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Ralph Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland: Snowflake storm

| Monday, May 7, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

Happily, the warm and breezy weather is finally here, but across the land there's a widespread and unprecedented snowstorm creating havoc and disorder.

In his review of Claire Fox's “I Find That Offensive!” in The Australian, Richard King, author of “On Offence: The Politics of Indignation,” writes that the principal target of Ms. Fox, a British libertarian and founder and director of the London-based Institute of Ideas, is “‘the snowflake generation' ... the current crop of students, especially student activists, who keep up a constant, cloying demand for their own and others' supervision. ‘Safe spaces,' ‘trigger warnings' and the cleansing ‘microaggressions' are all symptoms” of this movement toward increased individual and societal policing, censoring, controlling and reprogramming.

King continues, “As Fox puts it: “The way microaggression ‘theory' goes, if you add up minor or micro instances of even unconscious racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, classist, ableist, cissexist speech and behavior, all these innocuous transgressions give you justifiable reason to feel macro-aggrieved.”

He explains that “Fox identifies two main drivers of this narcissistic weepy-woo. One is identity politics, the notion that the most politically significant thing about you is your race, ethnicity, gender or ­religion. The other is the infantilizing, safety-first tendencies of contemporary society, ‘a climate that routinely catastrophizes and pathologizes both social challenges and young people's state of mind.'”

Increasingly, higher-education administrators have buckled under the weight of snow and provided student-demanded “safe spaces” that provide them with shelter from dissimilar people and protection from exposure to possibly unwelcome ideas or thinking.

What was once an academic culture of vibrant intellectualism and creativity that celebrated the educational value of opposing views, breakthrough ideas, lively debate and cultural diversity is being transformed into a student-commanded and increasingly testy, litigious, petulant and segregated and homogeneous milieu of dorm floors assigned by ethnicity or sexual identity, black graduation ceremonies, Jewish sororities, jock-exclusive housing and Asian lunch tables. It's a case of promoting comfort, uniformity, isolation, exclusion, security and refuge over social and intellectual challenges, individuality, self-assurance and personal growth.

The campaigns for safe conservative spaces for Republicans at UCLA and a Queer Housing Program at Haverford College express the spirit of the times.

A “trigger warning” is a statement in a course description or syllabus, or a cautionary notice in regards to an article, lecture, guest speaker, debate, book or video alerting the reader, listener or viewer to the possibility that it may contain a potentially disturbing or upsetting idea. In short, content that may ruffle feelings is labeled as dangerous. The next step may be fainting couches in the safe rooms.

To help fix incorrect people at Brown University and aid in the cleansing of campus of unwelcome ideas and behavior, the school's Health Services office offers reprogramming treatments, including “safe spaces for men” to help them “unlearn toxic masculinity” and combat traditional and unhealthy notions of “what it means to be a man.”

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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