Alex Knepper is an undergraduate at American University, and he’s not gonna take it any more. In a forcefully written denunciation of what he diagnoses as a mindless anti-conservatism at the root of the Leftist mentality, “The roots of the left’s love affair with Islam,” Knepper observes:
A consistent rationalist has no home on the modern left, because the left has no particular problem with religion. Its problem is with Christian Republicans. The left doesn’t love Darwin, for example; it just hates Palin. It doesn’t love reason, it hates conservative Christianity. With the left, we are dealing with a political ideology that is completely defined by what it hates. And what it hates is anything at all that stands in support of traditional Western values—whether they are Judeo-Christian religious ones or Greco-Roman pagan ones. Anything that obstructs tradition is held as sacrosanct and untouchable.
He goes on to argue that, even though conservative in every relevant respect, Islam gets a free pass because its anti-Western. Islam “sticks it to the man,” and therefore becomes an ally of the transgressive Left.
As I suggested in my column on Pascal Bruckner’s book The Tyranny of Guilt, it’s certainly not the case that contemporary liberalism can be so easily pigeon holed. There are lots of Rawlsians running around who don’t fit Knepper’s description, and although I’m no fan of Martha Nussbaum, she not anti-Western.
Yet, as an undergraduate student, Kneppers is reporting on a tone or tenor, a default position. As I’ve observed on a number of occasions, the sensible liberalism of most faculty members and administrators tends to be cowed by the more extreme voices. Their silence has the effect of amplifying the few who speak very loudly and very clearly—and more extremely.
Why the silence? Kneppers suggests that in academia conservatism plays an important psychological role as the detested “other.” I’m persuaded that this is true. In my career in academia, I’ve been told again and again not to describe myself or my views as “conservative,” not because the label is inaccurate, but because it’s “divisive” and “extremist.”
No, I take that back. Some kind friends have urged me to drop the label “conservative,” because they like me, and unconsciously they believe that “conservative” and “evil” are synonyms.
In any event, in the academic context the silence comes from the fear of any association with conservatism. The same may be true in journalism.
First, sensible liberals are cowed by extremists on the Left because they cannot afford to be magnanimous. In my opinion, contemporary American conservatism is an ideological mess. But it remains politically powerful, and academic liberals intuitively recognize that if conservatism were allowed a normal voice in higher education, it would become very powerful very quickly.
Second, American conservatism is an ideological mess in part because it mimics the insanities and blindnesses of the Left, often demonizing liberals, for example, denouncing Barack Obama as a communist. Obama derangement syndrome is as debilitating as Bush derangement syndrome.