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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Ten Years After Lieberman’s “Internet Kill Switch,” the War on Freedom Rages On

In 2010, US Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced their Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act. Better known as the “Internet Kill Switch” proposal for the emergency powers it would have conferred on the president, the bill died without receiving a vote in either house of Congress.

A decade later, the same fake issues and the same authoritarian “solutions” continue to dominate discussions on the relationship between technology and state. The real issue remains the same as well. As I wrote in a column on the “Kill Switch” bill nearly 10 years ago:

“If the price of keeping Joe Lieberman in power is you staring over a plow at the ass end of a mule all day and lighting your home with candles or kerosene at night before collapsing on a bed of filthy straw, that’s a price Joe Lieberman is more than willing to have you pay.”

A single thread connects the “Internet Kill Switch” to the passage of Internet censorship provisions in the name of fighting sex trafficking (FOSTA/SESTA), the whining of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials  for “back doors” to cripple strong encryption, and President Trump’s threats to ban video-sharing app TikTok, supposedly because the Chinese government’s surveillance programs just might be as lawless and intrusive as those of the US government.

That thread is the burning, pathological compulsion which drives politicians and bureaucrats to control every aspect of our lives, on the flimsiest of excuses and no matter the cost to us.

The compulsion hardly limits itself to technology issues (the war on drugs in a great example of its scope), nor is it limited to the federal level of government (see, for example, the mostly state and local diktats placing millions of Americans under house arrest without charge or trial “because COVID-19”).

That thread and that compulsion are more obvious vis a vis the Internet than “public health”-based authoritarianism because we’ve been propagandized and indoctrinated into the latter ideology for centuries, while the public-facing Internet is younger than most Americans.

Few of us can remember the days before quarantine-empowered “health departments” in every county, let alone a time when a five-year-old could walk into a store and buy morphine without so much as a doctor’s note.

But most of us can remember a relatively censorship-free Internet and the false promises of politicians and bureaucrats to respect the dramatically expanded power it gave to free speech.

That makes “kill switches” and “back doors” and TikTok bans a tougher sell. But the political class is still coming after the Internet. If we want to continue living in the 21st century instead of the 11th, we’re going to have to keep fighting them.

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Government Makes Crisis Worse

America is in crisis. Nearly everyone agrees on this point; they only disagree over what the crisis is.

Fewer still agree over what caused the crisis they can’t agree on, so they can’t agree on how to solve it.

Whatever the crisis is, and whether it was caused by a virus, police callousness, racism, inequality, or something else, governments love the excuse to crack down on liberty. This is often among their first responses — regardless of what the crisis is, what caused the crisis, or how it might be solved. It’s as though they don’t even care about those trivial details.

A crisis is when your right to life, liberty, and property is most important. When things are going well, are more robust and stable, a small disruption probably won’t cause ruin. When things are already on the edge, one little push in the wrong place, at the wrong time, can spell disaster.

Deciding to treat liberty as if it’s negotiable is a big jackbooted shove to civil society.

To respect the liberty of every human being is the civilized thing to do, even if some people aren’t respecting the liberty of others. This is why self-defense remains an important human right.

No crisis justifies additional government power; instead, it’s a time for less government meddling. Especially when the path forward is unclear.

The result of restricting liberty is to limit the number of individual solutions that can be tried. When there’s disagreement, it’s important to let people take different paths. If enough things are tried, someone will get it right. If you force everyone to follow the same path, the chances are nearly 100 percent that the wrong path will be imposed.

This is why the Constitution doesn’t allow itself, or human rights, to be suspended during any emergency and thus doesn’t permit martial law.

To pretend martial law is constitutional the Supreme Court was forced to concoct political “theories” to justify it. They made up, out of thin air, things the Constitution didn’t say and that it was explicitly designed to prevent.

It seems the Constitution has never stopped government from committing any action it really wanted to commit. Someone, somewhere, will rubber-stamp almost anything.

If the Constitution did permit the suspension of rights for the duration of an emergency, this would invalidate the document. That it doesn’t, yet government goes ahead and does it anyway, invalidates government.

Government “help” makes any crisis worse.

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Back to School? “No Thanks” Say Millions of New Homeschooling Parents

Next month marks the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year in several US states, and pressure is mounting to reopen schools even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Florida, for example, is now considered the nation’s No. 1 hot spot for the virus; yet on Monday, the state’s education commissioner issued an executive order mandating that all Florida schools open in August with in-person learning and their full suite of student services.

Many parents are balking at back-to-school, choosing instead to homeschool their children this fall.

Gratefully, this virus seems to be sparing most children, and prominent medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged schools to reopen this fall with in-person learning. For some parents, fear of the virus itself is a primary consideration in delaying a child’s return to school, especially if the child has direct contact with individuals who are most vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst effects.

But for many parents, it’s not the virus they are avoiding by keeping their children home—it’s the response to the virus.

In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued school reopening guidelines that called for:

  • Strict social distancing tactics
  • All-day mask wearing for most students and teachers
  • Staggered attendance
  • Daily health checks
  • No gym or cafetaria use
  • Restricted playground access and limited toy-sharing, and
  • Tight controls on visitors to school buildings, including parents.

School districts across the country quickly adopted the CDC’s guidelines, devising their reopening plans accordingly. Once parents got wind of what the upcoming school-year would look like, including the real possibility that at any time schools could be shut down again due to virus spikes, they started exploring other options.

