- A Primer on Hate
- If not free speech, then what?
- Mindfulness follies
- Eagerly awaiting …
- The Arpaio Pardon
I’ve always loved the movies, and one of the scariest films in recent memory is 28 Days Later, released in 2002. The plot is simple. Animal-rights activists break into an experimental disease lab in Britain. They free a group of innocent test monkeys from their cages. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the monkeys are infected with a weaponized, fiercely communicable rage virus. The monkeys attack their liberators. The humans immediately catch the virus. They then attack each other and anyone else they can grab. The virus spreads geometrically. It burns through the population like a gasoline fire. A month later, civilization in the United Kingdom has collapsed. The few remaining healthy humans struggle to survive while eluding the infected.
If that story line sounds vaguely similar to the tone of our national discourse over the past 10 months, it should …
“Hate has no home here” is an admirable theme for one of today’s most popular lawn sign campaigns. But its message simply isn’t true. Hate does have a home here. It’s welcome and very well-fed in a lot of our hearts, regardless of our political allegiances. And our refusal to admit that is part of the problem ….
John Michael Greer in his recent KunstlerCast interview made a similar point about the ubiquity of hatred in human experience, but I’ll pay closer spiritual heed to a Catholic Archbishop than to the author of the late Archdruid Report and now the EcoSophia blog — though I still enjoy much of what Greer writes.
From an interview with Richard Epstein, a classic statement of American law, and particularly of free speech law:
“There are certain harms that are nonactionable,” Mr. Epstein says, “and offense is one of them. If I say something that you find duly offensive, you may protest, you may speak—but what you may not do is to sue me in order to silence me, or to get compensation from me.” Counterspeech is “the appropriate ‘remedy’ under these circumstances; suppressing speech is not.”
Many will try to wave that away with talk of “power structures” and “oppression.” I certainly understand the frustration of someone whose message gets drowned out. After all, I’m a social conservative of sorts (the personal details have evolved as has the popular definition of “conservatism”) who has felt like a voice crying in the wilderness for nearly 50 years. The real power used to belong to those who “buy their ink by the barrel,” but those power centers are conspicuously struggling for their very existence in a digital age.
Related to the “power structure” idea is another:
Some on the left, purporting to be mindful of the First Amendment, insist that what matters is severe offense. Mr. Epstein points to “the weird incentive effects” this creates. “People now have every motivation to ratchet up their level of indignation in order to say, ‘Look, you really hurt me,’ ” he says. “As a result, you make racial, ethnic, religious and social sensibilities an art form.” One recent technique of doing this is calling out the “microaggression,” by which he says people mean: “You may think that it’s small, but it goes to the very core of my particular being, and so it’s wrong and shouldn’t be allowed.”
Microaggressions make Mr. Epstein despair. Once you allow them, he asks, “are you going to allow them against everybody? At which point nobody can talk. So, you have to have preferences.” He fears what will come next: “You drop the ‘micro,’ keep the ‘aggression,’ and announce that since you’ve aggressed against me, I can now use force against you in self-defense.” This is part of the “modern left-wing First Amendment law,” he says, which holds that “anything you say that offends me is a form of violence, to which I can respond by the use of force.” The American left, he adds, “has become very solipsistic, and so all of their particular harms are enormous. And for those who are on the other side of this arrangement, they don’t care at all.”
The Epstein interview then turns to compelled speech:
We need to “go back and look at what Justice Robert Jackson said about free speech in Barnette in 1943.” That was the case in which the Supreme Court held that public schools could not compel Jehovah’s Witnesses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was a reversal of … a 1940 decision, Minersville School District v. Gobitis …
Justice Jackson … believed that if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, and you thought that saluting the flag was a form of idolatry, you could stand aside.” …
He contrasts Barnette with the temper of the present time. “Justice Jackson’s wasn’t the modern position, which says, ‘Since one person dissents from it, nobody can say the Pledge of Allegiance in class.’ ” The older accommodation was that you were given “a painless pass, but you had to suffer the offense of watching other people do things that you did not want to do. Now, we basically shut everybody else down if you take offense.”
I doubt that Epstein will change many minds, but the thought of “taking offense” becoming an art form ought to terrify any sensible person, while efforts to stop offensive speech, like those of the Antifa, appear increasingly likely to meet with armed, even lethal, response from those who buy their bullets by the case and have been shooting stuff all their lives.
I wouldn’t bet on winning that if I were of the Antifa. The Charlottesville guys intend to win, and they don’t have even the flexible scruples of the dearly departed Religious Right.
What we might call authentic mindfulness, I found, is a noble and potentially useful idea. But true mindfulness is being usurped by an imposter, and the imposter is loud and strutting enough that it has replaced the original in many people’s understanding of what mindfulness is. This ersatz version provides a vehicle for solipsism and an excuse for self-indulgence. It trumpets its own glories, promising health and spiritual purity with trendiness thrown in for the bargain. And yet it misunderstands human nature, while containing none of the nobility, humility or utility of the true original. Even the best-designed, most robust research on mindfulness has been overhyped.
For professional reasons, I follow a number of blogs that focus on health issues, and I had well noted the faddish spate of mindful this, mindful that and mindful the other things jamming my inbox. I’m glad I’m not the only one.
I want to read a Barack Obama review of Mark Lilla’s book.
— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) August 25, 2017
Arpaio pardon nullifies (legitimate) claim that immigration restrictionism is about the rule of law.
— PEG (@pegobry) August 26, 2017
So much for the rule of law.
Prepare for the rule of hate. #Arpaio
— Werner Twertzog (@WernerTwertzog) August 26, 2017
Pardoning Sheriff Arpaio rather than spending effort moving legislation forward is exactly the kind of disgrace I expected.
— Michael B Dougherty🍃 (@michaelbd) August 26, 2017
The botched sex-crimes investigations have served as an embarrassment to a department whose sheriff is the self-described “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and a national hero to conservatives on the immigration issue.
Bottom line: If you’re Trump’s buddy, the law doesn’t matter, competence doesn’t matter.
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Gosh! Did you see what President Donald Trump is up to today? How utterly fascinating he is! I weep with envy when I look upon Melania. He fills my every thought! He surely doesn’t need to start any more stupid wars to get my undivided attention! No siree!
There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)