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E-Pluribus | June 23, 2022
Progressives' trope generator, fighting fire with... nothing, and a look at pronouns in the rearview mirror.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Charles C. W. Cooke: Progressives’ Grunts Are Growing Desperate
There’s an old joke about how a liberal newspaper would report the end of the world: “World Ends: Women and Minorities Hardest Hit.” Charles Cooke at National Review writes that many progressive organizations have adopted this reflex to respond to just about every issue to come down the pike rather than engage the topic factually.
“Abortion bans,” the ACLU tweeted recently, “disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous & other people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, young people, those working to make ends meet, people with disabilities.” Quite why this is so — or, in the case of “the LGBTQ community,” how it is so — was not explained. The words were just snapped carelessly together, like Freudian Duplo. In the distant past, an argument might have been stapled on, but not now, when everything is everything — when slogans have replaced expostulation and ideas have been melded into pink noise…
It remains a matter of considerable irony that those Americans who believe themselves to be the most tolerant, the most perceptive, and the most open to new ideas have chosen to box themselves in in this manner…
This is a reflex, a habit, a tic, a chant. It is catechism, not analysis; prayer, not insight; dogma, not science. It is an old memory, stored at the back of a dusty brain that, some time ago, summarily ceased to inquire. As anyone with eyes is able to ascertain, the story of the Republican Party’s continued success in Florida is not one of a “motivated” “white” “cadre,” desperately clinging to its “racial insecurities,” but of a series of progressively successful outreach programs and of some salutary demographic shifts…
Whenever news progressives don’t like breaks, this grunting is immediately audible. The Supreme Court strikes down a state law discriminating against religious schools at the request of, among others, the Council of Islamic Schools in North America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America? The move is quickly cast as “the dream of Christian Nationalists,” and its non-Christian advocates as mere tools of the “white Christian nationalist project.” There’s a mass shooting in Texas? Barack Obama shows up to insist that, “As we grieve the children of Uvalde today, we should take time to recognize that two years have passed since the murder of George Floyd.” Roe v. Wade seems to be in danger? Along come the “Dykes for Body Liberation” to note that opposition to overturning the ruling also “means being pro-abortion, pro-gun control, anti-displacement, and anti-police.” Nothing may stand alone. Support for abortion must be linked to “defunding the police.” Support for defunding the police must be evaluated on the basis of its effect on “good climate policy.” And good climate policy, of course, must be inextricable from combatting “systemic racism.”
Read it all.
Agnes Callard: If I Get Canceled, Let Them Eat Me Alive
University of Chicago philosophy professor Agnes Callard has a rather (perhaps unsurprisingly) philosophical take on her own potential “cancellation” - let it happen. Callard, writing in the New York Times, says fighting a mob requires fighting like a mob, and she does not intend to ask those on her side to make that sacrifice on her behalf.
My plan, if I am being canceled, is not to fight it. If I can quickly put an end to the accusations with some clarifying explanation, I will: the public deserves to hear the truth. But my efforts to rehabilitate myself will cease before I get to the point of reorganizing my public persona around the battle to do so. The goal of my public engagement is a certain kind of open-mindedness, and that becomes impossible when all you ever think about is one thing — even if you call that thing “freedom of speech” or “liberal tolerance” or, for that matter, “open-mindedness.”
[. . .]
I want friends who feel free to disagree with me both publicly and privately; friends who will admonish me, gently but firmly, with whatever grain of truth there is in any accusations against me. I want friends whose minds are not tethered to my own in bonds of allegiance, but spin freely of their own accord. I love my contrarian friends, and the way their thinking traces wonderful and mysterious paths, following a logic all their own; and I cherish my conformist friends, who keep me in touch with the wisdom of most people. I want friends who ask the right questions, friends who bring me cookies, friends who help me up when I stumble, friends who expend so much attention on the inner me that they have little to spare for how I am perceived by others. I want friends, not allies. I value my public persona, but not enough to sacrifice the liberty of my friendships at its altar.
Read it all here.
Brock Colyar: They, Then and Now
Has grammar’s big moment in history peaked? Writing at The Cut (part of the New York Magazine family), Brock Colyar, who prefers “they/them” pronouns and identifies as “nonbinary” but was “assigned male at birth (AMAB),” finds the whole pronoun issue is perhaps past its best-used-by date.
I have been using they/them pronouns for about four years now, since I started identifying as nonbinary (enby, to use the jargon) as an undergraduate, and am a little proud to say that my generation was the one that forced — finally — the entire world, or at least the good-intentioned, progressive part of it that I am fortunate enough to reside in, to acknowledge something many queer people (and feminists and restless square pegs of many varieties) have long sought: freedom from the bright-line tyranny of gender and its accompanying expectations. In this case, starting with some of the most basic elements of the English language: the pronouns he and she. There’s power in sloughing off both of them, and some fun, especially when I see how befuddled the whole thing can make people. There is a certain satisfaction in making this confusion you seem to be having — What box to put Brock in? — your problem, not mine. I’ve thought enough about it.
[ . . . ]
…I’ve begun to wonder what exactly I was trying to accomplish when I started using they/them pronouns and insisting you do, too. In cities and states where it’s not so easy to talk about your pronouns all the time, Republican politicians are passing legislation targeting trans youth and their parents, censoring classroom discussion (a.k.a. “Don’t say gay!”), and even trying to ban minors from attending drag shows. Could all of the energy put into enforcing pronoun culture among people already generally sympathetic have been better spent elsewhere?
I also wonder whether today’s clunky pronoun etiquette has played a role in stunting my self-understanding as well as my self-confidence. I worry that in the end, they/them is just another dead end that mostly serves to annoy some people and make others feel better about themselves. Is something that has become enormously widespread actually a failed queer experiment, less a civil-rights triumph than a trend that blew up too quickly and makes us all feel persnickety? If this is a step toward some other utopic, gender-blurred society, when did it start to alienate me?
Read the whole thing.
Conor Friedersdorf and Jesse Singal have thoughts about Item #3 above:
In response to the Supreme Court ruling in a gun control case today, some (including a former US Attorney) seem to believe public opinion should drive decisions:
And finally, Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism advisor Erec Smith has a suggestion for actual anti-racism: