Discover more from PLURIBUS
E-Pluribus | November 11, 2022
Possible light at the end of the populist authoritarian tunnel; apology overload; and DEI goes virtual.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
David Brooks: The Fever Is Breaking
Perhaps it’s early for too much optimism, but in his first post-election New York Times column, David Brooks spells out his reasons for feeling more sanguine about the future of politics here at home and abroad.
A convulsion has shaken America and many other Western democracies over the past few years. People became disgusted with established power, trust in many institutions neared rock bottom, populist fury rose from right and left.
On the right, in America, this manifested as Donald Trump. To his great credit, Trump reinvented the G.O.P. He destroyed the corporate husk of Reaganism and set the party on the path to being a multiracial working-class party. To his great discredit, he enshrouded this transition in bigotry, buffoonery and corruption. He ushered in an age of performance politics — an age in which leaders put more emphasis on attention-grabbing postures than on practical change.
The left had its own smaller version of performative populism. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a major political figure thanks to her important contributions to Instagram. The Green New Deal was not a legislative package but a cotton candy media concoction. Slogans like “Abolish ICE” and “Defund the police” were not practical policies, just cool catchphrases to put on posters.
[ . . . ]
There are two large truths I’ll leave you with. The first is that both parties are fundamentally weak. The Democrats are weak because they have become the party of the educated elite. The Republicans are weak because of Trump. The Republican weakness is easier to expunge. If Republicans get rid of Trump, they could become the dominant party in America. If they don’t, they will decline.
Second, the battle to preserve the liberal world order is fully underway. While populist authoritarianism remains a powerful force worldwide, people, from Kyiv to Kalamazoo, have risen up to push us toward a world in which rules matter, practicality matters, stability and character matter.
Read it all.
Jill Lepore: The Case Against the Twitter Apology
Forty years ago, Chicago came out with the song “Hard to Say I'm Sorry,” but Jill Lepore writes in the New Yorker that it seems to be anything but, and that too many people are apologizing way too much these days. Lepore isn’t against remorse, repentance and forgiveness, but says that modern apologies are often coerced and performative while actually undermining what it means to admit one is wrong and to seek restoration.
The twenty-first-century culture of public apology has its origins in the best of intentions and the noblest of actions: people seeking collective justice without violence for terrible, unimaginable acts of brutality, monstrous wickedness, crimes against humanity itself. In the aftermath of the Second World War, churches and nation-states began issuing apologies for wartime atrocities and historical injustices. Some of the abiding principles that lie behind this postwar wave of collective apologies also found expression in “restorative justice”—individuals making amends to their victims, sometimes as an alternative to incarceration or other kinds of force and violence. The idea gained influence in the nineteen-seventies, when it intersected with the victims-rights movement, and its particular demands for apology as remedy. And you can easily see why. Prosecutors—for years, decades, centuries—had failed to act on allegations of sexual misconduct, had ignored or suppressed evidence of police brutality and predatory policing; in a thousand ways, the criminal-justice system had failed women and children, had failed the poor and people of color. For some, “restorative justice” held out the prospect of a better path. By the nineteen-nineties, schools and juvenile-justice systems had begun using restorative-justice methods, often requiring, of public-school students, public apologies. Meanwhile, in the United States, church membership was falling from around seventy-five per cent in 1945 to less than fifty per cent by 2020. In many quarters, public acts began taking the place of religious ritual, political ideologies replacing religious faith. The national public apology took on the gravity and solemnity of a secular sacrament: Ronald Reagan apologizing, in 1988, for the imprisonment of more than a hundred thousand Japanese Americans during the Second World War (and providing limited reparations); David Cameron apologizing, in 2010, for Bloody Sunday; or the Prime Ministers of Canada apologizing, in 2008 and 2017, for the practice of taking Indigenous children from their homes and confining them to schools where, maltreated, neglected, and abused, they suffered and died.
Read it all here.
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE:
Ryan Lindner: George Mason University will use virtual reality simulations to train faculty on implicit bias
Forget waterskiing, skydiving or military simulations - now virtual reality is being used to simulate . . . microaggressions? It seems unlikely to top any best seller lists, but George Mason University is the latest institution to adopt new technologies as part of its anti-bias training, reports Ryan Lindner for The College Fix.
A new virtual reality program at George Mason University will help faculty learn how to fight racism and their “implicit bias.”
The university’s College of Health and Human Services announced plans for “training [that] will educate faculty to recognize and react to implicit bias and microaggressions through a [virtual reality] simulation.”
The program is being developed by the the university’s Inclusive Excellence Working Group with the goal to teach faculty about how to “mitigate the harmful effects of racism and discrimination.”
The group hopes to accomplish this “by discussing the nature of microaggressions, applying strategies to react to microaggressions from multiple perspectives, and demonstrating confidence and commitment to act.”
The initiative could next be expanded to staff and students. Upon completing the training program, participants must fill out surveys measuring the program’s impact on their ability to reduce and eliminate “racism, microaggressions, and discrimination.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said the university must be careful not to require a specific outcome or statement of belief as part of the training.
Read the whole thing.
Some excerpts from a Shadi Hamid thread/discussion with several commenters. Hamid makes the point that you cannot fight illiberalism with illiberalism:
Michael Tracey and Conor Friedersdorf have a few thoughts on the progressive paradise known as California:
And finally, Jonathan Haidt on extremism and “structural stupidity,” via 60 Minutes: