For the past two decades, many educated Americans have stopped acting in “defense of civilization” but instead in “defense of barbarism,” former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss told The Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention on Friday.
Weiss warned the conservative legal audience that when it comes to pushing back against the Left and its work against America, “Accept that you are the last line of defense and fight, fight, fight.”
“Time to defend our values—the values that have made this country the freest, most tolerant society in the history of the world—without hesitation or apology,” she said.
Weiss was the speaker at the society’s 22nd annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture. She is the founder of the news and commentary site The Free Press and someone The Washington Post called “a liberal uncomfortable with the excesses of left-wing culture.”
Of her resignation from The New York Times in 2020, she told the audience that for the paper, “Truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
Of the leftist worldview, she said, “At first, things like postmodernism and postcolonialism and postnationalism seemed like wordplay and intellectual games—little puzzles to see how you could ‘deconstruct’ just about anything. What I came to see over time was that it wasn’t going to remain an academic sideshow. And that it sought nothing less than the deconstruction of our civilization from within. It seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong. It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric.”
On Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists killed 1,400 Israelis, including babies, women, and elderly people, it didn’t take long before “the social justice crowd—the crowd who has tried to convince us that words are violence—insisted that actual violence was actually a necessity. That the rape was resistance. That it was liberation.”
“That baby? He is a colonizer first and a baby second. That woman raped to death? Shame it had to come to that, but she is a white oppressor,” said Weiss.
Weiss said it wasn’t a coincidence that the people pushing for “defunding the police” are also the ones “publicly harassing Jews.”
It is alarming how many young people “threw their support not behind the innocent victims of Hamas terrorism, but behind Hamas,” said Weiss.
College campuses like George Washington University had students project onto buildings, “Glory to our Martyrs,” referring to Hamas. At Cooper Union in New York City, Jewish students had to hide in a library from a mob. Professor Joseph Massad from Columbia University called the slaughter “awesome,” and Cornell professor Russell Rickford said it was “energizing” and “exhilarating,” according to Weiss.
Public and private universities have also been discriminating when it comes to enforcing free speech, she said: “For certain students, kid gloves. For others, the maw of whatever hate their classmates and professors can think of. The universities play favorites based on the speech they prefer, and the racial group hierarchies they’ve established.”
There is a new authority that doesn’t recognize “gifts, hard work, accomplishments, or contributions to society,” but instead to “the disadvantages their group had suffered, as defined by radical ideologues,” Weiss said.
“We have let far too much go unchallenged. Too many lies have spread in the face of inaction as a result of fear or politesse [politeness]. No more. Do not bite your tongue. Do not tremble. Do not go along with little lies. Speak up. Break the wall of lies. Let nothing go unchallenged,” she said.
“There is no place like this country,” Weiss said. “And there is no second America to run to if this one fails. So, let’s get up. Get up and fight for our future. This is the fight of—and for—our lives.”
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