Keeping up with the FITs, No. 22
The problem with ignorance of history; thoughts from Andrew Sullivan, Sean Wilentz, Bari Weiss,
The generation that now leads the movement does not seem to know the actual history of the gay rights movement, or the centrality of free expression to gay identity. They also seem to have no idea of the history of the movement against gay rights. Because if they did, they might be shocked at the ironies involved.
Anti-gay forces, hegemonic for centuries, were just like these trans activists. They were just as intent on suppressing and stigmatizing magazines, shows, and movies they believed were harmful. They too targeted individual artists and writers for personal destruction. They too believed that movies and comedy needed to be reined in order to prevent social harm. They protested in front of movie theaters. They tried to get shows canceled. And if you’d marched in any gay demo or Pride in the 1990s, you’d always be prepared to confront a grimacing Christianist yelling “Repent! Repent!” in your face.
Lately, I have been asking myself: how can we have so much intelligence around us and yet find ourselves deluged by stupidity? I mean, we have smart phones, smart TV’s, smart thermostats, computers everywhere, information at our fingertips. . .But if stupidity were a river, I would say that it’s at flood stage.
When writing was invented, humans lost the ability to memorize epic poems. But it didn’t make us stupid.
Perhaps because of machine intelligence, people are immersed in the present and have lost historical perspective. My guess is that 90 percent of Harvard graduates today know less about the Second World War than what you can find in this book that I read as a child.
Speaking of history, Sean Wilentz writes,
it thus struck me as especially bizarre to repudiate Jefferson and his declaration at the very moment when authoritarianism and despotism are on the rise. Now, more than ever, the most vulnerable among us depend on Jefferson’s egalitarian standard
As with other links in this series, I recommend the entire essay.
In a podcast with editors from the magazine Commentary, Bari Weiss suggests that people are fearful today because technology places us under surveillance. This reminds of David Brin’s The Transparent Society, in which he says that we need to adopt new ethics. But the ethics he talked about sounded more tolerant, as opposed to extremely intolerant. He suggests that with surveillance technology pervasive, we need to restrain ourselves and one another from abusing it. That is the opposite of searching through someone’s old tweets to find fodder for mob cancellation.
Around minutes 17-19 Weiss brings up the issue of whether institutions that are failing us can be reformed. The whole discussion is recommended.
In a podcast, Sullivan and John McWhorter discuss the latter’s new book, Woke Racism. About 50 minutes in, McWhorter makes the interesting claim that if you ended the drug war, culture in black communities would quickly improve. His idea is that if you take the profit of criminality, young black men would have no choice but to take work, perhaps only menial work, in the mainstream economy.
In another podcast (with a transcript), Yascha Mounk asks Ross Douthat to address the issue of whether in what Martin Gurri terms The Revolt of the Public it is the public or the elites who are most culpable. Douthat blames the elites.
a fair catalog of the major problems and crises of the last fifteen years where the expert consensus was not a reliable guide to what was going to happen and what could go wrong. And I think it's not surprising that out of that, you would get a populist reaction.