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E-Pluribus | June 21, 2022
Questioning the effect of celebrity progressivism, the history of campus free speech, and the myth of "Left" and "Right."
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Susan Faludi: Feminism Made a Faustian Bargain With Celebrity Culture. Now It’s Paying the Price.
Author Susan Faludi has been writing on feminism for decades and her latest essay for the New York Times is likely to rile the feminist establishment. Faludi says mainstream feminism’s reliance on celebrities to raise awareness has been a double-edged sword and often the American everywoman has gotten the short end of the stick.
Coupling the fortunes of feminism to celebrity might have been worth it if it had led to meaningful political victories. But such victories are hard to achieve through marketing campaigns alone, as the right wing understands. It took conservative foot soldiers decades of gritty and unglamorous mobilization, starting at the school board and county commission levels, to dominate Congress and the Supreme Court...
Pop feminism’s Achilles’ heel is a faith in the power of the individual star turn over communal action, the belief that a gold-plated influencer plus a subscription list plus some viral content can be alchemized into mass activism. The #MeToo campaign, as it evolved, was driven in no small measure by that faith — likewise Ms. Sandberg’s “Lean In,” a “movement” of free-standing C-suite aspirants, each of whom was instructed to defeat her “internal obstacles” to get ahead as an individual rather than organize to defeat external forces. That ethic made it attractive to the professional class but of little use to the great mass of working women.
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There’s a bigger problem here. Celebrity feminism is based on the idea that a celebrity can instigate change by representing a cause. Which so often reduces the cause to a persona: We think of land mines, we think of Princess Di. That same equation works in reverse. You can establish your persona by embracing a cause. Virtue becomes a vanity. No longer are you doing something; you’re being something. And in our social-media age, anyone with a YouTube channel or a TikTok account can give it a try. You no longer need a movie star to front for your movement. Celebrity of the self will do. A corrosive culture is abetted.
Read the whole thing.
William Harris: From Berkeley to Haverford: Have we forgotten the progressive history of free speech on college campuses?
For all the college campus excesses of the 1960s and 70s, William Harris, writing for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, says the lessons regarding free speech should not be forgotten.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, it was clear to students at schools like UC Berkeley and Haverford that free speech was indispensable to achieving progress on the most pressing issues of the day. The idea that civil liberties and civil rights were co-dependent seemed obvious, given the recent history of free speech at the time. In the 1910s and ‘20s, free speech formed the cornerstone of women’s suffrage, while in the 1950s and ‘60s, it was essential to the strategy of gay rights advocates like Frank Kameny.
Today, however, free speech is often considered a “conservative talking point,” and students at schools that once championed free speech now view civil liberties and civil rights as conflicting priorities. In recent years at Berkeley, students have shut down controversial speakers, while at Haverford, a recently adopted amendment to the Honor Code subjects students’ political speech to what is referred to as “Social Trial” before the student-led Honor Council.
[ . . . ]
It is a mistake to understand the current free speech crisis as one in which the left triumphs while conservatives are silenced: Some of the worst offenders are conservative universities and states that crack down on left-wing speech. Nobody has anything to gain by curbing freedom of thought and expression. We do not have to choose between justice and freedom; we must have both.
Read it all.
Verlan Lewis and Hyrum Lewis: The Myth of Ideological Polarization
“Polarization” is a buzzword employed by writing, pundits and politicians across the spectrum, but Verlan Lewis and Hyrum Lewis in the Wall Street Journal argue that tribalism rather than ideology is primarily the root of the divide. Rather than standing on principle, the pair say that many are more likely to switch beliefs than switch sides in political and cultural debates.
[ . . . ] “Left” and “right” aren’t fixed and enduring philosophical belief systems. They’re merely social groups whose ideas, attitudes and issue positions constantly change. Since the meanings of “left” and “right” evolve, it makes little sense to speak of individuals, groups or parties moving “to the left” or “to the right.” Nonetheless, talk of left and right dominates our public discourse and claims about “ideological polarization” fill the political science literature. In assuming that left and right have a fixed meaning, both Mr. Musk and political scientists are sorely mistaken. Polarization is a myth.
The left-right model ignores that politics is about many issues. Like every other realm of life, it is multidimensional, yet we describe it using a graph with only one dimension. It’s true that many Americans hold their views in packages that we call “liberal” and “conservative”—those who currently support abortion rights, for instance, are also more likely to support vaccinations, income-tax increases, free trade and military intervention in Ukraine. But the question is why. Why is there a strong correlation between these seemingly unrelated issues, and why do we find them clustering in patterns that are predictable and binary instead of completely random and pluralistic?
The answer is socialization. When the Democratic and Republican parties change (as they have many times), the content and meaning of their ideologies change, too, meaning that ideologues (“liberals” and “conservatives”) will change their views to stay in line with their political tribe. Social conformity, not philosophy, explains their beliefs. Those who refuse to conform and maintain their political views independent of tribe will appear to have “switched” groups—even though they stayed consistent while the ideologies changed around them.
Read it all here.
A short exchange between Jesse Singal and Alex Pareene, among others — for some, it’s as if because “cancelling” Singal didn’t work, the lies and vilification aren’t a big deal.
Via Heterodox Academy, some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Bo Seo on debate:
And finally, the University of California Irvine has a womxn problem: