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E-Pluribus | November 8, 2023
The Central Park cancellation: three years later - it's not over; illiberalism on the march; and 'justice' needs no qualifiers.
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Amy Cooper: I Was Branded the 'Central Park Karen.' I Still Live in Hiding
One of the highest profile cases of cancel culture in recent years took place after an incident in New York’s Central Park. As we periodically remind readers, at Pluribus, cancel culture is defined as “disproportionate, punitive, coordinated, personal destruction and discrediting for a real or perceived offense with no offer of redemption.” Writing at Newsweek three and a half years later, Amy Cooper tells her side of the story, and that story fits our definition to a T.
As Christian's video went viral, my life, as I knew it, was over. All my personal information was released online. I received many hundreds of threatening graphic images, death threats, and hate mail, which continues to this day.
My employer fired me the day after the incident without ever taking the time to learn the facts. Clearly in survival mode, my company released a strong statement distancing itself from me, effectively blacklisting my career.
In a frantic and desperate attempt to stop the avalanche of hate and death threats, I issued a public apology at the recommendation of a PR company. But it did nothing. I was forced into hiding.
Over three years later, I am still in hiding. I am scared to be in public. I still can't get a job that meets my qualifications. And there have been long stretches of unemployment. All leading to thoughts of self-harm.
Was my fear that day in the park irrational? Was it based on racial perceptions? Most people leapt to that assumption. Especially considering the encounter occurred on the same day a police officer murdered George Floyd.
My stressful encounter was woven together with this horrific and preventable tragedy. "What happened to George Floyd is what Amy Cooper would have wanted to happen to Christian Cooper," claimed one YouTuber.
This could not be further from the truth—and an incredibly damaging assertion that lives with me and haunts my family. My family has suffered enormously. I care for one of my parents, who has a terminal illness.
I want them to know I'll be OK, but I do not know if I will ever be.
There are many others who have suffered as well. Over the years, my New York City apartment was a safe haven to numerous women who had endured abusive relationships. When I had to flee, they lost their safe place too.
I don't know if I did everything right in that park, but I know I didn't do everything wrong. I've tried to connect directly with Christian, but I've never heard back from him. Despite what I've endured, I would always be open to an honest, productive conversation.
Read it all.
Nick Catoggio: Full Eeyore
The Dispatch’s Nick Catoggio often leans toward pessimism, but his latest column dives headlong into it. Whatever progress Catoggio had hoped to see in the last few years against the Trump tide has fizzled, and the response to the Israel-Hamas conflict by too many is threatening to extinguish his remaining flicker of hope.
[T]his is the most discouraging moment conservatives of my bent have experienced since January 6, 2021.
Classical liberals had two opportunities to prevent a Donald Trump restoration, one in the Republican primary and the other in the general election. The first opportunity collapsed months ago, the second is in the process of collapsing right now. Trump’s illiberal ambitions have never been more glaring, yet he’s never looked more likely to return to power.
And if he does, chances are good that the left’s own illiberal wing will play an important part in making it happen.
The man most likely to be president in 2025 is reportedly hatching fascist plots to persecute his enemies while the activist vanguard of the other party agitates remorselessly on behalf of fanatics in Gaza who want a Final Solution to the Jewish question in Israel.
Illiberalism is on the march. We’re watching the newsreels every day.
[. . .]
If Biden’s presidency leads to a Trump restoration, historians will debate what his greatest error was. Some will point to the fiasco in how America withdrew from Afghanistan, a mistake from which his polling never recovered. Many will point to the COVID relief bill Democrats passed early in his term that ignited inflation and led to the interest-rate hikes that have made home-buying prohibitively expensive.
Most will point to his decision to run for reelection in the first place. Hindsight will never be as clear as it’ll be the day after a Trump victory next fall, when all the world will agree that it was insane for an 82-year-old whose mental acuity was in doubt to have been renominated for president.
But in the list of grand Biden miscalculations, don’t overlook his apparent belief that Democrats of all stripes would line up behind Israel after the October 7 pogrom in roughly the same way Americans rallied together after September 11. It wasn’t crazy on its face to think so, as both attacks were horrendous in scale and vividly macabre in their particulars. The president seems to have assumed that the vastness of the horror would quiet progressive Palestinian apologists and embolden liberal supporters of Israel, making his full-throated solidarity with the Jewish state unproblematic.
He was wrong. A few people showed up at his home this weekend to make sure he knew it.
Read it all here.
Matthew Solomson and Tal Fortgang: ‘Social’ Justice Is Injustice
Some words need no modifiers, at times doing more harm than good. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Judge Matthew Solomson and his clerk Tal Fortgang argue that the “social” in “social justice” is one such case. Unless today’s students are taught that justice really should be blind, the next generation will have to deal with a legacy that asserts that it’s really all about power.
When federal judges take the oath of office, they say: “I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.” These words come from the Bible and reflect a key principle of justice in the American tradition, shaped by our Judeo-Christian heritage: Justice isn’t about power. Whether a party is right or wrong in a dispute doesn’t depend on that person’s identity and social station.
For a long time, Americans have stood by that idea, considering it obvious. A powerful person could be regarded as a good guy or a bad guy depending on how he amassed and used his power. A powerless person might be virtuous or evil depending on how he dealt with his circumstances.
No longer is it so obvious. For many Americans today, justice—often with the modifier “social” before it—is precisely about power. Rejecting the biblical ideal codified in the judicial oath, our academics, intelligentsia and public figures have embraced the idea that power tells you all you need to know about who is right and who is wrong. This is clear as some of our best and brightest side with the Hamas terrorists in their war against Israel.
To those who believe in the biblical ideal of justice, defending Israel’s right to destroy those who commit atrocities against innocents isn’t simple, but involves a moral analysis that yields a clear conclusion. One must look at who acts virtuously and who acts viciously. Though no country is virtuous all the time, Israel seeks peace and in war doesn’t specifically target civilians. Israel holds no kidnapped babies, nor does it steal billions of dollars of foreign aid to build tunnels where terrorists can hide while using women and children as human shields. Hamas is unfathomably evil, by any traditional measure, to Israelis and Gazans. Its barbarism is unjustifiable, even if Palestinians have legitimate grievances against Israel.
But to those who believe power analysis is the key to justice, siding with Palestinians—even to the point of cheering Hamas’s atrocities—is simple. Israel is powerful, and Palestinians aren’t. Therefore, whatever Palestinians, even terrorist groups that don’t speak for all Palestinians, do is justified. Among those who believe the trendy logic of the academy, justice is done with respect to persons; doing equally right to rich and poor wrongly entrenches the power of the rich.
Read the whole thing.
Around Twitter (X)
Former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali with some important context for the Israel-Hamas conflict:
Nick Gillespie echoes Damon Linker in calling out those who claim that ‘liberalism has failed,’ whether they be on the right or left:
And finally, via Mónica Guzmán, a chant that perhaps we can all get behind: