We’re Allowing Tantrum-Throwing Children to Drive Our Politics

Josh Barro on Khymani James, a 20-year-old juvenile delinquent who posted on Instagram in January that “Zionists don’t deserve to live”:

I cannot believe this emotionally incontinent young person and his friends are driving a national news cycle. Perhaps I am just especially used to people saying nasty things to me online, but I can’t even believe they were able to drive a shift to virtual classes at Columbia. I think these protests could have been 90% less disruptive if the protesters’ detractors had reacted with less fear and more disdain, working harder to ignore these people as they preen about their “liberated zones,” which aren’t even very large. These protesters are the sort of people who are terrified of bananas and banana vapor, and some of them aren’t even lying when they say the reason they wear masks outside is that they’re afraid of COVID. Letting them scare you away gives them too much credit; brushing them off is a sign of maturity and should be encouraged.

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We’ve all seen the tantrums that very young children throw. They are without reason or cause. They are just loud and annoying.

That’s exactly what these students do. It doesn’t matter how old they are. It’s their emotional maturity that’s at issue. These are undeveloped minds that are unable to grasp certain complexities, so they substitute simple-minded sophistry, trying to pass it off as deeply-held beliefs.

We call them “snowflakes,” but it’s really more than a hyper-sensitivity to perceived slights. It’s an inability to truly understand good and evil and how wrong it is to make compromises with your conscience to adopt a popular political position among your peers.

They can’t really believe that protesting on an American college campus is going to affect the outcome of any decisions made by the Israeli government in Jerusalem or by the terrorists in Gaza, can they? They are playing an imaginary game where they actually matter instead of participating in one, gigantic, virtue-signaling performance.

Barro:

Instead, these protesters, who have somehow arrived at the misimpression that the colleges they attend are actors in the Israel-Palestine conflict, are being treated as a threat not just to their communities but to the republic and the Democratic Party — avatars of a young generation that is supposedly disillusioned with Joe Biden for being insufficiently progressive. In reality, the Gaza War rates far lower in US political consciousness than the news coverage would have you believe, even among the young people who are supposedly in open revolt over it. The recent Harvard Youth Poll found that Israel/Palestine ranks 15th out of 16 policy issues in their importance to American young adults; only student debt, another vastly overhyped concern of young left-wing activists, rates lower. The disconnect between the activists and the polling data makes sense when you remember that most young people aren’t in college, most college students don’t attend selective institutions, and most students at selective institutions aren’t camping on the quad for Gaza.

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Activism by kids has been an American ritual since the 1960s. There’s a romance to the idea of waving the bloody shirt and calling your compatriots to do battle with the “elites,” the “establishment,” or “the man” that makes a teenager feel all grown-up and important.

There’s no thought of consequences or who they might be hurting by their actions. What do you suppose Israeli mothers who have lost a son or daughter to Hamas terrorism feel when they see the children of their powerful ally screaming, “From the River to the sea, Palestine will be free”? Are the kids able to discern the not-very-subtle call for genocide against the Jews? Or, like children soothed by a fairy tale, do they accept the lie that the call for genocide is only “aspirational”?

Columbia University tried to treat the children like adults by negotiating with them. For two weeks, they sat in the same room as the children kept “moving the goalposts,” making agreement impossible. In the end, they discovered that the kids, as is usually the case, really didn’t know what they wanted and were only “negotiating” as a ruse to keep the media circus alive.

That’s half the problem with these protests. The adults who should be in control have ceded virtual authority to the children, and the result has been chaos. The large question to be asked is why we are paying so much attention to these kids. Why are campus protests roiling our politics?

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The reason is that both sides see a way to score political points against their opponent. Chaos vs. order is the conservative point of view, while “activism is good and Israel must be opposed” comes from the left. The messaging is designed to appeal to the base of both sides. But why does it dominate the news cycle and the political conversation?

The answer is in a media that wants to focus on superficiality and ignore the serious issues facing the country. In short, it’s a distraction.

What our children do to get our attention can be very distracting, yes?

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