The Uniformity and Exclusion Movement

“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.” –George Orwell, 1984

Earth houses a multitude of political movements vastly worse than the “social justice” (or “wokeness”) crusade.  North Korean and Chinese communism, Islamic fundamentalism, and Russian nationalism all have far worse intentions and have done far more harm than wokeness ever will.  Even in the United States, anti-immigrant conservatism has unjustly ruined far more lives in the last four years than Social Justice Warriors are likely to ruin in my lifetime.  Still, there is one way in which “social justice” stands out from the competition: Out of all the major political movements on Earth, none is more Orwellian than “social justice.” No other movement is so dedicated to achieving the opposite of what its slogans proclaim – or so aggressive in the warping of language.  While every ideology is prone to a little doublethink, “social justice” is doublethink at its core.

To see what I’m talking about, picture North Korean and Chinese communism.  Their official story is that totalitarian rule by the Communist Party is wonderful – and they impose totalitarian rule by their respective Communist Parties.  The official story of Islamic fundamentalism is that fanatical Muslim theologians should enforce the teachings of a 7th-century book – and when in power they do so.  The official story of Russian nationalism is that authoritarian Russians should rule Russia with an iron hand and sadistically dominate neighboring countries – and they do so with gusto.

In contrast, the official story of the social justice movement is that we should swear eternal devotion to “diversity and inclusion.”  Yet in practice they strive to achieve uniformity via exclusion.   The recent University of California scandal is an elegant example.  In affected departments, job candidates had to write a “diversity and inclusion statement.”  Unless candidates vigorously supported the social justice movement through word and action, the faculty never even got to see their applications.  How vigorously?  To reach “the next stage of review,” applicants needed a minimum average score of 11 on this rubric.  Since a rank-and-file dogmatic ideologue would probably only score a 9, this cutoff predictably causes ideological uniformity of Orwellian dimensions.

More generally:

1. The diversity and inclusion movement is nominally devoted to fervent “anti-racism.”  In practice, however, they are the only prominent openly racist movement I have encountered during my life in the United States.  Nowadays they routinely mock and dismiss critics for the color of their skin – then accuse those they mock and dismiss of “white fragility.”  Just one prominent recent case:

The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country.

2. The diversity and inclusion movement doesn’t just bizarrely redefine racism as “prejudice plus power.”  Since their movement combines explicit racial prejudice with great power, they neatly fit their own Newspeak definition.

3. A popular social justice lawn sign includes the plank, “Be kind to all.”  Yet the movement greets even mild criticism from friends with hostility, and firm disagreement with rage.  Plus the harshest punishments they can arrange, especially ostracism from high-skilled employment.

4. While we’re on the subject of “being kind to all,” let me point out that making harsh, ill-founded accusations against any large, unselective group – such as a race, gender, or age bracket – is the opposite of kind.*  Yet the “social justice” movement hasn’t just heaped collective guilt on whites, males, and “the old.”  It has heaped scorn on even mild pushback like “Not all men are sexist.”  Basic kindness, in contrast, enjoins you to (a) calmly investigate the validity of your accusations before voicing them; (b) carefully distinguish between misunderstandings and malice; (c) reassure innocent bystanders before you call out the demonstrably guilty.

5. The “Love is love” slogan is comparably Orwellian.  Thanks to #MeToo, almost every person who values his job is now too terrified even to meekly ask a co-worker out on a date.  Where is the love there?  When faced with compelling evidence that male managers were responding to the climate of fear by avoiding mentoring and social contact with female co-workers, the #MeToo reaction was not to mend fences but to make further threats.

6. “Science is real” would also bring a grim smile to Orwell’s face.  The diversity and inclusion movement shows near-zero patience for the pile of scientific research that estimates the share of group performance gaps that stem from discrimination versus other factors.  Instead, they (a) ignore the science; (b) speak as if science shows the share is 100%; and (c) treat people who discuss the actual science as if they’re personally guilty of discrimination.  The same goes for any unwelcome scientific conclusions about gender, sexuality, academic performance, etc.  Either embrace the foregone conclusions of “social justice,” or risk the wrath of the movement.  Just beneath the propaganda lies uniformity via exclusion.

7. What’s the relationship between Orwellian language and the motte-and-bailey fallacy?  Quite distant.  Orwellian language amounts to saying the opposite of the truth.  Motte-and-bailey, in contrast, is about strategically toggling between moderate and extreme versions of your creed.  E.g., sometimes feminism is the moderate view that “Women should be treated as fairly as men”; yet the rest of the time, feminism is the extreme view that “Women should be treated as fairly as men, but totally aren’t in this depraved sexist society.”

