As a graduate student at Texas A&M, and later at Princeton, I studied how unfair allegations and unfair investigative practices had chilled freedom of speech in the United States during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. Having suffered from the political repression of China’s Cultural Revolution, I can testify to the collective madness that destroyed the lives of millions. I consider McCarthyism a similar political horror, though generated by the American Right and less destructive than the Chinese nightmare.
Yet today, more than half a century after the death of McCarthy (and, we had thought, his method of waging politics) Left-wing McCarthyism dominates the discourse of too many college campuses, supposedly the home of learning. Unfortunately, the campus where I teach, the University of Hawaii, is among them. With collective identities of gender, race, and class dominating practically every discussion, both in and out of classes, professors seek to protect themselves from attack from the politically correct through ritual obeisance. Liberal arts education is no longer even slightly “liberal,” (a word derived from the Latin “libertas,” or liberty, subsequently resurrected by the civic culture of early modern Europe). Students are systematically discouraged from questioning the new orthodoxy, sometimes through bullying and sometimes through the threat of ostracism, enforced by “speech codes.” Administrators have at best become apathetic in promoting a free exchange of ideas and have signed on as sensitivity police.More