Media, Top Stories

Is Political Diversity on the Op-Ed Page Worth Defending?

The Atlantic’s decision to fire the conservative columnist Kevin D. Williamson has occasioned an avalanche of think pieces, the latest of which is a Wall Street Journal article from Williamson in his own defence. All these commentaries swirl around the same question: Exactly how important is political diversity in media? For some, Williamson’s firing is proof that the mainstream media practices something like institutional discrimination against conservatives. For others, Williamson’s views were so beyond the pale that hiring him in the name of ‘diversity’ would be no more justifiable than a university astronomy department hiring a flat-earther. Diverse, yes, but also disqualifyingly wrong.

Of the latter group—those who are skeptical of the need for media outlets to pursue political diversity—the ablest pen currently belongs to Osita Nwanevu, who laid out his argument in a piece for Slate entitled “It’s Time to Stop Yammering About Liberal Bias.” There are two layers to his critique: firstly, the media actually has plenty of political diversity, but secondly, this diversity isn’t a particularly important value for publications like the Atlantic to pursue.

Nwanevu argues that in our nation’s three most important ‘big tent’ publications—what we might call media’s elite gatekeeper institutions—there are already more than enough conservatives and libertarians. At the New York Times, Washington Post, and Atlantic, Nwanevu counts 18 such people who contribute regularly: David Brooks, Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss, Ross Douthat, David Frum, Conor Friedersdorf, Reihan Salam, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Megan McArdle, Marc Thiessen, Max Boot, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin, Kathleen Parker, Radley Balko, Ed Rogers, and Anne Applebaum. In the spirit of good faith, I’ll point out that he forgot at least one—McKay Coppins, at the Atlantic.

It’s an odd list, for a few reasons. Firstly, the only thing these writers really have in common (besides great talent) is that each of them holds views that depart from progressive orthodoxy in some way. Bret Stephens is skeptical of environmental activism, Bari Weiss questions the #MeToo movement, Conor Friedersdorf is worried about free speech on campus, and so on. But if the standard for political diversity is ‘anyone who departs from orthodoxy in any way,’ it only shows us how powerful that orthodoxy really is. We should sense trouble when paragons of careful, centre-Right moderation like Anne Applebaum start being held out as examples of ‘diversity.’

Indeed, one couldn’t build a more moderate list of dissenters. Of this crew, only one—Ed Rogers—could reasonably be described as a Trump supporter. The rest are prominent Trump opponents, and more than a few are widely despised by the country’s conservative establishment for their heterodoxies on policy. They represent the mildest encroachment on the political Left, certainly relative to the views of the country as a whole. A stiff dose of doctrinaire conservatism this is not.

But being in fundamental agreement with their publications’ liberal readership on the most important political issue of the day apparently isn’t enough—many of these writers find themselves hanging onto their jobs by their fingernails. At the New York Times, Ross Douthat and Bret Stephens have both triggered a savage backlash and boycotts of the paper, and Bari Weiss is regularly subjected to particular venom. James Bennet, the editor responsible for hiring them, is reportedly under intense internal pressure to change course. His policy of seeking a political diversity that extends past tokenism on the op-ed page is instead understood as “contempt for readers.”

Inexplicably, Nwanevu argues that liberals are “almost entirely indifferent” to these conservatives—despite subscription cancellations reaching such a pitch over the hiring of Stephens that Arthur O. Sulzburger, the publisher of the New York Times, was forced to issue a rare public appeal for calm.

Perhaps the most curious thing about this list is how readers are expected to take it on faith that 19 non-progressives is plenty. Between the three publications, I count 105 regular opinion writers. That means a full 18 percent of this group identify as anything other than left-of-center. Once again, if Nwanevu thinks this is ‘diversity,’ it says more about the power of liberal orthodoxy than anything else.

This mirrors the under-representation that conservatives experience in academia, another elite field whose nominal commitment to diversity of thought often collides with the political tribalism of its practitioners. Musa al-Gharbi recently documented that conservatives are the single least-represented group in the social sciences—blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are all better represented. Extreme conservative underrepresentation in academia isn’t inevitable—the problem in academia has been getting steadily worse over time, perhaps fueled by the fact that more education makes people more willing to discriminate against people who don’t share their political views.