For Florida mother, Rachael Cohen, these social distancing expectations and pandemic response measures prompted her to commit to homeschooling her three children, ages 13, 8, and 5, this fall.

“Mandated masks, as well as rigid and arbitrary rules and requirements regarding the use and location of their bodies, will serve to dehumanize, disconnect, and intimidate students,” Cohen told me in a recent interview.

She is endeavoring to expand schooling alternatives in her area and is currently working to create a self-directed learning community for local homeschoolers that emphasizes nature-based, experiential education. “There is quite a lot of interest,” she says.

According to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, 60 percent of parents surveyed said they will likely choose at-home learning this fall rather than send their children to school even if the schools reopen for in-person learning. Thirty percent of parents surveyed said they were “very likely” to keep their children home.

While some of these parents may opt for an online version of school-at-home tied to their district, many states are seeing a surge in the number of parents withdrawing their children from school in favor of independent homeschooling. From coast to coast, and everywhere in between, more parents are opting out of conventional schooling this year, citing onerous social distancing requirements as a primary reason.

Indeed, so many parents submitted notices of intent to homeschool in North Carolina last week that it crashed the state’s nonpublic education website.

Other parents are choosing to delay their children’s school enrollment, with school districts across the country reporting lower than average kindergarten registration numbers this summer.

School officials are cracking down in response.

Concerned about declining enrollments and parents reassuming control over their children’s education, some school districts are reportedly trying to block parents from removing their children from school for homeschooling.

In England, it’s even worse. Government officials there are so worried about parents refusing to send their children back to school this fall that the education secretary just announced fines for all families who keep their children home in violation of compulsory schooling laws. “We do have to get back into compulsory education and obviously fines sit alongside as part of that,” English secretary Gavin Williamson announced.

When school officials resort to force in order to ensure compliance, it should prompt parents to look more closely at their child’s overall learning environment. Parents have the utmost interest in ensuring their children’s well-being, both physically and emotionally, and their concerns and choices should be respected and honored.

After several months of learning at home with their children, parents may not be so willing to comply with district directives and may prefer other, more individualized education options. Pushed into homeschooling this spring by the pandemic, many parents are now going willingly, and eagerly, down this increasingly popular educational path.

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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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The New Censors

Do you say what you think? That’s risky! You may get fired!

You’ve probably heard about a New York Times editor resigning after approving an opinion piece by Senator Tom Cotton that suggested the military to step in to end riots.

Many Times reporters tweeted out the same alarmist wording, “Running this puts Black NY Times staffers in danger.”

Really? How?

In my new video, Robby Soave, a Reason magazine editor who writes about young radicals, explains, “They only claim it because that’s their tactic for seizing power in the workplace.”

They learned this tactic from so-called woke professors and fellow activists at expensive colleges, says Soave.

Last year, Harvard students demanded that law professor Ron Sullivan resign as a resident dean. Why? He’d agreed to be part of Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team.

A female student said, “I don’t feel safe!” although Sullivan had been a dean for many years. Sullivan resigned.

At UCLA, business school lecturer Gordon Klein rejected a request to give black students different treatment on their final exam because of George Floyd’s death. Klein pointed out that since the class was online, he had no way of knowing which students were black. He also told students: “remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the color of their skin.”

The activist group Color of Change (which once demanded that I be fired) launched a petition to have Klein “terminated for his extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response.” UCLA quickly caved. Klein is on mandatory leave.

Now that many former college radicals have jobs at elite media companies, they demand that newspapers not say certain things.

When, in response to looting during George Floyd protests, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran the insensitive headline, “Buildings Matter, Too,” 44 staff members claimed that “puts our lives at risk.” Their letter didn’t give any evidence as to how it threatened their lives (in fact, today both blacks and whites are safer than ever), but they won. The editor resigned.

A week later, young activists at NBC news tried to silence The Federalist, a respected conservative site that NBC labelled as “far-right.” The Federalist had published a column that said, correctly, that the media falsely claimed that violent riots were peaceful. But the column did contain a mistake. It quoted a government official saying tear gas was not used, when it had been used.

NBC then ran an article bragging that Google blocked The Federalist‘s ads after an “NBC news verification unit” brought The Federalist‘s “racism” to Google’s attention. NBC’s reporter even thanked left-wing activist groups for their “collaboration.”

But NBC was wrong. Google didn’t cut off The Federalist. Google merely threatened that if The Federalist didn’t police its comments section.

It was one time when the activist mob’s smears failed. But they keep trying to kill all sorts of expression.

Some now even want the children’s TV show Paw Patrol canceled because it suggests law enforcement is noble.

When activists decide that certain words or arguments are “offensive,” no one must use those words.

But “we’re supposed to occasionally offend each other,” says Soave, “because you might be wrong. We have to have a conversation about it. We have to challenge dogma. What if we were still with the principle that you couldn’t speak out against the King?! That’s the history of the Middle Ages.”

That’s when authorities arrested Galileo for daring to say that the earth revolved around the sun.

“That’s the condition that all humans lived under until just the last 300 years, and it was a much less happy place,” says Soave. “Then we came to an idea that we improve society by having frank and sometimes difficult conversations about policy issues, philosophy, about how we’re going to get along and live together.”

Life has been much better since people acquired the right to speak freely.

Elite colleges spread the idea that speech can be a form of violence. “Words are like bullets!” they say.

But words are words; bullets are bullets. We must keep them apart.

When entitled leftists declare themselves the sole arbiters of truth, it’s crucial that we all speak up for free speech.

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