E-Pluribus | December 4, 2023
Illiberal paranoia is everywhere! Selective use of 'hate speech' after October 7; Martina Navratilova explains herself.
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Jonah Goldberg: Paranoia Will Destroy Ya
With a hat tip to Winston Churchill, one could say that classical liberalism is the worst political and moral philosophy—except for all the others. In his latest G-File for The Dispatch, Jonah Goldberg explains how liberalism’s detractors on both the right and left fail to appreciate that their paranoid conspiracies are the biggest threat to civilization.
Identity politics is post-liberal. All of the talk about “white supremacy” is post-liberal. Ditto critical race theory, post-colonialism, and most of the sociological and ideological pathologies that often get described as “wokeness.”
The idea that some groups deserve the benefit of different rules or a suspension of the existing rules, simply by an accident of birth or ancestry, is antithetical to liberalism. The idea that my speech must be held hostage to your hegemonic control of the meaning of words is illiberal. Good manners are necessary to liberalism and a decent society. Saying “you’re a racist” for not using other peoples’ shibboleths—Latinx, etc.—is illiberal.
All of the talk about “white supremacy” is as good an example of the paranoid style in American politics as any of the Bircheresque squeals about globalists and the “Deep State” of the New Right. Most left-of-center intellectuals won’t identify it as such, though, because they are doubly ensorcelled by two myths: the “paranoid style” is definitionally right-wing and because any indictment of white racism (but only white racism) must automatically be granted the benefit of the doubt of moral and intellectual seriousness.
[. . .]
But let’s get back to the paranoid style, which is another way of saying conspiratorial thinking. White supremacy paranoia is conspiratorial because it starts from the assumption that other people are responsible for the problems of the “oppressed.” It’s a way to rob the oppressed of agency and put all the blame on others. The same goes for the equally paranoid theories of the New Right about “globalists,” “the deep state,” Big Tech (when not run by Elon Musk), and in some quarters, “Jewish financiers.” They all work from the assumption that there are other humans out there who are oppressing other people—and profiting from that oppression.
This is the paranoid style and you can see manifestations of it everywhere, from the “do you know what time it is?” MAGA faithful to the left-wing radicals, to the Zionist hunters on campuses and elsewhere. This “Flight 93” mindset suffuses our political and online culture.
[. . .]
[T]he interesting thing—to me at least—that unites all the foes of liberalism on the left and the right is the unavoidable psychological projection involved. They all argue for replacing the existing ruling class with an anointed ruling class of their choosing (while pointing to the same desire in their enemies as proof of their demonic threat).
In one sense this is unavoidable, they argue. Someone’s got to be in charge. The psychological projection comes in from the whole concept of a ruling class to begin with.
Here’s the thing. Liberalism doesn’t have rulers.
Sure, we have government officials. But they’re elected—temporarily. Or they’re appointed by elected people. With the exception of some judges, the appointed ones don’t have lifetime appointments, and even the ones that do can be removed (not deposed, removed). But all of these officials are constrained by law and the Constitution in what they can do. Save in some national emergency—and maybe not even then—the president cannot order you to do anything. Police—a very local government position—can tell you what to do sometimes, but they need a lawful reason or they lose their jobs. And the people ultimately decide what the law is, because here the people rule.
Read the whole thing.
Jonas Du: The Campus Left’s Hate-Speech Hypocrisy Is on Full Display after October 7
“Hate speech” is in the ear of the beholder; the October 7th attack in Israel has made that clearer than ever. At National Review, Jonas Du confronts hypocritical leftists who have crowned themselves the arbiters of acceptable speech:
Organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter had chapters across the country that released statements justifying the attacks as a legitimate struggle for decolonization. It’s hard to imagine that such people would not be part of the proportion of Americans who think the government ought to police hate speech. After all, they fervently believe in “social justice” and ideologies such as critical race theory, which argues for hate-speech regulation to protect oppressed races.
Such hypocrisy came full circle when some students and faculty began citing free speech to justify antisemitic protests and oppose doxxing campaigns that have been common at Columbia and Harvard. Columbia SJP wrote in a subsequent op-ed (co-written with Jewish Voice for Peace): “We demand that the administration take immediate action so that no student . . . feels unsafe on campus due to their advocacy for or association with Palestine.” One student claimed simply to be “fighting for our political beliefs” like any other student. Close to 200 faculty members signed an open letter defending students who supported Hamas’s “military action” by signing SJP’s statement. “Efforts to chill otherwise protected speech on campus are unacceptable,” they wrote.
To be clear, I support the right of pro-Palestinian activists to blame Israel for the terrorist attack or even to shout genocidal slogans, as abhorrent as I think such actions are. Our college campuses benefit from political messages of all kinds, even those that are deeply wrong or offensive. We cannot claim the right side of history without hearing out the wrong side. The doxxing of students must also be condemned as a form of harassment. Students at Columbia and Harvard, many of whom are unrelated to pro-Hamas statements, have had highly personal information publicized online, possibly constituting defamation. Cancel culture is still cancel culture even when it’s levied against the Left. But we should stop pretending that those who promulgate the idea that free speech is just a veil for bigotry have any moral standing remaining. Those who believe we must regulate hate speech while they also openly support terrorism should stop pretending that they care about free speech at all. Or just admit their own hate.
Read it all here.
Kara Swisher: Martina Navratilova on Why She Keeps Talking About Trans Women in Sports
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has been savaged for her outspoken criticism of transgender athletes in women’s sports. To Navratilova’s great credit, she does not limit herself to sympathetic media outlets. Below are some excerpts from an interview with New York Magazine’s Kara Swisher.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, considered perhaps the greatest women’s player ever, is nothing if not outspoken. On her prolific Twitter account, she frequently weighs in on politics and current events, almost always representing a liberal point of view. But on one issue — trans women in sports — she has drawn loud blowback from allies. On the most recent On With Kara Swisher, Navratilova, who also discussed her recent health concerns and much more, spoke with Swisher about why she’s been so firm in her stance that sports should be segregated by biological sex.
Kara Swisher: I want to pivot to transgender issues, where you also have been very outspoken. I have to say, after I complimented you on that Chris Evert thing, I’ve never gotten more letters, decrying that I complimented you and that I admired you.
I’d love you to explain your perspective on trans rights. You’ve called to bar transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. I was surprised and, and I’ll be honest with you, confused. And I don’t quite understand your perspective, because you’ve been ahead of the curve on gender equity, so I’d love you to explain your perspective here because there are very upset people, disappointed by you because you’ve been so behind inclusion.
Martina Navratilova: So I came to this about four or five years ago. I made some comments about male athletes in women’s sports. I’m like, “That can’t be right.” Because of course I come from way back in the ’70s when Renée Richards was the first transsexual to sue for the right to compete in women’s tennis, and she won.
And in fact, I played doubles with her. I played singles against her. And then she ended up being my coach, and a friend. And we’re still friends, and she is on the same side with me on this, in that she now says, I don’t think I should have been allowed to compete, because the advantage is too big.
The only reason Renée didn’t win back then was because she was in her 40s and out of shape. Had she been in her 20s and in shape, she would have wiped the floor with us.
[. . .]
I became a part of this Women’s Sports Policy Working Group. If you go on our website, you see where we stand. We’re trying to figure out a way to include trans women, males that identify as women, in women’s sports. Can the advantage be mitigated so they can compete? Can we do some kind of a handicapping system? Or take hormones for as long as the testosterone is there? And we found that it’s literally impossible to do it. In some sports, physical strength doesn’t matter. But in most sports, there’s a big advantage.
And it’s just not possible to get there. So we came to the conclusion that either you have to have three categories, for nonbinary, male, or you have an open category for everybody, or just females. That’s the only way to go forward that’s fair.
Swisher: You see there’s no solution that’s fair. It’s a word you use a lot.
Navratilova: You cannot make it fair. Male bodies, once they go through puberty, are five inches taller on average. You just can’t take that away. And if you put your arm up, that’s about seven inches, reach advantage. It’s just not possible to level the playing field. And people say, well, nobody has a level playing field. They use Michael Phelps’s body, and it’s an exceptional body. But if you leave it as is and leave it open, eventually there will be no female bodies on the podium. It’s heading that way.
Read it all.
Around Twitter (X)
Not all the news on the DEI front is bad. Here’s the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) with a report on a recent victory:
The Department of Public Instruction in Wisconsin, through its Educational Equity Network, does a quarterly seminar for educators in the state. The Right Side of History on Twitter has some… highlights. (Excerpts are below, but click for the whole thread.)