Discover more from PLURIBUS
E-Pluribus | May 24, 2023
Don't let your enemies be strangers; "equity" is a loser; and one scientist's take on the birds and the bees about birds is for the birds.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Angel Eduardo: Know Your Enemies
There are many calls today for civility, seeking common ground, and the avoidance of tribalism, and rightfully so. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t have legitimate enemies. At Persuasion, Angel Eduardo writes that Sun Tzu’s “know thy enemy” advice is still valid.
At the 2023 FIRE gala in New York City, the rapper Killer Mike gave a rousing keynote address describing how he learned the importance of free speech. He recounted once telling his grandfather that racists shouldn’t be allowed to use racial slurs. His grandfather disagreed, saying “I like to know who my enemies are when I walk into a room.”
This is a powerful point and a practical one. If only out of pure self-interest, we shouldn’t just be willing to hear the arguments of those with whom we disagree, we should be eager to. Without letting them speak, you can’t know where they stand, and, to paraphrase John Stuart Mill’s famous quote from On Liberty: If you don't know the other side's argument, you really don't know much of your own, either.
Of course, the problem is that many people think they already know everything they need to know. In fact, they’re certain of it. When you have moral certainty, you can presume the authority to shut people down. When your opponents are not just wrong but monstrous, and when their words are not just arguments but violence, silencing them becomes more than just a tactic—it becomes a moral duty.
[ . . . ]
Killer Mike put it well. Without free speech, we will never truly know our enemies because we will never hear them out. But there’s a still more important reason to value a culture of free expression: in addition to showing us who our enemies are, free speech also tells us what our enemies are not.
However monstrous we may consider our opponents’ ideas, opinions, or behaviors to be, they are not monsters themselves. Things would be far easier if they were, because monsters need not be listened to or empathized with. They need only to be destroyed.
Read the whole thing.
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE:
Max Eden, Michael Hartney: Flunking the Equity Test
Most Americans have an innate desire for fairness and yet what constitutes “fairness” is less commonly agreed upon. But Max Eden and Michael Hartney write at City Journal that when Americans are given the chance to weigh in on “equity” (the E in DEI), the concept is a loser.
On a recent episode of his cable television program, Bill Maher asked Bernie Sanders to explain the difference between equality and equity, and the long-winded senator was at an unusual loss for words.
“I don’t know what the answer to that is,” Sanders mumbled after an awkward pause. Pressed to clarify his position, Sanders composed himself and offered only that he supports “equality of opportunity” over equal outcomes. He does?
If this answer is sincere, it would put Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, substantially to the right of the “equity”-obsessed Biden administration and today’s public education establishment. If, on the other hand, Sanders was merely being politically adroit, his answer demonstrates how quickly the Left’s language game breaks down when basic definitions are required.
Sanders isn’t dumb. He knows what the legacy media are loath to admit, particularly on the issue of racial inequality: most Americans, including most Democrats, strongly favor equality of opportunity over government’s assurance of equitable results.
[ . . . ]
In a recent study, “A House Divided? What Americans Really Think About Controversial Topics in Schools,” researchers at the University of Southern California concluded that “despite the noisy debate around CRT . . . we found broad agreement on certain racial beliefs, especially that our goal as a society should be that all people should be treated the same without regard to the color of their skin.”
Read it all.
James Freeman: Wokesters in Search of Nonbinary Birds
While the editor of Scientific American was silent on the bees, Laura Helmuth’s recent tweet regarding the members of the other half of the proverbial facts-of-life talk seemed to be somewhat lacking in the facts department. The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman reports on how those in the media writing about science need to get back to the basics.
The politicization of formerly respected scientific publications is one of society’s more disturbing recent trends and it seems that yet another periodical is willing to surrender its claim to authority.
Laura Helmuth, Editor in chief of Scientific American, recently tweeted:
White-throated sparrows have four chromosomally distinct sexes that pair up in fascinating ways
P.S. Nature is amazing
P.P.S. Sex is not binary
Other Twitter users were not impressed. Ms. Helmuth’s missive now carries an attachment from Twitter:
Readers added context they thought people might want to know
White-throated sparrows have 2 sexes with 4 unique chromosome combinations.
There are still just 2 sexes that produce either sperm or eggs.
The female types are the white-striped females and the tan-striped females. The male birds are white-striped males and tan striped males.
One can debate whether and how Twitter should address errors in user comments, but it’s clear that the operators of the social media platform are not the only ones raising an objection to the claim of a sparrow with four sexes.
“It’s just incredible how far [Scientific American]-- a periodical I admired -- has fallen from its mission to provide accurate, clear, and vivid coverage of science,” observes Yale professor of social and natural science Nicholas Christakis, who is also a physician.
Read it all here.
Some good news on the campus free speech front out of the University of California Irvine:
And finally, via Matt Taibbi of Twitter Files infamy, we at Pluribus will be the first to say that correlation does not equal causation, but… come on: