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“…deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.”
I suspect you’ve heard the story by now, at least parts of it. It is about a young black student at Smith College who was eating a meal alone in a closed dorm when she was visited by an unarmed campus security officer and took offense. Turns out the dorm was closed and she wasn’t supposed to be there, but that didn’t stop accusations of racism to fly, or prevent Smith’s woke president from apologizing to her profusely for her victimhood and take all kinds of actions to make up for it. You should read the whole story. Smith College is considered one of America’s most elite women’s colleges with tuition, fees, and board adding up to more than $78,000 per year.
But here’s the full quote that really summarizes today’s cultural wars more than the Times might want to admit: “The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.”
But that was only one front in today’s Truth Wars. This week, in the US House, was all about HR 5, one of the House Democrats priorities: The Equality Act. It passed yesterday on a party-line vote with three Republicans crossing over to support it. The bill, among many things, expands the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sweeping protections for transgendered persons.
But of course, the issue wasn’t restricted to HR 5 or its passage in the House chamber. It also emerged in a Cannon House Office building hallway between two Members of Congress. Two Cannon House Office Building neighbors, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA), the bête noire of the House, and Marie Newman (D-IL), a pair of newly elected members, brought (descended) political discourse to a whole new level. Newman is the mother of a transgender child, and started this sophomoric exchange by placing a transgender flag (I didn’t know there was one) by Rep. Greene’s office door. And of course, Rep. Greene reciprocated with a sign of her own that “God Created Two Genders.” Is there anything that better symbolizes our culture wars today? Note the number of tweets and retweets on each. It reminds you where the center of the Twitterverse is. Of course, the whole thing was reported via their own respective Twitter feeds. I hope they feel better now.
The Senate, of course, got in on the act as well. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee scheduled a confirmation hearing on the day the House was considering the Equality Act. For whom? The nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary for Health, one of the most powerful positions in the federal government. Currently, Dr. Levine – who is transgender – serves as the Secretary of Health in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And not a very good one, as I’ve posted about previously. Dr. Levine is being celebrated for transgenderism, not competence. And the nomination should be rejected solely on basis of the latter.
And of course, two of our nation’s leading consumer product companies, Mondelez, maker of the Oreo cookie, and Hasbro, a leading toy company, got in on the act, along with Amazon. Hasbro, in particular, decided to remove the “Mr.” from “Mr. Potato Head” and just go with “Potato Head.” I guess the toy does feature interchangeable parts, so there’s that, and very interestingly, by the end of yesterday, Hasbro had apparently changed its mind. That was quick. Oreo noted that “trans people exist.” We knew that already, but whatever. And then Amazon magically disappeared Dr. Ryan T. Anderson’s best-selling book on transgenderism, “When Harry Became Sally.” But don’t worry, you can still buy Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler and of course the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.
Let me state this very clearly. All human beings are created in the image of God, possess inherent dignity, and deserve respect and a measure of grace. Attacks on people who suffer from gender dysphoria should be repulsed. My Christian faith requires me to provide an account for that which gives me hope, with “gentleness and respect.” Unfortunately, those of us who hold traditional Christian views about marriage and creation aren’t often afforded such respect. So, what should be worthy of a good, respectful discussion descends into hallway symbolism, book banning, virtue signaling, and other forms of discourse that persuade no one and generates resentment, or worse.
Two more skirmishes this week:
First, Kristin Soltis Anderson of Echelon Insights, a national polling firm, released charts on Twitter from their most recent survey of Americans on what concerns them most. I’ve captured the whole series here. The concerns of Republicans should surprise no one. Economic damage from COVID tops the list, closely followed by the spread of COVID. In fact, four of the top five concerns were COVID-related, including school closures and lockdown policies. The only one not related that made the top five was budget deficits and the national debt. Seems normal.
But guess how that compares to Democrat’s top concerns.
You read that right: the top concern was “Donald’s Trump supporters,” with 82% being “extremely concerned,” followed pretty closely by “White nationalism” and “systemic racism,” gun violence, and “Americans lacking health coverage” (wait, wasn’t Obamacare supposed to resolve all that?). “Domestic terrorism” is right on the heels of the top 5, with “police brutality” in hot pursuit.
Holy cow. No concerns about the economy. Job losses. Nary a mention of COVID. Just a lot of very misplaced fear about some 75 million people, like me, who voted for Donald Trump.
Yes, the “Truth Wars” are real, and I’m glad to be on the side with at least one foot firmly planted in some objective reality. Imagine living in fear of almost half of all voters, or a quarter of all Americans. One additional observation: Climate change actually made the top 10 list of GOP concerns at number 6, but you won’t find it among the Democratic top ten. John Kerry, call your office.
Of course, there’s a theme among the top Democratic concerns. Trump supporters are a bunch of gun-toting, racist, white nationalist, and violent Nazis. You don’t have to look very long on Twitter, a veritable petri dish of leftist sentiment, to find good examples.
Yep, this all seems rational. So well documented! And civil, too!
Tristan Justice at The Federalist summarizes the Echelon Insights survey this way:
“Data from a new survey out Wednesday from the polling firm Echelon Insights illustrates that while Republicans remain more concerned about substantive policies such as taxes and immigration, Democrats are fixated on overpowering their political opposition.”
Of course, a few Google searches will produce all kinds of scary headlines about white nationalism being on the rise and even behind much of last summer’s violence, and I do not seek to dismiss or minimize it. But guess who Richard Spencer, perhaps the best known white nationalist in America, supported for President in 2020? Yep, Joe Biden (his campaign disavowed the endorsement).
Second, two Members of Congress who serve on the House Committee (Energy and Commerce) that oversees the Federal Communication Commission, sent letters to owners of media outlets, blaming specific center-right media outlets for the deliberate spread of misinformation about the 2020 election and our nation’s COVID response. Their objective was plainly obvious – to censor center-right and conservative media organizations by getting them deplatformed from channels like Roku and Direct TV, among others. This clearly runs afoul of First Amendment guarantees of a free press, not to mention free speech. It seems, at least on the left, if someone is airing information that runs counter to your narrative, it’s OK to shut them up. It’s what the late philosopher, Herbert Marcuse, advocated for decades – “repressive tolerance.”
Sure, do assertions that later prove to be wrong make their way into news broadcasts? All the time. And it is far from limited to “conservative” leaning outlets. This commentary from RealClearPolitics.com outlines the 19 largest untruths from the mainstream media about COVID. And independent journalist Sharyl Attkisson hosts a website that outlines some 151 media mistakes during the “Trump era.” Yes, the provably false Russia collusion hoax made the list.
Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel outlines it well:
“Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (House Energy and Commerce Committee) generously conceded that the First Amendment protects speech that is ‘controversial’ but distinguished ‘misinformation that causes public harm.’ Apparently Mr. Pallone wants someone, perhaps the government, to determine what constitutes public harm and when speech causes it. Would two years of false Democratic narratives about Russian collusion with Mr. Trump qualify as public harm? How about apologias for riots in the streets last summer?”
Most surveys of media consumption show that most Democrats trust the media, while most Republicans don’t. And if you’re constantly fed a scary narrative about violent, racist, Nazi white supremacist Trump supporters, and you are a Democrat, you may be likely to believe it, facts and context be damned.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to question what we’re fed and read, no matter the source. Lockdown policies fueled by the pandemic have helped isolate us from other people, even family and neighbors, and diverted us into the cesspool that is social media. Perhaps our sanity can be rescued by diversifying our media consumption with a wider, yet more selective range of opinion and reporting. Move away from social media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and rely less on big corporate media. Reject news stories that rely exclusively on one source, or nothing but anonymous sources. Rely less on “opinion journalism,” or at least be more discerning on who, or what, you follow. Carefully choose your “news aggregator.”
In addition, too many on the right, as Erick Erickson has stated, are choosing to pay back evil with evil. “We have to fight like the left,” I’ve heard some say. How’s that working out for you? Yes, we must continue our relentless pursuit of truth, as Rush Limbaugh used to say, as uncomfortable as that might make people, including certain students at Smith College. Facts matter. How we promote, protect and defend the truth, however, is important. None of us are not entitled to our “deeply felt sense of personal truth” when it runs afoul of the facts and ruins lives in the process.
Yes, we’re in the midst of “truth wars.” And like most wars, either one side wins or loses, or there is some kind of “settlement.” Meanwhile, can we at least agree to a few rules of engagement while the skirmishes continue? Maybe consumer product companies can stick to marketing products, and stop woke virtue signaling. Maybe members of Congress can model the kind of behavior that better advances real dialogue and engagement that restores the best of American politics, and stop trying to deplatform and censor media they don’t like. Maybe “Big Tech” companies like Amazon and corporate media can stop canceling, censoring, and banning people and publications that don’t fit their politics. And maybe colleges like Smith and other institutions can wait for facts to emerge before rushing to conclusions. Maybe we all can.Published in