Ohio University students channelled their inner Mean Girls this week when hundreds of them convened to run conservative commentator Kaitlin Bennet off campus. Bennett had shown up to the school to interview students about the President’s Day holiday; word somehow got around that she was there, after which furious activists showed up, lobbing garbage at her and screaming obscenities at her — all the while watching the whole thing through their smartphones, as is the customary posture these days.
You don’t even have to like Kaitlin Bennett all that much to recognize how puerile and pathetically juvenile this kind of behavior is. College students are nominally supposed to be adults; adults should be able to respond to someone they disagree with in a way that doesn’t resemble a catty clique of middle schoolers. (“No one f****ng likes you!” one young woman screamed at Bennett, presumably under the impression that this constituted a meaningful sally of some sort.)
In any other context, a young female activist being screeched off campus while being pelted with garbage by an hysterical mob would be front-page news. Yet conservatives, who are enough of a minority on most campuses to function as a countercultural, are subject to this kind of treatment on a regular basis. The activists who engage in this kind of dead-eyed mob politics seem to think they are accomplishing something consequential rather than something merely idiotic. A little tip: If you’re only capable of responding to a commentator you dislike by turning out in a shrieking horde to literally drive her from your midst, you’ve got some deep-seated ideological problems you desperately need to work through.
American college campuses tend to encourage this kind of behavior in their students — they generally function as highly insular, homogenous environments where progressive students rarely encounter any kind of intellectual challenge or dissent — so maybe it’s not surprising that, when confronted with an outspoken conservative, these students would respond by losing their minds. Higher education is increasingly not the kind of place you go for intellectually stimulating discourse; it’s something students seem almost proud of, which of course is a sad commentary on how astonishingly insulated they’ve ultimately become.
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