Just America is “more concerned with language and identity than with physical conditions.” This distinguishes it from Marxism and Martin Luther King Jr., whose demands for equal rights largely fell “within the framework of the Enlightenment”. According to Packer’s rendering of the Just America ideology, on the other hand, “all inequalities between groups stem from systems of oppression and demand for collective action for redress, which often amount to new forms of discrimination—other In words, equality. In practice, identity politics transforms the old hierarchy of power into a new one: the bottom rail at the top.”
Packer describes the problems he sees with abandoning the Enlightenment framework. Fixing empathy on language alienates outsiders. It is difficult to form an alliance by constantly improving the way people talk. Symbolic fights distract the elite while doing nothing to address economic hardship. Just America may also put itself out of touch with the people it claims to represent. For example, activist pushes to denigrate police in many cities were “stopped by local black citizens who wanted better, no less, policing.”
Packer is particularly concerned about the academy and the media. Simply America’s rule on subjectivity and oppression of “the self and its pain – harm from psychological trauma, speech and texts” has become “almost ubiquitous in the humanities and social sciences departments,” he writes. And some journalists are enforcing intellectual purity and puritanism, “using the power to shame, intimidate and ostracize, even turning it on their colleagues.”
As a journalist and a part-time lecturer at a university, I would have dismissed these claims a few years ago. I still think that the change Packer is talking about is being driven by minority academics and journalists. But they have a real effect. Which brings me to Jonathan Rauch.
Roach’s theme, in “The Constitution of Knowledge”, is the construction of human understanding. He takes us on a historical tour of how many thinkers (Socrates, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montaigne, Locke, Mill, Hume, Popper) sought truth, embraced uncertainty, learned to test hypotheses, and built scientific communities. did. He is smart about the institutional support and gatekeeping that maintains a “reality-based community of science and journalism.” Social media platforms are bad at this because their profits are based on inciting the current anger of users and spreading lies faster than the truth. This isn’t a new critique, but it’s nice to see Roach weaving it into his bigger project.
Online, Rauch argues (citing political scientist) David C. Barker), a “market of reality” threatens to replace the market of ideas. He accurately describes the threat by trolling and spreading propaganda instead of seeking truth and checking facts.
But like Packer, Rauch reserved his most energetic criticism for the excesses of the left.
He blames it on a culture of cancellation, which is defined as firing or excommunicating people for lewd comments or social-media posts (some terrifying, some strange, some mainstream-to-date expressing views). We do). He writes at useful length about the difference between criticizing and canceling. “Criticism seeks to engage the conversation and identify the error; Cancellation seeks to stigmatize the conversation and punish the wrongdoer. Criticism cares about whether the statements are true; Cancellation seeks to quash their cares about social impacts.”