The Prick of Liberal Conceit

The Providence Journal’s Bob Kerr slipped a curious few paragraphs in the midst of a 600-word piece of derision:

Brown students are not enjoying their unintended celebrity. But then they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory on the social front lately.
For a while now, neighbors of the university have been complaining that student parties have spilled over in sometimes loud and ugly ways. There is apparently no guarantee that with high tuition comes an increased sense of social responsibility. At Saturday’s event, some students had to leave in ambulances due to assorted excesses. High tuition also doesn’t guarantee a sense of personal limits.
So Brown officials have decided to take a long overdue look at campus party policy. There could be changes.
And now, thanks to Fox News and its own roving party animal, thousands of people across the country know that at some parties at Brown University in Providence, students have sex.

Readers might infer that Brown’s “long overdue look” was already underway before Bill O’Reilly gave Fox News viewers around the world a peek into the Ivy League weekend. They might therefore conclude, as Kerr does, that O’Reilly’s report was “a sneaky, pointless piece of work.” But that would, at the very least, assume more than the ProJo’s own coverage (“Drunken revel at Brown prompts review of school policy“) should allow. The party and O’Reilly’s revelation thereof appear to have been a single event, from the perspective of Brown’s policy makers.
What’s curious is that, from the rest of his piece, one might wonder whether Kerr truly believes that Brown’s policies — or its social life — need any investigation at all. His focus is not “the seedy social underbelly of a prestigious university,” but the ostensible voyeurism of conservatives — whom he casts as superficially desiring reassurance “that they live lives Bill O’Reilly would approve of.” But — given the longevity (and banality) of Kerr’s proffered storyline — why the heat? Why the hackish interjections of “Gawwwwlleeee!!!” and “Shazzzam!!!”? Assuming that Kerr was not at that particular party, why does the stench of embarrassment puff out from behind his ire?
Perhaps what so upsets Kerr is not Fox’s voyeurism, but rather its motivation, as he fancies, to “look inside the kinds of places where liberals surely lurk and do liberal things with their clothes off.” In like spirit to Kerr’s characterization, Anne Hersh, a Providence resident who is pushing Brown to tone down the partying in her neighborhood, suggests that the university find a way to “maintain your liberal image and curriculum, but still encourage your students to be respectful of the community at large.”
It would seem beyond liberals’ purview to insist — or to institute policies to ensure — that Brown students conduct themselves in a manner befitting the Ivy League. Who are they to define such a thing? In Bob Kerr’s world, it is less judgmental to shriek at conservatives for noticing what liberalism apparently signifies.

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