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E-Pluribus | August 13, 2021
The right's disturbing Hungary infatuation, woke American Express, and a review of political correctness.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Matt Welch: No Self-Respecting American Should Aspire to Hungarian-Style Nationalism
Some on the right (Tucker Carlson, for one) have developed something of an unhealthy preoccupation with Viktor Orbán’s Hungary of late, along the lines of the left’s infatuation with Cuba. Matt Welch of Reason provides some important context for those who appear to be glossing over the problematic authoritarian nationalism of that country.
… [A]side from electoral success, there are some aspects to Orbán's national-politics variant that are unique to Hungary and should be uniquely worrying to those of us who value freedom in the United States (which, Carlson's host-flattery notwithstanding, beats Hungary's like a drum).
Magyar grievance-nationalism begins with a wound the U.S. has never come close to absorbing—losing nearly two-thirds of its territory at the post–World War I Treaty of Trianon. Granted, Hungary's pre-war landmass was at an ahistoric high filled with subjugated minorities, but the peace agreement left millions of Hungarian-speakers stranded outside their native country.
Given the feebleness of interwar Hungary, the fascist irredentism of its Axis-allied WWII regime, then the Communist control after the war, this created not just an unrequited nationalism, but an unrequitable nationalism. Orbán's most fateful political choice (on which more below) came in recognition of a persistent national itch that can never fully be scratched.
Read it all here.
Christopher F. Rufo: Intersectional AmEx
American Express is the latest corporation to hop on the anti-racism bandwagon, or at least the latest we are finding out about thanks to information leaked to Christopher Rufo. Speakers at company events even included the great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, the late Nation of Islam leader who was succeeded by Louis Farrakhan. As often seems to be the case, anti-capitalism is part of the “lessons” being taught in these training/indoctrination sessions.
As one of the company’s high-profile “anti-racism” events, American Express executives invited Professor Khalil Muhammad—great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, who led the Nation of Islam—to lecture on “race in corporate America.” Muhammad argued that the system of capitalism was founded on racism and that “racist logics and forms of domination” have shaped Western society from the Industrial Revolution to the present. “American Express has to do its own digging about how it sits in relationship to this history of racial capitalism,” said Muhammad. “You are complicit in giving privileges in one community against the other, under the pretext that we live in a meritocratic system where the market judges everyone the same.”
After establishing the company’s participation in racist oppression, Muhammad then encouraged AmEx executives to begin “the deep redistributive and reparative work” and to “lobby [the government] for the kinds of social policies that reflect your values.” Muhammad argues further that the company should reduce credit standards for black customers and sacrifice profits in the interest of race-based reparations. “If American Express cares about racial justice in the world, it can’t simply say the market’s going to define how we price certain customers who happen to come from low-income communities,” Muhammad said. “If you want to do good, then you’re going to have to set up products and [product] lines that don’t maximize profit.”
Read it all.
Göran Adamson: Political Correctness: A Sociocultural Black Hole—A Review
Before cancel culture came Political Correctness, and Göran Adamson at Quillette reviews a book that looks back at the phenomenon and how it continues to have an impact today. While civil discourse is a foundational principle here at Pluribus, concerns over “political etiquette” should never trump the open discussion and debate of ideas.
Before we continue, a few words about “political correctness.” Where does it come from? According to the anthropologist Jonathan Friedman, it emanated from the Soviet Union under Stalin, when “politicheskaya pravil’nost” (“political correctness”) was used with positive connotations within the communist party as an essential means for the control of citizens. Under Maoist rule in China, it had a similar meaning, but then changed and was used cynically about party orthodoxy. Based on these two observations, political correctness initially appears to have been a concept on the Left, whether it had a serious or ironic quality.
How, then, is political correctness defined by someone who declines the warm invitation from identity politics? First of all, citing Robert Hughes, Tsakalakis suggests that it is not really about “politics itself,” nor about ideas and opinions. Rather, it is about “political etiquette.” Political correctness is part of middle-class manners, i.e., what is fitting to express in a certain social circumstance in order not to lose your face.
When a discussion is no longer about ideas but about manners and etiquette, the losing end, as it seems, has no way out. Now, you haven’t merely lost a fair game. You have shown bad manners, and you are expected to be ashamed of it and humbly seek repentance. This is how disagreements are solved under political correctness. Where did all this anti-intellectualism come from? Tsakalakis quotes Friedman, who suggests political correctness “is rooted in the assumption that there exist certain self-evident moral truths about the world,” and those who question them will be “objects of ridicule.” Either you succumb to these apparent virtues, or you will be embarrassing. There are no longer different opinions, but only one glorious morality surrounded by darkness and disgrace. The politically correct praise tolerance, but do not seem to honor it.
One important theme in the book relates to how modernity is undermined by political correctness. In the 1980s, when political correctness was slowly brewing in parts of academia, Isaac Asimov claimed democracy was under attack. A “cult of ignorance” was spreading according to which democracy was interpreted as saying “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” This blatant relativism collides with one of the pillars of democracy—selection by merit or “meritocracy.” An elitism based on superior knowledge is by no means in conflict with the ideals of democracy. On the contrary in fact. Democracy is undermined by sectarianism, whether you call it minority selection, identity politics, or political correctness.
Peter Boghossian responds to the New York Times adding John McWhorter to its stable of newsletter writers:
Dorian Schuyler Abbot, professor at the University of Chicago, suggests Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) as a substitute for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and finds some support:
Katie Herzog via Bari Weiss continues her examination of free speech within the medical field:
And finally, Glenn Greenwald on the flip of the concern-switch when the Biden administration took office in January: