The “hard right” playbook on college campuses is all too clear: create a violent spectacle prompting anger and outrage; feign victimhood lamenting the toxic environment of today’s college campuses; focus on the ways that today’s universities attack conservative values, Christianity, and whiteness; call friends at Fox and Talk Radio since “the mainstream media” has shown little concern about the assault on conservative-white-Christian viewpoints from liberal professors; and finally, they jointly use the moment to talk about how feminism, ethnic studies and the cultural shifts since the 1960s are not only destroying America’s social fabric but leaving innocent-traditional-God-loving Americans under constant attack. Within such an environment, one that demonizes and criminalizes, one that imagines the liberal university (insert racial/gendered/sexualized/religious code word) as committing assault on the innocent, it is not surprising that the end result is death threats, ceaseless vitriol, and the coordinated effort to terrorize their “enemy.”
This scenario has played out on campus after campus. Whether involving affirmative action bake sales, immigration fences, groups like Youth for Western Civilization or Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, extremist or “hard right” continue to use college campuses to advance a reactionary agenda.
Despite embracing the rhetoric of “free speech,” dialogue, and the exchange of ideas, there appears to be little interest in actual discussion. Instead, these groups plan events determined to offend; they create conditions that are intentionally hostile and emotionally violent, thereby disrupting a productive and empowering learning environment. More importantly, the faux outrage from the right has little to do with the issues; their “actions” are less about the issue but instead soiling the seeds of their own victimhood.
This is what is happening at UCSB with the recent attacks on University of Santa Barbara Feminist Studies professor Dr. Mireille Miller-Young (for those looking for information on what happened, please read Chris Newfield’s Abortion in the “Culture Wars: Some Effects of Academia’s Weakness” as opposed to those unfair, unbalanced, and ideologically driven assaults). Dr. Newfield makes clear that what happened at UCSB, what is happen to Dr. Miller-Young, and what is happening on campuses throughout the nation reflects the Limbaugh Right’s tactical use of violent, dehumanizing, and triggering rhetoric; it embodies the efforts to turn every moment into one where whiteness, Christianity, heterosexuality masculinity, and “traditional values” can be reimagined as powerless, victimized, and under attack. Dr. Newfield offers the following:
Given their front-line position in a well-developed national anti-abortion activist network, there is no reason for the Shorts to play dumb about their intentions. The sole point of their gruesome signs is to shock and offend people into opposing abortion. They signs aren’t “conversation starters”: they freak people out, as they are meant to do. Even if you are sixteen years old, you should take responsibility for the likely impacts on actual people of what you are deliberately doing. If you try to provoke people, you will eventually succeed, and if you work for someone like Jeff White, you have a full understanding both of what these provoked people might do and of how you can use this with the media. The deeper issue here is that the Shorts arrived at UCSB as the institutional representatives of what for convenience I’ll call Limbaugh’s America–the forever angry wing of the American Right that disparages its opponents rather than debates with them. The Shorts also represented that Right in the rhetorical strategy of their signs, which said quite plainly that pro-choice people, like some of the college students walking by, favor murdering “preborn” babies. In this sense, the signs aren’t just graphic: they are calculated insults of the moral viewpoint of the presumptively pro-choice onlooker.
I am in solidarity with Dr. Mireille Miller-Young because these tactics are reprehensible and counter to the educational mission of higher education. I join Dr. Mireille Miller-Young and others because for too long the “hard right” has engage in tactics that are violent and that seek to provoke violence; I stand with Dr. Miller Young and the many others who endure the daily micro aggressions, a campus climate that shows little concern for their well-being, for their right to walk to class without being assaulted with images and rhetoric that are at best “calculated insults of the moral viewpoint.” I support Mireille because Rush and his reactionary men could care less about her; in fact, they seem to show little concern about the issue of choice, reproductive rights (when is the last time they spoke out about forced sterilization) or even the issues they supposedly cherish, instead using these moments to provoke, assault, criminalize and demonize, all while claiming a moral high ground on the way to victimhood.
I am in solidarity with Dr. Mireille Miller-Young because we must continue to organize, to struggle, to demand accountability from those who pollute our campuses with hate, who silence, who foreclose on discussion and dialogue, all while denying the power and privilege they stand upon each and every day. We hear daily from the right wing about accountability – when will those who engage in these morally bankrupt tactics be held accountable; when will those who try to trigger, to provoke, and to be challenged for their complicity. When will Fox and their friends be held accountable for creating a climate that encourages death threats, that encourages hateful emails, that encourages violence and terror. I am outraged at the racism, at the sexism, and the vitriol that is being directed at Dr. Miller-Young. Having experienced something similar, I know how they roll: with little regard for the trauma, pain, and heartache experienced in the face of these attacks. I stand with Dr. Mireille Miller-Young because no matter what happened at UCSB no person deserves to be terrorized, to be subjected to acts of violence. I offer these words of support, because with these words, with our efforts to come together, we speak with her, we speak with justice, demanding accountability and a campus climate that empowers all, not one that silences the already marginalized, so the loudest can continue to be heard. Enough!