Middlebury College Strikes Out on Conservative Speaker, Again

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2019/04/22/middlebury-college-strikes-out-on-conservative-speaker-again/

The mildness of Polish conservative Ryszard Legutko’s classroom comments on the campus of Middlebury College last week highlight the silliness of the planned campus protest that led to the cancellation of his scheduled public speech.

Legutko is a philosopher and a mainstream political figure in Poland – he’s an elected member of the European Parliament, and a member of the country’s largest political party, Law and Justice.

But left-wing activists at the school were so disturbed by his past comments criticizing pro-homosexuality advocacy that they organized a protest with the very grown-up theme “Ryszard Legutko is a f——- homophobe (and racist and sexist).”

The activists said they weren’t planning to shut down the event, the way activists did with a Charles Murray speech in March 2017, followed by a violent attack afterward that put a Middlebury professor in the hospital. But Middlebury administrators cancelled the speech last week, anyway, claiming they couldn’t guarantee the safety of attendants given how many people wanted to attend.

And of course, given how so many left-wing students at Middlebury acted two years ago, who could say for sure what they’d do this time?

Let’s stipulate that controversial speakers have a right to speak and that protesters have a right to protest. This is First Amendment 101 in America – though increasingly uncertain on college campuses.

What’s more interesting is the reaction to ideas that many left-wingers at Middlebury don’t like. When Legutko made an unplanned appearance at a political philosophy class Wednesday, April 17, students asked him unfriendly questions in a civil tone. He responded with substantive answers in a civil tone. Viewpoints were exchanged. Everyone who listened got to see where everyone who spoke stood.

Why couldn’t this have been done at a public speech, with questions and answers afterward?

Because certain left-wing activists – and here we really mean professors, who are the ones who goaded student allies – can’t abide public statements like this:

“I am very reluctant to tamper with the meaning of words. Once you change the meaning, you are in for trouble. Marriage as we understood was between a man and a woman. What has happened recently is a radical change. I don’t think that we should be allowed to go as far as changing one of the most fundamental institutions of the world.”

This is a mainstream conservative position expressed in the most non-provocative way possible. It could also be fairly said to represent about 95 percent of mainstream political figures in America about 10 years ago, including nearly every prominent Democrat.

And yet for some on the left it’s necessary to act as if it’s some sort of hate speech, in order to marginalize both the speaker and (more importantly) the point of view.

That saves a lot of time and effort that might otherwise have to be used to rebut arguments with reason and logic.

This leads to another contentious point that philosophy professors at the Vermont campus should have their students explore:

Why does anybody accept an invitation to speak at Middlebury College?