Update: Google’s Acting Director of Political and Stakeholder Outreach got in touch with the Claremont Institute to notify us that the labeling of The American Mind as a “racially oriented publication” was a mistake. Our re-marketing ad campaign to americanmind.org readers for our annual dinner is now active once again. See below for our initial summary…
Update: Google’s Acting Director of Political and Stakeholder Outreach got in touch with the Claremont Institute to notify us that the labeling of The American Mind as a “racially oriented publication” was a mistake. Our re-marketing ad campaign to americanmind.org readers for our annual dinner is now active once again. See below for our initial summary and analysis of the fiasco.
The Claremont Institute has launched a campaign to engage our fellow citizens in discussion and debate about what it means to be an American. As part of that effort, we have begun to point out the increasingly existential danger of identity politics and political correctness to our republic. As if to prove our point, Google has judged our argument as wrongthink that should be forbidden. They are now punishing us for our political thought by refusing to let us advertise to our own readers.
We wanted to advertise our 40th Anniversary Gala on May 11, at which we’re honoring Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to readers of our own online publication, The American Mind, like this:
But Google refuses to allow us to do so. (If you’re interested, buy tickets here—Monday is the deadline!)
Google, either its algorithm or some individual, had a look at my essay launching our new campaign for a unifying Americanism, “Defend America—Defeat Multiculturalism.” They decided it to be in violation of their policy on “race and ethnicity in personalized advertising” and shut down our advertising efforts to American Mind readers. We weren’t “advertising” anything in the essay, of course, but the relevant section of their policy lists “racially or ethnically oriented publications, racially or ethnically oriented universities, racial or ethnic dating” as examples of violations.
Somebody must have determined we were offering “racially or ethnically oriented publications.” This is news to us. The Claremont Institute has spent forty years teaching all who are willing to listen that the meaning of the proposition that all human beings are created equal is the central, animating principle of American political life.
One of my colleagues spent two hours on the phone with Google to determine whether we could appeal this ruling or determine which section of the essay was in violation. The response, in short? There is no appeal; we recommend you remove the content to bring yourself into compliance.
As I wrote in the very essay that Google is now telling us to remove from the public square:
By multiculturalism, we do not mean the mere presence of many cultures, races, or ethnic traditions, which are a fixture of modern American life… One of America’s—and Americanism’s—great virtues has always been the maintenance of a wide realm of liberty and civic society in which a vibrant mix of cultural heritages and individual excellence could flourish….
Multiculturalism, on the other hand, is not this benign tolerance of diverse traditions. Multiculturalism is a comprehensive ideology, demanding obeisance to a rigid system of justice, vices, and virtues. It boasts an intellectual tradition that guides its leadership and adherents in the policing of its boundaries and the maintenance of its categories. It keeps a running list of friends and enemies, a roster of praise, shame, and blame….
I went on to make the case against multiculturalism, identity politics, and political correctness—the holy trinity of the modern left. Claremont stands against modern leftist ideology and politics, with its conception of group rather than individual rights, because it seeks to overturn the notion of American justice based on equal protection of equal individual rights that is at the center of the Declaration of Independence.
Our multiculturalists are quite consciously playing with fire by sowing such existential discord among their fellow citizens. This is a recipe for rancor, division, enmity, balkanization, and worse. After the torrent of blood spilled in the Civil War and later struggles by America’s attempt to expunge the principle of counting by group—especially race!—our modern multiculturalists want to bring it back and establish it as our new national religion.
The naïve observer of Google’s policy and action against us might conclude that merely to mention race and ethnicity is forbidden. Not so: we are unaware of any report of Google censorship of the numerous progressive groups that promote the prevailing creed of identity politics based on race and ethnic identity. The trouble with Claremont’s argument is its furtherance of a politics that counts people as individuals rather than members of racial or ethnic groups.
What Google is really doing (like Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms) is policing the terms of American political debate to advance acceptable establishment ideology. In First Amendment parlance, Google is in the viewpoint discrimination business, and its target is heresies like ours against the prevailing orthodoxies of our time.
The inconvenience for us was of course a minor one. We haven’t been de-platformed yet and we can still process transactions and donations online. But this small outrage against free thought is indicative of a larger and growing crisis in tech censorship. In ways small and large, day-by-day and week-by-week, our tech oligarchs are putting their thumbs on the scale against the free flow of ideas. A republican citizenry that cannot exchange ideas freely will soon cease to be free politically. Our experience is just one more example of the groupthink oligarchy probing the perimeter of our constitutional order.
As I argued in my essay, the American Right needs to understand the threat and band together to defeat it. The Claremont Institute will continue to help lead that effort, and we urge concerned citizens and organizations to join us.
