Richard Swinburne, the distinguished Oxford philosopher and Orthodox Christian, delivered a lecture over the weekend at a Midwest Society of Christian Philosophers conference. The topic? Christian sexual ethics. I can’t find the text of Swinburne’s lecture online anywhere, but he reportedly said some things that offended people in the audience like J. Edward Hackett, who writes, in part:
Yesterday, I gave Richard Swinburne, the famous Oxford Christian philosopher, a piece of my mind. As one of the keynotes of the Midwest Meeting of Society of Christian Philosophers, he referred to homosexuality as a “disability” and a “incurable condition.” While Swinburne did not think homosexuality was intrinsically wrong in the same way that adultery was wrong, he argued (if that’s the right verb under some principle of charity) that homosexuality was extrinsically wrong. Homosexuality was a disability in the lacking of the ability to have children, and God’s commands of abstaining from homosexuality might prevent others from fostering this incurable condition in others.
Yeah. I know.
My response was mixture of abhorrence and overwhelming anger, and I tried as I might to encounter this idea calmly. I told him he medicalized being gay in the same way that phrenology medicalized racism. It was obnoxious to listen to Christians lay claim to sacrificial love at this conference, but at the same time not see the virtue of that same love as a possible quality underlying other configurations, yet I told others this is the reason why Christians should read Foucault. When you do, you start to notice how power manifests in local contexts in which those discourses occur.
Michael Rea, the Notre Dame philosopher who is president of the Midwest SCP, writes this shocking entry on his Facebook page:
I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne’s keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse. As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community. Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again. Nonetheless, I will strive for them going forward.
To which Jewish philosopher Yoram Hazony asks, reasonably:
Society for Christian Philosophers posts an apology for a lecture given by the distinguished Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne that included his views on homosexuality. Personally, I find it painful to see a senior scholar such as Swinburne being apologized for in public. I often disagree with his views. But if we’re assessing pain, it hurts to see him being shamed in this way for taking a side in a philosophical and religious controversy. What are we trying to do–create a world in which philosophers are only permitted to express certain views? Isn’t the traditional response to write an essay arguing with him, rather than posting an apology?
Indeed. I can’t criticize or defend Swinburne’s address without reading it, but for heaven’s sake, if a Christian cannot defend orthodox Christian teaching at conference of Christian philosophers without being denounced (as distinct from argued with), we are in deep trouble.
Notice that Hackett doesn’t bother explaining what Swinburne said. He assumes that his “abhorrence and overwhelming anger” is sufficient. How dare Swinburne! It is an outrageous capitulation that the Society president felt obliged to apologize for Swinburne.
This is just one more example of the rot in academia. This past weekend, as part of my Benedict Option research, I read one of the best books I’ve read in years: The Demon In Democracy, by the Polish Catholic philosopher and statesman Ryszard Legutko. Rob G., a reader and erstwhile commenter here, recommended it to me. I am going to blog a lot more on it, but suffice it to say here that this book is absolutely critical for conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, to understand the times. More on this later today.
The gist of the book is that liberal democracy has a lot more in common with communism than most people realize. They are both modern ideologies, and totalizing ones. Legutko makes it very clear that liberal democracy is far better than communism, but his thesis, as outrageous as it may sound, is a sound one. The book shook me, and made me understand why some emigre friends who defected from communist Hungary say they are reminded these days of their youth.
Legutko, who lived under Polish communism and under Poland’s transition to liberal democracy, writes about how contemporary liberal democracy has adopted the communist habit of denouncing dissenters from its dogmas. He says this is politically useful to the left. Excerpt:
It allowed discrediting one’s opponent without entering into substantive argument. There was no sense in analyzing the opponent’s views on their merits, such an analysis being usually inconclusive and politically inefficient. It was much better to show that his views represented his interests and were conditioned by his social and economic position. This way, under communism, much of philosophy, are, and literature could be discredited as arising from a bourgeois ideology, legitimizing the domination of the bourgeoisie and representing tis interests. By being identified as serving the cause of the bourgeoisie, the philosophers, artists, and writers could be arraigned on a charge of being the enemies of the socialist revolution and standing in the way of the future, often with lamentable consequences for the defendants.
“This practically put an end to any form of intellectual argumentation,” says Legutko. “No one argued, but either accused someone of ideological treason or defended himself against such a charge.” More:
One encounters a similarly narrow intellectual space in today’s humanities, which, ultimately, are dependent on liberal democracy to the same degree that the communist humanities depended on communism. The language they use is not only political, but derived directly from the terminological storehouse of the liber-democratic ideology: rights exclusion, recognition, emancipation, equality, domination, colonialism, imperialism, etc. Entered the field of the humanities today — exactly as in the communist past — is like entering into the battlefield: one has to join the forces to defend what is right against what is wrong. Literary critics, writers, performers, filmmakers and theater directors imagine themselves to be listening to the voices of the excluded and searching or the deep roots of domination: anthropologists, social scientists, journalists, and celebrities are preoccupied with pretty much the same, believing — of course — that what they do has a momentous weight upon the world that is, as well as upon the world that will be. Once we understand how strikingly the liberal-democratic artists and intellectuals are, mentally, a mirror reflection of their communist counterparts, we will notice that the resemblance also extends to the way they behave. In each system the artists and intellectuals willingly gather in herds; they treat dissenters and outsiders with contempt and enmity; they shamelessly enthuse over idiocies that bear the stamps of modernity and exhibit a revolting temerity in the face of what they consider to be the imperatives of the times. Their cowardly behavior they call dignity, and their dishonorable adulation — stupidity, a conscious act of attunement — the spirit of the times.
Today, when someone is accused of homophobia, the mere fact of accusation allows no effective reply. To defend oneself by saying that homosexual and heterosexual unions are not equal, even if supported by most persuasive arguments, only confirms the charge of homophobia because the charge itself is never a matter of discussion. The only way out for the defendant is to submit a self-criticism, which may or may not be accepted. When the poor daredevil is adamant and imprudently answers back, a furious pack of enraged lumpen-intellectuals inevitably trample the careless polemicist into the ground.
Prudent people — both then and now — anticipate such reactions and made a preemptive move before saying anything reckless. Under communism, the best tactic was to start by condemning the forces of reaction and praising the socialist progress; then one could risk smuggling in a reasonable, though somewhat audacious statement, preferably wrapped in quotations from Marx and Lenin. In a liberal democracy, it is best to start with a condemnation of homophobia followed by the praise of the homosexual movement, and only then sheepishly include something commonsensical, but only using the rhetoric of tolerance, human rights, and the documents issued by the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. Otherwise one invites trouble.