Nwanevu sees calls for these institutions to seek greater political diversity as disingenuous. After all, he argues, if conservatives care so much about institutional neutrality, why do they respond to exclusion by creating highly partisan institutions like Fox News or Liberty University instead of forming neutral ones? “Until the Daily Caller hires a full-time writer who regularly makes the case for taking Marx and microaggressions seriously,” he writes, “the right’s complaints on this subject should be dismissed out of hand and without regret.”

Last year, centrist writer and psychiatrist Scott Alexander offered a framework to rebut this critique on his SlateStarCodex blog:

[There is] a widespread norm, well-understood by both liberals and conservatives, that we have a category of space we call “neutral” and “depoliticized”. These sorts of spaces include institutions as diverse as colleges, newspapers, workplaces, and conferences. And within these spaces, overt liberalism is tolerated but overt conservatism is banned. In a few of these cases, conservatives grew angry enough that they started their own spaces — which began as noble attempts to avoid bias, and ended as wretched hives of offensive troglodytes who couldn’t get by anywhere else. This justifies further purges in the mainstream liberal spaces, and the cycle goes on forever.

Stanford historian Robert Conquest once declared it a law of politics that “any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” I have no idea why this should be true, and yet I’ve seen this happen again and again. Taken to its extreme, it suggests we’ll end up with a bunch of neutral organizations that have become left-wing, plus a few explicitly right-wing organizations. Given that Conquest was writing in the 1960s, he seems to have predicted the current situation remarkably well.

Understood this way, Alexander helps us see the central flaw in Nwanevu’s argument. Conservatives form partisan institutions because they keep being excluded from the ‘neutral’ ones. From the conservative perspective, forming more neutral institutions will just replicate the same problem, because the default setting in these spaces will eventually move to the left, just as Conquest predicted. If you’re a conservative and you want to ensure that your voice will be heard, placing your faith in the goodwill of the liberal colleagues who will soon outnumber you can prove challenging. If liberals want to minimize the growth of highly partisan institutions like Fox News and Liberty University, the solution is simple—stop making it so difficult for conservatives to exist in neutral spaces.

Of course, liberals have their own overtly partisan institutions, but Nwanevu misses them in his analysis. He expects National Review to be willing to hire progressives if the Atlantic must hire conservatives—but he forgets that the two publications have totally different missions. National Review is equivalent to Mother Jones, not the Atlantic. The Atlantic’s mission is explicitly to be a “big tent for ideas.” Like the New York Times and Washington Post, it seeks to be an arbiter of a grand national conversation and a publication of record. National Review doesn’t share this mission—it exists to explore conservative ideas, just as Mother Jones’s mission is to explore progressive ones. As David French pointed out, National Review is under no more an obligation to hire a progressive than Mother Jones is to hire a conservative.

Nwanevu commits this error because he takes it as a given that the Atlantic will be a publication of the Left—despite its professed mission to be a ‘big tent.’ Once again, Robert Conquest has been proved right. For Nwanevu, progressivism is the ambient default setting of ‘neutral’ institutions, so natural that it becomes invisible, like the fish who wonder “What the hell is water?”

The central premise behind the drive for viewpoint diversity in media is that, as much as possible, we should prevent people from self-siloing. Big-tent publications with broad readerships advance this goal by featuring diverse views on their opinion pages, guaranteeing that readers will encounter ideas they disagree with. Partisan publications can also contribute to a macro landscape of diversity, by ensuring that high-quality options all co-exist in dialogue with one another. But the gatekeeper publications have a special obligation to diversity, because if they mutate into echo chambers, total self-siloing becomes the likely outcome for many readers.

When we accept the mutation of neutral institutions into echo chambers, we poison the entire political environment. The conservatives who get excluded seek their revenge in the form of heightened partisan nastiness, uncut by any obligation to make a wide appeal or opportunity to persuade fence-sitters. Liberals see this as proof of inherent conservative derangement, and feel even more empowered to keep excluding them. Everyone self-silos, and everyone polarizes. Kevin Williamson may not have been the ideal vehicle to arrest this process, but if we want to avoid a fate of spiraling tribal warfare, we will need to find a way to preserve the opportunity for Americans of different views to open the pages of the same story and read, together.

 

Nicholas Phillips is a research associate at Heterodox Academy and president of the NYU School of Law Federalist Society. You can follow him on Twitter at @czar_nicholas_

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48 Comments

  1. Michael Carpenter says

    And the Fox media outlets outreach to liberal/left-leaning writers and commentators has been…I’ll wait

    • Nicholas Phillips says

      Michael, try reading my detailed consideration of that exact argument. It’s available in the article you’re commenting on

  2. Stuart says

    you did read the article didn’t you Micheal? The final third was dedicated to that exact objection.

  3. I’m a bit hesitant about the idea that ‘big tent’ publications are ‘obligated’ to have viewpoint diversity. To what extent is ‘big tent’ or ‘newpaper of record’ simply a marketing slogan? I can’t remember a time when the nyt wasn’t an explicitly liberal publication, even if they used to pay more lip service to broader viewpoint acceptance. Isn’t it better if they give up the charade?

    • Frank says

      I agree with your point. Somehow the author believes that publication mission statements have anything to do with their actual purpose and performance. Naive…

  4. Justin D says

    Aww muffin, conservatives are having a tough time existing in public spaces? Wipe your butts and grow up, snowflakes.

    • Doug says

      We’re existing just fine in public spaces, as evidenced by who controls the White House, Congress, and 33 out of 50 state governorships. You can tell us to “grow up” after your side stops having screaming contests every November 8.

      • Justin D says

        My side? What, you mean, Canadians? I don’t give two shits who’s in the White House, bud.

        • Nicholas R says

          You care enough about American politics to leave condescending comments on a news article though? Kinda a sad use of time isn’t it…

          • Jeremy Smith says

            It’s the state of many Canadians these days, hateful, intolerant liberals just like in the US. Look at who they elected, their own Obama in Trudeau. They can look forward to the destruction of their country.

  5. Nick says

    If you check out Jonathan Haidts work you’ll see that “conservative” universities have a much better record with intellectual diversity. In Haidts research his found a 10:1 to 20:1 ratio of liberals to conservatives in “traditional” universities, but a 1:1 to 3:2 conservative to liberal faculty in explicitly “conservative” universities. So the real answer is actually to just creat more conservative spaces. At least as far as universities are concerned

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uogEbb0WOJE

      • JMcD says

        Such an unthoughtful comment for such a thoughtful website.

        • Doug says

          Trolls who are constantly triggered by their own cognitive dissonance rarely have enough mental capacity left over to allow for meaningful contributions. Lashing out in frustration is all they’re capable of.

          • Justin D says

            Naw bud, I’m just not here to make you feel good about yourself. I don’t have any f&cks to give about whether or not you feel comfortable in public space.

        • Burt Reagan says

          Quillette should institute similar policies to Jerry Coyne’s site, whyevolutionistrue, aka the rulez. Disagree all you want, but no trolling or name-calling. Easier said than done, I’m sure, but Jerry pulls it off and the comments there are some of the smartest, most civil on the internet.

          • Justin D says

            Local man wants to curtail freedom of expression. Go wipe your butt.

          • Evan says

            I’m an organizer in the rationality community, and I know software developers there edited the WP back-end for Slate Star Codex so moderation there became possible, both in providing tools which decreased moderation time/incident, so Scott as an editor has the bandwidth to moderate the SSC comments section at all, and also making it easier for readers. I’m in contact with those developers, so I’ll contact them to see if they could do something similar to Quillette.

  6. NickG says

    >if we want to avoid a fate of spiraling tribal warfare, we will need to find a way to preserve the opportunity for Americans of different views to open the pages of the same story and read, together. <

    The comments on this post, at least thus far, demonstrate a large part of the issue. Many of the left are not seeking to 'avoid tribal warfare' they just want to win it and take no prisoners.

