The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
Kevin, McCain's response was okay - yours was excellent.
This is Columbia University. It's entirely possible that no one applauded not so much because they disapproved but because they were flat-out confused and needed time to process the idea.
I think if they had had a genuine knee-jerk anti-American response, they would have booed- such audiences are not normally shy about such things.
A political knee-jerk is a learned response to an expected stimulus. Their minds had no learned response to McCain's words, and thus it's possible, perhaps even likely, that no one had ever said such things to them before, particularly on that campus.
The flip side is that, given no one was responding, then no one dared respond. This was political correctness, i.e. sheepthink, at its worst.
Maybe they were just told not to make any noise at all, ever, given how often McCain has been booed for speaking, and how poorly that's played in the media.
Yeah, and students, particularly those in a political meeting, always do what they're told, right?
Had I been there, I doubt that I would have applauded, either. Clapping during an interview? Never. I would have sat and listened respectfully and then clapped at the end.
Of course, I was brought up Episcopalian, so that may affect how I behave during performances.
I do think that they were probably told not to make any noise and that this incident doesn't really tell us anything. There's always the outside chance that a hostile audience actually sat and listened politely (it may also be that their grades were on the line if they acted up).
I'm going with LabRat's vacuum-induction hypothesis - they were trying to divide by zero, which is the desired brainwave registry of sheepthink.