MacIver Perspective

By Tyler Brandt

If George Orwell stepped foot onto the UW-Madison campus in 2017, he would think that “1984” has come to pass. The author of the 1949 dystopian novel couldn’t have written a more daring Big Brother chapter than what the speech police have come up with on Wisconsin’s left-wing, flagship university.

It was recently announced that an independent campus newspaper, The Badger Herald, has struck up a partnership with ProPublica, a left-leaning investigative journalism nonprofit. The reason? To take UW-Madison’s “Hate and Bias” reporting system to a national database.

The project is called “Documenting Hate” and involves numerous college newspapers across the country with the goal of creating a national database of hate crimes and bias incidents. The Badger Herald encourages students to share their experiences. And this Social Justice League insists that, “Just because something is not considered a crime under the law, does not mean it is not a crime against your humanity”.

That’s right. The thought police are coming after you for things not considered to be criminal, while systematically abusing the definition of crimes against humanity. They want to equate potentially offensive language to the level of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, rape, and other unspeakable acts. That seems to be doubleplusbad, to borrow from Orwell’s Newspeak.

For those unfamiliar with UW-Madison’s local Hate and Bias reporting system, students and campus members are encouraged to report incidents to an online database if they think they have been a victim of a bias or hate.

UW-Madison has one full-time “Bias Response and Advocacy Coordinator” who earns $42,000 a year. There is also a 12-member board comprised of UW officials who serve full-time positions in other areas.

This group of people processed 87 reported incidents from July 1, 2016 to Dec 31, 2016. Out of these reported incidents only five were processed through the UW System non-academic misconduct policy. Of those, two individuals were convicted on misconduct charges.That’s $42,000 a year and wasted time of other campus employees to catch two cases of misconduct.

So what constitutes a bias incident? The definition, according to the University is:

“Single or multiple acts toward an individual, group, or their property that are so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that they create an unreasonably intimidating, hostile, or offensive work, learning, or program environment, and that one could reasonably conclude are based upon actual or perceived age, race, color, creed, religion, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status, spirituality, cultural, socio-economic status, or any combination of these or other related factors”

That’s enough protected classes to make the late Justice Antonin Scalia turn over in his grave.

The odious part of this definition is that if you criticize another student on something as benign as age, political affiliation, or spirituality then your name could end up in a national system of hate and bias incidents, leaving you to be defamed for something that could be a simple political disagreement.

What if you criticize someone who legitimately believes that horoscopes are scientific fact? Is that an offense against spirituality? It could be, according to the university hate and bias cops.

This neo-Bolshevik list encourages students to settle disputes by telling on each other and appealing to a higher authority, rather than trying to settle the problem themselves through reasonable discussion. If we want to get the best out of the university experience, which is preparing young people for the adult world, then we should encourage them to work out their problems like adults instead of tattling.

In “Documenting Hate,” the thought police rely on an “objectively offensive” standard. Of course, they have turned the subjective into the objective. What might be offensive to one person is not necessarily offensive to another. It can be very difficult to pin down something as “objectively offensive.”

The result of this system is a Big Brother database. Its core principle often confuses hatred or bias with disagreement, confrontation, even alternate points of view. It undermines the whole point of a liberal arts education, which is to allow for open – and sometimes offensive – inquiry in the pursuit of knowledge. Some offense must be tolerated and dealt with to receive the best and most truthful education you can.

The reason this whole system is so egregious is because it is a devolution from the principles and values the university holds dear and replaces those values with this theme of coddling impressionable minds from the reality of the world. The bubble wrap campus is devouring the character and strength that people need to thrive in a country that chooses freedom over Big Brother-style protection. It is a step away from a strong individualist mentality which built this liberty-loving nation we are so lucky to call home.

The waning tide of strong character is giving way to a flood of reliance on authority and protection from the outside world. In 2017, we are drowning in “1984.”

Tyler Brandt is a MacIver Institute intern and president of the UW-Madison chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. This article appears courtesy of the MacIver Institute.
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