    • Burt Reagan says

      Douglas Murray has been making this point for the last few years. He’s right and so are you. Sam Harris, in his last podcast, finally acknowledged that conversations with the far left are just as impossible as those with the far right. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but it seems correct. Neither are interested in dialog or truth, only winning. A real shame, but it’s useful to know in the interest of saving energy on pointless attempts to persuade.

    • Frank says

      Consider this fact. It should, by now, be clear that the political “Divide” in the USA is not possible to “fix”. This divide exists around fundamental and basic value differences including morality. Tinkering in an attempt to “fix” this divide may distract some for a bit but there is not much that can be done politically with this huge divide that exists in the US.

      You’re going to need to make a paradigm shift to really understand what’s going on in the US. We have a major schism in the US based on a different set of values and beliefs than we had 50+ years ago. Our clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail and over who is to defer to whom about what.

      Some of the public and some in the print media still continue to pound on Congress for their unwillingness to compromise. But compromise is only possible among competing interests when they can agree on an overarching goal. That has been impossible in the US. Citizens are deeply divided about who should get the benefits of government and under what conditions. Increasingly, public policy analysts see no fix to that

      Tinkering around the edges of this huge controversy is just that… tinkering. While it is mostly off the general commentary radar for now, I believe we’ll see the continuing effects of American style “Balkanizing” in the USA for years into the future.

  7. Jack B. Nimble says

    Look, it is a mistake to focus just on two newspapers and one magazine. Most people in the US–if they read a newspaper at all–read a local paper. In 2012, the last time a ‘mainstream’ Republican was nominated for president, 105 daily newspapers endorsed Romney and 101 endorsed Obama. [source: https://bit.ly/2HILrP7 ]

    And what about people who get their news from local TV stations? Last month it was revealed that Sinclair Broadcast Group ordered the news staff at their almost 200 stations to read pro-Trump propaganda verbatim [source: https://bit.ly/2Guzb5c ].

    I support the re-introduction of the “Fairness Doctrine” in broadcast media, since the local TV companies are using a public resource [airwaves] for private profit. The push to eliminate the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s came from conservatives [three FCC commissioners had been appointed by Reagan and one by Nixon, and Reagan vetoed an attempt by Congress to overturn the FCC vote that abolished the fairness rule]. Source: Wikipedia, “Fairness Doctrine”

    It is time for conservatives to acknowledge their own history on political diversity in the media.

    • Doug says

      Using the circulation data in the tables on the Wikipedia page you linked, the combined circulation of the 105 dailies that endorsed Romney was 10,898,963, versus 16,430,727 for the dailies endorsing Obama. Which shows the opposite of what you were trying to pass off.

      The statement read by the news staff at Sinclair-owned stations did not mention Trump either directly or indirectly, and merely proclaimed a commitment to factual news reporting. The transcript of the statement is contained within the following article: [ https://bit.ly/2HHaMch ] Why lie about something that’s so easily disproven? I know this is just an anonymous comments section, not a dissertation defense, but at this point, why would you expect readers here to believe anything you write, or even bother reading your comments?

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        I left it to the reader to draw conclusions from the data on endorsements. You can spin the data lots of ways: adding endorsements from weekly papers and monthly magazines, adding in papers that usually endorse Republicans but didn’t endorse in 2012, etc. The overall pattern is clear: the print media, like the public at large, are roughly equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, despite the decades-long, shrill cries of ‘liberal media bias’ from the political right.

        And that Sinclair script? Trump has used the phrase ‘fake news’–or similar terms like ‘fake stories’ or ‘fake media’–an average of once a day during his first year in office [over 400 times! https://cnnmon.ie/2HNDcSh ]. The term is as closely associated with him as ‘New Deal’ and ‘Four Freedoms’ were with FDR. A propaganda piece doesn’t have to mention the Leader’s name to qualify as propaganda, and is usually more effective if it doesn’t. Instead, the script just has to support the Leader’s preferred narrative using the Leader’s preferred catchphrase, to qualify as propaganda.

