S1: Farming program has the potential, dare I say, probability to give offense.
S2: It’s Friday, July 17th. Twenty from Slate’s The Gist. I’m Mike Pesca. Today we have a different show. It’s the Gests, just a different format. I’m giving the entire show over to a longer than usual discussion, a debate, if you will, on the subject of fairness, hearings, harm and the Harpers letter.
S3: So you probably know that over 150 thinkers and teachers and journalists signed the letter in Harper’s Magazine that said we as a culture are being overly sensorial and censorious when it comes to encountering opinions we don’t like. Now, since then, you’ve probably heard all the back and forth about whether that was fair, whether that was just elites wanting to escape accountability, whether it’s just a case of the traditional gatekeepers not liking the construction and placement of the gates. I heard the back and forth, too. But here’s the thing. I never heard it in the same place. At the same time, this debate about the debate was not being held in anything resembling a debate. Oh, there are lots of opinions and so many, many outlets where you could hear every flavor and gradation of the discussion, but never as a discussion between two parties. In my Twitter feed, I heard the dispatch and the National Review and commentary at the Adam Carolla Show and Joe Rogan and Useful Idiots and blogged and reported and citations needed and the press box all talking about it. Those discussions were interesting in one way or another to listen to, and some of the discussions were of people who supported the Harper’s letter and some were of people who did not. But you know what? None of those discussions included both arguments in the same place, at the same time, opposing voices responding to each other’s points. So I had to cast about and seek out the arguments from both sides. And then, in my mind, match them up, say, well, David French said this on the dispatch. But Bryan Curtis on the press box said something pretty opposite. I wonder what each would say to the other. It’s like I’m an outsider artist. Engage in a form of argumentation, collage. It’s kind of frustrating. I can look at the lack of literal disagreement over the idea that we’re terrible at disagreeing. And I can feel vindicated because that’s exactly how I define what the problem is. I could look at it with frustration, though, because it’s obviously a failing of the media, maybe even culture or people that I can’t get the two sides together. I could look at it sociologically or journalistically and note that there used to be a lot more ideological heterogeneity in media circles so that at once wouldn’t have been so hard to have a reasoned disagreement about an issue that everyone is talking about. Or I could look at it as I did opportunistically. I think podcasts are great at fostering in-depth discussion, even among non like minded participants. So I went out and had my own discussion. All right. Who to cast is the participants. Harper sent me a nice list of 153 names to hit up. It’s gotta be kind of hard to get J.K. Rowling. But on the list were such past guests of the Justice Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell and David Frum. Thing is, you can’t just pair one of these luminaries with any old critic of the letter, like, say, I tapped one of the hosts of the citations needed podcast.
S4: And so on this list, you also have, you know, Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell and David Frum and Francis Fukuyama, who rightly should be canceled for ever Materazzi.
S3: They are explaining why it’s ridiculous for anyone to be concerned over so-called cancelled culture. OK, maybe he’s not the best voice to invite to this discussion, at least based on the discussion he was having about the Harper’s letter a week ago.
S4: The idea that Barry Weiss is concerned with those who don’t have power being able to speak their minds is ridiculous. She’s concerned with her power to keep her job when her boss was just fired for being a shithead. She wants to keep her job because she doesn’t want to be the next one at the gate.
S3: Okay, so who to invite on? Well, we have two stellar participants in this discussion for the affirmative that illiberalism is real and pernicious. Increasingly among the lefties, Yasha Monk, not just a scholar, a signatory of the letter and a journalist, he’s now dedicating much of his professional life to this very issue because he has founded Persuasion, a journalistic enterprise dedicated to the proposition that a free society is worth fighting for. But on the other side, arguing that the current fretting over the left shutting down debate is very rare and often even justified is a seeto one a view of the New Republic?
S2: This is the whole show. Yasha NOCCA. A little bit of me up next.