The characteristic feature of both societies — communist and liberal democratic — was that a lot of things simply could not be discussed because they were unquestionably bad or unquestionably good. Discussing them was tantamount to casting doubts on something whose value had been unequivocally determined.
I urge you to read the whole book.
If you read Hackett’s reaction to Swinburne’s speech, it fits the pattern Legutko sets out. Note among these critics the constant citing of the “pain” Swinburne’s philosophical contention caused to some who heard it, and the “harm” these ideas have done to others in the past. For example:
Incalculable! Note that Van Dyke, who teaches philosophy at Calvin College, doesn’t take on Swinburne’s arguments at all. This is entirely a “who/whom” statement. Plus, it’s nonsense that Van Dyke does not want to take away the right of Swinburne (or anybody else) to express these ideas. Quite clearly that’s exactly what she wants, as she blames what Swinburne said (or allegedly said — again, we don’t have the text) for causing “incalculable harm to vast numbers of already disadvantaged people.” Is Van Dyke in favor of causing incalculable harm to vast numbers of already disadvantaged people”? One supposes not. So in what sense is she not arguing for the silencing of Swinburne and those who agree with him?
Again, that the president of the Society of Christian Philosophers felt obliged to apologize for a speech given by one of the world’s most accomplished Christian philosophers — a speech in which the 82-year-old Swinburne defended basic Christian orthodoxy — and indeed to garland his apology with the Orwellian terms “diversity” and “inclusion,” is a very bad sign. These people are going to have their diversity and inclusion, no matter how monotonous and exclusive they have to be to get it. Four legs good, two legs bad!
Of what use is the Society of Christian Philosophers if one cannot go to its meetings and debate basic philosophical positions derived from Christian teaching ?
Man, do progressives ever have to swallow a lot to support Hillary Clinton (D-Davos). The NYT reports:
A blue-ribbon commission had just excoriated Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks for fueling the financial crisis. Prosecutors were investigating whether Goldman had misled investors. The company was a whipping boy for politicians looking to lay blame for the crash.
But in spring of 2011, Lloyd C. Blankfein, leading one of the nation’s most reviled companies, found himself onstage with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the nation’s most admired public figures at the time. And Mrs. Clinton had come to praise Goldman Sachs.
The State Department, Mrs. Clinton announced that day in an auditorium in its Foggy Bottom headquarters, would throw its weight behind a Goldman philanthropic initiative aimed at encouraging female entrepreneurs around the world — a program Goldman viewed as central to rehabilitating its reputation.
Mrs. Clinton’s blessing — an important public seal of approval for Goldman at a time when it had few defenders in Washington — underscored a long-running relationship between one of the country’s most powerful financial firms and one of its most famous political families. Over 20-plus years, Goldman provided the Clintons with some of their most influential advisers, millions of dollars in campaign contributions and speaking fees, and financial support for the family foundation’s charitable programs.
And in the wake of the worst crash since the Great Depression, as the firm fended off investigations and criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, the Clintons drew Goldman only closer. Bill Clintonpublicly defended the company and leased office space from Goldman for his foundation. Mrs. Clinton, after leaving the State Department, earned $675,000 to deliver three speeches at Goldman events, where she reassured executives that they had an important role to play in the nation’s recovery.
The four years between the end of the financial crisis and the start of Mrs. Clinton’s second White House bid revealed a family that viewed Wall Street’s elite as friends and collaborators even as the public viewed them with suspicion and scorn.
When Mrs. Clinton left the State Department in 2013, she followed her husband into paid speechmaking. If Mrs. Clinton was concerned about the appearance of taking hefty fees from Wall Street while considering a second presidential bid, she did not show it: In her first year on the circuit, more than a third of her paid speeches were for financial companies.
Each of her three Goldman speeches were private, and Mrs. Clinton has rebuffed requests to release transcripts of them. And at the time, she still embraced Goldman as a partner.
Global markets are jittery about many things right now, but one fear seems to override all others: The polls in the presidential race have suddenly tightened, and Donald Trump might actually become president of the United States of America — with unknown, but possibly very negative, implications for everything from trade policy to foreign relations to monetary policy.
In short, a Trump presidency is the very definition of what markets hate: uncertainty. “Trump is widely considered to be reckless and Clinton is widely considered to be a friend to Wall Street,” explains Chris Irons, an analyst with the equity research firm GeoInvesting. “In terms of which of the two would shoot volatility into the market, he is clearly it.”
This is not necessarily good news for populists. It’s one thing to be a strong critic of the way the global financial system is set up. That’s not the same thing as knowing what you’re talking about — and it is by no means clear that Trump does.
It is depressing to consider that the only Republican candidate this year who would have troubled Wall Street at all is Donald J. Trump, a traitor to his class.
Sub-executive members of the church’s Toronto Conference announced Thursday they have asked the church’s general council, the most senior governance body, to hold a formal hearing to decide whether Rev. Gretta Vosper, who does not believe in God or the Bible, should be placed on the disciplinary “Discontinued Service List.”
“Some will be disappointed and angry that this action has been taken, believing that the United Church may be turning its back on a history of openness and inclusivity,” it said in a statement.
“Others have been frustrated that the United Church has allowed someone to be a minister in a Christian church while disavowing the major aspects of the Christian faith. There is no unanimity in the church about what to do.”
No unanimity in the church about what to do about a pastor who denies the existence of God and the holiness of the Bible? No wonder the United Church is in terminal decline (the average age of its members is 65). More:
In her appearance before the sub-executive, Vosper said she took pride in the fact the United Church embraced diverse perspectives and was always willing to leave one chair empty at the table for those people “from whom they least want to hear.”
Her lawyer, Julian Falconer, said it was troubling the church would “choose discipline over dialogue.”
“This should not be about legal hearings and an adversarial process. This should be about inclusion and support for a very healthy ministry,” he said.
And there you have it. “Discipline over dialogue.” Let us all stop to remember Neuhaus’s Law: Wherever orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed.
What Father Neuhaus meant is that today the left wing of the United Church wants to allow an atheist minister to keep her pulpit because of inclusivity, and appeals to the principle of “dialogue.” But you can be very sure that the left wing of that church (and perhaps whatever counts as the right wing of that very, very liberal ecclesial body) has its own orthodoxies — say, rejecting the orthodox Christian view of homosexuality — that no pastor can proclaim from the pulpit and expect to keep his or her job. As Neuhaus has written:
With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps. An appeal to what St. Paul or Aquinas or Catherine of Sienna or a Church council said cannot withstand the undeniable retort, “Yes, but they are not me!” People pack their truths into what Peter Berger has called group-identity kits. The chief item in the kit, of course, is the claim to being oppressed.
At some point, dialogue is useless, and is only used by the left as a stalling tactic until they get their people into positions of power, or until they wear down the conservative opposition. In the life of the church, there is no point in talking with people who believe there is no objective truth by which we can and should settle our theological disputes. It’s all about power.
A reader writes:
I just wanted to let you know about the area where Mr. Scott was killed in Charlotte, Lexington Circle, is near where I spent 14 years working [occupation deleted] with international students. Lexington Circle and the area around it are full of apartments where many international students live. When I arrived there in 2000, I quickly discovered that students were being mugged, vandalized, and robbed walking back and forth from the college, the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
Some of the crime was hitting people up for cash. One student was stopped and asked for his shoes. Some of the crime was very serious. I personally knew of a student being robbed and then kneecapped. Cars were hijacked from nearby apartments. A friend was pistol whipped and deprived of his car. Cars were frequently broken into. Most apartments eventually put up fences and gates.
Part of the problem is that right in the middle of all these student apartments is a Section 8 housing project. Almost every time a student told me about a crime, it was by a young black male or group of young black males. I eventually had the police do a community workshop to educate students how to be safe. At that time the police said to walk in groups. Not with a friend, in groups.
Also, police were riding two to a car during that time. Then, in 2008, two police officers were killed execution-style not far from where Mr. Scott was shot.
I think that in all this talk, not much time is given to the context of serving a warrant in that area. Even though it was daylight, anything can happen. I am sure every policeman in Charlotte still thinks about the 2008 event. I have not seen any reports talking about the context of the area. But it is important. In no way am I suggesting the police were correct in shooting Mr. Scott. I don’t know. But I do know that the area is not safe. Crime still abounds near the campus even in the new apartments.
The novelist Lionel Shriver, a liberal, reflects on the hysterical progressive response to the apparently intolerable claim she made in a speech (at an Australian literary festival!): that novelists have the right to write about characters from cultural backgrounds other than their own. She writes, in the reflection:
As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.
Ironically, only fellow liberals will be cowed by terror of being branded a racist (a pejorative lobbed at me in recent days — one that, however groundless, tends to stick). But there’s still such a thing as a real bigot, and a real misogynist. In obsessing over micro-aggressions like the sin of uttering the commonplace Americanism “you guys” to mean “you all,” activists persecute fellow travelers who already care about equal rights.
Moreover, people who would hamper free speech always assume that they’re designing a world in which only their enemies will have to shut up. But free speech is fragile. Left-wing activists are just as dependent on permission to speak their minds as their detractors.
In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out. Perhaps intimidating their elders into silence is the intention of the identity-politics cabal — and maybe my generation should retreat to our living rooms and let the young people tear one another apart over who seemed to imply that Asians are good at math.
I understand her desire to stand back and let the left-wing crazies eat each other alive, but I hope Shriver doesn’t. That’s because if these berserkers are to be defeated, we need old-fashioned liberals like her to take a stand against them. As Shriver rightly point out, defending the right of all people say what’s on their minds is a matter of self-defense.
When I read the line claiming that “the shrill tyranny of the left” helps push ordinary people to Donald Trump, I reflected on this week’s Milo Yiannopoulos appearance at LSU in Baton Rouge. I fell ill at the last minute and wasn’t able to go, but my desire to show up had nothing to do with wanting to hear what the clownish provocateur had to say. It was entirely to stand in symbolic support of his right to be on campus saying it. Members of the campus
ideological uniformity diversity community tried to stop him from showing up, and reportedly were able to enlist a high-ranking college administrator — the Chief Diversity Officer — in their efforts. Happily, they failed to achieve their goal. Again, I say “happily” not because I endorse Milo’s shtick, but because I strongly endorse his right to perform it, and the students’ right to watch the spectacle. And because the same grounds that the Social Justice Warriors at LSU used to try to silence Milo — that his speech would be hurtful to them — could be used to silence political conservatives and religious conservatives.
And not just conservatives. After all, if their Australian counterparts managed to intimidate the organizers of a literary festival into hastily arranged programming to counter the benign address of a novelist asserting the right of novelists to write about people and topics of their choosing, they’ll also go after liberals. If extremism in the defense of anti-racism, anti-homophobia, etc., is no vice, then there is no limit to what these moralistic Jacobins will do. It is up to principled liberals to join the fight against them.
About the SJWs driving people to vote for Trump, I can easily see why. I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton is a Social Justice Warrior. But I do believe that she will not do anything meaningful to speak out against them. There will be no Sister Souljah moments in her campaign. And because noxious identity politics has a much greater hold among liberal elites than it has in the past, it’s reasonable to assume that a Hillary Clinton administration will fill the federal bureaucracy with people who intend to advance the SJW goals, or who at least lack the principled courage to stand against their march through the institutions. How can anybody look at how college administrators capitulated to them last fall and believe otherwise?
It is appalling to consider that the First Amendment would likely fare better under a Donald Trump presidency than a Hillary Clinton one, but I believe it’s the truth. I hope in Monday’s debate, someone asks both candidates about it.
Are you going to the big Front Porch Republic confab at Notre Dame in a couple of weeks? It’s on Saturday October 8. Here’s the schedule:
Program begins at 9:00 and will conclude at 5:00pm.
Panel 1: Promoting Local Economies:
Philip Bess, Elias Crim, Susannah Black
Panel 2: Populism and Place:
Bill Kauffman, Jeff Taylor, Michael Federici
Lunch: Keynote Address: Patrick Deneen
Panel 3: The Benedict Option:
Panel 4: Beauty and the Revitalization of Culture:
Jason Peters, Andrew Balio, James Matthew Wilson
You won’t want to miss this one. Register here. Seating is limited, so don’t put it off.
Seriously, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Please come!
Here’s a small thing, but one that’s worth mentioning, I think.
First, I want to thank you readers who e-mailed to say you hope I feel better. Yesterday was much better than Wednesday. The weird thing about the way this chronic mono works is that it’s episodic. I don’t know what triggers the episodes, but when they hit, boy, they can just knock me flat. On Thursday, I didn’t have one at all, and got lots of work done on the Ben Op book revision. I think we will be able to send it off to the copy editor next week, woo-hoo!
