Over the last few decades, the Islamic menace has proved to be an able adversary of the West.
If one understands our struggle with Islamism as a test of our will, we’ve been failing miserably. We’ve been weak when it comes to the values for which we should firmly stand. In this conflict, this hasn’t served us well.
The holidays can be a tough time for lots of people, and if the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has its way, they’ll be even worse. The annual family get-togethers have taken on an added significance since the beginning of the Trump presidency. No longer just times to swap recipes and pretend you have your life together, now they are stages set for activism, disagreement, and political animus.
Just in time for American Thanksgiving, the ACLU tweeted some of their favourite Thanksgiving conversation starters in a holiday tweet.
There’s this idea that the holiday table should be turned into a court, the passing of potatoes a referendum on your racist uncle, and of course, the assumption that you have a racist uncle who needs to be schooled in the proper way of thinking.
Holidays are divisive enough already without going in armed with a series of adversarial conversation starters and assumptions about how your family needs to be educated in wokeness. But in today’s political and cultural climate, we’re supposed to believe that every conversation is an opportunity to tutor the uninitiated into progressive ideology.
The American family is on a long decline. Many families are broken, blended, confusing places. If anything, the ACLU should be promoting family bonds, not ensuring strife. When we feel connected, have a safe place to land from the turmoil of the world, and can take solace in our families, life is better.
We don’t have to agree with everyone we love to love them. We don’t have to coerce our families into sharing our views. After all, no one likes to be evangelized to and the best way to change hearts and minds is through actions, not lectures. If there are true bonds of family, they don’t need to be pressed with rhetoric, and if those bonds are tenuous, strengthen them. You don’t have to fix everyone in your family, and no one likes to be criticized. Instead of starting conversations with assumptions and accusations, start with kindness.
Probably your family is already aware of these things, like trans and LGBT rights, after all, it’s in every publication, and in the Supreme Court. This objectionable ACLU family is a straw family, they don’t exist. Where is there a family who is so insular that they don’t have LGBT people in them as relatives or friends? And you might be dealing with much bigger issues than that which carries importance for legislation and federal policy.
We have prepared some alternatives to the ACLU conversation starters, The Post Millennial holiday conversation starters:
Instead of “my pronouns are … ” try “how have you been?”
Instead of bringing up hiring problems for LGBT people, ask “how many jobs are you working these days?”
Instead of “who loved Pose season two?” Ask what a person’s favourite tv show is, and talk about that.
And don’t ask people to “please pass the pie and the Equality Act,” instead ask if you can help get the desserts on the table, and maybe listen for once.
If you have political or theological disagreements with your family, what is the basis for the opposing beliefs? Why do people believe what they believe? Find that out before belittling anyone. And if you really want to promote civil liberties and charity, propose some holiday service. You and your family can team up in helping the less fortunate at this trying time of year.
The transformation of the ACLU from an essential civil liberties organization to a group of woke zombies virtue signalling social justice platitude after social justice platitude has been particularly painful to watch. While they still advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, and against the authoritarian implementation of facial recognition software, the incessant thought policing makes it hard to get behind them.
In the last few months, the ACLU has advocated for compelled speech with regard to the issue of preferred pronouns.
They’ve also lobbied on behalf of trans women who wish to compete in women’s sports. It’s an odd position for a civil liberties organization to take—to infringe upon the rights of women to have their own spaces.
When their advocacy fails, they just shout about it.
The change in their priorities and values has led long term donors to abandon their charitable giving.
The ACLU is a storied institution. But they have abandoned their promise of advocating for actual civil liberties, and they are continuing to lose the public’s confidence. It’s part of a trend really—once-respected institutions from The New York Times to the ADL have gone woke and lost the plot over the last 3-4 years. Perhaps it’s due to a panicked overcorrection for the Trump presidency; perhaps it’s just the insidiousness of woke ideology as it has spread from the universities to the larger culture.
