The case of Murray v. Middlebury has generated plenty of interest, and for good reason. For those who missed it, Charles Murray, a distinguished if often controversial social scientist, was prevented from speaking at Middlebury College by repeated noisy disruptions to both a public and hastily-arranged private webcast. Things turned nasty when Murray went to leave and an angry mob confronted him. Murray was pushed and shoved. His interlocutor, liberal political science professor Allison Stanger, was grabbed by the hair, and later had to be put in a neck brace in hospital. Once she and Murray managed to get inside the car, protestors banged on the doors and jumped on the hood.
Much more can and is being said about these events, but no better testimonies can be found than those of Murray and Stanger themselves. As Frank Bruni put it in the New York Times, the students at this “liberal” college were in fact displaying “illiberalism…issuing repressive rules about what people should be able to say and hear”. Jonathan Haidt, the NYU social psychologist says the incident “was a modern-day auto-da-fé: the celebration of a religious rite by burning the blasphemer.”
All true, and important. But one overlooked irony of the events at Middlebury is how they perfectly proved some of the points that Murray made in his book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which he had been invited to discuss. The book documents the separation of a “new upper class”, raised in rich neighborhoods, immersed in liberal, cosmopolitan values, and educated at expensive, liberal universities. In other words, it profiles the students of Middlebury College.