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Abigail Shrier: There Are Two Sets of Rules for Speech. . .

And other razor-sharp perspectives on the topic du jour. Plus: the chattering class’s traitor. MIT sours on DEI. Kristi Noem didn’t read her own book. And more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: the multimillionaire versus the janitor; Walter Kirn, the chattering class’s traitor; MIT sours on DEI.

But first, our lead story. 

Watching the ongoing turmoil on American campuses, many questions come to mind. Among them: “Don’t you have finals to study for?” And: “What’s the system for showering in the encampments?” And also: “Who is paying for the tents and the gluten-free snacks?”

Far more serious questions include: “Are America’s college campuses safe for Jews?” And: “How is it that on campuses where offensive Halloween costumes are seen as dangerous, students are getting away with publicly fantasizing about murdering Zionists?”

That’s a real example. Back in January, Khymani James, one of the leaders of the Columbia encampment, told a disciplinary committee at the school that Zionists “don’t deserve to live.” He added: “Be grateful that I’m just not going out and murdering Zionists.” The only reason James was ultimately punished was because months later, his own recording of this went viral.

So what explains the obvious double standard?

Writing for The Free Press, Abigail Shrier offers her answer. Every word of this piece is essential reading, but here’s a taste: 

Punishment is meted out swiftly and mercilessly, and with no consideration for free speech principles, any time Confederate flag flyers are posted, any time students hold culturally insensitive themed frat parties, any time colleges uncover student use of the N-word while in high school (or even a word in Mandarin that sounds like the N-word), or even when students or faculty make the familiar conservative argument that affirmative action sets black students up to fail. Rinse and repeat and repeat.

Speech on college campuses has been stultifyingly narrow—and very far from free—for decades. That pro-Hamas students cheer freely for “intifada” doesn’t make it any freer now. The fact that certain students are allowed to call for the death of their Jewish classmates does not herald a new era of free expression. It only underscores that some bigotries enjoy the official sanction of these schools, and are accepted, tolerated, and rewarded with special dispensations and, indeed, goodies.

Use of the N-word on campus or misgendering a classmate will no doubt be met with as swift punitive consequences as they have been for decades, as have a vast and more minute array of “microaggressions.” I invite anyone who doubts this to parade through any of our elite campuses with insulting cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Continue reading. 

The Antisemitism Awareness Act passed the House of Representatives last week with 320 votes for and 91 against. The bill had massive support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle rightly concerned by the explosion of Jew hatred since October 7.

But is this law the right remedy? Some worry that it will only further entrench the DEI bureaucracy that has had such disastrous consequences. 

Among those concerned are Christopher F. Rufo, the conservative journalist and activist, and Jenin Younes, a civil liberties lawyer who comes from the political left. The pair also have different positions on Israel—Rufo believes that Israel deserves America’s support in its fight against Hamas; Younes believes that the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination is the primary impediment to peace. But both agree that the Antisemitism Awareness Act is misguided. They explain why in our pages:

What should be done about the turmoil, violence, and explicit antisemitism that have engulfed college campuses over the past months? Political leaders in Washington have reacted to the escalating chaos with an understandable and predictable instinct: do something

In this case, the student protests have motivated a bipartisan coalition of legislators in the House of Representatives to compose the Antisemitism Awareness Act. It passed on May 1 with 320 votes (and 91 against). 

The goal of the Act is noble: to prohibit discrimination against Jewish students and employees on campus. As is often the case, however, the impulse to “do something,” even when supported by a bipartisan majority, does not always mean the resulting actions are wise or productive.

First, the main purpose of the legislation is to codify a definition of “antisemitism” as a point of reference for civil rights enforcement on college campuses. Legislators outsourced this definition to a nonprofit, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which defines antisemitic conduct and speech in a broad manner. Under this standard, “claiming the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” and “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel” will be deemed antisemitism. 

This is a move in the wrong direction. Continue reading. 

We want to recommend two other essays that have helped us make sense of this ongoing story:

From our friends over at Tablet magazine, an important editorial that argues: “The freedom and successes that Jews have enjoyed in America have been due to the protections afforded by our Constitution, and the respect for individual rights that became part of our culture. The most legitimate tax we owe—to each other, to our fellow citizens, and to those who fought for our right as Americans to say whatever the fuck we want—is the work we are asked to put in, day in and day out, to protect that freedom.” Amen. Read the whole thing here. 

We also recommend this clear statement of the meaning of academic freedom from University of Austin provost Jacob Howland. “At universities, the right to free speech stops when speech impedes higher education’s essential calling: the pursuit of truth so as to preserve, transmit, and extend knowledge,” writes Jacob, making a point so many of the protesters’ supporters seem to miss. 

