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E-Pluribus | December 30, 2022
Conservatives and the race debate; 2022: the Year of the un-Woman; and reckoning with the power of Big Tech.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Isaac Willour: Why Conservatives Lose the Race Debate — and How We Can Win It
From slavery to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Act to Black Lives Matter, race has been at the forefront of the intractable issues our country faces. Isaac Willour writing at National Review says conservatives should not lose hope but rather focus on agency, the power of the individual, part of what makes conservatism conservatism.
Most people who aspire to colorblindness or say they “don’t see color” are not doing so out of a sense of moral ambivalence about America’s legacy of chattel slavery or any such heinous secret prejudice. Nonetheless, the term “colorblind” does not inspire confidence. Change up the language, then. If, as leading anti-racist Ibram X. Kendi says, the “heartbeat of racism is denial,” then we won’t use terms that suggest denial. That’s not concession, it’s basic persuasion strategy.
We must see racial disparities where they exist and acknowledge racial trauma as real, because for many Americans, it is real. Responding to the trauma of racial discrimination by simply expressing a commitment to a race-neutral ideal is a bad move. It does not give people solace or comfort and portrays well-meaning “colorblind” people as dismissive. We must respond to racial trauma with understanding and support, not merely because it’s effective but because it is the right thing to do. Such moral actions can be the key to changing hearts away from the guilt-laden premises of Kendi-esque anti-racism and towards the more hopeful approach that conservatives offer: a worldview that sees race without treating it as the singular axis of power on which society spins.
In addition, we must reaffirm the agency of the individual as the greatest weapon against America’s remaining prejudice. One of the most persuasive aspects of modern anti-racist philosophy is how it offers its proponents a sense of agency. “Believe in the possibility that we can transform our societies to be antiracist from this day forward,” Kendi exhorts his audience in How to Be an Antiracist. “Racist policies are not indestructible. Racial inequities are not inevitable.” Such agency is not merely a means of increasing support for the anti-racist movement, but a means by which Kendi can demonize and discredit anyone who dares to push back on extreme anti-racist conclusions.
Read it all.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The year the West erased women
New expansive genders choices and definitions are ostensibly meant to be liberating, but Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes at unHerd that the trend has actually contributed to loss for women worldwide. While our own country’s debates over “what is a woman” and sports may seem trivial to some, Ali says we cannot separate those issues from the larger, more consequential and often horrific consequences women are facing in places like Kenya, Iran and Afghanistan.
Those who would divorce “woman” from its biological implications often present their ideas as innocuous. They are, we are told, simply champions of “inclusion”. But their ideology is hardly uncontroversial, and surrendering to it is not harmless. The past year has seen reports of transgender women attacking women in female-only spaces and unfairly winning trophies in women’s sports. The spirit of these failures was perhaps best-distilled in the words of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who in March was unable to define what being a woman entailed during her Senate confirmation hearing. “I’m not a biologist,” she said, as if one needed to be a professional scientist to know basic biological facts.
[. . .]
Is it really a coincidence that, in the same year the West forgot what it means to be a woman, we decided it was acceptable to turn our backs on women in those countries [Kenya, Iran and Afghanistan]? The above is what happens when a society stops caring what it means to be a woman; when a centuries-old fight for emancipation becomes relegated to semantics. Of course, this takes a different form in Kenya, Iran and Afghanistan. But there still seem to me to be similarities between today’s gender activists and theocratic subjugators. Both believe, on the basis of a contentious ideology, that they have a monopoly on truth. And both, in a sense, are champions of the subjective over the objective: in one case, particular religious beliefs are said to tell us how society should be run — and in the other, mere feelings are said to abolish material reality.
Read the whole thing.
Tom Slater: The great unpersoning
Few recent issues have united certain wildly different factions of the left and right like free speech. Spiked editor Tom Slater closes out the year decrying the “great unpersoning” that the power of Big Tech over the ability of many to freely communicate their ideas has made possible.
Free speech, said Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist and escaped slave, is the ‘dread of tyrants’. Those words have rung true ever since they were uttered 160 years ago, when Douglass was railing against the mob censorship of abolitionist meetings. In 2022, Big Tech oligarchs and their cheerleaders, the self-appointed controllers of today’s digital public square, demonstrated just how tyrannical they can be – and just how much they fear free speech.
The past few years have been a grim vindication of one of the arguments spiked has been making for a long time. That Big Tech censorship to the ends of challenging ‘hate speech’ and ‘misinformation’, once embarked upon, would only spread and spread. That once we allowed ‘extremists’ to be censored it would only be a matter of time before the algorithm came for us all.
[. . .]
While we’d become accustomed to Facebook or YouTube deplatforming dissenters, this year we watched as the likes of PayPal and GoFundMe set about defunding them, too – and on a scale we hadn’t seen before. From the Canadian truckers to gender-critical academic Colin Wright to the UK Free Speech Union (FSU), a broad range of rebels were banned and deprived of their funds this year.
The tech oligarchs seem to have become drunk on their own monopolistic power. PayPal – the highest valued digital-payments platform in the world, bigger than its eight closest rivals combined – was forced to disavow an ‘accidentally’ published policy, suggesting its users could be fined as much as $2,500 for spreading so-called misinformation.
Read it all here.
A veteran of the Senate, Ben Cardin, believes the First Amendment has some loopholes, as if everyone agrees on what espousing hate and violence look like:
Via David French, an example of speech answering speech instead of calling for censorship:
And finally, Stanford University Professor Keith Humphreys with an example of the circle of language. Change is not a one-way street.