Short Take: Under The Rock

Conor Friedersdorf is exceptionally smart and invariably polite. Both of these qualities are reflected in his reply to Noah Smith’s cartoon characterization of the intellectuals of the right and left. Conor provided a well-conceived argument on behalf of conservative intellectuals.

I admire Conor’s restraint. I do not, however, share it. First, Smith’s contention.

“On the left, the drive to purge racism, sexism, etc. from American society is very strong,” he tweeted, “and most discourse concerns this drive––either decrying examples of racism/sexism, discussing institutions that maintain these -isms, or discussing how to effect change.”

That may well be a fair characterization of the end game, the goals of the progressives. To the extent it suggests that anyone other than the left doesn’t support ending “racism, sexism, etc.,*” however, it’s bullshit. But more importantly, Smith uses the word “purge.” Does that mean that they will do anything, anything at all to eradicate “racism, sexism, etc.”?

There is no mention of what he means by those words. That’s a glaring omission given the tendency to turn over every rock to find racism and sexism, inventing it if there’s nothing to be found but worms. Are we talking about cops tossing black kids against walls in Harlem or microaggressions and cultural appropriation? He doesn’t say.

But then there’s the conservative side.

But because people on the right are, generally, afraid to express this idea in public, they instead talk about the idea of free speech. Basically, to the right, “free speech” is a proxy for “the right to say races and sexes are inherently different without fear of censure.” As far as I can tell, this is 100% of what the “free speech” debate is about – the idea of “group differences.” Every idea that people on the right seem to feel they can’t express in public boils down, eventually, to this.

This new twist, that free speech is a conservative “dog whistle” for racism, “due process” for sexism, has arisen quickly. How else to vilify constitutional rights that are used to challenge the good causes of purging “racism, sexism, etc.”?

Unlike Conor, I don’t defend the conservative point of view. Rather, I speak to the liberal perspective, having been there before Smith was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye, when he was in diapers, when he took his first step and uttered his first word.

How dare you claim that the left, whatever that is today, owns the fight against racism and sexism. And etc. In your twisted yet smug view, everything is some -ism, and everyone who isn’t ready for the purge is complicit in its commission. You wallow in the victimhood of the marginalized, as if it’s a virtue to be pathetic and miserable. You have an excuse for everything, and a solution for nothing. You wear your mantle of self-righteousness like a tin foil hat, oblivious of the irrationality of your adored beliefs.

You want to purge racism? But when black guys’ lives are ruined by white girls who accuse them of rape after their girlfriends ridicule them for their experimental sex, you “believe the women.” You want to purge sexism, but you infantalize women as so incompetent, fragile and stupid that they can’t manage to become scientists unless they dumb down the curriculum and print textbooks with pink covers.

And you castigate the very rights that we fought for, fought to protect, like due process and free speech not because you can’t bear the incipient racism and sexism of conservatives, but the voices of old-school liberals, old-school feminists, who tell you that you’re lying to yourself, you’ve created an absurd fantasy world that not only won’t work, but is every bit as authoritarian and harsh as your pretend enemies.

So unlike Conor, I won’t use the moderate language of a public intellectual, but the coarse words of the vulgarian, because I am not a conservative even though you believe me to be since I don’t adhere to your ideology. You’re full of shit, Noah. You and your cohort are a disgrace. Delete your account.

*The “etc.” may be necessary to express a very long list of -isms on the twitters, but it does a lot of work here.

15 thoughts on “Short Take: Under The Rock

  1. Richard Kopf


    Fascinating post.

    Friedersdorf referred to “Tyler Cowen, one of America’s most constructive public intellectuals” who “weighed in with the thought-provoking column, ‘Holding Up a Mirror to the Intellectuals of the Left.’” So, I went and read Cowen’s piece in the Atlantic.

    Cowen makes a point that is worth emphasizing for the consumers of Simple Justice. He writes:

    “Often my best conversations are with doers and practitioners, rather than intellectuals and writers. The politics of the doers are typically difficult to discern or to boil down to simple classifications.”

