FAIR Weekly Roundup
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This week on our Substack, FAIR Advisor Pamela Paresky discussed Whoopi Goldberg’s recent comments about the Holocaust, the problems with definitions of racism viewed through the lens of “Critical Theory,” and ABC’s decision to issue Goldberg a two-week suspension for her comments. Paresky writes:
The Nazi genocide, which succeeded in murdering fully one-third of the world’s Jews, was clearly about race. But Goldberg can be forgiven for not understanding that. Hers is a common misconception, which has been more easily propagated since well-meaning organizations like the ADL began adopting a critical lens on issues of race.
However, while Goldberg’s comments were wrong for many reasons, Paresky applauds her for delivering an honest apology and exhibiting an openness to critique. “Are we really unwilling to allow people to be wrong? And should holding correct views be a prerequisite for employment?”, asks Paresky. Even though Goldberg’s comments may have been “odious and worrisome,” Paresky found it “just as concerning that she was suspended for holding them.”
Newly-minted FAIR Advisor Jonathan Kay penned an essay about Canada’s so-called “Freedom Convoy,” and how it seemed to be on a “path to nowhere” until its critics “overplayed their hand” by using hyperbolic rhetoric to paint the protestors as political and ideological extremists.
[T]here was no real reason to think this kind of disruptive stunt was going to be a successful act of protest. In early days, many of us associated the whole project with anti-vaccine activism (even if, technically, this was about mandates, not vaccination itself), a highly unpopular cause in Canada, where almost 90 percent of the population has had at least one jab…
But something interesting happened in the last week or so: Progressive critics of the convoy badly overplayed their hand, and their own divisive rhetoric became a story in itself.
Kay believes that the truckers’ protest may “have made their mark on the political direction of their country” by shifting voter sentiments of those who cannot reconcile the images and rhetoric they’re seeing portrayed in the media with what they’re observing on the ground.
For The New York Times, FAIR Advisor John McWhorter wrote about the “use” versus “mention” distinction for uttering the N-word, sparked by the recent controversy over a viral edited compilation of podcaster Joe Rogan using the term repeatedly over the years. McWhorter writes:
Not too long ago, it was considered OK for people who aren’t Black to refer to the N-word in conversation. Not to use it, but to mention it. Within the limits of decorum, of course: Someone who, even if only mentioning the word, did so repeatedly within one conversation came off as noxious. However, under normal circumstances, white people could passingly refer to the word without the now-predictable pushback.
McWhorter suggests that the tightening of restrictions over the word may be a result our culture’s current hyper-focus on “antiracism” and the belief that “the old approach was insufficiently antiracist.” However, he points out that “it is a strange kind of antiracism that requires all of us to make believe that Black people cannot understand the simple distinction between an epithet and a citation of one,” and believes that it portrays “black” people as being overly fragile.
For Tablet, FAIR Advisor Zaid Jilani wrote about how media, government, corporations, banks, and celebrities can combine into one giant partisan push to punish their political opponents. The recent coordinated attempt to have podcaster Joe Rogan removed from the streaming platform Spotify is perhaps the clearest example of this phenomenon.
Jilani outlines the game plan:
First, activists create a panic about misinformation or offensive speech. Second, the social media platforms try to meet them halfway by introducing measures like warning labels. Third, the activists realize they’ve drawn blood, and continue to push for outright censorship. Finally, the social media platforms give in and remove the offending voice from their platforms altogether.
Jilani says this playbook leveraging nonprofits, news media, corporations, and government “represents an enforcement mechanism for the ruling ideology to express hegemony over American democracy.” He believes that this tactic gives American elites the ability to “swiftly crush ideological opponents” similar to that of the CCP, but through a different mechanism that doesn’t require overt totalitarianism.
For City Journal, FAIR Advisor Abigail Shrier wrote about gender ideology and the “powerful hold” it currently has on our court system, and how it ultimately harms parents and their children.