Last night I even went to the gym for a bit. While I anxiously await Season Four of The Americans coming to Amazon Prime streaming, I’ve started watching Stranger Things on the iPad while I’m on the treadmill. It’s as good as they say. I had the earbuds in listening to and watching the show, but looked up from time to time to see what was on CNN, playing on the big screen in front of the treadmill. They kept going to live shots from Charlotte. There were protests, but thank God everything was peaceful. (And by the way, it’s pretty dubious that the police chief won’t release the shooting video to the public, given that those who have seen it, including the victim’s family and the mayor, say it is by no means clear that Keith Scott had a gun in his hand.)
I noticed that Don Lemon spent a long time interviewing a North Carolina Republican Congressman who earlier in the day made a really stupid remark to the BBC about the black protesters. The Congressman apologized, I gathered, and went on CNN to repeat his apology. The segment went on and on and on, though, and I came to think that the only reason to have had that knucklehead on was to watch him squirm in apologizing for his racial remark, which he certainly did, but after a while the interview amounted to bouncing the rubble. The Washington Post quoted it:
Then, Pittenger went on CNN, saying: “Frankly, I apologize for the comments. They certainly weren’t meant in the context of how many viewed them.”
The congressman said he simply was quoting what he’d heard protesters saying.
“Do you believe that protesters hate white people?” host Don Lemon asked.
“No, sir, it’s the comments that they made — if you go back and look at the tapes, the comments they made on air,” Pittenger said. “I was only trying to convey what they were saying, and yet it didn’t come out right, and I apologize. … That certainly is not the spirit of who I am.”
“Let’s walk through what you said,” Lemon went on. “You said, ‘They hate us — they hate us because we’re successful, they hate white people because we’re successful.’ How is that taken out of context, with all due respect?”
“What I’m trying to communicate was, what has occurred with the economy has left them out,” the congressman said.
“Was this a learning point for you at all?” Lemon asked.
“I love my community,” Pittinger said. “I am very sorry for how I said what I said. My desire is everyone could grow up the economic ladder and have the greatest benefit of the American opportunity.
He added: “I’ve come on the air to apologize in every way I can.”
Here’s the interview, which went on for eight minutes:
Don Lemon treated him respectfully, but the Congressman didn’t really help himself that much, it must be said. This guy, Pittenger, is someone nobody outside of NC ever heard of before. The only reason he is of any interest at all is that he said something offensive, and was trying to crawfish out of it. By the end of the interview, it was clear that the point of the exercise was for him to abase himself on national TV. There was absolutely nothing to be learned from him, about anything. Watching the interview, it doesn’t seem that he is the sharpest or most self-aware Republican politician you’ve ever seen. The amazing thing is with all they could have talked about regarding events in Charlotte — real things, serious things — a national news program spent seven minutes with a politician talking about his dopey gaffe.
Next, in the same program, they went back to a day-old story, the one about Kathy Miller, the older white lady who heads Trump’s campaign in Indiana’s Mahoning County, and who earlier in the week denied that racism had been that big a deal since the 1960s. She had other inflammatory remarks about race. Here’s some context:
Mahoning, the eastern Ohio county where Miller is coordinating Trump’s campaign, is a historically Democratic stronghold that includes Youngstown, a former steel city that has experienced decades of economic decline.
The county is reputedly “ground-zero” for disaffected white, working-class Democrats who are drawn to Trump’s promise to boost manufacturing by renegotiating international free-trade agreements.
Before the primaries, some 6,000 Democrats in Mahoning switched party affiliation to Republican, reportedly to vote for Trump.
Yesterday she resigned as Trump county chair. Lemon used that as a segue into a segment with David Gregory, who came on as an analyst to talk about the national menace of relatively minor white political figures saying racially insensitive things. Lemon talked as if this was a scourge that had been released on America by Donald Trump. I didn’t see the entire segment with Gregory, but was impressed that Gregory, after clearly denouncing what they said, observed that in an era of social media, gaffes like that blow up bigger than ever, and we crucify people over them.
Note well that I’m not defending what either of these people said, but am complaining that a national news program made such a huge deal over something relatively minor, when there are vastly more important issues related to the Charlotte shooting and subsequent riots worth covering. After Keith Scott’s shooting, his brother was captured on camera calling all white people “f–king devils” (the cop who shot Scott is black). How can anybody with a heart hold that racist remark against the guy? He had just learned that his brother had been shot dead. Still, if CNN wanted to examine the role of fear and loathing in causing people to lose their sense of self-control and say what was on their minds, that would have been interesting. It also would have been interesting to do a segment on what people, both white and black, say privately about race that they don’t say publicly, and whether we are losing that sense of decorum.
Just about the least interesting angle on all of this is putting the old white man on camera for seven long minutes, watching him squirm. Or considering the offensive words of a local Trumpkin who lives in an economically devastated Rust Belt city worth going over and over on national TV. But that was the narrative CNN prefers. For all I know, it was the same thing on all cable news channels. It made me glad I don’t have cable. Shallow sensationalism, and all that.
What’s interesting is that if you got your news from CNN in that hour last night, you would have thought that one of the most important things to know about the Charlotte troubles is that it prompted elderly white Republicans to say dumb and insensitive things about black people. That’s how the reality gets manufactured. And please, don’t say, “But what about Fox?” I have no doubt that Fox is manufacturing its own reality. That’s what our news media, especially TV, do.
Anyway, the reason I decided to post on this is an e-mail I received last night from a reader, a white North Carolina Democrat who is a defense attorney. He can’t stand Trump, but his work with poor white people has made him more merciful towards people’s frailties.
He wrote that yesterday, he represented a very poor young white woman in court on a drug charge. I won’t give details out of respect for his privacy, but he explained in detail her background, and the circumstances of her life, and my God, this woman never had a chance. The lawyer writes:
I got her out of jail today but she faces an uphill climb for the rest of her life. So I imagine her views on race or refugees or cultural elites are pretty warped. And if I was her, I’d have the same views too. That doesn’t make her deplorable. It makes her human.
The kids rioting in Charlotte have their own stories. They have their own reason to be mad. They’re human too.
I appreciated his e-mail. To be clear, he wasn’t defending the actions or the putative opinions on race and immigration of his client. He was reminding me that so many people in our society — black, white, and otherwise — have such complicated stories, and carry burdens that the rest of us can scarcely imagine. Obviously the burdens a Congressman carries are much less than those carried by a poor young black man in Charlotte, or a poor young white woman in whatever small town the lawyer’s client lives in. Of those to whom much is given, much is expected.
