The idea that we unwittingly commit “micro-aggressions” against people by making hurtful remarks that on the surface don’t appear to be sexist, racist of what have you has some in for a lot of ridicule on the right side of the political aisle. I mean, who knew that saying “America is a land of opportunity” is hurtful to women and black Americans?

We laugh, but the always-sage Thomas Sowell urges us to take the latest leftist buzzword seriously in an article headlined “Micro-Aggression is the Road to Micro-Tyranny.” For those to whom the concept of micro-aggression is new, Sowell gives some examples:

If you just sit in a room where all the people are white, you are considered to be guilty of "micro-aggression" against people who are not white, who will supposedly feel uncomfortable when they enter such a room.  . . .

When a group of UCLA law students came to class wearing T-shirts with a picture of one of their professors who had organized an intramural softball game, those T-shirts were protested as a manifestation of "white privilege." Why? Because that professor had written a book critical of affirmative action.

"Micro-aggression" protests have spread to campuses from coast to coast — that is, from UC Berkeley and UCLA to Harvard and Fordham on the East Coast, and including Oberlin and Illinois in the Midwest.

Academic administrators have all too often taken the well-worn path of least resistance, by regarding the most trivial, or even silly, claims of victimhood with great seriousness, even when that involved undermining faculty members held in high esteem by most of their students and by their professional colleagues on campus and beyond.

Rather than dismissing this with a smirk, Sowell says that the concept of “micro-aggression” is just the latest tactic being used to shut down discussion. Sowell writes:

Word games are just one of the ways of silencing politically incorrect ideas, instead of debating them.

Demands that various conservative organizations be forced to reveal the names of their donors are another way of silencing ideas by intimidating people who facilitate the spread of those ideas. Whatever the rationale for wanting those names, the implicit threat is retaliation.

This same tactic was used, decades ago, by Southern segregationists who tried to force black civil rights organizations to reveal the names of their donors, in a situation where retaliation might have included violence as well as economic losses.

In a sense, the political left's attempts to silence ideas they cannot, or will not, debate are a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. But this is just one of the left's ever-increasing restrictions on other people's freedom to live their lives as they see fit, rather than as their betters tell them.