“The protestors then violently set upon the car, rocking it, pounding on it, jumping on and try to prevent it from leaving campus,” he said. “At one point a large traffic sign was thrown in front of the car. Public Safety officers were able, finally, to clear the way to allow the vehicle to leave campus.
“During this confrontation outside McCullough, one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck,” Burger continued. “She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace.”
In the past, I've seen a number of comments from the right that the pajamaboys of the left can't really be dangerous, but I disagree. It's not like one of them is going to step up and challenge a conservative or libertarian to individual combat. No, when it happens, it will begin like this, hundreds of lefties surrounding the target, shouting hatred, someone pushing the target to the ground, and then a frenzied beating and stomping. God forbid, but that's where I see this trend heading.
But what was the protest about? Why did the protestors feel justified, even compelled, to attack? Before Murray spoke, apparently 500 alumni wrote a letter in beyond the green, which claims to be a student-run blog at Middlebury College. The claims in that letter are worth considering, so I will excerpt them at length.
Dear Middlebury College,
We are Middlebury alumni/ae who were disappointed, confused, and alarmed to learn that Charles Murray has been invited to speak at our alma mater. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers Dr. Murray a “white nationalist” who “us[es] racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by… genetic inferiority.” Why has such a person been granted a platform at Middlebury?
This is not an issue of freedom of speech. We think it is necessary to allow a diverse range of perspectives to be voiced at Middlebury. ...
However, in this case we find the principle does not apply, due to not only the nature, but also the quality, of Dr. Murray’s scholarship. He paints arguments for the biological and intellectual superiority of white men with a thin veneer of quantitative rhetoric and academic authority. His work, including 1984’s Losing Ground and 1994’s The Bell Curve (coauthored with Richard Herrnstein), misinterprets selective, uncorrected statistics and other faulty data to argue for the genetic inferiority of people of color, women, people with disabilities, and the poor. This is the same thinking that motivates eugenics and the genocidal white supremacist ideologies that are enjoying a popular resurgence under the new presidential administration. It is the same thinking that pervades many of the policies, structures, and attitudes that perpetuate the ever-worsening inequalities of American society today. But it is fallacious thinking. The Bell Curve, for example, has been roundly refuted and criticized by sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists alike. Yet Dr. Murray does not seem to be the kind of scholar who responds thoughtfully to criticism of his findings, biases, or methodology. He has only continued to produce more work distinguished by the same disregard for basic standards of research and peer review.
We ask the Middlebury College community, and the American Enterprise Institute in particular: If Dr. Murray’s scholarship is of blatantly dreadful quality—and we hold, along with so many of his colleagues, that it is—then what is the point of “debating” his views? How, and why, does one go about arguing in good faith with a scholar whose entire intellectual premise consists of what are now being called, incredibly, “alternative facts”?
Since Dr. Murray’s views are not worth engaging on these grounds, this can hardly be called an occasion for open, rigorous academic debate. His invitation to campus, then, is not an educational opportunity, but a threat. It is a message to every woman, every person of color, every first-generation student, every poor and working-class person, every disabled person, and every queer person that not only their acceptance to and presence at Middlebury, but also their safety, their agency, their humanity, and even their very right to exist are all up for “debate.” As a coalition of eight Middlebury student organizations wrote in Beyond the Green in 2016: “When you ask us to consider the other side of the argument, you are asking us to consider our assumed inferiority as a logical position. In no way does this consideration further our (or your) education.” In this case, there’s not really any “other side,” only deceptive statistics masking unfounded bigotry. In the context of Middlebury, Dr. Murray’s pseudo-scholarship is not merely pseudo-scholarship. It is intimidation.
Let's consider this sentence: His invitation to campus, then, is not an educational opportunity, but a threat. It is a message to every woman, every person of color, every first-generation student, every poor and working-class person, every disabled person, and every queer person that not only their acceptance to and presence at Middlebury, but also their safety, their agency, their humanity, and even their very right to exist are all up for “debate.”
This is their worldview. They believe that men like Charles Murray threaten their right to exist, and they do so with bigoted lies and deception. It is natural to want to silence such a man, especially if you think he may heavily influence others with those lies. It is natural to want to attack someone viewed as a threat not only to their liberties but to their very existence, especially someone who may motivate others in your community to become threats to your liberties and even your existence.
Those of us who want our existential enemies to get a fair hearing, to have a chance to make the case for ending our existence, must be the strange ones, it would seem.
While I find it useful to try to understand our opponents, when I've stopped there in the past I've gotten into all kinds of trouble. My problem is, that is where I stop for a while. I like to let these things sink in so that I feel like I really understand the other side's viewpoint. Only then do I feel like I can generate ideas for answers to the problem. So, I will stop here, but say that this is a dangerous trend and we do need solutions. I just don't have them at the moment.
If you are interested, Harry Zieve Cohen at the American Interest has more to say about this. He argues that Murray's work has been misrepresented and that this issue goes beyond free speech and academic debate. Rather, it is about how schools are mis-educating their students.
The Sage of Knoxville also weighs in on recent campus violence with "Conspiring to stifle free speech is a crime" in USA Today.