Still, it says something about our time and our culture that our national media are more interested in seizing on a public person’s gaffe, and making a huge deal out of it, as if an ignorant opinion stated publicly was real and important news. Our media do this all the time. It’s lazy and it’s wrong.
You know what I would like to see? A TV news organization go deep into exploring the roots of casual black racism, and challenge racial prejudice held by some black people with actual facts. And I would like to see them go deep into exploring the roots of casual white racism, to consider why whites who hold those opinions do. J.D. Vance, in Hillbilly Elegy, wrote about white welfare scammers he grew up with who blamed others (black folks, I would imagine) for being welfare scammers, but justified their own behavior. What’s the psychology of that? What it leads to is an inquiry into the role that beliefs and behavior play in blaming others for one’s own failures. And the same could and should be asked of poor black Americans.
At the bottom of the obnoxious comments by the Congressman and the Trump campaign lady are a serious and interesting question: Why did the end of segregation and the opening up of opportunity to African-Americans make little difference in the material circumstances of so many of them? It seems that the only answer anybody in the media is interested in is: Racism. Similarly, it’s clear that the only answer a lot of white conservatives are interested in is: It’s entirely your own fault.
On the other side, there are people who look at the misery and brokenness of poor white people’s lives and think: They’re poor because the Other (blacks, immigrants, et al.) are taking from them/the rich and well-connected are holding them back. Others think: It’s entirely their own fault, the redneck racists. J.D. Vance has taught us to see that both can be true to some extent, and to see these people as real people, not only victims of circumstance and , but also moral agents who in many cases are authors of their own misery.
In other words, as human beings.
The e-mail I got from the NC lawyer made me think more mercifully about the rioters, and about someone like his poor white client. It’s a hard balance to strike, between being merciful and holding people responsible for the bad things they do, and very few of us get it right 100 percent of the time. God forbid, though, that we fail to get it right when talking to the news media, which seems to delight in punishing and humiliating people who say the wrong thing. Well, certain kinds of people, anyway.
I’ll leave you with these excerpts from J.D. Vance’s great piece from yesterday’s New York Times:
It’s difficult in the abstract to appreciate that those with morally objectionable viewpoints can still be good people. This perhaps explains why Mrs. Clinton showed considerably less charity than did Mr. Obama as a candidate in a widely praised 2008 speech on race. In one particularly personal passage, he spoke about his white grandmother — an imperfect, but fundamentally good, woman, “a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
He goes on to cite data showing that large numbers of Democrats also hold pretty stark prejudices, and that indeed almost all Americans do, one way or another. Vance goes on:
There are many ways to confront the people of that nation in all its complexity. We can ignore that these biases exist, and pretend that our uniquely diverse society need never address the difficult questions posed by that diversity. This is the path chosen by far too many of my fellow conservatives.
We can deem a significant chunk of our populace unrepentant bigots, which appears to be the strategy of Mrs. Clinton and much of the left.
Or we can recognize that most of us fall into another basket altogether: One where prejudice — even implicit — coexists with incredible compassion and decency. In that basket is the black preacher who may view homosexuality as a little icky even as he lovingly ministers to struggling gay members of his church. The adoptive parent of a child born in Asia, who pours her heart and soul into her child’s well-being even as she tells a pollster that she doesn’t much care about America’s experience with Japanese internment. And in that basket is a white grandmother who speaks ill of black people even as she gives her beloved African-American grandson the emotional support and love that enable him to become the president of all Americans.
I’m willing to bet that the biggest difference between Don Lemon and the impolitic Republicans he skewered is that he has enough sense to keep his own prejudices off camera. How true is that of all of us? If the world could see the prejudices and bigotries in our hearts, would any of us be able to pass scrutiny?
A reader and his wife are in New Orleans for a medical conference this week, and writes:
This morning, our first morning here, we walked / wheelchaired a couple blocks to John Besh’s Willa Jean (thanks for recommending his restaurants!). I had the chicken and biscuit with Tabasco honey; my wife had the Willa Jean breakfast, which included the best cheesy grits I’ve ever tasted – light and fluffy, and without so much cheese as to overwhelm the flavor of the grits (of course I am a northerner, so take this with a grain of salt).
Hard to go wrong with a John Besh restaurant. Hey, go to Domenica and order the fried kale with Parmigiano, and then either the campanelle or tagliatelle. Hell, order everything!
I presume all of you have seen the news reports about last night’s rioting in Charlotte. Yesterday I asked in this space which of the related events in Charlotte is politically the most consequential, the shooting or the riots that followed. The second night of rioting, which culminated with the governor activating the National Guard, answers the question. There’s no question now that Trump will take NC in November (it had previously been a toss-up state). Depending on how long the riots go on, it can only benefit Trump. People may be troubled about cops shooting civilians, but keeping rioters from burning down one’s city it’s a far, far more elemental concern.
By the way, I think it is extremely foolish for the city to decline to release (absent a court order) dashcam and/or bodycam footage of the confrontation that ended with Keith Scott’s killing by police. If their hands are tied by NC law, then I hope a judge will order its release. If the footage confirms the police version of events — that Scott emerged from his car with a gun, and refused multiple orders to put it down — then that might do something to quell the rioting.
But probably not. This is pretty clearly not a riot as a protest against perceived injustice. People don’t loot stores and destroy other people’s property to make a political statement. They do it because they can. Yesterday afternoon, I saw this short essay on the website of Charlotte Magazine, reflecting on the first night of rioting. Excerpts:
A man drove a car behind the protest and cranked up the stereo system, blaring a track by the rapper Boosie Badazz, its chorus anchored by a line quickly picked up as another chant: “Wit’out dat badge, you a bitch-and-a-half nigga/F*ck da police! F*ck da police!” The protesters began pushing forward. The cops backtracked but held the line. The dance stopped after 100 feet. Things calmed a bit. Then people began taking the plastic bottles of water neighbors were distributing and using them as missiles—empty bottles first, then full ones. The bottles were tossed, then hurled, then, increasingly, fired. The cops still held the line.
The crowd began to move again. A few of the protesters had sticks now—big ones, three or four feet long and as thick as the fat ends of pool cues. “Where the bricks at?” a man remarked. Another man, shirtless, with a blue bandanna around his mouth, tried to swipe a television news tripod, which a cameraman had left leaning against a tree. “Hey, hey!” the cameraman yelled, chasing after the thief with his camera on his shoulder.
