Discover more from PLURIBUS
E-Pluribus | October 19, 2022
We're not all Alex Jones now, nor should we be; thinking about future generations; and what educators can do to help repair our politics.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
W. James Antle III: The Alex Jones trap: How 'owning the libs' can turn into a self-own for conservatives
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” may sound catchy, but in reality can be a terrible maxim to live by. James Antle at the Washington Examiner writes that conservatives would do well to remember there’s a difference between having an alternative, unpopular point of view and flat-out lying and slander.
[C]onservatives should be the last people to draw any kind of inference from the judgment against Jones to their own arguments about Second Amendment rights, Hunter Biden, COVID-19 protocols and origins, Ukraine, or anything else.
That some do in this case, but not in judgments against Amber Heard or Gawker, suggests not hard-headed realism or a new willingness to fight liberals on their own terms but a wholly counterproductive internalization of the Left’s critiques.
[ . . . ]
For conservatives, who seldom got to function as such gatekeepers, it is a real opportunity. But it is one that will be squandered if the old climate of three networks and a larger number of newspapers singing off the same song sheet is replaced by a retreat to fantasyland.
There are, of course, cases where defending free speech requires standing up for the right to say noxious things and any viewpoint discrimination sets harmful precedents, especially for whoever is in the political “out-group.” The American Civil Liberties Union and other liberals used to understand this.
But that means defending freedom of speech, not defending the indefensible.
Read the whole thing.
Oliver Traldi: Think of the Children’s Children’s Children
Whitney Houston sang that she believed the children are our future, and William MacAskill extends the sentiment to our children’s children’s children. At City Journal, Oliver Traldi reviews MacAskill’s new book, What We Owe the Future, and examines the moral and philosophical arguments for prioritizing those who will follow us on this planet.
What We Owe the Future has drawn various criticisms. Has MacAskill—called a “reluctant prophet” in The New Yorker, a “technocrat” in the Wall Street Journal, and a “philosopher-geek” in UnHerd—written “a thrilling perspective for humanity,” as the Guardian has it, or is his perspective “tailor-made to allow tech, finance and philosophy elites to indulge their anti-humanistic tendencies,” as a Washington Post reviewer argued? MacAskill’s book has also seen treatments from an impressive array of philosophers, among them Julian Baggini, Richard Chappell, Regina Rini, Kieran Setiya, and Kathleen Stock.
Some of these assessments are not convincing. Christine Emba, writing in the Washington Post, thinks longtermism is somehow too easy. “Conveniently, focusing on the future means that longtermists don’t have to dirty their hands by dealing with actual living humans in need, or implicate themselves by critiquing the morally questionable systems that have allowed them to thrive,” Emba writes.
[ . . . ]
Other analyses have assailed the idea that we should care about the future at all. For these critics, only the here and now, the people alive today, are important. But there’s little difference in principle between refusing to help someone because they are in a different time and refusing to help someone because they are in a different place. MacAskill’s longtermism is an extension of the original motivation behind “effective altruism,” rooted in an argument made by the philosopher Peter Singer about saving a drowning child.
Read it all.
Subscribe for FREE!
Andrew D. Carico: Academic Statesmanship Is the Key to Our Civic Recovery
There is little argument that our collective civic IQ is wanting. At Real Clear Education, Andrew Carico writes that teachers have a responsibility to exercise “academic statesmanship” by introducing students to the fundamental principles that made America what it is, and that a return to these principles is indispensable if we are to recover and preserve what is slowly being lost.
First, dedicated teachers are needed who can bravely teach the principles and institutions of their country within a broader culture that increasingly rejects them. Such a goal is further compounded by recent studies conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and Woodrow Wilson Foundation that found an alarming paucity of knowledge among Americans regarding their own history and political processes.
Teachers can take courage and guidance from the Constitution of Massachusetts of 1780, authored by John Adams and still in effect today. Its 18th article reads as follows:
A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to those of piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government.
[ . . . ]
The second goal is the need for academic statesmanship among America’s K-12 administrators. A statesman is one who leads by way of principles and exercises prudence in the implementation or defense of such principles.
Such statesmanship among administrators will not only require an artful navigation of the rules and regulations beset by the state upon our public schools. It will also require cultivating an environment in our schools in which students and teachers alike can recur to fundamental principles – teaching them, learning them, and hopefully living by them.
Read it all here.
Bari Weiss at Common Sense on the underreported attacks on pro-life organizations since the Supreme Court abortion decision:
Shadi Hamid with some observations about democracy, liberalism and illiberalism - it’s not all cut and dried:
And finally, Canada goes all-in on assisted suicide: