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E-Pluribus | February 8, 2022
The empty promise of censorship, immigration and 'whiteness', and how to get colleges to support free speech.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
David French: Our Nation Cannot Censor Its Way Back to Cultural Health
Last Friday’s Pluribus Around Twitter feature ended with a tweet from David French that said, “This nation cannot censor its way to cultural or spiritual or political health.” In his Sunday essay at The Dispatch, French expanded on that idea. Though it is not without its own set of problems, the free exchange of ideas is far superior to the imposition of beliefs or suppression of ideas in a healthy society and culture.
Systematically suppressing ideas in public education does not help our students learn liberty, nor does it prepare them for pluralism. It teaches them to seek protection from ideas and that the method for engaging with difference is through domination.
Our nation is a diverse pluralistic constitutional republic, and as James Madison noted in Federalist No. 10, we cannot respond to the inevitable rise of competing factions by suppressing liberty, tempting as that always is. Madison was shrewd and realistic enough to recognize that liberty empowers factions. As he put it, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.”
At the same time, however, “it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”
[ . . . ]
And few liberties encompass both that dignity and imperfection more than the right to speak. The violation of that right–the deprivation of that dignity–can inflict a profound moral injury on a citizen and it can help perpetuate profound injustices in society and government. As Douglass noted, free speech is the “dread of tyrants.”
[ . . . ]
I value free speech, not so much because I’m right and you need to hear from me, but rather because I’m very often wrong and need to hear from you. Free speech rests upon a foundation of human fallibility.
Read the whole thing.
Shay Khatiri: Opting Out of Whiteness
Writing at Persuasion, Shay Khatiri says that the relentless drumbeat against “whiteness” as defined by its detractors (see items #2 and #3 in yesterday’s Pluribus roundup) is affecting immigrants to this country. These negative perceptions in conjunction with opportunities for advancement targeted at minorities have more immigrants choosing to identify as anything but white.
For decades, immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa fought to be considered white. They did so because being white in America came with privileges. In recent years, however, this trend has flipped, and people with origins from the Greater Middle East have been working to disassociate from whiteness. Why the sudden reversal?
First, being white is often equated with being uncultured, boring, and privileged. Mona Chalabi, a British writer of Iraqi descent who works for The Guardian, writes that being white “feels like an absence: an absence of color, an absence of food that is ‘different’ and an absence of a mum who pronounces your name differently from the way your friends do.” There are plenty of examples of such condescension towards white people.
Second, being considered a minority comes with social and professional benefits. When applying for jobs, universities, scholarships, grants, or any number of career opportunities, non-white applicants are often given a leg up in the name of equity and diversity. Some who want their ethnic group to be considered a minority hope it will lead to newfound professional advantages.
It’s unsurprising, given these incentives, that many people don’t want to be counted as white.
Read it all here.
John Hasnas: Why Colleges Don’t Care About Free Speech
Although George Washington University’s president quickly reversed himself in a controversy over artwork critical of the Communist China Party during the Olympics (see today’s Kowtow Chronicles), the impulse behind his original response is not unique these days from institutions of higher learning. John Hasnas explains at the Wall Street Journal why colleges tend not to respect free speech and shares some ideas that could help reverse the trend.
Regardless of Mr. Treanor’s political views, he has every reason to do this. University administrators get no reward for upholding abstract principles. Their incentive is to quell on-campus outrage and bad press as quickly as possible. Success is widely praised, but there is no punishment for failing to uphold the university’s commitment to free speech.
The solution is to create an incentive for schools to protect open inquiry—the fear of lawsuits. First, universities should add a “safe harbor” provision to their speech policies stating: “The university will summarily dismiss any allegation that an individual or group has violated a university policy if the allegation is based solely on the individual’s or group’s expression of religious, philosophical, literary, artistic, political, or scientific viewpoints.” This language would be contractually binding. Second, free-speech advocates should organize pro bono legal groups to sue schools that violate the safe-harbor provision. This would make it affordable for suppressed parties to bring suits over the violation of their contractual rights.
Read it all.
Conor Friedersdorf on Joe Rogan, the 1619 Project, and cancel culture:
Charles C. W. Cooke with some thoughts on Joe Rogan, in which he is challenged by Ken White:
And finally, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is running an ad featuring NBA player Enes Freedom during the Beijing Olympics: