has historically been a bastion of anti-fascism. Free speech, for example, has always been virtually sacrosanct on campus. “Say anything; express yourself, be as offensive or rebellious or vulgar or even treasonous as you like.” That has ever been the “fist-in-air” anthem of campus liberals.
Even beyond the boundaries of academia, America’s youth culture has traditionally been devoted to free speech. From song lyrics to magazine covers to comedians on TV, America’s young people have always celebrated free speech, often to the shock and distress of their elders.
It is amazing, utterly amazing, therefore that up from the ocean of liberal young people and campus elites comes a wave of new fascism.
Who could have predicted that angry fascists would arise from the ranks of rebellious students, dreamy academics, school boards and eco-sensitive scientists? Yet it is, in fact, in just such unlikely quarters that the new intellectual violence of fascism is thriving under the banner of political correctness.
Fascists are anti-free speech. They shut it down. They will only tolerate speech they want to hear. They are ruthless in their efforts to silence any dissent from their party line. They will riot and call it a protest. They will ban books and call it the search for “scientific truth.” They will demand anyone who disagrees with them be fired and call it social justice. Fascist tactics vary little from one generation or location to the next. And tactics aside, fascists share the same goal. Silence the opposition. End free speech.
The folks who riot outside the rallies of politicians they dislike are not protesters. The students who shout down guest speakers and claim opposing ideas are too painful and offensive for them to hear are not seekers of justice. The school board members who ban books offering alternative views of science are not purists.
What they are is fascists.