S1: Well, we could go. Fifty 153 public intellectuals signed an open letter to Harper’s Magazine that decried illiberalism within traditionally liberal discourse. You’ve probably read about this letter on justice and open debate, even if you aren’t crazy enough to have a Google alert set for the phrase is public intellectual open letter or Harper’s magazine. So a lot of people you may have heard disagreed with this letter and disagreed strongly, sometimes disagreeing so strongly that a few of the letter’s signatories said, well, that makes my point. No, that misses the point, argued the objectors, some of whom signed their own letter, which focused extensively on trans rights, a topic that literally was not mentioned, though perhaps implied in the original Harper’s argument. So while we have all seen so much back and forth about this, one thing that I haven’t seen and literally haven’t heard is back and forth in the same place between and among different sides of the debate. Luckily, I have a podcast. So with that in mind, I wanted to invite on for a debate or let’s call it a structured disagreement. I assume it’s going to be a disagreement. Who knows how this thing ends up? Two important and intelligent people. Joining me is Joshua Munk. He is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins, a contributor to The Atlantic, the founder of Persuasion, a publication and community for, let’s say, people who felt the Harper’s letter spoke to their concerns. He signed the letter. Also joining me is Only to Want A View, who’s a staff writer at The New Republic and whose recent article, The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism, is the most frequently cited critique of the Harper’s letter and often even by some of the people who signed the letter itself. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me. My pleasure. Thank you for having me. OK, let’s start with a term that never appears in the Harper’s letter, and that term is cancelled culture. But so much of the argument has been about cancel culture. And Yosh, I’ll start with you. How much of the backlash against the letter was a backlash against the idea of canceling and debating what cancelling means and who really gets canceled, which I think it seems was studiously avoided by the composer of the letter?
S5: Yes, as you’re saying, the letter doesn’t say council culture, and I’m not sure how helpful a term it is. The thing that certainly made me sign the letter. But I think a lot of the people who signed the letter are concerned about is that we absolutely want robust disagreement. The idea that some people put out there that we are just afraid of being criticized on the Internet and Vafa signed a letter which we knew would be heavily criticized on the Internet as frankly, a little bit silly. But what we are concerned about, some of the cases that I’ve reported on for the Atlantic, but we are concerned about things like Emmanuel Cafardi, a Latino man in San Diego who was fired from his job as an actress. And because somebody fought that he was making an okay gesture, which is being appropriated by trolls on the Internet as a kind of white supremacist gesture. This man has no interest in politics, complete normy. So to say he has never voted in a presidential election is himself Latino, and he was fired for supposedly being a white supremacist. I think those kinds of cases are a travesty of justice. And this has great importance, not because the signatories of this letter, many of whom have relatively comfortable positions in the world, are hurt by critiques of them or are afraid of what they can say. But because they are both, a lot of people with less power and privilege in the world were afraid to actually speak their mind. And this is something that shouldn’t matter to readers. It is something that should matter to listeners of your podcast, because you want the people who are your guide to the world, the people who write about the world to you, to actually see things as we see them, rather than talking about them as they think and their colleagues at work or the editor or the prevailing opinion on one corner of Twitter wants them to see the world just as a general statement.
S6: I think I should say off the top. I think it’s interesting that my piece has been cited as a response to the Harper’s letter when it in fact came out actually the day before the Hypocenter hoax even published. I had no idea it was being written. But I think what that ultimately says is that people felt that what I wrote spoke to the concerns that were voiced in that letter and this entire discourse in an interesting way. I think that they’re important and complicated issues to discuss. I’m not one of the people who has said, Cancela, culture isn’t a real thing. I just think that there are certain ways in which this discourse has been unbalanced. Treasons, I think, should be explored as Yosh is written for the Atlantic. I think it’s true that there are ordinary people who are finding themselves the subject of social media controversy or who’ve been canceled or put out for bad reasons. From my perspective, I think those cases are worth talking about. I think ultimately, though, in moments of large scale cultural change, when you have opinions changing on a number of issues that are important to really, really rapidly, you’re going to see some results. You’re going to see actual people treated unfairly. You’re going to see people say and doing pretty wild things. That was true during the civil rights movement as triggering the anti Vietnam movement. That’s true during every major social movement that we’ve come to respect. Now, the liver problem is that cancellation or whatever you want to call it, this kind of shit seriousness that people are referring to is being characterized as a crisis that is sweeping American society. I think if you added up all the anecdotes you can find about this. I’d be surprised if people are getting canned for being unwelcome. Social media or in their personal lives amounted to even one tenth of one percent of the people fired in a normal year in this country. That’s not to say that these cases, again, aren’t worth talking about or exploring, but nobody is actually measured this and any kind of rigorous way. Nobody really seems to think that we should before declaring it a social contagion. The problem is that this seems to be a discourse focused mostly on Progressive’s in a way that implies that Progressive’s are worse or at a totally different or more censorious than other people. I don’t think that’s really well founded. I think it’s pretty ahistorical meltingly think that building that impression is intentional. I think it’s one of the points of this discourse. I think that this discourse exists as a kind of proxy war against progressive identity politics instead of a discussion about the actual ideas and questions that they’re putting forward. We’re having a discourse that is, I think, aimed at discrediting progressives as totalitarian, crazy and not worth taking seriously.