The crowd began pushing forward again, seeping off the road and onto private property. The crowd grew edgier, restless. Gestures and words flew toward the blue line. As with most protests, it was impossible to tell who was there to exercise their First Amendment right to protest peacefully, who was there out of idle curiosity, and who just wanted to start some sh*t.
Boosie Badazz is from Baton Rouge. He is 33 years old, and has already done a stint in Angola State Penitentiary on a drug conviction. He was found not guilty in a murder trial. He has six children, and is not married. Fine, upstanding citizen, our Boosie Badazz, a real paladin of justice. Here is a 2010 video, filmed in Baton Rouge and released around the time he went to prison:
I think it fair to say that young men who look to the man who recorded and stars in that video as the voice of their inner rage are not eager to take a stand for justice, or to have their grievances redressed. They just want to start some sh*t.
The writer of the piece, Greg Lacour, also said in it:
It was clear in the aftermath that this had been a long time coming. Charlotte has polished uptown, built light rail, thrown up a few thousand new apartment complexes and mixed-use developments for affluent newcomers—and encouraged, or at least acceded to, an economy in which it’s harder than in any other large American city to rise from poverty, and a public school system that in all the ways that matter has resegregated itself back to the 1960s. Does anyone really need to spell out what we all know, that the majority of people who have thrived in Boomtown Charlotte are moneyed and white, and the majority who have suffered in the other Charlotte are poor and black? “The whole damn system is guilty as hell,” a portion of the crowd of 300 or so, nearly all black, chanted in the dark on Old Concord Road on Tuesday night, and they weren’t wrong.
Of what, exactly is “the whole damn system” guilty? I’m asking honestly. Lacour references this much-discussed 2014 paper by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, et al., in which they discuss their findings on intergenerational mobility in the US. Excerpt:
In the final part of the paper, we explore such factors by correlating the spatial variation in mobility with observable characteristics. To begin, we show that upward income mobility is significantly lower in areas with larger African-American populations. However, white individuals in areas with large African-American populations also have lower rates of upward mobility, implying that racial shares matter at the community level.
We then identify five factors that are strongly correlated with the variation in upward mobility across areas. The first is segregation: areas that are more residentially segregated by race and income have lower levels of mobility. Second, areas with more inequality as measured by Gini coefficients have less mobility, consistent with the “Great Gatsby curve” documented across countries (Krueger 2012, Corak 2013). Top 1% income shares are not highly correlated with intergenerational mobility both across CZs [“commuting zones,” or, generally, neighborhoods] within the U.S. and across countries, suggesting that the factors that erode the middle class may hamper intergenerational mobility more than the factors that lead to income growth in the upper tail.
Third, proxies for the quality of the K-12 school system are positively correlated with mobility. Fourth, social capital indices (Putnam 1995) – which are proxies for the strength of social networks and community involvement in an area – are also positively correlated with mobility. Finally, mobility is significantly lower in areas with weaker family structures, as measured e.g. by the fraction of single parents. As with race, parents’ marital status does not matter purely through its effects at the individual level. Children of married parents also have higher rates of upward mobility in communities with fewer single parents. Interestingly, we find no correlation between racial shares and upward mobility once we control for the fraction of single parents in an area.
So, the five factors: segregation, income inequality, school quality, social capital, and family structure.
In their research, Chetty and his colleagues found that Charlotte is one of the hardest cities to live in regarding upward mobility, just as Lacour says. But here’s something fascinating: they also discovered that the problem in general is local — that is, where you live is key. You might be thinking, duh, but don’t miss the point, which is this: the same set of factors observed at more or less equal levels can lead to a worse outcome in some places than others — even in places that are geographically close.
The worst places to live for social mobility are the South, and Appalachia. See this map based on Chetty’s findings. In a subsequent paper, Chetty and a colleague found that this is actually a neighborhood-by-neighborhood thing, and that the longer a child lives in a bad neighborhood, the less his chances are of ultimately escaping poverty. This suggests that to be socialized in a bad neighborhood — that is, to absorb its culture — is a key factor in predicting adulthood poverty. In other words, a neighborhood where young men lionize and absorb the values of Boozie BadAzz is not a neighborhood likely to produce anything but poverty.
Here are some other key points from the Chetty paper:
Places with large black populations have less social mobility — but this is also true for whites in those places. Why? Because, they say, “areas with a larger black population exhibit greater income segregation.” The problem could be more a matter of class than race. Poor people of all races are more likely to live in ghetto-like conditions in these places, separated from the middle and upper classes. And, when Chetty et al. weighted for the other factors, race faded as an explanation. That is to say, poor white children born into single-parent households and who grow up in dysfunctional neighborhoods/societies, and go to lousy schools, are just as trapped in poverty as poor black children. It’s the Hillbilly Elegy story.
The nature of local industry probably matters. That is, are there plenty jobs that make it possible for poor people with less education to rise? In Charlotte, the main (but not sole) economic dynamo is banking. The loss of an industrial base in the US, and with it a gateway to the middle class for the proletariat both black and white, plays a role.
The worst thing you can do for your child is raise him without a father. The researchers write, “The fraction of children living in single parent households is the single strongest correlate of upward income mobility of all the variables we explored.” I can’t find statistics for the number of single-parent households in Charlotte, but the most recent available stats from the US Census show that 35 percent of Charlotte is black. Nationally, 66 percent of black children are born into single-parent households (versus 25 percent of non-Hispanic whites). This suggests that at least 20 percent of the children born in Charlotte are to black single mothers. With whites at 50 percent of the overall Charlotte population and 25 percent of the single-parent child rate, that adds roughly another 12 percent to the fatherless child rate in the city. Latinos are 13 percent of the Charlotte population, and 42 percent of Latinos nationally are born to single mothers, adding 5 percent or so to the single-parenthood birth rate in Charlotte. No doubt the actual stats are somewhat different, but if this is generally in the ballpark, that means more than one in three children born in Charlotte come into the world with the greatest possible strike against them in terms of upward mobility. And this is a problem that affects the black community more than any other. It’s not even close.
Social capital matters. Chetty et al. write, “Religiosity is very strongly positively correlated with upward mobility, while crime rates are negatively correlated with mobility.” I don’t know anything about churchgoing among Charlotte’s black community. Crime is easier to track. According to the Charlotte Observer, homicides are spiking in the city this year. More:
African-Americans were disproportionately represented among 2015’s homicide victims, although the ratio decreased from 2014.
While blacks make up about 35 percent of Charlotte’s population, 70 percent of the year’s homicide victims were African-American, a total of 44 people. In 2014, 76 percent of the homicide victims were black.
