In a twit, Cathy Young reminded me of a New York Magazine article from an earlier, more innocent age. The writer was Jonathan Chait. The time was 2015. There was no President Trump, nor was such an absurd notion considered remotely possible. The article was “not a very PC thing to say.” The subtitle was “how the language police are perverting liberalism.”
It’s an exceptional article, and one that would be unlikely to see the light of day at New York Magazine today. Whether Chait would take the risk of writing such heresy, and suffering the outrage it would evoke, is unclear, but it appeared at a time when Godwin’s Law was still in effect, and so he was awful for having told the truth but at least not literally Hitler.
That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.
Chait was idealist. Since then, the notion of using reason to prevail has become a tool of the patriarchy, a weapon of white supremacists, because it fails to support the ideology of social justice. The problem wasn’t that social justice ideology was unprincipled or unreasonable, but that reason was wrong because social justice was right. If facts and logic don’t lead to progressive goals, then the fault lies with facts and logic as the goals are absolute. The easiest way to avoid confrontation with facts and logic is to eradicate words needed to communicate them.
Most mornings I wake up and, despite having decided as I fell asleep that I’d had enough of writing, feel compelled to write some more. This morning, I didn’t. A twit by a new associate editor of Quillette, Toby Young, caught my eye over the weekend.
It publishes scientifically-literate, evidence-based articles that champion the values of the Enlightenment and try to stem the tide of unreason.
To the woke, Quillette is a right-wing publication. Another twit, which I choose not to link to, spoke of arraignments in Brooklyn criminal court, contrasting the poor treatment of black defendants to what’s happening with Manafort in federal court. It was either a lie or utter incompetence. It compared apples to Chevys. It was utterly ignorant. It was adored by the great unwashed.
There was a time when the blawgosphere called out such lies. No more. Maybe here, but pretty much the rest of it has disappeared or given up. Some have been absorbed into the idiocracy because it serves the self-interest of once-thoughtful lawyers. Others see no point in inviting outrage by challenging the lies being told to convince the ignorant of the systemic reforms needed. Where there was once a peer-reviewed effort to solve problems, there is now an effort to achieve ends by lying, omitting facts, distortion, appeals to emotion and hypocrisy.
So why should I bother? Where are the rest of you, putting your time, your effort, your butt or even your money on the line? What have you contributed to the cause of trying to illuminate law, of not making people stupider? What have you put at risk?
Where once there was vibrant thought in the blawgosphere, there’s now silence. The fight has shifted to Twitter (and perhaps Facebook, though I wouldn’t know since I don’t go there), but it’s the death of thought. Most twits are incomprehensible, and very few reflect anything remotely resembling thought. Even so, if the replies are more than an emoji or a gif, they are merely knee-jerk defensive irrationality. I don’t want to “see into your soul.” Nothing personal, but I’m not that into you.
So instead of a post on a substantive issue this morning, I’ve murdered these many words as a warning. If the lawyers (and their hangers on) out there aren’t willing to brave the storm, why do you expect me to do your dirty work?
The baby lawyers have become more cluelessly passionate. The lawprofs are even more cowardly, and far more intellectually dishonest, than ever. Judges fear the torch and pitchfork crowd who openly demands they rule “properly” or else. And one old curmudgeon lawyer should call bullshit so you don’t have to?
I have nothing more to say today. I don’t know whether I’ll have anything to say tomorrow. I write for my own “amusement,” and I’m not feeling particularly amused at the moment. Do I amuse you?