Apparently, election officials in numerous American states find it challenging to perform the simple act of counting. Surprisingly, Florida is not one of those states, because after the embarrassing “hanging chad” election of 2000 they cleaned up their act (a process seemingly initiated by Jeb Bush in 2001). So here’s a proposal for Republicans, independents, third parties, and even some Democrats to rally around: clean and fair elections from sea to shining sea. Instead of eliminating the Electoral College, institute an Electoral Kindergarten where election officials can learn to count. As states under Republican leadership start to routinely and transparently report election results immediately upon the polls closing, whereas unreformed states continue to take days (and even then under a cloud of suspicion), Republicans can make a straightforward offer to voters: elect us in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Nevada (etc.) and we’ll put in place an election system you can count on. Simple enough, eh?
One difference between ideological worldviews and factual worldviews can be found in the depth and (dare I say) diversity of their causal models.
Consider the fall of Rome, for which professional and armchair historians have identified hundreds of factors, from debasement of the currency to lead poisoning among the Roman elite to wasteful government spending to the decadence of late Roman morals to the rise of Christianity to bad leadership to military overextension (and many others). Was there just one cause? No, there never is.
In recent times, consider the U.S. housing bubble of the mid-2000s. Was the one true cause artificially low interest rates, financial market deregulation, the emergence of a high-risk secondary market in mortgage-backed securities, government policies that encouraged too many people to become homeowners, greed among potential homeowners, greed among mortgage processors, promotion of get-rich-quick house-flipping schemes in the media? Nope, there was plenty of blame to go around.
How about police violence? That must all and only be caused by systemic racism, right? Not so fast. Sociologist Randall Collins has identified seven causes: local governments raising money through fines and requiring police to collect those fines, using the police to enforce unpopular regulations, hypocrisy and cynicism among police officers, the inner-city Black code of defying the police and the common practice of resisting arrest (the police don’t like defiance), property destruction provoking the police in certain situations, adrenaline overload among front-line police officers, the fact that police are trained for extreme situations and aren’t trained to defuse such situations, and actual racism among police officers. And there are likely plenty more: qualified immunity laws, the decline of community policing, corruption in police unions, the lack of racial diversity on police forces, the militarization of the police, gang violence, the war on drugs, etc.
Furthermore, each one of the causes of a complex social phenomenon itself has multiple causes. To take the last-mentioned cause of police violence, i.e. the war on drugs, we could identify the role of “bootleggers and Baptists” in defining the underlying regulations, the attempt by politicians to buy votes by appearing to be tough on crime, the desire for larger budgets and more power on the part of police departments, the misguided tool of asset forfeiture, the moral corruption of too many people seeking oblivion in psychoactive substances, the lack of higher ideals in the culture at large, etc.
Anyone who says there is just one cause (from the modern-day Maoists who believe that systemic racism suffuses all of society, to the anarchists and some libertarians who see the hand of big government behind every problem in America) has an essentially ideological point of view and is unlikely to be open to persuasion by facts and reasons, at best having their head stuck in the sand and at worst preferring conformity and intimidation.
The attack on free speech is gaining speed. Indeed, we shouldn’t expect the Internet to be a realm of free expression for much longer. Consider, for instance, an initiative named Stop Hate for Profit, which is calling on Facebook to “find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism” and to adopt “common-sense changes to their policies that will help stem radicalization and hate on the platform”; an allied group named Change the Terms has helpfully provided definitions of these so-called common-sense changes and says they should apply to Internet platforms for social media, video sharing, public or private group communication, message boards, online payments, ticket purchasing, marketing, advertising, blogging, website hosting, and domain name registration.
In the revolutionary environment we find ourselves in, where definitions change almost weekly and purity spirals are the order of the day, this is chilling. Consider, for instance, white supremacy, which theorists like Robin DiAngelo have transformed from something like “a violently fascistic ideology based on the purported natural superiority of lighter-skinned people” into something like “the global, modern society that emerged in mostly Christian Europe and North America based on reason, science, objectivity, individual autonomy, free thought, and free markets.”
Let’s put two and two together, shall we? (Yes, I realize mathematics is racist too, but so be it.) If expressing any fact or opinion that doesn’t conform to the ever more rigid ideology of anti-racism can subject you to effective removal from the Internet, then free speech is dead.
Way back in 1996 at the dawn of the Internet Age, John Perry Barlow penned A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which among other things proclaimed “We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”
I watched your video. No, not that free one on YouTube, but the one you presented to me and my co-workers and for which you probably charged ten thousand dollars. Nice work if you can get it, as Ira Gershwin once quipped. (Do Jewish folks count as white, too?)
No, I haven’t read your book on white fragility. The video was enough for me, riddled as it was with execrable reasoning directed against ridiculous strawmen such as: individualism is the doctrine that human beings are utterly uninfluenced by the culture in which they live. Also, reading all those little black letters surrounded by an expanse of white paper is kind of a metaphor for structural racism, isn’t it? So reading must be bad.
Although I’m not buying what you’re selling, I’ll grant that you’re full of passionate intensity for your cause. Sadly, this reminds me of that great poem by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, in which he observed that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (Do Irish folks count as white, too?)
The exact nature of your cause is somewhat unclear, couched as it is in the fog of critical discourse analysis and other Marxist claptrap; yet apparently it has something to do with establishing the cultural hegemony of your black-and-white ideology in which skin color is the only thing that really matters in life: in other words, a cleverly manipulative repackaging of the ideas of Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. (Do Italian folks count as white, too?)
As you no doubt know but wish to suppress, 100 years ago there was no such thing as whiteness. Instead, the Anglo-Saxon majority in America drew cultural, not color, distinctions between themselves and the Irish, Italians, Slavs, and everyone else – at best barely tolerating some of these peoples. Your precious notion of whiteness is a more recent ideological construct, into the origins of which you and your ilk likely don’t want us to inquire.
So Robin, what’s really the point? All I got out of your talk is that anyone who doesn’t have really dark skin (yes, I noticed your jibe about light-skinned blacks and their distasteful “colorism”) should feel endlessly guilty in an original sin kind of way and therefore should endlessly atone for their sins through self-renunciation, confessions of complicity in systemic racism, and preferably re-education at the hands of high-paid diversity consultants like you.
Finally, your talk didn’t mention any actual Black people – like, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. The reason isn’t hard to find: MLK eloquently said that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet to you that is unacceptable, because you believe a money-grubbing, power-hungry, paleface re-education professor has the right to dictate to Black folks what they can think and how they can live (and if they don’t submit to your dictates, I guess they too must count as white, at least on the inside). Last I heard, that kind of dehumanizing condescension was called racism.
Well, here we are, transfixed at the spectacle of a slow-motion riot by a benighted mob, beneath whose thin patina of concern for justice is the base metal of Maoist ideology. Their obsession with desecrating statues reveals not an interest in the fate of particular human beings but a symbolical cast of mind. The fact that they moved quickly from Confederate generals to the Founding Fathers and thence to Abraham Lincoln (“The Great Emancipator”) and even the black former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass leads many observers to decry the abject ignorance of this mob.
Au contraire! These people know exactly what they are doing and who their enemies are.
For Lincoln and Douglass, emancipation was emancipation into citizenship within a free society, encapsulated in Douglass’s “three boxes”: the ballot box (the right to vote), the jury box (the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers), and the cartridge box (the right to keep and bear arms) – often supplemented with the soap box (the right to freedom of speech, which Douglass exercised as eloquently as any American ever has).
For modern-day Maoists, universal human rights such as these are noxious impediments to the true liberation of a socialist society.