Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Toxic Analogies About Israel Run Rampant on the ... Right?

There is a serious problem in the conversations swirling around campus about Israel. People treat backing Israel as if it were akin to being an avowed racist or bigot. Why, they openly analogize holding the view that America should support Israel to having opinions like "Some racial groups are less intelligent than others" or "Transgender people have a mental disorder."

And by people, I mean the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and RealClearEducation, in their 2020 survey on "tolerance" in higher education. When creating a set of questions designed to elucidate students' willingness to permit hateful speakers on campus, the list included a hypothetical speaker who favors "the U.S. backing Israeli military policy" right alongside proponents of the aforementioned "some racial groups are less intelligent than others" and "transgender people have a mental disorder" (the other positions were "Black Lives Matter is a hate group," "All White people are racist," "Abortion should be completely illegal", "Censoring the news media is necessary," and "Christianity has a negative influence on society.").*

For what it's worth, while FIRE and RCE may think these opinions are of a kind, students very much hold them apart. Of all the issues surveyed, students were by far least likely to oppose allowing a speaker who thinks the US should support Israeli military policy on campus (just 14% registering "strong" opposition). By contrast, over 70% of respondents would strongly oppose allowing a speaker who thinks some racial groups are less intelligent than others on campus, and around 50% strongly oppose those who think transgender people have a mental disorder (a similar percentage, incidentally, to those who would strongly oppose permitting a speaker who says all White people are racist, suggested that the censorial instinct towards views perceived as hateful does not track simplistic left/right divides). 

Those findings perhaps can raise an eyebrow amongst free speech absolutists, but they do show that students are not cavalierly clumping in Zionists with hardcore bigots, and they also seem to show that students' departure from free speech absolutism of students is not resulting from the miming of leftist shibboleths either. 

* Interestingly, though just two of the eight questions asked deal with positions that we might expect would generate greater opposition from conservative students -- the anti-Christianity and anti-White ones --  both of those questions, and only those two questions, were dropped when FIRE/RCE actually generated their "tolerance" scores.

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