Today’s ‘angry minds’ can be found on the left

J. Martin Rochester, Curators’ Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is author of 10 books on international and American politics, including  his latest book, “New Warfare: Rethinking Rules for An Unruly World.”

By Marty Rochester

Richard Hofstadter’s famous 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” long has been associated with the threat posed by the far right. 

However, Hofstadter started the essay by writing that  “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds” and “that is not necessarily right wing.” Indeed, some of the angriest minds in the country today are left wing.

We are faced with growing fascism in America. If you do not want to label it fascism, then just call it mugocracy. No, I am not talking here about the usual suspects – Donald Trump and his so-called alt-right followers – but about many of Trump’s critics. In particular, I am referring to the radical-left thugs who pose as students at many elite colleges in America and the adults – college professors and administrators, parents, clergy and others – who enable them.  

One can cite myriad examples of free speech stifled on university campuses recently, with the repression in almost every case coming from the left, from the very folks who preach the most about respecting diversity. 

Two years ago, you may recall, Melissa Click was the communications professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia whose notion of the free exchange of ideas meant maintaining a “safe space” for protestors to spew epithets at others while being spared any such offense themselves. 

Three celebrated incidents this year similarly featuring one-way communication were those involving former Breitbart News senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California-Berkeley on Feb. 1; social scientist and “Bell Curve” author Charles Murray at Middlebury College on March 2; and “The War on Cops” author Heather MacDonald at Claremont McKenna College on April 7. 

I wish to focus on the latter, not because it was the most egregious illustration of fascist behavior but the most mundane. Where Yiannopoulos had to dodge broken glass and Murray was physically assaulted, MacDonald was only barred from speaking. Where Yiannopoulos was a provocateur and Murray was provocative, MacDonald was merely conservative. That is all it takes these days for the very liberal-minded enfant terribles on campus to get agitated. 

MacDonald is a scholar at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research whose writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and many other respected outlets. Her new book, “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe,” touches a raw nerve of the body politic: the relationship between police and the African-American community in the post-Ferguson era.  

She is critical of many in the Black Lives Matter movement and others who have demonized police as racist and engaged in the systemic killing of unarmed blacks. She argues that these stereotypes are unsupported by data, that there is no such epidemic and that, if anything, the police are the best protectors African-Americans have against the violence that plagues their communities. 

MacDonald contends that the handcuffs that President Barack Obama’s administration put on the police after Ferguson, constraining normal law enforcement routines, has made it more difficult for cops to do their job and has contributed to rising crime rates in Chicago, St. Louis and other big cities. 

FBI Director James Comey and others have echoed the view that these constraints have inhibited police and emboldened criminals. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called for a review of the police-reform agreements that Obama’s Department of Justice reached with local police departments to ensure that the federal government did not overreach. 

MacDonald has lots of hard data on her side, not only a  huge trove of empirical evidence she presents but evidence found in numerous other sources as well. For example, official New York City Police Department statistics show that “in a city of 8.2 million people — and in a police department of more than 35,000 armed officers who in 2015 responded to more than 66,000 calls involving weapons — NYPD cops shot and killed eight criminal suspects,” all of whom had prior arrest records and were violently resisting arrest when apprehended. 

Nationwide last year, police shot and killed almost 1,000 people (twice as many whites as blacks), almost 90 percent of whom were armed with a weapon (“The Myth of the Trigger-Happy Cop,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 4).

A total of 762 homicides were reported in Chicago last year, the most in two decades. The 57 percent increase over the previous year was the biggest spike in 60 years.   This does not fully account for the more than 3,000 people shot, one victim every two hours. CBS News reported that “the number of [police] stops declined from 49,257 in August 2015 to 8,859 a year later while arrests fell by a third to 6,900,”  as officers were “more reluctant to stop suspicious individuals” (“Murder and Policing in Chicago,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2). 

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center, based on a 2016 survey of 8,000 officers across the country, verified “the Ferguson effect,” finding “a significant fear among police about their safety and about carrying out some of the everyday acts of policing” (“Ferguson Effect Quantified,” Associated Press,  Jan. 11).

MacDonald has made a point of noting that “the primary victims have been black,” with the “homicide victimization rate nine times greater for black males than for white males” (“The Myth of the Racist Cop,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 23, 2016). The assailants tend to be overwhelmingly black. In St. Louis, as of April 18 of this year, all 27 murder suspects identified by the St. Louis Police Department were black. Black lives do matter, but it simply is not the case that white cops are a major source of the problem. 

None of this is to suggest that racial discrimination never occurs in law enforcement or that the police can’t do a better job at community policing and training. However, “fake news” such as “hands up, don’t shoot” (the popular Ferguson narrative fueled by mainstream media coverage unsubstantiated by grand jury testimony) and “alternative facts” about institutionalized police brutality do not help address legitimate concerns about racism and crime. 

MacDonald came to Claremont to discuss these issues. However, Black Lives Matter activists and others were not interested in listening to a presentation of data or logical argument or, for that matter, any competing viewpoints. They also were not willing to let others hear the lecture. They posted on Facebook in advance that they planned to “shut down” her talk, calling her a “white supremacist” and vowing to disrupt her “racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, fascist agenda.”

About 250 protestors blocked the entrance to the auditorium on campus where she was scheduled to speak, chanting slogans including “From Oakland to Greece, f— the police” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This was what the left calls “intersectionality” in action — promoting arm-holding among oppressed peoples privileged to obtain the stamp of approval of George Soros and Co.; it is not very inclusive of Jews or men and women in blue. 

MacDonald was forced to deliver her talk via livestream to a mostly empty room. When protestors started yelling obscenities and banging on windows, drowning out her voice, she had to cut short her remarks and was escorted by police out of the building, exiting through a kitchen into an unmarked police van. It all ended with the now familiar handwringing by college officials condemning the suppression of speech and vowing to punish the offenders, even if it is likely to barely amount to a slap on the wrist. 

Don’t hold your breath waiting for justice. In the 1960s, students challenged authority structures. But today, the authority structures are so mired in political correctness that they themselves are instigators and facilitators of protest. 

One can be suspended on some campuses for daring to say “all lives matter.” Where in the 1960s “fascist pigs” referred to the police, today the more apt reference is to the intolerant leftist ideologues who hide behind the cloak of “diversity” while promoting groupthink and subverting democracy.