S1: Yasha, is your contention that a lot of people are being fired, like the person you wrote about who works for a San Diego gas and Electric? I mean, I suppose that a very small percentage price, less than one percent of all the firings works illicitly because someone is African-American. And yet I think we would all say we should take that seriously. But my question, though, Yasha, is do you think it’s the size or the symbolism of this phenomenon or the slope where it could be going?
S5: Yeah. Let me let let me say two things in response to a sentence. Very reasonable concerns with first. Is that obviously best kansler cultural on the right? And obviously, by the way, Donald Trump is trying to restrict freedom of speech in very real and very dangerous ways. I argued and was criticized for arguing by many people on the right that populism and Right-Wing populism remain the most acute threats to liberal democracy today. Now, what if and striking is that the very obviously terrible effect that Right-Wing political correctness has had on the ability of people on the right of center to talk honestly about the world, to see the world accurately, to criticize bad actors within their own ranks, is a sign for us to talk less about similar dangers on the left rather than more clearly if we see just how disastrous this has been for the political space right of center. Those of us who are left of center should be all the more determined to ensure that something similar doesn’t take hold here. Now, the second point that I want to make, Mike, in response to your question is that I think there’s actually a lot of cases and, you know, you can go in on Twitter and find dozens and dozens of these cases.
S7: I don’t think it’s at all a negligible number of cases. And I always get a little bit nervous when we say, well, this this is just a few cases that tolerate those because of the sort of logic was behind it. I think we can build a just society without giving up and sacrificing innocent individuals along the way. But I think most importantly, it is absolutely about the Chunying effect. You know, I have an e-mail in my inbox every day from somebody who says, you know, I am want to make this very reasonable point and I’m afraid of doing that or I’m being punished in various ways for doing that. If you talk to rightists at every major newspaper and magazine in this country, they say, you know, if I talk about topic X, I get to write whatever I want as soon as I want to talk about topic, why suddenly everybody’s so scared that the article never sees the light of day or so mutilated, that I don’t recognize it as being in my own voice at all. So, you know, if you go out and talk to some of the people who are most read in this country and many young people who are, you know, in junior staff positions, at places like Slate, at places like The New York Times, at places like The New Republic, I have talked to people at all of these institutions and they are telling me, I cannot say honestly publicly what I believe. And that’s something that should make readers incensed, because you go to those publications in order to get the honest view of what the people who you trust actually believe and they are privately telling each other. I don’t get to tell you what I actually believe. And by the way, these views aren’t you know, they’re not secret. Tempest’s having hot secret bigots and they simply diverge in one point or another from the progressive orthodoxy.
S6: To make two points. And first, returning to this question on whether this is happening to ordinary people, in many cases there are I think the actual number, measured in a rigorous way, is important because there’s a way you can have this discourse where you’re saying, let’s take this or that case seriously and adjudicator, try to figure out whether this was justified. Right. And that is why you can frame this discourse. And I think the way that the husband predominately framed where you say there is something sweeping American society that we need to all sit up and pay attention to. I think that second claim requires a burden of proof that hasn’t really been met. You can say that there have been dozens of cases where people have been fired for not having the right opinions. Dozens of cases within the scope of American society is nothing. One tenth of one percent of the number of people who are fired in a given year. I think 20 million people lost their jobs in 2016 is 20000 people. If you can find 20000 cases, one tenth of one percent of people who are being fired in this country because their opinions were not sufficiently progressive, I think that then we could have a real conversation. I think one tenth of one percent seems like a good starting point. But if you’re relying on viral anecdotes that come to you via Twitter, I think that people have to be a little bit skeptical about the scope and reach of the analysis. One of the other issues I have with this discourse is that people in national media seem a little too myopic to understand that there are different spheres of discourse in different spheres of ideology in this country. I’m sure it’s very difficult for somebody to be openly woak or transgender or a black activist retain certain jobs in Arkansas or South Dakota. Right. We have a discourse that isn’t terribly interested in those people, in part because we’re not terribly interested in Arkansas and South Dakota national media. But if something happens to professor at Yale or a columnist at New York Times or the progressives, those people believe on the march, do something wrong, we’re definitely definitely going to hear about it. Right. There are different spheres and arenas of American life. And the fact that a group or an idea is gaining influence and one of them doesn’t actually mean that they’re taking over society. And you can say, well, certain things. And people are gaining a foothold within putatively influential institutions, but influential institutions. That’s not a universal thing. There are parts of the country where The New York Times is dirt. So I think a lot of what’s happened to be understood as a conflict within a particular geographic culture, ideological sections of America. Anybody can say anything that they want in this country, but the people who are complaining about council culture and liberal media or than lead universities are complaining not because they’re right to speak or express themselves had been infringed in any kind of concrete way. But because in addition to free speech, they also believe they’re entitled to the respect and attention of liberals, the progressives, they want to be able to speak out on certain things without people saying to them, well, I think your positions moral or beyond the pale or out of date. And for that reason, I don’t want to hear from you anymore. I don’t think you should be at this university or that this newspaper. And again, I think we could talk about the merits and demerits of those particular cases and their substance. But I think it’s an act of misdirection to say, as many people have, that what we’re fundamentally talking about is free expression or free speech. The thing that’s actually happening to me is that people who’ve chosen professions or institutions aimed at appealing to liberals and progressives now find themselves on the outs because liberal progressive opinion is changing, which is a thing that happens in ideologies. Ideologies change. You have critics and with new values enter discourse. But people are threatened by this. And, you know, you have to sort of transmogrify this into a conflict that is about liberalism or some at some level of abstraction that is removed from the thing that people are actually debating in my eyes.
