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E-Pluribus | February 7, 2023
An interview with George Will; where research goes to DEI; and wokeism as seen by (with apologies to the AP) the French.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Barton Swaim: Why the Right Turned Left
In the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Interview, Barton Swaim writes a very compelling account of his interview with legendary columnist George Will. Swaim draws out Will on what has changed in conservatism and politics in general, and why.
The usual question in conversations like this one: Why is our politics so embittered? Mr. Will begins with what I would term a more proximate answer:
“There was a qualitative change when Newt Gingrich became leader of the Republicans,” he says. I am skeptical of this interpretation, if only because it’s asserted so often by precisely the people—liberal journalists and academics—one would expect to offer it. He acknowledges the argument can be overdone but thinks there’s truth in it. “Forty years of Democratic control of the House of Representatives, which Gingrich to his great credit ended, was bound to produce this kind of vinegary politics. But Gingrich took it to another level.”
[ . . . ]
But Mr. Will has a far more expansive explanation for the “vinegary” nature of our politics, too. “The other reason, the bigger reason, is that the stakes are higher than they ever have been before,” he says. “They’re not what we used to understand as political stakes—who gets what, all that distributional stuff. I think our politics today is part of the long reverberation of the most important thing that’s happened in Western politics in the last two centuries. That is that consciousness itself has become a political project.”
[ . . . ]
Progressives really do think, he says, that “consciousness is to be transmitted by the government. And they’re working on it, starting with kindergarten. The academic culture, from the Harvard graduate school of education to kindergarten in Flagstaff, Ariz., is the same now, coast to coast, as far as I can tell.” A core mission of K-12 education, in the progressive view of things, is to inculcate the values of diversity and equity. This Marxian project of consciousness-formation is “all over the country now,” he says. “Think of the DEI statements you’re supposed to make. It’s the threshold step in being considered for a faculty position. You express support for, enthusiastic support for, a political agenda. It’s quite explicit.”
Read the whole thing.
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George Leef: The Diversity Mania Is Now Obstructing Research
At National Review, George Leef reports on the continuing assault on the scientific community. Sociology professor Alexander Riley at Bucknell University says both the government and scientific institutions are to blame, allowing political and social concerns to influence who can research, what can be researched, and even who can receive the results of research.
The diversity mania is ruining American higher education. Not only does it lead to the admission of many lesser-qualified students and the hiring of faculty merely because they happen to have the right ancestry, but it also obstructs the search for truth. . .
[ . . . ]
Institutional review boards are part of the problem. The people running them are often more sympathetic to the imagined feelings of sensitive groups than to the importance of pursuing research and dealing with the truth. So is the National Institutes of Health, which won’t release data to researchers unless it’s sure that the data won’t be “misused.”
Students are also part of the problem. Riley writes, “These students are perfectly confident that their moral desires to prevent exploration of, for example, the possible consequences of human genetic diversity have nothing in common with the Marxian crusade against “bourgeois” science. Yet experts in human genetics have decried moralizing efforts to enforce woke sensibilities on such research and have pointed to immense potential harm in the failure to tailor policy to the search for scientific truth.”
Read it all here.
Thomas Chatterton Williams: The French Are in a Panic Over le Wokisme
At The Atlantic, Thomas Chatterton Williams writes on the French perceptions and reactions to “wokeism” (or “le Wokisme,” as the French say.) Williams tells how his experiences in France (he’s lived in Paris for 11 years) have changed some of his views as he observes the growing extremes to which both opponents and supporters have moved.
Many in the French mainstream are correct to note that wokeness is philosophically incoherent—trying to end racism by elevating race—and, if taken far enough, dangerous. The politics of identity that undergirds the obsession with social justice obliterates individuality. It subordinates human psychology—always an ambiguous terrain—to sweeping platitudes and self-certain dictates; it boxes all of us in. Worst of all, it smacks of determinism, trapping the present in a never-ending past that steals the innocence from any collective future.
Le wokisme has not gone well in America. Cancel culture is quite real in the U.S., and its effects have been toxic to debate and, in many cases, to institutional decision making. Resistance to wokeism’s more ambitious designs—the elimination of merit-based screening at elite public high schools; the “defunding” or even abolition of the police—has been widespread and, to many progressives’ surprise, ethnically diverse. Yet its outright suppression in France has not gone well either. Ambassador Rivkin’s assessment is applicable to both societies: America and France are simultaneously becoming weaker, less capable, each undermined by growing internal divisions—the one by overemphasizing them, the other by denying them altogether.
I remain convinced that an authentically color-blind society—one that recognizes histories of difference but refuses to fetishize or reproduce them—is the destination we must aim for. Either we achieve genuine universalism or we destroy ourselves as a consequence of our mutual resentment and suspicion.
Read it all.
Some excerpts from a thread from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression on what can only be seen as government harassment and persecution of a sign-holding veteran:
Thomas Chatterton Williams on avoiding extremism and actually working towards solving problems, not just being right:
And finally, the evidence is anecdotal, but it’s looking like the ChatGPT artificial intelligence app might be #NeverTrump: