Features, recent, Social Science

Want to Change the World? First, You Have to Listen to It

The essay that follows is adapted from Irshad Manji’s newly published book, “Don’t Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times.

Liberals, among whom I count myself, are sometimes wise. So wise that we should take much of our own advice to others.

In the wake of 9/11, for example, many of my fellow liberals said that Americans must strive to understand why some Muslims gravitate to jihadism. Only by understanding, they stressed, can effective solutions be found. Bull, I remember thinking—or, rather, emoting. At the time, my emotions equated understanding with excusing.

I was wrong.

As a reformer within my faith of Islam, I’ve spoken with plenty of ex-jihadists. While I can’t claim this for every crusader on a homicide mission, the guys I met abandoned militant extremism only after they felt heard. Not coddled. Not swaddled. Just listened to by folks who excoriated their ideology yet accepted them as individuals with backstories.

What if we applied this insight to white supremacists and those who support them?

Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Richard Spencer, the slick frontman of the alt-right, comes to town for an event. Honorable people picket. We chant the tried and true, “Racist, sexist, antigay! Richard Spencer, go away!”

In rhyming this off, we’re “raising awareness” about the collective action that good citizens can take in the face of a repellant ideology. But we’ve also raised awareness about our own shrivelled imaginations. When we shout, “Richard Spencer, go away!” we’re shoring up a myth: that you can have free speech or you can have diversity, but you can’t have both.

I beg to differ. Suppose we adapt our mantra so it now goes, “Racist, sexist, antigay! Richard Spencer, have your say!” Picture it. The citizen-journalist in our midst asks us why we’d allow a thorough bigot to have his say. We reply it’s because diversity means diversity of viewpoint, too. It’s not just your skin color or gender identity or religion or sexuality or age or ability to live with a disability. Honest diversity includes the different ways in which people perceive a life worth having.

We’re then asked, but what about the vulnerable? Don’t you side with them? Damn straight, we reply. We’re not on the fence about Richard Spence’s ideology. It’s racist, sexist, and antigay, as we’ve been yelling to anyone who passes by. But to take away his right to be heard would be a huge disservice to diversity itself.

The citizen-journalist tries one more time. You oppose Richard Spencer then? Absolutely, we oppose his repellant views. We lock eyes with the camera lens. And we invite anybody who agrees with Spencer to tell us why. What’s making you consider his agenda to break up America for a separate, white-only safe space? We want to hear from you. Come on down and help us understand what we’re missing about you.

With this, liberals have practiced what we preach about diversity. We insist it’s about inclusion. This time, we’ve behaved like we believe it.

We’ve embodied integrity at another level, too: We’ve stood our ground even as we’ve summoned people to higher ground.

We’ve also challenged ourselves to see the Other—our Other—as bearers of gifts. Spencer’s sympathizers can make us savvier communicators. If nothing else, they’ll teach us how to reframe our arguments for more ears and hearts.

Irshad Manji

Finally, we’ve rewritten the script of political correctness, denying ammo to those who’d otherwise have a reason to accuse us of it. Sure, they’ll continue to label us as “politically correct,” but the more we model how liberty and diversity can be reconciled in reality, the better our chance of attracting voters who hanker for sanity. Voters whom a group of researchers recently described as “the exhausted majority.” Voters who can tip elections.

I get the larger fear here: that when dealing with neo-Nazis and their ilk, to launch anything less than a full-scale whooping is to normalize them. “Normalize” is the new N-word. My fellow liberals and I are aghast at the deteriorating public square under Trump, Spencer and gang. We recoil at the thought of conversing with their comrades. To do so is to recognize and therefore normalize them.

Is it, though? I’d suggest that in inviting conversation, we’re undermining their normalization by broadening “us.”

I experimented with this approach years ago as the host of QueerTelevision. As far as I know, it was the world’s first digitally streamed show about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. My team had two investors: an American tech company and a Canadian TV station. To survive, our idealism had to deliver an expanding audience.

Even before we went to air, the team received nasty mail. Cultural conservatives tarred us as antifamily fanatics. Predictable. But what would happen, we wondered, if QueerTelevision broadcast their vitriol word-for-word? Better, what if I responded to it with a genuine smile on camera?

We tried it—and viewers couldn’t get enough. Soon, they, too, wrote and voiced their responses. We then aired those. Some viewers countered the hate with lacerating logic. Others outshone it with saucy humor. “People can say what they want about queers and homos and whatnot,” one guy phoned in, “but I’ve never, ever, ever been woken up on a Saturday morning with a group of homos knocking on my door, asking me to join their church.”

I still think about a concerned viewer’s question for me. “Why does your program allow such bigoted remarks?” he asked. “You’re making it that much harder for all the honest and beautiful people who are gay or lesbian to come out of the closet.” I replied that if we didn’t air the hate, we might never realize how much love is also out there.

Often, it takes ugliness to rouse beauty from its slumber.

Excerpted from Don’t Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times by Irshad Manji. Copyright (C) 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press. Follow the author on Twitter at @IrshadManji.


  1. david of Kirkland says

    Those who silence others are mostly afraid that the “bad” arguments will win the day against their petty tyrannies pretending to be the good guys.
    If Spencer actually believes America will one day be a whites only nation, then by all means you should share the humor that surrounds his seriously unlikely notion.
    In the end, though, I’d bet little comes of it. Nobody goes to an “queer” site to get details of anti-queer notions. Nobody goes to Breitbart to get a left-wing perspective, and any such notions that they do share are likely just there to be mocked.

    • Scott M says

      “Beware he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master.”

  2. bumble bee says

    Really? The same old tired mantra? 99% of Americans do not support in any way shape or form white supremacy. So why do people constantly label anyone who is not a card carrying member of the extreme views of liberals (not the rational classic form of liberal) as, racists, homophobes, etc?

    This whole article is a glaring example of how many liberals view themselves. They firmly believe they hold the ark of the covenant of truths. That they can never be wrong and when they try to “humble” themselves through the liberal form of mansplaining, they are even more obnoxious.

    Tell me, why is it that liberals/progressives are so proud of their inclusiveness, of their sense of taking people as they are where they are, and yet they constantly belittle, degrade, harass, shame, bully, marginalize others? Can they not see what they have been reduced to? Then to top it off, they view it a necessary tactic in some war that does not exist. They will pardon and stay quiet themselves from their own deplorables, and yet lump whole groups and regions in with those white supremacists who have zero affiliation or even hold those views? That is what the liberals are doing to half of the American people.

    I was a liberal too until a few years ago when they started ramping up their assault on people. Where careers were lost because liberal thugs decided they did not like what some said. There was no dialogue there was there. Nope, it was release the hounds to destroy another human beings life. The sick part was they rejoiced about it. However, a liberal can hold a severed head of the president and that is deemed righteous. They can even attack school children for something they did not do, because they smelled fresh meat. So, where was the inclusiveness, where was the care and concern, where was the siding with the victims. Or, to be blatant where was the desire for finding the truth. That is the folly of liberals, they are so sure they are right all the time, that truths or waiting for the truth no longer matters.

    We can also look at the recent incident in Chicago with Smollett. The liberals are so triggered by a MAGA hat, that Smollett had to throw that little lie into the mix too in order to rile up the masses. That he used this bias, this inbred hate, the lie confirmed the other lie. But, does it make it true? Can the left admit that people who have worn MAGA hats are not the people they think they are, that instead they use it as a symbol and reason to hate on people.

    For all the claims of tolerance, listening, caring, including, the left has become the main dispensers of everything they claim to abhor. They will beat down, shame, bully, heck even manufacture reasons to attack someone. Well this former liberal does not want to be associated with the current manifestation of what has now become the definition of liberal/progressive.

    • Amen, Bumble Bee. This tone deaf oblivious wokeness is starting to resemble a know-it-all adolescent trying to explain being a teen to her parents

    • Gursoch Gursoch says

      I agree with you hundred percent; just want to add one thing more. The sympathizers of the Muslim radicals always blame the west for it. Just read the history of the radical Islam and observe the matching brutal acts they love to perform even in a very civilized world of today. The truth is this that the radical Muslims are as bad as any radical group that doesn’t refrain from killing the innocents. They are what are and they are not what someone has made them; if someone believes in it, it is going away from a reality which is well known and well established.

    • Saw file says

      @bumble bee
      Quite right.
      This article was written by a lib for other libs.
      Basically… Yes yes, I know we are right and righteous therefore they are wrong and deplorable, but we should make a show of listening to them. We want to present the appearance of fairness now so that when we present our caveats of restriction later, we can say that we did ‘consider’ both sides in forming these ‘common sense’ caveats.

      The author making no mention of the bad actors on the Left while lamenting, “My fellow liberals and I are aghast at the deteriorating public square under Trump, Spencer and gang.” is quite telling, and caused the underlying point of the article to fall flat on it’s face.

      The Left has dominated the public sphere for decades. The Right reentering that public sphere is considered a ‘deteriation’ and the Left is “aghast” at it?
      Go figure.

      • DeplorableDude says

        @saw file. I agree wholeheartedly. As soon as I got to the line about Trump, Spencer and gang I realized we had self-congratulating liberal feeling superior to other liberals because she might let one of the wrong people speak before demanding they be quiet.

    • No Sharia says

      …because MAGA is worn by imbecilic trumpsters. That’s why.

  3. Jack Travis says

    Good show Bumble Bee. That a lib has to pen an article promoting the value of freedom of expression for the edification of other libs is telling enough. Oozing with smug, she casually smears half the country lumping Trump supporters and Spencer together. ”We recoil at the thought of conversing with their comrades.” These people really see anyone with an alternative viewpoint as subhuman. They truly hate us, as you rightly and eloquently point out.