The ACLU wants you to confront your relatives about hot button issues in culture. Authoritarians are great at dividing families. That’s how they seize power. They need anger and division. But if you really care about your family, maybe just let the conversation happen naturally, instead of enforcing talking points. Ideological diversity is a strength.
When foundations that are founded on principles switch their focus to politics, those principles get thrown under the proverbial bus. Principles are what hold up, whereas a political agenda is more concerned with achieving its ends than making sure those ends are achieved according to any standards.
Do your best to embrace the differences between you and your loved ones. Use dialogue to open your own mind, and find the places where you do agree. And for the love of God, don’t let the ACLU ruin your holidays or your relationship with your family.
In today’s world, we are increasingly pressured to censor and restrict what we say in order to avoid causing offence by voicing opinions that might be construed as “hate speech” or “intolerant.” However, hearing opinions that differ from the mainstream, whether they’re offensive or not, is necessary in order to spark debate and open discussion, especially on issues considered contentious.
Contentious issues are meant to be debated in order for one to arrive at as truthful a conclusion as possible. Dr. Jordan Peterson summed this up when he said, “in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.”
In other words, being able to risk offence allows one of two outcomes; either one speaks an offensive, incorrect opinion and thus is given the opportunity to be corrected, or one speaks an offensive remark that delivers an uncomfortable truth.
The reason Dr. Peterson links the ability to think with the ability to speak is because speech is merely thought vocalized. Thought brought out into the open is thought that is able to face scrutiny. However, this can only happen if people don’t shut down debate and discussion by claiming something is offensive or abusive. Those who easily take offence overlook the fact that an opinion or belief that is vigorously debated is a thought that can go onto to serve the public good by either being publicly and validly discarded or publicly and validly incorporated into the collective knowledge.
Also overlooked by those who want to live under the rule that says one cannot cause offence is the impossibility of implementing such an authoritarian ambition on a large scale. While avoiding offence might be achievable when face-to-face with just one person, this is nearly impossible for those who give lectures or speeches on a contentious issue to hundreds of people at a time.
How can you possibly cover the topic without offending at least one person? The answer is, you can’t. The only way to avoid causing offence to thin-skinned audience members would be to not hold the lecture at all. That, however, would be a capitulation to erratic emotional frailties, which, in turn, would directly contribute to the end of our ability to speak freely. It is indisputable that debate and open discussion are critical because they allow both sides to hear another point of view and thus come to a balanced and well-informed conclusion; if conflict of opinion still remains after opposing views have been aired, then there is much wisdom, and civility, in both sides, simply taking the age-old stance to agree to disagree.
For my generation, perhaps the best argument for the protection of freedom of speech and expression is that it is freedom of speech that prevents socially conservative people from banding together to have the state forbid us from attending, say, a Rihanna concert or from watching Game of Thrones on the basis they feel offended by the promotion of sexual immorality or religious sacrilege. Success in this would be a direct attack on freedom of expression, in this case, artistic expression. The fact is, once an identity group takes offence over what they see as a contentious issue and then demand the state to prohibit what they deem offensive, it opens a door for all manner of moral issues to be decided upon by an entity that is as unaccountable as it is capricious. History too often has shown that those who seize control of language and the right to use it freely—especially under the guise of wielding moral justice or goodness—are those who soon use this control as leverage to take away other rights. As Philosopher Sir Roger Scruton wrote, when “the state is seen as the guardian of public morality” we give up enormous freedom because we give the state the power to, “forbid the misuse of our freedom.”
Anybody who has doubts about the danger we face over the loss of our freedom of speech only has to consider the recent attempt to silence Lindsay Shepherd, a former teacher assistant in Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. In her class, she played a video clip that featured Dr. Jordan Peterson debating with another University of Toronto professor the inherent dangers Bill C-16 presented for freedom of speech because of its legislated use of ideologically charged language, in this case, gender-neutral pronouns. Although Lindsay Shepherd had taken a neutral stance in the matter and she had presented both sides of the argument, she was dragged before a committee and accused of creating a “toxic climate” at the University for showing the clip, this despite the fact the video clip had been aired on public television and so was already in the public domain.
According to her interrogators, she had “violat[ed] the school’s Gendered and Sexual Violence policy“ and created “an unsafe learning environment for students.” Worse, she was falsely told that she had “broken the law” over a subject that, to use the predictable words of ideologues, “there is no debate.” In fact, all Shepherd had done was cause offence to a small number of people because, as part of her lesson on, ironically, “how language affects our lives,” she had dared to air a short clip of a debate that featured a contentious issue. That she was told she’d broken the law, was then subjected to little more than a kangaroo court and that this all happened on a university campus gives a clear indication that our freedom of speech is very much under threat. In the end, in this case at least, the ideologues lost, and Shepherd received an apology from Wilfrid Laurier University for the way she was treated. However, given that this incident was able to happen in the first place, it would be foolish to think that such attacks won’t continue their quest to limit our freedom both to speak and to hear differing opinions.
Dr. Peterson says that, “no one believes a world constructed through deception is preferable” and of course he’s right. But not causing offence requires a certain amount of deception because by suppressing our own beliefs and opinions, we risk parroting, under duress, the state-sanctioned beliefs and opinions of others that we believe to be lies. Those who disagree should keep in mind that there is only one way to entirely erase thoughts considered disagreeable or offensive from the minds of those who think them: “erase” the individual who holds such thoughts. This is extremely dangerous.
We should heed the wise words of Justice Julian Knowles, a British High Court judge who is currently presiding over a “hate speech” challenge in London’s High Court of Justice. In a statement addressed to the court, he said, “none of us have a right to be offended by something that they hear … freedom-of-expression laws are not there to protect statements such as “kittens are cute”… [they are there] to expose people to things that they do not want to hear.” The message, then, is to toughen up. (No offence.)
The keynote speech Sacha Baron Cohen gave at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Never Is Now conference showed that he is in favour of not only censoring others but unwittingly censoring himself. Cohen has been a funny, irreverent, offensive comic for some time. His entire brand is based on saying the wrong thing to the right people. Yet this man, who has made his name and his money pushing the limits of tolerable speech, wants to silence the social media speech of those he doesn’t agree with. Doesn’t he know that when free speech rights are curtailed, no one’s voice is spared?
At issue for Cohen is the political landscape of Facebook. While Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has curbed political ads on his network, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has refused to do so. Cohen blames the way people communicate for the evils in the world, but the methods of speech are not the problem. The problem is the same as its always been: bad actors who use whatever means necessary to spread lies and misinformation.
“Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear,” Cohen said. “It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.”
We didn’t need studies to tell us this. Lies have been spreading faster than truth even before the Mark Twain saying about how a lie can get around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on. Hell, it’s even a lie that Mark Twain said it! Lies and propaganda are not new. Prior to Facebook, Google, and Twitter, there were newspapers, magazines, and television news, which were also susceptible to falsehoods.
While Cohen is concerned that Hitler could hypothetically buy a 30-second ad on Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Ashe Schow of The Daily Wire points out that Cohen fails to address the fact that Hitler was given a platform by none other than The New York Times in 1941. The New York Times Magazine ran excerpts from “Mein Kampf,” headlining it “The Art of Propaganda.” And they ran articles both in favour of and against intervention.
The rise of anti-Semitism is one of the most pressing threats to our civil society. It is tempting to say that this alone is a reason to block, ban, or censure. But it is not that easy, that simple, or that solvable. Cohen’s call for regulation and censorship will not curtail hate—it will just cause it to flourish in darker, more radical places. The internet is boundless, and we cannot monitor it all. His proposed solution—to grant power to a select few arbiters of right-speak who would attempt to monitor it—would make things worse.
The ADL has long provided leadership in the essential fight against anti-Semitism, but it has not been without its own stumbles along the way in recent years. Critics have argued that the ADL has “betrayed its mandate” by taking a hard-left turn and focusing on the much more amorphous issue of “hate.” Take, for example, their recent labelling of the children’s “bowl haircut” and the classic “OK symbol” as “official hate symbol.”
Even the great Stephen Fry, who has dedicated considerable effort to combatting anti-Semitism on a global scale, was quick to point out how counterproductive and preposterous such an overreach was:
Another flaw in Cohen’s thinking is in his assumptions that the fact-checkers he is calling for will be non-ideological. One need look no further than the current incarnations of Wikipedia or Snopes to see that deploying a team of fact-checkers does not solve the problem of partisanship. Most fact-checkers have a left-wing bias, and this ideological creep has led to Wikipedia blacklisting many conservative news sources and Snopes embarrassingly “fact-checking” satirical articles.
Which brings us to Cohen’s own work. Cohen had been an effective satirist for so long because he played the role of a trickster who eventually told on his subjects’ and society’s own biases. Through characters like Ali G and Borat, he exposed the preposterous assumptions, values and beliefs that surround us. It was never great comedy, but it certainly achieved the effect he was going for.
In his unscripted Showtime series Who Is America, he duped Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Ted Koppel, Senator Bernie Sanders. He posed as an interviewer, asked them questions in order to reveal their flaws, and made them look foolish. Is posing as a reporter in order to access and exploit information for entertainment a reasonable thing to do? The answer should be yes, sure, why not, all’s fair in love and comedy.
But those who favour Cohen’s style might find themselves less on board with a guy like Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe, who posed as a pimp in order to expose, Acorn, a government home mortgage lending scheme. O’Keefe’s methods were roundly criticized by the left at the time as disingenuous. But perhaps that’s just the kind of work that Cohen would like to see disallowed from the platform, the kind that’s so like his own.
The greatest satirists in the current cultural age are ones like Titania McGrath who dupes an unsuspecting public into believing her identity-based personae is real. Titania taunts her audience with inconceivable calls to action in the name of wokeness, blurring the already blurry line between reality and mockery. That’s what good satire does.
It’s no surprise that Titania has been twice suspended on social media based on the misunderstanding of her satirical project. This is what Cohen is unintentionally advocating for—the silencing of satirists, comedians, and provocateurs.
The truth is Cohen’s own work would not survive the censorious cull he is calling for. It would be removed for reasons of “hate speech”—almost all of it. And the messages or lessons Cohen has hoped to convey with his work would be gone too.
It’s been said many times that the solution to bad speech is more speech. It’s disconcerting and depressing as hell to see that in 2019, those who made their careers by living this truth are now abandoning it.
A quick Google search for diversity training yields hundreds of results. An entire industry has sprung up around government and private sectors requirements for employee education on inclusivity and sensitivity in the workplace. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I.) sector is thriving, and it has our biases, prejudices, and fears to thank. The work perpetuated by consultants, however, has no endgame. In fact, it is self-perpetuating. If it wasn’t, then those consultants and middle-men who teach us how to use the right pronouns, avoid microaggressions, and beware of our privilege, would be out of their jobs. As this new industry gains a serious foothold in the economy, any attack on identity politics is an attack on livelihoods.
A classic episode of The Office, the second of the series, skewers diversity training in the workplace.
The Office is a mainstay of millennial’s programming choices, and it has a field day with the stupidity of diversity training, taking offence at nonsense. Yet millennial expectations are being blamed for this massive uptick in diversity training. According to The New York Times, “Millennials’ expectation of inclusion is part of what is driving C.E.O.s and directors to bring in D.E.I. consultants. That generation will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.”
