By Taylor Schmitt
I have some confessions to make: I am a liberal. I am pro-choice. I favor the legalization of gay marriage and marijuana. Given supreme authority, I would drastically cut our military budget and use the money to institute a single-payer healthcare system (certainly not something many of my colleagues at the Independent would agree with). I even voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, in the last presidential election. However, despite my overwhelmingly liberal political leanings, the progressive movement – particularly as I’ve seen it manifested on college campuses – has made me embarrassed to identify myself as a liberal
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Fox News spends only 45 percent of its airtime on factual reporting, while it spends 55 percent of its airtime on opinion pieces and commentary. It was unsurprising that a news source frequently lampooned as opinion-driven and biased spends the majority of its time reporting opinion pieces. But why is Fox News considered such a horrible and untrustworthy network when the same study showed that the liberal MSNBC network spends a whopping 85 percent of its airtime on opinion segments and only 15 percent on factual reporting?
If Fox’s penchant for focusing on opinion is worthy of criticism, doesn’t MSNBC’s more egregious example of the same sin merit even more? The contempt for Fox I hear coming from liberals coupled with a lack of criticism towards MSNBC suggests that many within the liberal movement don’t want factual journalism at all, but rather opinionated journalism with a liberal bent. In fact, though they would have you believe they merely support truth in journalism, many liberals openly disregard the truth – and criticize those who don’t – when it conflicts with their worldview.
The most recent example that comes to mind is the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. My fellow liberals decided from day one that Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Brown, was in the wrong. Before autopsy results were released, without reading the eyewitness testimony, and with no regard for forensic evidence, the left prejudged Wilson as guilty.
Although I personally prefer to hear evidence before forming an opinion, I can understand why –especially in light of the slanted media reporting on the case – many people would leap to the conclusion that Wilson was guilty. What was appalling to me, however, was that when the evidence that was released proved far from sufficient to suggest Wilson’s guilt, the vast majority of the left was still calling for Wilson to be punished. Protests predicated on the assumption of Wilson’s guilt, like the march to Claremont City Hall, were held nationwide after a grand jury failed to indict Wilson, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that the evidence against him was inconclusive at best.
Campus liberals acted similarly in the case of Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who has vowed to carry a mattress around campus with her until her alleged rapist leaves the school. Rallies in support of Sulkowicz were held at college campuses across the nation, including here in Claremont. Despite the fact that criminal charges were never filed and the man who ostensibly assaulted her was found not responsible by Columbia, supporters of Sulkowicz have continued to refer to him as her “rapist” and harass him on and off campus (have they never heard of the Scottsboro Boys?). The Columbia Spectator decided to print the name of the accused despite the fact that the university had not found him responsible for any wrongdoing (did the Spectator learn nothing from the media’s handling of the Duke Lacrosse case?).
This uproar will affect the man for the remainder of his time at Columbia and will continue to follow him for the rest of his life. Because the alleged assault fit into campus liberals’ dominant narrative on sexual assault, the overwhelmingly liberal students of Columbia, the Claremont Colleges, and other elite institutions were eager to risk ruining a potentially innocent man’s life by naming him a rapist, even as new evidence emerges, all of which seems to support the alleged attacker’s innocence.
To question the guilt of Darren Wilson was to be a racist, and to question the veracity of Sulkowicz’s story was to be a sexist rape apologist. Doing either of these things would almost certainly get you branded as a conservative. As a liberal who did both of these things, I have been appalled by the irrational mob mentality displayed by my fellow liberal students at events like the Ferguson protest and the “Carry That Weight” march in support of Sulkowicz. I am struggling to come to terms with this new reality wherein sticking to an objective view of the facts is considered a conservative trait. The campus left’s complete unwillingness to adjust their opinions of these cases to fit with the facts shows a thought process completely devoid of reason. Facts are apolitical.
To question prevailing liberal thought on Ferguson and Columbia because of the evidence (or lack thereof) is not a conservative position. It is a realistic one. To question prevailing liberal thought on Ferguson and Columbia is not to deny the existence of racism in law enforcement or sexual assault on college campuses, but to acknowledge that not every individual case fits those patterns.
Ferguson and Columbia are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to college liberals privileging (if I may appropriate one of their favorite words) narrative over evidence: As it turns out, trigger warnings (well-intentioned though they may be) actually do more harm than good, and controlled exposure to trauma can lead to a quicker recovery from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than complete avoidance. According to the founder of the Trauma Studies program at King’s College, London: “You cannot get a person to avoid triggers in their day-to-day lives. It would be impossible…Instead of encouraging a culture of avoidance, [the media] should be encouraging exposure…Most trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the experience. Avoidance means helplessness and helplessness means depression. That’s not good.”
Women do not make $0.77 for every dollar men earn for the same work. When controlling relevant variables such as profession and hours worked (seemingly obvious measures conspicuously missing from the original $0.77 study), the wage gap almost completely disappears. Childless women in their 20s actually make as much as 8 percent more than their male counterparts.
President Obama hesitates to refer to the Islamic State as an Islamic extremist group and makes an effort to downplay what are actually alarmingly high levels of sympathy for extremist movements in Muslim communities worldwide.
It is most likely untrue that 1 in 5 female college students is sexually assaulted. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number may be closer to 6 in 1000 . This data, collected over the course of 18 years and with a response rate of 74 percent, is much more reliable than the 1 in 5 study, which sourced its data only from two large schools, had a response rate of 43 percent, and did not even take into account whether or not the people being surveyed felt that they had been assaulted (a similar study found that 49 percent of women classified as having been raped did not think they had been, while only 47 percent did). The author of the 1 in 5 study himself said “We don’t think one in five is a nationally representative statistic.”
The list goes on and on.
The fact that my fellow liberals seem so unconcerned with evidence makes it hard for me to sympathize with their cause. Although I may agree with them on many issues, the way in which we arrive at those conclusions differs drastically. I thoroughly believe that most of the liberals here at the Claremont Colleges do what they do with good intentions; as liberals we should help the disadvantaged and strive to create positive social and political change.
However, what is stereotypically “liberal” is not always right, and what fits most cleanly into our belief systems is not always true. Unwillingness to listen to opinions differing from the mainstream and attempting to silence opposing viewpoints (including the destruction of print issues of the Independent around campus) is completely illiberal and is an insult to the campus Free Speech Movement that liberal students championed 50 years ago. Silencing minority viewpoints does not prove them wrong and says more about those doing the silencing than those being silenced.
The only rational way to approach divisive political issues is to base your opinions off of the facts that are available to you. Liberals and conservatives have always disagreed on how those facts are to be interpreted, and we should be glad for it. Neither conservatives nor liberals are correct 100 percent of the time. However, it seems lately that evidence has become a nonissue for many on the left.
Unless my fellow liberals learn to stop shoehorning every situation to fit the narrative they are trying to construct, the left of tomorrow will be made up of individuals who are unable to distinguish their beliefs from reality. Those of us who can make this distinction will not want to associate with the liberal movement any longer. Where will we go?
Reposted with permission from the Claremont Independent