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E-Pluribus | June 21, 2021
Exposing Critical Race Theory instead of banning it, the woke versus Churchill, and Epistemological Madisonianism.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Andrew Sullivan: Don't Ban CRT. Expose It.
While some states are seeking to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory, proponents of CRT are mocking the idea that the theory is even being taught in public elementary, middle and high schools. But, even while rejecting the impulse to ban CRT, Andrew Sullivan exposes the proponents’ disingenuous argument, pointing out the hypocrisy of lauding the importance of CRT to understanding how our society functions while at the same time suggesting it has no influence on curriculum.
How on earth could merely teaching students about the history of racism and its pervasiveness in the United States provoke such a fuss? No wonder Charles Blow is mystified. But don’t worry. The MSM have a ready explanation: the GOP needs an inflammatory issue to rile their racist base, and so this entire foofaraw is really just an astro-turfed, ginned-up partisan gambit about nothing. The MSM get particular pleasure in ridiculing parents who use the term “critical race theory” as shorthand for things that just, well, make them uncomfortable — when the parents obviously have no idea what CRT really is.
[N]o, 6-year-olds are not being taught Derrick Bell — or forced to read Judith Butler, or God help them, Kimberlé Crenshaw. Of course they aren’t — and I don’t know anyone who says they are.
But they are being taught popularized terms, new words, and a whole new epistemology that is directly downstream of academic critical theory. Ibram X. Kendi even has an AntiRacist Baby Picture Book so you can indoctrinate your child into the evil of whiteness as soon as she or he can gurgle. It’s a little hard to argue that CRT is not interested in indoctrinating kids when its chief proponent in the US has a kiddy book on the market.
Read it all here.
James Freeman: Churchill and ‘Woke Totalitarianism’
Winston Churchill is the latest champion for democracy who has fallen into disrepute with at least some of the woke among us. James Freeman writes in the Wall Street Journal that even the legendary statesman’s role in defeating Hitler does not outweigh his perceived transgressions of present day societal norms.
Perhaps the 20th century’s greatest adversary of communist and fascist dictatorships, Churchill has of course been found wanting by today’s dictators of political fashion. This week’s vandalism follows several such instances over the last year involving a U.K. statue of Churchill in London’s Parliament Square. In Canada, Mr. Labine reports:
Elisebeth Checkel, the president of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Edmonton, said this is the first instance of the statue being vandalized that she’s heard of and was disappointed to see it happen.
She said Churchill has a complicated legacy and believes it is important to look at him in a balanced way.
“If we look at any historical figure, we will find the same thing,” Checkel said. “If we look at almost any person from the 1880s, we would find their views were if not repugnant to us nowadays, we would find they were disagreeable for sure. If you look at Churchill’s later actions and life as he grew, as we all hope to do, his views did change. The balance should be celebrated because without Churchill we would not even have the right to protest in this country.”
Licia Corbella writes in the Calgary Herald that this week’s vandalism of the statue is “another act of woke totalitarianism.” She adds:
Mark Milke, president of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary, says it’s chilling to contemplate what the world would be like now had Churchill not been there.
“Imagine if Churchill hadn’t been there and the United Kingdom either did a peace treaty with Hitler or fell during an invasion,” said Milke...
“Churchill is not a Civil War general from the South fighting to protect slavery. He’s not Joseph Stalin or Chairman Mao or Adolf Hitler,” continued Milke.
No he’s not. In fact Churchill was a stalwart opponent of the ideologies promoted by all three of the 20th century’s most infamous mass murderers. “For the historically illiterate who like to throw paint on statues,” Ms. Corbella notes the bloody legacy of Churchill’s enemies and adds:
What never seems to get mentioned is these statues are works of art. This destruction is not unlike the Taliban destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001. These woke folk are Talibanesque.
As for Churchill, Ms. Corbella asks: “If we allow his legacy to be torn down, whose, pray tell, can stand?”
Read the whole thing.
Robert Tracinski: Epistemological Madisonianism
At Symposium, Robert Tracinski reviews Jonathan Rauch’s new book, The Constitution of Knowledge. Tracinski uses the review as an opportunity to compare and contrast Rauch’s treatment of James Madison’s political theory with some of Tracinski’s own ideas concerning the architect of the Constitution and his influence on the development of liberal society.
Rauch’s most intriguing idea is to give James Madison credit, not just for the genius of the American political system, but for the extension of his principles into the epistemic realm, where America's constitutional system has served as an implicit model on which we have built our system for the discovery and validation of knowledge.
The heart of Rauch’s book is his exploration of this Madisonian epistemology.
This leads us back to the invaluable insight in The Constitution of Knowledge: Rauch’s observation that knowledge is gained through a process and a system, and that this system runs on a diversity of opinion tested through empirical persuasion.
Rauch talks about this system running on “cooperation and competition,” and even manages to transform competition into cooperation. In that spirit, let me offer a restatement of Rauch’s “Madisonian epistemology” in my own terms.
Rauch cites Federalist No. 51, but I start with Federalist No. 10, where Madison notes that previous theorists believed the most stable republic is a small state with little diversity, where everyone is likely to share the same interests and prejudices. Madison argues, instead, that the opposite is true, that we want the diversity of interests and ideas present in a large republic, because this will prevent any one faction from getting its way without opposition.
Translated into epistemological terms, a diversity of factions means a diversity of biases, which means that to win any argument, you have to do more than appeal to the natural biases of those who share your outlook. You have to go outside anyone’s particular biases and prejudices to appeal to independently verifiable facts, clear logical inference, and universal principles. You have to appeal to the only thing that is truly and inescapably universal, which is reality.
Read it all here.
More on the CRT controversy related to the Andrew Sullivan item above:
The effort to spread the concept of a White racial identity continues:
Comment from Christopher Rufo:
Finally, free speech versus trans rights advocates in the news from down under via Christina Sommers: