Hey all. Let's hop to it.
I’m not going to engage the latest from the Times editorial board at length — I’ve already said all I have to say about this subject and I have better things to do. I will say, though, that this is one of the sloppiest pieces in this genre I can remember reading. As I wrote almost two years ago, this crowd has gotten so worked up about Twitter that they’ve developed a wholly novel interpretation of liberal ideals. That’s something you typically have to read between the lines to tease out. But not here. In a truly free society, the board writes, people have an evidently content-neutral right “to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.” So think twice the next time you want to publicly condemn an anti-Semite or mock people who believe Joe Biden is a reptilian. Obviously, doing either would be an affront to human dignity.
We might call the Times’ invention “the right not to be owned.” In a way, the piece’s lunacy is a sign of progress. For years, pundits have insisted that these debates are fundamentally about existential threats to free speech — a right now enjoyed by more people in more ways than at any other point in human history. Here we see a tactical retreat. It’s not free speech itself that’s at issue, but something else. Our fights about speech “rights,” they’ve nearly admitted, have always been about discomfort and unease with the pace of social change. They’re about how people are made to feel when they’re criticized for their views on transgender identity, race, and all the rest — not, as we’ve pretended for far too long, about whether or not they’re free to express them.
Still, I don’t expect that development to improve the quality of these debates. Here are some predictions as far as this particular piece is concerned. I’m certain the editorial riled up Times staffers behind the scenes. We can expect a media reporter to tell us all about it within the next week. There will be backlash to the backlash. We’ll get a set of pieces condemning progressives at the Times who spoke out on Twitter and Slack and such for their sensitivity and intolerance — their criticisms will be taken as proof of the editorial board’s point. Progressives will try — earnestly and futilely — to rebut them. The rebuttals will be rebutted. Eventually, the pundits will tire themselves out. And this discourse will fade until we do it all again on some other controversy in a few months’ time.
For years now, the best argument against the belief that free speech and debate regularly change minds has been the free speech debate. Speech matters are genuinely complex and philosophically interesting; it really is important, even in a society as open as ours has become, to remain vigilant about threats to our ability to speak and think for ourselves. But in the hands of the mainstream press, speech discourse is pure intellectual gruel — a complete waste of time, and another empty distraction vying for our attention. I’m done with it. Opt-out and log off.
Reasons to Be Cheerful
Progressives recently swept New Hampshire’s school board elections. From the New Hampshire Bulletin:
In Bedford, teacher Andrea Campbell unseated a conservative school board member, as town officials recorded a 36 percent increase in turnout.
In Exeter, five left-leaning candidates held off challenges from opponents on the right, many by slim margins.
And in Londonderry, voters opted against a warrant article that would have stripped away the authority of school officials to impose future mask mandates and made the wearing of masks optional for children and families.
New Hampshire’s 2022 school board elections were supposed to be proving grounds for conservative frustrations around school policies, from spending to COVID-19-related restrictions to teachings about racial justice and diversity.
Instead, Tuesday’s local elections appeared to deliver broad victories for progressive public school advocates, who argued against what they characterized as threats to traditional public schools from the right. In total, 29 candidates designated by progressive organizers as “pro-public education” won Tuesday night, many in traditionally conservative towns like Brookline and Londonderry.
The results have been hailed by progressive organizers, who say they demonstrate the limits of political strategies that seek to capitalize on irritation or distrust of public schools.
“These pro-public education candidates were very vocal about the fact that we need to put our students first and that some of these attacks on public education on an honest education are a distraction from allowing teachers to teach and our students to learn,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, a progressive group that helped recruit and fund many of the candidates for school board.
“Let the Drums Speak” — Fatback Band (1975)