Political correctness has gotten so completely out of control that The Nation is denouncing it.
There, Michelle Goldberg bemoans what she calls left-wing anti-liberalism. Today’s multicultural left has developed a tendency to censor speech and debate, to silence critics. Goldberg correctly associates the tendency with 60s radicalism, exemplified in Marxist Herbert Marcuse.
It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.
Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”
As might be expected, Goldberg manages to attach some of the blame to those on the political right. She says she fears the arrival of a Republican president who will try to shut down leftists like… herself.
And yet, when she criticizes the radical leftist effort to shut down speech, she sounds very much like a defender of the marketplace of ideas. In fact, her argument echoes points often made by Thomas Sowell:
Note here both the belief that correct opinions can be dispassionately identified, and the blithe confidence in the wisdom of those empowered to do the suppressing.
So much for philosopher kings. So much for Plato’s guardian class. So much for the behavioral economists who believe that their superior scientific wisdom should empower them to run the economy and do what is best for the rest of us.
Clearly, Goldberg is correct on this point, but what if you apply the same logic to the economy? Isn’t her idea a classically liberal rationale for free enterprise?
Still, those who try to silence the opposition have lost the argument. Or better, they are incapable of engaging in open debate. People who resort to slander and smears are showing that they have nothing to say.
Meantime, in the Boston Globe this morning, Jeff Jacoby asks why the liberals and feminists are not out beating the drums to defend Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In addition to the brouhaha over the dhimmitude of Brandeis University, Jacoby raises another important issue: CAIR’s efforts to stop showings of a film called “Honor Diaries,” a documentary about the brutal oppression of women in some Islamic cultures.
In Jacoby’s words:
People prepared to label opposition to employer-paid contraceptives a “war on women” are generally much less willing to channel their outrage at the savagery of honor killings or child marriages in non-Western societies. “They fear treading on cultural toes,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, one of the film’s featured advocates. “We’re constantly having to remind them that cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.”
It is fair to say that some feminists have spoken out on these issues. Jezebel recently reported on a case of child marriage that led to homicide in Nigeria. Married off against her will at age 14, Wasila Umaru girl poisoned her “husband” and his friends.
Other national commentators that denounced Brandeis include Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker and British writer Andrew Sullivan. Pinker called Brandeis’s decision shameful and dishonest. Sullivan wrote that that extreme PC left, together with Muslim fundamentalists, were working to discredit Hirsi Ali.
“She runs a foundation that aims to protect girls and women in America from being abused at the hands of Islamic traditionalists,” observed Sullivan. “It’s worth noting that for the hard left, none of this really matters. Or perhaps it matters more. Because her credentials are so strong, the attempt to mark her as a bigot is that much more strenuous.
For my part, as mentioned in a previous post, the person best positioned to protest the Brandeis decision is New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson. Since Abramson has been designated a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Brandeis this year, she could strike a blow for freedom by turning down the degree.
And yet, while Democratic politicians are more than happy to use the war-on-woman theme to get women to vote for them, they are less courageous about standing up to depraved practices that occur in Islamic cultures.
Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?
I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.
“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”
Now it appears that Iraq is going to follow Iran in legalizing child marriage. It is worth noting that no one has paid much attention to the practice as it occurs in Iran. Like Iran, Iraq obeys the rules of Shia Islam. One hopes that feminists will rise up to denounce this horror.
The Daily Telegraph reported the story last week:
Children in Iraq could be legally married before the age of nine under sweeping legislation tabled on Tuesday that introduces new religious restrictions on women's rights.
As almost its last act before elections at the end of the month, the Iraqi parliament looks likely to pass new marital rules for its majority Shia community with a draft law criticised by human rights activists as "legalised inquality"
The legislation has been approved by the governing coalition in an effort to attract support from Shia Muslims in the April 30 vote.
Current Iraqi law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval and states girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian's approval. It does not allow for special provisions according to sect.
But the legislation, known as the Jaafari law, introduces rules almost identical to those of neighbouring Iran, a Shia-dominated Islamic theocracy….
While there is no set minimum age for marriage, the section on divorce includes rules for divorces of girls who have reached the age of 9 years.
Marital rape is condoned by a clause that states women must comply with their husband's sexual demands. Men are given guardianship rights over women and the law also establishes rules governing polygamous relationships.
Human Rights Watch, however, is on the case:
Human Rights Watch, the US-based organisation, has issued a plea for the Iraqi government to abandon the legislations.
"Iraq is in conflict and undergoing a breakdown of the rule of law," Basma al-Khateeb, a women's rights activist, said in a Human Rights Watch report. "The passage of the Jaafari law sets the ground for legalised inequality."