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E-Pluribus | May 25, 2021
When freedom of religion meets academic freedom, woke anti-Semitism, and how to undermine democracy.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Greta Anderson: Enforcing Religious Values or Stifling Dissent?
The same First Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech also protects religious freedom. Greta Anderson writes that at Louisiana College, which styles itself as “the only Baptist, Christian liberal arts college in Louisiana,” these two values have inevitably collided as some students and even faculty test the boundaries of what this private religious institution will tolerate in terms of public dissent and even language or other comments seen by the college as harmful or invalid. While largely sheltered from the constitutional restrictions that govern public institutions, Louisiana College and others like it face the challenge of upholding faith-based standards and morals while at the same time fostering the open exchange of ideas upon which this country was founded and ultimately even freedom of religion itself rests.
Francois said for an institution that purports to be a liberal arts college, administrators have a clear disregard for free and open debate, especially when it involves campus-related issues.
Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization, said liberal arts colleges should “be committed to principles of open exchange, critique, discussion and growth.”
Oxenhandler, the college’s attorney, said the self-described “liberal arts” noted on the college’s website refers to the institution’s academic offerings and does not mean “that it has liberal woke politics.” He said the college holds different standards for free expression in the classroom versus on social media.
“There’s an absolute free flow of ideas in the classroom where people debate issues. On social media there is not,” Oxenhandler said.
Read it all here.
Gerard Baker: The Rise of Woke Anti-Semitism
At The Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker writes that the latest conflict in Gaza has helped to highlight a new twist on an ancient prejudice, anti-Semitism. In its mission to shoehorn every issue into its oppressor-and-victim worldview, modern progressivism, inadvertently or not, is helping to fan the flames of an old racial hatred.
The wider political and cultural environment is what makes this outbreak of anti-Semitism especially unsettling. For many progressives, this latest conflict in the Middle East fits—or rather, has been made to fit—the binary classification of the human race into oppressor and victim on the basis of identity that they now see as the defining dialectic of history everywhere.
To be sure, the explicit identification of Palestinians with disadvantaged African-Americans isn’t completely novel. As American racial tensions of the 1960s coincided with earlier episodes of Israeli-Arab conflict, organizations such as Mr. Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam sought to make the connection. But the wide penetration of this notion into the consciousness and discourse of prominent elected figures in the Democratic Party is new.
It takes extraordinary intellectual flexibility to represent the Jewish people, especially those in Israel, as part of some grand global historical pattern of white-supremacist aggression, but these ascendant protagonists of modern progressivism are used to such gymnastics. As long as the narrative can be sculpted to fit the larger objective, it will do.
All this contributes to an uneasy sense of a widening clash of civilizations that is increasingly the objective and likely outcome of the modern left’s program. The embrace of critical race theory and woke ideology in the cultural and political establishment, like its more traditional Marxist forebears, neatly reduces all tensions in human relations to a simplifying narrative of oppressor and victim, only this time not on the basis of economics but race.
Read the whole thing.
Nathaniel Rachman: Five Tactics for Undermining Democracy
Largely laying blame at the feet of Republicans, Nathaniel Rachman writes at Persuasion about five tactics politicians employ that undermine democracy. Given the anecdotal nature of Rachman’s evidence, his conclusion that anti-democracy skews rightward is open for debate, but he provides some powerful examples to bolster his case. Whether or not one buys the partisan reading of the problem, the five tactics are worthy of scrutiny.
Beneath these more overt power grabs lies a series of long-term tactics undermining American democracy. From politicizing state commissions to packing state-level courts, these ploys often go relatively unnoticed. But they are at the forefront of America’s democratic malaise, as politicians from both parties grow increasingly willing to sacrifice process and norms in favor of policy outcomes and electoral victories.
One of the greatest dangers of “constitutional hardball” is that it creates a vicious cycle that engulfs all political actors. When playing by these rules, victory means more than just the opportunity to govern: It’s also a chance to lock in your advantages by rigging the institutions of power. Every tactic here aims to achieve that dominance. As America’s divisions continue to fester, and Republicans and Democrats grow more and more desperate to preserve power, it’s democracy that will suffer first.
Read it all at Persuasion.
A thread from Glenn Greenwald on corporate censorship; includes Ross Douthat and Jonathan Chait.
More from Nathan Law on the long arm of China (see yesterday’s Around Twitter) reaching into the US over the Hong Kong issue:
Related, via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
The Alliance Defending Freedom is taking the University of Alabama to court:
A very long thread from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s son Sean. Click to scroll through the whole thing: