April 6, 2018

MATTHEW CONTINETTI OBSERVES “THE BATTLE OF WOKE ISLAND” AND ITS ORIGINS:

The hiring of a conservative writer for the opinion pages of a liberal publication now occasions a ferocious debate over whether the cause of social justice is being served by implicitly legitimizing an “offensive” voice. Such a debate, of course, assumes that the object of a publication is not to inform or entertain readers, nor to provide them a range of views, but to advance a party line. That is the logic of the campus. And that logic prevailed in the case of Kevin Williamson—a pungent libertarian writer hired by The Atlantic only to be terminated a week later over his views on abortion. (Needless to say, those views are pro-life.) Indeed, even the language of the announcement of Williamson’s firing, which accused him of “violent” speech, echoed the denunciations of student activists.

What I cannot predict are the ultimate consequences of the transformation of media, tech, and entertainment conglomerates into satellite campuses of Middlebury and Berkeley. It may well be the case that multiculturalism and intersectionality are good for Internet traffic and digital subscriptions, that to get woke is glorious for the bottom line. But these short-term profits come at the long-term cost of definitive, comprehensive, quality journalism. Nor should we forget the damage done to the livelihoods and futures of the people who run up against the intersectional vanguard. Violate the unwritten laws of micro-aggression in Silicon Valley, for instance, and you could be de-platformed from both the technological public squares of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and, in the case of James Damore, from within the companies themselves.

At the Federalist, Ben Domenech writes that “Firing Kevin Williamson Is Just the Beginning,” and also spots the academic origins of his being de-platformed:

Williamson’s mistake, as an adopted son born to an unwed teenage mother, was being too honest about his belief that what he sees as the daily murder of infants should, in a more just society, have severe legal consequences. Well, that’s not what we want around here.

This brings to mind Herbert Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance”, published in 1965. This essay does a good job of summing it up.

Marcuse argued that, because of the radical repressiveness of Western society, a tolerance for all viewpoints actually contributed to social oppression. A pervasive network of assumptions and biases implicitly privileges the viewpoint of the powerful, so that seemingly “equal” presentations of opposite opinions actually end up benefiting the viewpoint of the powerful… Because of social programming, the inhabitants of a given society automatically favor certain values. The ideological playing field’s lack of levelness means that seemingly equal presentations of ideas are not really equal.

In the light of this situation, Marcuse made a rather cunning inversion (one that has been aped countless times since by cultural organs across the United States): The fact that society is so radically unequal means that we should be intolerant and repressive in the name of tolerance and liberty. He rejected what he termed “indiscriminate tolerance” — a tolerance that accepts all viewpoints — in favor of “liberating tolerance” or “discriminating tolerance.” Unlike many of his disciples, Marcuse was frank about what this intolerance would mean: “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.

That is what is required to make ones living primarily from these institutions: you must bend the knee.

To which Rod Dreher adds, “The Atlantic Cashiers Kevin Williamson, Its Reputation:”

Eventually the wokesters will be the establishment at The New York Times, and everywhere else. See, readers, this is why all the campus craziness I keep talking about here is not just Dreherbait. These norms shape the way those rising in the ranks at institutions see the world, and, in turn, shape the world.

Again: Kevin Williamson’s fate is a bellwether. This is not going to end well, if it ends at all.

Why, it’s like the culture war is a leading indicator for the “Cold Civil War” as a whole or something.

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