Ira Straus

The worst ‘outside agitators’: profs and media

Blaming the “outside agitators” has become a dodge for letting the institutions off the hook.

We’re repeatedly told, from President Biden and Mayor Adams on down, that “outside agitators have radicalized the students”. But this is an evasion of responsibility.

It is radicalism-friendly professors who have radicalized the students. And left-leaning mass media.

Has “social media” done it, as we’re sometimes told? Yes, but it’s another dodge. Students are radicalized by mainstream media and by fellow students far more than by social media. The social media are a supplement in this process. Yes, the radicals use social media for making radicalism chic. But this is little different from how they used the mainstream media for this in generations past, or still today for that matter. The new media only add to a far deeper base for radicalization.

Our mass media have radicalized the students this year by lying 24-7 for months on end about civilians killed by Israel. This is a really big lie. It has spawned mass anti-Semitism worldwide. And the media have kept repeating it, even while they’ve known almost this entire time that it’s a lie. They’ve shown they know it’s a lie, by correcting themselves once in a blue moon on it and admitting that their numbers aren’t just probably wrong, but include military as well as civilian deaths, and Gazans killed by Hamas as well as ones killed by Israel. But then they go right back (as I heard them do on network news today) to embracing Hamas’ total death count and saying – lying – that it’s a count of civilians killed by Israel.

The media have made student radicalism chic by giving privileged platforming to the radicals. They’ve been doing this for more than half a century. Radicals of every generation have known they can count on it. It’s been one of the incentives for becoming radicals. Who can resist the temptation of getting celebrated on the national media and given time there to spout off their doctrines?

The campus Administrators have long since joined in giving special privilege to radicals. They are still doing it in front of our eyes today, letting students set up illegal encampments and entrench themselves quasi-militarily. If they finally dislodge them, it is only when the societal backlash finally demands it of them and threatens their own jobs. By that time it takes substantial force to dislodge them. And for this, the radicals are all but guaranteed that the police will get the moral blame in the main media and they themselves will walk off with the moral victory.

This has been going on for decades. It happened in my time at Princeton in the 1970s. It happened in my time in high school in the 1960s.

It has gotten worse. And it will keep getting worse until the media and schools are fundamentally reformed.

That’s not as easy to do as blaming it all on outside agitators. But it is the only way to make a serious difference in the problem.

About the Author
Chair, Center for War/Peace Studies; Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council of the U.S.; formerly a Fulbright professor of international relations; studied at Princeton, UVA, Oxford. Institutions named above for identification purposes only; views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author.
Related Topics
Related Posts