This past Thursday night, Daily Wire writer Michael Knowles came to speak at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). A mob of thirty or so students and hangers-on heckled him, and one sprayed him with what proved to be a nontoxic substance. While the campus police wrestled the student to the ground, his or her or “hir” colleagues chanted the lethal and long since discredited mantra, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
For conservative speakers on college campuses, the disruption was business more or less as usual. What was not usual, at least not in this part of the world, was the “official” response. As quickly became clear, there are no “liberals” any more. Their young have cowed them here and elsewhere into a cringing, uncritical embrace of the progressive menu du jour.
The missive UMKC chancellor Mauli Agrawal sent to the “campus community” after the event reads like a hostage letter. To describe Knowles’s views, Agrawal used the words “controversial,” “unpopular,” and “extreme.” Agrawal concluded his plea for civility by asking students “to stay true to our values in the face of provocation, and to respond to bias and intolerance with reason and courage.”
If Rep. Ilhan “Some people did something” Omar had spoken on campus, Agrawal’s letter might have made some sense, but she didn’t. The speaker, Michael Knowles, is cut from the same cloth as his better-known colleague Ben Shapiro: young, sane, restrained, and very smart. The talk that tested campus values was titled, “Men Are Not Women.”
Knowles acknowledged liberal feminist Meghan Murphy as the inspiration for his title. Murphy, the editor of the Feminist Current, was notoriously banned from Twitter for tweeting, “Women aren’t men.” Wrote Murphy after being banned, “This is hardly an abhorrent thing to say, nor should it be considered ‘hateful’ to ask questions about the notion that people can change sex or ask for explanations about transgender ideology”
Like Chancellor Agrawal, the editors of the Kansas City Star avoided the issue in question and attacked Knowles for daring to raise it. Instead of the chancellor’s pious handwringing, however, the Star editors responded with satire, the talent for which they conspicuously lack. Read the stunningly daft
According to the Star editors, Knowles apparently came to UMKC for no greater purpose than “to claim victimhood.” To them, he simply played his assigned role in the “mutual trollery sometimes referred to as the debate over free speech on campus.” The editors expressed dismay that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson did not find this “outrage kabuki” as boring as they pretended to.
As the editors have to know, there is nothing mutual about the trollery. I live half-a-mile from the UMKC campus. My wife is a professor there. If I remember right, the last campus event I attended was a presentation by author Frank McCourt, who had come to town to promote his new book, Angela’s Ashes. That book was published in 1996. McCourt died ten years ago. Knowles was reportedly the first conservative speaker invited to the campus in five years.
UMKC ain’t Berkeley. It sits a mile from the Kansas-Missouri border. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 19 percentage points in Missouri, 21 in Kansas. This is a reasonably sane part of the country. When the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia erupted in pointless protest three-plus years ago, the citizens and legislators of Missouri showed their disapproval not just in polls and in legislation but by withholding their children. The resulting attendance drop at the university flirted with the catastrophic.
Most UMKC students commute to school, many from Kansas City’s blue-collar suburbs. By and large they lack the time and tattoos to participate in the kind of silliness that paralyzed the Columbia mothership and disrupted Knowles’s talk. Administrators and Star editors have no reason to fear them. Yet they do. They fear them because they think the humorless, mindless, oddly overweight — one girl wore a T-Shirt that said simply and aptly “Fat”– protesters speak for the students writ large. They don’t.
And they sure as hell don’t speak for the citizenry. When Agrawal talks of “views we disagree with” and “our values,” he forgets who the “we” is that sustains the university. I suspect that at least 80-90 percent of Missouri taxpayers would have nodded in approval throughout Knowles’s speech.
Said Knowles, “If you took a time machine back all the way to the way-way back of five years ago, and you told people a man would come to a university to defend the proposition men are not women, and this would be a hugely controversial event, [they] would have laughed in your face.”
The “views” that Agrawal feels compelled to defend strike the average citizen as goofy now and will strike them as goofy a millennium hence. Are there no liberals left to rein their children in?