E-Pluribus | November 27, 2023
Youth of America waking up to 'woke'; mean speech is still free speech; and Roman emperors have pronouns, too.
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Itxu Diaz: Will the New Woke Order Face a Youth Rebellion?
At various times in the past few decades, there have been predictions that young people will revolt by becoming conservative. Young people by and large still skew progressive, but Itxu Diaz writes for National Review that there are some signs the youth aren’t swallowing the woke mentality with as much gusto as they used to.
[A] scan across the American college landscape — with its sanctimonious scolds and, lately, hordes of Hamas apologists — does not give the impression that today’s youth are undergoing a political transformation. Indeed, some are as radical as ever. But they don’t speak for their entire generation. An interesting recent survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for Newsweek showed that 72 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds actually support the slogan, “Go woke, go broke.” It makes sense. Today’s kids aren’t just told by the government and most of the media how to think, what to be outraged about, or what events and people to cancel. They are also lectured to by big corporations who have madly surrendered to the religion of extreme progressivism. In other words, it is an elite, established order, something to be rebelled against. I know just the people to do it.
Young people have long felt an inordinate fascination with the Left, it’s true. Remember Ban the Bomb, the French May ’68, and the Maoist groups formed by rebellious children of conservative families during the latter half of the last century. . .
[I]n some corners of some countries, young people are playing a pivotal role in the pushback against progressivism, and it’s having consequences in the political arena. In Argentina, in the PASO elections in August, half of young people under 35 voted for Javier Milei, who publicly scorns wokeism, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and other leftist belief systems. The percentage was even greater among those under 20: Seven out of ten voted for the libertarian-right candidate. Just look at his rallies, full of young people, shouting slogans against Kirchnerism and the Left, and roaring with enthusiasm every time Milei shouts his slogan: “I did not come here to lead lambs, but to awaken lions!” Last Sunday, Milei went on to win the presidential election in his country, a historic victory propelled by young voters. Let us remember that Argentina is one of the few countries in which 16- and 17-year-olds can exercise their right to vote. With its choice of Milei, Argentina has signaled a desire to move past the Peronist politics that have impoverished the country for decades.
[. . .]
This effect is significant in the United States as well. An analysis by Michael Podhorzer for the Atlantic surprised the authors by finding that while Generation Z overwhelmingly supported Democrats in blue states, in red states this same generation voted overwhelmingly Republican. (Curiously, Gallup found last year that “independent” is a far more popular affiliation than either major party for Millennials and Gen Z.) I am amused to see that the older leftist analysts don’t quite grasp that there could be young people who don’t vote Democrat.
Their numbers may only grow in the years ahead. A society that once offered the youth mainly Christian-oriented values as a guide to life — even if they chose to rebel against that path — has been replacing those values with an empty amalgam of secularism, wokeism, and victimhood as if it were a new religion, only more ascetic than any religion past generations followed.
Read it all.
Jay Caspian Kang: Should People Have the Right to Say Awful Things Without Facing Legal Consequences?
True free-speech advocacy always includes fighting for the right of others to say things you hate. But how far does that go? In the New Yorker, Jay Caspian Kang insists that, as difficult as it is, locking people up for voicing unpopular (even terrible) opinions, or even threatening to do so, will make everyone less free in the end.
Last week, Stuart Seldowitz, a former State Department official, was arrested and charged with a hate crime after videos of him delivering a series of bigoted rants against Mohamed Hussein, a twenty-four-year-old Manhattan street-cart vender, went viral. In these, Seldowitz called Hussein a terrorist, insulted his Muslim faith, and said, with a hysterical crack in his voice, “If we killed four thousand Palestinian children, you know what—it wasn’t enough.” Hussein, for his part, repeatedly asked Seldowitz to leave him alone.
[. . .]
The legal case against Seldowitz comes down to this: in New York State, a person can be charged with stalking in the fourth degree if he “intentionally, and for no legitimate reason” engages with someone in a manner that causes the target to have “reasonable fear” for his or his family’s health and safety. . . Harassment in the second degree is a similar charge that says you cannot engage in repeated acts to “seriously annoy” another person if those acts “serve no legitimate purpose.” Both charges are misdemeanors.
All that feels appropriate enough here. But, because Seldowitz said clearly bigoted things while committing these acts, he has also been charged with a hate crime.
[. . .]
What I am presenting here is a moral question about whether people have a right to say terrible things without legal consequence. There’s an argument to be made that those who find Seldowitz’s words repugnant should have grace and set an example that speech should always be protected; this course of action would act as a bulwark against those who blame today’s censorious environment on the so-called woke purges of the past decade. I don’t find this line of reasoning particularly convincing, because it assumes that somehow consensus, however shaky and conditional, can be created by the push and pull between polarized factions. A theoretical bargain—such as “If we agree to defend Stuart Seldowitz’s right to say horrible things, you will promise to stop harassing students and firing employees for expressing their support for Palestinians or Black Lives Matter or whatever other cause they think is righteous”—is premised on a silly fantasy. Those who want to curtail freedom of speech do not log the debits and credits of censorship, nor do they care about the balance of norms—they act when they have power. And they should be resisted because it is immoral to imprison someone for expressing their views, however righteous or repulsive they may be.
These principles were once safeguarded by institutions such as the A.C.L.U., which famously defended the First Amendment rights of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, but that type of advocacy feels both verboten and anachronistic now. It’s hard to imagine that any legal organization would come to the defense of Stuart Seldowitz’s right to say awful things about the slaughter of Palestinian children. This is unfortunate because we are in a period of seismic change for civil liberties, especially when it comes to the First Amendment, surveillance, and the sanctity of a free press, and it has never been more vital to defend the moral case for free speech. One does not need to put forth a slippery-slope argument to point out how all this could go wrong. Nearly everything we do in public is surveilled, most of our communication is controlled by tech companies, and any of us could go viral at any moment. We should denounce any show court that bends the law in arbitrary ways to incarcerate people who get caught on video saying unpopular things.
Read it all here.
Craig Simpson: Roman emperor was trans, Hertfordshire museum declares
In future tellings, the little boy who puts the crowd to shame by speaking the truth (“the emperor has no clothes”) might say something like, “The emperor has one gender, and that’s not it!” But for now, the adults in the museums are in charge, and, as Craig Simpson reports for the UK Telegraph, according to them, the Roman emperor Elagabalus is now a “she.”
A Roman emperor has been deemed transgender by a British museum, The Telegraph can reveal.
The council-run North Hertfordshire Museum has decided to be “sensitive” to the purported pronoun preferences of the 3rd-century AD ruler Elagabalus.
The Roman Emperor will be treated as a transgender woman and referred to as “she”.
Elagabalus has been given female pronouns on the basis of classical texts that claim he asked to be called “lady” - but historians believe these accounts may simply have been a typical Roman attempt at character assassination.
Information on museum policy states that pronouns used in displays will be those “the individual in question might have used themselves” or whatever pronoun “in retrospect, is appropriate”.
The North Hertfordshire Museum in Hitchin owns a coin minted in the reign of Elagabalus, who ruled Rome from 218AD until his assassination aged 18 in 222AD, and the silver denarius has been used in LGBT-themed displays.
[. . .]
Prof Christian Laes, a University of Manchester classicist, said that ancient accounts of the emperor’s life should be taken with “a huge pinch of salt”, adding: “Most of this is related to the aristocratic and senatorial disdain for the emperor’s oriental origins and beliefs.
“As regards trans, this was of course never seen as a category by the Romans, but it remains the case that in times of troubles and crisis, so-called transgressors of the sexual norms were subject to scapegoating.”
Read the whole thing.
Around Twitter (X)
The Luck o’ the Irish may be running out when it comes to free speech. Nate Hochman explains:
And finally, Megan McArdle on, What Do Reporters Do, Anyway?