  4. “My fellow liberals and I are aghast at the deteriorating public square under Trump”

    Prior to the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriages, high profile democrats feigned support for both traditional marriage and domestic partnership relationships… all well and fine. Within months of the SCOTUS decision, many had done the famous Democratic “flip,” and here’s the worse part: they began pounding on anyone who disagreed with their new position, even though it was the same position they themselves had espoused less than a year earlier.

    • Tersitus says

      As if the public square hadn’t deteriorated long before Trump. It takes a lot of virtue signaling to blame it on the right. Who dominates the media that dominate the public square?

  5. jimhaz says

    [Often, it takes ugliness to rouse beauty from its slumber]

    Well, I am hoping for that. I am hoping the center will rise up from its slumber to counter the ugliness of far left and far right propaganda. The far left in terms of limiting very questionable social progress (eg trans folk will not gain acceptance by legislation, they’ll gain resentment) and the far right in terms of non-social matters such fair taxation/distribution and global warming.

  6. White Supremecists? What? All 3,000 of them? Whatever. More people believe Elvis is still alive. The only people who believe they matter are the ones who NEED them to matter. Reality: They don’t matter.

    • K. Dershem says

      “White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.

      These statistics belie the strident rhetoric around “foreign-born” terrorists that the Trump administration has used to drive its anti-immigration agenda. They also raise questions about the United States’ counterterrorism strategy, which for nearly two decades has been focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion — 15 percent of discretionary spending — on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report.”


      • Jay Salhi says

        @K. Dershem

        Should we focus on the number of incidents or the number of deaths? And if a tiny minority of the population accounts for a disproportionately high number of deaths (as well as incidents), should that not be a concern? According to the General Accounting Office:

        “The 9/11 terrorist attacks resulted in the largest number of deaths in the United States caused by violent extremism, the GAO report said. About 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.

        Since then — from Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2016 — there have been 85 attacks in the country by violent extremists resulting in 225 deaths. GAO reported citing data from the U.S. Extremist Crime Database.

        Of those 225 deaths:

        • 106 individuals were killed by far-right violent extremists in 62 separate incidents;

        • 119 individuals were killed by radical Islamist violent extremists in 23 separate incidents”


      • K. Dershem, I realize that this source is based on a right-leaning publication, but this fact check appears to be fair: https://checkyourfact.com/2017/06/23/fact-check-is-the-far-right-largely-responsible-for-extremist-violence/

        Bottom line, the ADL report doesn’t consider the multitude of ways different groups commit violence. Also, it is conceivable, that had the US not spent all that money on counterterrorism the numbers could be different. Furthermore, can we still say anti-Semitic violence is exclusively right-wing?

        As to the comment you replied to, I think your quote may actually support John’s position. If domestic extremism killed 387 people in that 10 year period that doesn’t seem to be an area we need to focus a ton of attention on to me. I’d lump it in with terrorism in general and all the security theater it created over the last 18 years.

        • K. Dershem says

          I agree, that fact-check seems fair. I saw it too but I don’t think it invalidates my underlying point that there are active right-wing extremists in the U.S. who pose a threat (perhaps a minor threat, but a threat nevertheless) to public safety. The Oklahoma City bombing can also be classified as right-wing terrorism, and it claimed the most lives of any attack before 9/11. I don’t want to suggest a false equivalence between white nationalism and jihadism — I acknowledge that the latter poses a greater threat — but I don’t think we should blithely dismiss the reality of right-wing extremists who are willing to use violence to advance their agenda.

          • Kencathedrus says

            @K. Dersham: I think the difference between far-right and far-left terrorism, is that the far-right variant is usually one crazy guy who acts alone and commits deeds of violence which are pretty much condemned by everyone. Far-left terrorism is usually a concerted effort by a group of people who plan and coordinate an attack together with the tacit endorsement of the media press, because their targets were a designated out-group i.e. they ‘deserve’ whatever bad stuff happens to them. Left-wing terrorism is societally condoned while far-right terrorism is universally condemned, but in actual fact both are equally immoral.
            There is an inherent indecency in a news organization accusing MAGA-cap wearing boys of being fascists while at the same time excusing a grown man of a hate crime hoax because he was a ‘victim’ of oppression. The author of this article is smug and condescending. She doesn’t really want to understand ‘Neo-nazis*’, but seeks to ‘win them over’ through argument as she herself states:

            ‘We’ve also challenged ourselves to see the Other—our Other—as bearers of gifts. Spencer’s sympathizers can make us savvier communicators. If nothing else, they’ll teach us how to reframe our arguments for more ears and hearts.’

