The scene in Columbia and the recent scene in New Haven share a similar structure: jeering student mobs expressing incredulity at the idea of political democracy. As far as the students are concerned, they represent the cause of anti-racism, a fact that renders the need for debate irrelevant. Defenses of p.c. tactics simply sweep aside objections to the tactics as self-interested whining. “It’s not about creating an intellectual space,” shouts one Yalie. Notably, the events at Yale have redounded in New Haven to the benefit of the protesters, who have renewed their demands, and Nicholas Christakis, the Yale administrator seen pleading futilely for reason, issuing apologies for his behavior. Likewise, at Wesleyan, the student newspaper that sparked outrage by publishing the op-ed of a student (cautiously) questioning elements of the Black Lives Matter movement has been harshly sanctioned.
That these activists have been able to prevail, even in the face of frequently harsh national publicity highlighting the blunt illiberalism of their methods, confirms that these incidents reflect something deeper than a series of one-off episodes. They are carrying out the ideals of a movement that regards the delegitimization of dissent as a first-order goal. People on the left need to stop evading the question of political correctness — by laughing it off as college goofs, or interrogating the motives of p.c. critics, or ignoring it — and make a decision on whether they agree with it.