Notable & Quotable: The Paradox of ‘Privilege’

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From “The Privilege Paradox” by

Samuel Biagetti,

Quillette.com, March 27:

Antipathy to ‘privilege’ has become de rigueur among precisely the social class that would previously have been considered among the most privileged.

This apparent irony is not an accident. Rather, the re-definition of ‘privilege’ in terms of identity rather than wealth serves precisely to protect privilege in the older sense. Privilege talk forms an integral part of the worldview that contemporary colleges propagate, and that students often fiercely advance and defend on their campuses—and the more elite the college, the more aggressive the defense. As

Richard V. Reeves

and

Dimitrios Halikias

of the Brookings Institution have shown, the more a college’s student body is dominated by high-income students, the more likely that college is to disinvite speakers whose views the students reject. When an elite college refuses to disinvite a speaker, as Middlebury did with regard to

Charles Murray,

the resulting violence left a professor in a neck-brace.

A conservative critic might view the Middlebury incident last year as an instance of liberal political correctness run amok—but this neglects the crucial question of motivation. Why would largely affluent college students, seated near the peak of the global social pyramid, turn so fiercely against a speaker like Murray? Cui bono? Students’ ideological crackdowns on their opponents do not actually suppress the views that they abhor. Instead, they serve to dominate social and political debate, fueling the constant media and academic furor over symbolic identity issues—and shifting the focus away from wealth and economic inequality.



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