            It’s the ages-old tactic of ‘kill them with kindness’, which in actual fact is not really kindness at all, but a form of ‘brute’ discourse that brooks no dissent. I believe the true terrorism here is that we’ve allowed a large group of mentally unstable and unhappy people (sexual deviants, self-haters and anti-Westerners) to take over our national institutions: Media, Education, Entertainment. In doing so we’ve created a direct line between children and those who would influence them by foisting unhealthy lifestyles upon them. Unfortunately, at the root of it all is money. Many of these sociological researchers make a living from peddling their ideologies. To renounce them would mean loss of livelihood and social media followers. It puts me in mind of wandering medieval priests that used to sell ‘pardons’ and ‘fake relics’. At first, they would do their best to appear humble and pious, but the more the ‘Other’ challenged them, the more prone to fire-and-brimstone sermonizing they became until it led to horrible moments like the Spanish Inquisition.

            *Neo-nazis: anyone holding a viewpoint contrary to that of the politically-correct class.

      • Joel Anderson says

        There was a lot of problems with that research, methodology and so forth and a lot of spinning the data to fit the white males are the enemy narrative. The data in that study suggests American Muslims (one of the most moderate Muslim populations in the world) are about 30 times more likely to become terrorists then a white male. Typically with a difference like that we would focus on the population with the high rate of criminality not the much larger population with the much lower rate.

  7. Another SJW pointing the finger at someone else saying they are intolerant.
    I hope she has a fulfilling life and never needs my support or aid or charity.
    Her and her ilk dont deserve it and wont recieve it.

  8. Tersitus says

    Shall I translate? “Why can’t we all just get along?” (Please answer in 140 characters or less.)

  9. Morgan Foster says

    “My fellow liberals and I are aghast at the deteriorating public square under Trump, Spencer and gang.”

    As I recall, “Trump, Spencer and gang” did not appear until after you and your fellow liberals had weaponized the public square.

    But it’s awfully gracious of you to condescend to listen – really listen – to the moaning of the common crowd. It beautifies you.

  10. Unimpressed Harry says

    There’s an argument somewhere in there struggling to get out. It may have succeeded with the help of a decent editor.

  11. I don’t share a lot of the authors values. But the point her article is that we don’t need to silence people we don’t agree with. Listening is an option. So is not listening

    In that respect she’s saying the same thing as half the other articles on this site. And apparently some people don’t like it when she says that because she’s a liberal. I suppose it’s not hypocrisy because no one is trying to stop her from saying it. But when someone says something I agree with then I agree with them.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Andrew Scott

      I believe that when the author says “listening”, she doesn’t mean “open to having my mind changed.”

      It’s more along the lines of “I’ll sit quietly for a moment while you talk and then you’ll feel better and find that I’m not so bad.”

      “Listening” in the sense that a parent listens to a child and pretends to consider what was said.

    • K. Dershem says

      @Andrew: I agree with you; the responses seem unfair. Manji is doing exactly what liberals should do: defending free speech and expressing confidence that good ideas will defeat bad ones. Commenters on this site rightly criticize illiberal Leftists who try to censor “dangerous” voices. In my view, Quilleters should actively support liberals who call out the Regressive Left. The fact that they don’t makes me think that they’re motivated by an anti-liberal ideology and are just as partisan as the Leftists they condemn. Admittedly, it was careless of Manji to lump Trump and Spencer together; the President eventually repudiated white nationalism after making some ambiguous statements in the wake of Charlottesville. However, the author’s broader argument should resonate with supporters of Quillette and its mission. Manji should also be admired for her efforts to reform Islam. Anyone who’s concerned about intolerant and violent strains within Islam should celebrate Muslims who advocate a more enlightened interpretation of the religion.

      • E. Olson says

        K – I agree with you and Andrew, but also with Morgan. When Lefties write Quillette articles they invariably link the Right to Nazis and Richard Spencer types to justify their protests against “hate” speech, OR to promote tolerance by giving the stage to these nutty Nazis (or Jihadists) so that we can all have a good laugh at their crazy viewpoints.

        On the other hand, what the Lefty article writers almost never do is bring up the violent protests and career ending antics the Left has used against Charles Murray, Ben Shapiro, Heather MacDonald, James Damore, or Jordan Peterson, or suggest that their “non-Nazi” viewpoints should be peacefully and courteously allowed and even promoted by the Left. I would have no trouble at all with this article if she used Charles Murray or Heather MacDonald as her example rather than Richard Spencer, but of course she wouldn’t do that because it is very difficult to defend violent protests against a middle aged/elderly academics of high standing, or refute their research with empirical evidence, which makes them much more sympathetic and difficult opponents to Leftist viewpoints.

        This attempt to link mainstream Right thinking to Nazis instead of the Murrays, MacDonalds, or Shapiros is what upsets commenters such as Morgan (and myself), because it clearly suggests the writer is not serious about defending free speech or listening to the other side. Further, it is not even an accurate representation of the Nazis, because much of what Spencer advocates is actually much closer to current or recent mainstream Democrat viewpoints (i.e. support for big centralized government, single payer healthcare, abortion rights, Atheism, racial segregation, environmentalism) than Republican viewpoints, which is understandably something that the Left doesn’t want to public to know.

