Middlebury March Madness

Ken Gorrell

by Ken Gorrell,
Weirs Times Contributing Writer

March roared in like a lion at Vermont’s Middlebury college, where students chose to riot rather than debate the estimable political scientist Dr. Charles Murray. If only we could blame it on the month. Sadly, Middlebury followed the example set earlier by schools like UC Berkeley and NYU: failing to prevent a riot or punish rioters. It isn’t the month; it’s the movement.
“Mad as a March hare” is a common Brit expression dating back hundreds of years, long before college basketball fans took to the coinage “March Madness” to describe their annual tournament. At least hares and hoop fans have an excuse for their behavior. What could possibly explain away the insanity on display March 2nd at Middlebury?
Much has been written about the violence that greeted scholar and author Dr. Charles Murray by students who have probably not read his works. The story boils down to this: Dr. Murray was invited to debate a liberal professor on topics from his recent book Coming Apart: The State of White America. Campus officials knew the event would draw protesters. They reminded the students about Middlebury’s code of conduct, which, not surprisingly, was about as effective as reading the Marquess of Queensberry rules to marauding Vikings. Administration should have known better and prepared accordingly.
Students who have been allowed to grow up thinking they have a right to not hear opinions they find disagreeable and to prevent others from hearing them, too, prevented Dr. Murray from speaking. They shouted him down using the moronic couplets much beloved of the political Left. (Any chant that starts with “Hey, hey, ho, ho” is going to be inane.)
But the acolytes of the arrogant ignorant Left didn’t stop there. They never do. When their limited vocabulary failed them, they rioted. The liberal professor was hurt and Dr. Murray threatened. Private security did its best to get these academics to safety, but their car was blocked and rocked before they could make their escape. I have yet to read an account in which the police were called and the appropriate response – legal use of force and arrests – was brought to bear.
The “terrible twos” are a tough time for parents and anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck in an airplane seat near a screaming toddler. But being in the presence of intellectual babies going through their terrible teens or twenties can be downright dangerous. College administrators must start applying the same level of ruthless enthusiasm to curbing anti-free speech rioters as they have been in promoting PC speech codes and punishing microaggressors. You know there’s something wrong on campus when failing to use a preferred pronoun gets you in more trouble than using violence to intimidate and disrupt a debate.
That tactic – violence and intimidation – has deep roots in authoritarian movements like the one we’re seeing on campus today. That it is employed by people claiming to advance “liberal” or “progressive” ideals is irony defined. A March 1936 editorial in the Toledo Bee titled “March Madness” described a “fantastic riot of tomfoolery” in Europe as Mussolini “abolishes his chamber of deputies and the deputies applaud the news,” and Germany “prepares for an ‘election’ with a one-way ballot, proving, says Der Fuehrer, that he’s for democracy.” We know where that “tomfoolery” led. Though they were dressed in the typical student uniform of t-shirts and hoodies, the Middlebury rioters were acting the part of Blackshirts and Brownshirts in service to authoritarianism.
Students have shown their willingness to engage in violence. Administrators now must demonstrate their willingness to expel students and assist in the prosecution of violent agitators. Until they do, the anti-democratic violence on campus will escalate. Since university leaders have yet to do the right and necessary things, they need to be encouraged. We know that they are money-motivated; we’ve seen universities twist themselves in knots to avoid losing funding tied to Title IX and Department of Education “Dear Colleague” letters. It’s time for federal and state governments to stop the flow of public funds to campuses that fail to promote intellectual diversity and maintain order in the process.
Our NH legislators should demand to see proof that our public universities and colleges promote diverse debate and have plans in place to effectively deal with campus anti-free speech violence. Public funding should be on the line in these discussions. Berkeley and NYU seem a world away from UNH or Plymouth, but Middlebury is right next door. It could happen here. We need to know that our campuses are fully prepared to deal with the Brownshirts in their midst.