Free Speech, History, Media, Politics, recent

No, Jonathan Haidt is Not Like a Slavery Apologist

Eve Fairbanks, in an essay for the Washington Post, argues that many of the writers on the so-called “reasonable right,” a group that includes such seemingly benign figures as Bari Weiss and Jonathan Haidt, are making many of the same arguments and using much the same language as proslavery advocates in the American South:

The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric I’d read so much of. The same exact words. The same exact arguments. Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.

Fairbanks follows this breathless announcement by acknowledging that she is not accusing anyone of defending slavery, and that includes, weirdly enough, actual antebellum proslavery writers. “Proslavery rhetoricians talked little of slavery itself,” she writes. “Instead, they anointed themselves the defenders of ‘reason,’ free speech and ‘civility.’” This is a bit like smearing someone as a Nazi, then qualifying it with the claim that overt anti-Semitism was really quite atypical of Nazism. In her characterization of proslavery thought, Fairbanks has taken a line that not even the most stalwart member of the Daughters of the Confederacy would care to defend. It is, well, an exact inversion of the truth.

In one sense, the argument is too silly to merit a serious response. The fact that defenders of slavery have in the past appealed to reason and civility no more discredits anyone who appeals to those values than the Nazis’ love of calisthenics discredits anyone who exercises. But the essay does raise, in an absurd, wrong-headed way, an interesting question about the fate of civility and free speech in a society that no longer operates on shared moral premises.

Free speech principles were often at stake in the antebellum controversy over slavery. In every case, proslavery advocates took the offensive in seeking to suppress the rights of their adversaries. Abolitionists attacked slavery as an institution, but they never seriously questioned the right to advocate on its behalf. Slaveholders, by contrast, fought to suppress free speech whenever they had a plausible chance of doing so. They fought to “gag” the reading of abolitionist petitions in Congress, and to prevent the postal system from circulating antislavery writings in the South.

The resilience of any free society is revealed by its tolerance for dissent. This was the proud boast of the North and an unavoidable embarrassment to the South. In his famous “Cotton is King” speech, Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina delivered some genuinely unsettling criticisms of Northern society. The growing chasm between rich and poor in the North, he predicted, would soon lead to either anarchy or tyranny. A society that promised “freedom” to its most impoverished members was bound to erupt in bloodshed. Only slavery prevented such dangerous discontents, placing republican institutions on a stable foundation.

Hammond then immediately contradicted himself. “You have been making war upon us to our very hearth-stones,” he complained. “How would you like us to send agitators North,” to foment revolt among the poor, he asked his colleagues in the Senate. To which several replied at once, “Send them along.” The contrast was obvious and crucial. Of all the grievances slaveholders cited in justifying secession, the most visceral and important was that antislavery criticism would provoke an insurrection.

It is true, however, that the violent reaction of Southerners to any criticism of slavery did not entail a flat repudiation of free expression in principle. The history of the antebellum South shows how a society ostensibly protected by the first amendment can suppress dissent. While traveling in the antebellum South, the journalist and Irish immigrant E.L. Godkin explained why Southerners preferred to rely on mobs rather than laws:

The fact is, I imagine, that while every man in the country feels it to be necessary to the safety of the existing state of things to prohibit, absolutely and completely, all discussion as to the right of the masters to their slaves, no one likes to establish a censorship of the press by statutable enactment. This would be rather too close an imitation of absolutism. As long as it is only ‘the mob’ or ‘the public’ that maltreat a man for free speech, the credit of the state is saved…

The emperor of Austria, Godkin continued, could only dream of angry mobs willing to do his dirty work for him, gratis. How that Emperor would have swooned at the glorious potential of Twitter!

Here then is a contrast worth pondering, as we all tend to assume that the primary threat to free speech comes from the state. Judged purely by their toleration of dissent, Abraham Lincoln’s administration was far more despotic than that of Jefferson Davis. The conclusion is absurd, but it suggests an unsettling reality. Pro-Confederate editors in the North faced possible imprisonment; any pro-Union editors in the South were murdered or otherwise silenced well before President Davis could be bothered with their existence. A truly illiberal society does not require the government to suppress dissent.

Fairbanks correctly notes that slaveholders often claimed to be the victims of unfair and abusive rhetoric. The claim to victimhood, she explains, “can function as a veiled threat. It tricks the listener into entering a world where the speaker is the needy one, fragile, requiring the listener to constantly adjust his behavior to cater to the imperiled person.” All true. But I am at a loss to understand how anyone can believe this timeless tactic, familiar to every bully since the world began, is unique to any political faction, past or present. Excessive outrage is perhaps the one universal feature of every political faction. Competing claims to victimhood are how the game is played, the means of keeping score.

The unhinged reasoning in Fairbanks’s essay invites an overcorrection. It would be easy—and tendentious—to reverse her argument. The Left are the real heirs of the proslavery tradition—intolerant aggression disguised as aggrieved fragility, etc. Both versions reflect the same polarizing tendencies. In the absence of a common moral framework, the ideal of free speech becomes hollow.

Consider again the controversy over the gag rule prohibiting antislavery petitions in Congress. Do Congressional majorities have an obligation to treat any and all minority petitions as equally legitimate? We sympathize with the abolitionists in principle because we agree with them in substance. If a few white nationalist managed to get themselves elected to Congress and began reading constituent petitions insisting on the creation of a white ethno-state, the old gag rule would instantly seem like a prudent response. A society that cannot distinguish between reason and fanaticism, between serious debate and incendiary bigotry, is a society at the mercy of its own worst hatreds and fanaticisms. It is a fantasy to pretend that a procedural right to free speech is, in itself, a solution to such a fraught impasse.

But if the history of the 1850s is any guide, one objective measure remains among the welter of incompatible worldviews. Those most impatient with the hard work of reasoning with their fellow citizens belie their own dogmatic convictions. “He whose conscience acquits him will naturally be slow to accuse those whose cooperation he needs,” William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, said during the secession crisis. “History alone can adjust the balance.”

We can be sure history is not going to repeat itself as precisely as Eve Fairbanks imagines. But her essay is a reminder that we remain trapped in its recurring rhythms.


Adam Rowe is a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Chicago. A historian of the United States, Rowe’s research has focused on American political thought from the Revolution to the Civil War.

Photo by Vincent Delegge on Unsplash.


  1. It would have been easy merely to mock the absurdity of the original claim, but this article does a great job of educating on the history and giving real insight into what lessons can be drawn from that period. Thank you!

  2. It’s not tendentious when you’re right.

  3. Several years ago, I came across a feminist who argued that reason was conceived and developed as a weapon by the white patriarchy to oppress everyone else. Alas, I did not save the cite.

  4. Im pretty sure they teach this in most humanities curriculums.

  5. Apart from the fact that the only thing that seems to qualify Bari Weiss as Right is her reasonable reporting on the Intellectual Dark Web, when the bloody hell did Jonathan Haidt become Right Wing? Did I miss the announcement? Self-described as a centrist who has never voted Republican, has he finally decided to break the habit of a lifetime and through his lot in with Trump? I think not. It’s yet another worrying sign that the Left is basing it’s beliefs on those of the tiny lunatic percentage (around 2%) of Twitter contributors, who create 90% of the posts. That they both are ‘reasonable’ can be in no doubt, but perhaps they have been outcast to the Right, because in the mind of Eve Fairbanks, reasonableness in no longer to be tolerated.

    This is the era, after all, when anyone who votes for Donald Trump has to be a racist- despite the fact that we’re talking about half the country. It’s as though representatives of the Media and the Press have finally decided to go from simply reporting the news, with a strong liberal selection bias, to deciding exactly which Party everyone should vote for. And, of course, part and parcel of this shift in narrative, is the arbitrary shifting of the Overton window somewhere closer to a European centre, which lies somewhere to the Left of where the Democratic Party was under Barack Obama, only a few short years ago.

    Because it’s the Left that’s shifted, not the rest of the country. All evidence points to the fact that traditional Democratic support has bifurcated into Moderate Liberals and Progressive Leftists that range as far Left as extremism- that is, if the bombing of ICE facilities is anything to go by. If you are a Trump supporter, this is good news, as it means that your Guy will probably win in 2020, as more and more of the country realises that the Democratic Party is being influenced by lunatics, but if you are a patriot, weep for the Republic (or Democracy), because it means an end to effective opposition.

    In ‘Skin In The Game’ Nassim Taleb details how the most intolerant win and how a small minority can become a dictatorship- here’s an article with almost exactly that title:

    And this is exactly what is happening when those who believe in Intersectional Feminism and Socialism gain sway in the Democratic Party. Many young people say they believe in socialism, not realising that the systems they so admire in Scandinavia are not Socialist, and are instead Free Market Capitalist societies, with higher taxes and larger social safety nets. But those who represent them do believe in Socialism, as evidenced by The Green New Deal, with the detail of it’s plan less focused on the environment, and more focused on Equity and a massive Government Takeover of the economy.

    But of course, the real reason that people like Jonathan Haidt and Bari Weiss are being rebranded as ‘reasonable right’ is because they want people like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson and anyone who falls into the category of IDW, to appear as though they are on the extreme. Now that the process of manufacturing consent that the media has relied on for so long to shape the social change of the West, is finally beginning to fail, with more and more people seeing behind the veil, it becomes even more vital to silence dissenting voices.

    They don’t want anyone like Ben Shapiro articulating an intelligent voice for traditional conservatives, they would prefer that people thought of the religious and traditional Right as precursors, some cultural throwback to the ‘woke’ evolved. They don’t want Jordan Peterson voicing doubts about the tendency towards indoctrination, and unscientific scholarship within the Grievance Studies. And they certainly don’t want uncontroversial public intellectuals like Jonathan Haidt adding their voices to those raised in concern over the rise of offence culture and the outrage mob.

  6. Interesting essay. Thanks.

    I’ll only add that I find it fascinating how the “Left” - or whatever one calls the group Fairbanks aligns herself with - having stripped ourselves of most moral values in the name of multiculturalism, diversity, blank slate cultures (in which all cultures are equal), and rejection of religion and Western values - must invent some in their place. What they choose is an extremely simplistic quasi-religion that is at the moral level of a bad comic book. There are only two sides, Good Guys and the Other. The Good Guys have only a handful of absolute morals: The only evil is Racism and the other coexisting isms (sexism, etc), and the only source of Evil is the White West. There is Original Sin but no way of redemption. We must confess but confession doesn’t absolve us or do anything. We must listen to the preacher but derive no elevation; we merely must listen about, to slightly paraphrase, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Twitter.” They are therefore left with an absurdly small, infinitely cyclical historical examples of Evil–it always has to be Slavery in America, nowhere else, certainly not a non-Western country (quelle horreur!); Nazis; and, lately, any white male from the past.

    Fairbanks wanted to smear rising powerful voices who disagree with her philosophy or, more precisely, reject her quasi-religion. The only way she can think to do so - because her quasi-religion’s sins are so limited and one-dimensional - is to pretend they’re all of the same ilk and all Nazis or slave owners. This is the worst insult she can think of. She doesn’t care what they actually say because this isn’t important to her; what’s important is that they’re Other. She doesn’t care that her logic is nonexistent (Hitler liked dogs, I like dogs, therefore I’m Hitler).

    Anyone not in her group is by definition Other, and if they are Other, they are Evil, and if they are Evil, they must be Nazis or American slaveholders. That is all.

    How she shows this is laughable, as the author states, but also very typical of extremist progressives who have lost the capacity to reason or think coherently due to their comic book vision of the world (they’re the superheroes, naturally) and their limited, poor, vengeful, fiercely hierarchical quasi-religion. Her religion is right because it’s right; to question it is to declare you an Other, and Evil. To debate or argue is impossible just as a 15th century christian wouldn’t debate with a Jew. You don’t debate with a group that is subhuman and evil; you simply attack.

    It seems to be getting worse, not better, as this progressive group realizes how few people adhere to their dogma, and chase Tweets to assuage themselves that their quasi-religion is right. They keep going to the same church, and as it gets smaller, they get louder and more hysterical. Maybe they’ll go on a crusade next… They are dangerous people.

  7. The Left appears incapable of debating or advocating in the present. All opposition to the Left is either pro slavery, Nazis,McCarthyites, Sexists, Homophobes ect… The Left’s ability to see witches and goblins demonstrate not only a lack of intellectual depth but a certain immaturity. The Left is incapable of advocating without being shrill. All of their pronouncements on any issue boil down to “don’t question us we are the good guys.” However one can’t entirely blame the Left as we are living in an age where the more hysterical an argument, the more compassionate and hence correct that argument must be.

    However if one wishes to draw analogies:

    “E.L. Godkin explained why Southerners preferred to rely on mobs rather than laws:”

    Which present day group congregates into violent masked mobs adorned in black hoodies (the modern day hood and robes) to suppress speech with which said mob disagrees?