        • “ Further, it is not even an accurate representation of the Nazis, because much of what Spencer advocates is actually much closer to current or recent mainstream Democrat viewpoints (i.e. support for big centralized government, single payer healthcare, abortion rights, Atheism, racial segregation, environmentalism) than Republican viewpoints, which is understandably something that the Left doesn’t want to public to know.”

          Exactly. He is big, big government. A socialist. I finally condescend to watch an interview he did to find out more about this “ powerful threat to our way of life as we know it”. He ain’t it. So who is more popular and influential? Linda Sarsour (who promoted Sharia in twitter) OR Richard Spencer? Frankly, they have a lot in common when it comes to policy. Probably the author, too.

          • K. Dershem says

            It’s true that Spencer supports reproductive rights and advocates a single-payer system, but his motivations are very different than that of progressives. He thinks easy access to abortion will reduce the number of non-whites (blacks and Hispanics are statistically more likely to terminate their pregnancies) and believes that a single-payer system will benefit whites in the ethnostate the envisions. In my opinion, the views Spencer shares with the right are no less significant: he’s deeply concerned about the U.S. becoming a majority-minority nation, believes that there’s a genetic basis for the lower IQ of blacks (not a mainstream conservative position, but fairly common among Quilletters), condemns homosexual and trans people, and opposes feminism — he believes that women should return to traditional roles.


        • Where is the attempt to link the entire right to Nazis? I’m not seeing it.

          Irshad Manji is a free speech liberal, and it’s the latter part that makes it impossible for strongly self-conscious conservatives to appreciate her input here.

          The anti-free speech left hates the right, so that’s bad. Free speech liberals are only marginally better by coming off as “condescending,” which is also bad. You can’t win.

          • K. Dershem says

            “Irshad Manji is a free speech liberal, and it’s the latter part that makes it impossible for strongly self-conscious conservatives to appreciate her input here.”

            @Dain, I completely agree. Partisanship is a cancer of the mind.

      • E. Olson says

        K – The Democrats hold Margaret Sanger in high regard, Hillary Clinton calls her a hero. Sanger was also big promoter of abortion as a means of controlling “inferior” racial minorities, which seems to fit well with Spencer’s view. Clinton and Spencer have the same hero – who would have ever guessed that?

        Since you are citing Wikipedia on Spencer, I don’t know where you get that he hates homosexuals. Being against gay marriage doesn’t make him a gay hater, because otherwise Bill Clinton (signer of the defense of marriage act) would also be a gay hater. Perhaps that is another thing he has in common with the Clintons.

        • Lydia says

          “…..but his motivations are very different than that of progressives.”

          E Dersham,

          Since I am not in the thought police brigade, I don’t do “motives”. I do actions/behavior/words. I am pointing out her choices of examples, conflating Trump with Spencer and wondering why she didn’t include antifa. So I guess it’s politically correct to in tie her with antifa. I want to play by your rules.

          • K. Dershem says

            Lydia: in addition to getting my initial wrong, you’ve completely misunderstood my argument. I’ve consistently criticized Manji for lumping Trump and Spencer together.

            Motivations obviously matter in evaluating the morality of an action and a person’s character.

        • K. Dershem says

          E.: You know as well as I do that Clinton condemns Sanger’s racism. Similarly, I hold Abraham Lincoln in high esteem but recognize that his attitudes were racist by modern standards.

          You make a fair point about gay marriage, although I did write “condemn” rather than “hate” (there’s a distinction).

  12. Sarah says

    Well I’m glad someone on the left is asking for her fellow mental puritans to have some tolerance. This needs to happen more.

    Unintentional hilarity at the parallel drawn between jihadis and white supremacy (I’m struggling to take white supremacy seriously as a vanishingly small minority compared to those who hold what I’d call radical Islamic ideals including making sharia law of the land and all that entails).

    I do wonder at a mindset that can find something to emphasize with in a jihadi and yet struggles to be ok with a Trump supporter at the same time. In my opinion the left is increasingly radical itself, shown by their tribal mentality (intersectionality), fear of contamination by ‘other’(silence hate speech and safe spaces), conspiracy thinking (trump Russia!), and rejection of due process with an inclination to ‘believe’ a preferred narrative (believe the victim) instead.

    Perhaps the extreme liberals have more in common philosophically with adherents of sharia.

  13. Wentworth Horton says

    No matter how many times I read this it feels like I’m trying to pull the crackers back out of the soup.

  14. Benjamin Perez says

    I have no love for Trump, but to lump Trump in with Richard Spencer is, well, delusional at worst, dishonest (especially with oneself) at best. Imagine a right winger lumping Fareed Zakaria in with Linda Sarsour? That would be an analogous (mis)pairing, an analogous example of (what should we call it?) overly partisan “blob” thinking.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Fareed Zakaria

      I try not to use comparisons, as the author has done, precisely because of the temptation to become distracted from the topic.

      That said, I suspect there is a much closer kinship, under the surface, between Zakaria and Sarsour than there is between Trump and Spencer.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @ Benjamin Perez

        Drat. I mean to write “@Benjamin Perez” but as you know, there’s no edit function.

  15. Pizza Pete says


    I’ll never understand the hyperventilation by the Left blowing embers under Richard Spencer, a has been, never was with about 75 enthusiasts who lives in a trailer somewhere in Montana.

    Running around looking for neo-Nazis to engage is a good heuristic for your life lacking meaning.

    • E. Olson says

      From the little I know about Richard Spencer (from a quick google search):

      Gay rights: Spencer does not support gay marriage, but otherwise has nothing against them and has actually made some effort to recruit them into his movement. In other words his position is the same as Obama’s until about 2011.

      Healthcare: Spencer supports single payer healthcare. In other words, his view is the same as Bernie Sanders.

      Abortion: Spencer fully supports legal abortion. In other words, his view is the same as Hillary Clinton.

      Big Government: Spencer is a believer is a strong centralized government. In other words, his view is mainstream Democrat.

      Religion: Spencer is an atheist. In other words, his view is mainstream Democrat.

      Race Relations: Spencer is against slavery or violence against non-white races, but believes in the geographic separation of the races. In other words, his view is the same as Abraham Lincoln and more progressive than mainstream Democrats until the early 1960s.

      Favorite Presidents: Spencer is not a fan of Reagan, Lincoln, or Washington, and has been disappointed by Trump. He lists his favorite Presidents as Andrew Jackson and James Polk (both Democrats).

      The following link gives a nice summary, and perhaps some insight into the real reasons the Left is afraid to give him a venue to speak.


    • “Richard Spencer, a has been, never was with about 75 enthusiasts who lives in a trailer somewhere in Montana.”

      His rich mom pays for anything and everything he wants. He’s just a spoiled little brat who never had to actually work a day in his life so had plenty of time to spend 8 hours a day gobbling up Stormfront “white genocide” conspiracy theories, 8 hours a day on the most over the top “women are all out to get us men” niche MRA websites, and an hour or two per day on 4chan believing that it was “expert communication skills education.”

  16. ga gamba says

    I get the larger fear here: that when dealing with neo-Nazis and their ilk, to launch anything less than a full-scale whooping is to normalize them.

    During the Weimar Republic hate speech laws were vigorously enforced to shut down pro-Nazi newspapers and jail Nazi leaders.

    How did that work out?

    Further, radio’s birth and growth in the 1920’s was monopolised by the Weimar state – radio was the whiz-bang technology of its day and many argued it presented a threat to social stability and even privacy. In the 1927 the transmitters’ signal was potentially available to 31% of the population, the construction of big transmitters in 1930-34 extended signal availability to 70% of the population. Under the control of the Postal Ministry, which maintained majority ownership of the national radio company, nine regional networks, and individual stations, no political party or business was licenced to own a station. A radio tax of two marks per month, about the same cost as a monthly newspaper subscription, was levied on all those who bought radios, so radio programming was well and reliably funded. Weimar justified its sole control, “public control”, of the airwaves to “prevent trivialisation by commercialisation” like that underway in the US and to “protect democracy and the people”. It failed. Ironically, once the Nazis took power all the radio stations were solely under its control and radio became the most powerful tool of the Nazi state.

    If you want to buttress pluralism, the safest course of action is to permit the widest dispersal of power. Free speech acts as a check and balance in the marketplace.

    • E. Olson says

      GG – very good point. The Left is always frustrated by safeguards designed to slow legislative initiatives for purposes of imposing thoughtful deliberation and compromise to broaden the base of support, which is why they increasingly rely on executive orders and the Leftist friendly courts (9th district) to jam through their policies. Similarly, most of the world put radio and TV under state control to “protect democracy and the people” through exposure to only state sanctioned “good” propaganda and protect them from “extreme” and “bad” propaganda.

      It is almost as if the Left assumes they will always be in power and that all their “shortcuts” and “protections” could never be effectively used by an opposition bent on undoing all their “good works”. Of course Hillary was supposed to win to continue the Obama legacy, but the best laid plans of the DOJ, FBI, and CIA often go awry.

  17. Sydney says

    If I wanted ranting about Trump, or wild hyperbole of “THE THREAT OF THE FAR-RIGHT!!!” I could click over to CNN in the US, CBC in Canada, or BBC in the UK. This piece is completely tone deaf.

    The left and its allies (primarily Islam, if we’re being honest) are THE destructive force[s] of Western society. Talking about Richard Spencer is a joke. He and his tiny band of freaky followers are a speck of shit compared to the civilization-destroying forces of the left, its allies, and their institutions.

    I don’t follow her closely, but I would have expected something deeper and broader than this from the author. This is a heads-up for me on where she is.

    • K. Dershem says

      It’s deeply unfortunate that so many commenters fixed on one line in the essay and seem to have missed its broader point. It seems like Leftists aren’t the only ones who are easily triggered …

      • sumpin says

        One line?