  1. The insanity at the heart of the Trump trial: “Perhaps the weirdest, and by far the most unjust, thing about former president Donald Trump’s trial in New York is that we do not know precisely what crime Trump is charged with committing,” writes Byron York. (Washington Examiner)

  2. Civil War II? That’s what 41 percent of American voters believe is on the horizon, according to a new Rasmussen poll. Fun! (Rasmussen)

  3. Bernie Sanders says the college encampments could be “Joe Biden’s Vietnam.” Count me skeptical of comparisons of conflict between Israel and Hamas and a war that killed 58,000 Americans. (The Hill

  4. House Squad member Jamaal Bowman held a fundraiser with a Muslim leader who was disavowed by the White House after he celebrated October 7. His name is Nihad Awad. After the Hamas massacre, he “was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land.” (National Review)

  5. Can Xi Jinping win back Europe? The Chinese leader is on a continental charm offensive this week—his first trip to Europe since the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Foreign Policy)  

  6. In 2016, voters who supported universal healthcare but opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants swung toward Trump. Something similar could be happening in this election, writes Ruy Teixeira. (The Liberal Patriot

  7. Will the campus protests matter come Election Day? Andrew Sullivan argues that disorder on campus could help Donald Trump’s chances. (The Weekly Dish)

  8. A North Korean propaganda song praising Kim Jong Un has gone viral on TikTok. It’s called “Friendly Father.” (Fox News

  9. A new study out of Germany found that women like remote work because they avoid long commutes, while men like it because it means fewer meetings. Men use the time saved not schlepping to the office for childcare and outdoor exercise, whereas women use it for chores. (FT

  10. High-powered working women apparently have a new drug of choice: magic mushrooms. “It’s like if you were to take a happy Advil,” says Koehl Robinson, a 41-year-old wellness entrepreneur from Venice Beach. “Out of every 10 women I talk to, eight are microdosing.” (WSJ)

→ The janitor versus the multimillionaire: Last week, Suzy Weiss wrote about the tale of two Columbias, captured in a single photograph: a now-viral image of a janitor fighting off an anti-Israel rioter during the occupation of Hamilton Hall. 

Per the New York Post, the activist is James Carlson. He also goes by Cody Carlson and Cody Tarlow. A high-ranking police source told the paper he is “a longtime anarchist.” Carlson is not a Columbia undergrad but the 40-year-old son and heir of a prominent ad executive. Carlson owns a $3.4 million Park Slope townhouse that has “four wood-burning fireplaces” according to the Post. Carlson has been charged with “burglary, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, conspiracy, and criminal trespassing.”

The whole thing is delicious. Almost as delightful as our favorite trust-fund communist: Fergie Chambers

→ Chattering class traitor: One Free Press contributor profiles another over at The Atlantic. Thomas Chatterton Williams heads to Livingston, Montana, to hang out with Walter Kirn. Once a paid-up member of the liberal elite, Walter is, these days, as Thomas puts it, “perhaps the most salient example of a mainstream writer rejecting his past to throw in with the populists.” What changed, though? Kirn or the world? 

Matt Taibbi, who co-hosts a podcast with Walter, is less than impressed by the piece, which he thinks is too focused on what Kirn thinks of Trump. That’s a fair complaint, but does that make it, as Taibbi puts it, a “paint-by-numbers hit piece”? Not in my book. Judge for yourself. 

→ Kristi Noem didn’t read her own book: First, there was Dog-gate. That was bad. Real bad. But oh, there’s more. In her new book—we are dying to know who ghostwrote this thing—Noem claims she met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which she’s now walking back. What explains this? Our bet: she never read the ghostwritten book. Watch and wince.

→ MIT sours on DEI: MIT has done away with mandatory diversity statements in their hiring process. The president of the school, Sally Kornbluth, told John Sailer: “We can build an inclusive environment in many ways, but compelled statements impinge on freedom of expression, and they don’t work.” This is a watershed moment: MIT is the first elite school to reverse course on this policy. Let’s see what schools follow suit.

Meanwhile, ICYMI, John Sailer wrote the definitive story about the subject last year in our pages. Read: “How DEI Is Supplanting Truth as the Mission of American Universities.”

Laura recommends starting a garden by seed, no matter the size: 

It teaches you to practice patience and discipline. Celebrate the few seedlings that sprout from your seed tray. Enjoy the final show, be it dinner plate–sized zinnias or heirloom tomatoes that end up on your dinner plate. And remember: don’t overwater those seed babies and collect seeds or tubers from your successful plants for next year’s planting.

Andrew recommends a Vesper martini: 

I particularly love Ian Fleming’s introduction of the drink in his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale: “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.” Fleming is describing a Vesper martini: three measures of Gordon’s Gin, one of vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lillet with a bit of lemon peel. Since Kina Lillet is no longer in production, the typical substitute is Lillet Blanc (Suzy’s favorite), and any dry London gin will do the trick.

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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