Yves here. Qui tacet consentire videtur, or “he who is silent is understood to agree” can apply in political as well as legal contexts. Here, Peter Dorman contends that progressives gave the Republicans a free shot by failing to oppose ideas like the human affect theory of human rights, that all people have the right to be free of psychic discomfort. Dorman says these notions went largely unchallenged basically because their promoters would have gotten ugly about it. And remember, the Democratic party uses tone enforcement as a way to suppress debate.
By Peter Dorman, Professor of Economics at The Evergreen State College. Originally published at Econospeak
Recent events in Florida—the “Stop WOKE” Act, the rejection of AP African American Studies, the hostile takeover of New College—and the publication of an excellent op-ed about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the Chronicle of Higher Education have me returning to a topic I blogged on several years ago, but in a new light.
It was obvious, and I mean Emperor’s New Clothes obvious, right from the outset that DEI ideology was predicated on the flimsiest of foundations. The confusion of inequality and privilege, the epistemological mess known as standpoint theory, and the positive affect theory of human rights (all people, or at least people from historically oppressed groups, have a right to be free of psychic discomfort) are individually indefensible and collectively toxic. Above all, they rest on an individualized, one-consciousness-at-a-time conception of social change that obscures any role for collective action, turning “the personal is political” into “the political is personal”.
My hope was that others who value genuine, on-the-ground egalitarianism would have the courage to face down this intrinsically reactionary and authoritarian—not to mention ignorant—“movement”.
No such luck. With few exceptions, progressive people who shared my outlook looked away, at most grumbling quietly to each other. We didn’t like it, but we figured it was not worth the nastiness it would stir up.
Well, it turns out that the culture-warrior Right has no such qualms and is happy to feast on the banquet DEI-ism has served them. In most instances, the practices and ideologies they denounce are just as absurd and destructive as they say they are, but the attack comes from forces whose goal is to establish conservative political control over higher education, crushing progressive thinking wherever they find it. Our side took a pass and now it’s not up to us any more.
This is a disaster of our own making. I’m not saying people like DeSantis aren’t the dishonest opportunists they are, but billionaire donors will always find politicians like that. (They will run on whatever polls best and then cut the taxes and pad the profits of the rich.) It’s our fault for making it so easy for them.