(Part 1 of 2. Part 2 is here).

Ralph Raico mentioned this book in a speech he gave on the occasion of his being awarded the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty. (Read the speech on the Mises Institute website.) Here’s the relevant section from the speech:

Today America is in the grip of a dominant political class.  It consists of the media, the educational establishment, and the state apparatus–the federal bureaucrats, the federal judges–as well as their supporters at every level of government.

Paul Gottfried has described this political class and its aims and goals very well, in his book, After Liberalism [I’m reading that, too. Book notes to follow].  It is a self-appointed elite that fully intends to bring about a radical restructuring of our society, to alter all of our inherited ideas and values in the direction of egalitarianism and socialism.  In the end, there will be a systematic redistribution of property, from the rightful owners to the “needy.”  So, massive expropriation, together with a crusade to remake the nature of man–the Bolshevik Revolution, but without, to all appearances, any need for mass murder.  It will all be done through what passes for “democracy” today.

In the colleges and universities, the agenda of this political class is virtually unopposed. Unless you are actually in the midst of academic life today, you will find it hard to imagine what it is like.

There are whole departments, Women’s Studies, Black Studies, in some places Chicano Studies, and others devoted to this task.  On every campus there is a Diversity Office, dedicated to bringing more professors of victimology on to the campus.  There are speech codes and the incessant war against fraternities.  Agitation and violence are sanctioned and permitted for privileged groups, while conservative speakers often are not even allowed on the campus because of a threatened riot.

In many schools–including the best schools– “sensitivity training” for the whole class of entering freshmen is mandatory.  A new profession has been created, sensitivity “facilitators,” whose job is to remake the personalities of the students. You can read about this in documented detail in the excellent book by the distinguished scholar Alan Kors and the civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.

The book does an excellent job of tracing the roots of political correctness in American universities, and illustrating that root with lots of examples (actual cases of students and faculty accused of “crimes” against political correctness codes, cases which either made it into the newspapers, or to the law courts, or which were known to the authors because of their positions – Alan Kors is professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and was often requested to act as counsel in such cases).

The roots of political correctness, according to the authors, go back to the ideas of Marcuse: The contemporary movement that seeks to restrict liberty on campus arose specifically in the provocative work of the late Marxist political and social philosopher Herbert Marcuse, a brilliant polemicist, social critic, and philosopher who gained a following in the New Left student movement of the ’60s. Marcuse developed a theory of civil liberty that would challenge the essence and legitimacy of free speech.

The importance and influence of Marcuse’s thinking is well illustrated by actual quotes from various university people and publications in later chapters of the book. The reader will no doubt recognize several key concepts and arguments (you may even agree with or believe some of them), because they have permeated much of present-day thinking in a number of areas, not just in academia. For this reason, I will give several long quotes from this chapter:

Marcuse built on the work of Rousseau, Marx, and Gramsci to articulate an alternative conception of liberty, placing him at odds with the Berkeley Free Speech movement, the U.S. Supreme Court‘s First Amendment doctrines, academic freedom, and the values of most liberal democrats. Indeed, this alternative framework for liberty, which used some traditional terms but assigned them new meanings, became the foundation of academic speech codes.

In a 1965 essay entitled, “Repressive Tolerance“,  Marcuse concluded that the supposedly neutral tolerance for ideas in the America of the 1960s was in reality a highly selective tolerance that benefitted only the prevailing attitudes and opinions of those who held wealth and power. Such “indiscriminate” or “pure” tolerance, he argued, effectively served “the cause of oppression” and the “established machinery of discrimination”. For Marcuse, as long as society was held captive by institutionalized pervasive social and economic inequality…”indiscriminate tolerance” necessarily would serve the highly discriminatory interests of regression.

The holders of power, Marcuse argued, maintained their control by keeping  the population “manipulated and indoctrinated”, so that ordinary people “parrot, as their own, the opinion of their masters”.  In such circumstances, “the indiscriminate guaranty of political rights and liberties” is actually “repressive”… He believed that “within the framework of such a social structure, tolerance can be safely practiced and proclaimed” by those in power because dissenting – even radical – voices were powerless to change that structure.

