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E-Pluribus | November 10, 2022
Canceled Culture; Jim Crow 2.0 - another Big Lie; and illiberalism in the book industry's rank-and-file.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Joshua T. Katz: The Culture of the Canceled
While Joshua Katz doesn’t exactly look back fondly on his firing from Princeton University, he is now able to see the good that has come of it. Writing in the Sapir Journal (New York Times columnist Bret Stephens is the editor), Katz shares some lessons he has learned, the friendships he has lost and gained, and his offer to help others who may be forced to endure the same thing.
What is the greatest gift of cancellation? The answer is something my friend and adviser Professor Robert George has repeated to me many times these past years: The canceled are blessed with the knowledge of who their friends are. I used to believe I had lots of friends, plus lots of friendly acquaintances. I was wrong, and learning the truth was a huge blow. But over the past two years I have gained more friends than I lost — and these are real friends. We do all the things together that friends do, including lifting one another’s spirits when there are setbacks and, like normal people, revealing our disagreements and disappointments openly rather than knifing each other in the back.
It’s not only that my new friends are numerous. They are also racially, ethnically, religiously, politically, socioeconomically, and ideologically diverse. They don’t all live in the 08540 zip code. And, thank God, they are not all academics. They are schoolteachers and interior designers, psychiatrists and priests, guitarists and journalists, and stay-at-home parents.
I used to view the elite echelon of the academy as the pinnacle of culture. Recent years, however, have seen universities, museums, concert halls, publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, and other once-great cultural institutions expend significant resources amplifying and enforcing what is wrongly called “cancel culture” — wrongly because, whatever this revolting phenomenon is, it is not culture. It should not have taken me so long to realize that, in many cases, I find the greatest pleasure in the company of men and women who lack fancy credentials but who know perfectly well what culture is and value it.
Read it all here.
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: Biden’s ‘Jim Crow 2.0’ Dies in Georgia
Democrats used both Jim Crow 2.0 and Jim Crow on steroids to characterize changes in voting laws in Georgia in recent years, but the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal says that by any other name the accusations were still a crock. The Biden administration has tried to make fighting mis- and disinformation one of its signature policies, but this issue makes clear the physicians in the White House need to heal themselves first.
The Georgia Secretary of State website reports that by Wednesday afternoon’s counting, 3,957,880 voters had cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election, slightly higher than the vote total in 2018—which was historic. The percentage of registered voters casting ballots dipped slightly, though that’s likely owing to the striking 520,000 increase in voter registration over the past four years. Georgia also banked record early turnout, far exceeding 2018, and coming very near to rivaling early turnout in the 2020 presidential election.
Compare this to Mr. Biden’s warning in Atlanta in January that Georgia’s 2021 election reform was “Jim Crow 2.0.” He claimed it was intended to accomplish “two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion.” He said the new law made it harder to vote by mail or drop box, with the clear goal of “longer lines at the polls.”
He also warned of “threats” and intimidation against election officials, and sowed doubt about future election outcomes, since the law made voting about “who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.” This falsehood caused the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola to attack the law and Major League Baseball to yank it’s All Star Game from Atlanta.
Read the whole thing.
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Conor Friedersdorf: Book-Industry Activists Should Be Careful What They Wish For
Last September in Pluribus, I wrote an overview of some disturbing trends in the publishing industry. Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic writes of a recent attempt (so far unsuccessful) by hundreds of rank-and-file workers in the industry to prevent publication of a book by Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, demonstrating that the industry’s illiberal impulses are alive and well.
There have always been people who want to restrict the range of permissible debate, even when it means that the views of tens of millions of their fellow citizens would be deemed beyond the pale. This approach is incompatible with democracy. But how did so many in a traditionally liberal ideas industry come to regard a timely book on a perennially contested question as being immoral to publish? A close read of the open letter reveals both the radicalism of the standard put forth by the signatories and their apparent obliviousness to its implications.
Let’s consider the signatories’ argument in its strongest possible form. Bertelsmann, the conglomerate that owns Penguin Random House, declares in its code of conduct, “We are committed to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations’ Global Compact.” International human-rights organizations “widely recognize abortion access as a fundamental human right and have condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” the letter asserts. It cites the organization Human Rights Watch, which has argued that “the human rights on which a right to abortion access is predicated are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Barrett voted to overturn Roe and will presumably defend that decision in her book. Therefore, the letter’s authors reason, moving forward with the book’s publication “places Bertelsmann and Penguin Random House both in direct conflict with their own Code of Conduct and in violation of international human rights.”
This is a question-begging mess. In Dobbs, the Supreme Court wasn’t deciding on the legality of abortion but whether the Constitution protects a right to it: The majority opinion doesn’t outlaw abortion; it returns abortion policy making to the states. And whether the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects a right to abortion is as hotly contested as whether the Fourteenth Amendment protects a right to abortion––in fact, some abortion opponents argue that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the right to life of fetuses, citing passages such as “everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” What’s more, a publishing house can be committed to a principle and nevertheless print arguments that are in tension with that principle.
Read it all.
Excerpts of a thread from Ilya Shapiro teasing his Substack Post — a post mortem on the Tweet (and aftermath) that ultimately led to his split with Georgetown Law:
Here Shadi Hamid promotes a Damir Marusic examination of the war on “disinformation”:
And finally, Charles C.W. Cooke has some harsh words for Trump, a stark warning for Republicans, but perhaps best of all, employs the expression “pound sand.” What’s not to love?