The Weekend Jolt

NR Webathon

What Happens When Free Speech Dies

Riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against the second reading of a controversial national anthem law in Hong Kong, China, May 27, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

A society’s freedoms are a reflection of a society’s values. So it should alarm us when our society begins to view with ambivalence, or worse, a right that had long been held in high regard — especially when that right already is deemed disposable in countries spanning East and West.

Reminding Americans, at this moment, why freedom of speech remains so important amounts to one of the urgent missions of our day. It’s one that National Review has taken up with vigor, and the cause is just one of the reasons we’re asking you to support our work as part of our fall webathon, which draws to a close this weekend.

We’re not talking only about cancel culture here, which we’ve reported on extensively. We’re talking about a rising illiberalism that threatens to change the character of the country for the worse. Charles C. W. Cooke warned about this in a February cover story for National Review. We’ve followed disturbing trends on campus all year. For a full month, Andrew McCarthy has been sounding the klaxon about the implications for First Amendment–protected dissent of recent DOJ intervention concerning the schools. Taking the big-picture view, Charles explains here what is at stake and why vigilance is needed to preserve our system and its benefits:

It is not an accident that the United States is the richest and freest nation in the world; it is a choice. The glories of this country are the direct result of our having established a creed (the Declaration of Independence), a set of political rules (the Constitution), and a set of economic standards (free markets under law) that correctly comprehend how human nature actually is, as opposed to how the utopians among us would like it to be. . . .

I cannot prove this, but I suspect somewhere in my bones that we will get just one shot at America — one — and that if it goes, then so does the classically liberal order that has done wonders for the world.

Others are starting to take notice. In September, the Economist featured “the threat from the illiberal left” on its cover as well. One article included this haunting line: “Belief in foundations of liberalism such as free speech declines with each generation.”

This is a demonstrable trend. Pew found that 40 percent of Millennials “say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups.” Compare that with 27 percent for Generation Xers and 24 percent for Baby Boomers. Making the data even more alarming is that it was gathered in 2015; one can only presume that the percentage today, especially among Generation Z, is even higher.

None of this is to argue that people should be comfortable disparaging minority groups or anybody else; they obviously should not. But that’s a separate question from whether the government should police speech, which would necessarily entail its determining what counts as offensive and what counts as a marginalized group in need of protection — a classification that, as this NR editorial explains, can be remarkably broad.

Take a look around the world to appreciate how unique America’s view of freedom of expression is, even now. The same Pew study found that 62 percent in Italy and 70 percent in Germany supported such government controls on speech. (That figure was 28 percent for the U.S. as a whole.)

And take a look around the world to see what happens, on the oft-invoked slippery slope, when government has the power to restrict speech.

NR has stayed abreast of these developments and reported back to you. Scotland recently abolished its “blasphemy” law, only to swap it for new restrictions on offensive speech. In Finland, a grandmother and MP faces prosecution for social-media comments questioning her church’s sponsorship of a pride parade.

Heading east, it gets worse. In China, a former journalist was arrested this month for mild criticism of China’s role in the Korean War and a new film depicting it. As reported by William Nee on NRO, the government is wielding a new criminal charge of “infringing upon the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs.” Let’s also not forget about Thailand’s draconian prohibition against insulting the royal family, punishable by stiff prison sentences; a recent Hong Kong law against besmirching the Chinese national anthem; or Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

We can see the casual disregard for freedom of speech seeping into American life, not just in polls but in the recent DOJ letter warning of an FBI crackdown on protesting parents. Andrew McCarthy asked on these pages last weekend whether we have freedom of speech to the degree we thought. “Whether freedom of speech truly exists is a cultural question, not a legal one. It hinges on the society’s commitment to liberty as something that is lived, not merely spoken of,” he wrote, making that same observation above about freedoms reflecting values.

What does our culture value? One recent survey found that a majority of college students support shouting down speakers with whom they disagree; 23 percent supported the use of violence toward this end. At some colleges, the percentage supporting such violence crept into the 40s.

That is not a culture that values free speech. It is a culture that values freedom from emotional, political, and intellectual disturbance of any kind. These shifts in attitude, which have escaped campus and are spreading quickly, have had a stifling effect, including on news coverage of the pandemic and other major stories. Jim Geraghty wrote this week about “anti-journalism” that hid uncomfortable narratives, regardless of whether they might be true.

Some groups and individuals are starting to fight back, from alumni associations challenging the higher-ed brain freeze to lone comics like Dave Chappelle. NR is standing up, and standing with them, for these freedoms.

That webathon link we keep surfacing, one last time, is here. We appreciate your support however it is expressed — whether by donation, subscription, general interest and engagement, or all of the above. Read on.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Build Back Better is back, and it’s still bad: Democrats’ Spending Monstrosity

The proposed tax on unrealized capital gains would amount to one of the most convoluted and arbitrary funding mechanisms known to government. So let’s not: Democrats Rotten Billionaires Tax

The world is on fire, but at least we’ve got a gender strategy now: Bidens Absurd Gender Strategy

Senators Sanders needs to be stopped, again: The Foolishness of Prescription-Drug Price Controls

ARTICLES

Mario Loyola: The Real Culprit in Our Supply-Chain Crisis

Philip Klein: Revenge of the Parents

Philip Klein: Build Back Better Framework: The Bad and the Ugly

Rich Lowry: What It Means If Glenn Youngkin Wins

Jim Geraghty: Wait, How Many Coincidences Does the Natural Spillover Theory Require?

Steven Camarota & Jessica Vaughan: The Whole Justification for Sanctuary Cities Is Wrong

David Harsanyi: America Is the Most Tolerant Place on Earth

Nate Hochman: The Return of the Grassroots Right

Caroline Downey: Garland Refuses to Dissolve School-Board Task Force Despite National School Board Group Apology

Alexandra DeSanctis: Republican Senators Demand Answers from Garland on Public-Schools Memo

Dan McLaughlin: The New Jersey Governor’s Race Gets Closer under the Radar

Senator Tom Cotton: In Defense of Qualified Immunity

Senator Mike Lee: Why Work Matters in the Post-COVID Economy

John McCormack: Why McAuliffe’s Vulture-Capitalism Attack Fell Flat

Charles C. W. Cooke: Will the Real Joe Manchin Please Stand Up?

Kevin Williamson: A European Welfare State Requires a European Tax Regime

CAPITAL MATTERS

Daniel Tenreiro just wants to know, what are they thinking? Bidens Capital-Gains Tax Grab Would Wreak Havoc

Dominic Pino homes in on the case of a California rail-yard project to illustrate how onerous regulations choke infrastructure progress: How Government Stands in the Way of Infrastructure Improvements

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Resident Dune fanatic (and NRO submissions editor) Jack Butler shares his thoughts on the new film: Dune Is a Beautiful, Faithful Tease

Armond White pauses to appreciate this 1976 Italian film, newly released on Blu-ray: Illustrious Corpses Puts American Political Films to Shame

Kyle Smith takes a closer look at the Chappelle hullabaloo: The Dave Chappelle Problem Is Worse Than You Think

Brian Allen tours a new exhibition on Iranian art at the Asia Society: Persian Parables

FROM THE NEW NOVEMBER 15, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

H. R. McMaster: Preserving the Warrior Ethos

Kyle Smith: Cackling Kamala

Kevin Williamson: The ORC Invasion

Leah Libresco Sargeant: Becoming Literate in Suffering

WITNESS THE POWER OF POSITIVE LINKING, WITH THESE EXCERPTS

Consider this your weekend reading. H. R. McMaster has a thorough and thoughtful cover story in the latest edition of NR on America’s damaged warrior ethos:

The warrior ethos that emerged in the modern Western world has its origins in the warrior myth as embodied by Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War in the Iliad. In America, the warrior ethos evolved into a covenant that binds warriors to one another and to the citizens in whose name they fight and serve. It is grounded in values such as courage, honor, and self-sacrifice. The ethos reminds warriors of what society expects of them and what they expect of themselves.

One might wonder why this esoteric topic deserves attention, especially when our nation has experienced multiple traumas and faces many practical challenges at home and abroad. Understanding war and warriors is necessary if societies and governments are to make sound judgments concerning military policy. American citizens’ expectations help the military establish standards that guide recruitment, training, personnel policies, and even how forces organize and modernize to deter war and defend the nation. In democracies, if citizens do not understand war or are unsympathetic to the warrior ethos, it will become difficult to maintain the requirements of military effectiveness and to recruit the best young people into military service. The warrior ethos is what makes combat units effective. And because it is foundational to norms involving professional ethics, discipline, and discrimination in the use of force, the warrior ethos is essential to making war less inhumane.

The warrior ethos is at risk. If lost, it might be regained only at an exorbitant price.

Parents are fed up and striking back, most visibly in Virginia. Philip Klein explains the significance:

The starkest example currently is in Virginia. Over the summer, few political observers gave Republican Glenn Youngkin much of a chance against the seasoned Terry McAuliffe in a state that Joe Biden carried by double digits. Yet less than a week out from Election Day, the race is a tossup, and Democrats are so panicked that Biden, Kamala Harris, and Barack Obama had to plan late rallies in an effort to save the governor’s mansion. While it is unclear whether Youngkin will be able to overcome the substantial Democratic advantage and emerge victorious, it’s become clear that parents are a huge reason why polls are so close. . . .

The Virginia race is happening against the backdrop of a national backlash among parents that has been brewing over school closures, masking requirements, and critical race theory in the classroom.

School closures are likely to go down as one of the most destructive public policies in decades. Schools remained shut down months after the science was clear that children faced little risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 and that they were not major spreaders. In many districts, teachers’ unions dug in on closures even as their members skipped the line to get vaccinated before more vulnerable populations. Virtual learning was no substitute for in-person learning, and this led to unnecessary social isolation and increased depression among children. And for all the talk about equity, liberal closure policies disproportionately affected low-income, black, and Hispanic students. The harm done during the year-plus of closures will likely be irreparable. . . .

What teachers were not banking on when they dragged their feet in returning to work is how it would affect parents’ attitudes toward public schools.

The Biden administration’s gender strategy (a) probably isn’t the most-needed strategy from the federal government at present and (b) is part of an approach that aims to salve so many aggrieved groups as to apply to virtually everybody. Enjoy the editorial:

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have no clue how to deal with the many crises their administration has created, exacerbated, or failed to get under control, but as of last Friday they now have a 42-page gender strategy. Gender strategy?

Yes, the “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality,” the first-ever such declaration because in the near-quarter millennium of this country’s existence no one ever thought we needed one, lays out a list of goals and aspirations and solutions to alleged problems whose existence keeps being asserted without evidence. . . .

As is usually the case with feminist calls to arms, the stated mission of aiding females quickly broadens into an all-purpose pursuit of social justice for the large majority who claim marginalized status: Among those described as needing more federal “equity” are “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.” Since even a centimillionaire feels the bitter sting of inequality when contemplating the lifestyle of a billionaire, it would appear that the Biden definition of unfairly treated people in need of federal uplift includes more or less everybody.

Steven Camarota & Jessica Vaughan have dug up some data that call into question the narrative used to justify sanctuary cities:

Immigration advocates have long asserted that local law-enforcement agencies should not cooperate with federal immigration authorities because doing so would cause immigrants to avoid reporting crimes out of fear of deportation. This justification for “sanctuary” jurisdictions has always been dubious, but now we have data that directly refute it. Starting in 2017, the Department of Justice added a citizenship question to its annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is the largest and most authoritative survey of crime victims. The 2017–19 NCVS indicates that the whole basis for sanctuary polices is a myth; it turns out that crimes against immigrants are reported to police at rates that match or often exceed those for crimes against the U.S.-born. . . .

Whether we looked at all crimes, violent crimes, property crimes, or serious violent and property crimes together, the survey shows that immigrants report crimes to police at rates that are at least as high as do the U.S.-born.

Among serious crimes, generally prosecuted as felonies, 62 percent of those committed against immigrants were reported to police, as were 60 percent of serious crimes against noncitizens. Both percentages are significantly higher than the 53 percent reporting rate of crimes against the native-born. Immigrants and specifically noncitizens are also significantly more likely to report serious violent crimes — rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault — than are the native-born. Even violent felonies against immigrant women — including noncitizen women, who are thought to be especially reluctant to come forward — were reported to police at significantly higher rates than were similar crimes against U.S.-born women.

Noncitizen Hispanics theoretically should be the most fearful of police because a large share are in the country illegally. In government surveys such as the NCVS, we estimate that roughly two thirds of noncitizen Hispanics are either illegal immigrants or live with one. And yet the NCVS shows that 57 percent of serious crimes against noncitizen Hispanics were reported to police, compared with 53 percent for the U.S.-born.

Shout-Outs

Eric Boehm, at Reason: How Democrats Could Hide $2 Trillion in New Spending With Budget Gimmicks

Blake Smith, at UnHerd: The Democrat who could bring down Biden

Bloomberg News: The Chinese Companies Polluting the World More Than Entire Nations

Rémy Numa, at Fox News: McAuliffe buys ‘fake news’ ads in effort to sway voters

Honorable Mention

Do you live in or can you travel to Miami, New York, or Philadelphia? National Review Institute is opening a new round of Burke to Buckley Programs in those cities. Here’s what you need to know, straight from the source:

NRI is seeking applicants for the Burke to Buckley Programs in Miami (NEW in ’22!), New York, and Philadelphia.

The primary goal of the Burke to Buckley Program is to prepare Fellows to better communicate first principles and other foundational ideas in their workplace, community, and family. Over eight dinner sessions that are led by notable conservative thinkers and National Review writers, each class of 20 to 25 Fellows gathers to learn and engage in spirited and respectful debate.

The ideal candidate will be a mid-career professional with at least ten years of professional experience in medicine, finance, the military, arts, education, law enforcement, or the law, among other fields. He/she will have an interest in exploring key texts in the canon of conservative thought and American ideals. This program is not for recent graduates or people working in the fields of public policy or politics.

Are you qualified or do you know someone else who is? Applications are open now through November 15 and can be accessed on NRI’s website here. Please note that there is a $500 fee for accepted fellows, which partially offsets the cost of the eight dinners and the program. Please contact program manager Lynn Gibson at lynn@nrinstitute.org if you have questions or would like additional information.

CODA

Great music is still being made, but it’s hard to find much of it tied to any particular movement save for maybe hip-hop (blame Spotify?). Which is why the sound of the ’90s still holds sway. The flannel shirts and torn jeans, the stripped-down chord progressions that valued the visceral over the virtuosic, the brooding and outright-disturbing lyrical portraits of Eddie and Kurt . . . that all belonged to an exciting and emerging style, with each album defining it in a new direction. Grunge was the most dominant of the era, but the decade was bursting with creativity elsewhere in the alt-rock and indie-verses too. One of the more unpredictable, and enjoyable, innovators was Soul Coughing. The band had a few sort-of hits like “Circles” and “Super Bon Bon.” But the jazzy, sample-heavy albums — featuring an upright-bass player and vocals that drift frequently into spoken-word, free-association poetry — are replete with catchy bits and phrases strewn about the tracks.

Here’s two from their Ruby Vroom debut: the lovely “True Dreams of Wichita” and “Mr. Bitterness,” which locks in on a groove better than just about any song not named “Stayin’ Alive.” The band produced an even more eclectic grouping on their final album toward the end of the decade — music that only the ’90s could have tolerated and encouraged.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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