It’s only when progressives lose control of an issue that they agree to even have it discussed. This is then called a conversation

The president of Wilfrid Laurier University recently published a statement on free speech at Laurier and in the academy generally. It was a sad effort.

She built a Giza-sized pyramid of clichés and virtue-speak about something she was pleased to call “better speech” — as opposed to that decayed old concept, hustled by the likes of John Stuart Mill, Voltaire, and the framers of the American Constitution, known as “free speech.”

Amid the vast waste of anodynes, platitudes and non-sequiturs, it was difficult to pick out a winner — the most tired, numb and vacant verbalism. But I struggled and chose, from her opening sentence, her claim that Laurier “has been at the centre of the campus free-speech conversation during the past year.”

I see. Laurier’s been having a “conversation,” has it? Or has been at the centre of some fictive “conversation?” People have conversations. Usually no more than two of them. Conversations are informal usually. Social lubricants. Conversations are about hockey, or the weather, or in brutal lost moments, about the Housewives of Toronto. Conversation, however, doesn’t quite cover the typhoon of public comment, editorials and protests that whipped over Laurier following its acknowledgement of its treatment of a young teaching assistant, Lindsay Shepherd. Public relations nightmare might work. Painful public scrutiny of Laurier’s understanding of education and free speech could work, too.

The use of conversation in the piece stems from its more extended, though equally deplorable, formulation in virtue-speak from the progressive lexicon. You often hear the cry “we need to have a conversation about race, some new species of sexuality, plastic straws, the fate of the puffin …” spilling from the lips of people who very clearly do not wish to have any conversation at all about any of these topics.

You hear it when any real designated-as-politically-correct issue has escaped from the closed-thought cloisters of university safe-spaces and univocal “studies” programs. Having escaped from these sealed chambers of prescribed thinking and speech, and entered into open debate, into actual discussion and contest, a defensive reaction sets in. Ideas that were before off-limits, ruled beyond debate, declared the only right way to speak and think — once under challenge, very often even ridiculed and mocked, are suddenly reframed by their former jailers as candidates for a “conversation.” It’s only when progressives lose control of an issue that they agree to even have it discussed. This is then called a conversation.

“We need to have a conversation” is the white flag of the politically correct brigade.

‘We need to have a conversation’ is the white flag of the politically correct brigade

What provoked the Laurier president’s call for a conversation? It all sprang from the now infamous interaction between Lindsay Shepherd and her two bullying Laurier faculty overseers. Shepherd, you recall, had within the sacred walls of the Laurier academy scandalously played all of five minutes of TVO’s notoriously toxic panel program, The Agenda, to a class — there was no limit to her depravity and malice — on media and communications. Funnily enough, media and communications were the topics of the Agenda show.

The clip came from an episode, hosted as always by the feral rabble-rouser Steve Paikin, that featured the arch-heretic from the Universalist Communion of Right-Thinking Social-Justice Whiners Inc., Prof. Jordan Peterson….