The Crux of Being Principled

 

They’re making a list. They’ve been telling us they intend to make a list. When your enemy (I use the term advisedly) tells you he intends to harm you, you should believe him. We’re down to the nut-cracking now, and the plan on the left, now that they have their claws on the levers of power, is to identify as many Trump voters as they can, label them as “domestic terrorists,” and to disenfranchise the lot of them.

No access to the automated communication platforms or financial systems of the world.

They’re already doing it. How far they are able to succeed remains to be seen, but my own intuition is that they will be able to do a great deal of damage to real human beings before anyone rises up to stop them.

Any response by the right to the usurpations of the left, if it ever comes, will come only when a critical mass of people on the right believe that the left represents an immediate existential threat. I’m not talking about a they-annoy-me-on-Facebook kind of threat. I’m talking about the realization that these people are going to impoverish the right and do physical harm to them if they can. Until there is a widespread sense that such harm is imminent, it will be mostly jaw-jaw on the right. I guess that’s kind of understandable, in a way.

In times of conflict, I think people are continuously engaged in a cost/benefit analysis, trying to decide if they can avoid escalation. It’s almost always easy to talk yourself into avoiding escalation.

Part of the problem is complexity. The political and cultural situations are complex. So are individual circumstances. Faced with the current lawless escalation by the left, it’s hard to do the cost/benefit analysis on conservative escalation.

This is where one of the advantages of having actual principles comes into play: principles have the effect of de-complicating otherwise complex analyses. Part of the reason is that they have a tendency to brush aside the merely utilitarian concerns that are cluttering up the analysis – principles cut through the fog.

A few years ago, I faced a health crisis and had just 18 hours to make a decision about submitting to a risky, speculative procedure that might extend my life. The problem was that the procedure involved an unhappily high probability of being cognitively altered in some way, and the recovery was going to be hellish and prolonged. (Some of you reading this post may be saying to yourself, “I think he lost that bet on being cognitively altered.” I know what you mean.)

My wife and I sat up all night in intensive care discussing whether to go through with it. It was a very complex cost/benefit analysis. The risks of being permanently damaged, the pain and struggle of recovery if that even turned out to be possible – all of that left me going back and forth in my mind about what to do. If I did nothing, I was left with only a few days to live.

But in the middle of the night, a lightbulb went off for me regarding my decision: years before I had made a vow. I had promised my wife at our wedding that I would never leave her of my own volition. And it occurred to me, as I lay there in the hospital, that perhaps choosing not to at least try was a form of abandonment. All of the noise and complexity evaporated in the realization that there was an overarching commitment I had already made that was still at work.

I know there are medical circumstances in which trying to prolong one’s life is only to prolong the suffering. I get that. But I’m writing in this post about a circumstance that was both highly complex and for which the outcome was uncertain. And here is what I’ve learned: principled vows have a way of making complex decisions much less complicated.

I think many conservatives may be facing this kind of complexity – trying to decide if escalating their actions beyond rhetoric and argumentation is called for. And like my wife and me in the hospital that night, the answer may hinge on one’s commitment to principle.

We’re at the point where there is a material price to be paid for embracing a bias toward liberty. The economic targeting of conservatives has been growing for a while now. Economic targeting is a one-way ratchet that seems to only affect those whose views are out of step with leftist orthodoxy. Targeting people for exercising their constitutional rights is anathema to conservatives but it is increasingly a central tactic of the left. Beginning with such things as getting people fired (e.g. Brendan Eich) and now silently dropping books that run afoul of leftist sensibilities from the platform that accounts for 83% of all book sales.

The complexity surrounding the cost/benefit analysis of our current situation is only going to increase. We need to resist the adolescent self-congratulatory temptation to commend ourselves for holding conservative views while never actually acting in any specific way that involves personal sacrifice.

These remarks from Dr. Robert George, of Princeton, come to mind:

Undergraduates say the darndest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.

Of course, it is complete nonsense. Only the tiniest fraction of them, or of any of us, would have spoken up against slavery or lifted a finger to free the slaves. Most of them—and us—would simply have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and, if it was in their interest, participated in it as buyers and owners or sellers of slaves.

So I respond to the students’ assurances that they would have been vocal opponents of slavery by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show me evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have embraced causes that are unpopular among their peers and stood up for the rights of victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing (1) that it would make THEM unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by wealthy, powerful, and influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that it would cost them friendships and cause them to be abandoned and even denounced by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and (5) that they would possibly even be denied valuable educational and professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.

In short, my challenge to them is to show me where they have at significant risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.

Alas, for us, there is a growing gap between being a Facebook/Twitter conservative, and real-life resistance to the left. Like Dr. George’s undergrads, we need to ask ourselves what price we’re willing to pay for our opinions. It probably needs to start by putting our money where our conservative mouths are – and doing this far beyond merely contributing to conservative political candidates. Purely political solutions have shown themselves to be leaky vessels for conservatives. We need to be contributing to conservative lawfare organizations. We likely need to engage in widespread legal harassment against progressive organizations and companies. We should not expect them to change their behaviors until they pay a price for engaging in viewpoint discrimination. Progressives have engaged in legal harassment that they have repeatedly and predictably lost. Conservatives are naïve to believe progressives do this because they think they will win. They don’t. They do it to artificially raise the cost to conservatives of exercising their civil rights.

We should make harassing conservatives far more expensive and painful for progressive groups and companies than we do. We should probably also be far more selective about the businesses we patronize. It is a pain in the neck, I know, and it is inconvenient to do this. But, once again, progressives and their sympathizers have repeatedly shown their intention of doing harm to conservatives, and they are unlikely to stop unless/until the cost outweighs the benefit.

We also need to be building technology that undermines progressive-sympathizing companies. We should intentionally try to wreck their business models. If we lack the skills, we should be investing in those who have the skills. In general, we need to do everything we can to drive up the cost of progressivism until they stop the aggression.

The decision to embrace the risks involved in escalation can be complex, but our principles can make the decision much more straightforward. If we’re willing.

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  1. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Here is a link to a list of 200+ companies that are actively supporting more restrictive gun control. A brief review of the list shows how prevalent this position is among the giants we deal with. https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bethbaumann/2021/02/21/these-are-the-roughly-200-businesses-whose-leaders-are-backing-gun-control-initia-n2585088

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Keith Lowery: The complexity surrounding the cost/benefit analysis of our current situation is only going to increase. We need to resist the adolescent self-congratulatory temptation to commend ourselves for holding conservative views while never actually acting in any specific way that involves personal sacrifice.

    I am steeling myself up for this, because I know that the time is here where we will be called upon to act. And it is only by acting, not by staying silent and clucking our tongues, that we can perhaps stem the tide.

    • #2
  3. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    I’m in, just point me toward the fight. Garrison Alaska (aka. we-don’t-give-a-s***-what-you-try-to-do-to-us) is standing up and standing by. 

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Keith Lowery:

    These remarks from Dr. Robert George, of Princeton, come to mind:

    So I respond to the students’ assurances that they would have been vocal opponents of slavery by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show me evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have embraced causes that are unpopular among their peers and stood up for the rights of victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing (1) that it would make THEM unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by wealthy, powerful, and influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that it would cost them friendships and cause them to be abandoned and even denounced by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and (5) that they would possibly even be denied valuable educational and professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.

    This is brilliant . . .

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Stad (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery:

    These remarks from Dr. Robert George, of Princeton, come to mind:

    So I respond to the students’ assurances that they would have been vocal opponents of slavery by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show me evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have embraced causes that are unpopular among their peers and stood up for the rights of victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing (1) that it would make THEM unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by wealthy, powerful, and influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that it would cost them friendships and cause them to be abandoned and even denounced by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and (5) that they would possibly even be denied valuable educational and professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.

    This is brilliant . . .

    The only cause where this is actually codified is support for Palestinian rights, or BDS. That’s where you’ll find people who stand by their principles today.

    But generally – it’s easy to claim virtue by supporting a side in history (“I would have hidden Jews from the Nazis”, for eg) – when the rubber hits the road today most of us are a lot more consensus driven and cowardly than we like to believe.

    • #5
  6. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The only cause where this is actually codified is support for Palestinian rights, or BDS. That’s where you’ll find people who stand by their principles today.

    I don’t think that’s entirely true given Memorial Pizza, Brendan Eich, or Masterpiece Cakes.

    There exist more than just Palestine and BDS that have suffered for their political views.

    If I could be convinced that’s where I want to sacrifice myself, I’d go in that direction or take steps to. But right now, I can’t shake the feeling that there are more important places to build up right now.

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    principled vows have a way of making complex decisions much less complicated

     

    Good point

    • #7
  8. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The only cause where this is actually codified is support for Palestinian rights, or BDS. That’s where you’ll find people who stand by their principles today.

    How about the pro-life movement?

    • #8
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The only cause where this is actually codified is support for Palestinian rights, or BDS. That’s where you’ll find people who stand by their principles today.

    How about the pro-life movement?

    Does any State require you to sign an undertaking that you will not engage in pro choice life activity as a condition for hiring you?

