A cellphone video recently uploaded to YouTube, which has been viewed over 750,000 times as of this writing, proves that heroes don’t always wear capes. Sometimes they come in button-down shirts and nerdy eyeglasses.
The video opens on a band of University of Washington student protesters gathered in the school library, reportedly about an hour after President Donald Trump’s inauguration earlier this month. Led by a woman wielding a megaphone (as if one were necessary in the quiet space) they begin chanting,
“Who’s got the power?” “We’ve got the power!” “What kind of power?” “Equal power!”
A little uninspired as chants go, but anyway, just as the wannabe revolutionaries are finding their groove, we hear a lone voice off-camera shouting for their attention. The camera pans to a studious-looking, young Asian gentleman in button-down shirt and glasses, glaring at them in disapproval. “Hey . . . hey . . . HEY!” he interrupts. The protesters, probably unaccustomed to being shushed, quiet down in confusion.
“This is library!” he scolds in accented English. Then he stalks away with a stern backward glance, clearly because he has work to do and no more time to waste on this motley crew. The protesters are left in stunned silence, although one woman among them lobs a feeble comment at his back suggesting something about him going back to Beijing—not a very inclusive or multicultural comment for a college protester demanding equality.
It’s unclear if the young man actually works at the library, simply wanted to study in peace and quiet, or felt compelled to reprimand the protesters on behalf of others who were there to study, but in any case he swiftly became the subject of internet memes; the funniest is a video where he is Photoshopped into the famous scene from the movie 300 in which King Leonidas roars “This . . . is . . . Sparta!” before booting a Persian enemy into the abyss.
He was also compared to the legendary “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square, the courageous lone figure who stood up—literally—against the Chinese military in 1989 by blocking the advance of a tank with his own body (to this day no one knows Tank Man’s identity—fortunately, since he certainly would have faced severe punishment if not execution for the worldwide humiliation he caused the government).
The Tank Man comparison is, of course, a bit of a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration; this new video may seem more amusing than inspiring at first look. “Library Man”—we may never know his name either, and perhaps that’s just as well; it will add to his mystique—Library Man certainly wasn’t risking his life, but it’s not too much of a stretch to see him too as an instant symbol of righteous courage, albeit on a lesser order than Tank Man.
In our time, when campus social justice warriors have virtually taken over universities and bullied everyone from fellow students to timid administrators into submission, Library Man not only did not back down, he shut down the protesters. He made a stand in defense of the values of order, decorum, the rule of law, politeness and consideration for those students who came to the library to actually study (something that seems a low priority for many college kids these days, what with all their time-consuming protests and policing of each other’s speech). And the internet has applauded him for it.
Library Man represents the silent majority of students who have no time for virtue-signaling, political bullying, and mock revolutionary posturing because they are at college for an education and career preparation to better themselves and become productive members of society. By admonishing the protesters, Library Man asserted that those students were deserving of respect and that the library itself, as a “safe space” for learning, must be respected.
Tank Man, of course, was standing in defense of his fellow Chinese student protesters against a totalitarian government. But today’s student protesters often are themselves the totalitarians: enforcing political correctness, demanding ideological conformity, and demonizing and publicly shaming anyone who doesn’t fully embrace their agenda—echoes of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
What it takes to resist the bullying of tanks and mobs is exactly what Tank Man and Library Man exhibited to different degrees: the courage and moral conviction to draw a red line and defend it. “We’ve got the power!” the protesters chanted, emboldened by their numbers; but in fact it was the lone figure of Library Man who had the power—the power of one man’s righteous anger. The power of one person to stop a tank or silence a mob.
Be that person. Be like Library Man.