        Trump, of course, isn’t being this cunning, and has rushed to embrace Sinclair. He wrote recently that “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.” and “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased.”

        I don’t see how any reasonable person can see the phrase ‘fake stories’ in the Sinclair script as anything other than a hat tip to Trump. Also, I find it amusing that Doug called me a liar in the same thread where another comment asked Quillette to block commenters who use name-calling.

        • Tranque says

          Your bias truly blinds you. That piece about the “fake news” simply shows how all these news outlets parrot the same info and the BIG question is, who is it writing all these scripts? Aside from Fox, all other media outlets present news from a liberal bias in every way. Watching the news for a conservative is maddening because it is clearly slanted.

        • Jeremy Smith says

          Doug and Tranque were absolutely right to peg you for being blind and lying. Your attempt at critical thinking is feeble. Why are you using 2012 data and not 2016 data? The 2016 data clearly shows the extreme bias the media has.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_endorsements_in_the_United_States_presidential_election,_2016

          Trump received only 4.3% of endorsements.

          For 2012, all that the data shows is that the vast majority of the media are part of the Uni-party. They and both political parties are completely out of touch with mainstream America. And that continued with the extremely negative reporting after he took office.

          “Nevertheless, the sheer level of negative coverage gives weight to Trump’s contention, one shared by his core constituency, that the media are hell bent on destroying his presidency.”

          https://shorensteincenter.org/news-coverage-donald-trumps-first-100-days/

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            Doubling down on the name-calling: that’s what *I* call feeble!!

            Even the Shorenstein Center link is more nuanced than your excerpt. The article notes that when TV news included a sound bite or interview that mentioned Trump, 80% of the sound bites in the first 100 days of TV coverage were by Republicans [including Trump himself] and 6% of the sound bites were by Democrats. You can spin these numbers anyway you like.

            As libertarian Conor Friedersdorf explained [https://theatln.tc/2HZwmGD ], the 2016 presidential election was unprecedented, in that many newspapers that had never endorsed at all [like USA Today] or had almost always picked Republicans for president went for Clinton that year. That’s why I reached back to 2012.

            Look, any rigorous analysis should control for factors like the tendency of newspapers to back incumbents over challengers, and should look at papers across time and across the country. That would require…. a big research grant. Fortunately that work has already been done, at least for a 62-year window ending in 2002:

            ‘The political orientation of newspaper endorsements in US elections, 1940-2002’ by Stephen Ansolabehere et al. [ https://bit.ly/2HuhI9f ]

            ‘Perhaps the most widely and intensely debated issue in the study of the media is whether the press has a partisan or ideological slant. Endorsements provide a direct measure of the partisan orientation of the press when the papers consciously choose to enter in the electoral arena. ‘Editor and Publisher’ tabulate the number of papers endorsing Democratic and Republican presidential candidates each year. Until the 1990s, the press showed a very strong Republican bias, and in 1996 newspaper endorsements split evenly between the two major party candidates, Clinton and Dole.

            A strikingly similar pattern emerges in newspaper endorsements of other federal and statewide elections. From the 1940s through the 1960s, the major newspapers in the country (our smaller sample) heavily favored Republicans in their endorsements. Today, newspapers, on average, are evenly split, or lean slightly Democratic.’

            People who walk around in ideological bubbles should watch out for sharp-edged facts.

      • Frank says

        Speaking of endorsements — as you were — only one major newspaper endorsed Donald Trump. Only one. Despite the concerted shrieking of virtually the entire American Elite ruling class, Donald Trump won the election. Some 60 million people voted for a man for whom Roger Cohen emptied his dictionary trying to insult. And this is a man whom the American people chose as their President. What better proof could we have of the stark difference between printed opinion, polls and public opinion; between what Americans think and what our “rulers” want us to think? Donald Trump has ripped away whatever was left of the pretense of media objectivity

  8. ga gamba says

    It confounds me that in the era of digital publishing, one where publications are no longer constrained by paper’s size and weight limits to the number of pieces printed on physical media, we see “intellectual” writers such as Nwanevu argue that any views be curtailed.

    Online publications need to be sticky. This is measured by the bounce rate, the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page; daily page views by visitor; and daily time on site. Alexa reveals The Atlantic’s bounce is almost 76%, daily page views 1.49, and the daily visitor spends about two and half minutes on the site; this is abysmal. Engaging content reverses the tide, and though not all pieces may be that, plenty of content increases the likelihood readers may find other pieces of interest.

    “Diversity isn’t a particularly important value”, yet I fail to unsee the irony of the same suspects demanding the important value of diversity be “embraced” and “celebrated” everywhere else. Perhaps diversity is a codeword for something else. You’d think an opinion maker, who by job description tend to be provocative, would most desire to know what the opposition thinks. Think of it as reconnaissance, allowing someone like Nwanevu the opportunity to plan a counter argument. Sticking your head in the sand is not a credible defence against the lions.

    Blogger Jessica Valenti wrote in The Guardian: There’s a reason, after all, that the refrain “don’t read the comments” has become ubiquitous among journalists. But if we’re not to read them, why have them at all?

    I wasn’t always a comments-hater. When I started a feminist blog in 2004, I was thrilled to finally be able to talk with other young feminists online and was open to chatting with detractors.

    “Don’t read the comments.” Why? Induce brain freeze? Too traumatic? Certain death?

    When she was writing to a majority audience of like-minded feminists she was happy to read them – “Let’s all agree to agree.” When she moved to a mainstream leftist newspaper, one where the demographic deck wasn’t stacked in her favour, and didn’t receive as warm a welcome, she advocated ending readers’ comments. It’s one level of misguidedness to not read them, but by wanting them banished this is more than her privilege at play, it is despotism. Keep in mind the Graun moderates comments heavily and swiftly, so though she claims she received bile and venom, which were deleted, most of her critics were on topic and on point with cogent arguments, often with links to credible evidence and data that shattered hers. She didn’t have answers. Do any of us think she’ll become more competent, or at least more resilient, by closing her eyes to valid critiques? Yet, she’s unconcerned. “I have my opinions. Full steam ahead to the rocky coast.”

    This is the problem with many of today’s fragile sense makers. They are mollycoddled in school, start their careers in blogs appealing to certain ideological niches, battle straw men to the delight of their fans, build a readership, enter the mainstream where the modus operandi is not simply feed the trolls but set out to bait them, and crumble when the full weight of public opinion forcefully introduces them to reality. Cry victim to finish with a flourish.

    Nwanevu, Valenti, and others of their ilk… cowards.

    • I certainly agree, Mr. Gamba, that writers should actively seek out critical commentary on their work wherever it might be found. The rest…not so much.

      Best,
      Osita

  9. T.C. says

    I think it’s maybe ten years too late for an article like this. At this point, the left has no appetite for viewpoint diversity and only grows more intolerant at a rapid pace. That a Scottish court found Mark Meecham guilty of blasphemy dismisses any doubt as to the fate of anyone culpable of wrongthink.

    • Justin D says

      What you call viewpoint diversity, I call politely tolerating fascism. Ain’t got no time for that.

      • mx ut says

        Another pointless/gormless comment from you Justin. You’re out of your depth.

      • mx ut says

        You do realize you’ve just labelled the practice of accepting a range of different viewpoints on a particular subject as: “tolerating fascism”. Do you have any idea how incredibly twisted and Orwellian that use of language is? Very comic. You’ve obviously been educated at the Kim Jong-Il school of governance/rationalizing the suppression of all dissent.

      • Chris says

        why are you commenting on something you don’t understand?
        oh, is it because the CBC doesn’t allow you to have a ‘diverse’ opinion let alone leaving a comment on all the half-truths they publish – fully taxpayer funded in direct competition with for-profit organizations?
        besides: using the word fascism in that context shows your intellectual grasp and why it is a good idea to call for voter’s minimum age increase

  10. mx ut says

    Americans seriously need to stop labelling their priestly caste and assorted priestly caste supporters/hangers on as “liberals” – that is a clear misnomer. This is not the year 1900. Socialists or priestly caste or intellectual class or left would be a much better term.