  8. When a liberal disagrees with progressives, they are conservative. When a moderate like me disagrees, far right. When a conservative disagrees… Well, the problem with a conservative disagreeing is that they often don’t care what progressives think…

    BTW, did you notice that when I was chatting with @jerjapan, I got called conservative and got asked to disclose my voting record? I know jer is a progressive, but that was almost stereotypical. At least this time I didn’t get someone screaming at me demanding that I prove I wasn’t voting Republican in the midterm elections.

    I will be honest, as a swing voter type who always votes, I would expect them to exercise more common sense. Don’t they realize that the way to get swing voters is not through calling people names and demanding that they disclose their voting record, which is something that you aren’t legally required to disclose? Maybe actually being reasonable would work, or, well, anything, really, except for what I keep seeing.

    I think that this is why Chappelle got a 99%, last I checked, for the Sticks and Stones audience vote, while the woke critics panned it. Woke Twitter bubble strikes again!

  9. Thank god they only have twitter (a platform only 7% of Americans use), instead of a guillotine…

  10. DenverJ


    “Thank god they only have twitter (a platform only 7% of Americans use), instead of a guillotine”

    A bit hyperbolic/rhetorical but exactly on point. I lament what’s become of the Left, hijacked by ‘power-trippers’ as we said back in the day. Seeing what they’ve done with the power they have garnered does make it very sobering to contemplate what they’d do if they got any more.

    Judging by the hysterical fear of Rump being just about to use government forces to imprison enemies, sieze the passports of 20 million citizens, censor the press etc makes one think this is exactly what they’d try to do given half a chance.

  11. I read the original article. Basically, it seems to say the following:

    a. Antebellum intellectuals ate food, drank water, breathed, and wrote articles using rhetorical devices.
    b. Antebelleum intellectuals were racists.
    c. Modern centre-right intellectuals eat food, drink water, breathe, and write articles using rhetorical devices.
    Therefore, modern centre-right intellectuals are racists.

    I never studied syllogistic reasoning, but I would love to know which false syllogism this is!

  12. Yes, but Socialism doesn’t work- we know that. It’s why it’s not used in the world’s largest worker-owner co-operative, which could best be described as Community Capitalist. It’s why it failed in the Kibbutz- with women using sexual favours as currency to reward the most productive males. It isn’t used in China, with the Communist Party acting more as a meritocratic autocracy, than any form of socialist organisation. None of the developed countries that operate universal healthcare systems, do so in ways that are in any way socialist in their organisation, or philosophy- although many of their employees are ardently socialists.

    The reason why we are unsuited for socialism, is because psychologically and biologically we are programmed to reward those who are useful and punish those who are not. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be caring or charitable to those who are genuinely less fortunate and less able. Neanderthal remains show that humans can care for the disabled long after they are of use to the community. But what it does mean for the shirker, the resentful and the useless daydreaming theorist, is that they can never escape their low status origins. They can overthrow the system and install themselves as a mid-level political apparatchik and still be in thrall to the low status position in society to which they were formerly bound. They may hold the power of life and death over men below them in the power hierarchy, and the men will still laugh at them and ridicule them behind their back, and women will still rebuke them.

    Contrast that with Western meritocratic systems, especially in commerce and you have the complete reverse. I often used to argue with my bosses at the Director level over specific issues, but I never would have ridiculed them for it, because despite the fact that they were often wrong, they had earned their positions and deserved respect. Often I was able to convince them of the merits of my arguments, especially when it didn’t cost any money. Even when my positions fell on deaf ears, I regularly got the sense that the main reason why they were sympathetic was because they had made the same argument themselves.

    The fundamental reason why so many people have a hard time with capitalism and the market is because it is hard, it is brutal and it is exploitative. Chief amongst it’s many sins is that it not only strips workers of their jobs and their dignity, but also actively encourages it. That it because that is what the Market is supposed to do. Let me say that again. That is what it is supposed to do. I won’t bother to tell you how it has transformed so many lives for the better- apart than to say that whilst wealthier nations did little more than renew their commitment to the useless foreign aid that had done nothing to raise people out of abject and unremitting poverty since the sixties, the free market halved the level of absolute poverty in the world, raising over a billion people up out of absolute poverty and on an upward trajectory that doesn’t seem to have an immediate end in sight.

    Let me give you a hypothetical. In some parts of the world, 50% of the workforce still subsists off the land. I say subsist, because all the evidence tends to suggest that anyone with half a brain, voluntarily moves to the cities to earn a higher wage and a better life, working in the burgeoning textiles industry that China is in the process of offshoring or setting up their own Kota stall. Should we protect these subsistence farming jobs, or allow the market to take it’s course, creating revenue for Government to spend on medicines, infrastructure and schools? Should we allow the percentage of working drop to the 2 or 3% that low wage economies can sustain, and make food cheaper for everyone in these societies and allow them to spend money on what they want? My argument would be yes.

    The thing about mixed economies is that they are still run along the principles of meritocracy. Contrary to what Ben Shapiro might tell you, a specialist in the NHS will still earn around £150-175K and nurses will earn considerably less. Indeed nursing is a UK export, as private and public systems in other countries still offer higher pay, for less responsibility. Regardless, that doesn’t sound very much like “From each according to his ability , to each according to his needs” to me. Many systems, such as Sweden’s actually farm out specific treatments to the private sector, because they know that they can achieve lower prices.

    Where I probably would agree with you, is that you do want the system to be public at the point of diagnosis, because type of treatment recommended shouldn’t be determined by the profit motive- you don’t want people being referred for back operations, when a couple of sessions with a physio could fix the problem. The idea of paying someone what the market says they are worth, is in place in the largest and most successful worker-owner co-operative in the world, Mondragon- the most valuable employees receive eight times the remuneration of the average worker, and, given that their own salaries are probably included to calculate the mean, this is probably considerably more than the least well payed worker.

    As to straw manning, my principal objections to Socialism are twofold. First, the more centrally planned and further removed any system is from the structure it governs, the less well it works. Currently the Chinese government spends about 24% of it’s national wealth in taxes, although this is likely to rise and the population ages (the US spends 41%, the UK 49%). Crucially 80 cents in every dollar, is devolved away from central government, and spent in an entrepreneurial manner, at a local level.

    Second, Socialist systems do not work because they are not unequal. Equality can work in terms of the Law, and to an extent through the medium of hard work and proportionality, but try to get any system to run on the basis of equality of income and resources and you are asking for disaster. First, because there is less diversity of need in the marketplace. Second, because it does not incentivise people to delay gratification and push themselves to the absolute limit in order to achieve wealth and security. Third, because we are hardwired to want to inequality.

    In studies run in one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, in Scandinavia, students were asked to pair off, answer a series of five Maths questions, and given a financial reward based on the number of questions that they got right as a pair, to divide amongst themselves. Contrary to expectations, they did not divide the rewards proportionally, per question- instead, opting to punish those who failed and reward those who succeeded. It’s a system that built up through 50,000 years of social interaction in groups struggling to survive. It’s in our DNA, and the best we can do is to try to mitigate the worst aspects of our systems and our civilisations, in order to live in relatively humane societies.

  13. Nope, it would mean full decriminalization of those.

    It would mean I could buy kidneys from homeless people

    It would mean that you could openly buy a kidney from whoever would be willing to sell one of her kidneys.

    We also know from history that unregulated markets often end in failure and require government intervention.

    Nah, that’s just statist propaganda.

    For example, we could easily let corporations mine wherever they can convince someone to sell land.

    You let people to make voluntary (peaceful) exchanges? And where do you get the justification for such letting?

    We could allow people to burn as much carbon as they want.

    You allow people to dispose their property as they see it fit? And where do you get the justification for such allowing?

    A large group of individuals acting on their individual desires will sully the commons unless we have government or some other social compact to agree on some kind of market rule.

    People can’t sully the commons by disposing of their properties as they see it fit.

  14. @HalifaxCB is right to point out “guilt by association” as this is a common fallacy used to smear people. More technically, it is the fallacy of the undistributed middle and is a basic error in logic.

    Another example in the same invalid form:
    All fish swim in the water.
    All dolphins swim in the water.
    Therefore, all dolphins are fish.

    Such obvious failures of basic logic make it difficult to take articles like the Washington Post one seriously.

  15. Hectic and crazy week. Very tired. All plans done, safety training done, just need to grade Sunday, which is good, as this weekend is nuts…

    You asked how I vote. I will grant you that you were more courteous than the last Progressive who asked me, or rather demanded that I tell them that I wasn’t voting in any way that was conservative and I wasn’t going to support Trump. The raised voice and angry gestures were a very nice touch on top of that. Apparently, talking about data made them feel lectured and threatened. Tough.