        Granted, I’ll take any indication from a leftie that they are open to at least listen, if not debate, as a positive, but it’s obvious from her many other lines that she still harbors significant prejudice against those whom she does not agree with, nay does not even begin to understand.

        • K. Dershem says

          I was referring to the Trump/Spencer line. That seems to be the main point of contention.

  18. Fickle Pickle says

    Of course dreadfully sane Westerners, especially in the USA do not do terrorism. They only drop bombs from 30,000 feet or use drones to do their killing. Both of which are still being done in record numbers. Do a search on the topic.
    The US has been dropping bombs on Middle Eastern and Islamic countries almost every day since the first Gulf war.
    McLuhan told us that the “meduim is the message”
    What message do hi-tech bombs and drones communicate?
    What is the message that has been consistently communicated to the citizens of the Middle Eastern Islamic states and Pakistan and Afghanistan?
    Whole areas of the non-West are now subject to drone violence, and the sound of aircraft above people’s dwellings and communities is like a weapon perpetually pointed at them.

    And we wonder why they “hate” us!

    Only the utterly naive would not believe that this has (unintended) feedback/blowback consequences.

    In a psycho-physical world in which everyone is instantaneously inter-connected all human actions are subject to the laws of physics – every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.
    This is an energetic bi-polar world . Everything arises in two’s, which in turn creates a vast expanding pattern.
    Every act of state violence (in particular) inevitably creates an equal and opposite violent response/reaction which manifests in one way or another, and sooner or later – no exceptions!

    • sumpin says

      FP, careful who you blame these bombings on. The people in the US have fairly consistently voted into presidential office the one who promised to wind down foreign wars. Most of these wars are coming from well beyond the control of the electorate, and even beyond the borders of the US. Most of them are neocon wars. Find out who they are before casting judgement.

    • DeplorableDude says

      @Fickle Pickle If you read history the middle east was problematic long before the bomb was invented, long before the Crusades and long before the founding of the US.

  19. Dan Flehmen says

    She is merely calling for traditional liberalism, in contrast to the totalitarian, authoritarian SJW progressivism which has replaced it in recent years.

  20. “My fellow liberals and I are aghast at the deteriorating public square under Trump, Spencer and gang”

    You just proved your ignorance. Tacky old Trump could care less what color or sexual orientation you are if the deal can be made. I don’t know why people can’t see this. Doesn’t fit the narrative, I guess.

    So let’s talk white supremecists vs Antifa, for a change. I note how Antifa is rarely mentioned. Why? Hmmm.

    The funniest cartoon I saw of white supremacists was a giant news camera man filming a tiny group of white supremacist protestors. So, are they acting undercover- infiltrating our institutions lurking around water fountains? Planting insidious poison seeds in HR? Planning coups on college campi?

    Another fun fact is one of the organizers of Charlottesville (I call them losers with a permit to protest) was Jason Kessler. Name familiar? He was also part of Occupy Wallstreet. Funny old world. Occupy Walkstreet was white supremacist, too?

    So let’s hold hands with the Antifa guy who actually wants to kill us and “hear him out”, too?. This constant meme of white supremacists having any sort of influence is getting real old. Get out of your bubble groupthink. It’s ignorance on steroids as you ignored Antifa for a year of violence and destruction!

    • K. Dershem says

      Mainstream liberals and many Leftists have consistently condemned Antifa. It’s disingenuous to lump them together.

      • Lydia says

        Really? Mainstream? It was given a lot of coverage? That’s strange I seem to recall looking for all the coverage in the MSM and comments from well-known left-wing leaders from the get go. You must have a secret archive. Waiting months after all the destruction that took place doesn’t count. Because by that time it was starting to backfire.

    • E. Olson says

      Have you seen the headlines from LGBTQ sources accusing Trump of being anti-gay because of his recent initiative to decriminalize homosexuality around the globe? Unlike Gay “Saint” Obama, Trump is actually doing something to stop the death and imprisonment of homosexuals by pressuring countries (mostly Muslim) that currently ban homosexuality. Of course the gay community also supports bringing in more gay bashing Muslim immigrants, so perhaps logic isn’t driving their praise and protests.

  21. The Gardener says

    I am disappointed in her essay. The left is very talented at accusing people of doing precisely what they are most guilty of. Never have I witnessed more hatred than what eminates daily from the left. Wearing a MAGA hat is cause for assault. Hate crimes are fabricated and condoned.
    I am getting a better feel for what 1939 Germany must have been like.

  22. Jerome Barry says

    Odd it is that a proud lefty wants to say that Spencer is a Trumpist.
    He is not. Spencer is a proud lefty as well. He’s yours.

      • Lydia says

        Haha. That article is hilarious! Right out of the Sarah Joeng mindset.

