We’ve certainly seen it on the left. Google’s recent decision to fire an employee for wrongthink is all too indicative of a progressive political culture that’s not content merely to disagree with dissenters. People in error have to be called out, investigated, shamed, and punished. The deeper you move into the ideological cocoon, the less tolerance there is for debate.
.. Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, a sharp thinker not prone to hyperbole, wrote yesterday decrying the rise of online mobs and Internet shaming. The goal of the mob isn’t to rebut bad arguments but to destroy careers and permanently ruin reputations. She said this:
I find myself in more and more conversations that sound as if we’re living in one of the later-stage Communist regimes. Not the ones that shot people, but the ones that discovered you didn’t need to shoot dissidents, as long as you could make them pariahs — no job, no apartment, no one willing to be seen talking to them in public.
.. And often the goal isn’t so much to win the argument as it is to hurt the other person, to deter them from ever speaking about politics again.
.. But I fear that our culture is less durable than our Constitution.
.. Indeed, our culture has failed our Constitution before, most recently through the malice and groupthink of the Jim Crow South. An entire region built a system from the ground up that stood in direct defiance of not just our nation’s Founding documents but also of the Civil War–era constitutional amendments that were designed to remake the land.
.. the law of group polarization applies. I’ve written about this concept before, but it can’t be emphasized enough. Essentially, the law holds that “in a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.” Put more simply, when like-minded people gather, their views tend to grow more extreme. Absent moderating forces, they reinforce and amplify shared views.
.. Our nation thrives in the midst of disagreement. It withers, however, in the face of unrelenting cruelty, and I fear that for now, cruelty is winning the day.