When Brendan Eich, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, was named CEO of Mozilla in March 2014, he pledged to ensure that the Internet company "will remain a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion." There was one problem: Eich had in 2008 donated $1,000 to the "Yes on 8" campaign, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in California. (It seems so long ago.) A week after his appointment, during which online voices decried Mozilla for letting someone with bigoted views helm its operations, Mozilla announced Eich would be stepping down.
Andrew Sullivan, a commentator who is gay and among the first to publicly defend same-sex marriage, summed up the decision poignantly: "When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance." His quote appears among many that draw attention to an intolerant tolerance that Kirsten Powers believes is on the rise. The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech (Regnery) is the Fox News commentator's new book, a journalistic polemic on the many Americans on the cultural and political Left who have forsaken some of their most cherished values, including free speech.
Powers, best known among CT readers for her dramatic Christian testimony, recently spoke with print managing editor Katelyn Beaty about the rise of the "illiberal Left."
Your book criticizes an intolerance among the cultural Left toward those with dissenting viewpoints. You give many examples of how the “illiberal Left,” as you call it, is not just disagreeing with but discriminating against those with different views. What are some of the most powerful examples of this from your research?
There were an endless number of examples, to the point that I had to cut a couple chapters. If I had to, I’d say the absolute worst [example] is one in which a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara physically attacked pro-life demonstrators who were doing a peaceful demonstration. It’s a prototype of these cases, not in the fact that it was violent, because that’s unusual, but her argument is typical: Disagreement is treated as an attack and even violent in and of itself. The act of expressing a point of view they disagree with is an act of violence. This came up over and over in the police reports when the professor was arrested. She was the victim, even though she was the persecutor. She had been harmed, they [the protestors] made her unsafe, and she has a right to go to work and feel safe and they made her feel unsafe.
This actually just happened, so it's not in my book: [Scholar] Christina Hoff Sommers has been on campuses lecturing about feminism for the past 20 years, and she’s a critic of gender feminism and talks instead about equity feminism. In April, at two different events, one at Georgetown and one at Oberlin, she had to have campus security protection because the students were posting things that had the administration so alarmed for her safety. She has been a critic of the rape statistics that are cited to show there’s an epidemic of rape on campuses, so she’s been deemed a "rape apologist," even though she’s obviously not denying rape; she’s talking about statistics. Some Oberlin students wrote a letter to the editor before she came and said, “There’s nothing we can do to stop her from coming here, and so let’s stand together in the face of this violence.” And she hadn’t even spoken yet.