In fact, The New York Times estimates that diversity training in the workplace, complete with consultants, offsite days, inclusivity seminars, and the like “…can take anywhere from three months to a few years. Fortune 500 companies with existing diversity departments may only need educational refreshers, while companies starting from scratch may require thorough examinations of mission statements, employee reviews, airing of past grievances and more.
Consultants talk to employees about their day-to-day experiences, redline handbooks and intervene with coaching and conflict resolution.”
That sounds like an awful lot of hourly billing. If you were a diversity consultant marketing your services, the best thing you could do for your business would be to sell a package of workshops, with refresher courses for existing employees and training for new hires. You’d want to sell your merch, too. Handbooks, stickers, buttons, maybe some signage. Maybe you’d even offer a retainer so that your racism and transphobia fearing clients could have access to you whenever a pronoun was mislaid, or a joke inadvertently overheard.
A teacher friend told me about a mandatory diversity training seminar she attended at the private pre-school where she worked. The D.E.I. pros addressed the teachers and staff, talked through their script about being careful to not offend coworkers, to make sure that those who were white were aware of their privileged position. My friend, who is white, was aghast. She didn’t feel privileged in the workplace, where her direct superior was a woman of colour, as were many of her coworkers. She didn’t feel disenfranchised, either, instead, she thought they were all on equal footing.
She was informed by her coworkers that, when it came to the interactions with the parents of the white students, her privilege was clear. What she was supposed to do with this lesson was unclear. She thought that she was a good teacher, and worked hard to ensure that all her students were engaged and active. She wasn’t provided any solutions to her privilege, only the information that it was a problem.
Many workplaces have got so on board the trans inclusivity bandwagon that they’ve gone far beyond making sure people feel comfortable expressing their pronouns, they now require it. Instead of asking people their pronouns, pronouns are required, on name tags and in email sign-offs. While employers think this is inclusive of trans and non-binary persons, it is non-inclusive of people who think the entire pronouns declaration trend is complete garbage. The solution to that? Diversity training. Probably those folks just need a refresher course.
If it feels like D.E.I. is a top-down approach to inclusivity and sensitivity within the workplace, that’s because it is. The whole thing gets rammed down people’s throats without any say, this is a top-down approach—much like previous top-down approaches. Just because it flips the script and alters the power dynamic doesn’t mean it disrupts the identity-based power dynamic, it just gives a different identity a leg up in the power department. That’s not better.
Helping invert, but not disrupt, the power structure, are Cornell University, Georgetown, and Yale, which all offer Diversity Training Certificates. Students can study remotely and earn the right to tell their fellow employees how to act in the workplace. Once the universities get hold of discipline, they don’t let it go. The revenue associated with offering new classes to new students is too great. We’ll really know we’re screwed when students will be able to write a doctoral thesis on diversity education and earn a D.E.I. Ph.D. Doctors of Diversity will not be interested in ending inequity, but making sure everyone believes that it thrives, just to uphold their own relevancy.
Hiring for offices of diversity and inclusion is on the rise in private and public sector workplaces. Along with human resources, reps to discern inappropriate behaviour between the sexes and make sure everyone knows just how complicated their health benefits are, we have reps to let us know when our privilege is showing, or when we should be offended by the exposure of a coworker’s privilege. If you don’t know if you have been microaggressed against, or if you’re worried that someone is at risk of being misgendered, these are the folks to report those thought crimes to.
This is why identity politics is here to stay. There is no end goal where inequity is gone. With the advent and acceptance of unconscious bias as a reality, we can just accuse each other of unconscious racism, misogyny, and transphobia forever. If we don’t know we are biased, then when we are called out for those biases, we will need extra special D.E.I. training, handbooks, refresher courses, one on one sessions, remediation counselling, and those people who train us will need to be qualified. The money is flowing, and no one has any intention of stopping it. If identity politics were to peter out, an entire industry would be at stake. For D.E.I. to be maintained, racism has to be perpetuated or a bunch of people will be out of work.