To illustrate her point, Shrier reports on a recent trial where a father was stripped of all custody over his son after a spate of bizarre questioning from California Superior Court Judge Joni Hiramoto:
“If your son [Drew] were medically psychotic and believed himself to be the Queen of England, would you love him?”
“Of course I would,” the senior software engineer at Apple replied, according to the court transcript. “I’d also try to get him help.”
“I understand that qualifier,” Judge Hiramoto replied. “But if it were—if you were told by [Drew’s] psychiatrist, psychologist that [Drew] was very fragile and that confronting him—or, I’m sorry, confronting them with the idea that they are not the Queen of England is very harmful to their mental health, could you go along and say, ‘OK, [Drew], you are the Queen of England and I love you; you are my child and I want you to do great and please continue to see your psychologist.’ Could you do that?”
“Yes,” Hudacko said. “That sounds like part of a process that might take some time, sure.”
“What process?” Judge Hiramoto said. “What is the thing that might take some time? Accepting the idea that [Drew] occupies an identity that you believe is not true?”
“The identity you just mentioned to me was the Queen of England,” Ted began. “I can tell him and I can affirm that to him, to reassuring him situationally; but objectively, he is not the Queen of England and that won’t change, and even the therapist in that case would know that.”
For Quillette, FAIR Advisor Jacob Mchangama wrote about how the Dutch created Europe’s first free-speech zone over 400 years ago, and how it became a hub of viewpoint tolerance, intellectual productivity, and a refuge for heterodox thinkers facing persecution elsewhere.
Between 1600 and 1800, no one read or printed more than the Dutch. An estimated 259 books and pamphlets were consumed per thousand inhabitants annually during the second half of the 17th century. The French consumed only 70 books per thousand inhabitants in the same period. But this was not just a nation of readers—as the seeds of the Enlightenment spread across Europe, Dutch printers proved both industrious and daring. Their handiwork spread the latest advances in philosophy and science across the Continent, further connecting the neural circuitry of Europe’s collective brain.
Mchangama recounts the numerous great thinkers including René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Adriaan Koerbagh who took refuge in the Dutch Republic and were able to continue producing some of their best intellectual work—much of which we depend on today—without threat.
For The Wall Street Journal, scriptwriter Joanna Cohen wrote about “the prevailing idea” within our society that it is of the utmost importance that children are able to “picture themselves among those in positions of power and influence,” particularly as it relates to using immutable characteristics like skin color as a proxy for one’s presumed “lived experience.” According to Cohen, this is an undesirable practice that puts a limit on “those we can identify with.”
Cohen explores her thesis by using her own story of “identifying” with the former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, despite sharing nothing in common with him beyond being an athlete and the desire to play sports ”with confidence and courage, grit and grace.”
Seeing that sensibility and set of skills in action made an indelible impression. It was what Mr. Montana did—not what he looked like or where he came from or any particular identity—that spoke to me. I connected on the deepest level to how he conducted himself: his preternatural composure and utter coolness under pressure.
Cohen calls on us not to limit our identities to those who look like us, because “Someone who looks nothing like us and has an entirely different lived experience may end up being the person who inspires us most.”
For The Wall Street Journal, their Editorial Board commented on a recent legal settlement resulting in Wellesley Public Schools in Massachusetts agreeing to “amend practices that parents said excluded some students from events because of their race” in response to a lawsuit by the nonprofit Parents Defending Education claiming that they violated the “First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment and civil-rights law.” According to the WSJ:
Wellesley’s “affinity groups” had held events aimed at specific races. School officials claimed no students or staff were excluded, but the families argued that isn’t what their children were told. The complaint quoted an email where a middle-school teacher said a specific “healing space” was “for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White.”
In the settlement, Wellesley agreed not to segregate affinity groups “or any other school-sponsored activities” based on race, and will “provide notice” of all future affinity group sessions and include a disclaimer stating that the events are “open to all students regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.”
Parents Defending Education believes “the victory could spur cases elsewhere—or, better, give other districts like Wellesley a reason to change their policies before they get served.”