Thursday, May 14, 2015
The United States Has Become a Dictatorship of Double Standards
Even as I write this, I can feel the Overton Window [range of acceptable policies] shifting. Let the record show that when a death squad descended on Pamela Geller’s event in Texas with the aim of killing Geller for speaking freely, the “mainstream” response was to provide the death squad with golden parachutes of sophistry and moral equivalence. It was the finest of East Coast intellectual output.
I’ve lost count of how many sophistic articles have been published so far, but surely one of the most egregious came from Noah Feldman, JD, PhD, at Bloomberg View. In opening paragraphs so glib they seem to have oozed out of some used car salesman’s Brylcreemed pompadour, Feldman writes:
"It’s easy to be distracted by the condemnation of the crime, which should be absolute. No verbal provocation can justify killing. But it’s also easy to be distracted by the First Amendment".
Why do people write this kind of thing? What compels someone to consider a case of attempted terrorist murder, arising from the “provocation” of cartoons, and then devote all his forensic acumen to saying, essentially, “Hey! Look over there!”
I wrote last week that the enemies of free speech are slowly nudging their target into the identity-politics framework. In this worldview, there are Oppressors and the Oppressed, and the roles are irreversible. It’s all narrative: the interlocking assumptions that determine how people interpret real-world events. The identity-politics framework sees American society (all of Western civilization, in fact) as a structure, a machine expertly tuned to produce benefits only for the Oppressor. Some people always win; some always lose. Thus Geller is the real aggressor, even when she’s being shot at. The death squad was merely reacting to overwhelming forces within the structure.
This is the basic logic behind most of our contemporary debate, such as it is, on everything from free speech to immigration to race riots to voter ID laws. There are hard and soft versions of it. Some people come right out and say that the Oppressed should use violence against their Oppressors. This group is often very theoretical, using the unwieldy concepts and jargon they learned in their cultural studies courses. You see them at places like (of course) Salon and The Nation and the post-Peretz New Republic.
Others channel their narrative in a softer, mealy mouthed way, usually with the well practiced preamble “I believe in X, but…,” X being some bedrock value of our country. This latter group is less explicit about their assumptions, probably because they don’t know they have them. You’ll find these people at the more “mainstream” media outlets.
Whether they’re “hards” or “softs”—we could use the old Thatcherite terminology of “wets” and “dries” if you want—the people who argue this way have particular beliefs about power in our country. This is why charging them with hypocrisy never works. After incidents like the Geller event, many conservatives go straight to work documenting the double standard. We’re not allowed to draw Mohammed, the alleged prophet of Islam, but others are allowed to depict Jesus submerged in urine. These articles are necessary, but you’ll have noticed they don’t move the apologist crowd even one inch.
There’s a reason for this. In the identity-politics framework, double standards are necessary and justified. They are a way of balancing the unequal power distribution in the United States. (Trust me that I hate writing sentences with phrases like that.) Just as affirmative action is supposed to correct structural injustice in the economy, gagging people is necessary to stop the “oppression” of designated victim groups. Think of the new obsession with “trigger warnings” and “safe places” on university campuses. This crowd sees free speech as one more tool of power in the Oppressor’s handy box.
Something else is going on here, however, regarding Geller’s treatment in the media. I think Ace of Ace of Spades HQ, America’s oncologist, has found the heart of it all:
"Oh? We’re criticizing Ms. Gellar, a woman who was just the subject of a jihadi assassination attempt and who may well be a marked woman for the rest of her life, on niggling matters of tone and style?"
And we need to do this now? We need to trot out the smug and absolutely unexamined, absolutely thoughtless vanities of Upper Middle Class Respectability and attack Ms. Gellar for not doing it in quite the way we would have, even as, in all likelihood, she scrambles to find long-term security to protect her life?
For drawing a cartoon?
This has been stewing in me since yesterday. It’s not just that the left is questioning Ms. Gellar in this; that much I expected.
It’s that so much of the right is rushing to join them, and thereby Signal that they have Value per the norms established by the leftist politico-media consensus.
I can’t quote the whole thing, so I’ll settle for this other bit:
This is about class. This is all about class.