8. If all this is true, how come I’m not too scared of Big Brother to write it?  Tenure is a big part of it.  The official point of tenure is to make professors feel free to voice unpopular truths – and I’m all about unpopular truths.  Still, I’m no martyr.  If I were looking for an academic job, I would shut up.  I hope many tenure-seeking readers feel the same yearning to voice unpopular truths with impunity, though I fear your numbers are few.

9. What’s the least Orwellian feature of the “social justice” movement?  Support for illegal immigrants, of course.  First World countries really do treat illegal immigrants like subhumans, and to its credit the social justice movement offers them moral support with the poetic slogan, “No human being is illegal.”  Yet sadly, the volume of this moral support is barely audible, because the movement has so many higher priorities.  If its activists took the immense moral energy they waste on costumes, jokes, and careless speech, and redirected it toward the cause of free migration, I’d forgive their Orwellian past today.

10. Meta-question: Why do Orwellian movements exist at all?  Why doesn’t each movement say what it means and mean what it says?  “Marketing” is the easy answer: When your true goals are awful, you resort to deceptively pleasant packaging to keep forward momentum.  While this story makes sense, it’s incomplete.  The most Orwellian movements actively revel in the contradiction between word and deed – and even in the contradiction between word and word.  The best explanation is that submission to an Orwellian creed is a grade-A loyalty test.  Insisting that all your members admit that “The sky is blue” doesn’t weed out the doubters and fair-weather soldiers.  Insisting that all your members admit that “The sky is green” or “There is no sky,” in contrast, selects for fanatics and yes-folk.  And sadly, those are the sorts of people movements like “diversity and inclusion” appreciate.

* “Social justice” is of course a selective movement.  You can disaffiliate anytime you like – and if you don’t want to be blamed for poor behavior of your compatriots, you should.

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Social Salvation vs. Individual Salvation

From one era to another of human history, human energies seem to be dedicated either to social salvation – think “progress” – or individual salvation – think “enlightenment” or “sanctification”. Sometimes this takes religious guises, other times more secular ones.

We live in a time that, despite its frequent pandering to individual *lusts* and frequent spastic efforts to find “enlightenment” (yoga, New Age, etc), does not really have a structure that encourages individual salvation.

The social structure trains us to want *progress* for our society – whether it’s political and moral (in the way we think about gender, race, etc) or economic (we want more stuff for more people) or technological (we want more power over our natural world). We pursue social progress whether or not that means individual improvement in virtue, heroism, etc.

On the other hand, I would be interested to know whether more traditional and hierarchical societies like those of medieval Europe, despite not having an explicit ideology of individualism, did more to encourage individuals to seek sanctification.

In the relative technological, religious, and artistic stability of more traditional societies, the individual was just about the only actor that *could* change. Time would have been viewed more circularly and less linearly, with each generation restarting the hero’s journey and finding a fleshed-out and tested set of rituals for going from stage to stage. You either progressed as a person, or you didn’t.

This is speculation, but it seems fair speculation to say that more traditional societies at least had stronger ritual support for individual transformation.

It is not speculation to say that as we have become more concerned with technological/social progress, we have managed to make it harder for individuals to become heroic, holy, fully realized beings. Yes, we wield more potential power than ever in the form of computers and data, but we also buy that power with the need for sedentary lifestyles (sitting at desks) and greater economic centralization (corporations), not to mention all the mischief that computers tend to create from pornography to internet trolling.

It probably is not the case that social progress (in the sense of linear change over time) and individual progress are opposed. I think social progress tends to come out of individual progress. But I think it’s much more important that individuals – the only beings who can *experience* change – get priority. And if that means tamping down on the rate of supposed social innovations, so be it.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Firing and the Left

Firing a worker is usually a serious harm.  Sometimes it’s devastating.  But we can still wonder, “Is firing someone morally wrong – and if so, how morally wrong?”

