Sunday, April 13, 2014

Left-Wing Anti-Liberalism

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.

She writes:

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.

Jacoby writes:

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."


Dennis said...

It is good to see that Jacoby is asking the same questions that I had. Where are the feminists? I have noticed that the lack of a feminist response to such inequities is the norm. Surprisingly, it seems that it is men, especially those in the military or with prior service experience, who find this wrong and want to take action against it It could be that it is not a theoretical concept with us because many of us have seen it up close and personal.
I just wish we had a better way to define the difference between a liberal and a leftist/progressive. Most of what happens from the Left is anti-liberal because they are NOT liberals in any sense of the word.

Anonymous said...

This is NOT news. This objective nonsense is the endgame of a transformation that's been going on in Western universities for decades.

These are not institutions of higher learning, they are worlds of make-believe that would make Mr. Rogers blush. They are seminaries for theoretical leftist nonsense, ossified by tenure. Today's university is like a political time capsule, decades behind the real world (kind of like Congress). The willful suspension of disbelief going on in today's academy is astonishing. And some charge students $50K++ per year to absorb this self-absorbed nonsense.

There are three critical contributors to this trend: (a) the hegemony of white guilt; (b) emotivism; and (c) unbounded fringe speculation masquerading as intellectual rigor. Exotic cultural experience trumps any standard or decency or morality. Being part of an approved victim group (of which there are hundreds, and majors for each) provides a perpetual get-out-of-jail-free card. Graduate from this kind of environment and you get to say "I have a college degree." Get that degree from a prestigious university and you get to believe you're smarter than everyone else for the rest of your life, sounding erudite parroting all the stuff you learned in college. Pretty good gig, eh?

It's fundamentally an assault on the concept of value (and thereby values). All so we can temporarily feel better about ourselves but learn nothing about how to live a good life. Add a decadent sexual free-for-all and inane liberal arts specialties, and voila!, you get where we are now.

I'm not entirely convinced that STEM curriculum is totally the way to go in terms of producing clear thinkers, but you can certainly appreciate why La-La-Lamd liberal arts faculties hate the promotion of STEM: they lose their power to indoctrinate the next generation. It's not about clear, critical thought anymore... it's about who's the most clever or challenging toward traditional norms and practical outcomes that elevate society. They want to take the 18-year-old mushy minds and convince them that everything g they know is wrong. And this con job works, because no one wants to be wrong. Especially people who still have zits on their face.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali lost her podium at Brandeis because she stands for something and asserts that one form of cultural values regarding women are superior to another, and those values are not imported from an exotic, aggrieved culture. That's heresy, and heretics must be silenced. What was the key criterion for her apostasy? Someone or some group was "offended," and that's the ace of spades in today's upside down western university.


Sam L. said...

As I've said before, Multi-Culti Uber Alles! beats treatment of women. The Feminists are trumped by that

Also, the Left has a pathological hate of free speech from anyone NOT of the Left, and they argue "SHUT UP" rather than give counter arguments (which they don't have).

Anonymous said...

Ahem, where is the usual cavalcade of rage on this issue?

Where is the National Organization for Women?

Where is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?

Where is the American Association of University Women?

Where is Eric Holder and his vaunted civil rights division?

Nancy Pelosi is usually never a loss for words.

Where is Chuck Schumer?

Why isn't Debbie Wasserman Schultz making an ass out of herself on this matter, too?

Where is American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, now that she's back from pressing AFT business in Ukraine?

Where is Native American spokeswoman and Senator Elizabeth Warren's outrage? Surely she knows what it means to be marginalized, given her arduous uphill climb in life as a member of an oppressed minority.

Why aren't Elijah Cummings and Dick Durbin calling for the IRS to "do something" about Brandeis' tax-exempt status?

Where is Harry Reid in the well of the Senate calling Brandeis and CAIR a bunch of liars?

Why isn't Vice President Joe Biden bloviating about this?

Why isn't Obama at the White House press podium saying "Brandeis acted stupidly," paving the way for the next "beer summit?"

Why isn't Greta Van Sustren AT Brandeis covering this?

Why don't I get a dose of Brian Williams' painfully sincere head shake when talking about this catastrophe?

Where is Geraldo?

What does the brain trust on "The View" think?

Why aren't heavily-armed federal authorities surrounding the Brandeis campus?

Where is Code Pink?

Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?

Why isn't running ads?

Why isn't Sheryl Sandberg leaning in about Brandeis screwing Ali over because she may seem "bossy" in challenging CAIR's sensibilities?

And wouldn't ya think that the smartest woman in the world, the Democratic front runner to be our next president would have something -- anything -- to say about this outrageous slander against a woman of color? Hillary knows a thing or two about being publicly humiliated and attacked, yet she is conspicuously silent.

They're all deafeningly silent. Just remember this episode the next time the usual suspects get "upset" about something like this happening to one of THEIR friends.


Anonymous said...

Below is a link to the speech Ayaan Hirsi Ali intended to give at Brandeis, before her invitation was revoked amidst accusations she is "Islamophobic."

In the Oprah era, where personal experience is more important than intellectual clarity, why isn't Ali's personal story the only credential she needs on these issues. Aft all, she didn't read about these things in books, SHE LIVED IT, and carries the scars.

Ares Olympus said...

Social justice and white privilege and have been the two "framings" I've found hardest to understand from the Left in a pragmatic way. I accept idealism, to try to see the world from another's point of view, but almost anything I imagine doing about it becomes a cage where I'm supposed to be unhappy as long as there's someone opposed by their race, gender, or social status.

When I argue back I've often been called that I'm "victim blaming", including by my own pastor, merely for asking questions of interpretations of facts.

Apparently its very hard to avoid black and white thinking here, no matter how earnestly or carefully you begin.

The most helpful explanation I've found is to differente between problems and predicaments, the first is something that has simple solutions, and the second are things that are never solved, but have to be actively managed on a case by case basis. So like "learning to read" is a problem, while hunger is a predicament, even if it is a predicament most westerners have managed in excess.

"Seeing how others see" is always a predicament, while "seeing who needs to be controlled" makes it a problem that seems to have simple solutions by a new law or regulation to balance the playing field.

Anyway, I don't think its enough to say why someone is wrong, but its more important to acknowledge the needs behind their wrong thinking.

Anonymous said...

Consider the poll in this country that showed that while 98% of Americans will vote for a Jewish candidate for president, the same percentage said they would not vote for a Muslim-American. That means almost all Conservatives and Liberals will vote for a Jew, but almost all Conservatives and Liberals will not vote for a Muslim--even if he's fully Americanized and pledged to uphold American laws. So, where was the outrage?
Suppose the poll had shown that 98%--or even 30%--of Americans will not vote for a Jewish candidate. There would have been a lot of controversy about the problem of antisemitism. But since Americans love Jews but hate Muslims, there was no controversy. Even Liberals are hardly troubled by the fact that most Americans refuse to vote for a Muslim-American for the simple fact of his religious background. So, anti-Islamism is regarded as far more permissible than antisemitism, and of course, Jews want it this way since they want us to hate Muslims as Israel is at odds with the Muslim world. Consider that Israel brazenly violates nuclear proliferation treaties and hoards 200 illegal nukes while Iran hasn't a single nuke and has complied with international inspections, AND YET, Israel is showered with billions in aid while the Iranian economy has been demolished by American-led sanctions. Since Jews run America, American foreign policy is totally Jew-centric. This is hardly fair, but where is the outrage in the liberal or Democratic community? Indeed, most liberals and Democrats seem as committed to favoring Jews over Muslims and Persians as the Conservatives are.