    That moves from private opinion policing (even if implemented by [mis]using things like law fare) to actual State policy and legislation.

    Edited to correct choice to life.

    • #9
  10. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The only cause where this is actually codified is support for Palestinian rights, or BDS. That’s where you’ll find people who stand by their principles today.

    How about the pro-life movement?

    Does any State require you to sign an undertaking that you will not engage in pro choice activity as a condition for hiring you?

    That moves from private opinion policing (even if implemented by [mis]using things like law fare) to actual State policy and legislation.

    Which “State” are we talking about?

    • #10
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Georgia, for one:

    https://atlantajewishtimes.timesofisrael.com/2020-yir-georgias-anti-bds-law-challenged/

    Edited to add:

    For a view of what’s happening across the US (and with a handy map):

    https://palestinelegal.org/news/2016/6/3/what-to-know-about-anti-bds-legislation

    Conservatives (and others) normalised this by initiating, or just going along with, these laws.

    • #11
  12. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    How can we take down the Southern Poverty Law Center? DDOS attack on their web site? We need to come up with concrete actions we can all take against those that wish us harm today. 
    We need law firms to initiate class-action lawsuits against teachers unions by parents whose kids are denied education. 

    • #12
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Georgia, for one:

    https://atlantajewishtimes.timesofisrael.com/2020-yir-georgias-anti-bds-law-challenged/

    Edited to add:

    For a view of what’s happening across the US (and with a handy map):

    https://palestinelegal.org/news/2016/6/3/what-to-know-about-anti-bds-legislation

    Conservatives (and others) normalised this by initiating, or just going along with, these laws.

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic, 

    https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17091/bds-support

    • #13
  14. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic, 

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    • #14
  15. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic,

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic,

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    BDS is founded on a lie, and the Palestinians are fueled by a lie. It is perfectly reasonable for my tax dollars not to go to people spreading said lie. People can have free speech. The State of Georgia can choose not to do business with those people. 

    Support for BDS is shows one is anti semitic. 

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic,

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic,

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    BDS is founded on a lie, and the Palestinians are fueled by a lie. It is perfectly reasonable for my tax dollars not to go to people spreading said lie. People can have free speech. The State of Georgia can choose not to do business with those people.

    Support for BDS is shows one is anti semitic.

    BDS legislation even went so far as criminalizing all criticism of Israel’s right to be a state. In Florida, there are laws against it.

    This kind of speech policing enshrined in law only exists on the right, which is what makes it so appalling. The left is bullying us, but AIPAC managed to protect themselves from all criticism by lobbying republicans for anti-speech law.

    While anti-BDS laws might be defensible in some very unprincipled and inconsistent way (ie rationalized), the anti speech laws are absolutely anathema when we can’t even pass laws preventing tortious interference from online harassment mobs.

    • #16
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    People can have free speech. The State of Georgia can choose not to do business with those people. 

    And soon, according to the OP, these people will be some strains of Conservatives. Is this really okay in a country that accommodates different opinions as a matter of course, in fact of principle?

    • #17
  18. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    People can have free speech. The State of Georgia can choose not to do business with those people.

    And soon, according to the OP, these people will be some strains of Conservatives. Is this really okay in a country that accommodates different opinions as a matter of course, in fact of principle?

    Right now, America does not accommodate different opinions as a matter of course.

    But fine, let’s not have any laws of that type at all. I will concede that. But, let’s at least call BDS what it is. 

     

    • #18
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Right now, America does not accommodate different opinions as a matter of course.

    And who normalised that?

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Right now, America does not accommodate different opinions as a matter of course.

    And who normalised that?

    On the right, anti speech and suppression seems to be limited to criticizing a small group of people.

    While that sticks in my craw, I don’t think it measures anywhere close to the culture of oppression being foisted on us by the illiberal left that has been going on in some capacity for 20 years, but really took off under Obama.

    • #20
  21. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Right now, America does not accommodate different opinions as a matter of course.

    And who normalised that?

    The left of course. 

    But, as is typical of your ungracious nature, you ignore my concession and keep attacking. 

     

    • #21
  22. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Stina (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic,

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    BDS is a racist organization and movement. Please tell me you support it so I can write you off forever as antisemitic,

    I take it you’re fine with legislation penalising expressing opinions you don’t like? Can you see that normalising that might prove to have been unwise?

    (Also: you can do what you want, Bryan. Technically you’re a big boy now. Why ask for my permission?)

    BDS is founded on a lie, and the Palestinians are fueled by a lie. It is perfectly reasonable for my tax dollars not to go to people spreading said lie. People can have free speech. The State of Georgia can choose not to do business with those people.

