And I don’t understand how so many on the left can dismiss concerns about overzealous policing of language as fragile cis-white men trying to repress the voices of marginalized people when these divisive fights most often break out among or are directed at people in historically marginalized groups. Reputable opinion surveys keep showing that majorities of every racial group share the belief that language in America today is sometimes policed too zealously, even as scores of journalists, academics, and comedians encompassing every race and ethnicity have publicly articulated variations on the same theme.
James Bennet of The New York Times recently sent an internal memo to staff laying out his theory of public discourse and the role the New York Times op-ed page ought to play in it, even as some progressives continue to criticize Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens, as well as the aborted hiring of Quinn Norton. Whether one agrees with Bennet’s vision, or disagrees with it, or probes whether or not it is being executed, or whether his particular hires are likely to execute it, he puts forth a theory of the case that can be constructively engaged.
His particular case, and the classical liberal notion of a marketplace of ideas, would certainly encompass forceful, substantive criticism directed at Bari Weiss.
But what is the theory of the case for the call-out mode of responding to her tweet, where stigma and vilification are predominant themes, and a seemingly inevitable undercurrent features people who ostensibly believe microaggressions are wrong responding with macro-aggressions like calling Weiss “human trash,” to quote one of the more printable insults aimed in her direction?
Why the zeal to pile on that particular alleged misstep, as if it ranks anywhere near the top of objectionable, condemnation worthy stuff that happened that day?
As common as the extreme insults were, I don’t imagine I’ll get many defenses of them. But I really do want to understand the logic behind the stigmatize-and-vilify approach. Emails from people who actually believe in it are encouraged: email@example.com is the address. I promise to read them twice and engage in good faith.
Meanwhile, I’m inclined to agree with my colleague Julia Ioffe, who is exhausted by “roving bands of echo-chamber outrage” on both sides (who, after all, is a more prominent practitioner of bitter, abusive call-outs than Donald Trump?) and who writes:
We live in a time where our dialogue and our politics and our news have been Twitter-ized. We have forgotten what it means to disagree with each other without annihilating each other. We have forgotten what it means to cut people slack, and to forgive their mistakes. I have felt this many times on my own skin, have watched people get furious at me for a comment and then refused to listen to the apology or the explanation. Twitter's wrath is devastating. It is cruel. It is disproportionate.
Leave the Twitter mob. Think for yourself. Listen for yourself. Turn of your political bloodlust. Learn how to disagree as a civilized adult. Stop bullying people.
Just stop it.
Indeed, what good could possibly come of it?