21 Oct 2017

Andrew Sullivan Gets One Right

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Andrew is a very mixed bag. He can be brilliantly perceptive, hitting the nail right on the head. And he can be an intellectually conformist sheep, swallowing the current leftist spin hook, line, and sinker. And Andrew can go both ways in the very same editorial.

For example, this week, Andrew correctly identifies the democrats’ huge political vulnerability.

For me, as regular readers know, few things seem as ominous as the fate of free speech in the West. In democratic countries without a First Amendment, writers and speakers are now routinely hauled into court for hurting someone’s feelings or violating some new PC edict. In Canada, it is now a crime to use pronouns that have served the English language well enough for centuries, if you are not careful. You are compelled by law to say “ze” or “xe” or “ve” or an endlessly proliferating litany of gobbledygook — “(f)aer,” “e/ey,” “perself” — invented out of thin air by postmodern transgenderists. Justin Trudeau doesn’t just want you to be criminalized for saying things he regards as “hate,” he wants to use the criminal law to force you to say things you don’t believe in and can’t even remember.

In Britain, meanwhile, it is now a criminal offense to post something on social media that “is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice.” “Hostility” is defined thus: “ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike.” In other words, if you “dislike” some idea, and someone else asserts your view is driven by “unfriendliness” to a member of a minority, you are breaking the law. There is effectively no free speech left in the U.K. that isn’t subject to a criminal veto by someone seeking to make trouble or permanently primed to take offense. And that is not to speak of the chilling effect such laws have on others too intimidated to open their mouths at all.

In America, thanks to Thomas Jefferson et al., such policing of minds and thoughts by the government is forbidden. So the illiberal left and reactionary right find other ways. Our president believes “it’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” He also thinks he can coerce people into saying “Merry Christmas” or standing for the national anthem. (I’ve decided to reverse my previous custom and always say “Happy Holidays” and always kneel for the anthem.) The GOP candidate for the Senate from Alabama — supported by every other GOP senator — believes that NFL players are actually breaking the law by using their First Amendment rights, and that Muslims should be barred from public office. And then the worst news on this front all year: “Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration.” That rises to 76 percent of Republicans. Twenty-eight percent of all voters — and 46 percent of Republicans — believe that the government should be able to remove the licenses from outlets that criticize the president. The First Amendment lives; but the beliefs and practices and norms that buttress it are atrophying very fast.

Many now demand, for example, that young-adult fiction conform to their ideology … or they will destroy a book before it is even published and before they have even read it. That just happened to a book written by Laura Moriarty, called American Heart, which was subjected to a social-media version of book-burning. Kirkus originally gave the book a glowing review, and then retracted it under pressure, then got the reviewer to rewrite it. Vulture interviewed the editor of Kirkus Reviews about the flap. Money quote:

    “Obviously we don’t like having to make corrections after the publication of a review,” [Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith] adds. “The plan is to beef up our editing of reviews in this section, to have further eyes before it goes to print.”

    In the future, I ask, is the goal that no problematic book will escape un-called-out?

    “That’s certainly the goal!” Smith says, with the caveat that Kirkus’s critics aren’t infallible. “I mean, we’re human beings.”

Or look at what happened to a speaker from the ACLU at the College of William & Mary in Virginia a couple of weeks back. She came to give a talk about — yes! — free speech, only to be shouted down by the usual mob, who were at least honest enough to chant: “Liberalism Is White Supremacy,” and “The Revolution Will Not Uphold Your Constitution.” They physically prevented the speaker from even talking one-on-one with those who were interested in a dialogue.

The unity of the far left and the Trump right on this is as striking as it is depressing. What they share is a contempt for liberal democracy. Truth to both of them is merely an instrument of power. Instead of relying on an open exchange of ideas in order to determine the always-provisional truth, both sides (yes, both sides) insist that they already know the truth and need simply to acquire the power to impose it on everyone else. Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson weeps.

And then Andrew proceeds to tell us just how wonderful and enlightening the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Vietnam War Documentary is. (Sigh!)

Try Mackubin Thomas Owens on that subject.

2 Feedbacks on "Andrew Sullivan Gets One Right"

Seattle Sam

“Instead of relying on an open exchange of ideas in order to determine the always-provisional truth, both sides (yes, both sides) insist that they already know the truth and need simply to acquire the power to impose it on everyone else.”

You mean as in “the science is settled”?

Maggie's Farm

Monday morning links

Image borrowed from Ace   How Sure Are We That The Universe Is 13.8 Billion Years Old? "Speech codes are written by and for the privileged.  They are written by the oppressor to shut up the oppressed." Free speech: Andrew


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