Putney said the numbers are even grimmer for black men.
“Black males make up 17 percent of our jurisdiction,” the chief said. “But they’re 63 percent of homicide victims, and 68 percent of homicide suspects.”
Putney said that reflects other disparities among the city’s crime victims. Blacks account for 52 percent of all crime victims, and for 62 percent of violent crime victims, he told city council in November.
Schools matter. Lacour says that Charlotte schools have resegregated. I don’t have stats on that, but it’s not surprising. This has happened all over the country. The question is, what role does that resegregation play in black isolation and hopelessness? And what prompts the resegregation? Is it solely a matter of white racists not wanting their kids to go to school with black kids? That is, do middle-class white parents take their kids out of public schools to keep their kids away from black people per se, or does it have more to do with class and culture. I find it hard to imagine that many middle-class white parents would want their children to go to an all-white school where the predominant ethos among the students was towards beliefs and practices that exacerbate the likelihood that their children will fail to thrive socially and economically. Put more plainly, few middle-class parents of any race want their kids to go to school with Boosie BadAzz.
To what extent is that a factor in Charlotte’s schools? I don’t know. But it is unfair and inaccurate to say that white people (or any people) who refuse to send their children into a school where the culture is degrading are guilty of racism. In researching my Benedict Option book, I talked to Christian parents who pulled their kids out of public school not because of race, but because they did not want their kids acculturated by the values prevalent in those schools — even if the schools were predominantly white. I spoke to one orthodox Catholic mom who had been educated by the Catholic schools in her city, and who had made the decision that she was going to homeschool her children. Not only did she and her husband not want their kids acculturated by the public schools in their (predominantly white) area, but they didn’t want them acculturated by the Catholic schools either. She told me that having gone through those schools herself, she would fear for her children holding on to their Catholic faith if they were subjected to that kind of education. Does that make her anti-Catholic?
My point is simply this: as with the factors that go into reproducing poverty across generations, the explanation for why schooling in America has resegregated are not simple. To treat them as such is to choose to be ignorant for the sake of an emotionally satisfying narrative.
So: when we try to figure out why Charlotte rioted, and how to address effectively the problems that led to the rioting, keep in mind that the story is not as simple as black and white. It rarely is. In his great book Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance wrote about the structural explanations for why his people — Appalachian hillbillies — remain mired in poverty. But he also wrote about the cultural self-sabotage (bad habits, destructive ways of thinking, etc.) that kept them poor. Both can be true. And if both can be true for poor whites, why could they not be true for poor blacks?
UPDATE: And, here we are. Racist black mob descends on innocent white man begging for mercy:
— Libertarian Queen (@LibertarianQn) September 22, 2016
UPDATE.2: Great reflection in the comments by Irenist (whose identity I know, and who has said to me privately and to readers of this blog that he grew up poor, white, and in a dysfunctional social environment):
We are often told we need to have “a conversation about race.”
That conversation should include the observation that 17% of the population of Charlotte is suspected of having committed 68% of the homicides.
Unfortunately, to openly acknowledge stats like that gets you labeled a “deplorable.” It seems like the only people willing to acknowledge such facts are the alt-right.
Moderate conservatives and people on the left must find a way to be able to confront such truths, or we will see more and more white voters turn to Trump, the alt-right, etc. out of desperation.
The “Vox” type sites list as a trait of “deplorables” that they think that black men are more violent. But the stats show that black men ARE more violent. Perhaps that’s because of the legacy of slavery, or red-lining, or the drug war, or all of the above. Many on the alt-right would claim it’s genetic.
Here’s the problem. If the only faction that will even admit that, statistically speaking, black men are more violent is the alt-right, then whites will start to listen to the alt-right. And the alt-right’s theory of where the greater average propensity to homicide and rape is coming from is that blacks are genetically inferior. And that view is gaining traction in the GOP and online.
If the left and the moderate right are to have any hope of getting whites to listen to alternative explanations for black violence rooted in socioeconomic deprivation, the history of structural racism, etc., then in order to get a hearing to do that, the left and moderate right must first acknowledge, and openly discuss, the greater statistical propensity to violence.
The video in the “update” is the sort of thing that the Derb was thinking of when he warned his kids in his infamous column not to allow themselves to be stuck in a large group of black people. If the only voices willing to talk to other whites about the reality here are voices like the Derb’s, then those voices–voices like Trump’s, voices like the online white nationalists, etc.–are going to command ever more listeners.
A generation ago, the left ceded the issue of crime to the Reaganite right. Is the left going to be too “triggered” to discuss American black male statistical propensity to violence openly, and again leave the issue of crime to the right–at a time when the right is no longer Reaganite, but instead Trumpian and proto-fascist?
When do we actually get that “conversation about race”?
So, Milo Yiannopoulos is about to go on at LSU across town, and I’m not there. I spent most of the afternoon in bed asleep, having another *&%$# mononucleosis episode, and I’m still trying to recover. It’s weird how it manifests episodically, and how there’s no way to predict what’s going to instigate it, or how bad it’s going to be. Today was especially not good. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to have a first-hand report for y’all.
Today I read a student op-ed in the LSU Daily Reveille by Anjana Nair, an undergraduate woman and self-described “minority,” who lamented the fact that Milo was being allowed to speak on campus. In the United States. Of America. She wrote, in part:
I once thought I loved free speech. As someone involved in media, the First Amendment was my best friend. That is, until I faced the reality that people, like they do to all good things in the world, abuse it and use it as justification for reckless and hateful behavior.
One of the main proponents of this pseudo-patriotic ideology is a man is bringing his controversy to an already vulnerable University community: Milo Yiannopoulos.
This is something. Maybe I’m remembering my undergraduate years as a student journalist at LSU in a poetic haze, but I can’t recall any of us, liberal or conservative, ever calling for censorship of political speech on campus. In fact, I think we would have been ashamed to publish such an opinion. If not, we ought to have been. But then, we didn’t think of ourselves as “vulnerable.” More:
Progressive movements can sometimes be quite overwhelming. It’s hard when a white man has to watch minority groups gain equality in the world. Now, all the sad white men who have been taken out of the spotlight have banded together under one supreme leader — Trump — who will lead them to the promised land of white supremacy once again.
How convenient for Anjana Nair. All her political opponents are nothing but racists and sexists. Worse, they have the gall to ignore the right of people like her never to confront speech that makes them feel distress (“This in turn leads to an atmosphere in which only the ones inflicting the harmful speech feel comfortable”).
