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College Democrats publicly ‘condemn’ themselves for saying campus shoutdowns ‘aren’t working’

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About a month ago, Columbia University’s College Democrats savaged their Republican peers for inviting anti-Islam and conspiracy-theory speakers to campus.

But they also took their allies to task for trying to shut down events with speakers they don’t like, including Charles Murray at Middlebury College and Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California-Berkeley.

The club wrote in the Columbia Daily Spectator that “these bigots are empowered rather than erased” when students fight them with their emotions rather than their reason:

When we try to shout down white nationalist speakers, it provides credence to falsehoods such as “both sides are at fault” or “students don’t believe in free speech.” … If these speakers did not get so much attention when they came to college campuses, their despicable ideas would remain confined to the dustbin of history.

Three weeks later, the College Democrats publicly rejected everything they wrote and apologized for being insufficiently intersectional.

In a remarkably groveling “statement of redaction and responsibility” published in the Spectator last week, the club went so far as to “condemn” themselves for expressing basic common sense: “This statement is far too little and too late, but necessary all the same.”

The College Democrats faulted themselves for “reckless inconsideration of identity-based groups,” “hypocrisy … and the dangerous nature of our actions.” Their op-ed, written by members of the executive board, “misrepresented the values of our general body.”

They even apologized for hosting their own counterprogramming during the College Republicans’ events, saying the College Democrats “acted as though we knew better” than the shoutdowners and should have instead collaborated with their illiberal and censorious peers.

MORE: Columbia refuses to punish students for shouting down speaker

You really have to read the whole thing, which has the tone of a captured North Korean defector scrambling to save his life:

The fact that we did not apologize for our statements immediately after the release of the op-ed placed an unfair burden on the groups targeted by white supremacy to bring attention to our failures. …

[By accurately describing student protesters as “shouting down” speakers,] we minimized and undermined the labor of groups who organized against the speakers. …

We take full responsibility for the ways in which we were complicit in supporting the violence caused by the visiting speakers, violence which is also perpetuated by American society. We recognize that these actions have made our community members more vulnerable while bolstering white supremacy. We must change without putting it on others to teach us and without looking for any kind of acknowledgement for doing so. …

We will show up and support [the work of identity-based groups] by attending protests and events. … We admire, support, and seek to honor the work of those committed to combatting [sic] injustice. To the people we failed and disappointed: We are sorry.

MORE: Black student activists demand defunding of CRs: They ‘oppose our humanity’

The retraction letter alludes to criticism of the College Democrats, published the prior week in the Spectator, that the club “has regularly been absent” from coalitions of left-wing activists this academic year, particularly anti-Israel activism:

“The official Democratic platform is pro-Israel and they’ve continued to hold events with groups like Aryeh and promote Zionist speakers on campus. And that’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just a fundamental incompatibility,” said [Student-Worker Solidarity] and [Columbia Divest for Climate Justice] organizer Sofia Petros, CC ’19.

Its president’s explanation of its absence from these coalitions – that “our goals are very much elections-based” – was too much for the newly self-flagellating executive board:

[W]e recognize the historic ideologies of the national Democratic Party platform, which continue to oppress marginalized groups. Our Spectator op-ed and our recent actions contradict our commitment to diversity and inclusion stated in our governing document.

So there you have it: Unrepentant anti-Semites and self-described socialists have shamed these young Democrats to apologize for being Democrats.

Read the original op-ed, retraction letter and Spectator coverage of the Democrat-activist tension.

MORE: Columbia quiet as student official floats pre-approval for CR events

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

Add to the Discussion

  • We see here a sharp fraying at the seem between the liberal and illiberal sides of the left: those not intelligent enough to practice classical liberal independence of thought are ‘triggered’ into reacting with mindless illiberal mobs when faced with a challenging idea. The question is, how many of the former will hang on, when power is being increasingly ceded to the latter?

    • Donald Robertson

      Maybe this will lead the classical liberals on the left to split completely from the illiberals.

  • Steve

    Were these guys blindfolded and standing in front of some sort of banner while being videotaped in an undisclosed location? Holy cow, Otto Warmbier is turning in his grave right now. Grow a spine you pathetic creatures.