    Support for BDS is shows one is anti semitic.

    BDS legislation even went so far as criminalizing all criticism of Israel’s right to be a state. In Florida, there are laws against it.

    This kind of speech policing enshrined in law only exists on the right, which is what makes it so appalling. The left is bullying us, but AIPAC managed to protect themselves from all criticism by lobbying republicans for anti-speech law.

    While anti-BDS laws might be defensible in some very unprincipled and inconsistent way (ie rationalized), the anti speech laws are absolutely anathema when we can’t even pass laws preventing tortious interference from online harassment mobs.

    There’s also the fact that BDS is, itself, an early manifestation of what would become Cancel Culture, and seeks to use public institutions to persecute Israeli businesses and business partners much like the Progressives are now doing to targets of their pogroms. I’d be somewhat less critical if BDS had pointedly included Turkey (Northern Cyprus) and other such cases within their agenda, but somehow, as is the case with UN human rights declarations, the Israelis are singled out. 

    This is in reference to anti-BDS laws that that simply prohibit public institutions from discriminating against businesses and private associations that do not violate US law*-If you’re right about criminalizing speech in Florida, however, that’s just plain wrong, not to mention unConstitutional.

    *And before anyone asks, Critical Race Theory-oriented employee training and codes of conduct do indeed violate US laws regarding compelled speech and hostile and/or discriminatory work environments. While some of these laws are Constitutionally dubious themselves, while they exist they must be applied in a non-discriminatory manner.

    • #22
  23. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Stina (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Right now, America does not accommodate different opinions as a matter of course.

    And who normalised that?

    On the right, anti speech and suppression seems to be limited to criticizing a small group of people.

    The point is the Right made this a normal tactic to pursue against people one disagrees with. (Most recently: BDS.)

    Now that they might be hoist on their own petard it looks like sacrificing principle to expediency may have been unwise.

    Complaining about the Left without acknowledging that looks like either a double standard or a certain stunning lack of self awareness.

    Does anybody here think, on reflection, that anti-BDS laws may have been over-reach? And if so, what’s the next step? Leave them as is, or make a principled stand against being cancelled yourself? Because you can’t do both. 

    • #23
  24. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Does anybody here think, on reflection, that anti-BDS laws may have been over-reach? And if so, what’s the next step?

    I certainly do. But I have to say I don’t think the right started this current iteration. While I think the right took it further than anyone on the left has succeeded in doing thus far, I still don’t think they can be credited with originating cancel culture of the 21st century.

    However, the right is far from innocent from cancel culture and if one ever attempted to take a very hard and critical look of the right’s foray into inhibiting free speech, forcing groups out of free association, and embracing ruination of people for their distasteful views, you can go much further back than McCarthy and you might be called a slew of unsavory names for daring to explicitly state the obvious.

    No, I agree with you that the right has its own, very massive plank in its eye. Again, that plank is intensely limited to only one subject which hardly effects anyone quite the way the left has affected every single aspect of our daily lives. We’ve managed to keep them out of forming law and limited them to congressional procedure, but that may be because the left has gone after things as ubiquitous as pronouns and as personal as the names we give our parents.

    This isn’t to excuse the right so much as to justify why the right’s anti-expression has not called attention to itself.

    • #24
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Stina (View Comment):

    I certainly do. But I have to say I don’t think the right started this current iteration.

    You may be right (ha! See what I did there?) but unless you trivialise this as being about counting coup rather being a matter of consistent principle then is it directly relevant?

    This isn’t to excuse the right so much as to justify why the right’s anti-expression has not called attention to itself.

    I do get that, but how is the Right going to argue that they shouldn’t be cancelled because nobody should be cancelled due holding unpopular opinions with that rotting thing hanging around their necks? And by argue I mean in the court of public opinion, where the judges that matter are swing voters.

    When I asked what the next step should be it was an honest question. It took me less than a minute to think of BDS when the cancel culture thing was spelled out in the OP. It’s kind of an obvious point.

    How do you think the Right should deal with it when making their pitch to the undecideds – can this pitch be based on principle or is that just not a realistic option? And If not based on principle, then based on what?

    • #25
  26. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Zafar (View Comment):
    How do you think the Right should deal with it when making their pitch to the undecideds – can this pitch be based on principle or is that just not a realistic option? And If not based on principle, then based on what?

    I don’t know. I think you brought up a good point on how the right does not always act on principle. And if we want to claim principle, we need to deal with it.

    You are the only one I’ve seen doing the “both sides” that had a substantive argument. Everyone else I’ve seen whining about cancel culture on the right involves evangelical Christians wanting rating systems for entertainment.

    • #26