A commenter responded, “It’s a photo, sweetie. It can’t hurt you.” But it wasn’t just a photo, but a photo of Charles Murray.
I wish to explain the photograph on page A1 to the readers. I recognize that it may be especially jarring, particularly for students of color who feel that Charles Murray’s rhetoric poses a threat to their very humanity.
The mere exposure of students to a pic of Charles Murray demanded an editorial explanation by Ethan Brady at Middlebury College. He doesn’t mention what rhetoric poses a “threat to their very humanity,” but that’s likely because few, apparently including Brady, have bothered to read Murray’s Bell Curve and are instead working with some vague notion that he’s a known facscist and white supremacist. Reading is a lot of work. Believing the outrage on Facebook is much easier. And good enough when it comes to identifying evil people.
Even assuming any validity to the myth of Murray’s rhetoric, how words pose a threat to “their very humanity” is the sort of thing only a child at an expensive New England liberal arts college can see.
This photograph is not meant to troll, or to cause pain, but to ask how that protest still lives with us today, one year later. For many, this image is burned in our collective memory. As much as we try to distance ourselves from that moment, we are made from it.
That protest, which could be well characterized as the silencing (or “de-platforming” as the woke call it) of an invited speaker, was news. Not just news at Middlebury, but news to the broader society who didn’t necessarily share the views of students who engaged in violence, who harmed their own professor, Alison Stanger, after they had achieved their goal of silencing Murray.
I recognize that running this photograph is a political act. Yet I see no way to comprehend this institution without seeing ourselves as part of American society, which is itself political.
As hyperbolic as the “threat to their very humanity” language might be, calling the running of a photo a “political act” by a newspaper, even a student rag, is worse. When students are constrained to rationalize why reporting news should be tolerated even though someone will certainly cry that they were offended by it, they have forfeited all pretense to journalism. There will be someone who finds fault with pretty much anything these days. Are they really hurt, offended, by it, or do they believe that they should be and so they feign the outrage they know they should feel?
But news isn’t a political act. News is news, reporting is reporting, and the fact that someone at Middlebury will cry out in faux pain doesn’t change it from news to a political act. Can it be argued that every act is political? Brady apparently thinks so, which informs us that he has no grasp of what reporting facts means.
I also believe moving forward requires looking inside, however unpleasant that may be. We cannot escape our history. We can only confront it.
And Middlebury should confront it. The students disgraced themselves, not that it’s the only time Middlebury proved itself intellectually unworthy. Your students not only shut down a speaker because of some vague notion that he “posed a threat to their very humanity,” but they engaged in violence, they harmed a person, in the name of social justice.
And now you “believe” it’s necessary to rationalize the appearance of a photograph. Middlebury students hurt their own professor. As the commenter replied, “It’s a photo, sweetie. It can’t hurt you.”
The “protest” against Charles Murray happened a year ago. You’re now a year older, but you haven’t matured at all. Confront that.