And there’s this howler:
It’s a battle in which old ideologies don’t account for modern day realities. When the First Amendment was written, it couldn’t have accounted for Twitter battles and social media showdowns influencing human opinion and behavior. It couldn’t have foreseen the existence of people like Yiannopoulos and Trump, who force us to define what abusive speech is.
If only the Founding Fathers had been able to foresee the existence of Twitter, they never would have written the First Amendment. For the first time in American history, we have to define what abusive speech is. Ay yi yi…
Here’s the thing: Anjana Nair’s opinion is not limited to undergraduate snowflakes. Damon Linker, himself a liberal, has a powerful column today arguing, in effect, that the basic view that Nair expresses in crude form is widely shared has blinded liberals to the world they actually live in. Excerpts:
The latest and most ambitious of these liberal hit pieces is by Vox‘s Zack Beauchamp, who marshals a range of academic studies to defend the view that the electoral success of right-wing movements across the Western world — from the rise of Trump and the outcome of the Brexit referendum to recent strong showings for far-right parties in European countries from France to Hungary — is not mainly a product of economic anxiety but rather a result of “racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.”
As Beauchamp puts it in a summary statement that verifies what an awful lot of liberals appear to believe: “The ‘losers of globalization’ aren’t the ones voting for these parties. What unites far-right politicians and their supporters, on both sides of the Atlantic, is a set of regressive attitudes toward difference. Racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia — and not economic anxiety — are their calling cards.” (In another passage, Beauchamp adds that “the privileged” are “furious that their privileges are being stripped away by those they view as outside interlopers.”)
There you have it — a perfect distillation of liberalism in 2016: Trump voters and their analogues overseas have “regressive attitudes.” They’re motivated by bigotry, fear, and selfishness, all of which makes them angry that various outsiders are threatening to take away their abundant “privileges.” They certainly have no justification — economic or otherwise — for their grievances.
Linker says that the deeper ideology motivating liberalism is “the desire to delegitimize any particularistic attachment or form of solidarity, be it national, linguistic, religious, territorial, or ethnic.” So:
Concerned about immigrants disregarding the nation’s borders, defying its laws, and changing its ethnic and linguistic character? Racist!
Worried that the historically Christian and (more recently) secular character of European civilization will be altered for the worse, not to mention that its citizens will be forced to endure increasing numbers of theologically motivated acts of terrorism, if millions of refugees from Muslim regions of the world are permitted to settle in the European Union? Islamophobe!
Fed up with the way EU bureaucracies disregard and override British sovereignty on a range of issues, including migration within the Eurozone? Xenophobe!
As far as humanitarian liberals are concerned, all immigrants should be welcomed (and perhaps given access to government benefits), whether or not they entered the country illegally, no matter what language they speak or ethnicity they belong to, and without regard for their religious or political commitments. All that matters — or should matter — is that they are human. To raise any other consideration is pure bigotry and simply unacceptable.
What liberals like this really despise, says Linker, is people’s attachment to ordinary human things. This is why they can only understand it as bigotry when people resist those who try to take those things away from them. Read the whole column.
Milo Yiannopoulos is not Russell Kirk any more than Donald Trump is Edmund Burke. The point here is simply that far too many liberals have fallen into the lazy habit of refusing to grant any moral standing to their opponents, and deciding that they don’t have to take them seriously, because these people are nothing but haters — and the power of the state (or the university) should be marshaled to silence them. You want to know why some people are voting for Trump? Because they perfectly well understand that a Hillary Clinton administration would be filled with people like this.
I would add a couple of things to Linker’s analysis. One, cosmopolitan conservatives — some libertarians, and business Republicans — are guilty of the same thing. The globalist types, I mean. Along these lines, a reader e-mails this story from the Telegraph reporting that the OECD has reversed its earlier warning that a pro-Brexit vote would wreck the British economy. The reader says:
I think this story from Britain about how the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has completely reversed its forecast for the post-Brexit economy is interesting in light of your post about what happens if Trump wins. I think far too many of the people who operate at the highest levels of finance and government live in such invincible ideological and cultural bubbles that they can’t even tell when their analysis is being warped by the reigning groupthink and passions of the clique they travel in.
Even worse, some of them may know its wrong, but excuse their fear-mongering as helping the “greater good.” I think there was a lot of that in the Brexit debate and I think there’s a good deal of it going on with this election. I’m not voting for Trump and I think he’s bad for the country, but I don’t really have a lot of faith in the prognosticators at this point either.
Second, Linker is not entirely correct that cosmopolitan liberals demand that everyone give up their particularist attachments. To the contrary, if you are non-white, female, LGBT, worship in a non-Christian religion, or any combination thereof, you are encouraged to make your particular attachment central to your identity, and to claim privileges attached to it — while simultaneously denying the same to white, male, straight, Christians (or any combination thereof).
They call it social justice when they do it, but bigotry when we do it. Is there any wonder that more than a few people who stand to be dispossessed by the advance of this ideology call it b.s., and have ceased to care if they’re called bigots for fighting it? If only at the level of intuition, more than a few of these people have come to understand that the liberal project has devolved away from old-fashioned liberalism, which is about principle, towards pure power politics of the “Who, whom?” variety (“The whole question is — who will overtake whom?” — Lenin).
Like I keep saying, the identity politics embraced and used as a cudgel by the Left logically legitimizes the same thing on the Right. The only thing that keeps it in check is the stern disapproval by elites in media, politics, academia and otherwise, who stigmatize anyone who disagrees as bigoted and eager to return, in Comrade Nair’s phrase, “to the promised land of white supremacy once again.” That, and the cowardice of conservative politicians who are so afraid of being called bigots by the media that they don’t defend principle, or the people who vote for them.
What happens when people who are told by these elites stop believing that they should be ashamed of themselves for the things they love, and when they stop believing that the Republican Party is interested in standing up for them? Donald Trump, that’s what. If nothing else, the inability of so many liberals to grasp this elementary truth is a massive failure of imagination. And it may well cost them the presidency this fall, in the same way that it cost the GOP elites control of their party.
It is hard to draw clear lines between loving what is one’s own and hating the Other. This is universally true of human beings. A very good thing about old-fashioned liberalism is that it at least tries to compel us to think about what is universal and what is particular, and how we can build a peaceful, workable world that balances them. We are losing that ability, and may have lost it. The Left’s being unable to tell the difference between a Klan rally and orthodox Christians at Sunday worship, and demanding that this moral blindness be written into law, is destroying liberalism, and with it the possibility for peaceful co-existence.