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Overreacting to Campus Protests

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Allow me to build a bit on Paul’s post from earlier today.

The thing that strikes me about the last couple of days is that, like in the 1960s, university administrations are massively overreacting to campus protests and in doing so, making them far worse. Criminalizing protest at Columbia and Yale is going to do one thing, which is lead to more protests. I agree of course that there is a huge difference between 2024 and 1968, which is that no Americans are being sent to war. So in some ways, this is more like criminalizing the anti-apartheid protests of the 80s, which is even dumber. But on the other hand, American politics have for a half-century or more now really catered to an overt pro-Israel standpoint and Islamophobia is just taken as second nature in much of America. Far-right Christian conservatives have made a cynical alliance of convenience with far-right Israelis and some, though by no means, all leading American Jewish communities, to support an aggressive pro-Israel, anti-Palestine, anti-Islamic stance. So we have created a world in which for a lot of Americans, criticizing Israel period is anti-Semitism. Not only is this stupid on the face of it, but it creates a world in which for people who maybe aren’t that informed or that bright, if you just define everything as anti-Semitism, you end up opening the door to actual, real anti-Semitism.

Given that it is the end of April, I suspect that this will be a story for a couple of weeks, then everyone will go home for the summer, and something different will be on people’s minds in the fall. But maybe not. It might not have felt that the campus protests of the mid-60s were that important either at the moment. They also came out of nowhere. Of course, in California, they also led to that state’s population electing Ronald Reagan governor. Like you are seeing from cynical actors such as Elise Stefanik, far-right forces are more than ready to take advantage of legitimate protest for their own ends.

In conclusion, we live in interesting times.

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