This is about, specifically, the careerist, cowardly, go-along-to-get-along mores of the Upper Middle Class, the class of people whose parents were all college educated, and of course are college educated themselves; the class that dominates our thought-transmitting institutions (because non-college educated people are more of less shut out of this industry).
It is a class which is deathly afraid of social stigma, and lives in class-based fear being grouped with the wrong people, and which is more interested in Career, quite frankly, than in the actual tradecraft of that Career, which is clarity of thought and clarity of expression.
Thus, our institutions of thought propagation are dominated by the very people who can be easily cowed by the Social Justice Warriors, and who will, therefore, adjust their speech in order to not run afoul of the thoughtless — and frequently lunatic — thugs of the censorious left.
I nodded vigorously while reading this, before realizing that I, too, had lobbed a criticism of Geller during my first commentary on the terrorist attack. A proponent of the unfashionable Voltairean approach to free speech, I value defending someone with whom I disagree. But it is easy to turn disagreement into a kind of value signalling. I think Ace has captured perfectly the reason for our country’s putrefaction in so many intellectual fields, including almost all of academia (excepting the hardest of the hard sciences) and most of the media.
There is—- I am quite serious about this—- a genuine terror running through these fields: the constant fear of annoying the gatekeepers of outrage in this country. As political views become more closely linked to employability, the fear has only grown more potent.
It is why we have become a dictatorship of double standards.
Police Lives Matter
Sometimes cops protect and serve, and sometimes they need to be protected and served. A rookie Oklahoma City police officer found that to be true while pursuing a robbery suspect on foot. After becoming separated from his partner, Officer Adam Eller struggled with one of the suspects, who snatched Eller’s baton and beat him with it. An armed citizen came to the rescue, however, drawing his firearm, warning the assailant to stop, and holding him until police backup arrived. Eller likely owes his life to this good guy with a gun.
Two Hattiesburg, Mississippi, officers weren’t so fortunate. Officers Benjamin Deen, 34 with a wife and two kids, and Liquori Tate, a 25-year-old rookie, were conducting what they thought was a routine traffic stop when the vehicle occupants opened fire, wounding the officers. Both later died at a local hospital, the first deaths for the Hattiesburg Police in three decades.
We note these cases together for two reasons: First, the assailants in both cases were black, while two of the three officers were white. Profiling doesn’t happen without reason. Second, black lives matter, but so do police lives. Officers are human and capable of doing wrong, but they put their lives on the line for their communities, too.
Destroying the Family to Achieve Utopia
For decades, progressives have embraced radical egalitarianism, a concept demanding the elimination of all differences in sex, race and class, and all the “inequality” such differences inevitably produce. Freedom and individuality would be completely crushed in the attempt to equalize outcomes, irrespective of vast differences in talent, ambition, physical attributes, etc. But leftists consider that a reasonable tradeoff to achieve their dream socialist utopia. They completely ignore the historical wreckage and the millions of deaths that have accompanied every attempt to make such concepts as sloth and ambition, or talent and a lack thereof, completely interchangeable in every “workers' paradise” where it was attempted.
Enter the latest promoters of egalitarian insanity: University of Warwick professor Adam Swift and his partner, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Harry Brighouse. In an article published by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), Swift and Brighouse bemoan the inequality that arises from the difference between good parents and bad ones. In 2014, their musings produced a book, “Family Values: The Ethics of Family-Child Relationships,” in which the duo attempt to explain “why a child’s interest in autonomy severely limits parents' right to shape their children’s values, and why parents have no fundamental right to confer wealth or advantage on their children.”
Speaking with the ABC, Swift reveals his infatuation with equality of outcome. “I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families,” he declares. He was especially concerned with unequal outcomes that attend families who live in better surroundings, whose children go to better schools, and whose parents get more involved with their children’s activities.
Swift’s solution to such an “intractable” problem? “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family,” he posits. “If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”
Perhaps the social justice problem might be better served by eliminating crackpot philosophers. Yet even Swift recognizes the impracticality of family elimination. “Nearly everyone who has thought about this would conclude that it is a really bad idea to be raised by state institutions, unless something has gone wrong,” he concedes. Nonetheless, he still feels compelled to single out certain “undesirable” variables that contribute to the disparities between families he and Brighouse find problematic. “Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,” Swift insists. “It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realize these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.”
He has even greater disdain for … bedtime stories. “The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” Swift complains. And while he remains adamant about the elimination of private schools, he realizes eliminating bedtime stories is a bridge too far, admitting, “We could prevent elite private schooling without any real hit to healthy family relationships, whereas if we say that you can’t read bedtime stories to your kids because it’s not fair that some kids get them and others don’t, then that would be too big a hit at the core of family life.”
Still he offers a caveat. “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children,” he says, though he argues, “I think they should have that thought occasionally.” In other words, one should feel a certain amount of guilt for being a better parent than someone else.
What about the plethora of seemingly unquantifiable inequalities that define the difference between families? The professors developed a test based on what they call “familial relationship goods” that contribute to flourishing families. Yet both professors believe the aforementioned private schooling, along with inheritance and other methods of conferring aspects of economic advantage, are morally and ethically unacceptable.
They also disdain parental authority, insisting that while it makes sense to parent one’s biological offspring there is no inherent right to do so. To them, the biological origins that form the heart of people’s identities are a largely unnecessary “social and cultural construction” and one “could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.” Even the idea of two parents is anachronistic. “Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,” Swift asserts, echoing the refrain of Hillary “It Takes a Village” Clinton and her equally detestable statist ambitions.
What to make of such “forward” thinking? Reminding people what animates it — and why it is doomed to fail. The urge to make everyone equal in every way possible is nothing new, nor is the historical wreckage of gulags, re-education camps, purges and wholesale slaughter that has arisen out of every attempt to do so. Yet in their monumental hubris, progressives look at what inevitably produces the equality of misery, and reach only one conclusion: Such failure occurred because the wrong people were in charge.
And therein lies the ultimate contradiction: There is no such thing as radical egalitarianism with people in charge. Maintaining such a society would be impossible absent an army of enforcers cracking down on anyone daring to be better than anyone else. The egalitarians have always insisted such an army would be needed only on a temporary basis. But history has demonstrated that an inner circle of party apparatchiks keeping everyone else in line has invariably rewarded itself quite richly for engaging in such “noble” efforts, even as they have never made the effort to disband.
And why is equality of misery inevitable? Because the elimination of incentives that produce inequality — of excellence — ensures everyone will do the barest minimum to maintain their place in the unalterable status quo required by their overlords.
“Swift and Brighouse are philosophically inching their way to a novel accommodation for a weathered institution ever more in need of a rationale for existing,” the ABC article states. No, they are not. They are attempting to undermine the foremost “weathered institution” that stands between Liberty and tyranny. And no amount of pseudo-intellectualism that attends such “inching” should obscure reality: These two and their philosophical soul mates are monsters.
Ben Carson: ‘A Lot of People…Afraid to Say What They Really Mean’ for Fear of IRS Audit
Former neurosurgeon and GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson told “Fox News Sunday” that some people are afraid to speak against the Obama administration for fear of an audit from the Internal Revenue Service.
“There are a lot of people in our society who are afraid to say what they really mean, because they may get an IRS audit, people will call them names, their jobs may be interfered with. This is not what America was supposed to be,” said Carson.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, the IRS has admitted that between May 2010 and May 2012, certain conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were inappropriately subjected to heightened scrutiny, which resulted in months-long and even years-long delays.
“One of things you say you're learning is not to be so inflammatory in the language that you use, but I want to ask you about some remarks you've made that you say that you stand by. You have compared our government today to Nazi Germany. Do you really believe that?” host Chris Wallace asked.
“Well, a lot of people like to say that. But what I said is that in Nazi Germany, most of those people didn't believe in what Hitler was doing, but did they say anything? They did not. That's what allowed people to progress to that point. We need to be willing to stand up and speak up for what we believe,” Carson said.
“But people oppose Barack Obama all the time,” said Wallace. Carson replied that some people are afraid to oppose the president for fear of an IRS audit, among other things.
When asked to explain his statement that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and that “it is in a way…slavery,” Carson said, “You have to understand what I'm talking about. You know, ObamaCare fundamentally changes the relationship between the people and the government.
“The government is supposed to respond to the will of the people, not dictate to the people what they are doing, and with this program, we're allowing that whole paradigm to be switched around,” he said.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.