    On the same point, hoping for a reversion to the days when ‘liberals’ (as they were then) and ‘conservatives’ could co-exist in academia seems a bit of a pipedream. Christianity is collapsing or has collapsed in the USA. The people who previously would have been employed in creating/sustaining narratives for the purposes of protection of the weak and social control no longer preoccupy themselves with Christianity and the church.

    They now migrate into academia and government. Such people (religious/socialists) have greater need to protect their myths (which serve to protect various ‘vulnerable’ classes and as also as justification for these socialists’ status) and so they are proportionately less tolerant of people who tell the truth and who threaten their ideologies/narratives.

    The “separation between church and state” (i,e, subjugation of the priestly caste) is no longer effective.

      • Chris says

        Justin, what a priceless comment!
        as long as there is a ‘class’ and a simple word promising virtue (like social justice and all the other oxi-moronic labels of the contemporary left), your kind will proclaim affiliation, without knowing what it is.
        we had that in the past a few times and I did not bode well…

  11. ChiRon8 says

    The most important sentence in this article is, “The conservatives who get excluded seek their revenge in the form of heightened partisan nastiness, uncut by any obligation to make a wide appeal or opportunity to persuade fence-sitters.” And this is exactly what is happening. De-platforming is exactly the WRONG way to deal with the imaginary “harm” from hearing “offensive” opinions. The extension of “harm” to being disagreed with is fueling this exclusion. MAKE people say their ideas to a wide audience! Let us all see how absurd they are!

  12. Nate D. says

    From the text:

    “Stanford historian Robert Conquest once declared it a law of politics that “any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” I have no idea why this should be true, and yet I’ve seen this happen again and again. Taken to its extreme, it suggests we’ll end up with a bunch of neutral organizations that have become left-wing, plus a few explicitly right-wing organizations.”

    I think this is because staunch conservatism tends to be rooted in Judaeo-Christian morality which is codified. Once an organization decides to let go of traditional Judaeo-Christian morality, it is no longer anchored to any sort of time-honored written/recorded orthodoxy. To put it in Old Testament biblical terms, when the law disappeared, “the people did what was right in their own eyes.”

    This has overlap with mx ut’s comment above that the vacuum created by Christianity’s recent exit is being filled with a new religion that behaves in similar ways, but without the written word to provide an absolute law which the majority submits to. In the new morality, without an absolute law-giver, it’s every man for himself.

    Solzhenitsyn’s warning – that the atrocities in Russia weren’t done by evil men, but that they were merely done by men who redefined what evil is (and isn’t) – is especially poignant. Christians can’t easily redefine good and evil. Changes come slow and ebb and flow over time. Liberals can redefine good and evil at breakneck speed. It’s kinda scary.

  13. Evan says

    My problem with liberal elitist/mainstream media institutions like NYT and the Atlantic isn’t that they’re liberal, but that they’re elitist. Legacy media has become to big for its britches, and if their failure to provide a real conversation for years loses them readers from both the left and the right, I welcome these publications’ collapse. They need to die to create space in the public consciousness for 21st century journalism.

    Current Affairs is a grassroots/non-profit left-of-centre online and print publication by making its name on giving a candid perspective, being open about where they’re coming from, instead of pretending or trying to be all things to all people. As the left-wing readership of NYT declines, Current Affairs grows. I look forward to the day Quillette itself has enough readers to justify becoming a print publication, and legacy media are dwindling websites wondering what happened.

  14. Frank says

    Is it not clear by having read these comments and others like them month after month, that the “problem” for the USA is that the current value, moral and political differences are permanently “intractable” in the population and not available to solution in the usual way of political compromise? This is convincing evidence that it’s unlikely that anybody is going to “unify” the country. The basic moral and value differences in the current divided US population are simply too great. It was always quite predictable that the election winner – Clinton or Trump — would face a crisis of legitimacy, as the losers would regard the government not just as opponents, but as enemies and occupiers. This is bad and likely to get worse in terms of conflict in the USA. For reference, study the USA history post 1860…

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