Marcuse did not directly assail Holmes’s and Brandeis‘s notion that ideas for societal change should be, in Marcuse’s words, “prepared, defined, and tested in free and equal discussion, on the open marketplace of ideas and goods.” Rather, he asserted that the current “marketplace” was rigged because of its “background limitations.” Before a true marketplace of ideas could be established, where genuine democracy could flourish, current inequities would have to be eliminated, and this could not be done while equating the rights of dominant regressive expression and of marginalized progressive words and ideas. For Marcuse, true equality included equality of circumstances, but the playing fields were so far from being socially, economically, or culturally level that equality in contemporary society was a myth. If the powerful and the weak were required to play by the same rules, he argued, the powerful always would win….

… the indoctrinated had to be given the tools with which to see the truth. How were people to be freed from the bonds that keep the prisoners under a purely illusory tolerance? Marcuse responded that “they would have to get information slanted in the opposite direction, [which] cannot be accomplished within the established framework of abstract tolerance and spurious objectivity”. Marcuse posited that there was a true and superior species of “tolerance” which enlarged the range and content of freedom”. This tolerance, however, was “always partisan”, because it was “intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo”.

… Marcuse was refreshingly frank.  The “reopening” of the channels of true toleration and liberation, now “blocked by organized repression and indoctrination”, must be accomplished, sometimes, by “apprently undemoractic means”. Marcuse suggested that these would include “the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.”

Marcuse was untroubled by his double standards… “liberating tolerance”, Marcuse wrote, in contrast to “indiscriminate tolerance” or “repressive tolerance”, would be “intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left”. Thus duality”would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion of propaganda, of deed as well as of word”. It was important that intolerance apply to regressive words as well as to regressive deeds, because, for Marcuse, words had real consequences, and if the consequences were to be avoided, the words must be silenced.

Marcuse’s premise, which separated his political philosophy fundamentally from First Amendment jurisprudence, was that liberty, in the current stage of historical and social development, was a zero-sum game: “The exercise of civil rights by those who don’t have them presupposes the withdrawal of of civil rights from those who prevent their exercise”.  For Marcuse, … to achieve a society of universal tolerance, once could not tolerate reactionary ideas.

Marcuse focused on the education of the young: “The restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teaching and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behavior”. Because students already were so heavily brainwashed to think in the manner that established power had ordained, true “autonomous thinking” was virtually impossible, and one had to take steps to wrench students from the regressive channels into which society had cast their minds…. Marcuse proposed that the academic shock troops of this revolution undertake to “prepare the ground” for effecting such changes, even if that might involve a resort to violence. Marcuse was not troubled by this, because “there is a difference between revolutionary and reactionary violence, between violence practiced by the oppressed and the oppressors.”…

In short, to produce conditions in which freedom could flourish first on campus and then in the greater society, reeducation in a progressive university was essential… This reeducation alone could create a “progressive” society, where true freedom and democracy would reign. Once this had been achieved, Marcuse promised, there would be no further need for such “anti-democratic” expedients that were, after all, aimed simply to redress the imbalance between “oppressor” and “oppressed”. Censorship, during this “reversal”, was essential… Indeed, censorship, for Marcuse, must be deeply pervasive, although historically temporary..

Marcuse’s prescription for a progressive society have not noticeably taken root in the “real world”” outside the academy. Most of the trends toward greater free speech for all – trends that he so abhorred -have accelerated in the three decades since he published his essay. Nevertheless, Marcuse’s prescriptions are the model for the assaults on free speech in today’s academic world.

Recognize any of these arguments? The Marcuse essay referred to “Repressive Tolerance” is dedicated to my [Marcuse’s – ed.] students at Brandeis University. Ironic, considering the opposition provided by the Supreme Court to the fulfillment of Marcuse’s ambitions and of those of his followers, and in support of free speech.

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