The media has been airing discussion of hosts and leading figures like Katie Couric on “deprogramming ” Trump supporters or treating Trump supporters as a cult, including a CNN interview with an actual “cult expert.” Since that would include over 70 million Trump voters, the hyperbolic language can be dismissed as just more examples of our rage-filled political environment. After all, a few days after the election, a law professor declared that even questioning the Biden electoral victory was tantamount to being a holocaust denier. One professor however has taken this call even further in declaring such supporters are worse than the Nazis and heralding the need for the same type of treatment seen with the Nuremberg trials, including the apparent elimination of the Republican Party. Smith College Professor Loretta Ross, who teaches women’s and gender studies, rejected calls for unity and instead called for punitive action against supporters in Congress, universities, and “regular jobs.”
In an article in CounterPunch Ross declares that there can be no unity with Trump supporters and that the Republican Party itself cannot continue to exist:
“Republicans are no longer entitled to exist as a legitimate political party because this authoritarian backlash has been building since new Civil Rights laws were passed in 1964 and 1965 in response to white racist violence captured on TV that required the National Guard to quell. Then-President Lyndon Johnson predicted that most white people would flee the Democratic Party to join the pro-segregationist, anti-feminist, and anti-gay revanchist political movement of George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. Every undemocratically selected Republican president since the 1960s (by an electoral college designed to be disenfranchising) has failed to repudiate this neo-fascist wing of their party.
I’m through giving Republicans the benefit of the doubt after 50 years.”
She is not alone in that view. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently declared on a television program (with various media figures who made no objection) that “We have to collectively, in essence, burn down the Republican Party. We have to level them because if there are survivors, if there are people who weather this storm, they will do it again.” Notably, such language is similar to a call recently by James Comey and is not viewed as incitement. Rubin also called for a blacklisting of Trump supporters from universities and the media, a call that has been made by Democratic figures in Congress as well as academics: “I think it’s absolutely abhorrent that any institution of higher learning, any news organization, or any entertainment organization that has a news outlet would hire these people.”
Professor Ross shows no concern for free speech or academic freedom as she calls for identifying and condemning anyone who is viewed as complicit with Trump over the last four years so that they can be “treated with the same public condemnation that the Nazis received after World War II.”
What is unnerving is that such views are now common on the Internet and increasingly common at universities. Many professors who send me such columns admit that they are afraid to speak out. There is a rising level of intolerance at universities. In over 30 years of teaching, I have never witnessed the level of intimidation at colleges and universities that we have today. Indeed, these columns are meant to normalize such calls for curtailing free speech and academic freedom. It is an effort not just to retaliate but to use the chilling effect of such threats to silence others (including effectively barring opposing viewpoints from being published). Rather than denounce such views an inimical to our intellectual mission, some professors are rushing to prove their own bona fides by denouncing colleagues or dismissing free speech values. They are afraid and I cannot blame for that fear. However, silence or passivity in the face of such calls will come at too high a price for our colleges and our country.
Just a year ago, Professor Ross was featured on MSNBC for her stand against cancel culture when she said “We’ve become too intolerant and too unforgiving of mistakes, unless we make them. And then, we only actually want to forgive the mistakes of the people we already know. We need to have a more forgiving society.”
That message appears to now be discarded in favor of open intolerance in the cause of tolerance. As for calls from people like President Joe Biden for reconciliation and healing, Ross balked at the very notion. She calls for Trump supporters to be denied jobs, media opportunities, publishing contracts, and all other opportunities. What is particularly chilling is her use of a statement from philosopher Karl Popper: “In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” Thus, intolerance of opposing viewpoints is now tolerance. It is that easy.
This blog was updated.