How an Internet Stuffed to the Gills with 'Nonjudgmental' Users Became a Shame-Storm

There has been one minor clarifying upside to the left's weekly shame-storm, though: In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand wrote:

It is only in today’s reign of amoral cynicism, subjectivism and hooliganism that men may imagine themselves free to utter any sort of irrational judgment and to suffer no consequences. But, in fact, a man is to be judged by the judgments he pronounces. The things which he condemns or extols exist in objective reality and are open to the independent appraisal of others. It is his own moral character and standards that he reveals, when he blames or praises. If he condemns America and extols Soviet Russia -- or if he attacks businessmen and defends juvenile delinquents -- or if he denounces a great work of art and praises trash -- it is the nature of his own soul that he confesses.

It is their fear of this responsibility that prompts most people to adopt an attitude of indiscriminate moral neutrality. It is the fear best expressed in the precept: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But that precept, in fact, is an abdication of moral responsibility: it is a moral blank check one gives to others in exchange for a moral blank check one expects for oneself.

There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accessory to the torture and murder of his victims.

The moral principle to adopt in this issue, is: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.” The opposite of moral neutrality is not a blind, arbitrary, self-righteous condemnation of any idea, action or person that does not fit one’s mood, one’s memorized slogans or one’s snap judgment of the moment. Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion. To declare that “everybody is white” or “everybody is black” or “everybody is neither white nor black, but gray,” is not a moral judgment, but an escape from the responsibility of moral judgment.

That was written in 1962, which means that for over half a century -- and likely very much longer -- the concept of being "nonjudgmental" has been a mantra among self-described "liberals." Today, how much do you want to bet that the majority of the "Fire the CEO!", "Has Justine Landed?" and "Destroy the Pizza Parlor!!!" leftwing crowd will casually claim that nonjudgmentalism is their personal credo, even as they remain increasingly on hair-trigger alert for new ways to be offended, followed by new targets to destroy?

Related: In "Free Speech in Peril: Trigger warning: may offend the illiberal or intolerant," City Journal veteran editor (now editor-at-large) Myron Magnet explains how, as he moved from left to right in the late 1970s and early 1980s, within "a year or two," he had "lost all my friends, for saying what I had recently come to believe," culminating in this incident:

Later still, at Diana Trilling’s dinner table, I committed yet another of my irrepressible faux pas. Turning to Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, then the august daily book reviewer of the then-august New York Times, I asked, in all seriousness, “Don’t you think the whole effort of modernism—in architecture, in literature, in music, in painting—might have been a huge dead end, from which Western culture will painfully have to extricate itself?” Shocked silence again, though all these decades later, the question still seems inexhaustibly interesting to me. But again, conversation resumed as if I hadn’t spoken and wasn’t there. As soon enough I wasn’t, for the invitations stopped.

Thus I learned the truth of Mill’s argument that social stigma can be as powerful as law in silencing heterodox opinion, except for people rich enough to be “independent of the good will of other people.” Everyone else who utters “opinions which are under the ban of society . . . might as well be imprisoned as excluded from the means of earning their bread.” No more academic career for me (fortunately, it turned out).

Read the whole thing.



As Teachout writes, "Use [social media] prudently and they can be a source of enormous pleasure and profit, but never forget that the sharks of cyberspace lie in wait to bite your hand off. They don’t care about you. In fact, you don’t even exist to them, save as an abstract symbol of their preferred causes. What they want, ever and always, is power, and they’ll happily eat you in order to get more of it. If you’re not prepared to bite back—hard—then stay out of the deep end."