It is now commonplace on college campuses for leftist students to steal every copy of conservative student newspapers, begging the question of why they habitually do such things, while conservatives do not. Do the leftists think that these newspapers are so persuasive that they would instantly turn everyone who reads them into conservatives? Hardly. Something else must explain why leftist students refuse to tolerate any opinions but their own.
Intolerance can be expected from bigots, but it is harder to explain when it comes from advocates of altruism and compassion. In his book The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell observed: "For the anointed [i.e., "progressive" social reformers], it is desperately important to win, not simply because they believe that one policy or set of beliefs and values is better for society, but because their whole sense of themselves is at stake."
Winning, by any means necessary, enhances their self--images to that of seasoned activists who have done something worthwhile--or, at least, genuine activists, who have tried. These leftists react to opposition as if it personally wounds them--because it does. Adversaries are an obstacle to the promise of an improved "sense of themselves." Opposition, by implying that their activism is wrong--headed and therefore unnecessary, suggests that they are not dedicated, hard--working activists after all, but superfluous whiners. In this way, opposition threatens to reactivate the discomfort of the guilt they feel about being students instead of members of the working class, so it cannot be tolerated.
Leftist students seek unanimity of opinion because it is a form of social leveling. If a Classless Society cannot arise, then at least unanimity can. If only one opinion is allowed to prevail on campus, it will seem as if The Theory--and, by extension, its advocates--have won unconditional acceptance. This neutralizes the radicals' painful separation from the workaday world.
Moreover, why do radicals habitually smear and humiliate opponents, always portraying them not as mistaken, but evil? Because it is natural to want others to be like one's self. Leftists' own separation from the workaday world drives them to try to reunite with it by forcing it to imitate them--by making others re-enact what they have already inflicted on themselves. "Criticism and self-criticism" is more than Marxist dogma; it is how Marxists became Marxists. To relieve the discomfort of their own guilt, they accused themselves of all sorts of iniquities, such as "privilege," and then found relief in rejecting this "privilege" and working for its abolition.
The infamous Pol Pot regime's leaders murdered all Cambodian "intellectuals"--and wearing eyeglasses identified one as an "intellectual"--because the leaders were themselves intellectuals. Making others duplicate the process of self-rebuke reinforces and legitimizes it, turning a lonely, uncertain task into a customary and productive one. The public cannot be allowed to merely accept The Theory; they must be made to demonstrate their allegiance to it. This inflexible vehemence is what is so often mistaken for vanity or arrogance.
So don't waste time arguing with leftists. Instead, offer to help them restore their self-respect. Tell them that they are not personally to blame for crime, poverty, or global warming. And inform them that living their entire lives for the purpose of self-punishment is a total and futile waste.