    Having spent a day with Shon Hopwood last week, a “doer” and a “practitioner” who appears regularly on the Hill to seek concrete changes in our criminal law and who argues federal criminal appeals while also serving as a law professor at Georgetown, Cowen’s point resonated strongly with me.

    If your readers want to put “justice” back in the phrase “criminal justice” the so-called intellectuals on the left (and the right) don’t have a clue. They should largely be ignored. Listen to the “doers” and the “practitioners” like Hopwood (and Greenfield).

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      Cowen says that, but does he mean it? I’ve tried at various times and to various extents to engage with the intellectual elite, only to be reminded that vulgarians who fail to adhere to their prescriptions of our “classification” are unworthy of their attention. To the extent they’re worthy of ours, the unfortunate fact is that they are given far greater cred than a trench lawyers like me.

      I’m just one of a million, and not a particularly charming one at that. No reason to for the important intellectuals to endure our unmoderated words and ideas. It’s not as if we actually know what we’re talking about because we actually what they merely study from afar.

      There are times when I wish all these effete intellectuals could spend a long night in a big city holding cell and see if their labels hold up.

      1. Richard Kopf


        I get your cynicism. And you know why I do.

        Perhaps you and I are so jaded by experience that we fail to see glimmers, albeit gossamer thin, of hope. Those like Hopwood and the Giant German are cause for a wee bit of hope.

        But it is early in the morning, and I find that hope fades, particularly on Sundays, as I listen to the elite who will never smell the stench of urine in the holding cell to which you refer.

        All the best.


        1. SHG Post author

          I strive not to grow cynical. It’s too easy and unproductive. That said, I’ve watched smart friends grow increasingly partisan to the point of turning into mindless caricatures, whether to court the adoration of the unduly passionate or because they’ve decided that it’s acceptable to abandon reason if it suits their ultimate objectives. This is on top of the shrieking of the useful idiots.

          All this is beginning to leave me with the sense that there’s no country for old men. No one is interested in an unaligned realist’s perspective when they can enjoy the applause of their team without any chance of getting a headache from excess thinking.

          1. Richard Kopf


            “No country for old men.” Yes. And “Unforgiven” perhaps as well.

            All the best.


      2. REvers

        “There are times when I wish all these effete intellectuals could spend a long night in a big city holding cell and see if their labels hold up.”

        And, upon release, they should have to run a gantlet of people screaming, “Can you hear me NOW?”

        1. SHG Post author

          They say (at least they used to) that a conservative is a liberal with a mortgage, and a liberal is a conservative under indictment. I wonder what an intellectual after a night in a holding cell would be?

          1. PseudonymousKid

            Oh for the days where Americans joined hands and sang together in joy and prosperity. The differences between Dems and Reps relate to spoils and not principles. Perhaps the intellectual will become another lonely socialist and reject the current order of things.

      3. Nemo

        “What do you call an intellectual after a night in a big-city holding cell?”

        As much as common sense would have us believe the answer to be ‘smarter’, that’s more common than it is sense. Most likely they will remain the same idiotic fool they were when they were walked into the cell the day before. Only with more ‘street cred’ and a bigger number of victim points.

        You can lead a horse to water, but forcing her to drink requires duck tape and a garden hose.

    2. John Neff

      My conclusion is that contradictory recommendations by outsiders (including the so-called intellectuals) are ignored but they don’t understand why. OTOH it is very difficult for an outside observer to understand what the experienced practitioners are talking about.

  2. DaveL

    There is no mention of what he means by those words. That’s a glaring omission given the tendency to turn over every rock to find racism and sexism, inventing it if there’s nothing to be found but worms.

    You don’t even need to quibble about the meaning of racism or sexism, as there’s always the et cetera he threw in there at the end. It occurs to me that et cetera can be used to hide many sins, in the contexts of political purges.

    1. the other rob

      I have read that, prior to signing death warrants, VI Lenin would append “etc.” to the list of names.

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