S5: So the question is, what do we actually want discourse to look like in United States? And he said, oh, well, you know, some of these people, they just made the mistake of going to spheres of life where they’re now subject to us progressive pressures. And you also have to go over to the right. I mean, first of all, I think we shouldn’t wish for people who are part of our coalition to go over to the right, because the most important thing in this year of 2020 is that we win an election against Donald Trump and make sure that people with views on the bow find a path and don’t continue to hold actual political power in this country. But it’s also a very strange view what the purpose of a university is. And sure, you know, somebody getting fired from a position at a university is not an infringement of the United States Constitution, but it is a very serious abridgement of some norms and some freedoms that we want to defend for good reason.
S8: It’s all well and good to talk broadly about free speech. But I think that people understand that there’s something more complicated happening here. And I think it’s not very good example of this outside of the universities that we can talk about that emerged last week. If you were to ask anybody who engages who catapulted this. What do you think? It is OK for somebody to make controversial remarks in a private forum to have those remarks discovered by an anonymous tipster who goes to a major news outlet to have those remarks published by that outlet and to see that person lose their jobs for making statements that most people would disagree with and find objectionable. But millions of people in this country don’t actually have a problem with. I think most people would say, yeah, that’s that’s a pretty good example of council culture. That’s what happened to Blake. Nothing. Fox News. Right. He made remarks in his private life that were racist and objectionable. And he lost his job for it. Now, you know, the response to people who bring this up is generally better. Well, look, you shouldn’t lump this in with other cases because black enough is a racist and this is where it gets sticky. Right. Wouldn’t you say it’s okay for somebody to lose their job because they’re racist? The question then becomes, OK, what is racism? Right. What is what is sexism? What is transphobia? This becomes not a question of speech and liberalism in the abstract, with one side supporting liberalism and free discourse and the other side not supporting labels. It’s course it’s a question of where the lines are and people are functionally going to disagree about that. And reasonable people are going to disagree about that. And I don’t really think it makes sense for people to say it well, because you drew your line somewhere else. You’re a liberal, even though you and I believe in the validity of the same basic action. I think for people in civil society have the freedom to disagree about those decisions and define their values and affiliations as narrowly and as openly as they like to Yoshio’s points about. Will this lead to a society where everybody is on the left or on the right and there’s no in-between? I’m not prescribing that. I’m not saying that that, you know, is an ideal outcome. And I don’t really think that’s particularly likely. Josh has just started up a project where he is going to bring people on who are aligned with his values and their people, who things are not going to collide with those values. We’re not gonna be brought on. And that’s kind of the nature of discourse right there. Again, these different discursive spheres in American society and all societies where people have loose or tight affiliations and things are messy. But ultimately, I don’t know that it makes sense for the discourse to say that people utilizing freedom in a way that we find unproductive for the way that we think is worthy of criticism. To say that those people are then a liberal because we disagree with the way that they have chosen to define their organization, I think that’s something that is aimed at shutting down discourse rather than allowing discourse to flourish. I think that’s something, again, that is often hypocritically done against specific people with specific ideological priors.