If this puzzles you, ponder this: Ending a romantic relationship, too, is usually a serious harm.  Sometimes that, too, is devastating.  Yet few moderns attach much moral blame to someone who dumps their romantic partner.  Even if you’re married, we rarely claim anything like, “If you break up, your ex-partner will wallow in misery for years, so you have a moral obligation to stay.”  (Close family members might privately maintain otherwise if you have kids together, but even then…)

In my view, firing is morally comparable to ending a romantic relationship.  In the absence of a formal agreement to the contrary, both kinds of relationships are – and should be – “at will.”  Yes, informed observers might have some grounds to morally criticize the termination.  Ultimately, however, close relationships – whether professional or personal – are complicated, riddled with misunderstandings.  Hence, outsiders should not only affirm that people have a right to unilaterally break up; they should practice the virtue of the tolerance by remaining impartial in thought as well as in action.

To repeat, that’s my view.  The normal view, in contrast, is that romantic and professional relationships should be governed by diametrically opposed standards.  In matters of love, the heart wants what the heart wants.  On the job, in contrast, governments should protect workers from employer abuse.  And even if the law says otherwise, firing someone who’s performing their job adequately is morally suspect.

While this “normal view” is now widely-shared, it’s still closely associated with the left.  Back when “freedom of contract” had more appeal, the left strongly argued that employers’ “freedom to fire” was tantamount to “the freedom to oppress workers.”  Back in high school, my social science teachers often philosophized, “Sure, physical coercion is bad; but so is economic coercion.  If your employer can fire you whenever he likes, you’re not free.”  This outlook naturally inspired the left to advocate a wide range of employment regulations, especially anti-firing rules.  While most non-leftists also favor such regulation, the left has long been more intense about it.  Their attitude is more radical – and so are the regulations they seek.

Which makes sense.  If you earnestly believe that firing a worker is a kind of economic violence, you’re going to firmly support stringent legal scrutiny of this violence.

From this perspective, the rise of “cancel culture” is deeply surprising.  Over the last decade, many leftists have not just moderated their former stance against firing.  They have become enthusiastic advocates of firing people they dislike.  “He’s performing his job adequately, so you have no right to fire him” has strangely morphed into a right-wing view.  If you don’t believe me, just start making insensitive remarks about race, gender, and sexuality on social media and see how your career goes.  “I was perfectly civil at work; I only offended on my own time” is now a frail defense.  Even if your boss and co-workers adore you, plenty left-wing activists will still pressure them to sack you.

Again, I have no principled objection to firing workers for their political views.  Indeed, I’ve long defended the blacklist of Hollywood’s Communists; while I tolerate a wide range of opinion, totalitarians are beyond the pale.  While we have no right to jail them, they don’t belong in polite society.  But if, like most people, you embrace the view that firing a worker is “economic coercion,” the left’s newfound love of firing their enemies should disturb you.  Consider: Their revised stance amounts to something like, “Firing a worker who’s performing his job adequately is a form of violence.  And if anyone crosses us, we advocate – nay, demand! – that this violence be done.”

To be fair, many leftists have yet to revise their stance.  Perhaps because they’re afraid of experiencing economic violence at the hands of the many other leftists who have.

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The Deeper the Disagreement, the Higher the Stakes, the More Important the Honesty

Man, I thought the culture wars were bad when I was a kid. It’s cliche to say now that people are more divided along political lines than ever, so I’ll spare you. You know it. And that divide is particularly evident when people try to communicate with each other.

There’s the name-calling and expletive-flinging and straw-manning and worst-case-assuming, of course. But there also appear to be two sets of “acceptable” facts/statistics/anecdotes on any given issue. And there is a great deal of distrust between the warring parties (the right and the left) about the validity of those facts. This precludes any progress beyond a discussion of the facts of a case into the actual meat of what to do about something. Police brutality, racism, immigration, abortion, gender, climate change – these are all heavily politicized subjects with heavily politicized media on both sides supporting opposite viewpoints. It becomes hard to believe any facts which seem to be embraced by the other side, so both sides are left with not just different conclusions, but different premises.

This dynamic is worsened with each and every “fake news” story, doctored or selectively edited video, and false accusation promulgated by one side against the other. Targeted half-truths and falsehoods don’t just distort our ability to act – they destroy any of the trust needed for an actual conversation. As we lose and lose more agreements on the base reality of an issue (and we lose confidence that our opponent is trustworthy), talking becomes less and less worthwhile.

It’s ironic. The more passionately opposed we become to each other, the better we feel about “bending the truth” just a little. Yet this bending of the truth is the thing that ultimately defeats any chance of “winning” an argument or coming to a compromise. Telling the truth to your opponents – even when it’s hard – becomes all the more important as disagreement reaches a fever pitch.

