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E-Pluribus | August 25, 2022
Ron DeSantis vs. The First Amendment, the lost art of ignoring things, and does America need a return to virtue?
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Jacob Sullum: Ron DeSantis Wants To Edit the First Amendment
As we wrote about earlier this week, a federal judge recently blocked a law championed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that would fight “wokeness” in the workplace. But as Jacob Sullum argues at Reason, the irony of DeSantis’ war on illiberal excesses on the left is itself also an illiberal attempt to enforce his own viewpoints on private companies.
When he signed the Individual Freedom Act (IFA) last April, DeSantis bragged that it would "prevent discriminatory instruction in the workplace," striking a blow against "the far-left woke agenda." But as a federal judge explained last week, the law's restrictions on employee training blatantly violate the First Amendment.
The IFA expanded Florida's definition of "unlawful employment practices" to include "any required activity" that promotes one or more of eight forbidden concepts. Some of those ideas are plainly illiberal (e.g., linking moral status to race) or patently silly (e.g., viewing virtues such as excellence, hard work, and fairness as white supremacist constructs), while others are ambiguous or debatable (e.g., the notion that "members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin").
[ . . . ]
DeSantis argued that the IFA aims to prevent a "hostile work environment" created by ideas that might discomfit employees. [U.S. District Judge Mark] Walker thought that was a stretch because that term encompasses speech only when it is "both objectively and subjectively offensive and when it is sufficiently severe or pervasive"—requirements that provide "shelter for core protected speech."
More to the point, conservatives have long criticized discrimination claims based on an allegedly hostile work environment precisely because they can transform otherwise protected speech into illegal "harassment." Yet DeSantis is not only defending that concept; he is extending it to cover even a single "required activity" that "espouses" ideas he does not like.
Read it all.
Jesse Singal: We, Or At Least I, So Badly Need To Rediscover The Lost Art Of Ignoring Stuff
Everyone has a take on everything, even the smallest, most insignificant developments. Well, that’s at least true of everyone who is VERY ONLINE or on Twitter. But this never ending cycle of hot takes and virtue signaling about every little thing that pops up on Twitter dot com has led, as Jesse Singal contends, to a toxic environment of confirmation bias and the elevation of stupid things we really shouldn’t care about (or wouldn’t if it wasn’t on online).
I’m no Luddite, but it just seems impossible to ignore the fact that social media has ensnared a huge number of people at this point. It’s stolen something really, really important, which is the ability to ignore stuff.
Our species could not have evolved to our present, earth-dominating capacities if we weren’t able to filter out the vast majority of what we can perceive. We have all sorts of cool, inborn, evolutionary pattern-identifying tricks that allow us to ignore almost everything. We’re good at recognizing faces quickly because that allows us to spend most of our time ignoring stuff that isn’t faces. If we had to squint and try really hard to discern every face from every not-a-face, we’d get eaten by a tiger.
This is a great gift evolution has given us, this ability to ignore stuff. And when we disregard this gift, when we angrily hurl it back, a certain poverty sets in. I don’t know if it’s right to call it spiritual or psychological or what, but I feel it. I feel like I often get batted around from thing to thing without there being any real purpose or intent to my noticings. It’s just noticing after noticing after noticing. Some of them make me mad and others make me laugh and oh look, another iteration of that meme with the girl yelling into the guy’s ear, and eventually it feels like I’ve been wandering around a jungle that at first seemed very interesting, replete with fascinating plants and animals I never saw before, but suddenly it’s getting dark out and I lost my map, and isn’t that the same weirdly shaped palm tree from before? Have I made any progress in any direction during my 10 hours of wandering, burning precious daylight all the while?
And so much of this is self-reinforcing. This book-disliking person is going to get a wave of negative attention that will not, of course, cause her perhaps to take a more mature and sophisticated approach to literature. It’ll simply convince her that she was right all along, and to greatly expand her spreadsheet so as to warn people about more problematic authors. Various partisans will use her list and the reaction to it — a true nonevent in any world where we had the capacity to ignore — to prove they were right all along. And we’ll all get a little stupider.
Read it all.
Daniel Darling: It’s Time for a Return to Virtue
Does the American experiment in self-governance work without a virtuous populace? Do we need leaders who promote virtue and moral behavior to survive? Those are the question Daniel Darling explores at The Dispatch.
John Adams was sanguine about the new experiment in human government he and his fellow Founders had create: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Adams and his fellow patriots created a system that ensured maximum liberty, that diffused power among three branches, away from a central government toward the states. They did this because they understood, in part, that humans tend toward tyranny and that even rulers with the most benevolent intentions can accumulate power in unhealthy ways. But they also understood that without a populace that is undergirded by virtue, this experiment would eventually fail.
Virtue is a concept that neither party seems to want to champion, in this era where grievance drives our politics. The left, with its boundary-pushing approach to sexual ethics, has embraced a form of neo-puritanism, but it mostly it consists of empty signaling on climate change, race, and silencing critics of the dogmas of the sexual revolution. The right, once a champion of virtue (I came of age in the 1990s when Bill Bennet’s Book of Virtues was a best-seller) when it was a convenient cudgel against a president known for moral deficits, now seems regularly to reward the outlandish, the peevish, and even the vulgar.
Read the full piece.
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The Podcast Movement issues an apology after Ben Shapiro unexpectedly showed up to a booth purchased by The Daily Wire. This apparently caused a lot of . . . harm?
The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism stands with Salman Rushdie:
Who is the true ableist?