E-Pluribus | May 16, 2022
Can't disagreement just be disagreement, Woke Geographic, and Return on Investment or Inclusion?
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Barton Swaim: How Disagreement Became ‘Disinformation’
In May 10th’s e Pluribus, we featured Jonathan Kay’s “When Disagreement Becomes Trauma” (item #2). Now Barton Swaim writes at The Wall Street Journal that disagreement has also become disinformation. Swaim argues that too many have found it useful and effective to cast their opponents’ arguments as attempts to deceive rather than simply alternate viewpoints.
One of the great ironies of American political life in the 2020s is that the people most exercised about the spread of false information are frequently peddlers of it. Their lack of self-understanding arises from the belief that the primary factor separating their side from the other side isn’t ideology, principle or moral vision but information—raw data requiring no interpretation and no argument over its importance. It is a hopelessly simpleminded worldview—no one apprehends reality without the aid of interpretive lenses. And it is a dangerous one.
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There was also, among a host of intellectuals in the middle of the last century, the expectation of a “postpartisan” future of technocratic centrism in which the large ideological questions are mostly settled. What is mainly needed from the political process, the thinking went, isn’t visionary leadership but skillful management. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Vital Center” (1949) is an expression of that outlook, as are John Kenneth Galbraith’s “The Affluent Society” (1958) and Daniel Bell’s “The End of Ideology” (1960). These writers wanted the cool control of experts, not the messy brawling of democracy, which they felt lent itself too easily to revolution. “The tendency to convert concrete issues into ideological problems, to invest them with moral color and high emotional charge,” Bell wrote, “is to invite conflicts which can only damage a society.”
The technocratic impulse is now an integral part of our politics. Those most given to it tend to view themselves not as adherents of any conception of political life but simply as people who acknowledge the world as it is. They regard differing outlooks as deviations from reality that can only cause trouble for no good reason. They believe their critics, who look at the same facts but draw different conclusions, aren’t simply mistaken but irrational, corrupt or both.
Read the whole thing.
Mark Judge: Lost Horizon
File this under Everything is Political Now. Mark Judge writes at Law & Liberty that rather than stick to its missions of exploration, scientific discovering and celebration of nature, National Geographic has followed a now familiar path of many institutions to wokeness.
Today, National Geographic reflects an obsession with race, gender, and “equity,” dedicating covers to slavery, feminism, transgender ideology, and Black Lives Matter. In 2017, the magazine ran a special issue on “The Gender Revolution,” parroting the catechism of the transgender faith, with all the logical inconsistencies that go along with it. It’s no surprise that the Western world has gone native into wokeism. Yet because it’s so personal, National Geographic‘s surrender is particularly painful.
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Today, National Geographic, like so much of the rest of the culture, seems gripped in a mania focused on guilt over race and gender. As part of the magazine’s April 2018 “The Race Issue,” editor Susan Goldberg offered this headline: “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.” Goldberg hired a scholar, John Edwin Mason of the University of Virginia, to dig through the archives and find white supremacy. Interviewed by Vox, Mason announced that “the magazine was born at the height of so-called ‘scientific’ racism and imperialism — including American imperialism. This culture of white supremacy shaped the outlook of the magazine’s editors, writers, and photographers, who were always white and almost always men.” Responding to a 2018 cover featuring a cowboy on horseback, Mason argues that “the image of the white cowboy reproduces and romanticizes the mythic iconography of settler colonialism and white supremacy.”
And then there was the ridiculous hagiographic Fauci, a documentary that gives the impression that the proper response to public authority is unquestioning obedience and unceasing praise.
Susan Goldberg has just announced she is leaving the editorship of National Geographic after nearly twenty years. I have little hope that the magazine or the organization will correct course. It has been captured by the current of political correctness, and there is no turning back. It provides another example of the death of what was once the best of liberalism. Before being corrupted by wokeness and overtaken by our Stasi media, liberalism was a questing, largely honest ideology that sought to correct injustice while also celebrating the foundational principles of free speech, hard work, and scientific rigor. Before the woke revolution, National Geographic lived these values.
Read it all here.
Matt Welch: Race and Gender Checks Coming to a Boardroom Near You
While not the only factor, return on investment is a prime motivator of those looking to make… investments. However, writes Matt Welch at Reason, the state of New York under comptroller Brad Lander has decided to use the power of the state to coerce Wall Street into “diversity” disclosures, elevating the demographics of directors to an arguably higher priority than investors’ bang for their bucks.
On Thursday, New York Comptroller Brad Lander proudly announced that the city's pension funds, with their estimated $263 billion under management, had successfully pressured four huge Wall Street firms (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and BlackRock), plus Ford Motor Company, to publicly disclose a "Board Matrix" containing the "self-identified gender, race and/or ethnicity of individual directors."
"Pronounced commitments to diversity and inclusion ring hollow if those values are not reflected in the boardroom where decisions are made impacting their entire workforce," Lander said in a statement. "The strongest boards and management teams are those that reflect the diversity of their workforce, and of our communities. Diversity is a key factor in performance and essential to the long-term value, a priority for many investors."
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There is something both farcical and creepy about this obsession with tracking other people's (mostly) immutable characteristics and using the power of government to compel disclosure thereof. "Race and/or ethnicity" is a tautologically unscientific classification, not improved upon by the city's suggested "best practices" categories of African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, white/Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American. What box should Tiger Woods check? Why are we asking individuals to join a group? What on earth does any of this have to do with providing an auditing function on a city government with a $100 billion budget and the highest taxes in the country?
Read it all.
Via the Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium, excerpts from a thread on Yale Law School students’ worrisome reactions to the leaked draft opinion on the Supreme Court’s pending Dobbs abortion decision:
Sibarium’s Yale article and thread provoked some disagreement between Orin Kerr, Dan McLaughlin and Ilya Shapiro:
And finally, Rolling Stone and Talia Lavin with a breathtakingly inflammatory essay in the wake of the grocery store massacre in Buffalo by a self-declared racist. Glenn Greenwald takes exception: