Robert Tracinski argues that all the talk in contemporary universities controlled by the left about “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” demonstrates the kind of alarm among herds of herbivores manifested in the immediate build up to an extinction event.
At the beginning of the year, I speculated that we may have reached â€œPeak Leftism,â€ the point at which the left has achieved such uniform control of the commanding heights of the culture that they have no place to go but down. Their mania for soft ideological conformity suggests a mechanism for this decline. They are growing so accustomed to living in an ideological â€œsafe spaceâ€ that they will no longer understand what it means to debate their positions, much less how to win the debate.
The most powerful historical precedent for this is the totalitarian creed of the Soviet Unionâ€”a dogma imposed, not just by campus censors or a Twitter mob, but by gulags and secret police. Yet one of the lessons of the Soviet collapse is that the ideological uniformity of a dictatorship seems totally solid and impenetrableâ€”right up to the moment it cracks apart. The imposition of dogma succeeds in getting everyone to mouth the right slogans, even as fewer and fewer of them understand or believe the ideology behind it.
This is the Paradox of Dogma. To return to the question we started with: if you try to shut down public debate, is this a way of ensuring that you winâ€”or an admission that you have already lost? The answer is: both. It might ensure that you win in the short term. But over the long term, it abandons the field to those who do believe in ideological debate.
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