S9: So, you know, obviously every newspaper has an editorial policy and has a set of ideas about what’s within the realm of what can be debated and a set of ideas of things that they weren’t allowed to be debated. There’s nothing wrong with that. That can nevertheless be to concerns about the way in which that tends to play out at the moment, which I think are worth taking seriously. So the first is that when a writer or a journalist, you know, agrees with left of center opinion on 19 out of 20 issues or agrees with progressive in 19 out of 20 issues. But on one out of those 20 issues, they have a principled disagreement. That was very far away from being a form of bigotry. I simply want to challenge some assumptions within the discourse, and that means that those views are hidden from the audience. Then I think that’ll make for worse newspapers. That’s a small objection, but an important one if you’re thinking about how places like The New York Times or Slate should be run. The second bigger problem is that people aren’t only criticized. That particular point of view, that particular point of view is not only debated, but then there’s pressure to say if they think that, then they should not have employment within these institutions. If they don’t recant his view, then they are a bad human being and we should punish them. And that goes quite a lot further in creating a atmosphere of fear in which the people who create the public discourse can never quite say what they believe because they’re always afraid of falling on the wrong side of a line of which we don’t exactly know where it falls. And you can see, as you’ve seen a few times in the last months and years, a public discourse in progressive spaces jumping from one received wisdom to another within a couple of days. And everybody moves with it because the first wasn’t really able to be challenged at one point. And then someone changed in a conflagration and suddenly everybody’s the other thing. I don’t think that is healthy for us ourselves and be spaces. We should be very concerned about that.
S8: Well, so think is worth asking Yahshua directly. You know, when it comes to, again, people holding controversial. Opinions and the extent to which Progressive’s or maybe journalists, people in the media are deluding themselves if they think it’s helpful to get rid of people who represent the views Eckstut exist out in the country. I just ask if you think that Blake Neff’s firing or I guess resignation is an example of council culture. I don’t see how in the abstract what happens departs that much from the other cases people have brought up, except for the fact that the content of his views marcom out is different and some kind of subjective. What not.
S10: I never said that on certain limits, but we should draw. My point is that whatever limits are drawn so narrowly. And when you have to agree on such a large number of propositions in order to be in good standing, then was stifling debate on our own side in a way that will make us denuded about the truth and incapable of convincing anybody to actually vote for progressive and important causes. So I’m not going to save it on certain people in certain kinds of positions. It depends on what kind of position to express deeply bigoted views, who therefore should not be, you know, the chief writer for a huge television show. What I’m seeing in our spaces, though, is that people who agree with their friends and peers and their colleagues are 19 out of 20 issues and have reasonable disagreements on a 20 official where I might fall on the other side of them. I might disagree with them, but it’s not in any way bigoted point of view, then unpleasant and punished and yes, cancelled for the expression of those views. Bad has a chilling effect on our ability to talk honestly and energetically, intensely about the world. But I think we should all be worried about. And by the way, if you really care about our ability to have open debates, if you really care about freedom of speech, if you really care about a robust public discourse, then why are you so concerned about some people being overly worried about that? If I really care about sexism and I think some people are over ascribing how much sexism there is in society, I don’t think you’re a terrible person for exaggerating how much sexism there is. I think, hey, you know what? I disagree with you on this good news. Perhaps there’s a little bit less sexism than you think, but I agree with you, but there is a lot of sexism and we should fight against it.
S11: All right. So I think that is functionally not what actually happens in this discourse. We have in this discourse, as people who say you are overly concerned about sexism or you’re overly concerned about racism or you’re overly concerned about transphobia, and therefore your criticism of me is equivalent to the Cultural Revolution that happened under Mao. That is the discourse that we actually have. Right. So I think it’s it’s important to actually recognize that and not sort of create this in this discussion, an alternative universe that does not actually exist in our societies, but one into the universe.
S5: I’m one of the most visible people in this discourse. We’ve been talking for 40 minutes while you ascribing use to me. But.
S11: But I’m not describing it. I’m not as in fact, I’m saying that because there are people who are not you, Yashar, core defining this discourse. Also, we should recognize that and use that to or actively, you know, accurately develop a sense of where this discourse actually is going. I think one of the problems with this crowd is the notion that a particular person or a particular anecdote is then thus representative. I think that we have to be holistic and understanding discourse actually works and not think that one poor person say something is then representative of everybody else. Right. I do think and I’ve written about this and I’ve given chapter and verse of examples of this, of people who criticize progressive identity politics and then say not just that I disagree with this person. I don’t like that view. But this person’s adoption of this view is going to lead to the Glock’s. It is equivalent to Stalin. Some it is incompatible, as Jonathan Chait said, with liberal democratic society. I think that is wild. We have in the Harper’s letter the claim that liberal expression is becoming daily more constrained. I think that isn’t a historical claim. It has absolutely nothing to do with the progression of speech in American society. Right. But we have all these kinds of wild generalizations happening on top of issues I think are deeply complicated. You say that there are people whose views are like 19 out of 20 with people at major institutions, but they have this one little view that shouldn’t be a big deal and shouldn’t be considered bigoted. That prevents them from from speaking freely or whatever it is. But that’s a matter of perspective, right? People are going to disagree again about what bigotry is and the implications for a particular opinion are going to be. I don’t think it makes sense for people to say, well, if you disagree with me on that 20th issue, that means that you’re in a liberal who opposes open discourse. I think that’s silly. I don’t think that’s a productive way to have a conversation.
S5: But no, no, I’m not saying that if you disagree with me on the 20th issue, you are against civil discourse. I’m saying that if you think that for disagreeing on the 20th. Vishu, you should be fired. We were making my workspace on unsay, it depends on what the 20th issue is, right?
S1: Well, that’s that’s what I was going to what I see you just said is what I was going to say with so many this it depends. Like Waino, CEDO laid out the broad contours of the blade now firing. My thought was, well, it depends what those things said in private channels was. And the 20th of the 20 opinions held. I kept thinking about J.K. Rowling, who certainly agrees with most of liberalism on things, and then has this one carve out for her opinions on trans rights. And then we could get into. OK. Is the push back on her? Is it, you know, cancelling her or is it spirited, vocal, extremely impassioned pushback back that she should be able to take and isn’t being canceled?
S5: Well, so, first of all, when we’re talking about NRF, it’s not the 20 about 20 issues.
S1: I mean, no, no, no. It’s more what why I brought that knife was an example of it all depends on what the specifics are. So when she, too, was saying, remember, he laid out a scenario where a person said certain things in private channels. I was just thinking with depends what those certain things are that NF is not then the 20th out of 20 views, but it illustrates it illustrates how difficult it is.
S8: That’s my point. It’s very easy to say, well, a racist person should get to keep their job. People disagree about what racism is. Right. And so you can have this broad, abstract conversation about speech. But functionally, what is actually in question is not speech liberalism. I think that people who are derided as liberal, people who deride as people who don’t care about free speech, do they just disagree and draw their lines on these particular questions in these particular cases in different places than the Hashemite or Justice in Columbine or any other piece of the other people in this discourse might and for drawing that line in a different place. The charge against them is not just why I disagree with you about where that line should be, but that the act of drawing the line for you signals that you are opposed to the fundamental principles undergirding our society, which I think is ridiculous. One thing that I want to point out about this is there’s one other thing I should I should I should say just just before you strike, because you made a point about narrowness. I think is critical. And this idea that we should be as as open as possible to as many perspectives as possible within a particular boundary. Right. And one of the guidelines that you seem to imply should govern this boundary as well. If there are people out in the country who we need to understand and reach out to.
S11: You can’t exclude them. You can’t exclude them from the discourse. You can’t sort of ignore those opinions and push them away. Forty eight percent of this country is doggedly supportive of the president of the United States. I’m not aware of very many people who either sign that Harper’s letter or involved in persuasion, who declare themselves outright supporters of Donald Trump. I don’t really see this as a discourse that is aimed at elevating those people and saying that those people deserve 40 percent of the up. That’s basically our times are much more substantial. Percent of the op ed page of The New York Times. There’s a level there’s a range of views in this country today about basic political questions that is absolutely blacklisted from major institutions and that absolutely no one is interested in having more accurate, adequately represented. And I think that that the proof in the pudding is the fact that these free discourse efforts don’t seem very interested, including those people or those perspectives at all.
S5: So we’re not getting into a caricature. I mean, the idea that I in any way argued for, you know, if forty eight or rather, according to my latest information, about 40 percent of U.S. population support Donald Trump. Thankfully, it’s less than 48 at this point than we should have 40 percent of a column inches in The New York Times be given to Trump supporters. And something like that is a mechanistic view of what opinion should look like. But I don’t believe it. And by the way, one of the problems that we get, if we magically seal our own progressive spaces off to a lot of our opinions, is that we insufficiently understand that 40 or what we used to be. Forty eight percent of the population to actually know how to manage to persuade many of them to join us in the endeavor of building a more justice side, which is incredibly important if we actually want to remedy some of those injustices.