    You are completely and totally incorrect. The progressives have shifted left, very far left. The people who are moderates have generally voted left, if you go look at the hidden tribes report. You can download it, it’s not behind a paywall. The progressives have actually shifted left.

    I am to the right of you. This is not hard. Almost everyone is to the right of you in the United States. Again, the hidden tribes report begins to explain this. So yes, by your view I am right wing. But so is everybody, including people who consistently vote Democrat. This is a problem of frames of reference. From your frame of reference, you don’t think you’re moving, and you see the world moving away from you. The rest of the world sees you moving away from us. In fact, if you look at the graphs of views versus votes, in other words people who are liberal in their views and which party they vote for, what you see in the Democratic party is what’s called a bimodal distribution. In other words, there is a rift in the Democratic Party. Furthermore, if you track the Democratic party over time, looking at the people who vote Democrat and how far left their views are on the Left Right axis , what you see is that the Democratic party used to be more Centrist and had a single Peak, as did the Republican Party. The Democratic party has pulled left and split, while the Republicans have pulled right and are doing similarly. I have included a link to the study a bit below here, it was done by Pew research. I think the animation over time is quite enlightening.

    I think part of this is due to the rhetoric that the progressives are using, about things like intersectionality and colonialism and white guilt and white fragility and I could go on forever but I’m frankly getting nauseated. The problem that I have with this is that, frankly, I really hate racism, and a lot of the stuff is very racist. The KKK types and the white nationalist types actually like the rhetoric that you’re using. They are of the opinion, and I think the data below May support this, that the progressive rhetoric is inflaming racial tensions by making everyone think about race. The more you start talking about reparations and white fragility and intersectionality and dividing everyone up into groups by their immutable characteristics, the more people start to think that way. And of course, the far left wants the people who are not white, straight, and so on to win. Well, when most people are straight, and you start throwing rhetoric at them that they are evil and oppressors of those who are not straight, they might just get a little annoyed and start voting for, say, someone who starts pushing back your rhetoric. Trump, for example.

    I have got to tell you, jer, I just had a fun discussion with a fellow Progressive and teacher tonight, in fact I just finished it. I had a very conservative LEO, me in the middle, interpreting for both sides on occasion, and a progressive teacher. The one thing I really admire about this teacher is that he is able to try to see the side of the conservative and find common ground. He still has the same blind spots that I see in you about what news he listens to, but he’s getting better. When I discussed the Sokol squared papers with him, it really had an effect. Then again, he has a stem degree and understands data science quite well, as well as Academia, as I do. This guy is the reason why I am undecided about who I’m going to vote for for president. He doesn’t make baseless accusations, he doesn’t ask do I vote Democrat or not, and he doesn’t tell me that I am to the right, or try to define me by his own standards as opposed to objective ones. This is exactly what you’re doing. You’re undoing his good work, as are the other progressives I’ve met.

    There are objective measures, like the two axis test, which measures left vs right and authoritarian vs. Libertarian. I have taken those. I show right about at zero on the Cartesian plane. That’s a data-driven way of saying that I am a moderate. I am not a conservative, I am not a liberal, and if you think I am, perhaps you should take the same test and find out what you are.

    Don’t ever try to Define me and tell me what I am. When I speak of these things, I speak precisely, and I speak because I have data that tells me what I am. When you try to Define me, it feels like what you are trying to do is dismiss me. You don’t need to pay attention to my views because they are views from a conservative instead of someone who is genuinely in the middle. Conservatives , I constantly hear in the media, are backward and racist. Their views can be dismissed because they are trumpian , transphobic, racist, and add some random phobic language at the end just for good measure. I hope you are not trying to dismiss me in this way.

    When I look at the alt right, and say that they’re racist jackasses, and look at the far left and say that they’re racist jackasses, I am in the middle and can see both quite clearly. I can tell you, as someone in the middle, that there is really no difference between the rhetoric of the intersectional left and the rhetoric of the white nationalist. They use different vocabulary to say the same thing, but the only real difference between them is who they want to win the struggle they both see happening. As someone who grew up in perhaps the most diverse city in the world, and has been around people who were gay, black, Asian, Hispanic, and all sorts of other various diversities, I was raised to know what racism is. No one in any of those communities wanted to raise a racist, including my parents. I know it when I see it, and I see it on both extremes.

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

237 more replies


Comments have moved to our forum