        • K. Dershem says

          I literally don’t know what you’re talking about. Pointing out the numerous instances in which Trump has made racist statements is equivalent to making derogatory statements about white people? Or do you simply dismiss everything published by the NYT because they hired Joeng? Either way, it’s very difficult to take your posts seriously.

          • The Gardener says

            Numerous instances? Like what? And please don’t mention Charlottesville, that was a hoax. Trump said there were good people on both sides of the statue debate, but it was twisted by the media to say he said there were good people on KKK and non-racist sides. Pure nonsense. Trump has Jews for kids and grandkids. He lobbied to get Jews into country clubs in FL. He invited black youth to the WH and enacted prison reform, which benefits a lot of blacks. He is not a racist. This is fake news.

  23. The sentiment is correct. Too bad the author had to include toxic actors in her thought process. That kind of stuff adds much noise to the signal and obfuscates the simple wisdom of listening. Moreover, if the simple wisdom of listening was to really do its good work, this website would be accessible to all people of all nations. Sadly, I doubt that is currently the case.

  24. Steve says

    “Let’s conduct a thought experiment.”

    Most replies: “How dare you mention Spencer! He doesn’t represent us!”

    This is EXACTLY the same BS the disingenuous actors on the left pull on Sam Harris (especially) and others trying to promote dialog and reason. She doesn’t suggest Spencer represents the mainstream right. For a thought experiment to work, you need to think. Read carefully before flying off the handle. When she talks of “the public square” what does she say?

    “My fellow liberals and I are aghast at the deteriorating public square under Trump, Spencer and gang. We recoil at the thought of conversing with their comrades. To do so is to recognize and therefore normalize them.

    Is it, though? I’d suggest that in inviting conversation, we’re undermining their normalization by broadening ‘us'”.

    She is offering a caricature, a generalization of what the left too often believes, AND immediately after, why it is wrong, and how to move beyond knee-jerk reactions.

    If we on center and right are to be examples, let it be of what better we offer, and not parrot the words and tactics of those on the left we criticize. Everyone to the left of center is not your enemy. There is more common ground between reasonable people on both sides of center than there is between you and the extremes of whatever side you imagine you are on. Listen. Then speak.

    • Yes. Most of the replies here scream of Horseshoe Theory.

      For 45 years, Trumps actions have screamed of racism. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to assert that Trump believes he is superior to black people. He fought hard for decades to keep his apartment complexes segregated – that’s all the evidence I would need.

      Someone makes that assertion in an article on Quillette and the commenters collectively lose their minds? I’d like to hear Claire chime in here.

  25. Farris says

    I agree wholeheartedly with the author that engaging people with differing points of views is the best way to expose the weakness of their positions. However I was a bit taken back by her program broadcasting the nasty comments it received.

    “But what would happen, we wondered, if QueerTelevision broadcast their vitriol word-for-word? Better, what if I responded to it with a genuine smile on camera? We tried it—and viewers couldn’t get enough. Soon, they, too, wrote and voiced their responses. We then aired those. Some viewers countered the hate with lacerating logic. “

    This is an old tired trick. Alan Coombs use to do it. Alan would broadcast vicious voice mails and emails he received and then claim said vitriol to be representative of all conservatives, Christians, ect.. Ham handed stunts such as this do not create dialogue but rather reinforce the echo chamber of our side is righteous and their side is evil. The inclusion of this anecdote makes it appear the author is more interested in scoring points rather than listening and engaging.

  26. stevengregg says

    Listening to bad people might work sometimes, but it comes across as naive if you extend to every case. I don’t believe that listening to jihadis will persuade them to quit terrorism. I recall an Army general at Guantanamo who said that one of the jihadis imprisoned there told him during a conversation that he knew he was a good man but that if he was free he would have to kill him because he was not a Muslim. I suspect that it would be difficult to talk a Nazi out of the Holocaust, as well. You can’t reason people out of positions they were never reasoned into. Shooting Nazis works better than dialogue.

  27. Out for 25 Years says

    Kudos to the author on this piece! The openness, frankness, and bravery from the LGBT movement of the 80s and 90s is sadly gone. I faced many awkward, ignorant statements and questions while coming out, but did just what the author prescribes – listened and politely responded. If it didn’t convince them, they at least saw me as a person, and not some threatening, evil faction. And I saw the same in them.

    “Which one is the woman?” is sometimes a homophobic slur, and sometimes it’s just someone asking a question that they don’t understand in the only language they know how. Getting huffy and telling them how offensive, ignorant, and “privileged” they are would have done more harm than good to both of us. I wish the Millenial regressive left would see this. Sadly, I fear the lesson has been lost. We earned tolerance, and then acceptance, from the open dialogue approach. I feel that all that is earned now is disdain.

  28. James Russell says

    I must admit, one of the most enjoyable things about reading Quillete is the comments after the articles. In fact, maybe I’ll start with the comments first next time.

  29. Nick Podmore says

    A beautifully eloquent, elegant and powerful piece!

Comments are closed.