S7: But I think the fundamental distinction I see to between you and me is whether we are thinking about discourse and critiques of various members of a discourse using this term discourse. I think of 10 times in this conversation or whether we’re talking about the kind of institutions and rules that we need in order to make a very diverse society work better. The question to me is what would a healthy, robust left of center set of publishing and political spaces look like? Better able to debate the world truthfully, understand how we can actually remedy injustices in this country and set us up to persuade many of our fellow citizens to join us in the endeavor. Of actually doing that. And no matter how much you sort of scientific and examples is ultimately, I think, a pretty stark difference between a world in which people, as very many people now feel, have a sense of they have to very close to here to orthodoxy on 20 different issues, that when they fail to affirm the orthodoxy, that not only earns a lot of criticism of that particular point of view, which is perfectly fine, but gets them expelled from those spaces altogether, makes other people tell them that they are bad human beings. That shouldn’t really be part of a discourse. And I think when that chilling effect takes over and we wind up in a society in which we can’t actually talk honestly to each other. And for those of us who have platforms to our readers and listeners, that is a very big problem. Now, that doesn’t mean that I think people who express, you know, extreme, bigoted or racist views should be hired by The New York Times. It doesn’t mean that within civil society and limits to whom I would have them for dinner or to whom I would publish in persuasion my new venture. All of those things are taken for granted. But I think anybody who looks at these publications at the moment and who listens to how many writers and journalists who are most ensconced in those milieus express their fear about deviating from orthodoxy, should grow a little bit concerned about whether we’re having the most honest, the healthiest debates and about whether they’re being told the truth in the publication space. They read and listened to and, you know, no point about Fox News or NAF is going to dispel that concern for me. And I don’t think it’s going to dispel that concern for many of the listeners of this podcast.
S8: Yeah, I mean, I think what all of that functionally amounts to is that when Yahshua or people who are engaged with this project, this idea that because of identity politics undermining institutions when they make decisions about who should or shouldn’t be allowed into the discourse or what or published by a newspaper or given this by university, it will rely on them to be judicious and keepers of the liberal faith. When progressives say that the person who disagrees with me on the 20th position. Is it wrong in some morally important way? Those people are being unreasonable. Those people you should say to yourself, those people are making you know, there’s a narcissism of small differences there. And any reasonable person can say that on the basis of that 20th you. Progressives should be more than welcome to. Have that person participate in the discourse on the basis of the other views that they hold, rather. There’s there’s people who are allowed and should be trusted to make difficult decisions about what is or isn’t right and what is or isn’t worth discussing. And that cost of people does not include people who think, well, that 20th issue is actually very, very important and we should take it seriously. We have been taking it seriously before. Again, this isn’t about, you know, a bad faith particular set of actors. I think that the ideas themselves, I think, are suspect here because there’s there’s a difference in your willingness to apply them universally. I think it’s tremendously important for people who say to themselves what we need to have an open discourse and have all kinds of views represented so we can understand what’s happening in the rest of the country and we can learn to rebut those arguments instead of shutting them aside. I think support for those people to take seriously that a large share of the country supports the president of the United States and to include them in the editorial projects, in their projects on discourse. And if they don’t, you should be suspicious about what their actual priorities are because they’re not walking the walk. I personally think it is OK to have ideological institutions. I think functionally institutions like The New York Times, The Washington Post, they present themselves as nonpartisan. But that in itself is a kind of value. These are organizations that are structured around a set of principles that people are going to fight about internally and externally. I don’t think it is fair or productive for the discourse to say that certain people who come to a different place than you on those principles are then engaging in a way that is hostile to liberalism, which is, again, is the charge that it’s made over and over and over again.
S1: OK, we’re going to leave it there. I want to ask one last thing, which is this really rough burrow in Slate raised this in a useful way. Political discourse has been warped less because of canceled culture or illiberalism. Then, by the way, social media platforms have been poisoned like wells that poisoned us in turn. She’s saying it’s not a difference that is cropped up with liberalism. The trend is really a function of Twitter. It’s really a function of how we’re doing the arguing. Not that the arguers have different worldviews or change their minds. Do either of you think that there is any validity to that?
S8: I if I could jump in. I think that is absolutely at the very heart of what is actually happening. Just again, to go to the Harper’s letter was a sentence and then free exchange of information and ideas. The lifeblood of a liberal society is daily becoming more constricted to music, facially absurd claim. I think that what people are concerned about as council culture, whatever you want to call it, is actually a function of speech being more radically free now than ever before. People can speak to a broader range of people, more people than they actually anticipate or prepared to handle than never before. Anybody has the capacity to respond or call for action. It’s a technological shift that is both radically expanded the reach of speech and also radically level the discursive playing field. And the consequences of that are going to be complicated. We should talk about that. But the discussion we’re having is not about reforming social media institutions and social media networks to see how it might productive more productively facilitate discourse on that. That would be a great discussion to have. Discussion we’re having is about whether people have gotten worse in some way. There’s a cultural mythologizing that is happening where we’re seeing ourselves. People on one particular side of some of these debates are bad. In a way that is now new and meaningful, that we have to sort of take measure of. I don’t really think that’s true at all.
