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E-Pluribus | August 2, 2023
Yes, but; innocent until... accused?; and censuring the censors.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Andrew Sullivan: The Importance Of Saying "Yes" To The "But"
Rush Limbaugh used to say that people who stand in the middle of the road get run over. While trying not to take sides on anything can be an indication of someone without firm principles, Andrew Sullivan notes that often much-needed nuance gets tossed aside in today’s polarized culture. Sullivan says being able to acknowledge points on both sides of a conflict is a virtue, not a sign of weakness.
One of the enduring frustrations of living in a politically polarized country is the evaporation of nuance. As the muscles of liberal democracy atrophy, and as cultural tribalism infects everyone’s consciousness, it becomes more and more difficult to say, “Yes, but …”
Everyone hates the but. It complicates; it muddles; it can disable a slogan; and puncture a politically useful myth. We were already headed that way in the discourse, but Trump, and then the Trump Resistance, made everything worse.
[ . . . ]
[T]ake the Hunter Biden saga. We are asked to pick from one menu — the laptop was Russian disinformation, “My son has done nothing wrong,” “this is only about a father’s love for his son” — or another entirely different menu — the Biden “crime family” has tentacles everywhere, there’s “a deep state conspiracy” to treat Hunter as a special case, this all goes back to the “big guy” and Burisma.
[ . . . ]
How about the “yes, but” option? One version would be: “Yes, Hunter had a drug problem, and his father is showing appropriate compassion. But he was still a grifter and a sleaze who spent his life trying to profit off his family name. The MSM’s dismissal of his laptop as Russian disinformation was appalling. And that plea agreement looks fishy AF.” Another would be: “Yes, Hunter is crooked, but no more so than Jared Kushner, and we still have no real evidence of the president’s involvement.” That wasn’t hard, was it? And how about this one: “Yes, Trump’s family life is a farrago of philandery, and there’s no equivalence in the Biden clan. But an Irish-Catholic paterfamilias refusing to acknowledge the existence of a toddler grand-daughter, because she was born out of wedlock? Incomprehensible.”
Read the whole thing.
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Lee Siegel: The Poison of Accusation
The presumption of innocence is foundational in our judicial system, but too often, loud and oft-repeated accusations serve as a proxy for a declaration of guilt in today’s public square. Writing for City Journal, Lee Siegel decries these media-assisted kangaroo courts as exemplified by the recent kerfuffle over the new African-American history standards in Florida.
The latest example of truth-bending and rabble-rousing comes from deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates. Bates was responding to a comment by Greg Gutfeld, a Fox News host who was discussing a section in the Florida Standards for Teaching Black History that addresses, as the Standards state, “various duties and trades performed by the slaves.” The Standards advise teachers to instruct students in “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Referring to Viktor Frankl’s classic work on the Holocaust, Man’s Search for Meaning, Gutfeld said, “Frankl talks about how you had to survive in a concentration camp by having skills. You had to be useful. Utility! Utility kept you alive.”
[ . . . ]
The Biden White House/campaign apparatus leaped. Bates thundered to CNN: “What Fox News allowed to be said on their air yesterday—and has so far failed to condemn—is an obscenity. In defending a horrid, dangerous, extreme lie that insults the memory of the millions of Americans who suffered from the evil of enslavement, a Fox News host told another horrid, dangerous and extreme lie that insults the memory of the millions of people who suffered from the evils of the Holocaust. Let’s get something straight that the American people understand full well and that is not complicated: there was nothing good about slavery; there was nothing good about the Holocaust. Full stop. Americans deserve to be brought together, not torn apart with poison.”
[ . . . ]
Never mind that by raising the specters of racism and anti-Semitism where they did not exist, Bates himself was spewing poison while making his condemnation. The Florida Standards for teaching black history describe the horrors of slavery; they also describe the character and dignity and resilience of many slaves. It is a simple, uncomplicated fact that the skills some slaves learned were those that they used to make a living after emancipation. The College Board’s AP curriculum for black studies, which Florida governor Ron DeSantis rejected, happened to make that same point. You would have to be operating far beyond the boundaries of reality to believe that the Florida Standards portray slavery as a great vocational opportunity. (And no sane person who actually thought that would say it.)
Read it all here.
Eric Schmitt: Hold the Censors Accountable
The size and scope of the federal government and its permanent bureaucracy has frequently led to abuses that go unaddressed regardless of the party in power. Current Republican Senator and former Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt takes to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to call for consequences for those in government who engage in suppression of free speech.
As Missouri’s attorney general, I filed a lawsuit last year against the administration that exposed a massive censorship enterprise in which federal officials pressured social-media companies to police online speech about certain topics. One of the most egregious examples saw a coordinated effort by these bureaucrats, notably Anthony Fauci, to discredit the lab-leak theory regarding the origins of Covid-19 and censor those who posted about it. Dr. Fauci went out of his way to convince scientists who supported the lab-leak theory to change their minds and argue that the virus originated naturally. He conducted a slew of public attacks on the theory, decrying it multiple times. After Dr. Fauci’s efforts to discredit it, Facebook expanded its content-moderation policies to censor posts suggesting Covid-19 might have been man-made.
The more we look into the Biden administration’s attempts to censor speech, the worse it gets. Several federal agencies—including the Energy Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation—now agree that the lab-leak theory is the most likely one regarding the origin of the Covid-19 virus.
The censorship campaign seems to have come from the pages of George Orwell’s “1984,” and the judge in Missouri v. Biden agreed, writing that it “depicts an almost dystopian scenario” and that the federal government “seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’ ” We need to ensure citizens can hold these bureaucrats accountable for infringing on their rights. That’s why I’m introducing the Censorship Accountability Act, to bring accountability to federal bureaucrats who violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.
Read it all.
The Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium has a thread (excerpt below) on a highly coincidental, since-retracted “video statement” requirement at Columbia Law School shortly after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in admissions:
Colin Wright zeroes in on the premise of radical gender ideology:
And finally, well, I mean, if it’s unintentional…