Thursday, November 26, 2020

We Can Be Free, or We Can Be Fearful Control Freaks. But We Can't Be Both.

Employees of Penguin Random House Canada are aghast that the company they work for is going to print a book with opinions in it. Some of them were even crying over it.

I’m not joking. Penguin will release Jordan Peterson’s latest book in March, and the execs had to take time out of their schedules to coddle a few fragile adults who can’t bear the thought that someone else may have an opinion different from their own. Peterson is “is an icon of hate speech and transphobia” and also “an icon of white supremacy,” according to one of the aggrieved.

Do you remember how The Incredibles made the brilliant point that if everyone is special, no one is special? The same thing applies here. When you call everyone you disagree with a racist, a bigot, a “white supremacist,” whatever, you dilute the words to the point that they lose any meaning, and you therefore lose the ability to call out genuine bigots because you’ve spent so much time crying wolf. But you also widen the net of allowable censorship when you throw around the labels so recklessly. Who would want to give a white supremacist a platform, anyway?

Peterson’s new book is called Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. It’s a follow-up to his popular 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Must be some really provocative rules from this dangerous white supremacist, right? Well, here are the 12 rules from the original book:

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

  2. Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping.

  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you.

  4. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.

  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

  8. Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie.

  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

  10. Be precise in your speech.

  11. Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding.

  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

Edgy, huh?

Peterson, a former psychology professor at the University of Toronto, rose to public prominence when he stated his refusal to use preferred pronouns in the classroom. His stance wasn’t rooted in “transphobia” but rather in a refusal to submit to compelled speech. Ever since, Peterson has been the star of the Intellectual Dark Web, a group of thinkers from across the political spectrum who have one thing in common — an embrace of classical Enlightenment values in the face of growing intolerance from the Woke Left.

The Woke won’t let you have your own point of view, and they will do their best to cancel you if you dare oppose them. The meltdown among Penguin’s employees is just the latest example. It’s astounding that someone so opposed to differing points of view would work for a publisher, let alone have the audacity to even suggest Peterson’s book should be pulled. And yet here we are, in a world where grown-ups are so fragile that they weep when confronted with ideas that challenge their own.

I struggle to understand how we’ve created an entire generation of people who need safe spaces and trigger warnings to get through their day. It’s as if their bodies grew up but their brains remained infantilized, unable to cope with the friction of living with people who are ideologically different and demanding to be protected from foreign ideas.

This impulse is indeed not an anomaly. It’s the prevailing view among the media elites, and it’s widespread in academia, the entertainment business, and elsewhere in our culture. Bari Weiss spoke to the situation in her resignation letter to The New York Times. She says she was harassed by co-workers when she dared to take a viewpoint contrary to the prevailing ideology in the newsroom. She offered three rules for anyone wishing to survive in such a hostile climate:

Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.

Pursuit of the truth and thoughtful discussion of the issues are no longer considerations for most journalists, it seems. What matters is promoting an ideology and marginalizing anyone who disagrees with it. For evidence, just consider how the media has reacted to the last two presidential elections.

2016: Russia hacked the election, even though we have no evidence of such a claim.

2020: The election was not at all fraudulent, even though there are mountains of evidence to suggest otherwise. And if you disagree, we’ll “fact-check” you into silence.

It therefore didn’t matter whether The New York Post’s Hunter Biden quid-pro-quo article leading up to the election had any factual merit: Rather than let people read and discuss it, which is what we’d do in a normal society that valued free and open debate, it was almost immediately banned on Twitter, suppressed on Facebook, and dismissed as “Russian propaganda” by the mainstream media.

Forget the facts: We won’t consider a story that makes Joe Biden look bad on the eve of the election. This is what passes for journalism now.

Even worse is the way the media is categorically dismissing any and all claims of election fraud as false. We’ve all seen the headlines like “Trump Repeats False Claims of Fraud in Michigan.” That’s not reporting. That’s editorializing. Because what if it turns out there is incontrovertible evidence of election fraud? Just as with the Biden-Ukraine story, the media are passing judgment without even examining the information and therefore making a claim they can’t hope to support if pressed. They’ve painted themselves into a corner, so now their only choice is to perpetuate the claim they’ve already made or else risk losing even more public credibility than they already have.

This kind of narrative-control propaganda is what led Glenn Greenwald to leave The Intercept, an organization he co-founded, and come to Substack. The editors at The Intercept wouldn’t let him publish an article examining the Biden-Ukraine story and the media’s orchestrated suppression of the article. Greenwald said he was told he would have to first remove all criticism of Biden from the article. Unwilling to do that, he quit.

After all, Greenwald helped create The Intercept as a place where journalists could report without compromise. Now he says the company holds no resemblance to the one it originally was:

The current iteration of The Intercept is completely unrecognizable when compared to that original vision. Rather than offering a venue for airing dissent, marginalized voices and unheard perspectives, it is rapidly becoming just another media outlet with mandated ideological and partisan loyalties, a rigid and narrow range of permitted viewpoints (ranging from establishment liberalism to soft leftism, but always anchored in ultimate support for the Democratic Party), a deep fear of offending hegemonic cultural liberalism and center-left Twitter luminaries, and an overarching need to secure the approval and admiration of the very mainstream media outlets we created The Intercept to oppose, critique and subvert.

