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E-Pluribus | June 8, 2023
Know when and when not to offend and take offense; the unwoke Left; and making good trouble.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Harvey C. Mansfield: To the Class of 2023: On Self-Censorship
Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield addresses this year’s graduates in the Harvard Crimson on self-censorship, -control, and -expression. Mansfield tells students they need to understand that sometimes it’s ok to give and to take offense, but there’s also wisdom in knowing when not to.
I don’t know how widespread the necessity to censor oneself is felt, but I think the judgment behind it is pretty accurate. In practice, Harvard is a one-party spot, much more so than even the practically one-party state and one-party city in which it resides. But is this such an unhappy fact?
Self-censorship might seem to be a part of self-control based on the need to respect others. Everyone knows what tact is, and as one matures one gains experience of the great truth that it often pays to keep your mouth shut. You may be proud of the many wise and witty things you say, but with your mouth shut you will not be embarrassed by the few foolish remarks you let slip. From the standpoint of tact, self-censorship might seem to be an education in prudence and responsibility.
Perhaps the complainers about self-censorship should be boasting of their ability to exercise prudence. They are getting a better education than the many who live unprotesting and almost unconscious in the Harvard bubble. Conservatives, I like to say, get more from Harvard by having to be critical of its boring, politicized conformity — and by being forced into self-censorship. Upon graduation they can go elsewhere and enjoy a freedom they have prepared for themselves.
[ . . . ]
Today, self-expression has much greater sway than self-control. To be free, it is said, you must be able to express yourself and be safe while doing so. To express yourself fully means to fashion your own identity. And to do that, the danger of being offended in your identity becomes a vital point: You must be free both to take offense when you are disrespected and to give offense when your own identity demands it.
Read it all.
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Maarten Boudry: Left is Not Woke: An Interview with Susan Neiman
With a premise similar to the “I’m the I in BIPOC” essay in yesterday’s roundup, Susan Neiman explains in an interview with Maarten Boudry at Quillette that just because someone is on the left side of the political spectrum, that doesn’t automatically equal “woke.”
Maarten Boudry: Many left-wing people believe that the danger of “wokeism” is just a figment of right-wing imagination. Why did you think it was necessary to attack woke ideology from an explicitly left-wing angle?
Susan Neiman: For the last two years I’ve been sitting with friends in many different countries who would bring up—but quietly and only among friends—some incidents of woke overreach or somebody being canceled for ridiculous reasons, and these people would tell me, morosely, “I guess I’m not Left anymore.” But at a certain point I begin to say: no, they are the ones who are not left anymore, the woke crowd. So I wanted to break down this binary between the so-called woke Left and the Right, untangle the confusion and reclaim certain positions for the Left, such as universalism and belief in moral progress. The shortest version of my argument is that wokeism, while fueled by all kinds of progressive emotions, such as sympathy for the underdog and indignation on the part of the marginalized, ends up with very reactionary ideas.
MB: Naturally your critics will argue that you’re giving succor to right-wingers.
SN: I get that, I was nervous at first about giving aid and comfort to the Right. Criticizing the woke seems to put you in the camp of Ron De Santis, Donald Trump, or Rishi Sunak. I’ve had friends who said: “Susan, I agree with your arguments, but please change the title. Don’t get into the ‘woke’ fashion.” I thought about it, but I couldn’t find any other title that works. We all know what we’re talking about. But I wanted to make clear from the very first page that this is a voice from the Left. I'm a leftist and a socialist and have always been. I’ve also been fairly careful in avoiding certain kind of right-wing shows that I told my publisher I wouldn’t appear on.
Read it all here.
Abigail Shrier: Little Miss Trouble
Irreversible Damage author Abigail Shrier is no stranger to controversy, a fact once again made clear by a recent trip to Israel to launch the Hebrew language version of her book. At her The Truth Fairy website, Shrier relates her experiences on the trip and how they illustrate just how important the child-transgender issue really is.
Does Israel have a Gender Ideology problem? From the many concerned parents of daughters who have contacted me over the last year, I gather it does. Gender Ideology is undoubtedly an American export, though that’s of little consolation to the frightened parents in Ra'anana and Tel Aviv—or for that matter, so many cities in Spain and France and elsewhere across the West where young people watch “Euphoria” and march for George Floyd.
So why poke the bear? Why travel to Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most left-leaning cities, where hundreds marched against the publication of my book, Irreversible Damage, in Hebrew, blaring horns and pounding bass drums? Why speak out in leftist hotspots like Tel Aviv—so many people asked me—when there are perfectly rational cities like Jerusalem, where I could meet fans and make common cause? The questioners often imply the reaction is my fault—that I am deliberately causing trouble.
A mistake lies at the heart of this question, a false conceit borne of metaphors like tides, and pendulums and fashion fossils like bellbottoms: That if we all stay quiet, the trans extremism will swing back or die down, like feathered bangs and breakdancing.
Gender Ideology is not a pendulum, and it will not swing back with a little help from inertia. Gender Ideology is a fundamentalist religion—intolerant, demanding strict adherence to doctrine, hell-bent on gathering proselytes. I do not here use the term “religion” metaphorically or lightly.
Read the whole thing.
Never fear, the Southern Poverty Law Center is on the case of anti-government extremist hate groups! Such as… Moms for Liberty:
And finally, the nation’s top spies want you to know they are fans of “openness.”