You can be rude, loud, trenchant, critical, and the conversation can still happen. Some people even respect a passionate opponent more. But if you are deceitful, you and your “facts” will gain a reputation for deceit. No one will listen to you, and you will be doomed.

People often talk about the responsibility of news readers to reject fake news. This is good. But it is just as much our responsibility to reject lies and corruptions of truth in our own words and lives. We are now the media (if CNN hasn’t made a news story out of one of your tweets, it’s only a matter of time), and we do have some control in what happens next.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Politics Reason Behind a Lot of Anger

Why is there so much anger in the world?

People fight over statues; over differing opinions on gender, race, and policing. Over masks and whether to end the shutdown or keep society imprisoned until everyone is perfectly safe — which can never be.

Activists are even protesting to abolish the Fourth of July … without mentioning Independence Day. I guess if they are successful, future calendars will skip from the third to the fifth … unless the activists are confused.

What causes anger over such issues? Politics — where every win comes at someone’s expense.

Politics forces everyone along the same path. Legislation dictates things only our ethics and morals should determine. To understand the anger, notice how politics makes a difference of opinion into a life and death struggle. An unnecessary one.

It’s odd that something imagined to be a hallmark of civilized society is instead the root of most antisocial behavior. Trying to form a society around politics is like trying to form a pearl around a pellet of nuclear waste.

If you want to play politics, go ahead, but any results should only apply to you. You shouldn’t expect others to be bound by your results. They shouldn’t be expected to fund your political institutions or agencies. If you want it, you fund it. I have better uses for my money.

Just as there is no “one-size-fits-all” church, you shouldn’t be able to force everyone to participate in the same political system based on location. Or any political system at all. If you force everyone to play your game by your rules, or else, your game is toxic. Society would be better off without it.

Just imagine if no one were forced to fund a park or a statue. If your group builds a park, good for you. If you want to put a statue in the park to honor Willie Nelson, people can choose to visit your park or not. As long as they aren’t forced to subsidize it, they aren’t harmed.

If, however, you force people to chip in for the park and pay for statues and monuments to things they dislike, it’s no wonder people get angry. I do, too.

The way these things are currently done causes strife. It’s long past time to give it up and try something better. Something voluntary, based on unanimous consent. If you want to chip in, go ahead. If you’d rather not, go your own way. It’s the only civilized way to organize a society.

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No, We’re Not All Antifa Now; But We Should Be

“I’ve occasionally encountered mass hysteria in other countries,” Nicholas Kristof writes at the New York Times. “In rural Indonesia, I once reported on a mob that was beheading people believed to be sorcerers, then carrying their heads on pikes. But I never imagined that the United States could plunge into such delirium.”

Kristof’s writing about panic over suspected “antifa activity” in the Pacific northwest, but I think he’s selling America short. We’re a nation built on mass hysteria. From the Know-Nothingism of the 1850s, to the Palmer Raids of a century ago, to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, to the New Red Scare (“Russiagate”) of the last four years, mass hysteria has been the perennial bread and butter of mainstream American politics.

I personally find the current freak-out over “antifa” — short for anti-fascist —  revealing.

With respect to fascism, there are three possible orientations: Fascist, anti-fascist, and politically neutral. If the whole idea of antifa has you up in arms, you’re clearly neither of the last two. Kind of narrows things down, doesn’t it?

Fascism isn’t an historical echo or a distant danger. It’s the default position of all wings of the existing American political establishment, from the “nationalist right” to the “progressive left.”

Those warring political camps are increasingly identity-based rather than ideological. They’re more interested in seizing the levers of power for the “correct” groupings — racial, sex/gender/orientation, economic, partisan, etc. — than they are in the nature of, and inherent dangers in, that power.

It’s that kind of vacuum of ideas that Lord Acton probably had in mind when he warned us that power tends to corrupt. And it’s certainly that kind of vacuum of ideas which the ideology pioneered, named, and described — “all within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” — by Italy’s Benito Mussolini most easily fills.

Yes, many of those advertising themselves as “antifa” are just as much authoritarian statists — in a word, fascists — as their most bitter opponents.

And yes, both wings of the American political mainstream are  actively attempting to co-opt the term for their own uses at the moment — the “left” as a term of fake resistance to be channeled into business as usual voting, the “right” as an object of fear to be likewise channeled.

But false advertising, panic-mongering, and hostile takeoverism don’t negate the existence of the genuine article. If you’re not “antifa,” you’re “fa” or “fugue.” Pick a side.

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