Andrew Sullivan, likewise, came to Substack after the editors of New York magazine showed him the door, apparently for not bending the knee to woke groupthink:

They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. 

Once again you have grown adults feeling “unsafe” in the presence of someone with opposing points of view. And it’s not even as if Sullivan is a conservative. At most, he’s an anti-Trump moderate. Like some of us, he entertains viewpoints from across the political spectrum and doesn’t always fit neatly within ideological lines. As such, he says he misses the more freewheeling days when his audience was a mishmash of left, right, and other — “before all these dreadfully earnest, humor-free puritans took over the press.”

That’s exactly what we face from the Woke: a joyless, rigid puritanical mob that will burn you at the stake unless you recant of your ideological sins. The Woke believe in their cause with as much fanatical religious fervor as the Inquisitors did.

And although conservatives seem to be the primary obsession of the Woke, perhaps spurred on by a bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, they’re not the only ones being targeted. As Matt Taibbi reports, even those on the left who lack ideological purity are being silenced. Andre Damon, editor of the World Socialist Web Site, found that Google was throttling search results for WSWS, along with other progressive sites, including Democracy Now!, Alternet, and Common Dreams.

If you struggle to understand why, think of how Bernie Sanders was by turns ignored and smeared by establishment Democrats. Like Democracy Now! and the rest, Sanders held to classical liberal ideals like equal protection under the law and defended the economic interests of the working class. Those ideas fly in the face of a woke movement that sees working-class whites as irredeemable racists and wants to tweak the laws to favor certain identity groups over others. (California actually tried to remove the anti-discrimination clause from its state constitution to do just that. Fortunately, voters said no.)

As Damon pointed out, WSWS, by working with a number of historians, debunked the underlying premise of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which was that the primary goal of the American Revolution was to perpetuate the institution of slavery. Think what you like of socialists, but as Damon explained, “The slogan of Marxists, going back to the Communist Manifesto, is ‘workers of the world, unite!’ not, ‘races of the world, divide.’”

The Woke want to divide us by race and other immutable characteristics. So by debunking the idea that American blacks and whites have always been at odds, WSWS showed that it was possible for working-class people of all colors, sexes, religions, and nationalities to work together in mutual economic self-interest. That flies in the face of the Woke agenda. Therefore, WSWS is just as much an ideological enemy as, say, QAnon or the NRA.

When asked what he thought of the tired refrain that, in regard to censorship, private companies can do whatever they want, Damon hit it out of the park:

Well, legally speaking, private companies do not have the right to do what they want. A restaurant owner can’t throw a patron out of his restaurant because of the color of his skin. UPS can’t say they won’t deliver your packages because they don’t agree with your political views. Technology companies provide a vital social service, just like private municipal waste collection companies and private package handling companies. They do not have the right to discriminate against people based on their political views.

When massive corporations with virtually unlimited power and money function as the modern equivalent of the town square, then those corporations have a public obligation to treat their users fairly and equally. When it becomes obvious that they’re actively policing what people say — by using phony “fact-checks” that are a thinly disguised method of narrative control, by shadow-banning, or by kicking people off their platforms altogether — then it’s either time to break up the monopolies or regulate them like utilities.

Unfortunately, neither is likely to happen anytime soon. As Damon said, left-leaning legislators have repeatedly leaned on social-media executives to ramp up their censorship. Big Tech thereby offers a sort of end-run around the First Amendment, doing what leftist legislators are constitutionally unable to do. Meanwhile, right-leaning legislators complain about online censorship but never do anything constructive about it.

What is it that drives the Left’s desire to control what people can say in a public setting? I think it’s the same thing that drives so many leftist governors and mayors to micromanage people’s movements and choices in the face of COVID-19. They feel the need to control us because they don’t think we’re smart enough to assess the facts and make our own choices. In short, they fear their own people.

Or consider this. Jonathan Haidt, another member of the Intellectual Dark Web and a professor of social psychology, posits that humans work from six basic moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. Where conservatives tend to treat each foundation more or less equally, liberals are off the chart on care and fairness. Thus, “care” becomes the driving factor for people like Andrew Cuomo and Gretchen Whitmer, even if it means subverting civil liberties, constitutional rights, and economic well-being.

These are the quintessential people who would destroy the village in order to save it, and they’re also the ones ordering you not to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, telling you to wear a mask even though there’s no evidence masks work, and demanding you shut down your small business and deprive you of the ability to feed your own family. They’re also the Karens who treat masks like a religious object and will scold you personally or snitch you out if you aren’t complying with your local muzzle edict.

They may be driven by care, or they may just be insufferable busybodies or power-tripping petty tyrants. Either way, a free society can’t tolerate them and their insane edicts and expect to remain free. Life involves risk and must go on. In the midst of a virus with well over a 99% survival rate for the vast majority of the general population, that’s not an unreasonable ask.

Fortunately, we’re seeing small pockets of resistance. Weld County, Colorado, refuses to enforce lockdowns on its citizens. And in my neck of the woods, where four unelected bureaucrats recently issued a mask mandate on the 250,000 residents of five counties, one county sheriff has already come out and proclaimed that he won’t enforce the edict. These are the everyday heroes who will give us a chance to hang on to our hard-won liberties if this hysterical madness ever ends.

Live your life. Speak your mind. Our freedom of speech, thought, and movement is going to depend on it.

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