Here’s the starting point for a free society:
I have a right to do anything I want so long as I do not limit your right to do the same.
That is a starting point, not an end point. From this starting point, we cast into law those elements of the golden rule that we want to make crimes: don’t kill people, don’t commit fraud, and so on.
Now what happens when you want to create a society where you have a right not to be offended? That’s not a hypothetical question, as we see college campuses experiment with this concept. Lest you think the concept absurd, campus theorists, enforcers, and activists have suggested that giving offense, in a large number of instances, is the same as a threat of violence. Therefore giving offense becomes tied to matters of security.
Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. ~Anonymous
The experiment is revealing, because it demonstrates how quickly an animal-farm spirit can develop around any principle. Orwell’s dystopia concerned itself with division of labor, products of labor, and privileges. Campus dystopias concern themselves with coercive codes of behavior and speech that center on feelings of security. To a large extent, groups that win power in such dystopias act first, and with such ruthlessness that victims cannot respond effectively.
We know from the 1960s that campus political and social movements do not extend to the rest of society automatically, or even at all. Extreme revolutionary sentiments and actions prevalent during the sixties focused on a war, a conflict that ended partly due to those protests, partly because the United States lost the war militarily. Will the safe spaces climate on campuses infect forms of interaction off campus in noticeable ways?
The high degree of anti-PC resentment apparent in the Trump movement, plus a vigorous anti-Trump response at his rallies, suggests that campus politics have plenty of room to grow. Whether the dystopian desire to limit speech on campus can possibly thrive in less closed environments is another question. We can expect that off campus, efforts to limit speech will meet with more resistance.
Note on chalk: Suppose the Trump 2016 chalking movement not only expresses support for Trump, but also pointedly conveys to campus micro-aggression activists, “So, you don’t like provocative speech? Take that!” Micro-aggression activists know aggression when they see it. No wonder they appeal to campus administrators to suppress unwelcome political speech. University of Michigan students called campus security. They say they are frightened, even though no one has threatened them.
Orwell’s pigs used several clever but dishonest techniques to protect their position at the top of the farm. Today’s campus safe space activists demonstrate how to spin grievances into power at school.