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The Liberals Who Cried Wolf

It's almost like there's a pattern or something.
August 30, 2019
The Liberals Who Cried Wolf
If you call for civility or oppose abortion, you might as well just don the hood, according to this week's Washington Post "Outlook" section. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Having spent a great deal of time chronicling the right’s descent into crackpotism, I’ve often thought what a book titled… I don’t know, just spitballing here .. “How the Left Lost Its Mind” … might look like. 

 The book would very likely include a section on several pieces that appeared this week in the Washington Post‘s “Outlook” section, including this one that suggests that conservatives who are concerned about civility, reason, and free speech are really echoing … Confederate defenses of slavery.

The article appears just days after a botched attempt in the same section to equate prolifers with white supremacists. (The piece was so dishonest that editors removed a section that dishonestly smeared author J.D. Vance.)

So it’s almost like there’s a pattern or something.

But the piece by Eve Fairbanks about conservatives and Confederates is really a corker. Logic is battered, analogies strained, and reputations splattered to make the case that even reasonable and thoughtful conservatives like Jonathan Haidt and Bari Weiss are really just echoing the logic of slaveholders. 

In Bari Weiss — who asserts that “the boundaries of public discourse have become so proscribed as to make impossible frank discussions of anything remotely controversial” and that “perfectly reasonable intellectuals [are] being regularly mislabeled … with every career-ending epithet” — I hear Josiah Nott: “Scientific men who have been bold enough to speak truth … have been persecuted.”

This is actually hard to parody: conservatives like dogs … so did Hitler… ergo… Conservatives worry about “truth”… well so did advocates of slavery … Wait, that’s not a parody. That’s her hot take.

But risibility aside, Fairbanks seems to be channeling the fashionable notion that all conservatives are racist, which is a gloss on the notion that pretty much every white person is guilty. Once you accept that premise, all the rest is just signaling.

Which brings us to a third WaPo “Outlook” piece that advises white people what to do if they are accused of racism. (Spoiler alert: confess, admit.)

Read Abe Greenwalds’s critique in the NY Post

If you are accused of racism, it is because you are a racist. Case closed. Apologize at once and cease being so hateful. That is the current standard in woke academic thinking on race relations.

Salem State University professor Rebecca Hains says as much in a ­recent essay in The Washington Post, where she offers detailed instructions to white people who find themselves charged with racism. Nowhere in her five-step response plan does she permit the possibility that an accusation of racism could be unfounded. “Even if you know in your heart that you are not racist,” she wrote, “remember, it is possible to have implicit (or unconscious) racial biases.”

When the Unconscious Police pull you over, you must “recognize that what matters most is what happened just now.” Neither past actions nor associations count in your favor. Forget about, say, a personal history of fighting bigotry. Your inner beliefs against racism also count for zilch. The present charge is all the evidence needed to convict. Suck it up and move on to step two.

Exit take: One of the reasons that so many on the right shrug off accusations of racism is, frankly, that they’ve become numb to the charge because of this kind of thing…

So when the real thing comes along….

There are real bigots out there; white nationalists, anti-Semites, and real life neo-Nazis, who create elaborate codes to mask their hate: “Hawaiians” as stand-in for “Hebes,” “Alaskans” for “N’s” (the n-word); “our good friend” for “AH” (Adolf Hitler); and “our good friend’s son” for Trump.”

Some of them have found their way into conservative media. Make sure you read this long and devastating piece from Splinter

 Indeed, there is a burgeoning underground network of group chats, message boards, and email chains serving as the breeding ground for incubating white nationalist ideas, and as a forum to strategize around how to launder those ideas through mainstream conservative publications. And, judging from a large series of messages from one of those email groups obtained by Splinter, it’s working.

Read the whole thing here

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.