University administrators and university fundraisers would be unpleasantly surprised to learn how they are portrayed in the authoritative Antifa Handbook, written by activist historian Mark Bray. Mr. Bray brings with him impeccable radical credentials (an organizer of Occupy Wall Street) and includes interviews with 61 Antifa members.
Mr. Bray’s Handbook notes that popular social movements for civil rights, gay and lesbian and transgender rights have pushed universities to become more inclusive and “diverse.” The Handbook rejects university portrayals of their actions as “apolitical updates to collective morality.” Instead, establishing ethnic studies and women’s and gender studies departments and hiring more faculty of color are not moral moves of conscience. Rather they are pure politics.
As charged by the Antifa Handbook, universities, increasingly forced to pay attention to the demands of the marginalized, have parlayed their commitment to diversity into an opportunity to sell their “profit-driven institutions in a new market of liberal pluralism.” Diversity is simply a new opportunity to swell the endowment’s holdings of private equity.
Indeed, alumni of our most prestigious universities and colleges are being bombarded with missives about new diversity programs, including staffing up on diversity officers and on faculty of color. That these financial commitments are being made in a time of financial exigency simply proves the institution’s moral superiority. Hopefully, alumni will get out their checkbooks and pitch in.
The Antifa Handbook has a different interpretation of the race to diversity.
The commitments to provide increasing support for LGBTQ, undocumented, and African-American students are “entirely hollow if the very same institutions also provide space for individuals and groups that not only deny the humanity of those populations, but are actively organizing movements to physically deprive them of their existence.” (Do not the last six words above mean “murder”?)
Antifa states clearly that university administrators cannot have their cake and eat it too. Universities cannot praise their new mental health facilities for trans students and then allow on campus a speaker who incites hatred against transgender students. Administrators cannot brag about their support of the marginalized if they are also supporting “the right of bigots to preach about their biological inferiority.”
We live in a world of either or. Universities, like other institutions, cannot look for the golden mean. They must choose one side or the other.
According to the Handbook, there would be no contradiction if universities did not claim to be operating on normative values. Instead, university multiculturalism has been institutionalized and “monetized.”
The Handbook cites a vice provost of NYU, who “argues that ‘free-speech protections’ end when they ‘mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned.’” No-platforming must replace free speech.
Universities should understand that they can never satisfy Antifa and related organizations. The Antifa Handbook clearly states its goal as the overthrow of existing institutions, including universities, as we know them. Universities should also realize that revolutionaries (Lenin) eliminate first those who had been closest to them (Mensheviks and SRs) in the struggle for power.
• Paul Gregory is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
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