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David Brooks’s New York Times piece, “The Case for Reparations,” is so dumb, irresponsibly emotive, and wrong in both its premises and conclusions, that it deserves a section-by-section commentary. Brooks: …So let’s look at a sentence that was uttered at a time when the concept of sin was more prominent in the culture. The sentence…
David Brooks’s New York Times piece, “The Case for Reparations,” is so dumb, irresponsibly emotive, and wrong in both its premises and conclusions, that it deserves a section-by-section commentary. Brooks:
…So let’s look at a sentence that was uttered at a time when the concept of sin was more prominent in the culture. The sentence is from Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address. Lincoln had just declared that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. He was fondly hoping and fervently praying that the scourge of war would pass away. But then he added this thought:
‘Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
There are a few thoughts packed into that sentence. First, there is a natural moral order to the universe. There is a way things are supposed to be — more important than economic wealth or even a person’s life.
Without granting the truth of the paragraphs before the Lincoln quote, so far, so good.
Second, moral actions are connected to each other. If somebody tears at the moral order by drawing blood through the lash of slavery, then that wrong will have to be paid for by the blood of the sword. History has meaning. It’s not just random events.
This is where the piece really starts to go off the rails. Brooks here transforms Lincoln into Hegel. Lincoln submits to God’s will, which is, in its mysterious and divine way, willful—not inevitable. Injustices are not always repaid, at least not in this life. The moral arc of America does not, as we march through the years, bend increasingly towards justice. We are prone, like any other human political community, to backsliding, political turmoil, and a collapse into anarchy or tyranny (or one followed by the other).
Third, sin is anything that assaults the moral order. Slavery doesn’t merely cause pain and suffering to the slave. It is a corruption that infects the whole society. It is a collective debt that will have to be paid.
It was both Jefferson’s and Lincoln’s position that slavery corrupts both master and slave, and corrupts the morality of a nation practicing or condoning it. But hasn’t this collective debt been paid? Weren’t 620,000 American lives taken by the Civil War, to say nothing of what are today almost unimaginable losses of property and infrastructure? Weren’t the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments ratified a century and a half ago? Wasn’t Jim Crow ended and isn’t the 1964 Civil Rights Act (at least, before its corruption into a vehicle for racial set-asides instead of the equal application of the laws) the law of the land?
Fourth, sin travels down society through the centuries. Lincoln was saying that sometimes the costs of repairing sin have to be borne generations after the sin was first committed.
See above. They have been so borne, by generations.
From these thoughts we can appreciate the truth that while there have been many types of discrimination in our history, the African-American (and the Native American) experiences are unique and different. Theirs are not immigrant experiences but involve a moral injury that simply isn’t there for other groups.
If you go back far enough in history, all peoples have aggressed against all others at some point. I take it with the parenthetical inclusion of Native Americans that Mr. Brooks is here implicitly endorsing Elizabeth Warren’s plan for reparations for Native Americans as well as blacks? And why stop there? Muslims and some African peoples sold blacks into slavery to whites. The Aztecs enslaved many peoples until the Spanish arrived. Shouldn’t these sins also be repaired?
Slavery and the continuing pattern of discrimination aren’t only an attempt to steal labor; they are an attempt to cover over a person’s soul, a whole people’s soul.
That injury shows up today as geographic segregation, the gigantic wealth gap, the lack of a financial safety net, but also the lack of the psychological and moral safety net that comes when society has a history of affirming: You belong. You are us. You are equal.
Except as Thomas Sowell has pointed out in numerous articles and books, it’s much too facile to assume the black wealth gap (or poverty gap) today has anything to do with slavery. In fact, in Sowell’s telling, the trend of falling black poverty rates running from 1940-1960 actually slowed in the subsequent 20 years, despite massive government spending on Great Society programs to strengthen safety nets and address the legacies of discrimination and slavery.
Nearly five years ago I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” with mild disagreement. All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind. What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron?
Well, what about recent African immigrants, poor whites (or whites, for that matter, whose ancestors weren’t even here during slavery; or northern whites who didn’t own slaves), Oprah, and LeBron? Brooks doesn’t answer those perfectly sensible objections, he just slides past them to quote Coates, an intellectual charlatan with few equals.
But I have had so many experiences over the past year — sitting, for example, with an elderly black woman in South Carolina shaking in rage because the kids in her neighborhood face greater challenges than she did growing up in 1953 — that suggest we are at another moment of make-or-break racial reckoning.
And what massive government experiment stands between 1953 and 2018? The modern welfare state, conceived of and run by progressives, Democrats, and the Left for over 50 years. Isn’t it just as likely that that policy regime and the Left’s domineering rule over the black community are to blame as it is the amorphous and impossible to measure “legacy of slavery?”
Coates’s essay seems right now, especially this part: “And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations — by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences — is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. … What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices — more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.”
We’re a nation coming apart at the seams, a nation in which each tribe has its own narrative and the narratives are generally resentment narratives. The African-American experience is somehow at the core of this fragmentation — the original sin that hardens the heart, separates Americans from one another and serves as model and fuel for other injustices.
The nation is coming apart at the seams in large part because of a modern Left obsessed with multiculturalism, that stokes racial grievances for political gain, and that wants to separate Americans by sex, sexual orientation, religion, and above all, race. The vision of equal individual rights in the Declaration of Independence, a promise resulting in the Civil War amendments and brought close if not finally to completion by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is precisely the opposite regime to that of the Left in 2019.
The multiculturalism of the Left, its politics of identity, and its political correctness enforcement arm are driving America to a future of balkanization and crackup. And David Brooks is stoking that dangerous fire. We need an American identity dedicated to the equal protection of equal individual rights, not divide-and-conquer interest-group liberalism. That is, if we want to survive as a country.
The need now is to consolidate all the different narratives and make them reconciliation and possibility narratives, in which all feel known. That requires direct action, a concrete gesture of respect that makes possible the beginning of a new chapter in our common life. Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute, but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.
Let’s talk about reparations, then. By Coates’s calculation, white Americans (is it just whites, and who gets to decide?) owe blacks reparations to the tune of somewhere between four and nine trillion dollars. The money just isn’t there. America’s current debt-financed welfare state is already essentially bankrupt and it’s doubtful it will be turned right side up.
But let’s say we could pay for it. At that point, we would declare “debt paid,” and move on, right? And we would only compensate the descendants of American slaves, right? The answers to those questions from the likes of Coates and Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and the Left in general would be: no and no. Because this is a racial grievance racket, not a serious call to right the sins of America’s past. Just like leftists became the Soviet Union’s and communism’s “useful idiots,” so David Brooks and other “conservatives” advancing this kind of mushy-headed claptrap have today become the Left’s and multiculturalism’s useful idiots. God help us if their sophistries and policies prevail.
In some ways, President Trump’s State of the Union was a speech divided against itself. On the one hand, the President extolled the virtues of “groundbreaking criminal justice reform;” ad-libbed a commitment to welcoming legal immigrants “in the largest numbers ever;” pushed once more for a new entitlement, “nationwide paid family leave;” and played, alternatively,…
In some ways, President Trump’s State of the Union was a speech divided against itself.
On the one hand, the President extolled the virtues of “groundbreaking criminal justice reform;” ad-libbed a commitment to welcoming legal immigrants “in the largest numbers ever;” pushed once more for a new entitlement, “nationwide paid family leave;” and played, alternatively, both small-ball and the identity-group-hustle on topics like the eradication of AIDS and female employment.
These were some of the weakest parts of the speech. Anecdotal stories about redeemed criminals may be moving, but the rule will likely be closer to what Senator Tom Cotton has predicted: more criminals will hit the streets, sooner—with predictable results, as Joseph Bessette has written in the Claremont Review of Books (“More Justice, Less Crime”). The foreign-born population in America is at its highest levels in a century, hardly an opportune time to welcome a surge of immigrants, even legal ones. The reckoning with the debt-financed welfare state is coming—let’s not add another national entitlement.
On the other hand, Trump talked of the common sense necessity and morality of border walls, sticking it to Nancy Pelosi’s recent nonsense about the “immorality” of physical border security; had some ad-libbed fun with the Democrat ladies in white, many of whom seemed to be cheering, somewhat avariciously, for their newly-acquired jobs in Congress; touted our punitive tariffs on the intellectual property thieves in China; set up the passage of the U.S.M.C.A. (Trump’s NAFTA replacement) by a Democrat-controlled House as a fight between the #Resistance and the prosperity of working Americans in the crucial swing states of “Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, [and] New Hampshire;” immediately followed his call for a new national paid family leave entitlement we can’t afford with very frank language about recent Democrat endorsements of infanticide in New York and Virginia; reminded his audience about the substantive—and positive—results of his NATO-bashing; and enunciated his administration’s Monroe-doctrine stance on Venezuela, followed in the next paragraph by the juxtaposition of the “abject poverty and despair” caused by socialism and the recent pro-socialist rhetoric of the anti-American Left.
Perhaps most importantly, Trump repudiated the bipartisan foreign policy establishment conventional wisdom with a single sentence: “great nations do not fight endless wars.” Finally, echoing his first inaugural—and in an implied endorsement of American nationalism and a challenge to identity politics at the same time—he ended the speech with a call for a common American identity rooted in love of America, American greatness, and the maintenance of “America first in our hearts.”
On balance, then, the speech reflected much more of the populist and anti-establishment brashness we’ve come to expect from the President (and which helped get him elected).
The viewing public liked the speech, according to CBS and CNN polling. I doubt the President reads this site (give us time!), but the weaker parts of the speech can perhaps be seen as an attempt to address a sentence from Michael Uhlmann’s post on this website after the midterms: “If Trumpistas think they can govern without RINOs or suburban women, they are mistaken.” On the one hand, Trump was courting, among others, suburban women and a sub-species of anti-NeverTrump RINO. On the other hand, Trump was sounding some of his greatest hits, with a few new notes added in, in preparation for a very high-stakes run-up to 2020.
It will be interesting to see the political, rhetorical, and constitutional fight play out over the next 22 months—Americanism, properly understood, is once again at stake, as it was in 2016.
Introductory remarks honoring Michael M. Uhlmann, the Claremont Institute’s Henry Salvatori Prize recipient, for helping to secure the teachings of the American founding. Washington, D.C., October 27, 2018