S11: I think that we’re seeing people work through a very messy and difficult where the consequences of the way that information spreads and the way the information is kept. Now on the Internet. You can compare it tragically to the printing press, a total revolution in speech and spread information. Right. Precisely because so many people try and succeed in reaching mass audiences. You have people being persecuted for speech that might have been persecuted before. You have entire infrastructures of censorship built up to suppress speech that weren’t there or weren’t as large before. But would it have made sense to say, on balance, free especially, became more constrained? No, I don’t think so. On balance, I think things are complicated. And I think it’s interesting that, you know, people are, I think are opportunistically oriented towards whether they want to make the culture diagnosis or whether they want to sort of blame the things that happen on the Internet, on Internet dynamics. Right. If somebody is criticized by Progressive’s on Twitter and they pile on intuits, maybe rather than the people doing the initial criticism had it intended. People generally don’t have a problem saying, look, this is evidence of bad ideology or work, religion, whatever else. And Emily Vander Worth is stressed for the letter she wrote about Matt Yglesias on Harper’s letter. People come out and say, well, that’s unfortunate, but it wasn’t our tent. You can’t really blame us for that. Then Internet can get out of your hands and people should understand that. People should understand that in all cases. We just spent several years bringing to national attention what random college freshmen and sophomores were doing and publishing in their school newspapers cultural appropriation. With few exceptions, I think Daniel Drezner was one of them. I do remember there being that much concern about the impact Internet shaming and pylons was going to have on their lives. But Washington Post singles out some women for wearing black faces, a part of it. Everyone says instantly, Oh, that’s not news. That’s terrible. It shouldn’t dump on somebody making a mistake like that in a major newspaper. I agree. I just don’t think and I think people who watch this discourse understand I don’t think that these standards are being consistently applied across the board as much as people like to make a broad general statements about liberalism and speech and expression. I think that people who follow the discourse, I use that word because I think it’s a useful word that people who follow these discussions understand what’s really going on here ideologically.
S12: Well, again, I think we are raising the difference between two very importantly, different things. There is a lot of freewheeling discussion on the Internet, and that’s perfectly fine. I’ll see to your sometimes ratio. I’m sometimes ratio of everybody who’s on Twitter. A lot sometimes has days when people are shouting on them. And that’s not a very pleasant feeling. But that is absolutely part of the vibrant public sphere that we thankfully have and enjoy in the United States. And so this idea that the people who signed the letter were really just, you know, hard at being criticized on Twitter. They want people to stop criticizing them on Twitter. Just makes no sense. The question is whether what happens on Twitter then leads to your company firing you. Two other people start to self censor because they understand. But all of these real world institutions are so subject to the potential dynamics of Twitter that people will punish them or fire them in real life because they express an opinion that deviates in one small bit from the received wisdom and within their institutions. That, to me, is the issue that people criticize, that people beat up on each other on Twitter. It’s not always edifying. It’s not clear to me that Twitter is making my life better and it’s giving me joy rather than not. But you know what? That’s my own decision. I didn’t have to be on Twitter. And if I seek out Twitter and see people beating up on me, that’s just fine. But when people say you write a letter that I disagree with, if you sign a letter that I disagree with and that creates such a hostile work environment for me, that perhaps my employer by implication has an obligation to look into that. If you actually start trying not to criticize people, the expression of that speech, but to shut down the ability to express their beliefs without losing their jobs, for as innocuous an idea as saying we believe deeply in American progress towards racial and justice, and we also think that free speech is the best way of achieving that. Van, I think you’ve lost the plot. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of people in the last weeks that have been trying to justify that lost count.
S1: So I want to thank you both for joining me. I see to one neighbor and Yasha Monck of New Republic and Persuasion, respectively. I really appreciate having the discussion because it was a discussion I was desperate to have, and I think a lot of people will be eager to hear. So thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much.
S2: And that’s it for today’s show. The gist was produced by Margaret Kelly, Daniel Shrader and the executive producer of Slate podcasts, Alicia Montgomery. If I told you on some private slack channel that someone says something so outrageous and beyond the pale that everyone would want his head, would you want to know what that thing was? Or would you figure or would you just figure it was Daniel angrily denouncing anyone who doesn’t use European butter in a croissant recipe? The just my favorite moment was when the charge of illiberalism we’re shutting down debate was said to be so burdensome as to infringe on open debate. It was kind of a reverse Beetlejuice impro desperate to prove. And thanks for listening.